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5 ways you can help your future career in your first few weeks of uni, according to a careers expert

19.6 million students across the world attend university every year. Of these, just 4 million students actually graduate. It is a tough market to get a graduate job in right now, but are there any measures university freshers can take to set themselves up for a great graduate career?

Careers tool, Debut (@DebutCareers) has listed 5 top tips freshers should implement in the first few weeks of uni, to set themselves up for a great graduate career:

1 – Establish a profile on your uni’s careers service: 
  • Have a careers officer review your CV, guide you to perfect a personalised blueprint of a tailored cover letter and help you in setting up a profile on LinkedIn. 

  • Whenever you have an interview coming up, schedule an appointment for a mock interview with your careers officer; not only will this help you discover where your interview strategy needs work, but it will also help take the edge off of being interviewed when you get to the actual thing. 

  • If the careers service does daily job alerts, a newsletter or workshops on employability skills, by all means sign up to receive these via your email. 

2 – Network, network, network: 
  • Though your CV carries its own weight, another very underrated but extremely effective way to grab an employer’s attention is by entering their professional network. If you’re new to the networking game, you should start out by adding your new classmates, close acquaintances, professors and guest lecturers to your LinkedIn (always add a note saying how you know them). Don’t stop there, interact with posts on LinkedIn by reacting or commenting and keep an active watch for unique job opportunities from your connections.

  • Keep an eye out for ticketed events such as job fairs or company insider insight days. Go to these events and make note of the insider tips and tricks being shared so you can be cognizant of these when applying to jobs. After the event, get on LinkedIn and send the people you interacted with an invitation to connect accompanied by a compelling and specific note about your interaction with them at the event and the value they can add to your job seeking journey. 

  • Spend time where the seasoned professionals from your industry hang out in their free time outside of work. This could be a social media platform like Twitter (PR Twitter, for example, is a hive mind of debate and knowledge sharing) or a real life platform like the meeting place of your local BNI chapter/ Chartered Institute for professionals in your industry. Your interactions here could potentially lead you to lifelong industry friends but you will also definitely gain first hand knowledge of indispensable industry news just by being a fly on the wall.

3 – Join clubs/ societies or take up leadership roles: 
  • A unique way to learn a new skill and add substance to your CV at the same time is by joining a club or society. You could join a professionally relevant society such as Women In Leadership or the Marketing Society or get a student membership to a Chartered Institute. You could even join more leisure oriented clubs such as the Outdoors Society, the Languages Society, etc. and actively involve yourself in the organisation side of things so you have some very interesting experience to show off to your potential future employer. 

  • If you are aware of an open leadership role such as class representative, project group leader or event coordinator, do volunteer to take it up. Roles of responsibility are standout examples of problem-solving, communication skills and good nature and will never go unnoticed by a hiring manager.

4 – Seek out a mentor: 
  • Universities often offer e-mentorship schemes where current students are matched with ex-students who are successful industry professionals working all over the world. Conversations with successful ex-students will give students an insight into working life and the direction the industry is headed in.  You will also get tidbits of information you would never find on the internet or on job posting boards, such as realistic hacks to land an interview with leading companies as well as immediate access to entry level jobs/internships at your mentor’s company. 

  • If your uni does not offer an e-mentorship scheme, speak to a careers officer or professor about putting you in touch with an alumni network or ex-student who could guide you in the right direction.

5 – Take up a part time job or internship or volunteer: 
  • If you often find yourself free after class or on the weekend, it may be time for you to seek out a part time job or a volunteer role. If there is a lack of part time opportunities in your industry for full time students, by all means try another industry, hospitality, retail and charity, for example, are preferred industries for part time roles among students. Any job experience that you can balance alongside university demonstrates that you are a self-starter and a team player with strong time management abilities. What’s more, your part time employers could end up being someone to approach for a future work recommendation letter or character reference.

Kim Connor Streich, Marketing Director at at Debut has commented: 

“Forward planning is THE best possible way to work towards landing a graduate job. 

First things first, ensure your CV is updated at all times so you never lose out on dreamy job postings in the time you take to revise your old CV. A tip to make your CV stand out, that loads of students neglect is quantifying the impact of your previous roles. Every small achievement can be transformed into something of value if phrased eloquently with focus placed on how it developed your skills. 

Know what kind of job you want when you graduate, whether it is a grad scheme, an internship or entry level job. Be mindful of hiring seasons and the ideal time to apply. 14.34% of a year’s jobs are posted on average in November, however some graduate schemes start in July or September and certain types of jobs hire all year round. Do your research on companies and industry niches and make a strategy involving a list of your dream companies and roles and your plan to land interviews at each of them. 

Do not be disheartened when things don’t work out according to your plan, hiring and finding a fit takes time. Your first job will not dictate how your future career path spans out.

Though the ONS has revealed that the labour market has over 1 million job roles available, applicants for graduate jobs still outnumber the available graduate positions despite the massive growth in vacancies. Fortunately, Debut currently has 10504 live graduate roles on our site and app, which is huge growth in comparison to previous months and years. Between July and September this year we had over 26,000 graduate jobs go live, which is almost double the number of last year.”

Many students are unaware of the power that forward planning can have on their future career prospects 

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