CPSA case study: Taking a year out after your studies 

Sid Taylor-Jones is an MSc Education student and Career Peer Support Assistant (CPSA).

I remember handing in my dissertation in third year, and feeling amazingly relieved… and then the panic set in. What do I do now??  

Before going to university, I had dreams of becoming a video editor. But after three years of developing that skillset and getting practical experience, I wasn’t sure if it was what I wanted anymore. I didn’t know what to do.  

A lot of students find themselves in a similar situation. By the time they graduate, they’re no longer sure that their “dream job” will turn out to be such a dream after all. Or perhaps they know exactly what their dream job might be, but have no idea how to get there.  

This is where a year out can be really valuable. It can be the perfect time to further explore ideas before narrowing down towards a new career plan. It’s also a great opportunity to find out a bit more about what you enjoy doing in a work setting.  

If you haven’t got anything immediately lined up after graduation, here are three ways to make the most of that time: 

Volunteering: There’s a huge variety of different roles and organisations looking for help, which means you can try out a lot of different experiences, and work out what you most enjoy. Volunteering is also a great way to improve your people skills, organisation skills, and customer service skills, which will look great on a CV.

Most volunteer opportunities will allow you to be flexible with hours, so you can organise them around your other commitments. You can find volunteering opportunities in Bristol through myopportunities or the SU, or by searching for local organisations in your area. It’s also definitely worth looking at the Careers Service’s charity sector guide for information on volunteering. 

Travel: If you wish to travel, there are many options to do this while also gaining key skills and experience for your CV. One option is Workaway, where you can work at hostels, farms, veterinary clinics and various other settings all over the world, in exchange for food, accommodation and the opportunity to meet new people.

Another potential opportunity is language assistant work with the British Council, who offer paid placements all over Europe. 

Study: A good way to gain extra skills during a year out is by studying online courses. There are a number of different course providers, including CourseraAlisonUdemy and Khan Academy. There are various free courses as well as paid courses available online: do make sure to really do your research before paying for anything! 

After a summer of panicking after hand-in, I asked myself what I actually wanted to do. The truth is that I wanted to travel, and I wanted to earn money whilst doing it. After some research, I chose to take a year out and fund it by teaching English abroad. I took the Trinity certTESOL course to become a certified teacher of English as a second language, and then moved to Spain and became a language assistant. I absolutely loved it! 

Amazingly, my ‘year out’ ended up becoming my career – I spent the next five years teaching English in Spain, Poland and Vietnam, before returning last year to study a Master’s in Education here at the University of Bristol.  

With hindsight, taking a year out turned out to be the best thing I had ever done!  

Author: Sid Taylor-Jones, MSc Education student  and Career Peer Support Assistant

This blog post is one of a series produced by our Career Peer Support Assistants, our fantastic team of current Bristol students working part-time with the Careers Service. Look out for further CPSA case studies coming soon!