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Student Life Hacks: How to Kick-Start Your Career Between Classes

27th August 2016 Posted by: Francesca Turauskis

LIKE many students, for me university was about learning exciting new things, doing my assignments and getting good grades at the end of it. It took a lot of hard work and dedication (as well as some very late nights, coffee and an awful lot of writing pads!). At my graduation, it was extremely satisfying to receive my certificate with the words ‘First Class’ printed on it. But after graduation, the fight for a ‘good job’ and the legendary ‘career’ soon made this satisfaction fade.

Several years later, it has worked out well for me. But I can’t help but think if I had taken a little time out of studying to focus on my career whilst I was still at university, I might have been here sooner. Here are my top tips to kick-start your career before you graduate. I wish someone had told me!

 

Decide what you want to do early

This will seem obvious to some, and I envy those people. The first couple of years at university are the perfect time to try new things and see what you like, but if you want to jump into a job straight after graduation, you need to know the direction to jump in.

Research the jobs available

By the end of your first year at university, you will be getting really good at research. Use some of those skills to have a look at the job market. You won’t be ready to apply, but reading job specifications for an interesting role will give you an idea of the experience you need. Which will allow you to…

Apply for work experience

I cannot stress enough how important experience is. (In some careers, it may even be more important than your education.) Many of us need to work to pay for our studies, but there are still opportunities to take. You can try to find a part-time job related to your dream career, or freelance. Doing the work experience once a week over a longer time period is another option, and paid internships are becoming more available.

For ideas about part-time jobs suitable for your course, check out these fun and creative jobs

Join suitable societies and clubs

One of the best things about university is the abundance of extra-curricular activities available for very reasonable prices. Being a member of a society is great fun, can be good exercise and looks great on your CV. To make sure the extra-curricular activities look extra-impressive, look out for societies that can let you showcase your career skills: You could edit the school newspaper, volunteer to do marketing for a charity, or learn a useful language.

Find a mentor

Don’t forget that your lecturers are more than just teachers – they are professors, PhDs and experts in their field. If there is one lecturer you really like, or who works in your dream-career field, speak to them about your ambitions. Ask them about any job openings, or ask them about applying, but make sure you do ask them to help. One of the easiest ways to get an entry-level job is to ask for a recommendation.

Make useful friends

We all need those friends who will always answer your text, go on a road-trip with you or just sit at home and watch your favourite film for the hundredth time. But if those friends don’t have the same career goals, you also need to find people who could be contacts, and someone to ‘talk shop’ with. The more people you have on your side, the more you can talk and learn about your career, and the more likely it is you will succeed.

Need some ideas to meet and maintain good contacts? Read our article 6 Ways to Network at Festivals (And Further your Career).  

Use your university’s career service

Every university will have a career service that is worth visiting. Some universities run careers fayres, inviting employers along to advertise their graduate schemes. Others might have lists of contacts. Whilst it does vary from college to college what these services offer, they will all be able to give you professional tips and advice, something that can cost a lot after you leave university.

Finding the balance

University graduates still tend to earn much more than non-graduates, and putting in the effort for good grades will set you on the right path. For many careers, getting a good grad in the right degree is still essential. However, you won’t learn everything in the classroom, and laying the foundations for experience and connections can be just as valuable. It’s all about finding the balance between staying in studying and putting yourself out there to be found.

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