Freshers’ guide to careers

So the time has finally come: it’s Freshers’ Week. Seven-plus days of hedonistic freedom (also known as meeting 1,000 people at once and drinking all the booze).

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Why begin thinking about careers in Freshers' Week?

Now, we know this may feel a little early, but trust us. The sooner you start thinking about your career the better; and starting in Freshers’ Week is the best. So, before you start researching the best drinking holes and student nights, you might want to take a moment to think about how you can use Freshers’ Week as a springboard into a successful future (as well as a smashing social life).

So without further ado, here’s how to leverage the madness of these first seven days to your advantage…

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University societies

One of the biggest events of Freshers’ Week isn’t related to drinking at all (well, part of it might be) – it’s the Freshers’ Fair.

The Freshers’ Fair is usually one of the biggest events of the week as it is an exhibition of all the societies, clubs, sports teams, groups and businesses connected with the university. There are hundreds of stalls dotted about and thousands of attendees – overwhelming for some, but definitely a fantastic starting point when it comes to thinking about your career.

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Why join university societies?

Apart from being fun and one of the biggest and most enjoyable aspects of university life, they also provide wonderful career-boosting positives:

    • New people mean new opportunities and better future relations. You never know where people will be in ten years time, and having an ‘in’ with someone can really help you get ahead.

    • You want to be able to say you did more than just sit around and drink, study and stay up late at university, don’t you? Adding any form of society to your CV will stand out to employers.

    • Even if you were only part of the smallest, most niche and unknown society in the university or played a back-seat role in the biggest of them all, you will learn something. Don’t be afraid to shout about your involvement or achievements even for the most bizarre society when applying for jobs. It all helps and even if not directly related, will build your personal brand – something definitely worth investing in.

    • First decision to make: which societies to join? You may have 20 that interest you, but only have time to dedicate to five, in which case you need to be honest and considered in your approach. Making career decisions really can start this early!

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What to do at a Freshers' careers fair

The important thing to remember when heading to a Freshers’ Fair is to not get overwhelmed. Yes it will be busy, and yes every club, society and business will be jostling for your attention – but take a deep breath and enter with a calm head.

This is your time to investigate and dedicate yourself to the things that are important to you.

This can be made all the easier by doing some research beforehand. Take the time to think about your passions, interests and the course you’re taking, and check out the different societies that will be present. Your university will probably advertise who will be attending beforehand, so be sure to check that out and enter knowing exactly who you want to approach with the potential of joining.

With this in mind is it essential that you don’t get distracted – while you do of course want to spend the afternoon hanging out with some of your new friends, roommates and peers, this is also your time to investigate and dedicate yourself to the things that are important to you. Don’t let other people drag you off to join the Quidditch Society simply because they want to join, when in reality you have no interest in it at all. Stay firm and if needs be, break away from your group or join a new one to ensure you make the most out of your time there.

That being said, however, do also keep an open mind. You never know, maybe being dragged to check out the Quidditch Society at your university could turn out to be the most fun, most fulfilling society you could possibly imagine and opens up a (magical) world of possibilities. Don’t be so obtuse as to shut yourself off from new possibilities, just because you have your mind set on other things.

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Networking during Freshers' Week

Along with joining relevant societies to help with a successful future career and university life, Freshers’ Week is also the perfect time to network.

Now, the importance of making friends at university – particularly during Freshers’ Week – is probably something you’re well aware of. In fact, it’s the main thing people worry about. But don’t fear – making lasting friendships at university won’t necessarily happen in your first week. You may be lucky and meet your BFF on day one but it’s more than likely that you’ll slowly make friends throughout the years.

What you need to do is not put too much pressure on making friends in the first week, but also ensure you put enough effort in to make important connections where you can.

    • The easiest place to start is with the people you live with. Prop your door open to encourage conversations and start mingling. Ask who studies what, where they’re from and soon enough you’ll have a loose network of people with a huge array of interests from across the world.

    • Next up are your society contacts. As stated above, joining societies – whether directly related to your chosen career or simply a seemingly irrelevant passion – is paramount. Partaking in such extracurriculars will provide you with yet more contacts to call on from a number of different disciplines, at all different stages of their university life. This goes not only for other members but those in charge, too; be sure to speak with everyone to help broaden your horizons.

    • Ah the tutors. Yes they have a lot of students to deal with, and yes they may be scary at first, but networking well with tutors is the best way to fast-track yourself for any opportunities that may come by. They have the connections and know-how already – so be nice, be keen and make yourself known to them.

    • Always remember that everyone is in the same position. You all have roughly the same workload and same contacts – but are also all each other’s competition at the end of the day. Remain civil with your classmates and encourage everyone to share the opportunities and contacts they come across; adopting a ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ attitude early on will work wonders for your future.

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Part-time roles

Taking a part-time job while studying may not be for everyone, and may not seem necessary, but they can be incredibly helpful when seeking a graduate role further down the line.

Your first year of university is the time to start laying the foundation for a successful career. Trust us, come second and third year when the work really kicks in, you’ll be thankful you did so much early on.

A CV boost

Now the type of part-time work you find may not seem the most relevant – but there are ways to even make a barista job stand out on your CV. It may not be your final career goal, but taking on some extra work in first year and tailoring it on your CV shouldn’t be sniffed at (plus you’ll be thankful for the extra savings you gain when you’re stuck in the library on a Saturday night a couple of years down the line).

This is also the time to get to know those on the SU careers team, as they hold the keys to all part-time work on campus. They will also have all the info you need for work during the holiday period, so don’t neglect this option.

What part-time work during your first year does is offer you the flexibility to approach your employers at other times during your studies for more flexible working hours when exams and essays really kick in – but get in there first; competition for such roles will be extremely fierce during freshers.

Getting a job with the SU or university is also a great idea, as it will help you build a solid relationship with your institution and the members of staff within it. You’ll also get to know other students you may not meet otherwise AND they are super flexible around exams and holiday periods.

Have a master CV and cover letter ready to tweak and handout around town as soon as you get there.

Budgeting

Ah the dreaded budget discussion. Parents, older siblings, friends and everyone under the sun will probably have already given their two cents on how to budget during freshers and your first year, and the importance of it.

Obviously you don’t want to blow your entire student loan during week one, so getting a part-time job can help balance the books a bit. It is also a wonderful skill to have – being able to budget effectively and successfully juggle part-time work with your studies is something future employers will lap up.

So there you have it – your Freshers guide to careers. Have fun and stay focused (and remember: eating is not cheating).

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