We often tell current students to ‘just do something!’ to prepare for a future career when they are studying. It’s not always obvious what to do, but Warwick graduate Claire Kilroy, recently a content writer for the UK’s leading graduate recruitment company Inspiring Interns and Careers Consultant Sue Johnstone, have some suggestions.
When at university, the future can seem a long way off. You’re focused on getting your degree and what lies beyond graduation is a slightly terrifying mystery. But what you get up to at university can have a real impact on your future employability.
Luckily, whether you’re heading into your first year or final year, there’s plenty you can do to help boost your prospects; it’s much less scary heading into the big wide world with some great stuff on your CV. So take a look at this by-no-means exhaustive list of the opportunities available.
Make the most of the careers office and employer fairs
It’s never too early to start thinking about your life after university – you will be in your final year in a heartbeat. Whatever happens, make sure you make the most of the careers service before you leave:
1) Book an appointment with a careers adviser. Don’t be worried because you have no idea what you want to do and think the meeting will be embarrassing – they’re there to help you figure stuff out, and will have seen plenty of other students in the same boat as you are.
2) Head to industry-focused careers talks. It’s difficult to know what you want to do when you have no real idea of what an industry is like, and these will help you get some insight.
You could just listen, but if you’re feeling brave you can ask questions and maybe meet the speakers afterwards. Think networking!
3) Attend careers fairs. Your university will publish a list of the employers attending. Take a look at the list and decide who you really want to talk to; a targeted approach works better than a scattergun one. After all, it’s not only your chance to learn more about the employer, but to make a positive first impression on recruiters. Do research on the company, and prepare a few pertinent questions.
Be a part-timer
If you fancy earning some money as well as developing new skills, think about part-time or temporary work. You can apply for work in the local area in the normal way, or look for jobs through the university itself. At Warwick, for example, there are often positions in the Student Union.
Unitemps is a recruitment agency that specifically focuses on students, so any employer hiring you knows that you’ll be balancing your job with your studies. Unitemps is also dedicated to looking after students’ welfare, and they’ll help you avoid positions where you feel exploited.
Write for student newspapers and websites
Writing for a publication like the Student Newspaper isn’t only worth considering if you want to become a journalist; having strong written communication skills can boost your employability no matter what industry you want to go into. Plus you’ll be working with a great team of other student writers, building a network of contacts and friends.
Alternatively – or additionally – consider starting a blog. This can impress employers, especially if you’re aiming to go into the creative industries. You can add a link to your blog to your CV (if it’s suitably employer-friendly), and present clear evidence of your skills. Maintaining an active blog also demonstrates self-discipline, so always try and stick to a regular posting schedule.
Become a student volunteer
Volunteering is a great way to contribute to a cause you care about, and university is the perfect time to go for it. Most universities have links with various charities and volunteer programmes; finding opportunities is easy, and you’ll have the support of the university if difficulties arise.
You’re bound to find a cause that you want to dedicate some time to. Most focus on local concerns, so you’ll have a chance give back to the community around you.
And you’ll be helping yourself at the same time. Volunteering allows you to develop and gain evidence of some key soft skills, like your emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, and ability to deal with sensitive situations. You could also find yourself getting some relevant experience in areas like marketing, events, or sales.
Make the most of the societies scene
Societies are a fantastic way to meet new people who share your interests, whatever they may be. Check out what’s on offer. You will probably find everything from the politically important – like Pride and the Anti-Sexism Society – to the niche – like the Jane Austen Society or the Allotment Society!
University societies may have a reputation for the social aspects – but there’s more to them than a work-out for your liver. Taking an active role, rather than just turning up to various events, could boost your employability. Aim for a role on the exec – organising society events or balancing the books will be positives for your CV.
Getting the most out of your time at university is all about finding a balance between your studies and the other things on offer. At times you might find yourself taking on too much; if that’s the case be ready to take a step back. But don’t just split your time between your room and the library – there’s a lot more out there to explore.
If you’re on the job hunt, check out the Inspiring Interns listings of internships http://www.inspiringinterns.com/