University students face a constant pressure to be more than their degree. Achieving good grades is important, but students must also take steps towards increasing their employability. This prepares us for life after graduation, when we will compete with our peers in crowded job markets – many of them will have the same qualifications that we do. Therefore, it is important that we make ourselves stand out.
As I approach the end of my final year, and start to look for a job, I am glad that I have taken steps to make myself more employable. Here are a few of my top tips to prepare yourself for life after university:
- It’s never too early and it’s never too late
Your career journey can start at any time – ultimately, every student will take a different approach. As a first year, you can start by exploring your career options, and discovering the support that Cardiff University’s Careers and Employability service can offer you. Admittedly, I wasn’t too focused on my future career plans as a first-year undergraduate student. In later years, I’ve realised that early engagement can really help with your employability; for example, you have more time to develop your CV through relevant work experience opportunities.
However, if you are in your final year and you don’t feel prepared – don’t panic! Adopt a proactive approach now and meet with a Career Adviser; they are there to provide advice to all students, regardless of the stage they are at in their career journey.
2. Use the Careers & Employability Services
The Careers and Employability Service are there to help all students prepare for life after university. The opportunity to receive help from professional Career Advisers is not one that any student should pass up; their resources can be invaluable in enhancing your employability. They can look over CVs and application forms, help you prepare for interviews, and provide advice on finding work experience and graduate jobs.
Some students may also be interested in working towards the Cardiff Award. This employability award enables students to gain recognition for work experience, mentoring, societies, volunteering and part-time work, while also developing key employability skills. The Cardiff Award is great to have on your CV as it provides recognition of your extra-curricular activity, further distinguishing you from your peers. More information can be found here.
3. Attend careers fairs
It’s important to take a proactive approach to finding new opportunities that can enhance your employability. One of my top recommendations would be to attend careers fairs. They are a great way to quickly meet lots of employers, who will be offering a wide range of different roles. It’s an opportunity that all students should make the most of – there is bound to be something that interests everyone. Meeting employers face to face is a fantastic opportunity, as you can ask questions, and make a personal first impression to an organisation that interests you. Cardiff University holds a range of careers fairs throughout the academic year. You can find useful tips on preparing for a careers fair here.
Students can also undertake useful online skills sessions through Your Career Journey. Topics include effective networking with employers, and the sessions also count towards the Cardiff Award!
4. Make the most of work experience
Work experience can be helpful in determining your future career plans, as you’ll get a sense of whether an industry is right for you. Even if you’re unsure of what you’d like to do, you’ll develop useful transferable skills. For example, most employers will look for candidates with strong communication skills and a proven ability to work well in a team. Therefore, your work experience will provide you with useful experience to discuss in future applications and interviews, helping to distinguish you from other candidates.
It can be overwhelming to know where to start with finding work experience. It may be useful to speak to a Careers Adviser at the University and identify what work experience would be most valuable to you. Personally, I’d highly recommend the Work Experience Team’s Insights. Insights are flexible, part-time opportunities that students can complete around their studies. They’re a great way of gaining experience without disrupting your education. I found out about Insights and a range of other work experience opportunities by searching “work experience” on the student intranet and all Cardiff students can do the same.
5. Online networking
I’ve found online networking, particularly through LinkedIn, to be really useful in preparing for my future career. You can start by connecting with other students, before branching out to make connections in the industry that you want to work in. For example, I’ve connected with PR professionals to build a strong network of industry contacts. In the future, these professional relationships may evolve into employment opportunities. It is also useful to see what those working in your desired profession have done to be successful – it can give you more of an idea as to what you need to do to make yourself employable.
I would recommend that every student utilises free sites such as LinkedIn, as networking can help you to grow your career. In today’s job markets, over 80% of professionals consider networking important to career success. If you’re unsure of where to start with online networking, consider attending a skills workshop run by the Careers and Employability service. They can teach you how to use LinkedIn effectively to promote yourself and attract employers.
Taking these small steps can make a huge difference in preparing to land your dream job after graduation.
MA International Public Relations and Global Communications Management
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