Take Time Out
Whatever your motivation for taking time out, make sure you use the time constructively. Be prepared to show a potential employer what you have gained from the experience.
Why take Time Out?
The most popular reasons include your need or wish to:
- Take a break after study.
- Take advantage of working holiday visas particularly to Australia or New Zealand.
- Learn a new language e.g. teaching English abroad.
- Develop new skills.
- Volunteer to do social or community work.
- Taking time for personal reasons e.g. to spend more time with family or to take an adult education course.
Before you go, consider the following:
- Why do you want to take time out and what skills do you want to gain from the experience?
- Plan it well, e.g. finances (including adequate travel insurance), work experience, appropriate vaccinations, travel and accommodation.
- What will you do when you return?
What you can Gain from the Experience:
- Teaching English as a Foreign Language
- Instructional skills
- Lesson planning
- Teaching techniques
- Working holiday in Australia or New Zealand
- Finding seasonal or short term work
- Negotiating accommodation
- Community work overseas
- Working as part of a team
- Cultural sensitivity
You should also think about the balance of benefits. Can you give as well as gain? Giving can occur in various ways - directly in terms of work for a community project or indirectly in terms of being culturally sensitive.
Weigh up the Pros & Cons
- Employers can be impressed with the initiative and independence shown by travelling abroad. Staying locally and doing something active can also be viewed favourably. Using a skills-based CV format may be the best way of demonstrating what you have learned.
- It is possible to combine travel and work. You may be lucky enough to get career-related work abroad. If not, you could focus on improving your language skills or do some voluntary work or work shadowing related to the area in which you hope to work.
- Deferring a job offer for a year is not always an option, though it is a possibility with some companies. It seems like the ideal situation to be offered a job and yet be given the option to take it up in six months or a year.
- For those going on to further study, this is often an opportunity to make money to pay off a debt or save for the following year.
- Some postgraduate courses require that applicants be a certain age or have certain experience, so time off in the interim is a prerequisite. Perhaps some time working as a freelance journalist may help you to get a place on a postgraduate journalism course.
- It's fun!
- Those closest to you may not greet your decision with universal enthusiasm. Some of their critical comments might include:
- "You're not facing up to the real world"
- "Can't you go on a holiday"
- "After all the money we've spent on your education" "What is the point of putting it off?"
- "The job scene will be worse when you get back".
- Even with web technology and dedicated job sites on the internet it is still harder to job hunt from afar.
- Unless you have made arrangements prior to leaving Ireland, securing a postgraduate course and the associated funding can also be difficult (but not impossible) to organise from a distance.
- Dangerous to assume that all experienced travellers are better-rounded individuals than those who start a career after graduation.
- Can be expensive.
- Personal security may be an issue. No matter how little money you think you have, in some countries you will be very rich compared to the people around you.
Before you Go
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it right for you? Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?
- Can you afford it financially?
- Have you set out to gain something specific from the experience e.g. language, teaching, computer skills, learn about conservation of the environment?
- Make sure that you keep informed about closing dates for jobs and/or postgraduate courses. You need a plan for when you return.
- How much time are you taking off? A year is reasonable, but any longer could lead an employer or potential research supervisor to question your motives.
- Employers tend to be interested in what you gained from the experience, and adopt a positive attitude to significant achievements during the year and skills gained. See What Employers Want.
- Ensure that you can respond to those employers who will want to know why you decided to take time off.
What Sort of Things can you Do?
Research the following possibilities and more, using Resources.
- Internship USA / Professional Career Training USA programmes
- JET programme
- Working holiday in Australia or New Zealand
- Fee based projects overseas
There are many ways of spending time out. The examples given here are simply a limited range of possibilities. There are a lot of other things that you can do.
Internship USA / Professional Career Training USA Programmes
- These programmes provide undergraduates, recent graduates, and postgraduates the unique opportunity to work in the US provided the job is directly related to your field of study and future career.
- You are responsible for securing your own work placement in the US in advance of travel.
- For more information see Internship USA / Professional Career Training USA
- This is a unique opportunity to live and work in Japan to acquire valuable teaching skills and earn a good salary.
- Read what a TCD graduate has to say about the experience.
- For more information see JET Programme.
Working holiday to Australia or New Zealand
Australia has a working holiday visa arrangement with a number of countries including Ireland. The main terms of the arrangement are that:
- The primary intention of the visit is holiday.
- The work is not career related. Primarily aimed at people in the 18-30 inclusive age bracket and therefore some mature students may not be able to avail of it.
- The same full time job cannot be held for longer than six months.
- See more information on Working Holiday
Broadly similar arrangements apply between New Zealand and Ireland.
- Acronym for The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience. This programme organises student exchanges in more than 70 countries for practical technical or commercial training. The exchanges are not normally available to those who have left university but exceptions can be made for fresh graduates doing their practical training immediately after final exams.
- See more information on IAESTE.
Fee based projects overseas
- Some organisations e.g. Dominican Republic Disabled Adults and Children, for a fee, will arrange for you to do voluntary or community based work experience overseas. Alternatively, expeditions, e.g. Raleigh International, can give conservation or construction experience. These types of opportunities will require you to raise funds (and that can be valuable experience in its own right) of the order of €5,000 to cover the cost of participation.
- For more information see Resources
Reporting Back / Bringing home the Value
When taking time out you need to make the most of it. You may also want to add value so as to interest employers later. You need to show how you have developed during the time e.g.
- Building self-confidence through acting on your own initiative
- Delivering results from challenges you set yourself
- Developing team skills through living and collaborating with others
Before you go set up an action plan and define your goals for the time you will be away.
While you are travelling you could record your progress like this:
This week / month I travelled to:
I spent my time doing (work / other things)
The best part was ...
The toughest part was ...
From the experience I have learnt ...
The experience has taken me closer to achieving ...
Two TCD graduates share their Time Out experiences
- USIT. A range of work and voluntary opportunities in North America, Asia and Africa
- Nixers.com. Information on full and part-time jobs including a very comprehensive set of useful links. If you really want to get away, then there are links to working in Irish pubs abroad.
- 'Teaching English Abroad', Griffith, S. Useful information if you plan to use TEFL teaching to fund time out.
- 'A Year Off ... A Year On?', Jamieson, A. A guide to jobs, voluntary conservation projects and working holidays in the UK and overseas. Identifies paid and unpaid work opportunities in the US, Australia and Europe.
- 'Work and Travel Europe' (gap-pack). The Europe Gap Pack for independent travellers seeking seasonal work.
- 'Work and Travel Canada' (gap-pack). The Canada Gap Pack for independent travellers seeking seasonal work.
- See also "Take a Year Out" in Resources section.