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The Next Step When You Graduate: Gap Year or Grad Job?

25th November 2016 Posted by: Hannah Holmes

WITH the burden of a loan round their neck that could rival that of an albatross it’s no wonder that so many graduates rush into work - only to find doing something they’re not interested in is not the answer. But is allowing yourself a year to travel the solution, or just burying your head in the sand?

Many students are inclined to get a graduate job, this is probably in large part to do with needing to have a readily available answer when every Tom, Dick and Harry asks you what your plans are now that you’ve graduated. And this can be a good first step if you apply for a job that you are actually interested in. However, students shouldn’t feel obligated to take the first graduate job they’re offered because they’ve been made to feel that taking a year out before you start work makes you less employable. Of course employability is important, but the onslaught of careers fairs at university leads to one in five graduates applying for jobs that aren’t in line with their interests, according to a report by advisory firm CEB. The result of this is that a quarter of all graduates leave their roles within a year of starting, disillusioned with their first experience of working life.

So, another option is to travel. I have a bit of an issue with people saying that travelling after university is putting off ‘real life’. Is real life not simply whatever life you choose to live. I don’t even like the term ‘gap year’ very much. What exactly are you taking a gap from? Does this mean that every time you do something you don’t usually do you’re taking a break from ‘real life’? It implies that all travelling is good for is delaying the start of working life. In general I think it’s a precarious way to live always thinking that your life is about to start. That it will launch off when you get on that well-paid graduate scheme, or when you land your dream internship in London when you get back from travelling.

If you go travelling your ‘real life’ isn’t going to be put on hold, and it shouldn’t be regarded as a legitimised way to waste time before you have to get on with things. If you’re not convinced that the gap (there’s that word again) in your CV won’t matter when you’re applying for jobs, try and incorporate some work experience or volunteering into your travels. Travelling is also a great opportunity to learn from people who’ve experienced things you haven’t. You never know, you might discover an entirely new career talking to a backpacker from Denmark in your hostel dorm.

However, if come September you’re on a graduate scheme this does not mean your travelling days are gone forever. Most employers aren’t naïve, they know you’re not going to want to stay in your first job for the duration of your twenties, and travelling between jobs is entirely doable. Especially now that the new normal is for young people to have a number of career changes in their life. Networking site LinkedIn found that, unlike their parents, college graduates today job hop four times in their first ten years out of college. That’s four ‘gaps’ (shudder) where you can pack up and jet off.

Whether you’re preparing for travelling or are in a graduate scheme remember that this is your real life, so whatever you do don’t wait a year for it to start. 

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