"I wanted to do it for me and my own personal development- but employers seem more intrigued than I was"
Do you have a vision of graduating and walking straight into a career of your choice? We want to give you our tips on how you can boost your employability during University.
Thousands of other graduates, who have either completed the same degree or similar, are all going to compete with you in the race to full-time employment.
This is often a daunting thought. Yet standing out amongst the crowd does not have to involve you turning to extreme measures.
Simply balancing your studies with useful experiences will equip you with an attractive CV before you even start to apply for graduate roles.
Take a look at some of our tips and suggestions on how to boost your employability while at University below.
Up Your Work Experience Game
Fortunately, a lot of students are no longer underestimating the importance of work experience alongside a University degree. Looking ‘good on paper’ isn’t about selling yourself with just your academic history.
Employers want to see dedication in a practical way. How badly do you want to begin a career in accounting? Have you thought of this future to the point where you want to get stuck in already?
They will want to see that you are so interested that you have independently tried to pick up relevant skills and knowledge e.g. work experience at your local branch.
Of course, this is not as easy and accessible as it sounds. Companies have a specific set number of graduates they are willing to train on a placement programme. They are bound to have strict requirements and challenging applications.
Make sure you are signed up to mainstream graduate placement websites alongside the sites that are not so widely broadcasted too. This will notify you via email when companies have opened or are looking to open their application process to students.
Be proactive and send your application out earlier than expected.
Non-Paid or Voluntary Work
Alternatively, if gaining a paid placement is proving to be a struggle, consider non-paid work. Although this may not seem ideal, it has its benefits.
One benefit is that you will not have to take a year out of your degree to complete your contract. You can gain valuable part-time experience during your year/years at University.
Schools in particular, for those interested in teaching, will only offer free work experience. It is rare and often, only a teaching abroad placement will pay you for working in a school while you are still a student.
Kiran Sehni comments:
“Working in Uganda was completely voluntary for 3 months in the summer. I had to raise money and worked hard to make sure family and friends were sponsoring me!
“The trip was unforgettable, giving me a taster of real deprivation. I wanted to do it for me and my own personal development – but employers seem more intrigued than I was.”
Societies and Clubs
If you are already part of a society or club at University, you may be at an advantage. Employers, the superior human beings to the generic student, like seeing character.
Along with the formal attributes they find to be desirable, they respect a busy social life. It is very easy to get caught up in the professional career ladder.
This can be to the point where you prioritise reading a coding book on a Friday night over going for a drink with your friends. There is nothing wrong with this if that is what you enjoy. But making yourself take time out for your interests with friends is also important.
There are near enough societies for everything and if your ideal society does not exist, create one! Nothing is more attractive, in relation to societies, than to be a Society Leader or VP at your University.
This will reflect your leadership qualities and your capability to ‘make things happen’.
Locate Your Nearest Careers Fair
Ongoing career fairs for University students and graduates are always going to occur. These are great events hosted by large arenas to allow employers to interact with you.
It is incredibly valuable to get yourself known and make professional links in person. If you have impressed employers directly, you have practically participated in a miniature interview.
They might remember you or want to take your details for future contact. Even if you do not see yourself committing to any of the companies who are based at the Career Fair on that particular day, it will still have been useful.
Career Fairs allow you to practice and better your communication skills with people from different kinds of professions.
Part Time or Weekend Work
From retail to bars, it all counts. Early Summer and Winter are the ideal times to apply. Businesses are always keen to recruit during demanding seasons. A lot of part-time contracts are understanding towards your studies and will be happy to work around your schedule too.
Ria Singh, a former Maths student, states:
“My getaway from revision would be my weekend job, working for a private GCSE tuition company. Little did I know they actually wanted me to manage one of their centres in the long run.”
Working during your degree not only helps with finances but will most definitely give you the transferable skills that graduate employers look out for.
Learn and experience different work environments. This will help you with deciding what kind of career is and is not for you once you graduate.
It is essential to consider developing your bilingual skills. Being fluent in another language other than English is going to present you as a candidate who can communicate globally.
Certain employers will only be searching for ‘German speakers’ or ‘French speakers’.
If it is a corporate environment, employers will find you more appealing if you can liaise with clients where their international offices are based. You are then no longer considered as the extra pair of hands in the office. As a newbie, you have an asset that the majority of the office does not possess.
Even developing your knowledge and speaking Desi languages which are spoken at home will add value to your professional profile. They are especially easy to pick up if your household are fluent speakers.
Typically, if your family love Asian dramas, becoming engrossed in at least one of their favourite picks may not be a bad idea after all. The main use of this is that you are also able to put these skills to use in your future workplace.
This could be in the UK or a destination like India if a placement is available.
Universities are even starting to offer evening language classes, paid and non-paid. If you do have a time slot you are able to spare, then it is recommended that you sign up.
Take note that these classes are easier to fit into your schedule during your first year. Those with second and third-year deadlines at University will understand the commitment issues.
Travel and Stints Abroad
Becoming bilingual, as explained, has its pros of being able to easily gain placements abroad. International employers are very supportive of native English speakers who are also able to speak their mother tongue.
You will become aware of different lifestyles and perspectives. This is easiest and most valuable to do when you are young.
Snatch the opportunity to work or live in another country for a substantial amount of time. Elevate your social skills and test being able to integrate into a completely unfamiliar community and its people.
Give yourself the chance to return back to the UK thanking yourself.
Assets such as charity work, being sponsored to volunteer in a less fortunate country, are making students stand out. Employers will respect the fact that you have taken time and initiative to ‘make things happen’ for the greater good.
Teaching abroad is also an option which people should consider. TEFL courses have never been this popular. Whether you are wishing to pursue a career in teaching or not, teaching abroad will better many of your professional skills.
You will naturally become a better leader and communicator. Your confidence will also take a huge boost.
Destinations like China and Dubai are continuously offering very attractive packages to graduates.
Stick To Your Deadlines
Although you may have heard this repeated comment throughout your University experience, it’s a rule worth abiding. Sticking to deadlines now will improve your time management skills for the years to come.
Taking control of your time and putting together a timetable for your dates will train you to think systematically. If you get used to the laid-back approach, your bad habits will undoubtedly creep into your life as a graduate.
This also applies to your attendance. Lecturers believe in hosting hour-long seminars to implement attendance regulations. Yet the actual benefit of always being on time to lectures is for ourselves.
Training ourselves to be stern with our time will not only give you a good attendance record but will help to keep you in a company past your probation period.
Although we have shared the requirements we think will give you the ranking of a top candidate post-University, it is up to you to carry out what you can. It is realistic that you may not be able to accomplish all of these.
Employers do not have a checklist at the ready. But being aware that you could be elevating your personal profile even at University is key.
Remember, it’s important to realise that boosting your employability as a University student does not always involve your ‘studies’.