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So you are back on campus again – some for the first time. At the start of term the Careers Service regularly see students who think they should be doing something careers wise but don’t know what. Listed below therefore are some general rules of the road to steer you in the right direction.
If it is your first year.
- Stop, breath and relax! Focus on your course, meeting new friends and working out how the campus works.
- Finding work is always a good thing to do. Use the Careers Service website to find campus opportunities – however you are in the middle of London, approaching Christmas – there are lots of opportunities. Don’t underestimate the impact of talking to people, walking into a shop asking for a job.
- There are many careers events in the first term – just go along – even to ones that you know nothing about. However talk to people don’t just collect brochures and freebies.
- It is never too early to have good CV in place, so spend time pulling it together. Use the Careers Service website and Prospects for ideas on the layout and content. Book an appointment with the Careers Service to get feedback
- Most important – don’t let anything distract you from your studies – these must always remain your priority
- You now need far more focus on your career. Attending events and getting a real sense of what you might want to do is important. Use the Careers Website – e.g Careers Tagged, talk to friends, to your cohort to your tutors. Most importantly – do your own research
- Your CV needs to be in good shape. Take a long hard look at it – does it need strengthening in terms of for example experience? Use the Careers Service to get feedback – on both CV and potential career paths.
- There are lots of opportunities for placements and they are a good thing to do – but it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t get one. Maximize your chances by looking at different opportunities and companies – don’t just focus on the standard companies that all students go for. The time taken on the applications is more than you might expect. However it is good practice and you will get quicker and better. If you are unsuccessful – reflect on what you can learn from the experience to improve the next one
- There is a key early decision to make. You can focus on your studies and worry about a job after graduating. Or you can throw yourself into job hunting.
- If you jump in – don’t underestimate the time and commitment involved. It is easy to get sucked into applying to lots of companies. However each process is unique – you can’t just cut and paste. Again use events. Prioritize the companies to apply to. Really challenge yourself – do you really want to work for PWC or is it because everybody else is? These companies have thousands of applicants each year – you may be the best ever student for them but there is still a risk of you getting lost in the deluge of applicants
- The Careers Service can guide you through the application process. Online tests, reviewing application answers, tidying your CV, mock assessment centres, practice interviews. In whatever way you need support, we can help
- If you decide to focus on your studies – that is great but you still need to think about what happens after you graduate. You should still be looking for experiences and roles to strengthen your CV. Continue to build your network. Having a great qualification is no guarantee of a job – it is only one small part of the process
In simple terms – each year you need to increase your career focus – whether it is staying in academia, getting a job. And whatever your situation – don’t try and solve everything yourself. The Careers Service has seen everything and will be able to help you navigate your way forward.
Ian is a Career Consultant in the SOAS Careers Service