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The term ‘gap year’ usually describes the time some high school graduates take before starting college, but the phrase is also making its way into the workplace.

Some professionals are becoming open to the idea of taking a gap year in their careers to explore other opportunities.

Mae Novak enjoyed rewarding experiences working with non-profits and in the health sector but felt like she had more to offer.

“I knew that if I continued in my corporate career, I would always have this nagging urge to start a business, and so I just decided to take the leap,” Novak said.

Camilia Majette started her professional career working part-time as a pharmacy technician but says her heart wasn’t in it.

“Seeing how I was helping to dispense some of these medications that I knew had these terrible side effects, it was something that I said I wanted to really be able to not have to do and go in a more holistic direction,” Majette said.

A gap year is not an extended vacation. Instead, it’s intended to be a time of self-improvement.

It may be a journey that includes exploring other career opportunities or life experiences such as traveling or volunteer work.

Jason Norris is the Career Centers Manager at Goodwill Industries of Central North Carolina.

He advises that if people decide to take a break in their career, they should openly address it with potential employers.

“Our suggestion is to always be upfront and honest about your gap in employment and what that looked like,” Norris said. “You always want to tackle that head-on. You don’t ever want someone to come and ask you about it. You really want to be the one to kind of bring that to the forefront.”

People should also consider their personal finances since a gap year may not be practical from that standpoint.

Novak and Majette have both gone on to launch their own businesses, Yay! Brand and Nailah’s Shea, respectively.

They say the risk was worth it.

“Nobody has to live a life of being unfulfilled or unhappy,” Novak said. “You can choose to make those changes in order to live the life that you want to live, but you have got to believe in yourself and just go for it.”