Work Experience

Improve Your Employability

We have put together some advice on how to make the most of your university experience in terms of improving your employability when you graduate. It’s important to start building your skills as early as possible in order to get the best chance possible in your graduate job hunt. No matter which of these stages you may be at, getting to grips with a workplace environment will serve you in good stead and improve your prospects after university.

Before university

If you already know what sort of career you’d like to pursue after university, this is the perfect opportunity for you to lay the groundwork of your work experience to achieve this. The reality of the situation is that employers are now wanting their graduate employees to have a good amount of work experience and not just a degree; instead placing their trust that this will give their potential employees the soft skills that are hard to gain while studying.

So, even if you don’t have any clear idea of what your life after graduation might look like, getting stuck in the world of work might give you a greater understanding of the sort of job you might like to do with your degree. A part-time job, work placement, volunteering, or even taking a gap year to spend some time working, will build your confidence and look great on your CV. It could even open doors to opportunities for you at university in the form of a year in industry or summer internship.

Initial years

Getting a degree is a great way to stand out in a competitive job market. However, you’ll also be competing against the more than 350,000 other students that leave university on average per year. You’ll need more than just your degree. The first year of university is the perfect opportunity to start building your work experience and gain the qualities that all employers desire in their candidates. Here are some things you can do as a fresher to start getting ahead:

Get involved in university life

There are a huge number of ways to get involved in university life, whether that’s by joining a sports club or even starting your own society:

  • Join clubs and societies (or start your own) – joining a club or society can display your enthusiasm towards a certain industry or career. Joining the photography society if this is a sector you wish to pursue will let employers know that you have a genuine interest in the subject.
  • Campaign to be a Class Representative or join your Student Union – putting together and organising a campaign shows a multitude of skills and proves your aptitude. A leadership role will show your commitment to a cause and let employers know that you can be a dedicated employee.
  • Take part in your University Awards Scheme – most universities offer their students the chance to join an Awards programme for the positive acts they’ve completed while studying, such as volunteering, raising money for charity or getting involved in the university community. Regardless of the profession you pursue after university, employers will recognise the lengths you have gone to prepare yourself for work.
  • Volunteer across campus – this could be anything from helping out on an Open Day to working at your university support hotline coaching other students through their problems. Whatever you do, putting yourself out there and interacting with others will do much to aid an employer’s confidence in your communication skills.

Get actual work experience

It’s a bit weird to say that getting a job will help you then get a job, but it’s true. A part-time role at university will go far in impressing your future employers as you’ll have first-hand experience in the working world and will prove you know how to manage your time efficiently. Even a job in a local coffee shop or supermarket will put you ahead of other graduates who have never had a job before.

Plan for your future

It’s never too early to start thinking about your future after graduation. Getting a handle on your plans well in advance may mean you are open to opportunities that otherwise you would be unaware of. Forward planning can kick-start your career and put in front of your fellow graduates on the job hunt – having more experience than your unprepared cohort will definitely make you stand out to employers. If you’re unsure about what you might like to do with your degree, why not consult our and discover what your degree can mean for your career.

Penultimate year

Your penultimate year is when you ideally would be putting serious plans in place for your future career. Are you going to jump into the world of work, take time out after studying or pursue postgraduate studies? Many jobs and postgraduate courses have early deadlines in the first term of final year and some competitive roles even close in this year for a starting date in the September after graduation! This means it’s a good idea to start planning now to prevent even more stress in your final year.

Search for what’s out there

Start your search for what’s out there and consider the options that you can apply for in your final year – this could be either graduate jobs or postgraduate courses. This will help you build a profile of what you will need to do in this process and ease the stress of needing to find a job in your last year of university. Check for vacancies on GetMyGradJob and keep up to date with the industries you’re interested in.

Build on your experience

This is a prime time to build on your experience and skills you already have before you start applying to things in your final year. You may choose to undergo a year in industry after your first year which will allow you to get a glimpse at what your degree subject could offer you in terms of your career. If this isn’t for you perhaps consider a part-time job, volunteering or an internship during the summer – these are all great ways to gain more experience. Internships are especially effective, by performing well this may persuade employers to offer you a full-time role after university.

Prepare for lift off

With all of this research and experience under your belt, this is your chance to really get your cylinders ready to fire. Update and polish off your CV, make a note of application deadlines and practice for assessment centres, online tests and interviews. Being prepared will help you make a better impression on employers and let them know you take the process seriously.

Final year

Now that you’re in your final year it’s important to put together a plan in order to make the most of your last months before entering the job hunt. Of course, this is a highly crucial year. Don’t lose track of course work in favour of looking for employment, but, as many graduate roles and postgraduate courses have deadlines early into the first part of the year, you must remain organised so you don’t miss out on great opportunities.

Plan of action

Not only will you be set on getting the best grades you can (there’s no slacking off like in first and second year), but you will also have to think about life a few months down the line. Terrifying. Beat the stress and focus on coming up with a list of the roles that you’re interested in applying for. Make sure that you put aside time to complete the application forms and tailoring of your CV – this is incredibly important if you’re trying to impress employers. Create a schedule so you have a few days put aside to focus on writing new cover letters and sending off your documents, so this doesn’t come in the way of essay writing and revision.

Keep on top of applications

Keep a calendar of all your application deadlines to remain on top of it all. Even once you get done applying to a role, make sure you keep a note of it – record the job title, employer and a copy of the form you sent in. It may seem like you’re going overboard, but if you’re offered an interview you will want this information in order to refresh your memory about the opportunity.

Try something new

If you don’t know what on earth you want to do after university, don’t worry; there are masses of others out there who also have no clue. Don’t feel pressured to accept the first role that is sent your way. Get the creative juices flowing by getting out of your comfort zone and try new things. Join a society, broaden your job research or check out our degree breakdown to see what careers are open to your qualification.

After university

Even after university, there’s still plenty of time to explore your options. A lot of university careers services will still be open to aid their graduates in their job search, so don’t be afraid to ask if they have any opportunities that are perfect for you. You might find that the competition is strong so your dream career may not come to you straight away. However, a lot of graduates find that the role they enjoy wasn’t the one they envisioned themselves doing while still at university, meaning you should keep your horizons open.

At GetMyGradJob we have loads of information on a huge number of options, including what you can do with your degree subject, employers and tackling the application process. Why not start your graduate job search here.

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