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If there is one thing playing on students’ minds this time of year, it’s their future career. It’s a little too premature to be fretting about exams and coursework, so being the natural worriers that we are we grab hold of any qualm we can lay our hands on and lose sleep over it accordingly. Not that career woes are an unreasonable occupation of your mind juices, but since students are worrying earlier and earlier in their university careers thanks to the economic crisis and graduate competition like never before, something needs to be done.
Despite the building work in Alexandra Square, CEEC is still up and running and at your service, but some students have been a little disheartened with the career guidance they have received. If you too are concerned and worry what you need to do next, never fear. LUSU Involve are putting on a Future Choices Workshop every Wednesday to help students learn how to cope when they don’t know what to do next.
A common thread of the sessions are to not worry, but rather than empty advice and promises, the sessions focus on why exactly it will be okay. Students learn not only how to go about making themselves attractive to future employers, but also have the opportunity to engage in an almost philosophical debate over how everything you do now influences where you will end up in the future. Real life examples ranging from those who trained as nurses setting up a holiday cottage company, to undergraduate students who grabbed the opportunity to work on campus bars and ended up in the job of their dreams managing a bar in Manchester. The transition from the academic bubble, where days spent in the library amount to severe exhaustion yet miraculously untouched seminar work, to the world of work, is an enormously difficult thing to handle.
Communicating with employers is the first hurdle that students face. Instead of panicking and signing up to any mailing list on the internet, we are advised instead to relax. Your career is an uncertainty for now, but it is important to be open minded. A variety of exercises offered in the session demonstrate just how much is possible to achieve in our short time on earth, and makes you realise how unwise you were to worry that your whole life rests on getting on a well paid Grad Scheme. You should never be afraid to go for the wrong job, as everything is a learning experience and something to add to your CV. You will meet people along the way that may inspire you, and take you on tasks or learning opportunities you never knew possible, which could lead you to where you need to be.
Next it is important to analyse what is so good about you. Volunteering and hobbies are not only good CV additions, but they can become careers. There are many chances to volunteer for a short period of time on campus through LUSU Involve, without long term obligations. It is an opportunity unlike any other outside of university life, where you have the freedom to spend a day fund-raising and helping others, all the while meeting new people and gaining contacts. Networking may sound like a buzz-word used in the business world as an excuse to get drunk on free chardonnay, but in fact most job opportunities are found not through internet sites or newspapers, but through friends. The chances are if your mate works somewhere and they think there’s a position right for you, they can let you know ahead of time and you have a greater than average chance of getting the job of your dreams. And if not, chalk it down to experience. Never take it to heart that you were rejected, at the interview or CV stage; employers are only human. You must never forget that your interviewer’s career, more often than not, involves a lot more than sifting through 80 CVs and asking someone when they have worked successfully in a team. It is up to you to sell yourself. Arrogance, whenever it is backed up with evidence, is the best way to make sure you have demonstrated effectively the interviewer wants to hear (but may not know it).
There are of course tried and tested ways to get your CV read, and the Future Choices workshop explains them all thoroughly. From God Boxes, which act as your mission statement to ensuring that nothing on your CV gives the reader a reason to say no, the workshop allows you to get into the mind of those who make the recruitment decisions. By empathising with their time constraints and the pure annoyance at careless grammar mistakes and frankly creepy and unnecessary headshots, we were able to learn a lot in a very short time, and all left with significantly improved CV plans. In one day my CV has gone from a three page blurb covering some of the most unimportant events in my school years with red headings (a no no) to a pastel dream of succinct achievements and clearly evidenced skills. I have added value to what was previously just a tick box of extra-curricular activity and left knowing all there was to know about the art (not science) of job hunting, only to be informed that in fact the Future Choices workshop changes every week. I guess if Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Quick Wins to instantly boost your CV:
- Do one off volunteer days with Involve
just ask in the LUSU building by Sultan’s.
- Organise an event for charity.
However small, this shows dedication and organisation and is very attention grabbing amongst that pile of 2:1 BAs your CV is surrounded by.
- Start a blog!
But make sure the content is job friendly- and do the same with your facebook account. Making it private doesn’t always cut it, because one day your boss or colleague will add you and they will find that picture of you on the Carleton bus that you’d just rather forget about.
- Join a sports club
It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than the gym and if you actually contribute it is a major addition to your CV.
- Get involved in LUSU, societies or your JCR
There’s no need to overload yourself, but if you aren’t in final year now is normally the time that societies start thinking about passing the hat, and your JCR will need all hands on deck soon in the run up to extravs, so just offer to lend a hand. You never know where it could lead!
- Attend a LUSU Involve Future Choice session yourself
I mean I love you all, but there is a limit to how much time I’m willing to spend doling out careers tips to you; I have a CV to work on!