Careers and Employability Service
Services for current students

Taking time out

Woman thinking with pen and notebook

Taking time out after your undergraduate degree or postgraduate course can offer great personal and professional opportunities.

You might take anything from a couple of months to over a year – how long isn’t important, it’s how you spend it. 

This page will show that taking time out is a valid option and provides inspiration on what you could do.

Your next steps

Talk to an adviser 


Why does taking some time out appeal to you?

Students and graduates tell us that they want some time out for one or more of the following reasons:

  • to give themselves time to think about the what they want to do
  • to explore their options open to them 
  • to have a break after the pressures of their studies and exams
  • to go travelling or volunteer before committing to a career
  •  to gain some experience to boost their CV

What can you do during your time out? 

There’s usually a ‘pick and mix’ approach for most students or graduates involving one of more of the following. It really depends on why you want to take time out.

You could:

  • get a job whether that’s on a temporary or permanent basis, full- or part-time
  • organise some work experience to gain an insight into roles that are of interest to you
  • volunteer with a project or cause you’re passionate about
  • study something new, through a short or part-time course
  • travel to explore new cultures and places
  • gain work experience or a job overseas

From this summary, what do you think taking time out will involve for you?


My Excitement To Escape My Job Led to My New Career in Australia

View of Melbourne

Read Jade's story about her time after graduation

What could I do on a gap year after university, and why should I take one?


Read Josephine's blog post


How will taking time out affect your longer-term career plans?

Whatever your reasons for taking time out, don’t feel pressured to have a plan sorted out before you finish your studies.

There may be some people who might say that if you take time out, you will miss out on opportunities, employers don’t like graduates taking time out or that graduate schemes are only for new graduates.

To address these in turn:

Missing out on opportunities – for some training programmes or further study courses there are set application deadlines, so check out when the application period starts and finishes. If you’re abroad, have a look at your options below.

Employers don’t like graduates taking time out – this just isn’t true. They will be interested in what you’ve done, why you did it and what you've got out of it but that’s to help them understand your suitability for the position.

  • If you go travelling, you can highlight: the level of organisation the trip involved, how you overcame problems or adversity, your experience of diverse cultures, and budgeting your money.
  • If you volunteer or take on several temporary jobs, you could explain why you wanted to volunteer, the new skills you’ve developed through different roles and the career implications.

Graduate schemes are only for new graduates – employers will recruit recent graduates to their training schemes, usually up to three years after graduation. For some it’s much longer - the average age of new recruits to the Civil Service Fast Stream is 27 years of age.

And don't forget, you can talk to us, come along to events and search for vacancies after you've graduated. Take a look at our alumni website and contact us by email, phone or through MyCareer.


 When to apply for graduate jobs or further study courses if you want to travel

It really depends on when you go travelling and for how long. You may have a round-the-world air ticket or are only spending a few weeks or months overseas, for example, during a ski season, or working at a summer camp.

Here are three options to consider:

  • Apply before taking time out - try to secure deferred entry to a graduate job or postgraduate course. You’ll need to find out if an employer or course provider will be able to offer this option. You could do this before you apply, at an interview or wait until you’ve been offered a job or place on the course
  • Apply during your time out - some elements of the recruitment process, such as psychometric tests, can be online but most employers will look to host one element in person. For those online activities, good wifi and a quiet location will be key.
  • Apply after your time out - if you may have missed the application deadline, you’ll have to wait for the next application window.

Find out more about application timelines for graduate roles. There are some deadlines for graduate schemes but many recruit all year round. For other graduate job roles, the employer will specify the deadline when the vacancy is advertised.


Where to look for opportunities outside the UK

If you're looking to spend some of your time out overseas, here are resources to help you explore what's on offer to you and what you need to think about.

Work experience overseas

On our opportunities outside the UK page, you can explore the key issues to think about, information on passports and visas, and also where to look for vacancies.

Working overseas

Check out our How do I find work overseas? pages to find sources of vacancies using our five continent pages.

Year out organisations

Year Out Group - how to plan your time out, the benefits told from several viewpoints and opportunities

Seasonal work opportunities

There are many websites offering seasonal work.

Anywork Anywhere
Search for summer, temporary, gap year, casual and voluntary work worldwide

This list of websites is not exhaustive and has not been verified by the university or the Careers and Employability Service. 


How do you know if an overseas 'provider' is genuine?

If you use a search engine for 'gap year providers' or 'temporary or seasonal work abroad', you will return hundreds of results.

Some organisations have been around a long time and are well-known, and others less so. We've created a list of questions to help you to ensure the organisation is legitimate and meets your needs.

What is the precise programme cost and what does it cover?

  • What does the money cover exactly? Can this be confirmed in writing?
  • How much of the total figure is a deposit or management fee?
  • When and how do I pay? What means of payment are accepted?
  • If the programme changes or I have to cancel, would I obtain a refund?
  • If I have to raise funds, does the organisation give advice?
  • What is the recommended budget for extras?

How is the programme run and who is responsible?

  • What type of organisation runs the programme (for example, a charity, sole trader, private company)?
  • Who will I be reporting to when I am working there?
  • Will there be a local contact available?

What exactly will I be doing?

  • Can I chat to past participants?
  • What will my induction consist of? What training will I get?
  • Will I need to be proficient in another language?
  • Will the programme continue after I have left? If so, could I extend my time with the programme?
  • What will my responsibilities be?

What are the meal and accommodation arrangements?

  • Will I be placed with a local family or with other students?
  • Is there a cost and if so, how much?

What emergency procedures are in place?

  • What healthcare facilities are available? 
  • Is there a cost to the healthcare provided?

Tips and advice to consider during your time out

  • Remember if you have any questions or need advice on your next steps, we're still here to help. Our contact details are below or log in to MyCareer to book an appointment (in person, online or by phone) with a member of our team
  • Keep a record of the your skills, responsibilities and achievements - it can be difficult to remember significant details down the line
  • Make a list of the contacts you make or connect with them on LinkedIn and keep any evidence of positive feedback
  • If you go abroad, ask for references while you're out there as it might be difficult to locate people you've worked with months later
  • If you know what you want to do and are abroad or in a different part of the UK to where you want to be in the near future, sign up for job alerts and follow the news
  • Make sure you can easily access all the information and documents you will need to deal with job applications while you are away


Careers and Employability Service

University of Nottingham
Portland Building, Level D
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 3680
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 3679