Apparently nowadays paying £9000 a year and studying extensively (okay this is debatable), for three years straight whilst living off of a very tight budget just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before, it’s a voice from employers that is getting worrying louder: a degree isn’t enough. Unfortunately for students in the present, the economy is not as fit as it has been in the past. That, teamed with the fact that more people are getting degrees, means that the job market is tighter than ever.
I’ve just come back from a university first year careers’ day and admittedly it’s put things into perspective for me. A couple of months ago everything I had done in my life had been a build up to university; now I’m here. And yes I’m still only in my first year but essentially I’m half way through and next thing I know I’ll have finished my degree.
So what advice did I get from this talk? Well firstly, use your time wisely. I study history, meaning that I only actually spend 9 hours a week at univeristy; a figure that will shrink to just 3 hours in my final year. This is the case for lots of humanity and arts students – but it doesn’t mean you should have longer lie ins or parties every night. Treat your day like a 9-5 job, or at the very least 10am. Get up, and make the most of the day – start with any university work you may have, because staying on top of uni work is key to being able to fit everything in. Then, any spare time you have: reject a nice nap or three hours of back to back catch up TV. Plan things to do in that time; if you’re interested in journalism – scroll through the BBC or a newspaper to keep up to date with things, maybe write a blog or an article for your student newspaper. If you’re more interested in something like science and maths – get on google or your university careers sites, there’s always hundreds of opportunities. You need to be looking out for internships and opportunities like there’s no tomorrow; because in three years time there won’t be.
Plan your summer. This is essential, because although you may feel exhausted from summer exams, after a few weeks you’ll have had enougn time to relax and recover. And yet you have 3 MONTHS OF NOTHING. Yeah sure plan a holiday or festival, but realisatically 3 months as a student is a goldmine opportunity. You can squeeze in a nice work placement or internship for at least a month. Summer’s also a great opportunity to get some volunteering in – you look charitable, willing to offer up your time, and you could get something fun out of it – I’m sure teaching in a school in Africa would appeal to a lot of people.
Marketing yourself is also really important. It doesn’t take long to write or edit your CV; you don’t want to leave it until the last minute when a job pops up and you haven’t written anything and have to rush it. Always have a CV on hand and even better, market yourself further by using social networking site LinkedIn. It may seem more complicated than user-friendly sites such as facebook or twitter but essentially its a career networking site; your profile acts like a CV – but it’s even better because you can add in things like awards you’ve received or projects you’ve been involved in; often the things that you can’t afford to prioritse in the confines of a one page CV.
You may have heard everything I’ve said before, but sometimes having someone put it into perspective helps. For example, employers now say you’ll struggle to get a job if you haven’t got any work experience. So even if you worked ridiculously hard at uni to secure your 2:1 or First, you won’t have many other skills. It’s important too, not just for your CV but for future interviews. What happens when you get asked about your ability to deal with the public? Chances are you won’t have had many opportunities to deal with the public during your degree; but perhaps your part time Saturday job did or your volunteering internship. Work experience makes you a more rounded and experienced person – that’s what employers like to see.
My word of advice? Speak to your university careers service. They can help with a range of things from career advice (perhaps you’re not sure what you want to do in the future) to setting up work placements for you. If you think you’re fairly clued up about what you want to do when you’re older, then you should also check our graduate job and work placement websites such as milkround.com or ratemyplacement.com which can help you to find jobs which match your criteria.