employment

Why Your Careers Service is Just as Great When You DON’T Know What You Want To Do In the Future

careers_service_just_as_great

“Planning for the future can simply be about a toe in the water, not commitment.”
– Sarah Longwell, Careers Adviser (Keele University)

Student data suggests that many who would benefit from their university careers service tend not to use it.

Similar findings are in this year’s Unite Students Insight Report, which echoes previous years of the student survey. While most students are aware of the benefits of their careers service, they don’t always take action and visit.

Also, students without solid future plans in mind are less likely to use their careers service. It’s worrying that one of the best places for further research and thinking about future possibilities could be overlooked.

This year’s Unite Students report states:

“Students have most commonly gone to their parents and the internet for advice about choosing a career and applying for jobs; it is less common that they have used career services at their university for advice.”

I asked Sarah Longwell, Careers Adviser at Keele University, about what students can do when they’re not sure what they want to do when they graduate.


TUB: “How can students plan for the future when uncertain about their future plans?”

Sarah: “Planning for the future can simply be about a toe in the water, not commitment.

“The best place to start is for students to think about themselves – what do they enjoy, what motivates them, what matters to them and what are their strengths.

“Consider what activities they have gained the greatest satisfaction from, what aspects of their degree they enjoy, how others would describe them… Students can then consider opportunities that tie in with all the above. It’s all about starting points!”

TUB: “What’s one simple, yet effective, action someone can make right now to start their career journey?”

Sarah: “The simplest action a student can take is to go and see a careers adviser early in their degree. A careers adviser can help them to reflect upon what they might be seeking in a career and make suggestions based upon this. These will only be suggestions, as no one else can tell a student what would definitely suit them, but careers advisers have the expertise to advise and guide on the basis of an in depth discussion.”

TUB: “Why should Freshers start thinking about their future plans in their first year, even though graduation seems so far away? And why is it important they visit their careers centre sooner rather than later?

Sarah: “If students start early, they have plenty of time to research ideas, reject or further research them and then attend events with employers and arrange work experience with the option to change career ideas or direction at any stage.

“Panic career decision making is rarely effective!”


The bottom line is this:

If you’re not sure what your future plans will look like when you graduate, it’s well worth checking out your careers service at university and chatting with a careers adviser.

At worst, you’ll feel none the wiser for a quick visit.

At best (and far more likely), you’ll have some food for thought and you’ll be one step closer to finding something that’s right up your street.

High Fliers Research [in The Graduate Market in 2016] found that:

“Almost all the leading graduate recruiters are working with local university careers services this year and there has been a marked increase in employers taking part in university recruitment events”.

According to the report, 94% of employers used careers services, with over a quarter of them doing more in that direction than the previous year.

Most employers also used campus presentations and careers fairs, so there’s plenty happening on campus.

Even if you think it’s too early to check out what your university has on offer, take a look while you can do it casually.

9 Tips to Prepare for Jobs and Careers Long Before You Graduate

It’s never too early to think about what you’re going to do when you graduate.

Everything is a preparation. You’re not meant to wait until you finish your degree before preparing for the future. Make your time count.

You may not even be at uni yet. No matter. The longer you give yourself, the more chance you have to jump in and get comfortable.

Cat Ready (photo by kissro)

It’s all about preparation. Get ready to pounce… (photo by kissro) CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Here are 9 things you can do early on in anticipation of what’s ahead of you when you leave university. Why wait?

1. Get involved in relevant professional associations and groups

This is easier than ever. With an Internet connection and a bit of time to search, almost everything is at your fingertips. This is a recent development and worth pursuing.

For the most important associations, do consider paying for student or basic membership. It’s worth the cost if you get some kind of recognition and if membership gives you various other benefits that you can tap into. Do your research and see what’s on offer. You may be pleasantly surprised.

2. Join LinkedIn groups, subscribe to blogs, and follow Twitter users in your field

Another recent development and easy to implement. Spend just a few minutes each week following a few key accounts and you’ll build up a great source of content in no time at all. You can then reach out, comment, and even offer advice as you go along.

As a recent Jisc article mentions, “The recruiters are there. The employers are there. So why aren’t the students?” There’s a lot going on!

3. Write, record, and video stuff

Most of us consume content, but how often do you produce it? You can make an impression even if you make something about your search from nothing. You can still impress when you publish basic information for absolute beginners. You’re making the effort and making it public. That speaks volumes.

People will value your content. We all have to begin from somewhere, so don’t worry that you’re being too simple. Your information may be exactly what someone else is looking for.

4. Show up where you’d like to show up

The more you get involved, the more you will be seen. And as your exposure increases, you’ll be offered other opportunities to increase your exposure yet more. It’s like a snowball effect.

Seek out free events, find cheap student tickets (or free press tickets if you are writing prolifically enough now!), and find what your university and local area have on offer as far ahead as possible.

5. Tap into alumni

Speak to your alumni office to find out what they have to offer. Some universities provide a lot of help and contact after you graduate, including professional development and networking opportunities.

6. Your careers service is your friend

Many students are using careers services earlier on in their degree. Gone are the days where you don’t bother thinking about it until just before final exams. Whether or not you know what jobs and careers you’re interested in, you’ll find a wealth of information and advice on offer to you. Use it!

7. Speak with your tutors (if applicable)

This works best when you want to remain involved in a field directly related to your degree subject or if they can impart specialist information. If so, your lecturers and other uni staff are a great potential source of leads and contacts. They’re a great place source for quality leads that they themselves endorse and rely upon. For that reason, plan ahead with questions and requests that aren’t easily available elsewhere. Make the contact count.

8. Keep an ear to the ground

Read the latest news in your line of work and look out for where people get their trade information from. Over time, you’ll build up loads of valuable resources that require very little effort keeping on top of. Imagine having to start from scratch only after you’ve graduated. Save yourself time and give yourself the upper hand with everything at your fingertips as early as possible.

9. Find direct links to businesses you’re interested in

By building up connections not just with people, but with companies, there is a much greater chance that you’ll be known as a matter of course. Picture making a name for yourself while you’re still at university. Forget waiting, interact with companies and individuals you love right now.

Find ways to offer value and impart your knowledge to those who would appreciate it. A small gesture that takes five minutes of your time may prove more useful than desperately seeking an internship post. You can’t compare them like for like, but the small gesture is something you can do right now. Make contact and provide value when you see the opportunity.

A few minutes out of every day is all it takes to make a huge difference. Schedule it into your day. Commit to quarter of an hour to do one small thing, write a short piece, or make contact with someone. Whatever you do, don’t expect a miracle in isolation. Keep preparing so you don’t have to play catch-up later.

A few minutes. No big deal. Preparation is best when it’s spaced out, regular, calm. Make a start today.

8 top tips to help graduates gain employment after university

For many students, leaving university can be a very difficult time. After spending the best part of 15 years in education, moving into the working world can be a daunting experience but it doesn’t need to be…

“Preparation and forward planning is essential for any student who wants to make the best start to their graduate career,” explains Crystal Evans from graduate recruitment scheme GO Wales.

work (photo by will_hybrid)

work (photo by will_hybrid)

And I’ve got eight tips from GO Wales on getting into the world of work. Crystal says that by implementing a few simple essentials it will, “put you in a much better position when confronting the competitive job market after graduation”.

I’ve added my own comments below each tip to help you even further along the way.

Eight top tips to help secure employment after university

1. Get out there

Work experience is crucial when applying for jobs because it shows a non-academic interest in your industry sector. Being in the working environment that you strive to succeed in allows you to see what it’s really like. Many graduate jobs go to those who have completed relevant sector specific work experience.

[Martin’s note: You can even ‘get out there’ as you stay on campus… Jobs are often available within uni or your students’ union that can get you useful experience.]

2. Know what you’re doing

Taking an active interest in your career sector will help you stand out as knowledgeable and enthusiastic at the interview stage. Graduate jobs go beyond the skills you learn at university, so a thorough understanding of your industry will help you come across as keen, as well as dedicated.

[Martin’s note: To show your growing understanding, get blogging about the industry and build a portfolio of content that you can refer to at any time with ease. When you know your stuff, it’s valuable to show what you know!]

3. Keep your CV fresh

Your CV is like the window display inside a shop – it brings people in. A good CV must look professional and needs to be well tailored to the job that you’re applying for. Make sure your CV is up-to-date, demonstrates the skills and experience you can bring to a company, is accurate and spell checked.

[Martin’s note: Use LinkedIn so you can keep a living CV online. When you need to update, just add the new information. That way, you’re visible and you don’t have to start each CV from scratch. Job applications need tailoring, but that doesn’t mean you have to write a new CV every time. Also, LinkedIn lets you connect and network, as well as give and receive recommendations. Bonus!]

4. Go and get involved

Taking part in extracurricular activities will help you stand out from the rest. Participating in clubs, socials and sports at university will build your confidence and teach you team building skills that will ultimately impress an employer.

[Martin’s note: Just don’t get involved in too many societies and clubs. Aim for a managable amount that you can do really well, rather than loads of different activities that you hardly engage with.]

5. Network with others

Social networking sites present excellent opportunities for securing a graduate job; enabling you to communicate directly with people who work in the industries you’re interested in.  Following the appropriate professionals on social media sites like Twitter and Linkedin will help you to network in your industry; talk to professionals via social networks and don’t be afraid to seek advice from them.

[Martin’s note: Online networking is a big deal right now, and it’s easier than ever. Also, take your social shine to the next level and meet up with your online contacts. Attend seminars, conferences, and tweetups (put simply, meet with people you follow on Twitter!). Join industry groups online and check out what events they’re holding near you. Face to face encounters can be more memorable and more rewarding than online alone.]

6. Fail to prepare: prepare to fail

Turning up to an interview unprepared will waste all the work you’ve put in to getting to that stage.  Research the company beforehand to demonstrate that you have a clear understanding of what they do. Make sure you look professional and remain confident throughout.

[Martin’s note: Even after you have prepared, don’t be scared of failure. Every interview is an experience. You may have prepared extensively and still get thrown a curveball when you’re there. Far from knocking your confidence, let each failure boost you up for success further down the line. See the next tip for more on this…]

7. Don’t give up

Finding the perfect job takes time and a lot of effort. The graduate job market is very competitive and only 50 per cent of students find work in their preferred industry straight after university. Staying positive and realising that every failure has taught you something new will help you progress.  Finding relevant part-time work or volunteering will keep your industry knowledge up-to-date and you will also learn new skills along the way.

[Martin’s note: It’s also important to start early. Build up your strengths (both new and old) and tailor yourself as soon as you can. Don’t wait until you graduate!]

8. Use your resources

GO Wales works to help students and graduates secure work placements and quality work experience opportunities. Work Placements not only give you the chance to develop your knowledge and skills in a real work environment; you will also be paid a minimum of £250 per week. 65 per cent of their graduates secure long-term employment as a result of work placement schemes.

[Martin’s note: While GO Wales is aimed at students in Wales or graduates who are looking to develop their career in Wales, don’t stop if you’re not in that neck of the woods. Seek out other services either in your area or nationally. A good place to start is with your own uni careers services. Don’t be shy; they exist for you to make the most of them.]

Now go back to the first point. Time to get out there and be awesome!

Qualifications: Shaping, Not Dictating

Will a master’s get you a job?

The simple answer is: no, it won’t. But, as a piece in The Guardian says, “students are still heaping their dreams on them”.

Before you get too engrossed in that dream, wake up for a minute and remember what gets you a job:

YOU will get you a job. A degree helps to shape you, a master’s helps to shape you, any qualification helps to shape you. Your choices make a difference, but they don’t automatically get you a job.

That’s not to say that unemployment is solely the fault of an individual. Everything impacts upon your plans, which is why qualifications make a difference. Your achievements help shape the future, rather than dictate it.

photo by Quercusivo

If everyone held the same degree, how else would you stand out? (photo by Quercusivo)

What about big plans? The Independent questioned who gets the head start in life when comparing someone who went to uni and someone who went straight into employment.

In isolation, it doesn’t make sense to ask who had a head start. Neither had a head start based on the choice, even though it’s a big choice to make.

Life is complicated and each person’s life is unique. The most successful person in the world may have been more successful if they had made different decisions. But we’ll never know. What happens happens.

You can’t make the most of your lot by going to university with no good purpose, or without making considerations about the path you’re taking. Yes, you may still make good use of your time and end up with a great job soon after graduation, but that doesn’t mean uni was the best choice and it doesn’t mean you had a better head start than someone else.

All this talk of best choices and comparing one thing to another will keep going forever more. But it misses the point. Bypass this conversation and make your own plans clear. A confident view will guide you toward making the right choices.

Once you get serious about your plans and you still decide a masters degree is the way to go, The Guardian has updated their guide to postgraduate courses this month. As with any league table, it can only serve as a guide. But when you’re making plans, it all helps.

Will you make the best choice every time? Obviously not. But the odds are stacked in your favour when you ditch the general and get more specific.