Gap years. They show willing, initiative, maturity and organisation… In your dreams, anyway.
In reality, taking a year out before, during or after your studies can make you look more loafer-on-a-sofa than potential asset. What ultimately swings it in the right direction for you is whether you make your gap year count.
Here are some ways to ensure your gap year is a fruitful addition to your CV.
‘In a shrinking job market, when you have 300 applications for every place, some 100 of them will be stunning, but few will stand out. Almost all will have first-class degrees,’ Robert Hingley, a senior advisor to investment bank Lazard, tells the Telegraph.
Those who have taken an interesting gap year will have had the opportunity to progress, ‘beyond merely achieving things’. At interview, they may well come across as stronger personalities – they will have ‘grown up’.
Get out of your comfort zone:
Every year, some 50,000 young people do work placements abroad. In fact, there are plenty of companies which can organise these for you. One of these, Lattitude Global Volunteering has been in existence for more than four decades. It says the one thing young people should do on a year out is ‘push themselves out of their comfort zones’.
Learn a language
One of the most strongly held pieces of advice is to use your gap year to learn another language. If you already have a second language, how about a third? After all, it will stand you out from the rest of the bilingual crowd – especially in a country such as the UK, where language skills really do count. In UK universities, degrees in languages are at a record low; take advantage and develop this skill.
You may shirk at the ‘opportunity’ of working for nothing, but think about it. If you are considering a career in something particularly competitive, then work experience is usually a prerequisite.
If you can get an internship or regular stints while abroad, you may be helping pave your way towards that dream career. For those heading for especially competitive sectors such as journalism, business or law, it can make the difference between saying you’re keen and displaying that you’re dedicated. There’s also the potential to make contacts for the future.
If you’re at university, it’s worth researching Erasmus – an internship scheme open to students who have completed a year at university.
Get TEFL qualified and work your way around the world. To teach abroad for a year without a degree is near-impossible in countries like Japan and South Korea, though in Europe you’re likely to be able to get a (low) paid position as a teaching assistant. You can take a £120-hour accredited TEFL course abroad too. You’llprobably get something like £150 a month and board and food for our troubles, though it buys you a wealth of experience.
Check that it’s legit
UCAS advises researching what’s out there. Look into voluntary agencies and charities, ask others who have completed a gap year and look at whether any relevant organisations are reputable. Have they been running for a while, are they registered members of organisations like ABTA or the Year Out Group?
Finally, can you really afford it?
Think hard. You are going to need money. And more than you think. Even after you’ve saved hard and budgeted.
It’s worth investigating a gap year where part or all will bring in some income. Many voluntary and charity run organisations may offer food and lodgings, but nothing else. Costs vary considerably, so research carefully and don’t forget to add things like flights, visas, accommodation, insurance, and vaccinations (you can check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website for information on vaccinations).
Beena writes for Inspiring Interns is a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs, visit their website.