Developing Yourself and Your Employability at University
Talking about ‘employability’ from your first year can feel a bit too heavy. Honestly I’m not going to lecture, this can still be fun! Because, you can focus on what you want from University: friends, fun, pursuing interests....and easily develop yourself in readiness for a career at the same time.
Paid if you want to earn money but voluntary can be as good or better. You meet people, develop skills, find out some of your strengths and interests. Plus doing something useful, whilst improving confidence and commercial awareness. Structured internships are great, but don’t get hung up on your experience having to be a ‘scheme’ or with a big organisation. Many of those are more targeted at second years anyway.
Competitions and insight events are a little known area you should also look at. Common in sectors like banking. BUT, they are getting more varied and competitions in particular are amazing because of the:
- Range: cyber security competitions, essays on environmental issues, team trading games, marketing campaigns, so you can try all sorts without huge commitment like a placement or internship.
- Duration - they fit more easily into your time. So more for your CV.
- Lack of people entering some of them.
- Experience and the prizes - prestige, cash, internship in New York to name a few!
Whatever your passion, pursue it, with enthusiasm. Don’t think that now you are away from school and parents encouraging you that you have done all that ‘extra-curricular stuff’.
On the other hand, don’t join every society and passively attend events now and then. Really get involved. Step up and volunteer for a position on the committee and do it well - make something better than it was the year before, e.g. grow the membership, put on the biggest event ever, raise the most money. Start your own society if there isn’t one to fit your interests.
Not a ‘society’ kind of person? That’s okay, just take whatever you want that bit further than you might. So if you like photography get an exhibition, enter competitions.
If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!, Richard Branson
This involvement will help you to learn about yourself, making career choice easier later. I want that more for you than employability. But it will also help demonstrate: initiative, team work, organisational skills, creativity. Your society might be sponsored by a graduate employer, giving you the start of a business network without even trying!
More career focused? Great, join the Finance Society, Law Society, sector focused groups within your department. This can be such an amazing gateway to contacts and even a place on an Internship or Spring Week, without having to go through all the selection processes.
Career related or not, meeting others outside your course is great for: getting to know yourself, developing your interpersonal skills and potentially networks for the future. Try to be aware of the natural human tendency to just seek out people like ourselves. Develop your openness to other lifestyles, cultures, political views.
Be alert to opportunities. Know your stuff in terms of what is available, when and how - by learning from those who know. Go to Employer events, talk to Finalists and Alumni, Lecturers and Careers Advisers, e.g. keep reading on here ;). Generally, notice what is going on around you on campus and online.
There is so much you can do and I promise you won’t regret any of it. So go and HAVE FUN!!