My manager Liz and I sat down with some colleagues yesterday to talk to them about the work we do in the Careers and Employment office and why they should refer their first year students to us, not just their final years who are looking for a job. This is because students (along with everyone else in the world) need time and space to figure out where they are going and they need to understand early on that career planning is fluid. As we encounter new people and have different experiences, our ideas, interests and motivations, and therefore our career ideas, will change. This happens a lot as students go through University because it’s a particularly concentrated time of growth, but it continues throughout our lifetime as well. This can be scary for some people who like to know exactly where they are going but it’s called career development for a reason – as we grow, different ideas and thoughts develop which is why people end up changing jobs or occupations. Gone are the days of a job for life and instead we are seeing people working 2 or 3 different jobs at a time to satisfy their different interests. My job as a career consultant is not to tell students what to do but to help support them to explore their options.
How do I do this? By helping the student to explore their interests – what gets them excited? Their skills – what are they good at? Their values – what are the most important things to them? And their preferred working environments – what type of space do they feel comfortable in? e.g. someone may want to work as an accountant but working as an accountant for a bank is completely different to working for an NGO. Yes there are certain jobs and occupations that can open up to someone based on their degree or subject choices (which is where our Career Views can help) but if you limit your career ideas to jobs that relate directly to your degree you could be limiting yourself. That is why we explore and why there needs to be time allocated to do this. And it doesn’t have to be boring!
Even if someone does have a clear career goal we still encourage them to ‘check in’ with us to make sure they are doing everything they can to ensure that goal is attainable.
It’s also helping people to realise that if they do want to find a paid job after University they need to educate themselves as to what employers want. Initially, employers will often work to ‘Specific Person Requirements’ in a job description and these are particular skills, attributes, experiences and knowledge they require in a candidate. Some are ‘Essential’ and some are ‘Desirable’. These can be shown from university study (and some jobs are only open to someone with a degree) but a degree alone is no guarantee of a job offer. A student also needs to have real life experiences they can put on their CV and identify what skills, attributes and knowledge they have learnt from these that they can offer to the employer. Part time and summer work, volunteering (be it official or unofficial – like helping out your parents), joining clubs and groups, and overseas travel are all good beginning examples of how to build experiences.
Not only do these experiences give people things to list on their CV and talk about in the cover letter and interview, they are also teaching students about their interests, skills, values and preferred environments – all the things I mentioned above that help people make career decisions. The vast majority of students I see don’t know what they want to do and if I can see them in their first year I can advise them to ‘get involved’ as early as possible i.e. get curious! Use the internet to research, talk to us at Careers and Employment but also talk to your family, friends and new people you meet about what work they do, why and how. Try out different jobs and working environments through paid and unpaid work and work shadowing. All of these things help to raise self awareness AND occupational awareness. As a career consultant I can help show a student some possible occupations that they may want to consider once we have explored their skills, interests, values and preferred environments, but no one person will ever do one thing. They may have a lot of different choices and the best way to see if these work is to road test them, and University is a great time in someone’s life to do this.
So, calling all first years! Come and see us today to get started on your career journey!