First thing I discovered once I left university is that getting that dream job is not an isolated action, it’s a whole process of building employability. Here’s a list of 5 things I think every student should do before throwing that hat in the air.
1. Have an idea of an industry you would like to work in
I know, I know, nothing feels worse than being asked the fatal ‘so what are you going to do after graduation?’ question, when you are still ‘figuring it out’. Having done a degree in Media, Communication and Cultural Studies I have had my fair share of judgmental looks as I try to explain that Media Studies is a real academic subject and that it doesn’t mean I think I can watch movies all day as my career.
So, why is it so important to choose a career path? Because after looking at your academic achievements and work experience all employers look for three more things: passion, knowledge and commercial awareness of the industry. And you can’t have that if you simply don’t know what career path you’re choosing. I learnt this the hard way. I’ve been at a job interview recently, where I answered the question about my career plans with an ambiguous ‘I’m currently exploring my options’. You guessed it, I didn’t get the job, and the main reason cited in the feedback was my lack of focus.
2. Pay the Career Service at least one visit
I only discovered the Career Service after I graduated and if I could go back in time, I would definitely change that. Choosing and planning a career showed to be harder than I originally anticipated but luckily there is a whole official body with 100+ officers, assistants and career advisers there to help you.
Even if you only have a brief idea of what you’d like to do, try dropping in for a 15 minute consultation. While the career advisers won’t tell you what your dream job is, they can give you valuable advice, insight into the job market and provide you with resources on finding vacancies, building your skills and gathering information about the industry of your interest.
3. Have at least one internship or work placement on your CV
I spent the last year of university working towards getting a first, thinking that this will set me apart. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yes, boasting a good grade shows that you understood your subject, have strong analytical skills and are goal-orientated. However, it doesn’t mean you get a free pass for the job of your dreams- the main problem being- that thousands of other students from all over the country gained the same qualifications you did. What sets you apart are your experiences and skills.
And believe me, internships, placements and work experience are all that employers want to talk about. They don’t ask you to recite your course material, or test you on how well you can use the Harvard Referencing System. They want to see that you have developed skills you will be able to use in a corporate environment, such as teamwork, communication, time-management and problem solving skills.
4. Get your social media profile in check
At least, potential employers will go through your facebook profile to get a better feel of what kind of a person you are. At most, you can get hired via social media!
So just make sure that your profile picture isn’t one of you lying on a pile of empty bear cans and get that LinkedIn profile set up.
5. Know your strengths and weaknesses
It might sound tedious and irrelevant at first, however all applications, interview questions and cover letters are based on one thing- your self awareness.
The first interview I went to caught me a little bit off guard. What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? Where do I see myself in 5 years time? What has been my greatest achievement? Be ready to talk about yourself and analyse your actions to the smallest detail.