The employable graduate
Entering the job market as a graduate is certainly tougher these days than it has been in the past. There are a lot of other graduates with whom to compete, and employers want you to have lots of skills and experience before they’ll take you on. So how do you become an employable graduate? The answer involves a bit of hard work, a positive attitude and a lot of fun!
To begin with, it is important to understand that very often, your degree alone will not guarantee a job. Building up your CV to an impressive standard will require you to take on a few more challenges and opportunities. There is no better place than university for you to do this. The university environment provides countless ways to develop the skills, contacts and experience to become not only employable, but absolutely irresistible to potential employers. Listed below are a few things you should consider looking into while at university to help you on your professional journey.
Some courses will involve an optional paid or unpaid work placement for a year. These are known as “sandwich courses” or “sandwich degrees”. The placement will usually follow the second year of the course and will involve working in the industry on which the course is focussed. Employers value work placements extremely highly and are likely to give preference to candidates who have had a year in industry. Many graduates get offers of full-time employment from the companies who they did work placements with. Some good examples include the Oxford Brookes University’s Business School placements, Kingston University’s Arts, Design and Architecture placements, and The University of York’s Modern Languages placements.
STUDYING AND/OR WORKING ABROAD
In today’s globalised economy, studying or working abroad can be one of the most eye-opening and worthwhile experiences it is possible to have. Students return with broadened horizons, a huge new network of friends and great skills to improve their job prospects. Putting yourself out of your comfort zone, learning or brushing up on a new language, and doing work experience or placements are valuable experiences in the eyes of employers. Most universities can help to organise exchanges with their partner institutions in various parts of the world. There are also opportunities to take part in the Erasmus scheme which focuses on universities in European countries. For more information click here.
An internship is similar to a work placement but isn’t organised through a university. It is a short term post in an industry often taken over a university summer which helps you to build up experience, skills and industry contacts. Whilst your university won’t organise the internship for you, they can provide resources to help you find a suitable one and can help with applications. Many internships are given only to graduates or undergraduates and are not available to people without a university background. An internship is an often crucial step to take in getting your CV to a good standard and many employers regard them very highly. For more information, see The Guardian, Vault, and Target Jobs.
Who said building your CV couldn’t be fun? Joining a society and taking an active part in its organisation can equip you with valuable skills to enter the job market, as well as giving you the opportunity to meet and engage with like-minded people. Most societies have some kind of committee with roles to fill including a president, secretary and treasurer. You will get the opportunity to organise trips and events, manage budgets, solve problems all centred around one of your hobbies or passions.
All major universities have a students’ union. This is an organisation separate to the university which is run by a group of elected students for students. It is dedicated to social activities, representation, and academic support of its members. There are lots of opportunities to get involved with the students’ union at your university in a variety of different ways. You can run for election on the committee, become a course or student representative, volunteer or work on various projects…the list goes on. It all gives you great experience, helps you to meet new friends and looks brilliant on a CV! For examples, look at Leeds SU and Bucks New University SU.
There are usually a number of volunteering opportunities available at university. These are either organised through the university itself or through the students union. You could work with local school children to improve their literacy, help people with disabilities, work on environmental projects, or help young people with sports training. This adds an extra dimension to your profile and helps develop great interpersonal skills, cross-cultural understanding, and empathy. The fact that these are all valued by employers comes a distant second to the eye-opening experiences you will have and the people you will meet.
Universities often offer a free careers services department which is usually available to access long after you finish university. These can provide careers advice and guidance, CV and cover letter writing workshops, mock interviews, and direct links to employers. It is worth taking advantage of what they have to offer as you would often have to pay a lot of money to get the same level of service outside university.