Welcome to (or back to) University and to the new term. The extent to which you’re thinking about careers probably varies depending on which year you’re in. If you’re a Fresher, careers might be pretty low down your personal agenda for term 1. If you’re just coming back for your final year, your attitude might be a bit different. Perhaps you’re wishing you’d got going on that career planning in year 1?
There’s always a cycle to education. Term. Holiday. Term. Holiday. Exams. Long holiday. The cycle applies in some way to just about everything which happens in HE and careers is no exception. So, what should you be doing in term 1 to get ahead of the pack?
1. Review your Society membership.
If you’re just arriving, think what activities you want to be part of and join groups which align to your interests. You might want to stick to things you know you enjoy, or try something new. Either is fine, but try to get involved in something.
If you’re coming back as an “old hand” decide what you might want to get involved in outside your studies. Employers like the well-rounded student who has contributed to life at his or her university. Almost all value your involvement in university life above the award of a First. (Obviously it’s great if you can get both!)
2. Put the dates of any careers fairs in your diary.
Turn up on the day too! Here at Warwick, there are several fairs in term 1 and the same will be true of many other universities. Don’t just decide to go to the fair which looks as if it aligns most closely with your current interests. Why not pop into all the fairs and see which employers are represented? You might be surprised to find that a fair, which looked as if it was for students in another sector, area holds interest for you. You can practise talking to employers. The more often you do this, the better you’ll become at selling yourself and finding out what opportunities are on offer.
If you’re in your penultimate or final year, you might want to put some serious time into planning for the fairs. Look to see which organisations are going to be represented and do some research into them. You might want to make some notes and come along with some questions prepared. It’s fine to bring your notes on the day. You’ll impress employers by showing them how organised you are and how seriously you’re taking the fair.
3. Spend some time honestly assessing your employability skills.
Do you know how to put together applications and draft CVs? Are you confident that you could approach an interview or assessment centre with confidence and wow the employer on the day? Can you score highly in numerical and verbal reasoning tests? If you have any doubts, look out for relevant skills sessions and come along. You might find that you gain some vital knowledge or experience which makes all the difference to your applications. (At Warwick you’ll even find some workshops helping you to prepare for the fairs.)
4. Think about your future.
Do you know what you would like to do? Have you a clear idea of the sort of employer which appeals to you, of the role which would interest you? Are your aspirations realistic? Will the job offer you the sort of lifestyle you want? You can do some research yourself into this, but you might also want to make an appointment to come to see a careers consultant. Talking to a careers consultant will give you a safe and confidential space to explore your ideas for the future and may help you generate ideas. Nobody is going to tell you what to do, or judge you for your thinking. Why not come along? Here’s some great advice from Ben Renshaw, one of our graduates:
Don’t let your time at university fly by without using the careers service. After all, an hour or so out of your 3-4 years here is nothing and could completely change your career prospects for the better!“
5. Apply for opportunities.
First years might get a bit of a “lie in” on this although there are even some opportunities for you. The Bank of England scheme (open to a range of degree disciplines not just Economists) is one example.
If you’re a finalist in pursuit of a graduate scheme you probably know that you “need to get on with it”. Penultimate year students, wanting summer internships, also need to be proactive about seeking out placements.
Many recruiters operate a rolling recruitment policy with a relatively long window in which you can apply. They start looking at applications as soon as these arrive. Remember that 75% of applications come in during the last 33% days in the application window. It’s a no brainer that your application stands a better chance of success if it arrives early.
I hope there’s some food for thought here. If you’re at Warwick my colleagues and I look forward to seeing you at different events during the year. Have a good and successful one!