James studied business commerce at the University of Birmingham. He is now a director of studentbeans.com: an online directory for student discounts covering Southampton to Aberdeen – and everyone in between. Before university he took a gap year, which included: working in a retail store in San Francisco, he did a ski season, and then worked in telesales for Gala Bingo.
What was your motivation?
I wanted to get more experience. I got to the end of school not wanting to go straight to university. I wanted to do something I was passionate about – and that included skiing. I also wanted to go travelling after having saved some money so I would get a balance of working and enjoying myself. Having a gap year really prepares you for getting out there and meeting people.
What did the application process involve?
I got the work experience in the US through a placement scheme which I had to pay for. They asked what areas I was interested in and I said marketing. I applied for the ski season in the summer before I went.
What did you do?
In San Francisco, I did a variety of different things, including acting as a bodyguard for £100,000-worth of jewellery! As for Gala Bingo, I would recommend telesales to everyone. Getting told “No” 1,000 times a week is really useful in building up a thick skin.
How did you sell the experience on your CV?
I got a lot of customer service experience. During the ski season, customers had to complete satisfaction questionnaires and I constantly came out on top. I was promoted to general assistant in another resort.
Did you enjoy it?
I loved it – it was the best experience and opportunity. People often regret not taking a gap year, but I don’t know anyone who regrets taking a gap year.
What did you learn?
I learnt how to be independent, the importance of knowing what you want to do, and the importance of customer service. The year before I went, I had a really set idea of what I wanted to do and I ended up managing to do so much. Travelling really opened up my mind as to what was out there.
All the experiences were so good and so different. But the best bit was probably the travelling. I really enjoyed all of it.
I ended up not seeing some friends for a long time, but I stayed in touch with the really important people. I truly look at it as one of the best years of my life.
Advice to readers?
Do something you really want to do; research it. Do some work experience, but also travel. Don’t rush into work straight away: you’re going to be working for the rest of your life.