In this post we’ll discuss 3 things you can do in your first year to boost your employability, based on reflecting on my own experience as a first year student. If you’re just starting univeristy, you’re probably reading this and wondering “Why would I start thinking about my career this early”, which is quite similar to what I was thinking at that stage. Looking back on my first year at university, I’ve realised it’s never too early to plan ahead, and what you do this year can have a positive impact on your employability and career prospects.
Balance between academic and extracurricular work
Taking opportunities to develop your skills is something you should prioritise this year. The key to making the most out of your first year is finding the right balance between academic and extracurricular work – put a bit of effort toward creating your schedule to fit in both these activities. Starting to build on your skills and experience in the second year may prove to be challenging, and it may be hard to find enough time in the first term of second year to fill any the gaps in your CV. That’s why if you start taking opportunities to build your CV in your first year, you’ll make it easier for yourself in the future.
Societies and Give it a Go
Something I would encourage is getting involved in LUU societies and checking the Give it a Go page for opportunities to get involved in activities on campus. It might be worth joining your faculty’s society (or even department) – talking to people with similar aspirations to yours might inspire you, not to mention the benefit of company networking events.
Volunteering Hub is your other stop for extracurricular activities on or off campus. Taking up volunteering alongside your studies can help you expand your skills, while you’re working for a cause you find intriguing, or are passionate about. There’s a variety of options in terms of the duration and extent of your involvement, but a good example is Georgia’s month-long experience with Headingley LitFest, where she was able to be involved as much as her schedule allowed.
Both these activities can be as time-consuming as you want them to be – this way you can balance between your studies and extracurricular activities without getting overwhelmed. I feel that in my first year I didn’t manage my time as effectively as I would have wanted, but when you put more though into your schedule you can make the most of your first year at uni.
Whether you want to do a year in industry or perhaps go on to further study, first year is a good time to start planning ahead. You might be thinking there’s plenty of time to decide, and you’d prefer spending your time watching Netflix with your flatmates – first year is a good time to do that, too. But why not pop by the Careers Centre for a drop in session to get some advice and ideas on what options your degree can give you?
Another option is checking websites such as Guardian Careers, the Undercover Recruiter and of course the Careerweb or Careers Blog for some inspiration. You’d be surprised how many opportunities you can discover and you’ll get a feel of what other people are doing as well. I had no clue what I wanted to do in my first year, or what companies to approach, and reading up on different articles/tips gave me the general direction I wanted to head in.
Work experience matters – be it a part-time job, a summer internship, volunteering or just shadowing over Easter break. This is something I did not get the chance to do and if I could go back, I would definitely change that. Why? Because it gives you an incredible advantage in terms of your employability, it’s a great opportunity to add some great skills and examples to your CV (linking back to point 1) and it gives you an insight into working life.
First Year Opportunities
You might be surprised to find that there are actually opportunities for work experience targeted specifically toward first year students. If you go to the Advanced Search section of STARS, you can tick the First Year Opportunities option where you can browse everything that is currently offered. These opportunities are a good option as they are specifically targeted for first years, which means you get a good chance to get a place.
Summer internships are something employers value highly, which will give you a chance to stand out if you’re looking for a placement in your second year. Even if you’re not looking for a placement, a summer internship can still be an option for you because 2-3 months is a good timeframe for you to get a real-life feel of your chosen career field. And, why not even a potential gateway to a graduate job/internship. Have an occasional look through STARS to see which employers’ summer internships catch your eye, and make sure to apply on time for the ones you like.
Part Time Work
Part time work is something a lot of first year students opt for as it is a great source of additional income, and a great way to get a feel of working life. There’s a range of part time jobs available on Joblink and STARS, with varying working hours and duration. If you feel this is a good option for you, don’t forget to synch it with your timetable.