Taking Time Out
About 5% of graduates take a significant period of "time out" during the 12 months after finishing university. Most will have gone travelling but some will have learnt a new skill or fulfilled a long standing ambition and put their career on hold in the meantime. Lots more will have considered taking time out, but not, in the end, actually done so.
Things to consider
How will an employer view it?
Potential employers will look to see how your time has been spent and what you’ve achieved and learnt from the experience. Meeting the challenge of raising the money you need to make a trip happen, and coping with the good and bad experiences that come your way, are all generally viewed positively. A period of time sitting around isn’t! Equally, taking time to fulfill an ambition, learn a new skill or achieving another goal you set yourself are also fine.
Timing your return
In career terms the biggest thing to consider is – if you go away – at what time of the year should you come back? The problem is co-ordinating your return with the UK graduate recruitment cycle. If you want to work for a big company and join their Graduate Entry Scheme then applications will be need to be made between October and March, with the most popular companies having closing dates as early as November, to start work the following autumn. Making the application isn’t the biggest problem. They are virtually all online and provided you can get internet access you can complete the form. The problem is going through the interviews and other parts of the selection process. For that you need to be in the UK and available to attend at their request.
Alternatively, when you come back you can tap into the recruitment that goes on over the late spring and summer. There may not be vacancies with the most popular employers, but most years there is a good supply of jobs at this time.
What about deferring your start at work?
Applying before your gap year starts - but not starting work till after it - is a great way to do things. Unfortunately most employers don’t allow it, but a few do. A company presentation or at a Careers Fair is a good place to find out the company’s policy.
Working while you are away
There are a number of schemes that are worth looking at:
Australia: the Working Holiday Maker Program visa allows nationals of 14 countries, including the UK, to take temporary work during their holiday. See www.immi.gov.au. Check this site to see if this scheme operates between your country and Australia.
Japan: the JET Scheme recruits people to work as Assistant English Language teachers in Japanese schools and offers a great insight into this country. The closing date is usually in November to fly to Japan the following summer. See JET
What are Volunteering programmes?
There are lots of these, often in developing countries. The organisation running them require you to pay them a fee and a sum for each week you are away on their scheme. This can amount to £2-3,000 in all for a 6 week trip. In return they make your travel arrangements, arrange accommodation and set up a period of work. When applying to go on one of these, make sure you get them to explain clearly what you have to pay and what you will get in return.