Year abroad: The employability benefit of experiences outside of my degree

One of our student bloggers, Collette, shares her reflections on the benefit of extra-curricular activities, and in particular, her decision to take a year abroad.

Have you ever considered how to stand out in a job application? What might it take for employers to pick you over anyone else? How do you sell yourself with the things you do outside your degree?

These questions are asked by everyone I am sure. You don’t have to look far though to find the answers. If you haven’t already, have a look at the blog “I got the job, I’m speechless!” by mrjimbird. The blog encourages you to think about your skills, how you use them to your advantage in applications and the need to think about what skills you have – you may not even know where they come from. Employers are very interested in what you have done outside your degree.

Whilst I know this now, throughout my degree I chose extra-curricular or additional activities out of interest rather than as a means to improve my CV (as I imagine most students do).  However on reflection, I feel that some of these things are now my greatest potential selling points, particularly as I feel less of a ‘natural’ academic than some of my friends and peers.  All of these activities and interests added to my skills profile, sometimes without me even knowing, opened the door to bigger opportunities and gave me more confidence in myself and my abilities.

In particular, I feel that my decision to take a year abroad working was probably the best one I could have made, equipping me with new skills and developing existing ones. I worked as a Language Assistant in French primary schools, an experience boosting some of the following skills.

  • Communication: An important skill to highlight– speaking confidently and clearly. Having had a year in France, I can emphasise this and show that I can communicate in another language as well as my own.
  • Planning and organisation: It takes a lot to plan and be organised for a year abroad but in doing so, it demonstrated my ability to use these qualities.
  • Flexibility: Adapting to new situations and change, showing that I can leave a safe and well known environment and start again in building roots in a new environment. When I left France, I amazed even myself just how many people I had met and the friends that I had.
  • Initiative and self motivation: Firstly I recognised that the opportunity to work abroad whilst at university was only going to be there once, I took it and never looked back therefore making the most of the opportunities given to me.
  •  Thinking independently: University is about learning how to live for yourself and taking responsibility. Going abroad and facing every decision myself has added to my independence – showing I can make important decisions and be a responsible adult.

If you’re considering a year abroad, check out the Working Abroad section of our website or come and speak to us in the Careers Centre. You may also want to read this recent post by LUU Activities Officer, Ed. 

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Filed under International, Work Experience

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