From guest writer Natalie Webster (3rd Year English Literature student and Careers & Employability Information Point Assistant)
As a third year student, the thought of making the next steps in my career is very daunting. You can easily go through the whole of university thinking that you haven’t done much at all to become employable, but this is completely untrue. Luckily, Careers and Employability have created The Chester Difference Graduate Profile to help you to identify all of the attributes you have gained and help you understand where you need to improve.
Within the graduate profile, the general skills section contains thinking, communicating and delivering. Communication is a skillset which develops immensely throughout university in all aspects. The constant stream of assessments we have to complete ensure that our written communication and presenting skills are always being developed. Listening, negotiation, teamwork and debate are all skills which are consistently exercised through lectures and seminars. Your critical and creative thinking and ability to deliver quality work to deadlines are also aspects you will have learnt from being at university. That’s a lot of skills already, and this is only within the educational environment! These skills are all enhanced by extra-curricular activities, part-time jobs, work experience, being a StAR and many other activities. I am president of a society which involves so many of these aspects: managing social media accounts; teamwork within the committee; communicating with students; recruiting new people; managing the budget. Even living in halls and interacting with new people will have added to your interpersonal skills. Until you stop and think about it, you often don’t realise how many responsibilities and experiences you actually have to boast about.
If there is one thing that I could say has changed massively since I joined university, it is my confidence. I feel that studying, working and living alone has made me a more self-aware, assertive and independent person. These all contribute towards the kind of mindset you need to secure a graduate position. There are many scenarios that you encounter that will demonstrate your flexibility, reliance, curiosity, resilience and your initiative. Ensure you recognise and remember these instances for applications, personal statements and interviews.
Ah, the dreaded interview question: ‘What are your strengths and weaknesses?’ What a difficult question to answer, especially as it is often so easy to be harsh on yourself. It’s so important to recognise the qualities that set you apart from the crowd, and also aspects you may need to improve on in order to make yourself more employable. You have probably learnt a lot about where your talents lie through university assignments. Do you excel at presenting but not so much at writing? Is your work good but often left until the last minute? Do you find planning difficult or easy? I often have to begin my assignments by running my ideas past a friend or lecturer, which really illustrates how much I value teamwork and collaboration. Evaluating your performance in assessments is a brilliant way to start to understand how you work best. An interviewer might also ask you to talk them through your CV. This is a time where you have to justify the academic and professional choices you have made throughout your life. Have a look through your CV and think about why you decided to take on a particular role and how it has impacted you. Be prepared to explain any gaps in a positive way.
Real World Experience and Awareness
Almost two thirds of students have part-time jobs while at university. It is a great advantage to have experience in the world of work before pursuing a graduate career. I feel that having a part-time job has definitely increased my awareness of how various companies operate and has given me an insight on working life in various sectors. However, if you don’t have a part-time job, you probably still have experience from work based learning, volunteering or work shadowing. No matter how short the placements are, these experiences are still incredibly important. It’s also a good idea to keep up with current events, especially by continuously researching the sector you are interested in. You can do this by looking at job profiles, following companies on social media, reading relevant news articles, and speaking to people in the industry. Make sure you know about any advancements or trends within that sector, show the employers how interested you are!
Personally, networking is still quite a baffling idea to me. It conjures up images of running around at a drinks reception frantically trying to introduce yourself to everyone. However, this is not often the case. Almost any interaction you have with colleagues and university staff can be considered networking. It’s a great idea to build a good rapport with your lecturers; not only will you need them for references but they may also have contacts that could be vital to your future. Think about the University of Chester network you already have: your community of peers, housemates or course-friends, may provide to be vital contacts in the future. Additionally, work shadowing, sending speculative applications to companies you are interested in and making a LinkedIn profile are all brilliant ways of networking.
There are probably a lot of skills you have learnt from your course that are specialist. Whether it’s computer programming, a foreign language, excellent writing skills, design skills or music. These all help you to stand out within the application process and throughout your career. Even if they aren’t particularly relevant to what you’re hoping to do, they show commitment, passion and diligence.
The Chester Difference Graduate Profile has definitely helped me evaluate my academic life and identify key experience and skills I have gained. How can it help you? What makes you stand out?