'This might open some new doors for me'

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The Independent Online

The telephone call telling him not to bother coming into work could not have been more welcome for Zahid Ataullah. Whether he will still be so glad about his enforced sabbatical a few months down the line if his new employers are continuing to feel the economic strain is another matter.

Zahid, 22, and a graduate, is one of the 400 new recruits at Accenture asked to delay their start date by three months. He will have a considerable amount of cash in his pocket and time off to spend it – wisely, of course. "It suits me perfectly," he said yesterday.

The young man, of Pakistani and Indian parentage, who grew up in Tooting, south London, recently gained an MSc in Economics at the London School of Economics.

In March this year, following a couple of arduous interviews, he was offered a post with Accenture. He had already planned to take a few months off and was due to join on 25 February next year on a salary of £28,000 and a signing-on bonus of £6,000.

"I thought they had good training and development programmes and the experience offered in the first two years provided a fantastic foundation on which to build. It is not going to close any doors for me and will probably open some."

He insisted money was not the main motivation for his career choice, though financial stability was certainly enticing.

As a new recruit, he was due to start an 18-month rotation of different disciplines in the management and technology consultancy before settling for one area.

But recently, he received a call from the company's graduate recruitment department asking him to delay his start until the end of May as the firm drive cut costs with a voluntary sabbatical programme.

So, he will officially join at the end of February, attend an induction, claim his signing-on package and leave. During the ensuing three months absence he will receive 50 per cent of his salary.

"Basically, I hope to use the time to learn another language, Arabic, either in France or Egypt. I was always planning to do something, go abroad. I was actually going to ask them to defer my start date so that I could have a whole academic year off and now they have given me an extra three months. So for me it is brilliant. Obviously it is an opportunity to broaden your horizons. Hopefully it will also benefit the firm. I will be more mature and more experienced particularly in terms of working with people which is very relevant to the industry.

"I will be able go away with financial security and a job to go back to which is a lot more than some people who are taking a gap year. The way I look at it, it could be another 40 years before I get a chance to take eight months off again."