Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How a year abroad will get you a job

Our intern Laura is back with yet another great blog. This is a must-read for all those that are starting their year abroad or are thinking about planning their year abroad for next year.

I started a British Council teaching assistantship in Germany two years ago and although it may sound like a cliché, I feel a lot more employable now I’ve done it. Loads of you will be starting your year abroad this month and if you learn to sell your year abroad experiences well, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t secure you a graduate job when you get back.

On the most obvious level, a year abroad bulks up your CV and application forms with a huge amount of new experiences; often experience that you would not have been able to get at home. I chose a teaching assistantship because it was a chance to do something completely different to studying, and even if you don’t want to be a teacher, doing something out of your comfort zone can boost your confidence and reveal strengths you didn’t know you had.

And although you will be the ‘gap yah’ guy for the first six months after you get home, don’t treat this as a bad thing! If every sentence that leaves your mouth starts with ‘when I was on my year abroad…’ or ‘this reminds me of a time on my year abroad when…’ you can adopt in graduate job interviews when you need to provide examples of your competencies. Just by going abroad and surviving the year you’ve already ticked loads of competency boxes- courage, adaptability, personal responsibility, the list goes on. Don’t undersell your year abroad experiences because even the things you don’t think are particularly notable achievements, like finding accommodation and making friends, really are. The fact that you still managed to do them despite being in a foreign country, speaking a foreign language and out of your comfort zone is something a graduate recruiter would want to know.

Finally, when going for graduate jobs, it is important to remember that graduate recruiters want to know how you think, not what you know. A year abroad develops the way you think because it makes you question and challenge everything you come into contact with. It makes you see your own life and country from a new perspective and while you may think conversations about minor cultural differences sound trivial, they make you question the status quo and develop your global perspective. No graduate recruiter wants someone who accepts things as they are. They want people who can identify strengths and weaknesses, think outside the box and suggest alternative ways of doing things. If you’ve ever had a thought like ‘I wonder why the Germans start school at 8am’ or ‘I wonder why the French kiss each other’s cheeks all the time,’ as trivial as it may sound, you’re on the right track.

In a nutshell, your year abroad is worth much more than just a line on your CV, so make sure the recruiters know it. 

We've also got some great articles on our site on how to make a gap year count, whether it is part of your university course or not.