Even when you are still in the process of completing your degree, you may already be thinking about your future career prospects. Our first piece of advice is: don’t stress out over it - approach it as something to be excited about. You should still definitely enjoy your uni experience and make the best of what many consider the best years of their lives.
However, attending a university or college opens the door to many valuable resources you can make use of in your pursuit of your future career. You have access to numerous opportunities that will help you prepare for when you leave the campus and enter the so-called “real world”.
13 is a lucky number here! Have a look at these 13 hints at what you can do to kick-start your future career while you’re still at university:
1. Stay up-to-date with the job market
2. Consider picking up a part-time job
3. Complete courses in your free time
5. Spend the summer doing an internship
6. Dedicate your school breaks and weekends to job shadowing
8. Engage in extracurricular activities
9. Pick up roles of responsibility at clubs and societies
10. Become a Student Mentor/Representative
11. Make sure your grades are top-notch
13. Get to know your Career Service Office
Stay up-to-date with the job market
You might not be actively searching for a job yet, but it could still be helpful to be aware of what’s going on in the job market. Keep an eye on the positions in-demand in the sector that interests you, the companies that are hiring, the languages employers find valuable.
Familiarise yourself with various job boards, register on Glassdoor to access reviews of various enterprises, create your LinkedIn profile and start making connections. To make things easier for you, you can even sign up for newsletters regularly sent out by job boards - this way, you will receive vacancies within your area of interest straight into your mailbox.
Consider picking up a part-time job
Of course, depending on the course you are studying and the amount of workload coming with it, it is not always possible for a student to commit to a part-time job. However, other than the extra money it will deliver into your pockets and the feeling of independence it will bring, finding employment will make your CV richer and provide you with valuable experience.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be connected to what you want to do in the future - if you’re studying accounting, it might be difficult to find a job at an office that will be flexible enough to fit around your school timetable. You can start off with one of the positions popular among students - working in retail or hospitality.
In a job as a waiter or a shop assistant, you will develop your time management, organisation, communication, and responsibility - skills that all employers value for every kind of position.
Complete courses in your free time
There is a big chance that your university is offering a wide range of free or very cheap courses on all kinds of topics. They will be delivered by your professors, experts in their field, and specialists, and oftentimes can be widely recognised by employers.
Additionally, there is a variety of online course platforms you can benefit from - most of which deliver their courses in very approachable and fun ways. If you are studying something different than you would eventually like to be doing, then courses are a perfect solution for you to educate yourself in the area that interests you.
If you are not sure what area you would like to develop in with a course, then maybe you have a knack for learning foreign languages? Despite multiple assignments, exams, and long hours spent studying - not to mention your social life - you probably have a bit more free time and flexibility now than you will have once you start a full-time job.
This means that it will be easier for you to pick up a language course now than in a few years - especially since the younger we are, the quicker we learn. Universities often offer free language classes for enrolled students - and usually, you can start at any level!
So, regardless of whether you'd like to learn Arabic from scratch or have been learning Italian a couple of years ago and are not fluent yet but remember enough to start from B1 - no better time than now than go for it! Inquire at your university about possible language courses organised on-campus. Even if there aren't any, they will surely point you to verified, affordable schools.
Spend the summer doing an internship
We know it is extremely tempting to use the last few summers in your life when you will actually be given a couple weeks off for free for something fun. A majority of your friends are probably planning a nice vacation somewhere hot and exotic or are getting ready for a road trip. That’s also okay, but if you are more focused on preparing your path towards a future career, you might want to use this time to complete an internship instead.
It will probably be easier to find an internship within the field that actually interests you than a part-time job, so you will be able to see first-hand whether the career path you think of pursuing really suits you. Employers value candidates who have undergone internships - it proves that they are committed, passionate about the job, and responsible.
Completing an internship will definitely give you an edge over other applicants in your future job hunt.
Dedicate your school breaks and weekends to job shadowing
If you can’t dedicate enough time to complete an internship, another way for you to have a taste of a job in a chosen sector is job shadowing. It is a practise where you visit an employee at their workplace and they agree to let you observe what they’re doing. It usually takes less time than an actual internship, and doesn’t require your input into the work done. Instead, you watch, take notes, and learn.
As such opportunities are not openly advertised, it might be more difficult to find someone who would be willing to invite you to their office and watch their every move, but to start, you can ask your parents or have them inquire among their friends.
Experience living abroad is yet another aspect employers love to see on a candidate’s CV. It shows that you are mature, responsible, brave, and - most importantly - ready to tackle new challenges. It also means that while undergoing your Erasmus placement, you have improved your language skills.
The trip itself is a great opportunity for making new contacts - who knows, maybe you’ll meet someone who knows someone who could offer you a position once you graduate? So, without a doubt, you should pack your bags and set off on your Erasmus experience!
Engage in extracurricular activities
Proving that you are constantly willing to develop and are taking steps in that direction is a factor that has helped many get the job of their dreams. Being a student comes with the privilege of numerous discounts on educational resources, invitations to all kinds of courses, and free classes organised at your university.
Sign up for a sewing class, complete a computer programming course, attend language lessons. You may not even realise it now, but the simple fact of cultivating your hobbies might just be what will have a recruiter picking you over someone else one day. Join the athletic club, run your own blog, become a member of AIESEC, ESN, NMUN, or any other international organisation that happens to have a branch at your uni.
The opportunities you are provided with as a student are a great chance to get better at something you are already passionate about, as well as trying out new things. You never know - maybe you’ll discover your new calling?
Pick up roles of responsibility at clubs and societies
Joining societies at your university is a great way to stay active and engage in the things you are passionate about. At the start of each year, there are usually multiple roles on the committee ready to be taken over by committed members.
Thinking of pursuing a career in marketing? Sign up to be the social media manager.
Do you have strong leadership skills and your ultimate goal is becoming a CEO one day? Run for president!
Feeling good with numbers and seeing yourself working in finance after you graduate? Become the treasurer.
Aside from strengthening your ties with fellow members and getting a say in the society’s activities, you will be able to develop in an area that’s important to you. You could mention your position during your first-ever interview to demonstrate your willingness to take initiative.
Become a Student Mentor/Representative
If clubs and societies aren’t your thing, but you’d still like to leave an impact on campus life by taking on a role of responsibility, you could consider becoming a Student Mentor or Representative. Those roles have different names ranging from uni to uni, but most schools offer them in one form or another.
A Student Representative (most commonly called a Rep) is a link between the student body and the teaching staff. Their task is to collect feedback from fellow students and pass it on to the professors, attend occasional meetings and panels, and generally pass on information between their coursemates and the teachers.
A Student Mentor (sometimes also called a Tutor) is a second or third-year student who is happy to share their experience with freshers. A group of first-year students will be assigned to you, and your task would be to answer their questions, make sure they never feel lost, and organise meetings to discuss uni-related topics (and honestly also just to hang out).
The first option is a great chance to gain some insight into your study programme, and the second is the perfect way to make new friends. Both guarantee a sense of fulfillment and an impressive title to include in your graduate CV.
Make sure your grades are top-notch
It is true that employers won’t be interested in the particular grades you received from specific subjects at the end of each year of university. But they definitely will be interested in hearing what the results of your university journey were - after all, you do spend several years of your life there, working towards something meaningful.
Graduating with honours is definitely something worth mentioning in your first CV. If you are passionate about academics, then make sure you attend every exam prepared, you do that extra reading, and submit your assignments on time. Help out your coursemates, make sure the professors remember you, and make the best of the resources being a university student grants you access to.
Another way to finish your university adventure with a bang is to make sure you have admirable achievements on your account. Many universities offer various awards - for outstanding performance, community service, special achievements, voluntary work, etc. You can enquire about them to your Personal Tutor, professors, or consult the university website.
Oftentimes, it is very possible that you can be granted an award for something you are already doing - combining school with work, volunteering at a local charity, performing in a sport discipline you like. Such recognition is definitely impressive in the eyes of your future employer, and can be a great asset while searching for your graduate job.
Get to know your Career Service Office
The Career Advisors at your university’s Career Service Office are definitely someone you need to make friends with. The Career Centre often organises workshops, lectures, and even entire courses about how to boost your employability. You can visit their website, or simply take a walk to their office - it is probably in a convenient spot at your campus.
It is very likely that you will receive memos about the upcoming events organised by the Career Service Office straight into your mailbox, so make sure to check your uni email regularly. It is worth it to attend the career fairs organised both inside and outside of your university - they will give you a great headstart in your future job search and will help you make the connections that one day may just come in handy.
Aside from organised events, remember that you can always contact one of the Career Advisors at your uni and arrange an individual meeting - or a series of meetings - during which they will provide you with insights on how you can go about improving your chances of getting employed straight out of university.
As you can see, there are many things you can do to increase your employability while you’re still studying. Of course, nobody expects you to tick all of them - God forbid!
It would border on a miracle to have a part-time job, be a member of a few societies, attend a language course, and be top of the class at the same time! Not to mention you are still a student, after all, and are meant to enjoy the privileges it grants you - that includes socialising, making friends, and going out.
We have listed multiple options to kick-start your career while you’re still at university so that you could pick one or two that speak to you the most. Make the best use of the opportunities while you can - you won’t be a student forever!
And remember; don’t stress out thinking about what’s next. It’s good to have one eye out on the future, but it doesn’t hurt to live in the moment once in a while.