Category Archives: Careers advice

Life after graduation – yay or nay?

5 top tips to help with the transition.

Hey, guys!

I was having a scroll through the C+P blog as you do, and I’ve noticed that there’s lots of content and advice on here to do with placements and applying for graduate jobs in final year but what about life after graduation? Well fear not grads…I’m here to help fill that gap!

So you’ve just handed in your final assignment or completed your last ever university exam and you’re off to Gosta’s beer garden to chill in the sun with great company and plenty of drinks for the rest of the day. This feeling can only be described as somebody finally lifting the weight of about ¼ of the books stored in the library off your head allowing you to gracefully float upwards into the much-anticipated land of happiness and freedom. Mixed in with this mass feeling of euphoria, there is of course, a tinge of worry and a hint of apprehension about what the future holds for you along with the depressing thought of your cherished university friends that have had your back since fresher’s week going their separate ways. But meh…as far as you’re concerned you don’t need to be troubling yourself with that now, right? Definitely not! “C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-E GOOD TIMES COME ON!”

A few months have passed since the post-final exam party extravaganza; you’ve been chilling, watching plenty of Netflix, a bit more Netflix…and then a little more, or you might have been on holiday or even gone travelling the world. Either way, when July comes along, this only means one thing…it’s time to graduate! Now, from my personal experience, I can honestly say that apart from preoccupying myself 40% of the time worrying about tripping up the stairs when my name was called, my robes being skew-whiff and my cap falling off, my graduation ceremony was a day I will definitely treasure for the rest of my life. All of my family were there to support me and the weather was glorious. The sun was perhaps a bit too enthusiastic come to think of it, 30-degree heat in long, thick black robes wasn’t ideal…but nevertheless my four years of hard work at university came down to this very day, I’d graduated, and I was feeling on top of the world.

But after the celebrations had passed, then it hit me…what next? A lot of my friends had secured graduate jobs and suddenly the realisation that I didn’t really have a plan in place after I graduated was becoming increasingly apparent. Perhaps like me, you weren’t really sure about what career you wanted to go into after university and most of your time was spent working on the dreaded dissertation to properly think about it.  You’ve worked extremely hard for the past three/four years and you want a job where you can practically apply the amazing skills and knowledge you’ve learnt from your degree, otherwise, there’s really not much point in that long life debt you’ve just given yourself. The reality of the matter is, life after graduation is tough. I was perhaps a little naïve coming out of university with my 1st class honours degree and placement experience under my belt thinking I’d be able to casually stroll into the first job that took my fancy. This was not the reality, the graduate market is increasingly competitive and I seemed to be getting rejection after rejection and just couldn’t figure out why.

Now, I’m going to stop right there for a minute, because this blog is starting to sound too whiny for my liking and I’m not a whiny person at all, I like to think I’m a pretty optimistic person the majority of the time.  The purpose of this blog wasn’t to put a downer on things and to have a moan about how difficult getting a job after graduation can be. The purpose of this blog was to say, yes life after graduation can be hard, but just because you haven’t landed your dream job straight away doesn’t mean that you won’t. It seemed to me whilst I was at university I was always bombarded with success stories about people landing amazing jobs with amazing companies straight after university but there never seemed to be support out there to tell people that that’s not the only option after graduating! As I was in a very different situation to this, at the time, I couldn’t help feeling a little sense of failure. After having time to reflect I’ve realised life isn’t a race and it’s completely okay to not be exactly where you want to be career-wise after graduating. For those of you in a similar position to me who are starting to feel disheartened – please don’t be.

I’m sharing my five top tips that kept my spirits and motivation high through this tough period – I hope you find them useful!

  1. Don’t compare yourself

As I said before, life really isn’t a race. If your best friend has landed a graduate scheme with a global corporate company, earning the big bucks and loving life (which they are probably exaggerating anyway) good for them. You need to take the time to focus on yourself and really think about your career options and the direction that you want to go in. Everybody is different. Don’t just apply to a graduate job to keep up with everybody else’s lifestyle, it has to be the right job for you, not just a job you think you SHOULD be doing.

  1. Persevere

As disheartening as it can be to keep applying for jobs and getting rejections, miracles don’t happen overnight. Success takes time, you have to be persistent and keep applying to things, sooner or later you will start to get a bit of luck (usually when you’re least expecting it!).

  1. Ask for feedback

When you’re applying for jobs and if your application or interview didn’t quite make the cut, one of the things that is going to be most beneficial to you is to understand where you went wrong so that you are able to improve on this for next time. Most companies nowadays are so busy and preoccupied with what’s happening internally the majority of them will send you a generic email sent from a robot saying they aren’t able to provide feedback. But if you don’t ask, you don’t get so it’s always worth asking anyway!

  1. Improve yourself

As cliché as this may sound if you’ve all of a sudden got a lot of time on your hands while you’re looking for the right job, why not make the most of the time you have? Research the field you are interested in going into thoroughly, learn as much about it as you can to put you ahead of the game! Learn a new skill, try a new hobby, start reading more or take up some work experience at a local SME in a role that interests you. Any work experience that you can get in the career that you want will be valuable to you and it gives you more to speak about in interviews.

  1. Use the resources at C+P available to you!

Now, I know this might be a bit tricky for you graduates that no longer live in Birmingham, but if you do still happen to be in brum, not many graduates seem to be aware that the friendly Careers and Placements team here at Aston are here to support you for up to 3 years after you graduate…so make use of them while you can! Get CV/cover letter advice, visit a careers consultant to figure out your career options, attend interview or assessment centre workshops. There’s a whole variety of help waiting for you so don’t be afraid to use it.

By Hayley Bristow

 

 

Coping With Stress in Final Year: Planning Your Graduate Career

In a recent survey of 2,460 students, The Student Housing Company found that 96% of students have felt stressed at university.

In addition to this:

  • 56% said they feel “constantly” stressed
  • 79% are worried about getting a job after university
  • 31% believe that it could take as long as 6 months to find a job after graduating

It is clear that students feel stressed and pressured to succeed, particularly in final year when graduation seems to come round so quickly. So, what should you do if you are feeling this way? And what can you do to make sure that you have an exciting job or opportunity lined up after graduation?

Seek the Support You Need

Most universities have specialist support staff who provide guidance to students throughout university. If your studies are being affected by stress or another mental health issue, your lecturers will work with support staff to make sure that you have everything you need to live a happy and successful life at university.

Support staff may be able to help you in several ways: finding counselling or other means of support, offering you the chance to re-sit exams, giving you more time to sit exams, providing coursework extension deadlines, or giving you special dispensation when it comes to marking.

Whatever you are going through, it is important to speak to somebody and resolve the issue as far as you can. Keeping the problem to yourself will only make it worse, but by opening up to university staff, you should find the support you need in order to continue with your studies.

If you are concerned about getting a job after you graduate, make sure you use the resources at your university. Careers fairs often take place on campus, where you can look into the wide range of industries and companies you can work for.

Your university careers service will also be able to point you in the right direction. Even if you’re unsure about which industry you’d like to go into, they can discuss your skills and personality with you, and from that they will narrow down the jobs that you would be suited to.

Gain Experience

A degree will show that you are a smart, disciplined and successful young person, but what employers are really looking out for is experience. So, if you can fit some work experience in, it will be hugely beneficial to your future career.

You can get work experience by contacting your university careers department or by contacting local businesses that can offer you the sort of placement you want. When organising your work experience, it is important to make sure that the hours suit you. So taking a placement during the holidays or on a temporary, part-time basis during term time would be ideal.

What’s more, placements like this have very little stress or pressure attached to them, because they’re usually unpaid. This means they can become a welcome distraction to studying, and you can make some great friends during your placement too.

Get Ready Early

By preparing for your graduate career early, you will minimise the feelings of anxiety that many students experience at the end of their final year to find placements or graduate positions right away.

By getting work experience placements, or researching graduate courses available to you during your time as an undergraduate, you will feel happy knowing that you have something exciting to move on to after graduation.

If you decide to look into graduate courses, make sure you ask these important questions:

  • What are the fees and what are the payment options?
  • What do most students who graduate from this course go on to do as a career?
  • Which universities are ranked as the best for the subject you want to study at postgraduate level?

Travel the World

You should also remember that you don’t have to go straight into work or further study after university – you can take many exciting voluntary and paid positions around the world, or you could just save up and go travelling with your friends!

Experiences like this show you to be a broad-minded, interesting and confident individual. So when it comes to finding an entry-level position, or some work experience after you get back from your travels, you shouldn’t have any problems.

Taking Care of Yourself at University

Many students feel stressed and overwhelmed at university or when they graduate, so it is important to realise that you are not alone if you are feeling this way. To find out more information about overcoming your problems at university, check out our latest wellbeing advice for students.

Written by –  Amy Hirst ( The Student Housing Company )

Charity training worth £1100 is now free to current students

Thanks to a generous grant, Child.org will be able to offer Charity Apprentice 2017 for free to students who dream of working to change the world for the better.

Thousands dream of working one day for a charity. After all, it’s hard to name another job where you have the chance to eradicate global poverty, cure cancer or simply have a direct positive impact in the lives of millions of people.

But charity jobs can be notoriously difficult to apply for. Students often report confusion about what charity jobs are available, where to apply for them and how to gain relevant experience. Many more find it impossible to get their foot on the career ladder without having to work for free in unpaid internships for months on end.

Meanwhile charities find recent graduates lack basic knowledge of how charities operate and simple skills in fundraising and communications. Too many applicants gush about their desire to change the world, but have no clear idea of how they can use their skills to do that and what they might offer to the charity.

To solve this problem, the international development charity Child.org have spent two years working with experts from across the sector to develop Charity Apprentice: a course that anyone can do in their spare time to gain entry-level charity skills. A combination of online learning and fun real-life challenges, Charity Apprentice is a must for anyone considering a career in the sector and covers topics ranging from fundraising regulation and marketing to sustainable development and effective advocacy.

Anna Donaldson, a Charity Apprentice in 2016, said:

“Before I even completed my year as a Charity Apprentice, I had my first paid job offer in the charity sector and the opportunity to work for something really worthwhile that I am incredibly proud of. The course transformed my view of the charity sector and made me realise how important it was to be a part of it in a time when compassion for a cause is rarely enough to make the impact you want to make. Access to invaluable resources, constant encouragement and support and a fantastic opportunity to work in Kenya has not only clarified what impact I’d like to make in my lifetime, it has opened up the opportunity for me to get paid to do it.”

The course fees for a year are priced at £1100, but thanks to a generous grant from the Sofronie foundation, Child.org are able to offer free course places to students and recent graduates for the first time this year.

To see a full course outline and apply for your place, visit charityapprentice.org.

As this opportunity is provided by a third party and Aston do not have any relationship with them other than advertising, we suggest you do your own research before you sign up.

 

Hi.

My name is Austin, Marketing assistant at ClickMechanic. The business has been operating since 2012, with huge growth and success, as they offer the digital solution to car repairs. A walk back from the garage in the rain has been transformed to feet up on the sofa with your car fixed right on your drive.

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Deciding what to do after University is a daunting decision and one that many students can take a long time to decide upon. The usual path for most students is to take the corporate option however one option that often gets overlooked is considering a career in a startup.

Here are 5 unique challenges and opportunities within a digital start-up:
1- IMPACT

Feeling your work have a real impact on the business is a wonderful feeling: One that drives people, helps them cope, or just brightens their day. The application of your skills and knowledge is satisfying and being able to see a positive change in the business from it is incredibly uplifting.

 

2- Freedom
The flexibility of work life whilst being part of a close knit team is a great asset to startups. You won’t be shackled to a desk in stuffy clothes: You will be , in some cases literally, bouncing ideas off each other. It allows plenty of in-office fun which you definitely wouldn’t get as part of a large corporation.

austin

3- Learning
There is almost constant learning as you expand your range or master your depths. It is always a fresh challenge to figure out the latest software and master it. As your confidence grows, people will come to depend on you. You will be a sought after individual as a master of a field.

 

4- Creativity

Finding interesting pathways to success is a key aspect of being an entrepreneur, so long as corners aren’t cut, then it will generally work out. Thinking outside the box and defying expectations are great ways to gain credibility as an innovator. My personal advice is that a collection of novel ideas is better than one generic view.
5- Responsibility
Having the opportunity to be part of something incredible comes with responsibility. You are trusted to perform because you want the business to do well, not for your next paycheck. You gotta believe, Que the X-files

Whether you are starting a business with friends, or just looking for exciting opportunities; it’s an awesome place to be.

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Thanks,

Austin

If you are interested in working for a start-up or SME, you can search for vacancies on Aston Futures by following these simple steps:

  1. Login to Aston Futures
  2. Select the ‘Jobs’ tab
  3. Then click ‘STEP 1: Search for Jobs’
  4. Select company sizes

You can also find out more at www.aston.ac.uk/sme

Applying for My Placement

For a long time I had considered continuing my education and qualifying as a Speech and Language therapist, but as it is specialised I was not sure whether it would be the right path for me. So, I decided to try my best efforts to secure a placement within the NHS under a Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) department.

Finding a placement in SLT and not being on the course was difficult, I must have contacted every SLT department, in every city, from Leicester to York and none would take me on. I attended one of the placement fairs at Aston’s Student Union and there is where I made my first contact with a Speech and Language assistant from Birmingham Community Healthcare (BCHC). She gave me a brief overview of the role and this coincided with the research I had done pushed me into applying for a student placement with BCHC.

The time between contact and receiving an interview was just under a few months and I considered this opportunity as my last shot so, it was pretty nerve wrecking. The nerves did not by any means end there, as there was little information about competencies and previous student interviews with SLT, there was only so much I could prepare for the interview.

I was interviewed by a therapist and an assistant who were really friendly and the first few questions were generic interview ones focusing on skills such as communication and team working. There were a few scenario based questions that did catch me off guard but it was just a case of applying the skills I had to the role I was applying for.  When I left the interview I felt that I had babbled on too much and did not do well, so it was to my surprise when I got a phone call later from my interviewer saying I had secured a placement!

10 TOP TIPS TO FIND YOUR PERFECT PLACEMENT

1)   Use all sources for your search

There are so many places you can look for placement options, so don’t just presume Aston Futures is your be and end all. Use ratemyplacement.com, e4s.com and indeed.com. You can also branch out further, and use family friends and social media to try and find connections for businesses that may not necessarily advertise their Industrial Placement vacancies.

2)   Don’t rule out your own area

Although some people would hate the idea of moving back home for a year after living solo at University for two already- don’t rule it out as an option. It can save huge amounts of money on living costs and accommodation…and you even get your evening meal made for you!!! (Who can resist that, I ask!?) Living at home can also create ease for you, with your home friends around, new friends to be made at your new job and possibly even more mobility if you have your own car or can borrow one at home. It’s a great idea to just Google large businesses in your own area, and have a scout on their careers pages or drop an email to see if they offer any placement positions.

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3)   Be prepared for the various stages in application

These days, companies like to throw all sorts of application stages at you. Below are the possible stages you could be asked to complete before getting to an assessment centre:

  • Large online form to include all personal info e.g. qualifications, interests, CV and Cover Letter upload
  • Simple cover letter and CV upload onto an online site
  • Online personal questions e.g. ‘Give us an example of when you have achieved personal goal.’
  • Online Psychometric and Mathematics tests (they are so hard so do your homework before taking them!)
  • Phone interview
  • Automated or live skype recorded interview
  • Face to face interview
  • Trial day at the workplace (not as scary as you may think!)
  • Assessment centre- this usually includes both group and individual exercises

4)   Apply, Apply, Apply…

My advice would be to apply to as many vacancies as possible and keep your options open. Providing that the vacancy is still relevant to your chosen course, you should ensure that you are applying to as many as you can, and as early as you can. I started from September, and that certainly helped me, as I was in no mad rush to get a load done at once, and all of the stages were conveniently spaced out throughout the year, so I wasn’t stressed when exam and coursework submission period came around. It might be a good idea to give yourself targets of applying to around 3 or 4 a week around September-December, to help yourself keep on track. It may also be important to read thoroughly through the job specification before applying. Not only because this can significantly help with the applications themselves (because they usually contain the answers that employers are looking for), but also because it is important to restrict yourself to only applying to ones that are relevant to you e.g. if they require certain skills, degree channels, unrestricted mobility or qualifications. This will save you a lot of time…and the disappointment of rejections.

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5)   Be savvy with your application questions

Applications are known for being very tedious, monotonous and time consuming, and you’ll therefore be delighted to know that there are some corners you can cut very easily, in order to reduce your boredom and avoid being driven crazy. The main top tip I can pass on, would be to ensure that when answering your personal questions during the application process, make sure you’re adding each question and answer to a word document as you’re going along. This is because a lot of the questions from different companies can give you the same, or very similar questions, and so this will save you a lot of time and effort writing up the same (or similar) questions again. A lot of your answers can often also be reworded and repurposed for different questions. Just make sure you change the company or industry references to apply to the specific job application.

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6)   Have a spotless CV and Cover Letter

Keep both your CV and Cover Letter relevant and short! An employer may only spend around 5-20 seconds looking at each applicant’s document, and so it needs to capture them straight away, and also be very easy to digest. To help you, use subheadings and online examples as inspiration to keep yours tip top! In the CV itself, make sure you sell yourself and take pride in your achievements- convince them to give you that interview! Then once you’re done and before sending it into the Aston Placement Team, ask a trustworthy person to check over it to ensure it is of quality, or even compare with friends to see if there is anything you have missed.

7)   If you aren’t sure…ASK!

If you’re looking for a placement or to study abroad, or even if you are unsure about the placement search or application process- do not be afraid to drop the placement team an email at absplacements@aston.ac.uk or pop into their office in the Student Union. No question is too silly! Be sure also not to leave things too late, as application processes can close early sometimes (particularly for study options abroad), and you don’t want to miss an opportunity!

8)   Be Prepped for Assessment Days!

They aren’t anywhere near as scary as you may think! In fact, a lot of the time Assessment Centres are presented informally and can involve engaging activities- so don’t be worried if on is approaching. However, there are a few things that are worth taking with you to ensure you are fully prepared…

  • Your printed CV
  • A notebook and a couple of pens
  • Lunch (it may not always be provided)
  • Printed background info on the company (to refer to if you forget anything)
  • And of course, it is still very important to look presentable and ensure that you are ‘geeked up’ on all the necessary info too.
  • Most importantly- make sure you bring yourself!! Don’t try and be someone you aren’t, it will show through in interviews, and actually is much better to be relaxed

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9)   Don’t be disheartened

It can be very frustrating getting the dreaded phone call or email…’Unfortunately we have decided not to process your application further…’ But please do not be disheartened!! Keep your spirits high and make sure you keep on applying to other options, as you never know what is around the corner, and only means that you are simply not what the employers are looking for- which doesn’t in any way mean that you are not what a different employer is looking for!

heartbroken

10)               Don’t be afraid to put yourself out of your comfort zone

There are many aspects about getting a placement which may place you outside of your everyday comfort zone. From interviews in unfamiliar places, to meeting a wide range of new people, or answering questions on the phone or conference call. Do not be afraid or put off by pushing yourself to do these things, visit new places and take pride in meeting new people or having new experiences. After all, it is what a placement is all about.

Start of Your Placement Journey!

Hi guys, thanks for taking the time to read my first Careers+Placements Blog post.

I’m Reece, and I am a 3rd year BSc Business and International Relations student, where I am currently studying in Helsinki for the first semester of my placement, and Madrid for the second semester.

When I first started at Aston, I was really looking forward to the placement year, and what it would hold for me. When 2nd year came around, it was quite easy to see that me, and everybody in the same boat, would need to put a lot of effort into securing a good placement.

This is why I will just give my thoughts on some hints and tips for all 2nd year students at Aston:

  • Utilise all of the help – There is so much going on around campus to help you secure a great placement: take advantage of all of the services that the Careers+Placements office offer e.g. going through your CV with you, providing mock interviews, help with assessment centres. All of this will help you when you apply for jobs/study placements, as you will be able to stand out, and offer more than other students from universities all over the UK. It is important to remember that there are thousands of students looking for a placement, so anything that can give you an advantage over them could be pivotal.
  • Work on your CV and Cover Letter – I repeat do NOT have one cover letter for all of your applications. Tailor your CV and cover letter for each position you apply for. You might think this is a waste of time, but 10 well written CVs and cover letters will bring you more success than 50 badly written ones. It is highly beneficial if you work on them both in the summer, as this could be vital in you being able to apply early on.
  • Take the Role/Placement AND Location into consideration – You might have your heart set on a specific industry, but I would definitely encourage you to think about the location, as this is just as important. I have really enjoyed Finland so far, so I would say to anyone thinking of doing a placement abroad, to grab the chance with both hands, as this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and you should take full advantage of the all links and contacts that Aston has. Before you know it, you will be graduating, so you may as well have some great memories to take with you into your working life.

Thanks for reading, I will be posting again soon!

Maybe choose somewhere warmer than Finland!

Maybe choose somewhere warmer than Finland!

Job Search Advice: Don’t get catfished…

Applying for a job is a necessity whether it’s for a part-time job , a placement year or your graduate job search, searching through hundreds of jobs can seem like a bit of a chore. We often see stories in the news of graduates who go more than the extra mile to get noticed e.g. the unemployed graduate who spent his last £500 on an advertising billboard. Online scammers are taking advantage of desparate graduates who are searching for their perfect job, so here are some top tips on how to stay safe in your job search…

1. Don’t give out any sensitive personal information

Justin Bieber Password

Most of us have some sort of online profile, so don’t complete the puzzle by giving out any other information! There is absolutely no reason why a recruiter or employer would require your bank details, NI number or mother’s maiden name at application stage. Get in touch with Careers+Placements if you have any concerns.

2. Definitely be suspicious towards anything concerning you giving money to an employer

Give me all your money job scam

You shouldn’t ever have to pay an employer or agency money in return for a guaranteed job, or even help with your job search. We have had students in the past lose £££’s to get a job abroad disguised as ‘processing’ or ‘visa fees’. There are some legitimate companies who have fees, but contact Careers+Placements to check before you hand over any money!

3. Little or no experience required? It is too good to be true I’m afraid!

When you lie on your CV and still get the job

An ‘employer’ has found your CV online and is offering you a role as a Trainee Business Executive, with all training provided for £45k a year and they say the job is yours if you want it. Genuine graduate job adverts will at least have a brief description of duties and a person specification in regards to your qualification and experience- have a look on Aston Futures and see for yourself!

4. The ‘we found your CV online’ scam

who are you and how did you find me

Online scammers are evolving, using lists of email addresses found anywhere online. Whether you are applying for jobs or not, you can receive emails claiming to have seen your CV online. Often the email address will not be legitimate e.g. Aston University’s email addresses follow the format @aston.ac.uk but if you receive an email from @aston.com/aston.ac.uk@ahx.com you can identify this as a fraud email. Also be aware of any telephone numbers or websites which don’t follow the company’s usual format.

5. The ‘ I turned my £5 into £500 in one hour’ scam

I'm serious

Hook. Line. Sinker. I know we all believe we’re too smart to fall for this one, but many of us already have! ‘Companies’ can publish testimonials to look as if they are coming from a genuine person who even has a LinkedIn profile, but these scammers invest time into building an online presence as a marketing ploy to get you to fill in any kind of personal details. Even if you don’t go ahead and apply, having your email address on file may be enough for them to sell onto another scammer who may try a different tactic a few months down the line.

6. Don’t get catfished…Use Google

Don't get catfished

Any time I have been unsure about a legitimate company, I tend to write their name into Google followed by ‘scam’ or the first line of their email, or the email address it’s coming from. There are several websites you can use to check the legitimacy of a company e.g. Companies House and Company Check. You can always contact Careers+Placements to investigate for you.

Follow these simple steps and stay safe when applying for jobs!

Guilty face

Aston University Careers+Placements
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W: www.aston.ac.uk/careers
E: careers@aston.ac.uk

Safely search for your graduate career on Aston Futures

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Hayley

Written by Hayley, Student Engagement Coordinator Aston University Careers+Placements

Make your Final Year count!

Making Your Final Year Count

University is so exciting and fast-paced that by the time your second year comes to an end, it can feel quite overwhelming to think that you’re about to enter final year. But fret not. With careful planning and hard work, your career will take off after university.

Utilising Your University Resources

Always make the most of your university resources. Your university should be able to advise you when it comes to graduate careers.

At the start and the end of the academic year, careers fairs usually take place on campus. Make sure you attend – even if you aren’t sure about which path you will take after university – because you may be inspired while you’re there, or you may form a better idea of what you would like to do for a living. While you’re there, talk to as many people and go to as many stands as possible. The saying is true – “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know” – and by making good connections at events such as this, you will open doors for yourself.

Moreover, universities have excellent careers departments that specialise in graduate recruitment. They offer everything from advice about your CV to helping you choose the right career.

Getting Work Experience

When you come to apply for jobs, your degree will highlight that you are able and intelligent, whether you have chosen a broad academic subject or a specific degree that will help you into a particular industry.

However, a degree alone is rarely enough to secure a great graduate position. Most employers want to see evidence of at least some work experience (whether that is with their company or another one), as this is one way they can be sure of your practical ability. Although work experience is often unpaid, expenses such as travel and food are usually taken care of, and you can fit it in around your university commitments, during summer holidays, or on a part-time basis when you don’t have lectures.

Most importantly, work experience gives you a real taste of working life and shows you how your chosen industry operates. It is also an experience that you can add to your CV and talk about in interviews. Employers love to see that you have gained real experience in a similar working environment to theirs.

Volunteering and/or Travelling

Volunteering and travelling are also great things to talk about in an interview.

If you can demonstrate that you are hard-working and committed through your unpaid volunteering activities, this will stand you in good stead and make you stand out from the other applicants.

Travelling, on the other hand, is a great option if you are not entirely sure which career path you want to take yet. You’ll have time to think about all of this while you’re on your travels, and then once you come back and start applying for jobs, you’ll have plenty to talk about when your future employer asks you what you have been doing.

Early Preparation

Preparing early is always key. Whether you are going on to study a graduate course or you want to begin your career, it is important to shop around. Look for the best graduate courses in your field. Which universities offer the best benefits? What have postgraduate students gone on to do from that university? These are all questions you should be asking – and if you are unsure about anything, contact the university and they should be able to point you in the right direction.

If you are looking to start your career after graduation, look around to see the jobs on offer. Can you match the skills in the job adverts? If not, could you gain them through some work experience or any extracurricular activities? By matching the skills in the job descriptions you find, you will be fully prepared to apply for your favourite positions after university.

This guest post was written by The Student Housing Company.

 

 

The Learning Curve

Annette Rubery

Dr Annette Rubery

My career has certainly been atypical. I graduated from a PhD at Warwick University in 2000, and, although my degree set me on a course towards teaching, I ended up joining a national newspaper as a journalist instead.

Journalism was a great job to have in my 20s – I started at the bottom as a casual writer, was eventually taken on formally as a staff writer, then worked my way up through the ranks to Deputy Arts Editor and then Editor. This was a classic “foot in the door” situation; I stayed for ten years altogether and learnt a huge amount about every aspect of the business, from writing and editing to managing budgets and staff. It was a great company to work for and I was lucky to have the scope to advance my career without having to move. Although it was a national newspaper I was able to work out of the Birmingham office, close to home, and enjoy the life of the city as part of my job.

That all changed in 2009. By around the middle of 2008, it was clear that journalism was undergoing huge changes, which were partly due to the impact of digital technologies on the industry, but also the result of steadily falling advertising revenue. The newspaper I worked on announced around 30 redundancies across the regional arm of its operation and my job was amongst them.

It took me a while to work out which direction to take next. I freelanced for a while, working as an arts editor for a newspaper that ultimately folded (I learnt some important lessons learnt about being tough over missed payments!) I realised that I didn’t like freelancing and preferred working in an office with structured hours. I also missed academia. I began to think that I could use the combination of my degree and my journalism experience in a Higher Education context. Not long afterwards I got a job at my own university, Warwick, working on an online publication called Knowledge Centre, aimed at alumni.

A few years down the line I decided to move close to home and got a job in Digital Marketing at Aston. This allowed me to build up a set of technical skills to compliment my print skills. From there I moved into alumni communications, where I work today. My current role (Alumni Communications Officer) draws on both my digital experience at Warwick and Aston (managing social media and web pages) but also uses my print journalism experience (editing our alumni magazine, Aston in Touch).

Here are some of the things I have learnt along the way:

  • You might not get your dream job right away, but get a foot in the door and see if you like the industry first
  • People don’t tend to do one job for life but have ‘portfolio’ careers where they will re-invent themselves many times over – stay open to different types of work experience which will help you to be flexible on the job market
  • A degree gives you so much more than just narrow experience to enable you to do a pre-determined job. Don’t feel you have to go down a certain path because of your degree, but think broadly in terms of transferable skills and what you enjoy doing
  • Do everything you can to build up a resilient attitude; there will be disappointments along the way but don’t let people dent your confidence or persuade you to give up on your goals.

Dr Annette Rubery