Graduates are getting a bad deal right now. Upon graduating, not only do they owe tens of thousands of pounds (usually), but they also face an unforgiving job market.
You should, as a student, have taken notice of this. It’s worrying, yes, but you can do something about it. Stand up and be counted. What’s stopping you from thinking about your professional future?
Whether you have a clear career in mind, you want to start your own business, or if you don’t have a clue where your future is headed, you can start taking bold steps toward futureproof strength.
You may be sick of hearing me say that a degree in isolation isn’t enough to walk in to the job you want, but it’s true. You need to show more commitment and drive before getting where you want to be.
Whatever stage you’re at as a student, you can build up your profile while learning more about yourself and understanding how to get what you want. Here are 10 things you should do:
- Join professional associations – Hobbies, interests, career goals…there are professional associations for most things. Even if you don’t know what your passions are, you won’t be arrested for checking (and even joining) the associations that may become a regular part of your life in years to come. If something interests you, get looking for relevant associations and get involved.
- Get the lowdown on other interesting trade associations and membership groups – If you know what field you’d like to pursue a career in, check out the Trade Association Forum’s Directory, which lists the trade associations out there. Not sure what the future holds? Well, you can gain experience from groups such as Toastmasters International, which helps people develop their speaking and presentation skills. And since you’re almost certainly a member of the NUS, why not get more involved in the wonderful work they do for students? Joining groups and causes are fun, they help you develop socially, and you’ll have a much punchier set of credentials to list on your CV.
- Go to conferences – One word…Networking. Conferences bring together leaders in numerous fields, amazing minds, and like-minded people. Get talking, share ideas and learn from one another.
- Go to the online equivalent of a conference…Twitter – I’m simplifying Twitter here, because it’s more than a mingling opportunity. However, if you want to network from the comfort of your desk (or library, or phone, or whatever), it’s good to Tweet. Just find relevant people to follow and get involved in the conversation.
- Work on your CV as a rolling document – If you only update your CV when you need to send one off, it doesn’t give you much time to big yourself up as well as you deserve. Add to your CV whenever you join a new association, you gain a new qualification, you learn a worthwhile skill or language, and keep thinking of examples to outline the skills and experience you already have. It’s never too early to start working on your CV!
- Read up further on your specialist subject – Whether your specialist subject is related to your degree, or based on something you do in your spare time, do more reading up on the subject. Find out the latest news and keep abreast of what’s going on. Check the library to see what journals they have access to (including online access portals). If you don’t stay updated on the latest developments in your field, it won’t look good to a potential employer. The sooner you start exploring, the easier it will be in the long run.
- Keep tabs on updates in your field – As well as reading, what events are taking place near you? Find out who is contributing most and explore what their take is. Do you agree with them, or do you have a totally new idea? Make notes, argue, engage. Active involvement helps an active mind and could even help get you noticed too.
- Consider further relevant education – It may be too early for this one, especially if you’re only in your first year at uni. However, you may be required to study beyond your current degree in order to make a go of some careers. Before you get too excited, find out what you need to do to reach your goal. The careers advice peeps should be able to give you more information and advice.
- Spend at least 10 minutes every day on becoming a bigger part of your field – You may be busy, but 10 minutes won’t hurt. It’s not much, but if you did something small each day (write, read, have a conversation, plan, whatever!), you’d get slowly closer to building a reasonable platform. From finding 10 minutes difficult to achieve, you’ll either discover that 10 minutes is just another (important) part of your day, or you’ll commit more time to the cause without even noticing. Once you start, there may be no stopping you!
- Assess your position on a regular basis to avoid going stale – We all get into a rut at times. Sometimes for silly reasons. Other times we don’t realise that we’ve progressed as far as we can go with the current setup. As you work through uni, you can be forgiven for taking your eye off the more distant future. But keep tabs on what’s working for you and be prepared to move onwards or move upwards. And if you’d rather drop things now you’ve got as far as you need, that’s just as positive. But make sure you continue using the time wisely on the important things in your life. If I hear you’ve been watching daytime TV or spending longer in bed…