Making the Most out of university Career Services
University isn’t just about studying for your degree, and it’s important to start putting plans in place for your future. You may have started your degree with a good idea of what your career direction is going to be, but I had no idea! I made the most of the careers services that were offered to students at my university, and it definitely opened my eyes to a lot of different career paths, with practical help on how to get there. In this blog, I’ll go over a few things I utilised, and how you can use this service to your advantage.
1. CV help
Full of advisors, careers will rip up your CV and advise you on how to make it better. You can bring along what you’re already working on, or instead ask for help on how to direct your CV for certain career paths, such as the Civil Service or education. I found these meetings really useful, and my university also offered workshops that I attended where employers spoke of what they liked and didn’t like in a CV. When applying for a postgraduate degree, your CV may be part of the application, so it's still worth taking it to an expert for review.
2. Visiting speakers
I went to in-person and online presentations from employers, industry professionals and representatives from the graduate school, to try and give myself as much information as possible when thinking about a future career. After my BA, I moved on to my MA, and I really valued presentations on master’s degrees, so I knew what to expect and how to put together a successful application. Your careers service may attend your degree lectures in order to advertise workshops that would be applicable to your particular degree, which can be a really great place to start if you’re struggling on what you want to do after you finish your degree.
3. Placements and volunteering
Careers will have lots of connections with graduate schemes, training programmes and industry, so get involved with some work experience alongside your degree. A few of my friends who were considering a PGCE took part in volunteering programmes at local schools, giving them sold experience to use when applying for a place on the programme. If you’re unsure, work experience can be something to add to your CV, even if you don’t end up liking the work that you do. Placements don’t have to last a whole year, and can be as little as one day a week, or a short stint over your summer holidays.
4. Career’s advice
You’ve probably seen a career’s advisor in the past, but university services are often more specialised. If you’ve not engaged with careers by the time you’re in your final year, I’d really recommend making an appointment with an advisor to work through your options. My university offers appointments online now too, so you don’t have to leave your bed! Even if it’s just to direct you to more information, chatting with an expert can help to reduce some anxiety about the future.
5. Career and employment fairs
These are an opportunity to get lots of freebies, but are also a fantastic resource for students. If you know of a career path that interests you, be sure to introduce yourselves to the representatives of that company or industry, and take several CVs along to pass out. These reps will able to tell you about graduate schemes and training opportunities, as well as what they value from applications. They often bring recruitment staff, and they are the ones that will be sifting through your CV.
6. Interview preparation
Lots of people will be applying for jobs in their final year, and you'll probably attend several rounds of interviews and assessment centres depending on your chosen career. Interviews can be scary, but experts will set up mock interviews and workshops to send you on your way to success. I’d recommend getting started on job applications as soon as possible, as you’ll have to spend a decent amount of time getting that right. Be aware that you may be required to travel for interviews, so it may be useful to set aside some money for this, as well as looking at employers who complete at least some of the application process online.
Overall, this process can be very daunting, but please investigate what help is available. If you’re looking at universities as part of the UCAS application process, don’t neglect career services when you visit campus. Ask your department what are the most common destinations for graduates, and look at statistics on employment levels for those getting a degree from that university. There is much to consider when choosing your perfect place of study, and although graduation may seem a long way off, it’s important that you start building your CV as soon as you begin your degree, so job centres and career’s centres form a central hub to access this from.
Try not to stress about careers too much, especially if you’re not at university yet. Getting involved with what your service has to offer, alongside some extra research, will do much to help you decide what’s in your future. I’ve written some blogs about placements and employment, so I’ll link these for you so you can find out more.