19th July 2015

It has become something of a tradition for independent school pupils to go abroad for their gap year. Whether it is to teach, work or travel, many are inclined and encouraged to make the most of this time in some distant destination.d41da98bd4934507bb1ed79e14a5f83f

However, a leading lawyer argues that students should take a fresh approach to their gap year. Speaking at the Girls’ Day School Trust conference last month, Sandie Okoro, global general counsel at HSBC Global Asset Management said that instead of heading overseas, independent school pupils should look to do something closer to home.

Ms Okoro believes that this will not only better differentiate them when it comes to looking for work, it will also provide them with invaluable skills and knowledge that will enrich their character. Prospective employers will see something unique in their CVs and enquire, “Why haven’t you done as others have?”

Instead, opting to work at a local sports store or supermarket, whereby you get to really understand the challenges of earning a living on a modest wage and get to engage with members of the public, is indicative of someone is willing to go above and beyond.

“I see all these wonderful places, they’ve gone off to China and built an orphanage, they’ve done this and done that,” the Telegraph reported her as saying. “Forget about the going to China and changing the world or whatever. What are you actually doing that’s different? I want people who can come to me and have had real experiences.”

Ms Okoro explained that by going against the grain, independent school students are demonstrating lots of qualities that she, as an employer, would be looking for. These include leadership, originality and self-motivation. Such individuals, she said, are not going for the easy option.

“I’d like to see the effort from the person,” she went on to say. “In the independent sector, there’s a lot of networking where you’re plugged into these things. It’s easier to go to China or to go and help in an orphanage but what if you’re not plugged into that?

“Actually, spending a year working at JD Sports and maybe moving up to supervisor is just as significant and should be valued.”

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