With the economy still struggling and unemployment rates soaring, many people are choosing to take a year out after graduating from University. Is this a good idea? Getting away for a while can seem inviting especially after years of hard studying, but are Graduates just delaying the inevitable? Could they make better use of that time by staying at home and getting some valuable job experience?
The post-uni “gap year” is nothing new. It was considered a rite of passage for many young Victorian men to travel around Europe before coming home and settling down. Now, thanks to commercial airlines, we can travel to any corner of the globe in hours, and take in different cultures, environments and landscapes.
The concept of the gap year has grown up a lot in recent years. Where it used to mean backpacking through as many countries as possible in the shortest period of time, taking photographs and moving on, today attitudes have changed, more and more people are choosing to give something back. Conservation groups, children’s charities and nature reserves are cropping up all over deprived countries, and travellers can now volunteer and work at these places whilst absorbing the culture around them. Not only is this much better for the societies in need, but the volunteers gain valuable skills which can be put to use on their CVs when they return home. People are living longer than ever before, and it is expected if this trend continues that the generation graduating from university now will live well into their 90s and even 100s. The retirement age recently increased, and will no doubt continue to do so as people live longer. Why spend your life studying in education only to rush into a career straight out of Uni? Your early 20s are the years when you can truly be selfish. With no dependent children or family, why shouldn’t you have a bit of adventure before settling down? After fourteen years of education, you deserve a break.
People have been heading off on worldly adventures after finishing their degree for years, and judging from the older generation, it didn’t do them any harm.
It is easy to sing the praises of the gap year. After all who wouldn’t want to swan off to distant lands and spend months getting drunk on foreign beaches? But graduates who are serious about finding their dream job could be missing out on huge opportunities by doing so. Many large corporations only accept Graduates who finished University up to two years ago. If you consider that you may not have enough required experience under your belt in order to even be considered for the interview stage, this is a very small window of opportunity. Your first few years out of University will shape your career more than any other. Rather than squandering what little money you have on flip flops and “finding yourself”, you should be focusing on getting as much experience as possible, whether that is through internships, volunteering or paid work.
The job market is hugely competitive at the moment, and if you want to have an edge on the hundreds of other graduates who apply, you need to prove yourself. Besides, wouldn’t you rather travel once you have enough money to be able to do it in style? You won’t earn that kind of money through slacking. You will find it much harder to find a graduate job in your desired field after a year away, and will not be in the mind-set to take the job hunt seriously. Take advantage of the knowledge that is still fresh in your mind – you won’t remember the finer details of your degree course if your mind is still in Bangkok.
Olivia Lazenby blogs for www.jobsinmanchester.com. After graduating she spent a year living in Australia, where she worked for the majority of her stay. She returned home to Manchester where she now advises job seekers on finding work.