Want to win at job-hunting and being a student? It can be done. “Seizing the opportunities available at university is a valuable way for students to boost their career prospects, as well as giving them a richer university experience,” says Maggie Westgarth, head of employability and enterprise at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol). Here are some suggestions for how to do it:
“They enable students to apply their skills in a real-world environment and see the impact their skills can have on an organisation or industry,” says Westgarth. “Employers value this level of work experience and it gives students a significant advantage in the jobs market.”
Volunteer, work or study overseas
“The number of new experiences that come from living in a different country and culture is extraordinary and can make a CV stand out from the crowd,” says Westgarth. “Someone who has spent time abroad during their studies will be able to talk about experiences and skills that will be unlike any other candidate.”
Get involved in sports and societies
Graduate recruiters stress how important this is, says Katie Seymour-Smith, senior career consultant at the University of Derby. “Not only does it expose students to a wider skill set, networking opportunities and skill application, but it contributes towards building confidence and resilience.” And it’s fun, too.
Get advice from a range of people
Different people – parents, friends, lecturers, employers – will have different perspectives on the world of work, according to Tom Staunton, careers consultant at the University of Derby. To help you filter all that information, he suggests seeing a professional careers adviser. “They can help you think through the different advice you have been given, work out what it means for you and what you could do about it,” he says.
Mind your surrounding
“Don’t bury your head in the sand - there’s always something going on around campus,” says Alison Armstrong, a careers advisor at Bournemouth University. That might be a careers workshop, a volunteering opportunity at the union or an event hosted by an employer. Look out for employability awards, too. “These are structured programmes designed to help you get the most out of your time at university,” she adds.
Be a part of the wider uni community
“Get as involved as possible with uni life,” says Armstrong. It’s not just societies – getting involved with student papers and radio stations can be great fun and build great skills. “Volunteer for opportunities such as becoming a student rep,” adds Armstrong. “This will develop and demonstrate leadership, negotiation and team-working skills.”
This can be with fellow students on forums, but Jack Wallington, community director at The Student Room suggests casting the net wider as well. “It’s good to connect with lecturers, guest speakers or anyone you’ve worked alongside, as by getting to know them you’re likely to get introduced to even more people in the industry,” he says. Tap your uni's alumni network as well. “These people have first-hand experiences and advice to offer on how to break into your chosen field,” he adds.