“I’m only in my first year, do I really need to start thinking about my career now?!” – It’s a question that lots of students ask. In this post our student contributor Rebekah Billingham explains how she is making the most of being a first year and making herself more employable!
I arrived at Leeds this September to start my English Language and Literature degree. Before I started uni, I had no idea what I wanted to do. After looking at all the possibilities my degree can lead to, for the time being my choices have been narrowed down to media, marketing or publishing, but I know this could change. Knowing that experience is a vital part of successfully starting a career, I was tempted to take on more activities than I could handle, before I realised that quality is more valuable than quantity. I’m only doing two or three things this year, and am focusing on doing them to the best of my ability. So I’m having fun doing things I enjoy, while investing in my future at the same time.
What I have done so far
Once I settled down and had a chance to take stock of my current situation and all there was on offer, I decided that for my first year, I was going to focus on contributing to the features section of the Leeds Student newspaper as well as this blog, which I found through the Leeds for Life website.
Writing for the paper is building and enhancing skills that will be valued by future employers, including communication, initiative and creative thinking. It is also something I love to do, because it gives me the chance to generate my own ideas and write on my own terms.
The blog will be relevant for marketing related careers, as it is promoting the Careers Centre and tapping into an audience of first year students who may not yet have thought about what they will do after they graduate. This more informal and flexible way of writing and communicating my thoughts is helping me in my studies, as it keeps me in the flow of writing, therefore making it easier when I have to do assignments.
The Autumn Graduate Jobs and Internships Fair
A few weeks ago, I went along to a graduate careers fair hosted by the Careers Centre. I approached all the companies that had roles in marketing and communications, which turned out to be most of the employers present. I knew that marketing was one of the options I was considering, but I hadn’t really thought of which companies I could potentially be working for. There were some that I wouldn’t have imagined I would be interested in such as Vauxhall, Tesco and Morrisons, which do, in fact, have quite established marketing departments.
I came away with a pile of leaflets, which I will be looking up in the next month or so, when I begin to apply for summer internships. I also left with a handful of free pens which, as well as looking fantastic, write like a dream, not to mention a big bar of chocolate from the Morrisons stand!
I later went to Expo 13, which was a series of talks on sectors including media, publishing, journalism, and marketing, among other things. I went to the ones on marketing and advertising, publishing and journalism. At each talk, a panel of people with successful careers in that particular area told how they got to where they are now, and gave advice on how to be successful in looking for opportunities of that kind.
As well as being helpful and informative, this event helped me to decide that marketing and advertising will become my primary focus and that publishing would take a back seat for now. Hearing about job roles first hand from people who had experienced them in real life showed me a different perspective on both career paths. Although both careers are competitive and difficult to get in to, with marketing and advertising there is more of a variety of roles on offer and more opportunities to progress and expand your knowledge. I also discovered the role of a copywriter, which involves writing slogans and blurb for advertising campaigns. This is something that really interests me, and that I might think of pursuing, as I already have some relevant experience. I’m happy with this outcome, and that I feel clearer about my next steps.
My plans for the rest of the year
My ultimate goal for my first year is to get a summer internship. So my next step will be to give my CV a makeover in the coming weeks. There are so many resources provided by the university to help with this, none more so than the Careers Centre website and using the drop in service to get my CV checked. I will also need to do some more research on how to make strong applications before looking for summer positions, because there is a lot to consider and take into account (I will be discussing this in future posts).
It’s quite common to leave thinking about jobs after graduation until late into second or third year, and feel under pressure. But seeing as how the job market is competitive, I’m determined to utilise my first year building up experiences and investing in my future three years down the line, because it means I will be more prepared, and not be under as much pressure as if I’d put it off.
As first years, we have an advantage, because we still have it all yet to come, and can tailor-make our own learning experiences. It’s almost like writing your own story!
Check back soon for more blog posts from Rebekah, learn more about her career journey and how she is preparing herself right from the beginning of her university life.