While everyone might think of January as the time to start afresh, make some new year resolutions and generally knuckle down with your life goals, September is really the time you should be assessing your progress. It’s a new term, and time to decide what your priorities are – whether it’s improving your grades or boosting your employability, it’s the perfect opportunity to reflect on what you’ve already achieved and how you can move forward.
September also, of course, marks the start of graduate recruitment season, and if that’s not the kick you need to get yourself into employable shape, I don’t know what is. Job opportunities will be popping up like crazy and recruiters will be on the hunt for the best new talent, so now is the time you should be wanting to impress. Grab yourself a notepad, sit down and make a list of exactly what you want to achieve over the coming months – remember to make your goals reasonable and specific. Need some help? Just follow our top tips below and you’ll be well on your way to a more productive Autumn.
The main problem most students face when it comes to job hunting and is not thinking proactively. Don’t just wait for opportunities to fall into your lap; go out there and get them. When you’re applying for jobs and internships over the coming months, you’ll kick yourself for not doing more to enhance your application now, so think about what you can do off your own back to get ahead.
Whether it’s researching some companies or signing up to an open day, going the extra mile for a piece of course work or contacting someone on LinkedIn for some advice, don’t just sit there and expect things to happen. In my final year of university I decided to approach my local newspaper on the off chance they would offer me some work experience. They took me on for a week on and were impressed with my work so much they offered my own regular column – something which made me stand out so much more in future job applications. If I hadn’t taken that first step and sent that email, I would never have ended up with that opportunity, so take a chance and do something different.
Take up a new hobby – or do something cool with your current one
Are you one of those students who makes vague promises that they’re going to join a society every year but it never happens? Puts their email address down at freshers fairs but never follows through? Now is the time to change that. Having an interesting hobby or extracurricular activity to pop on your CV will make you instantly more interesting as a candidate, and will also act as a great way to take a break from studying and job applications.
If you’re already part of society, how can you do something different in your role? Can you apply for a committee or leadership position, or can you help organise an event? Have a think about how your society could do something really cool to raise money for charity or to recruit new members. As part of my student newspaper I helped organise a national student media conference. Getting stuck in with projects like this will not only give you extra skills to put on your CV (think project management, interpersonal skills, problem solving) but will show employers that you’re brimming with fresh ideas.
Push yourself out of your comfort zone
This one is all down to your own personal strengths and abilities. Everyone’s comfort zone will look completely different, so what constitutes as pushing yourself out of it will look really different depending on the person. Whether it’s trying out for the university hockey team or making more contributions in seminar discussions, think about something which really scares you and push yourself to go there. For me, I was terrified by the thought of networking. But after an alumni event at my university department, I pushed myself to approach the speaker at the end and ask some questions. Despite my nerves, I came across well enough for the speaker to offer me her email address and ask me to get in touch for more advice.
Know your own limits and don’t forget to look after your own mental wellbeing, of course. But if you give yourself an extra push, I guarantee you’ll be surprised with the results.
Learn a new skill
This one can be tricky to fit around your studies, but if do manage to make the time, it will look great on your CV. Think about the industry you want to get into, or the job market in general if you’re not quite sure what it is you want to do, and the type of skills employers are looking for. How about taking that basic knowledge of French for GCSE and making it fluent? Or sign up to a beginners coding class? Developing a writing portfolio through a blog, or learning how to shoot and edit video, are all skills that will stand you in good stead for a career in journalism.
Don’t push yourself too hard and make sure your university grades don’t suffer as a result, but having a strong skill that is relevant to your sector can be the difference that sets you above other candidates.
Learn how to organise your time
This one is essential if you’re going to achieve some/all of the above. Juggling a degree, with extracurricular activities, job hunting and a social life is no easy task. If you’re going to take on the challenge and come out on top you need to get your organisational skills in check. Buy yourself a diary and write in it. Every day. Write down your meetings, application deadlines, weekly goals and to-do lists. I found I was so much more likely to have a productive day of working if I could clearly see ‘Drinks with friends’ scheduled in for 8pm. Plan your time effectively, get out of bed earlier and get. stuff. done.