MIND THE MINI-GAP
If you would rather be doing something physically demanding and exhilarating during your gap year then you are not alone, as adventure mini-breaks are becoming increasingly popular. Max Tookey, a senior psychology lecturer at Greenwich University, who specialises in the study of career and lifestyle, explains why an adventure holiday can offer similar prospects to the mainstream gap year.
Traditionally people have sought out work experience on gap years, but you can still gain a similar skill set from a mini-gap. You’ll be travelling for a shorter period of time, usually a maximum of three months, but you’ll be exploring destinations with the experts or independent tour operators – who act like a rough guide to the destination. These companies can enhance your ability to get off the beaten track, as their knowledge of the countries you will be visiting may stem into tens of years. Aside from that, they may well incorporate work experience into the actual trip. Hey presto – a well balanced tour that does exactly what a gap year aims to do and all the planning is taken care of for you.
You don’t have to spend 12 months on a gap year to shine at job interviews. What’s important to employers hoping to fill their graduate schemes is the ability to relate work experience to the real life workings of business. As a graduate, it’s also important to remember that you are still starting from the bottom up, and no one is expected to be an expert at this point of the game.
Many students want to go on trips that include some involvement with charities. As a mini-gapper you can find out how these non-profit organisations work, and on some occasions even participate in the day-to-day running of the charity. Companies such as Acacia Adventure Holidays now offer overland itineraries, some of which incorporate visits to charitable projects. Its Softpower project in Uganda (an optional activity on its 28-day Game Parks & Gorillas overland trip) is one example. Graduates get to grips with the workings of the charity on the ground, and work as a team to uplift and build community schools. Teamwork itself is a highly valuable commodity for graduates, especially if they can show how they used these skills in an unfamiliar environment. While there are undoubtedly team and leadership opportunities to be gained throughout university, being able to adapt these talents in a setting which is somewhat more removed from the norm, will undoubtedly highlight your unbound initiative, and separate you from a growing number of graduates, all looking to land a place on the same scheme.
Since you have a shorter period of time in which to grasp this knowledge it is vital to diarise your trip in detail, especially in terms of what you felt you learned from the experience. This will put you one step ahead of the career game on your return home, as you can strategically plan how the events of your mini-gap would fit with those likely questions at that all important interview. Answers should be short, sharp and to the point, but it’s best to have all the details in place so you don’t miss any opportune sound bites.
Choosing a mini-gap as opposed to an entire year out might also be an economically sound option in the current climate. Showing an employer that you have taken budget into account, rather than simply opting to go for broke and plum for the more expensive option also shows you’ve got a head for hard facts and figures. Sound practical skills for the business environment, which will no doubt make a further impact on the interviewer.
Finally, choose a trip that best suits your skill requirements and get involved – don’t be shy and pitch in – this will strengthen your social skills, and members of the group will be encouraged by you and feel at ease. Be prepared to challenge yourself and try activities you wouldn’t normally consider, you may find there is a whole new person under those preconceptions. Finally, enjoy the experience as a true learning environment needs to be relaxed and free from stress.