Going from a gap year to the Navy, Helen Taylor is now a Sub lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Here she recounts how her gap year experience enabled her to demonstrate that she had the skills that the Navy look for in their officers.
I graduated from Exeter University in 2008 and now I am a Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, undergoing training as a warfare officer. At my level this involves driving the ship and managing the safety of the crew during my watch. With time I could be anything from an intelligence officer to the Captain of a ship, plenty of career opportunities!
On my trip with Africa & Asia Venture (AV) in January 2005, I taught in Kipketer Primary School in Kericho, Kenya. I spent 4 months teaching children aged 8 – 18 in English, Art, Home Economics, Physical Education, and I coached the school’s netball team. Outside of working, I also travelled the country from Kisumu to Mombasa, climbed Mt Kenya & visited Tanzania & Zanzibar. The trip was one of the best experiences of my life. I learnt a lot about myself that I would not have realised if I had gone straight to university. It was also a great experience to put on my CV.
My experience with AV was one of the talking points in my joining interview for the Royal Navy. My time in Kenya showed that I was able to happily spend extended periods of time away from home. This is essential in the Armed Forces. Rather than being a tourist, I immersed myself in a totally different culture & language. Thich showed a willingness to adapt to new situations. It also showed I could live outside my comfort zone, in a mud hut with a tin roof & temperamental water & electricity supplies. Despite a “long drop” toilet, I found it great fun and proved I could work in difficult conditions.
I had applied for AV before my Gap Year and had worked to save up for the trip. It showed my employer that I had good self-motivation and organisational skills, which are essential in any workplace. My interviewers were especially interested how I managed to lead classes of 86 children (answer = with enthusiasm & promises of football/netball afterwards!). This displayed leadership skills needed as an officer and in any managerial position in the workplace. Finally, climbing to an altitude of 4,985m up Mt Kenya, showed a self-motivation, resilience and determination that not everybody can put on their CV.
My experiences in Kenya are exactly what your future employer will see when you tell them about your time with AV. I have friends who went straight from school to university, studied non-stop, got good degrees but failed at job interviews. This was because they did not have broad real world experiences, which stood them out in a negative way, from the crowd of other applicants.
Put the work in
I don’t think that anyone should apply for a Gap Year experience such as AV simply to put that extra tick in the box on their CV though. It certainly helps in the job interviews when you need to demonstrate qualities that put you above other applicants. The abilities and self-awareness you learn with AV will help you when you reach your career but you need to put the work in. It certainly gave me an advantage and took me from a gap year to the Navy.
Helen Taylor’s gap year placement in Kenya was arranged with Africa & Asia Venture.