career decisions

Making career decisions, tips for first years

So you’ve started your first year, you’re beginning to settle into university life, you’ve made some friends, done a little socialising and you’ve got forever before you need to start thinking about that thing called careers….right? Well actually you’re one ninth of your way through a three year degree, hence it’s probably better to give it some thought sooner rather than later. So what could you do?

Getting started ….

If you haven’t done so already, ensure you have got to grips with what is expected of you in terms of academic performance; find out from your personal tutor what criteria your work will be assessed against and what academic success looks like! This will help to ensure you leave university with the best results you can possibly get and in turn support you when you come to make applications to graduate employers.

Getting experience …

Whilst at school you will probably have taken part in extracurricular activities, whether that involved sport, drama, debating or working towards the Duke of Edinburgh award, for example. This information was then undoubtedly used on your UCAS statement to help you to secure a place at your chosen university.
Extracurricular experiences during your degree can similarly develop your ’employability skills’, the transferrable skills employers expect applicants to have, no matter what industry you’re working in:

• Teamwork.
• Problem-solving.
• Initiative and enterprise.
• Planning and organising.
• Self-management.
• Learning.
• Technology.

There are a number of steps you can take throughout your time at university to develop said employability skills. Your overall aim should be to leave university with the best degree pass you can achieve together with a range of experiences and skills that demonstrate to future employers you have the potential to be a good employee.

So what could you do to get started?

Well, involvement with student societies and sports clubs at university is a great way of getting to know other people, have fun and if you can get involved in organising an event or getting something new off the ground, all the better. This experience will give you something notable to put on your CV and could be a talking point at job interviews. Why not give something new a try?

Work experience

This will really make you stand out to employers too. It’s the extra things that support the academic qualifications that often make the difference between employers picking you over someone else. So volunteer, check out opportunities with your department, gain on-the-job experience or take an internship. Not only will it help your CV to stand out, but you will also learn a lot of valuable skills and maybe even…. have a great time doing so!

The ‘Higher Flyers’ graduate recruitment survey suggests that not having work experience could make securing a graduate-level job more difficult. If you have any careers ideas you would like to try out or employers you would like to work for, why not contact them? Look their details up on the internet and find out if they can offer you work experience over either the Christmas, Easter or summer breaks. Getting work experience in your first year at university might just put you ahead of ‘the game’, in terms of securing internships during your second and third years of study and could definitely help to secure a job when you have completed your studies. Some organisations have been known to use work experience placements and internships as an extended part of the recruitment process and to make job offers on the basis of an individual’s performance whilst on work experience.

There are many different forms of work experience (including voluntary work and internships), essentially it is anything that allows you to develop professional (employability) skills. You can work part-time or temp during vacation periods, most university careers departments can support students to both source work experience opportunities and some provide bursaries to support unpaid opportunities (usually in more niche sectors such as the arts).

What you need to consider …

Start to articulate what factors would be important to you in a future job: for example, doing what you are really good at; doing something that you enjoy; leading people; having autonomy; a high salary; creating something new; job security; having a chance to progress; working for a small employer; working with lots of other new graduates etc.

Begin to understand your options now and in the future; find out what is available at your university in terms of opportunities – what is the eligibility criteria? Could you take an ‘intercalated’ year and spend a year working? Are there opportunities to travel abroad? What links with employers does your university have? And do any one of these interest you? What have previous students gone on to do? Are there opportunities to link in with Alumni and gain mentoring from them?

Getting help….

Start to speak to your careers department and find out what help they can offer you. Most university careers centres offer students support from one-to-one appointments, which aim to help students to make career choices, develop their career planning skills and provide practical help with CV’s and application forms. Most careers departments run careers fairs, throughout the year dedicated to different employment sectors. They often advertise vacancies for employers looking to recruit students from their specific universities and courses.

However, don’t worry if you have no idea about jobs/careers or if you have lots of ideas but have not settled for one particular vocation. The careers staff will be able to support you and point you in the direction of useful websites to help you generate job ideas, listen to any concerns you might have about your future, let you know of employer events or workshops that might interest you and generally support you whatever stage you are at with careers.

There’s lots to look into and explore and having said all the above if you are feeling under pressure and just want to talk about your future with a careers advisor, please book an appointment and rest assured they are there to help you. Alternatively, you might want to try taking one step at a time and aim to do one item from the above a term, breaking things up into small more manageable steps really can make a difference.

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