Presenting your skills
Many people gain a wealth of experience during their time out that can be useful when trying to secure a job after graduation. However, this value might not be immediately obvious to employers.
In applications and interviews it is important to highlight aspects of your experience which relate to the post, company and sector. Concentrate on those accomplishments that add value to your profile, for example, by evidencing initiative or showing commitment to relevant causes.
Be specific and pertinent
In order to maximise their effect, describe your duties and achievements in a concise and specific manner. Remember, it is not about making grand statements but articulating your capabilities in professional language.
For instance, a description such as
Worked as an English tutor teaching groups of students in a local school undertaking various related duties, organised events and made a valuable contribution to the local community.
will have less impact than a more concrete statement like:
Taught English to school groups of all levels and abilities, planning, delivering and assessing 8 lessons per week. Organised extra-curricular activities including English culture evenings and a cultural festival attended by over 150 people.
Make work in other areas relevant
Identifying the skills gained in jobs not directly related to the post or sector you are applying for might not always feel as easy. However, as long as you make your examples relevant to the job and company
, they are still worthwhile.
A summer job in Australia, for instance, might not seem that useful for a graduate management trainee position at first sight:
Worked as a waitress in the Sydney Best Bean cafe for three months. This varied role developed my people skills and serving a variety of customers gave me a good understanding of the local culture. I also had other duties such as dealing with the till, cleaning and checking stock, so I became well acquainted with how a cafe works and I utterly enjoyed my time there.
This alternative description makes the connections between the work experience and the target post explicit in a much more effective manner:
Worked for three months as a waitress in the Sydney Best Bean cafe, serving up to 60 customers per 3-hour shift and undertaking process-driven duties such as stock-taking, cleaning, and handling the till. This gave me a sound understanding of how the business operated included health and safety policies, customer service standards and administrative procedures. I also took an active interest in sales and development targets in order to make a valuable contribution.
Highlight the value of life experiences
Your year out preparations and any unplanned incidents during your time away might also provide evidence of resolution, resourcefulness and other sought-after qualities if presented in the right way.
If you are applying for an events coordinator job or a PR vacancy, the following statement might not give you that much of an advantage:
Travelled independently round Costa Rica, Argentina and Peru for four months, using my language skills, learning about other countries, meeting new people and going beyond my comfort zone.
A more business-minded account, however, will be much more interesting to potential employers:
Planned a four-month itinerary covering Costa Rica, Argentina and Peru, arranging all travel and accommodation and designing a programme of activities on a tight budget. These tasks, which involved dealing with local agents in English and Spanish, enhanced my negotiation, communication and translation skills as well as my cross-cultural awareness.