Students should abandon gap-year plans and work at a local sports shop or a supermarket, according to a City lawyer.
Sandie Okoro, global lead lawyer for HSBC Global Asset Management, argued that students were better off getting “old-fashioned Saturday jobs” rather than spending 12 months at a far-flung animal sanctuary or orphanage. Such projects mainly signalled that “daddy is rich”, according to Okoro.
“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,” said Okoro in comments reported by the Daily Telegraph.
Speaking at the Girls’ Day School Trust conference, Okoro said gap years had “become the norm” and almost formulaic. “I see lots of similar things of the gap years. I’d like to see the mundane and ordinary come back in.”
She added: “It is very difficult to get into the workplace because it isn’t just about academics any more. And in some professions everyone’s got the same academics, and they can speak five languages as well. What are you going to bring to me that isn’t in front of me on somebody else’s CV?
“I see all these wonderful places, they’ve gone off to China and built an orphanage, they’ve done this and done that. OK, so your daddy is rich. That’s great. But when have you worked at JD Sports at the weekend to earn some money? When have you dealt with the public? They don’t care where you went to school.”
Okoro had a Saturday job at Marks & Spencer before embarking on a City career. She said: “If you come from a background where things are a little bit more challenging financially, you can’t afford to take that gap year and do that. You’re thinking how am I going to pay those university fees.
“I’d like to see the effort from the person. 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.”
Gap years have drawn criticism before. In 2010, a three-minute video entitled Gap Yah went viral in which actor Matt Lacey satirised people “who seem to be leaving these shores to vomit all over the developing world