Whilst studying at university it is important to enjoy your time and achieve a good grade, but you should keep in mind you need to prepare yourself for the job market.
Due to the COVID pandemic, the UK job market is even more competitive than normal. A degree alone is unlikely to be enough to secure a great graduate job. Employers want to hire work-ready candidates who have experience and initiative.
There are many ways students can boost their employability throughout university to help lay a foundation for a career. The following points will help make you stand out to employers after you graduate.
#1: Join clubs and societies
It’s always beneficial to get involved with some clubs and societies at university. Whether it’s a sports team or a film club, they’re a good way to meet new people, create new experiences, and learn new skills.
It’s not necessary to only be involved in clubs and societies that relate to your future career. It is more important to do things you enjoy; you will build transferable skills as you go.
What would look good on a CV is if you take a leadership role in any of these groups. This demonstrates a level of commitment and responsibility and is something to bring up during job interviews.
#2: Use your university’s careers advice
It is worth contacting your university’s careers advice service to help you get a sense of what industries you might want to enter after university.
They might even help you find a particular job to work towards. Even if you have no idea what you want to do, they will offer suggestions and you will be left with some ideas for the future.
You can also ask your uni’s careers service to improve and boost your CV.
Volunteering is a great way to get experience on your CV. You might also be able to volunteer in an industry relevant to your future career goals. It is usually of course easier to get a volunteering role as there will be less competition.
You don’t have to volunteer in an area related to a possible future career, any volunteering at all looks great to employers as it shows you are willing to give your free time to work. All volunteering opportunities will give you a host of transferable skills and lots to talk about at interviews.
There may be lots of roles available on your campus or in the local community. If you are unsure you can check with your Student’s Union or careers advice centre.
There are also numerous websites you can check out such as do-It.org
#4: Go to careers fairs
Your university will occasionally hold career fairs, so keep an eye out for them. They will vary from general career fairs with a variety of professionals, to more specific fairs aimed at those wishing to specialise in a chosen industry.
Careers fairs are great for learning about different industries, building contacts, and hearing about work experience opportunities.
Before you attend, you might find it useful to make a list of the companies you want to talk to. Or if you have less of an idea of what you want to do you might find it a good opportunity to window shop for different careers.
#5: Write a CV
Even if you have just started university, it is a good idea to create a CV or update it. It is a useful way to keep track of your achievements as you go and is handy to have if a job opportunity arises.
You should modify your CV depending on the role you are applying for to give yourself the best chance, however, it is first necessary to have a base CV that you can work from. If you want help with writing a CV, you can read some tips from a CV consultant.
It’s also worth setting up a LinkedIn profile. This will allow you to make connections online, and you may also be approached directly with opportunities by employers and recruiters.
#6: Internships or work experience
If you have an idea of what industry you want to work in after university, the best way to boost your employability in that field is to find relevant work experience or an internship. Work experience is usually organised to fit in around term time so it shouldn’t interrupt your studies.
Work experience might be available as part of your course. You can also look for opportunities online, through careers fairs, and by asking your university’s careers advice service.
An internship or work experience is always rewarding and will make you stand out to future employers. Even if you don’t want to work for that company after you graduate, or you want to try a different industry, it is crucial to help you develop work skills. Moreover, it will also give you a reference.
#7: Get a part-time job
Getting a part-time job will look great on your CV.
Ideally, you want a part-time job that can fit around your studies so that it doesn’t affect your final grade. You will learn skills and gain experience which you will be able to mention at interviews. It will also help you with the expenses of Uni life.
Just working at the Student Union bar or in a local restaurant will make you stand out from other candidates without work experience. For more information on working part-time at Uni, read 9 tips for working part-time at Uni.
#8: Take on responsibilities around the university
Becoming a student representative on your course, at the student’s union, or in any other capacity that involves taking the initiative and leadership skills, is a great way to boost your employability.
You could also consider being a student ambassador, where you would have to give tours around your university campus. These are all things you could add to your CV which will show employers that you are not shy about taking on responsibilities.
Starting to build a network of contacts will provide you with opportunities down the road. Your lecturers and professors are a good place to start, as they themselves will have plenty of useful contacts in their chosen fields.
It’s also important to get on your tutors’ good side by attending lectures and participating. This will help them write you a good reference and they will have you in mind if an opportunity comes up.
It’s wise to connect with them on LinkedIn. If you have an idea of what you want to do after graduating, they might know somebody that can help.
#10: Learn a language
Having a second language will help boost students' employability in the hyper-competitive job market after they graduate.
The hard work and commitment that go into learning a new language will impress employers.
In the globalised economy language skills are increasingly relevant. Being able to speak a widely spoken language like Spanish, French, or Mandarin would open doors for you.
There are endless resources online to help you learn a new language, as well as a number of apps, the most popular at the moment being duolingo.
#11: Take online short courses
There are plenty of online courses to help you improve your skills and boost your employability. They are available in almost every subject, from software and coding to culture and diplomacy.
The course doesn't have to be related to your degree or career. Taking any course in your free time shows employers your initiative, drive, and desire to learn new things.
There are many websites that provide courses such as FutureLearn, and a number of universities run free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
#12: Study hard for your degree
It’s also important to stay focused on your degree and aim for the highest grade you can achieve. Employers for graduate schemes usually ask for a 2:1 or 1st degree for candidates.
Work experience is of course vitally important in boosting your employability but you don’t want it to conflict with your studies.
The best ways students can boost their employability throughout university is by taking on extra responsibilities. This will give you the best chance when you graduate and start applying for competitive full-time roles.
The main three ways to do this are by getting a part-time job, gaining work experience, or volunteering. These are all things that employers look out for so that they know you are a work-ready candidate with transferable skills.
You can check out Graduate Coach for more information on all things relating to employability after graduating, including one-to-one coaching.
By Harry Gorvin