When it comes to preparing for your career at university, there are two common misconceptions. One is that internships and work experience are the be-all and end-all, and the other is that you can only start preparing in your penultimate year of university. Although, of course, internships can be extremely useful, there are many other ways that you can get relevant experience without the sacrifice of your summers or interference with your studies. In this article, one of our interns, Bear, shares her advice.
1. STUDENT SOCIETIES
If you have an idea of what kind of career sector you’d like to enter, try to join a related society. Every university has a range of career-centric societies including things like marketing, consultancy, or accounting. Don't worry if you have no idea what you want to do - try to join a society that is related to your interests, whatever they may be. After experiencing being a member of a society, you can run for a leadership position on the committee: whether that be centred more towards certain roles that lead towards specific sectors such as Treasurer, Head of Events or Head of Marketing, or more general roles such as Secretary, President or Vice-President. This experience is hugely useful when it comes to applying for jobs and internships later. It doesn’t matter if it’s Dance or Dungeons and Dragons, being able to demonstrate leadership ability, organisational skills, passion and commitment is relevant to any job you apply to.
2. SPORTS TEAMS
In a similar way to societies, joining a sports team can demonstrate your commitment, time management and, if you join the committee or become a captain, leadership skills. You will also develop your teamwork skills, and if you’re playing in BUCS you will dedicate a lot of time to your chosen sport, showing that you can juggle more than one activity.
3. STUDENT MEDIA
The majority of universities will have some kind of student media available: this could be a student newspaper, magazine, radio station or TV station. For students hoping to enter into creative professions this can be a great starting point, and most journalism employers will be looking for some kind of student media experience, as it demonstrates your enthusiasm and commitment. However, the skills you learn from hosting your own radio show or writing for the student newspaper are transferable to a wide range of careers: communication, creativity and confidence apply to almost any job.
4. PART-TIME JOBS
Many students get part-time jobs while at university to fund their living costs, but many don’t know that these jobs can be just as good on your CV as internships. A typical part-time job is often in the catering, hospitality or retail industry, for example as a waiter, bartender or shop assistant. These kinds of jobs prove tenacity, time management, and people skills, as well as a range of transferable skills when it comes to specific industries. Your university will often offer part-time jobs within the university itself that are flexible around studying and paid well.
There are many opportunities available for students to volunteer at university. You can look into what schemes your university offers, or research what is available to help with in your local area, ranging from volunteering with children or the elderly, or helping homeless people.
6. UNIVERSITY CAREERS SERVICE
Your university will have a careers service available for students to use. This service is always a great source of information, guidance and advice, with a range of experienced professionals to help you in your career search. Quite often the careers service provides a type of qualification in a “Passport” style, meaning that if you fulfil certain qualities and complete some activities you will be given a career certification, which is great to put on your CV. You can also use the service for a range of fairs, workshops, and advice on things like CV building, master's applications, and interview practice. It’s easy to make an appointment, so take advantage of it while you can!
Lastly, the power of the internship cannot be denied. The above are all extremely helpful when it comes to eventually looking for a job, but employers will always appreciate some relevant experience in your chosen field. Don’t limit yourself to the main internships advertised by big companies in places like London – although these are great to have on your CV, email some local companies, look on websites like Indeed, and ask your contacts if they’ve heard of anything that might be open. Remember it’s a numbers game: most students will apply for a huge number of internships before they eventually hear back from one!
Remember, it’s never too early or too late to start working towards your future career, and it doesn’t have to take up a huge amount of time, effort or energy! Follow your interests and your passion will shine through – you never know, what you enjoy doing in your day to day life could offer you the first step into your career.