What's it like to work during your gap year?

Wednesday 7 August 2019, UCAS advice

by IBM

What's it like to work during your gap year?


It’s certainly a surreal feeling. Being only 17 and watching all your friends apply for university but, instead, you’re submitting a job application to one of the biggest technology consultancy firms in the world. What makes it even more bizarre is the fact that it’s only for the year. It feels as though you are about to start climbing the stairs to your career but, as you go to place your foot on the first step, you hesitate – unsure whether you really want to commit to the ascent, or recoil to the safety of traditional higher education. At this point, however, it doesn’t feel real. You’ve merely submitted words on a page, the first step in a long selection process – one you feel you don’t have a hope in hell of surviving. Yet you complete all the tests and jump all the hurdles thrown your way. And you make it.

When you arrive on your first day, the apprehension you feel is immeasurable and, as you’ll be reminded time after time throughout the next 12 months, you’re a baby here among so many experienced employees, and you don’t want to show it.

You’re thrust into a world where time management is crucial to your success. You’re heavily relied upon to complete your function and you become valued and essential in others completing their own jobs. Your manager will give you tight deadlines on tasks you didn’t know existed before. New tools will be introduced to you with funny corporate names which you have you have no idea how to begin using. You feel completely overwhelmed but, gradually, you’ll start to swim instead of sink. The likes of sending emails to managers becomes more of a routine and less of an ordeal. Slowly, you’ll learn to manage your relationships with stakeholders – understanding their needs and catering your work towards them in finer detail.

Becoming a subject matter expert takes time but, eventually, colleagues will start coming to you for advice. Suddenly, you find you are a fully integrated cog in the machine – clinical and efficient. Patience and an understanding that failure is simply an ingredient to eventual success is key. But, whether you decide to take the first step up the staircase of your career or rest at the bottom a little longer, you can do so with the confidence that the professional world is now a friend, not foe.