work experience

Even the Best Future Plans Take Surprising Detours – TUB-Thump 033



Where do you see yourself in five years?

Wait, don’t answer that. No matter how well you have your future planned, things never turn out quite that way.

For some, the outcome is mostly as expected. But you’re still been dealt a few surprises along the way.

For others, the outcome isn’t even close to what you imagined it to be.

And don’t forget those who don’t have a clue what their future holds. The mystery all but guarantees a surprising ride.

Even a steady path can see a sudden change in direction.

Take Brooke Storer-Church, for example. A decade into a restaurant career wasn’t enough to stop her trading it all in and moving back towards higher education.

Take technological advances, for another example. Who knows how you’ll live your life and what type of jobs will be needed a decade down the line?

When you do look back in five years, in a decade, or when you retire, you’ll have a story to tell. That story will be a bit more certain and easy to tell than the reality as you were living that story.

That’s why I wanted to take a few words from Brooke Storer-Church as inspiration for Episode 033 of TUB-Thump.

Wherever you see yourself in the future, get ready for an exciting ride of worthwhile twists and turns.

Here are the show notes for the 5-min episode:

  • 00:45 – Brooke Storer-Church on how varied work experience improves graduate prospects.
  • 01:00 – You look back in time and create a story that looks like you had a clear, linear path to now. That’s fine in hindsight, but the reality is a bit different.
  • 01:50 – Immense value in those bends…
  • 02:30 – No matter how much you like what you’re doing now, that could change. It could take a year, 5 years, 10 years…And if it does change, that doesn’t mean you need to worry about it. It could even be a blessing.
  • 03:50 – It’s interesting to see how people change as they develop. The process can be slow and disjointed, but can also be necessary.
  • 04:30 – We don’t know what’s around the corner in the general context of the world, so how would we know how our own life will shape up until we’ve actually lived it?
  • 05:00 – Whether you feel like everything is sussed out, or you haven’t got a clue what your next moves are, seek out the value in all the twists and turns you encounter.

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

Put Down the Books. Your Future Wants Some Other Experiences to Look Back On. TUB-Thump 029



High tuition fees mean that a lot of people want to make the most of their time at university.

For some, that means knuckling down and focusing solely on the academic work.

Episode 029 of TUB-Thump has a different suggestion.

Your academic work is just one strand of your learning and development. You can get a totally different set of qualities and skills from the activities and experiences outside of class.

To broaden your horizons to the fullest extent, it’s time to face more than one learning path. When it’s time to plot your next destination in life, more than one path will give you a bigger choice toward the quickest route to success.

No need to feel guilty about spending some time away from the books. It’s expected of you.

Here are the show notes for the 7-min episode:

  • 01:05 – You have two approaches to your learning at university. One is academic. The other is what you do outside of your degree work.
  • 02:30 – The focus on broadening your horizons beyond your academic work is just as important for developing yourself, both for now and the future.
  • 04:00 Many students still don’t realise how important the non-academic experiences are in shaping the story of you.
  • 05:10 – If you’re focusing mostly on the academic, you could be missing out on social activities, as well as improving your future career chances.
  • 06:10 – Don’t feel guilty about spending time away from the lectures and coursework for some of your time.

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

Jobs, Time, and Shifting Expectations

How many job applications will you have to send off before you land a job as a graduate?

While sixth form students expect to fill out 17 job applications after they graduate from university, those already studying in higher education expect to apply for 26 jobs before finding success.

These findings come from a YouGov report on first jobs.

I wonder if students much closer to graduating are more acutely aware of what is to come. For a sixth former, there is still a lot of time stretching before them. A graduate job seems far removed from their current position. They aren’t even at university. Expectations can be more casual, even when taken seriously.

clock (photo by fiddle oak)

Photo by fiddle oak via Compfight (cc)

Would a fresher expect to fill out a slightly higher number of applications and a final year student consider the number higher still? As the clock ticks ever closer to your time, the reality (and worry) is bound to kick in.

Look at the question of potential salary. Again, sixth form students believe, on average, that earnings will be around £23,000. Compare that with those at university and the figure drops to £20,250.

Then you have work experience. Not quite two thirds (64%) of sixth formers surveyed were concerned about a lack of work experience. On the other hand, more than three quarters (76%) of university students thought that no experience would get in the way of working in their preferred field.

The results read as if expectations drop the closer students get to graduation. Students are considering their future from a different viewpoint. That future is no longer so distant. There is less time to be casual.

As perspective changes, so can expectation.

Here are some ideas of what might cause university students to be less positive in their expectations:

  • More understanding of expected salaries based on increasing research as graduation approaches;
  • Fear of being let down;
  • Fear of letting themselves down with a lower salary;
  • Realism trumping hope.

That’s not to say the majority of soon-to-be graduates aren’t hopeful and willing to engage. But it does highlight how many people alter their position as things are imminent. For better or for worse, concepts of time–and time left remaining–can shift our thoughts.

What do you expect of the future? Do you prefer to convey a realistic, possibly even understated, projection? Or do you continue to confidently anticipate quick job success and good earnings to boot?

Providing information, advice and guidance to students

My previous post asked if you were taking too many study risks.

Arthur made a great point in the comments:

“The focus on your education should be increasing your capabilities, not getting through a series of assessment tasks. If you bought a car that did not have wheels, you would feel ripped off. So why buy an education without capabilities?”

No matter how aware you are of increasing capabilities, how can universities help you increase them further in a changing world?

image by rild

image by rild

Yesterday, Aaron Porter, President of NUS, spoke about the type of information, advice and guidance students need in order to develop talent and make the most of their time at university.  Speaking at the Graduate Talent conference on Innovation and Skills for Competitiveness, he gave a similar analogy to Arthur’s.

Porter said that if you buy a bike and the chain falls off after five minutes, you’d get a refund because the goods are faulty.  While he understood the massive difference between high street transactions and entering higher education, he still saw the need for an increasing recognition of how students perceive HE and the need for those students to have the right tools throughout their education.

That, he explained, is why information, advice and guidance needs to be properly targeted at the point of application, and that individuals are made aware of the differences in curriculum and community in different institutions.

You may be in the position to assess risk in terms of study, but what about ongoing?  What can a university do to help you minimise risks after you graduate?  And how can they help you minimise risks in terms of what you study and how you use your time at uni?

Porter covered a lot of ground in today’s talk and made a number of important points.  Here are the main details covered in his talk:

  • Students will begin to change the way they engage with institutions. More students will actively ask “What can I do to guarantee employment?”
  • So much information is available, but it’s hard to navigate through it all.  How can the relevant information be provided to students in an easy to digest fashion?
  • Student background makes a difference in how easily individuals can navigate information.  Must address a diverse community, so nobody is left behind or left wanting.
  • League tables are used to choose where to study, but not always with real understanding of what those tables mean & how to see the big differences between institutions.
  • Students won’t dust down a strategic report on what employers want from graduates.  As good as the advice may be, there is still a need to put the detail forward in a way that students *will* access it.
  • How often during induction are students actually asked what the purpose of HE is, told how it is different to what learning has come before, and asked what they personally want out of HE?  Helping students to focus on these critical issues will make a huge difference to their experience and understanding.  Ask critical questions at the start to earlier allow students to prepare better.
  • Need to think about better integrating employability and careers into curriculum and teaching.  Students now expect this, so let’s deliver.
  • Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) needs rolling out quickly to make a level playing field for students.  Beef up academic achievement and its detail, while also highlighting achievement outside the classroom.
  • Drawing out this information through HEAR will help graduates articulate their achievements and skills.  In turn, job applications can be better targeted by graduates, as they can sell themselves more accurately.
  • All students should feel able to participate in extra-curricular activities, whatever their background.
  • Work exp. & internships need to become almost an entitlement, especially with fees about to climb.
  • Way in which we communicate information needs to be more innovative in terms of social media.  On campus and off campus, are institutions operating in the same environments as students?  Careers information is perfect territory to take on social media, because it’s not likely to be seen as a personal intrusion.
  • National measure of employment needs to go beyond a 6-month view.  1 year, 3 years, 5 years, etc.  Students need to know, because education costs are growing and employability is a big deal.
  • There is a danger that learning for its own sake may be lost.  Could be an adverse impact on which skills students learn before graduation.
  • Browne didn’t crack the problem of getting an entirely flexible HE system.  The opportunity was there, but hasn’t been addressed.  We must, therefore, still think about how we can address the issues.  This is critical in allowing students to get the employment skills they need.
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