I loved going to University. I felt like I was a ‘proper adult’ having finally left school and I was completely confident that all it would take for me to be successful in my working life was a degree. Because that’s what everyone told me.
It certainly helped, however, I soon found out that a degree doesn’t guarantee a job. Employers also want to see that you have acquired skills and experiences. These can be developed in the classroom but employers want to see evidence outside the classroom too. So, what do we need to think about while we are studying that will help us with our working life?
Inside the classroom
Get the best grades you can – they’re certainly not the be all and end all but they can be a factor. Some companies want to hire the ‘best of the best’ and they see academic results as a key indicator of that. Some jobs also require postgraduate study or additional vocational qualifications and grade averages, usually a B/B+ but sometimes an A-, may be necessary. If you explore your options early then you won’t be blindsided like I was and realise in your last trimester that you don’t have the grades to carry on.
Learn how to communicate your degree knowledge – for some roles it will be important to mention the intricacies of your lecture content and assignments whereas for others you only need to communicate this at a general level. Don’t assume that an employer realises or understands what your subjects have given you that adds value to their organisation. I studied psychology and while many people know this word, many also misunderstand it “does that mean you can read my mind?” and how the study of it can be useful in the work place.
Inside and Outside the classroom
Develop awareness of your skills – if you are studying, working, volunteering, or undertaking extracurricular activities then you are already gaining skills. Employers require a mix of these when hiring so start learning about your own skill set and how it can add value to an employer. If you have a particular career path in mind find out what is needed to perform well in that area to see if you’re acquiring the right mix of skills.
Outside the classroom
Gain experiences – this doesn’t have to mean paid work in a ‘relevant’ environment. It’s a bonus if you can get it but if you don’t know what you want to do it can be hard knowing what relevant even means. The good news is that any experience (paid, unpaid, formal or informal) can be relevant, you just have to know how to communicate it to an employer in a way they understand e.g. what skills does working in a café give you that are transferable. Hint: lots.
Develop your occupational awareness – one way to do this is to talk to people who are working. Think of your network – face to face and online – and find out what they do, how they do it and where they do it. Does anything resonate with you? Are you curious to explore anything further? As a careers team we get employers on campus through careers expos and employer presentations so take advantage of these and meet other people and learn what they do. There are also Meet Up groups, public events, industry events, student club events – heaps of opportunities are out there if you start looking. The aim is not just to look out for things that interest us but for things we don’t know anything about. Start being curious. I met someone who attended an advertising event purely because their friend was going but once there they realised that actually this was an area that sounded really interesting. Open yourself up to these types of experiences and you never know what can come from them.
These are just some of the things I chat to students about that you can start doing now!