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Gap Year Benefits; Successful Job Interviews

Year Out Group has been promoting the long term benefits of a structured gap year programme for over 14 years.  Here Will Crone describes how the skills and experiences gained on his three month teaching gap year teaching placement in Malawi arranged with Africa & Asia Venture helped him with job interviews during and after his university course.


AV isn't just volunteering in the usual sense of the word. The variety of the experiences you gain from doing AV are not comparable with the well trodden path that many make to the Thailand full moon, or ‘surfers paradise' in Aus. As well as being remarkably good fun, AV, I believe, set me apart in the job market.


If you choose to do something worthwhile on your gap year, like AV in Africa or Asia, then you are differentiating yourself to employers. It took me until my second year at University to realise this. When it comes to applying for summer internship/graduate positions at big firms, their approach for discovering more about your qualities is through asking applicants "competency" questions both via their online application systems, and at interview. Having applied to a number of financial institutions and accountancy firms, across the board similar questions about leadership qualities, demonstrating decision-making and overcoming problems, came up again and again. When answering these I had the option to churn out generic university based answers, which I imagine many other applicants will have done, but instead I used my experiences teaching in Malawi. Particularly in interviews, firms always seemed to pick up on my time in Malawi and spend time allowing me to discuss how my teaching had contributed to my people, leadership and time management skills.


Here is an example of a competency question that I came across whilst applying to many of the big banks and the big four, in which I used my AV experience to my advantage:


Q: Describe a group activity in which you have been involved in where you have contributed to the team's success?


A: Whilst working as a volunteer teacher in a Malawian all boys secondary school for 3 months an incident occurred that called for me to offer advice to the common room. A number of influential older boys had rallied the school into refusing to attend class, and in doing so, had effectively caused a riot. The objective was clear, restore peace and punish the boys who were to blame, yet the situation needed to be dealt with carefully. Many of the staff initially discussed a blanket suspension of the top year, thus adversely affecting the studies of those coerced into the riot. I contributed to the discussion through suggesting that we immediately separate the top year from the rest of the school and suspend the obvious ring leaders. Many warmed to the idea as it meant minimal punishments and less disruption to the boy's studies. The outcome of my words was to decrease disruption to the studies of innocent boys, and overtime the restoration of a peaceful learning environment. I learnt from this experience that when a team has to deal with a difficult situation, one must speak up and communicate your ideas and advise even when others may not agree with what you are saying.


Will Crone's placement in Malawi was arranged with Africa & Asia Venture, a Founder Member of Year Out Group.

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