Friday, November 22

Plan ahead for a gap year

With more competition for jobs, students may use this break for internships, fellowships

Reality Check: The gap year

Gone are the days of taking a year off just for the heck of it. Things have changed drastically. Here's how I could have spent my gap year a few years ago, and how I'll probably end up spending it now:
"¢bull; Past: 18 hours of sleep a night
"¢bull; Present: 18-hour days
"¢bull; Past: Master gourmet recipes from around the world
"¢bull; Present: Live on mac 'n' cheese
"¢bull; Past: Read Lord of the Rings (again)
"¢bull; Present: Read GRE passages (again)
"¢bull; Past: Spend money on trips to Europe
"¢bull; Present: Save money for trips to work

Compiled by Avni Nijhawan, Senior staff columnist.

Just a few years ago, fresh college graduates could think of postponing reality by taking a well-deserved break from a lifetime of school.

They’d travel the world, contemplate life or spend time with family.

If only we could afford such a luxury today.
As my four-year adventure at UCLA comes to a close, I’ve quickly realized that taking such a hiatus is the last thing that will improve my future prospects, at least career-wise.

In the event that I don’t go to graduate school immediately following college, I’ll have to “take a year off.”
This misnomer no longer refers to a meditative interim between two extremes, namely a euphoric graduation and paying the bills.

What it really refers to is a career-oriented year filled with resume-building work.
I might miss such a gap year if I had ever experienced such a languid period myself. But the truth is, life has always been far too fast-paced and goal-oriented to even imagine such a long break from work. A true “year off” has never been anything more than a fantasy.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. There will undoubtedly be opportunities later in life for relaxation and travel ““ don’t foolishly use carpe diem as an excuse.

A busy year of work right after graduation can be fulfilling, excellent exposure to life outside the classroom and even enjoyable. Moreover, unique experiences that demonstrate your motivation will help distinguish you from a crowd of competitors who may otherwise have the same qualifications.

Because the competition for jobs is stiffer than ever, it’s critical that students remember that graduation isn’t the fairy tale ending it used to be a few decades ago, which makes it all the more crucial for students to continue being productive after college.

After all, fields with the most job openings are for those who have more than only a bachelor’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in a published article with college grad job outlooks for the 2004-2014 decade.

Only those who want to go into computer science or secondary teaching have a higher chance of successfully obtaining a job without a master’s or a doctorate degree.

The article also states that while there are many jobs available to college graduates, actually getting one depends on much more than just having a degree ““ it also depends on your experiences and accomplishments.

Karol Johansen, counseling manager of pre-professional services at the Career Center, said that ideally, students should find internships and fellowships that are related to their future career or graduate school plans. Students should definitely take advantage of such programs, many of which even provide stipends or hourly wages.

UCLA’s Career Center even has its own impressive program in Washington, D.C., called “Summer in D.C.” which provides access to a multitude of internships for seniors of all majors graduating in spring. These are powerful opportunities not only because they’ll look great on your resume ““ some internships are at the White House, the Smithsonian Institution, National Institute of Health, National Geographic and the Washington Post ““ but also because of social networking opportunities. These internships come in both paid and unpaid varieties.

The Career Center itself has more than 2,700 resources, including one of only two Master’s of Library Science certified librarians in the U.S. at a college career center.

If you haven’t been there yet and, like me, are graduating this year, it still isn’t too late to make a same-day appointment. As Johansen said, “It isn’t the kind of thing you want to do on the fly.”

And if students take their own initiative, they’ll find a plethora of other career resources on campus and on the web.

Individual departments have their own list-servs which often notify students of career opportunities.

Remember, college graduates earn on average 62 percent more than those with only a high school diploma.

But that’s only if you actually get a job.

With careful prior planning and exploring, this doesn’t have to be an impossible task, and you might just get an internship before you know it.

Having something concrete to do during that dubious gap year after graduation can certainly raise your self-confidence in addition to helping your dreams become a reality.

As for me, I think I’m going to head over to the Career Center while I still can ““ just in case.

Bridging the gap? E-mail Nijhawan at [email protected] Send general comments to [email protected]

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