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Gap Year and Working Abroad Tips for Recent Graduates – A guest post by Graduate Sam Murray

Following University, the opportunity to fulfil a gap year abroad, both working and travelling seemed ideal and an opportunity not to be missed. Promoted by prospective employers and the chosen route for a lot of fellow peers I jumped upon the bandwagon and chose one of the more popular routes of travelling from the UK to Thailand then South through Asia, onto New Zealand and finally landing in Australia….

Deciding on a Career Path
Graduating from Uni with a degree in Business I had yet to decide if I wanted my career path to be the route of a self-employed businessman, owning and running a small restaurant/bar, or if I should become part of a large multinational employer – the gap year seemed like an ideal opportunity for me to experiment with both and also to have some fun and explore the World before returning to the UK.

Asia and My First Step
With my savings from working over the summer and some family donations I made my way to Bangkok for the adventure to begin. Within the first few weeks of my time in Asia I soon discovered my first pitfall – Asia, well known for being a popular tourist destination is where I planned to gain my experience within the hospitality industry however it soon became relevant that in Asia the UK backpacker is intended to be on the other side of the bar, paying for drinks, not serving them.From resort to resort this was the case and during my first three months there the only work I could find was labouring for a family that were setting up their own bar, not exactly the best use of my 4 years at University!

As we travelled the circuit with other backpackers and I explained my aims to fellow travellers I kept hearing of the diving industry being a great way to get work – doing a diving course and then instructing others tourists on their dive. Although not what I intended I could draw a faint line from this to the hospitality sector and even began with ambitions of setting up a diving school.

A few bumpy bus rides later and I landed in a remote part of Thailand and began my 5 days PADI course. An amazing experience and compared to my first few months I felt constructive however putting my newly found qualification into practise was slightly more difficult as it seems everyone on the town was also PADI qualified. With this in mind and the off-hand opportunity to travel to the Philippine Islands I decided this may be the place to gain my hospitality experience and if not hopefully start to be a dive instructor.

My Philippine ambitions got off to a good start as I managed to find work in the first hotel we stayed in, working the reception during the day and being a waiter during functions of an evening I felt like I was learning from the ground-up within hospitality. After a month I began to ask question about a more senior position, possibly running the functions and dealing with stock and staff requirements but the role was already filled by a local and the general manager was very keen to protect this individual as they were a family friend. With this limitation and bearing in mind that I was now 6 month into my adventure I made the decision to no longer focus my energies on hospitality and take the leap to Australia in seek of work in a large corporate organisation.

Australia and the Corporate World
Arriving in Melbourne the contrast to job-seeking in Asia was vividly apparent. In Asia there are no umbrella recruitment companies for the type of work I was looking for, no agencies or recruitment specialists to help me in the job search. The market in Australia was saturated with umbrella companies such as Seek.Com or MyCareer.Com in addition to a number of boutique recruitment companies. I began to look for a SAP job, registering my CV with as many recruitment companies as possible, this usually involved sending my CV for a specific position, which was followed up with a call from the agent looking after that role, if suitable a meeting with the agent and sometimes some skills test in popular computer programs and then awaiting a phone call if any applicable roles came up.

The hourly rates available in Australia were much better than those in Asia and even in the UK with roles such as data entry/reception cover/basic admin paying up to AUD 26.00 per hour, this was perfect to replenish my somewhat low bank balance following Asia and also gave me experience within the corporate environment I was looking for. After a few weeks fulfilling these entry level positions I began to seek roles that were more long-term, would offer some training and were with reputable companies that also existed within Europe.

It was here again that I began to struggle, mainly due to my circumstances and Visa limitations. Travelling to Australia on a working holiday visa meant that I could only work for one company for 6 months; therefore I could not apply to any permanent positions and was limited to the temporary/casual job market. The kind of roles that fall into the temporary market – data entry/reception cover and office admin…

There are some agencies that are able to find roles where after 6 months of working there, they sponsor you to stay in Australia, I began to apply for these roles but as the company is taking somewhat of a gamble, they usually require some experience, being fresh from University this was what I lacked and was seeking to gain! I moved from temporary role to temporary role, aware that my time was running out to gain anything long term, before I knew my 6 months was up and the most significant employment I had was 3 months data entry in the health industry – not what I had in mind.

Final Thoughts
Overall the gap year did not provide what I had planned in terms of a taster of working in the hospitality and finance industries. I cannot base my future career on what I experienced in the low level roles I fulfilled during my time abroad; however I would not class it as a waste of time at all. Indirectly, my time abroad taught me a lot in terms of local values, the difference in cultures and how this impacts businesses and also the contrast of temporary and permanent roles. My experiences doing my PADI and helping a family setup a bar in Asia are not great additions to my CV but in terms of life experiences are invaluable, the roles I filled in Australia could have been completed without my degree but the understanding I gained of the corporate environment and what is expected will also stay with me for life.

TheEmployable thanks Sam for his guest blog and asking to write a guest blog. If you fancy writing for TheEmployable and feel you have a story to tell – get in touch.

Sam’s guest blog reminded us of a pithy Grad post we wrote a few months ago – check out the post here…

Sam Murray now works for Red Commerce, a specialist SAP recruitment agency based in London


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