About our writer
Georgia graduated with a Masters Degree in Renaissance Literature from Girton College, Cambridge, last July
A cautionary opening…
Although this may seem an odd way to begin an article about job prospects at university, I think it is important to emphasise that going to university to study a subject is, in itself, a worthwhile thing to do, and you do not need to feel bad about going to university just because you love a subject: this is a very valid reason to go, even if your subject does not immediately lead on to a particular job after graduation.
In particular, for students studying humanities subjects, the question of ‘how will that subject possibly help your job prospects?’ is often thrown our way, but you should not worry about this. In short, studying a humanities subject you are passionate about will provide you with three valuable and stimulating years of higher education: something which you will not experience in the workplace later on. Plus, your excitement and dedication to the subject will almost certainly encourage you to move beyond the confines of the syllabus: something which you can bring up in your job applications, if you so choose.
That said, it is perfectly natural to be thinking about your future beyond university. Here are some tips to help you boost your job prospects at university with no stress involved!
Get a job
This one is obvious! If you want to improve your job prospects at university, a great way of doing this is to work part-time while at university. Not only will this help you keep your bank balance looking nice and healthy, but it will also demonstrate time management and organisational skills – as well as career motivation – which will look good to graduate employers.
Go the extra mile
As I mentioned in the introduction, another way of boosting your job prospects is by going the extra mile in your subject. Whether this is by working hard and achieving a first class degree result, becoming involved in organising faculty events and conferences, or even helping to run an academic journal in your faculty, there is so much you can do to demonstrate your work ethic, dedication and ability to think outside the box: skills which are so transferable to the world of work. Plus, if you do decide to go into academia later on or take on further study, all this extra work will really pay off in the long run when you’re filling in applications.
Broaden your university experience through extracurriculars
Of course, employers are not just looking for students who have excelled at their subjects (although this is great!), but they are looking for applicants who took on other roles at university other than that of student. Extracurricular activities and societies at university are the perfect way of demonstrating your breadth of skills in a really enjoyable environment. Helping to organise and run a university society which you are excited by and passionate about will help to make your time at university so much better, and demonstrate your leadership and communications skills to employers – without you having to make a conscious effort to do so. Win!
Make the most of the careers service
This is a piece of advice you will be given many times throughout your university career – by final year, you’ll be very familiar with it! – and it will probably not sink in until you’re about to leave and you’re staring down the barrel of your post-university life. Your university careers service is an invaluable resource which will provide you with practice interviews, CV check-throughs and careers guidance in all shapes and sizes. If you put in the time and go and speak to your careers advisers, I guarantee you will not regret it, and the world of graduate jobs will seem an exciting, not a daunting one.
Keep working on your CV
This is really important: even if you’re not working at university and have decided to dedicate your time solely to your subject, it is worth writing things down on your CV when you think they could be useful for job applications.
As I mentioned before, even if it doesn’t seem directly relevant to, for example, a graduate job at the Civil Service, or KPMG, your research, communications and organisational skills you gain by undertaking projects at university are incredibly useful and impressive to employers. The key thing for you is actually being able to sell yourself to employers: it’s about thinking how recruiters and interviewers think. That group project where you overcame difficulties – such as someone not pulling their weight – and delivered a successful final result is a great example to bring up in an interview when asked, ‘tell me about a time where you overcame a problematic situation….’
Stay ahead of the game and research
Even if you’re not sure what graduate job you want – a perfectly reasonable position to be in, of course – making sure you keep researching possible jobs, and having your eyes peeled for exciting opportunities available while at university is vital. Often graduate employers will come to your university looking for future recruits, and this is an excellent opportunity to meet them in person and make vital connections for the future – which leads me to my final tip…
Yes, the dreaded networking. A skill which has to be learned by everyone in the workplace, networking is also extremely useful (and, dare I say, can even be enjoyable?!) at university. Whether it’s academics, mentors, graduate recruiters, people you meet through societies or even other students with useful family connections in your chosen career, networking can appear in all shapes and sizes, and it is important to make sure you take advantage of these connections at university. This will really help you in your future career, even if it doesn’t feel like an important conference or society meeting at the time.
The take-home message
All in all, the most important thing I’d like you to take from reading this article is the following: without even trying too hard, there are so many easy ways to boost your job prospects at university to give you the best possible start in your career. So, think about these tips, don’t panic, and you’ll be on the road to an excellent graduate job in no time!