Our guest blogger today, Warwick SU’s Societies Officer Luke Mepham, highlights resources and sources of information that will help you find opportunities and plan your career.
Whilst most of us are stuck at home, the next few weeks and months are a great opportunity to put some thought into what you want to do in the future, and perhaps start taking some steps to pursue that career or interest. Although, if you do want to start planning or searching for a placement or job, the support is still there from both the Students Union and the University, and there are still a whole load of employers recruiting regardless of the sector you want to work in. This blog post will hopefully help you to be able to access the support available and give you some pointers about how you can go about getting some skills and/or work over the next few months!
One of the biggest hurdles that needs to be overcome when starting to think about careers is not having a clue what you want to do after University. This is really common and perfectly okay (I’m still not 100% sure myself), so try not to let this dishearten you or put you off from trying to find opportunities. There’s loads of support to help you decide what you want to do, and once you’ve decided what kind of industry you’re interested in, there are loads of opportunities such as work experience and internships to help you hone in on a specific career path. A good starting point is to take a careers test such as this one by Prospects. You might think I’m being ridiculous by suggesting this after remembering the similar tests they made you take back in primary school (apparently I should be a zookeeper…), however this test is a great way to get thinking about how you can best use your current skills whilst doing a job you enjoy. Once you’ve had a think about the area you want to work in, or find some work experience in, it might help you to have a chat with a careers advisor about the skills you’ll need and the opportunities available in that area. Student Opportunity are still offering free careers guidance appointments via MS Teams and Skype – you can book those here. As well as this, the Student Opportunity Careers department have been running online webinars this term. for anyone who’s really not sure what they want to do, or who needs some help getting started with career planning . You can register at My Advantage.
Before you start job hunting, it helps to take a step back and think about some of the skills you possess, and what your strengths are. Not only does this help when reading person specifications on job and internship adverts, but it also helps when filling out applications and when being interviewed. There’s so many opportunities available to develop skills whilst at Warwick, and you’re probably already taking part in some, so it’s important for you to recognise the skills you’ve acquired, and be able to harness them and use them to your advantage. For example, when carrying out a role as a society or sports club exec member, you’re developing leadership, teamwork, communication, and organisational skills, to name just a few. The best way to recognise the skills acquired and to be able to evidence them in the future is through evidence recording, using a tracker, such as the one available on the SU website. This is something that can be updated throughout your time at Warwick and beyond, and can then be revisited when it comes to searching and applying for jobs. If you want to learn about and self-reflect on some of your strengths, motivations and goals right now to aid with any job or internship searches, you can find loads of help and resources here. Whilst reflecting on your skills, you might also recognise some areas where you’d like to develop your skills further whilst at University. Luckily there’s loads of opportunities at the SU, from being a society or sports club exec member, to working as a member of our student staff team, to representing fellow students as an elected leader. There’s also lots of opportunities for development offered by the University, including through Warwick Volunteers and skills development programmes.
Once you’ve got an idea of the type of career, internship or work experience you’d like to pursue, and have had chance to reflect on your own strengths, it’s time to get stuck into job hunting! There’s so many ways to go about doing this, from browsing LinkedIn to going out and networking, however here I’m going to focus on the ways you can find out about any opportunities whilst you’re stuck at home, and this will mainly be through job adverts across a range of websites. As you’re going through websites and finding different opportunities, it can be easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of roles available. To keep track of all the different roles I’m interested in, I tend to keep a spreadsheet with links to each of them along with information such as application closing dates. You don’t necessarily need a spreadsheet, but keeping some form of list really helps with remembering all the opportunities you find, and reduces how overwhelming the process can be. Once you’ve got this sorted, you’ll want to find some websites to look for jobs on. I’ve recently found a very handy section of the University’s website, where you can select the sector you’d like to work in and then be presented with a load of resources and tips for job hunting within that sector. You can find that here. If you’re a STEM student, I’d really recommend trying out Gradcracker – it has a really simple layout, recruiting for internships and grad schemes at hundreds of top companies year-round. You may instead want to look for jobs in the third-sector (not-for-profits and charities), and luckily for you, there’s several websites purely advertising jobs and internships within this area – I’d recommend checking out CharityJob and Third Sector Jobs – the former also has a whole section dedicated to advertising available voluntary roles. A couple of other sites I would recommend are Indeed and Glassdoor, and the University’s MyAdvantage system also advertises quite a few jobs and internships. If you’re still unsure as to where to look for jobs in the industry you’re interested in, then it might help to book an appointment with a careers advisor at the University for some guidance, or get in touch with your academic society’s Careers Officer, if they have one.
The next step is probably the most daunting, and certainly the one I try to put off for as long as possible – applying. Whilst you may have no idea where to start with applying for roles, there’s a whole load of support around to help you get started, and to guide you through the different types of application processes. If you’ve followed the tips in this blog post, you’ll be well set when thinking about how to demonstrate and evidence the skills and strengths you have in a concise way throughout your applications, and really show them off to potential employers. Some applications will require you to demonstrate your skills through a CV or cover letter, whilst others will ask you to answer some questions or complete a situational awareness test. Regardless of the method, I recommend you check out the resources here to support you throughout the application process. If you have to submit a CV as part of an application, you could also use the University’s free CV checking service by making an appointment with a Job Search Advisor here. Taking advantage of these services should really help with boosting your confidence when applying for jobs, and make you much more prepared and excited to be applying, rather than overwhelmed. After you’ve got all the support you need, my main piece of advice is to take your time with applications, and demonstrate genuine interest and passion for the role you’re applying for. You may hear of friends or coursemates who have applied for dozens of jobs, and this could make you feel pressured to do the same, however you’ll go a lot further if you narrow down your options and focus your effort into fewer applications. Not only will you feel more excited about applying, but this will shine through to potential employers.
Whilst there’s no exact science to finding internships, work experience and job opportunities, I hope this blog has gone some way to breaking down any barriers and making you aware of the support that’s out there. By no means are the methods of searching for opportunities, nor the support available, limited to those I’ve discussed here, however hopefully you’ve found something new which will aid you in your search for your future plans. If you’d like any further information about careers and opportunities, I’d recommend having a look around the University’s Student Opportunity webpages, and checking out the rest of the webinars lined up throughout this term.
I hope you and your loved ones are staying well, and wish you all the best whilst on the search for your next opportunity!