After graduation many of you will go into work or further study but these don't have to be the only options. In this blog, Bath graduate and previous Careers Student Worker Toni discusses her experiences of taking a year out.
Hi! I’m Toni. I studied Psychology at the University of Bath and I graduated back in July 2019.
A lot of my peers went straight into work or further education, but that isn’t the only option after you graduate. I decided that I didn’t want to get into work straight away, so now I’m currently on a year out. At the moment, I’m living in the north of Spain before I head to Colombia for the summer.
Why I decided to take a year out
I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do after university, and though I felt an immense amount of pressure to have figured this out by final year, I didn’t want to make a rushed decision that I would regret later.
Besides, my final year was already incredibly stressful and if I had to do job hunting and job applications as well, it would have made things a lot more difficult for me and I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy my final year as much as I had.
The way I saw it, was that I had my whole life ahead of me to work. There was no need to jump on the career ladder straight away.
How this year has helped me
It’s given me the opportunity and the time to really explore all of the options available to me. And there are loads! I’ve been able to do more thorough research into graduate schemes and graduate jobs e.g. the differences between them, advantages, challenges etc. Which helped me realise that I didn’t want to commit to a scheme because, for me, it is quite daunting to think I would be tied to a job for two or more years and I may not even enjoy it. Ultimately, I would prefer to have the freedom and flexibility of a graduate job.
There was no way I would have been able to do all of that thinking during my final year. Between deadlines, dissertation and societies, there was not a lot of time for me to be able to really sit down and think about what I wanted from a career, what my values were, what kind of environment I wanted to work in and so on.
For instance, I have really enjoyed living in the Spanish countryside, it has been a welcome change from the usual hustle and bustle of London that I am used to. But, realistically, I couldn’t see myself relocating to a rural part of the UK for work. Before coming here, I was very much of the thought that I would move wherever the job takes me, and while I am still happy to relocate, I would now only consider it if it was to a city location. It was only through experiencing living rural, that I could make this informed choice and recognise what I need in order to be happy and thrive at work.
Do I have any regrets?
I’m almost half-way through my year out and there have definitely been moments of doubt. Mostly when I see my friends and peers making headway in their respective careers… or generally moving on with their lives, which sometimes leaves me feeling like I’m stuck in limbo and I’m not doing enough.
There have been times when I wondered if I made the right decision. Especially because I’m someone who is very ambitious and career driven, and I’m so used to constantly doing things to further my career. And this year out, can occasionally feel like a step in the wrong direction.
What has definitely helped with these feelings, is knowing that I do have a plan for this year and even though I forget on occasion, I am actually doing things that add to my skill set. I’m improving my Spanish, I’m learning about a different culture, I’m writing and I’m having new experiences. I may not be directly working towards a career, but I am constantly learning and growing as time passes, which will only benefit me in my future career endeavours.
If you are thinking about taking a year out, my advice is to try and create a loose structure so that you get the most out of it.
During this year, I’ve been running a blog to keep track of what I’ve been doing and to share my journey with family and friends. But, I also use the platform to share professional and personal development tips from my own experiences with the occasional mix of psychology.
Through this I have been able to develop my non-fiction writing and I’ve really enjoyed writing the posts. It also helps that I’ve received a lot of positive feedback and encouragement, which has spurred me on to want to pursue a career in content writing and social media. My love for writing has always been there, but in my head I hadn’t fully explored the different opportunities that I could do with it. Likewise, I had done quite a bit of social media work for the university whilst I was a student and loved it. So I figured, I would combine two of my interests and make a career out of it.
It might sound like figuring out my career was very straightforward, but in reality I’ve changed my mind countless times along the way. I thought I wanted to work in sales, then it was human resources, after that I wanted to be a life coach and then there was 180 back to human resources! Moral of the story? My journey was not linear. It took a few internships, conversations with the careers service and my support network, and just trying things out before anything really started to fall into place. So don’t feel disheartened if it takes you a while to figure things out.
After university, we spend most of our time at work. Therefore, it makes sense to be doing work that we enjoy. Which is why I’m so glad I took the time out to focus on myself and find out what I wanted, which is a career I am passionate about. And this time out has given me the freedom to rediscover my passions.
If you're thinking about taking a year out or gap year - check out our page on MyFuture which covers advantages, disadvantages and things to consider. Go to Taking a gap year.
You can also book an appointment to talk through your plans with an Adviser. Find out more about our appointments.