When everyone around you is frantically applying for top graduate schemes in banking or consulting, it is very easy to also get carried away and do the same. It can give you a distorted perception that the corporate world is your only option, when there is actually a wealth of things you can do and not everyone has to follow the same path.
Why not consider a gap year? When it is taken after university, there tends to be a stigma attached to it. This is because gap years are often associated with a break between secondary school and higher education to either work part-time, volunteer, or travel.
Gap years are, nevertheless, essentially a period of time spent doing something that you don’t plan on doing forever. Perhaps it’s for personal fulfillment or maybe it’s just to take a breather (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that). They end up giving you a lot of transferable skills as well as the much needed time to think carefully about what you want to do in the future.
Priyanka Kumar, a PPE graduate from the University of Warwick, although not taking a gap year in the conventional sense, is pursuing a role that she only intends to do for a year or two before switching to a different career path.
She will be undertaking the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (the JET Program), a Japanese government initiative that brings together university graduates to Japan as assistant English language teachers and cultural ambassadors.
“I don’t plan on being a teacher forever- although it’s hard to say, as I haven’t yet taught”, Priyanka tells me. “I was, however, attracted to this program because I really wanted a career with an international focus – moving abroad, learning a new language, and getting to promote internationalisation at the grassroots levels”.
She continues that the JET program, due to the exposure one will get from taking it, is a great precursor to life as a diplomat. Even if one doesn’t end up in the foreign service, these language and intercultural skills can be very transferable and used to, say, work for a Japanese firm in the UK in the future.
Similar programs include:
Keeping your options open
While Priyanka secured her role before graduation and will start almost immediately after, she reassures that it is perfectly okay to take your time to find something that’s right for you. It may be tempting to apply to the high-paying graduate schemes but if your heart is not really in it then you are not going to be happy.
Bushra Kherallah, a Politics with International Studies graduate from the University of Warwick, likewise said that she applied to a few graduate schemes but was not really sure if she wanted one. “Now that I’ve decided to take a gap year, I see it as a great opportunity to think properly about what I want to do”, she tells me, “As this is a start of a new chapter in my life, I think it’s good to not rush into things”
She says that her plan is to get a part time job for now, as it’s important to have financial stability while keeping options open. In the long run, she would like to go into secondary school teaching.
Both Priyanka and Bushra prove that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t secure a conventional graduate scheme that will land you the ‘perfect job’ right after university. It is perfectly okay to think outside the box, do something unconventional, and see where things go. These experiences and roles you take may enrich you in ways you didn’t think it could.