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If you are not a final year student then breathe a heavy sigh of relief, however this doesn’t mean that this article doesn’t relate to you. In my first and second years I felt immune from the worries of debt and unemployment, the future held loans and the endless delights of university. Worryingly that metaphorical clock seemed to tick faster the further through university I went, and right now its spinning fast and sounding some unpleasant alarms.
No one can ignore the horrible twin realities of increased student debt and the recession, which together seem perfectly designed to trip up the next batch of fresh faced graduates. It is the bleakness of this picture that has led to this article, born as it was out of my own desire to get a grasp on what are the options available to tackle the issues facing finishing students. Are common sense and a reliance on my hard-won degree enough to get by on? What steps can I take now to ensure that in 6 months time I’m not living out of the bins behind Pizzeta Republic?
In my own personal quest for employment I have come to the conclusion that writing several thousand words about Marx or Freud at 3 o’clock in the morning, is a hell of a lot easier than writing a C.V, but this seemed to be a good starting point. Last term I attended a seminar held by Lancaster’s Bright Futures Society, an on-campus society designed to help students get the graduate job they want. The seminar was really useful in straightening out what today’s employers are actually looking for and how to put your employability across in the best possible way. This involved some important C.V advice, such as putting more emphasis on extra-curricular activities, avoiding clichés (whether or not you are a ‘self-motivated go-getter’) and keeping to the 2-page-max rule. The society also helped with information on impressing during the interview process; confidence but not arrogance seemed to be an overarching theme to a successful interview.
The seminar however didn’t tell me how to find the ideal job to send my freshly re-worked C.V to in the first place. Websites such as milkround.com and jobs.guardian.co.uk were mentioned, although I’m sure many students will have already heard of these, if not made one of them their internet home page. Unfortunatly I have yet to stumble upon the perfect answer to this dilemma (although I am working on it). I will say this though, asides from the obvious; Internet, newspapers, job shop, employment guides and carpet bombing industrial sectors with C.V’s, don’t be afraid of taking advantage of the contacts available whilst still on campus. I have no doubt that your tutor, department or academic advisor knows plenty of people attached to the university in some capacity or other who might just have some valuable advice for you on how to get the job that you want.
There are many other on-campus avenues for help after graduation, most notably Lancaster university’s Centre for Employability, Enterprise and Careers (better known as CEEC). This service offers employment advice as well as ways to actively improve your chances of getting a job. By going to CEEC you can gain employability qualifications, research careers, improve C.V’s, and attend job workshops.
Lancaster University officials have noticed that graduating students are getting nervous about their prospective futures. One indicator of this collective nervousness is that in previous years departments would run talks on graduate jobs which would bring in only a handful of eager listeners, and now the lecturers are facing packed lecture theatres. Fortunately the university officials have decided to listen to the plaintive pleas of the finalists and have decided to help these poor creatures with the Insight into Work and Employability workshops. These workshops are designed to help graduates get a job, they are based around the subject they took and teach people the relevant skills they need to get a job.
An alternative to the problems of C.V’s, job skills and employability improvements would be dropping out of the system of employment completely. Taking a year to ride out the waves of the recession, escape debts and a fickle job market by taking a gap year. I realise this may not be feasible to everyone, but if it tickles your fancy then there are a multitude of companies to check out such as CCUSA, SCOPE, Lattitude and loads more. If you need any more convincing then bear in mind that some employers look favourably on a gap year full of life affirming and confidence building experiences. Unfortunatly some may just deride you as not particularly career driven and the sort who’s likely to drop everything for a month traipsing around the Himalayas (or wherever you fancy traipsing).
One piece of advice that kept recurring for a stress free graduate lifestyle was that you need not worry about that annoying student debt straightaway. It may seem like you’ve entered the real world with a giant millstone round your neck, but it need not impact your life that much. Do however worry about credit card debt and any money owed to loan sharks or Mafia bosses, they can be more temperamental than the loan companies.
My last major worry is that I don’t fall flat on my face at the graduation ceremony, as I have all the grace of a drunken hippo… some grippy shoes perhaps. Hopefully this article has been of some help, feel free to tear it out and keep it, as if you get particularly desperate in the near future it can always be burned for some cheap heat.