Opportunities at Uni to Improve Employability

When considering university as an option, most people will think through the reasons for going. These will include getting a qualification, training in a particular area like medicine, dentistry or engineering, the social life, the chance to move away from home or to develop your sporting achievements. Opportunities at uni to improve employability probably aren’t on the list – even if you are going to university as a springboard into a career area. But when you go to university, there are a really wide range of opportunities at uni to improve employability. This blog is aimed at showcasing what some of these are, with the intention of encouraging you to try some of these out!

So why would it be useful to give this some thought now? Especially as you are likely to be at university for at least 3 years – surely this is something that you can ‘pick up’ towards the end of your last year at university? Well, there are a few reasons to start early, but before we mention these, it may help to explain what employability is and isn’t. It isn’t just about being able to write a CV or getting you to have a good LinkedIn profile – even if these outcomes will demonstrate your employability. A well known definition of employability is:

‘a set of achievements – skills, understandings and personal attributes – that makes graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy’ (https://www.futurelearn.com/info/courses/career-success/0/steps/21285)

As you can see, employability is a very personalised and unique outcome and process for each individual, that benefits the student and the wider community. By getting this right, it can give you a sense of direction for how your future could develop, based on your skills and achievements. Employability isn’t something that can just be ‘turned on’ towards the end of your degree, to help you get that graduate scheme place or PhD stipend. Talk to any careers adviser in a university, and they will wax lyrical about the students who always seem busy doing things, and the extra value this gives the students when applying for their next steps. Whether its part time work, sport, internships, work experience or whatever else, getting involved in student life and making the most of it will improve your employability. For those of you studying Sociology A level, you’ll have come across the concept of social capital. This is a real life example of social capital in action!

So, having said all this, here are some examples of activities and opportunities at uni to improve employability.

Get involved in SU clubs and societies. Could you be the treasurer, social secretary or fundraiser? This will mean alongside being involved, you will be developing some skills, e.g. planning, communication, negotiation etc.

The Student Union will have SU officer roles, that can be part time or full time, covering a range of areas. Depending on how big the SU is, there could be a range of opportunities to get involved. Want to know more? https://www.ucas.com/undergraduate/student-life/getting-student-support/students-unions

Become a course rep. Universities are very keen to hear the ‘student voice’. Partly so that they hear about anything that is starting to become an issue, so they can address it and also because it helps them develop the course to cover areas that students are interested in.

Play sport – this will give you lots of skill development and not just the sporting ones!

Do some volunteering – have you got a particular issue that motivates you? Are you really into conservation or refugee rights? Or perhaps something a bit more niche like canals and waterways? In which case, have you come across the https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/?

Marketing/outreach ambassador – the university marketing or outreach department will have opportunities for you to work at open days and school or college visits. They will pay you for talking about your studies and what the university is like!

Increasingly, some university careers services are using students in ambassador roles too, ranging from helping at careers fairs, to write blogs or helping out in other ways.

Other university jobs – there may be lab technician roles, demonstrators, library assistant or instructor positions, farm or yard roles.

If there is a placement as part of your course, this will be a great opportunity too! And if there isn’t, you could get an internship or range of paid roles during the summer holidays.

Hopefully some of these ideas will strike a cord with you and be worth considering. When you visit universities on their open days, why not ask about any of these? And if the careers service are there, do ask them about opportunities at uni to improve employability – you may take them by surprise with a question like this!

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