Experience not exams is what gets you a job

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Graduation — Photo by Alexander Wilson
Graduates need more than just a degree to stand out. Photo by Alexander Wilson

At the moment we are all working hard on our exams, trying to achieve the highest grade we can get in order to secure a job after graduation. But, it still baffles me that people think this is all they have to do at university to get a job. The sad truth is a degree on its own simply is not enough anymore.

The University drums it into us from Freshers’ Week that we need to get involved in as much as possible as well as doing our degree. There will be a record number of students graduating at the same time we do and there’s simply not enough jobs to go around. Everyone will have a degree; even those degrees which on paper seem more geared towards guaranteed employable will be common. So what will set you apart from the multitude of students all holding the same degree?

There have been several articles this year, such as David Guy’s article at the beginning of the year (“Intro week for freshers not CV hunters”) claiming that many students only get involved in societies, college roles and sports teams because they are looking for material to bulk up their CV. I see their point, that we should enjoy these activities for what they are and not what benefits they provide for our future. But we would all be very naïve to believe that many people on campus do. I am not saying that students only partake in societies and JCRs in order to increase their employability but it is still a major reason to get involved.

From experience I can say getting work experience in your desired career choice is more than an uphill struggle, especially when trying to do paid work, your degree and other campus based commitments. There is a nation wide problem with internships and work experience that is only just being fully realised. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t prove yourself in other areas – volunteering with Involve or taking on positions on campus is just a credible. Yes, we will always be dreaming of that perfect internship but we shouldn’t be disheartened or underestimate the other activities that we can get involved in to make ourselves more employable.

Many students say that they do not have time to do extra curricular activities and yes some degrees are more time consuming than others. But I think these people underestimate the importance of demonstrating and building skills outside a purely academic environment. You make time for such activities. I have taken things on in the past thinking that I simply do not have time, and that completion of everything to a standard I am pleased with will result in many, many sleepless nights. However it is strange how time is quite easily made to accommodate everything you are involved in if you manage your time well, a skill in itself.

Lancaster University even make getting relevant experience outside of your degree scheme easy through the Lancaster Award. Broken down into campus and society roles, work experience, employment related workshops and extra skills and hobbies, it gives us a firm outline of the kind of things employers are looking for along with a degree. The University have said that having the award on our transcript will increase our employability, according to companies that they consulted whilst constructing the award outline. This may be true but what will make us more employable are all the activities we had to complete in order to receive the award. They are not there as trivial tasks to get a prestigious award but to sculpt our university experience so that when we graduate, we are the graduates that employers want to employ.

I may be preaching to the converted, students that I have met at Lancaster are far more motivated and involved then most students I have met elsewhere in the country. But there are a worrying number of students who think that they are exempt from having to work to be a well-rounded graduate. So get out there, apply for work experience, get into Involve, and sign up for your JCR. Get involved and, hopefully, employed.

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