Thinking of taking a gap year after graduating?

pexels-photo-346885Taking a “gap year” either for self-fulfilment or career development can reap rewards. In a recent survey, 37% of employers believe it increases people skills, and 35% agreed a year out helps people adapt quickly to new situations.

To make the most of it, make your time out count:

Why take a year out?

Going abroad provides a chance to broaden your horizons, discover new cultures, and is a great way to network and make new friends. Picking up a language and teaching English are also motivators for some. Remember, taking a year out is not just about travelling – you may want to stay in the UK to pursue your passion for music for example, or volunteer for a while.

What about my career?

Activities undertaken on a year out can boost skills sought by employers, and can give you space to work out what you would like to do in the longer term.

If you’re undecided on what you want to do next, make sure you do some thinking before you go (or come and speak to one of our Careers Consultants!). A gap year is a great opportunity to pick up some work experience in an area that interests you.

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Creative job hunting

Tell us about unconventional ways of finding a job!

Many students come to Careers & Enterprise looking to apply for graduate schemes online, usually in the autumn term before they graduate. In my experience, graduates apply for these schemes for a number of reasons including:

  • They are much talked about and well publicised through publications such as Target Jobs, Milkround and Prospects.
  • They feel safe because they provide structured training opportunities lasting for 1 – 2 years. This means you are not expected to hit the ground running.
  • They are often in companies that students have heard of and some people place great emphasis on reputation and branding.
  • They are relatively well paid with a median starting salary of £30,000 (High Fliers report The Graduate Market on 2016).

The major downside to applying for graduate schemes is that most students apply to graduate schemes! It is therefore highly competitive with around 10% of students securing places. So what else can you do and where else can you apply if you have not secured one for this year? Read on for some suggestions…

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Graduates finding work: the long and winding road

Deep breath.

Seeking gainful employment?  You could still be looking (whisper it) six months hence.

There, I’ve said it.

Shock, horror, step back in amazement.

That’s just on average.  It could be slightly less or – you’re ahead of me here aren’t you? – it might be more.

It’s only logical. Keenies applying in their final year for major grad schemes start in October,  learn their fate around March. Same rules, same timescale.  Just a different ball game.

The Rules

OK, limbo can be lonesome, but

–          set job hunting targets

–          stick to them

–          one focussed, well-written CV or application is worth 20 that are half-hearted, half-baked, haphazard. All destined to be filed under “Delete” or “Shred”. Why bother?  Either it’s good to go or it’s got to go.

–          Every unsuccessful interview is one pace forward, not two steps back.  You’re learning each time.  We discussed using feedback fruitfully a few blogs ago. (Do try to keep up.)

Inspirational anecdotes A and B

Ms X (not her real name) graduated 2012 to an uninspiring admin role, endless interviews, repeated rejections, numerous near misses.  Only now has she got the gig she wanted.  After twelve months in the twilight zone, seventh heaven beckons.

Straying into a hostelry, your careers correspondent was served a glass of fortified mineral water  by the alumna of a uni even more high profile than QM.  She had just landed a plum post with a magazine, after bartending for two years.  Yes, you read that right.

The multiple morals?

–          you are not alone

–          stopgap jobs are an honest living and seen as such by recruiters

–          success often comes through baby steps rather than with a single bound

–          make like a metronome and keep the momentum going.  It’s a marathon not a sprint.

Gill Sharp
Senior Careers Consultant
QM Careers & Enterprise Centre

Job seeking for beginners

QM Careers will be open throughout the summer to give encouragement, empathy and advice.  But there is a lot you can do in the meantime to look for work:

  • Use our vacancy service and register for alerts at Other graduate sites to note are and
  • Don’t ignore the usual suspects – Monster, Jobsite et al, but approach with caution, use with care: apply only for graduate opportunities, rather than wasting time on openings for older hands.
  • Live outside the charmed circle of the M25?  Check your local university’s careers site.  It’s usually open access careers site with a regional slant.
  • Seeking something specialised? Choose resources and publications which advertise specific vacancies. Some are obvious:  New Scientist, Social Work Today, the clue’s in the name. Others are obscure: in which case,  will reveal all. The really sneaky amongst you -you know who you are -will also bookmark the careers pages of universities which specialise in these subjects.
  • Got a bit of bottle?  Don’t wait for jobs to be advertised, contact firms direct to ask what might be available. Be prepared to pitch yourself and your (undeniable) potential.

Those are the tools, these are the tips:

  • Check out job opportunities whole heartedly not half heartedly  – once a week minimum.
  • Don’t let random record keeping wrong-foot you. Keep track of all approaches, applications, advertisements.
  • Set targets.  A realistic tally of X speculative emails + Y job applications per week is far more likely to work than a scattergun system.
  • Naff applications are wasted applications.  Two focused forms, lucid letters or customised CVs are better than 20 of their more generic cousins.

Happy hunting.

Panicked about your career

“Scary”: the word heard most often right now as graduates with no job or no firm career ideas confess their concerns…..

Mythbuster #1:  You are not alone

Think that most graduates go into professional level employment as soon as they leave university? Think again. The majority take several months to find their niche.

The road ahead may seem unclear, but the path is well travelled and, if you follow the steps below, well charted.

Step 1: Remuneration

Keeping body and soul together usually means a stop-gap job, possibly humble in character, modest in salary. This is very much the norm for new graduates just finding their feet.  It won’t affect your chances of a professional job and may even enhance these. Need I whisper the words “transferable skills”?

Step 2: Research

Investigate your own preferences, aptitudes and interests: essential if you haven’t decided on a career, insightful if you have.

This step is your sat nav. Omit it and risk veering off course or hitting a dead end.

Dig deeper still: case studies, links, vacancies, voluntary work, internships, post-grad courses are all present and correct on those same websites.

Mythbuster #2 Graduate employment does not = graduate schemes

Less than 15% of university leavers go into training schemes with major companies. If you set your compass for this type of work, remember there are alternatives if you encounter the choppy waters of competition and the rocks of rejection.

Step 3: Regroup

Use this information to plot your course, either alone or with assistance from QM. Join Gradclub for free or heavily discounted access to the careers service here. Registration costs nothing until New Year.  Use it or lose it.

The future is yours. Daunting yes, dangerous no. It’s your next big adventure.

Gill Sharp
Careers Consultant
QM Careers