Freshers’ Week over? You may still be suffering from a hangover, but it’s not half as bad as how you’ll feel in your final term at college if, by then, you haven’t…
- Gotten a sense of your natural abilities
- Started developing those talents into strengths
- Identified the skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviors that all employers desperately need from new entrants
- Begun to develop yourself personally to improve the big things holding you back
- Recognized the value you would add to an employer
- Started exploring how and where you can point your talents at what you really, really want
A recent survey revealed the number one reason for selecting a particular university is because of the degree subject. In second place was how well the degree course and university prepared students for the world of work (interestingly, location used to rank in second place). When you’re paying huge fees, understandably, you want value for your money.
The thing to remember is your relationship with university is like with an employer. An employer will provide you with good terms, conditions, package, environment, training and development, etc. At the same time, they also expect you to take personal responsibility for your learning and growth.
It will pay you massive dividends to start that process while you are at university in order to demonstrate that you have what it takes for a future employer!
Here are five things to improve your employability by combining university and experience:
1. Volunteer or Get Work Experience – Take on a responsibility, be accountable, improve yourself by helping others, make a contribution and try different areas. For example, you could develop your listening skills working for a student helpline, so you get experience of taking a wide range of calls, learn how to adapt your communication style and to practise asking different types of questions.
2. Become an Intern – Wherever you stand on the paid versus unpaid issue, internships are a fact of life today, so seek opportunities at any time (not just the holidays). For example, an art student I know did a Saturday internship as a fundraiser for a major gallery during term-time as well as paid work with flexible shifts in a cafe during the week.
3. Network – You do this already with Facebook or maybe Twitter! So put those natural skills to use by creating a LinkedIn profile, contribute to discussions in areas that interest you, set up a forum, ask questions of more experienced people in your field and identify key people in companies you’d like to work for. And don’t forget to network internally – your professors and lecturers are very well connected! Remember, networking is all about building genuine relationships.
4. Review Your Curriculum Vita (CV) – A great piece of advice comes from this student’s experience. Put it down on paper early on, and then critically review it from an employer’s viewpoint (get expert help if needed). Then plan how you will strengthen your experience during your degree.
5. Develop Your Self-Awareness – Employers don’t want a robot, they want YOU! So find out who you are, what makes you unique and talented, what makes you tick, what you get fired up about, and how you like to think, feel and behave. Make the connection between your experiences at university and who you are. Get feedback. Develop your ability to self-reflect. Articulate it. Then learn to blow your own trumpet in a way that is genuinely you and not what you think others want to hear.
The days of just studying for a degree are over if you want a job at the end of it. The key is to build your employability by integrating it into your time at University. Ironically enough, many older employees have done it in reverse, building academic experience into their working experience. Either way, building and sustaining your employability is a lifelong challenge for all of us.
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