It’s the big one, your final year. Second year was tougher than expected and, let’s be honest, freshers is one big blur. Now you’ve got to take two of the most important steps of your life at pretty much the same time:
- starting your career
- achieving your 2:1.
In any sensible society, these two goals would be well aligned so that you can achieve both simultaneously. But in our thoroughly silly world, they will be in constant competition. Luckily, we’ve gone and asked the experts for some tips to help you out.
Start Your Career Search Before Term Time
Truth be told, there just isn’t enough time to balance both. So I’m going to cheat and change the parameters of my own title to give you the all-important edge; start before term begins.
Many applications open in August or September. Most universities begin lectures in October. So we’re going to exploit this gap.
The most competitive graduate schemes also close very early on in term one (note: “rolling” doesn’t actually mean rolling. It means first come first serve). Why? Because big companies worked out a long time ago that students who are ahead or on top of their career search make the best employees. They deliberately end their recruiting windows early to grab those ahead of the game.
So start now.
Pick Your Dream Targets and focus on them
Don’t spam apply to companies. In my role at The Profs, I’ve interviewed over 200 tutors. More importantly, I’ve not interviewed over 2,000 applicants. Why? They spammed us with generic CVs and cover letters, and think that changing the first line and “find-and-replacing” the company name will be enough to get through.
If someone cannot be bothered to read my company’s homepage and write a paragraph on why they want to work with me, I’m not going to read their application. So resist the temptation to spam! Pick your dream five targets and invest in them. An average application takes two hours, so you can save hours and weeks by focusing on those that you really want.
Create an applications timetable
Now that you have your targets, find out the opening date of their applications. Not the deadline – expect that all vacancies will be filled by the deadline. No, we want the opening date applications so that we can hit them hard within a week.
Pick (or change to) subjects that will actually help your chosen career
The best way to balance your studies and applications is to try and align them. Consider picking that harder accounting or statistics module that will actually be relevant to your career path. This expertise will save you valuable interview preparation because you’re dedicating some 10 hours a week towards relevant subject knowledge, which means you don’t have to find it in the evenings and weekends.
Sign Up To Relevant News Apps
Sign up to a column of The Guardian’s or Apple’s “News” Apps relevant to your chosen career(s). This will give you digestible info everyday about the state of your industry, and save your valuable interview prep time. It takes about 30 seconds for a good interviewer to distinguish between someone who is well-informed about their industry, and someone who crammed the Financial Times the week before.
Check Career Updates Daily
In addition to your dream five firms, you must keep an eye out for other opportunities – particularly amazingly relevant or interesting roles within smaller firms which, if you rock, could lead to rapid career progression. You could check your university careers board daily, but Debut’s app simplifies the process so you can apply for jobs and internships at the click of a button.
Acknowledge that your university deadlines and finals will kill everything
On week one, scratch out in your calendar (use your phone if you don’t already) every coursework deadline, the week before each mid-term and the six weeks before your finals. These are dead-times. There is no chance that you can balance studying with job applications without greatly jeopardising your overall grades in these time periods. Knowing in advance that these are “dead times” will help you to plan better in the safe times. Read more great tips for undergraduate students from a PhD student.
Consider Calling In An Expert
My final word will be that it’s 100% OK to struggle with this balance. I certainly did at university, and work with thousands of students and recent graduates who still do. But rather than suffer in silence and risk falling behind on both your career and grades, there is another option. Hiring a private university tutor to both structure and manage your time. In addition to imparting subject knowledge, a great tutor will act as a mentor – providing you with revision hacks, structuring your timetable and passing on their own experiences of the wider world of work. Want a career in finance? Why not work with an ex-managing director of a leading bank, who can tell you about their best and worst interviewees in between teaching you how to price a share.
Guest post written by Richard, founder of The Profs, the UK’s specialist university and professional qualifications tuition providers. Offering free online resources and first-class tutors for weekly mentoring and one-on-one exam coaching tutorials from leading lecturers, PhDs and industry specialists around the world.