Avoiding the pitfalls to secure a gap year

Hi my name is Maria and I am currently undertaking a gap year in Pinsent Masons Leeds office.  When thinking about my future career, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to do Law.  The route into the profession seemed simple – apply to university, pray I received some offers and then work hard to get the required grades.  It was not until I attended my school’s careers fair and listened to a presentation from Pinsent Masons, highlighting the Gap Year Programme, that I realised there were other options open to me.   After the talk, a little bit of “googling” lead me to explore the scope, reputation and diversity at Pinsent Masons and I knew a gap year at the firm would be an amazing opportunity.

Next Steps

Having decided I wanted to apply to the Gap Year Programme the first challenge was to complete an online application form.  When you fill out the application form, don’t rush into it.  Make sure you read the whole thing before you start writing because you don’t want to repeat yourself.  Make a plan of the points you want to make in the form.  If you’ve done your UCAS personal statement (like I had) keep it with you and see how parts of it can be adapted to answer the questions.  Look at the Pinsent Masons website to show your enthusiasm, understanding and for ideas on how to tailor your answers to show you have those skills.  There wouldn’t be a save button if they wanted you to complete the form without thinking!

Before you press send, get other people to read it because they’ll be able to tell you if it makes sense and whether you’ve got a good structure. Finally, MAKE SURE YOU SPELL CHECK!  Once you’ve sent the form, relax!  There’s nothing more you can do at that point and you’ll know soon enough as to whether or not you have an interview.

Preparing for interview

After being short listed for the interview, it’s great to know you’re one step closer to achieving your goal, but you have to do some preparation to maximise your chances of success.  Each candidate is given two forty-five minute interviews – answering a business question first and then a behavioural assessment.  In my opinion, there’s no right way of answering the business question, but you should be able to justify your answer.  Have a look at the ‘news’ section on the firm’s website to find out about the latest deals and the different sectors.  Remember, it’s an international firm so you have to take that into perspective.  But don’t just stick to the firm’s website, read external sources too and make sure you keep up to date with the business world.  The BBC news and Lawyer2B websites can be pretty useful.  You can also register to receive all the latest news from Pinsent Masons at a website called BraveNewTalent.

The behavioural assessment is your chance to show your personality, which is essential.  Think about the environment you’ll be working in and you can get an idea of the kind of questions you’ll be asked.  It’s vital to enjoy the interview because even if you don’t get through, it’s great experience for the future!  You’ll always have time at the end to ask your interviewers some questions so it’s an opportunity to gain better insight.

What about my university applications?

When I was offered the job, I already had five university offers and I was worried I was going to lose them, but in my experience all you have to do is contact the universities and explain the benefits of the job. All of my universities were happy to defer my entry to 2011 but it is important you speak to them about this as soon as possible as if you leave it too late they may find it more difficult to accommodate your request.

In retrospect, I was probably more nervous than necessary! You have lots of resources available to you, and you can always call the graduate recruitment team if you’re stuck. Everyone at the interview was really friendly and helpful, which reflects how the team here is!

Good luck!

Maria