May 2, 2014, by Beth Dawson

Finalist careers clinic 3

By Suzanne McGregor and Sarah Durke from our Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Science Careers teams 

Your focus is now on your dissertation and final exams, but at the back of your mind you may have questions about what you’re going to do afterwards.

Our finalist careers clinic offers a prescription of regular instalments of frequently asked questions and expert advice from our Careers team, in the lead up to graduation. In this instalment, we look at whether a gap year is a good idea and how to deal with job rejections. 

Is a gap year a good or bad idea?

For many final year students, the idea of taking a gap year after graduation is very tempting and we’re often asked whether this is a good idea and how it is viewed my employers.

Firstly, it’s worth addressing the concept of a gap year. For many of you, your life has so far been structured by academic years. But there’s no reason to have to stick to this and your gap ‘year’ could actually be seven, 15 or any number of weeks or months depending on what you want to achieve or do. Added to this, you don’t have to stick to one activity or location, for example in order to travel, you may well need to build up some funds first.

Employers are generally happy to consider applicants who have taken a gap period. Their key message is that you need to state how the experience, whatever it is, has developed your skills, outlook and self-awareness. They will be more impressed by your ability to do this than by the most exotic location you’ve been to.

Consider your motivation for taking a gap period. If it is to gain some specific experience or skills which are relevant to your future, this will be beneficial. If you simply want to travel, experience other cultures and languages or help those less fortunate, all these motivations offer opportunities for you to articulate your experiences in a positive and relevant way.

Some people choose to take a gap year to avoid making career decisions. It may be that this period of time enables you to clarify your next step, but if you’re still unsure after your gap period, don’t forget you can still come and see us as a graduate.

I’ve applied to a few graduate jobs, but haven’t been successful! What should I do?

So, you’ve made some applications, but have not secured a job yet. Receiving another rejection letter can be disheartening and you may be feeling frustrated or anxious – what should you do?

  • Look at your past applications. How far did you get in the applications process? Are you falling down at the same stage? Where might you have gone wrong? If you’re not getting past the application form or CV stage, then assess your skills and experience. Do you meet the job criteria? If you do, be sure to check if you’ve clearly demonstrated the skills the employer is looking for. Perhaps your application was done in a hurry or sent in late – did you thoroughly proofread your application? If you’re invited to an interview or assessment centre, your application convinced the employer that you have the potential for the job, so where did you fall down? Did you know enough about the role, company and sector? Did you prepare your answers in advance and behave in a confident, professional manner? If you’re not offered a position, you can ask the employer for feedback, which may help you do better next time. You can also speak to a careers adviser for guidance about how to stand out during the application process.

Finally, keep going. There are still plenty of vacancies out there and most people have to make a number of applications before they’re successful, particularly if wanting to work in a competitive field. Although it is hard work and disheartening at times, your situation isn’t unusual.

If you have a careers dilemma of your own, you can book an appointment with a careers adviser through My Career or if you’re off campus, why not ask us a question on Facebook and Twitter? We’ll put your questions to our careers advisers and deliver advice to your newsfeed.

Posted in Applying For JobsGraduate VacanciesVolunteeringWork experience