Life&Style’s Josie Hart talks about how to make the most of university and the opportunities it offers in order to help develop a future career path
Graduation. It’s inevitable, but the idea of graduating from university and entering the wider world still manages to set pulses racing whenever a tutor or lecturer unnervingly mentions career prospects or asks you what work experience you have. Whilst it would be ideal to remain in the bubble of constant partying, lack of attendance going relatively unnoticed and building up debt rather than actually needing to pay it back, the reality is that we will all need to get a job when that bubble pops. That is, of course, unless you decide to go into further study merely to extend the time before real adult life becomes a reality. Whilst it’s overwhelming, beginning to make steps towards a career during your time in the comparatively safe bubble of university life will only make the transition easier when the time does come to get a job.
The first step is to do your research. Unless you’re in the envious position of doing a vocational degree with a clear-cut transition to a career, the reality is that regardless of what stage of your degree you’re in, most of us still don’t know what we want to do. Whilst it’s important to recognise that you’re not alone in this, a bit of research will allow you to see what your options are and could lead to you finding your destiny. Firstly, assess the qualifications and skills that you possess as well as your key interests and have a look at job descriptions to see the sorts of things you are suited to. This will begin to narrow things down. The valuable resources and opportunities offered by the University of Birmingham’s Careers Network are extensive but include ‘Know your Strengths’ workshops, as well as online insights into a range of careers detailing the sorts of people who could be suited to a role. So most of the work has already been done for you!
Whilst there’s no need to have a full idea of what you want to do (not all of us are the 10-year-life plan-with-every-meal-prep-instruction-and-career-progression-detailed type), it’s useful to start getting work experiences in the sorts of fields you may be interested in. You could walk away from a work experience placement having hated it and never wanting to see a photocopier ever again, but every bit of experience builds up an admirable CV and allows you to gain a better understanding of what it is that you’re looking for in a career. Work experience opportunities can be found through the Careers Network, on a range of different internship and work experience websites, through a company’s website itself or by looking closer to home and speaking to the people you know to see if any of them may do something that sparks curiosity. The importance of networking is underrated, so make use of events on campus like Careers Fairs and employer talks and be aware of the fact that opportunities can arise from any interaction or situation. Be open to talking to a range of people and see where this could get you.
The most important thing to remember is not to let careers and the overwhelming prospect of needing to prepare to find one take over your life. Rather than cramming every spare moment with any internship or work experience you can get your hands on, think about the other things you want to achieve and do whilst you are still at university and have the chance to. Work experience will stand you in great stead for getting to the career of your dreams, but life experience is what will set you aside from other candidates applying for jobs with a CV boasting a good degree and work experience. Finding different passions and hobbies, having unique experiences at university or abroad and developing your skills by means outside of your studies will be what enables you to provide unique answers to interview questions and show an employer the sort of person you really are. It may be useful to make note of different situations and experiences and how they made an impact on you or helped to develop your skills.
It may still be easier to consciously ignore that finding a job is on the horizon, but you’ll thank yourself later if you make the most of the resources and opportunities available in the university bubble and start thinking about it now.