Career Lessons

February 26, 2016, by Mike Walker

Three Career Lessons From My First Year

By Michael Walker, student blogger

If, like me, you’re in first year, your career might be the last thing on your mind. Amidst the early wake-ups for those dastardly 9am lectures and the late nights pulling moves at Ocean, it can seem that there just aren’t enough hours left in the day to start thinking about a career – never mind to start preparing for it. That can all wait until second year, surely?

Having survived my first semester at university and being well into my second, I’m learning that in the first year we have the both liberty of time and plenty of opportunities to get ahead in the careers process.

Here are a few career lessons I’ve picked up during my first year.

It’s never too early to start the ball rolling

Finding placements, CV writing, contacting employers – all of this feels like it should wait until far into second or even third year. That first graduate job seems a long time off, so why not just enjoy first year without the worry?

However, if you start the ball rolling now, you’ll save time and be more directed in your search in the future. If you don’t, when the pressure really starts to kick in during second year, you might wish you’d used at least a little of that free time more productively.

So, get yourself along to a careers talk – at the very least, you’ll be able to work out what you don’t want to do.

For example, last term I attended the Spotlight On: Advertising, Marketing and PR talk. Although I’m still no closer to deciding what I want to do after university, it was helpful to get first-hand information from people in the industry and see what employers are looking for in undergraduates. It was particularly good to hear that your career prospects aren’t confined by your choice of degree  especially as a Theology undergrad, often at the butt of other people’s jokes about a lack of prospects after finishing.

Hone your skills, or pick up a new one

Getting a first in that geography degree will look great, but you’ll really stand out from the crowd if you have a range of other skills to bring to the table too. Use first year to try something new. At the moment I’ve taken up learning German in my spare time – about 10 minutes a day – and not only is it an enjoyable challenge, but it’ll add a valuable skill to my repertoire in the long run.

At university, we really do have the leisure of time that we won’t have in the future. Why not use some of it to brush up on your Spanish or learn to play the piano? How about trying a barista lesson or learning to paint?

Learning a skill will make you more well-rounded, showing you’re capable of juggling more than just your course and social life, and it’ll also show a future employer that you have initiative and versatility.

Learn to say “no” and manage your time effectively

For me, the hardest thing in first year has been learning to say “no.” When you’ve got people left, right and centre asking you to take things on, go to this place, or do that thing for them, it can be hard to say no. If you’re like me, you won’t want to let people down.

If you can’t learn to manage your time effectively and say “no” in your first year, it will be so much harder in the future, with deadlines mounting up at work, career commitments and all the other things that adulthood heaps on you. If you’re not careful, you’ll burn out, and that won’t be nice for you or the people around you.

Learn to manage your time now, so that when the pressure of life after university finally arrives, you won’t be overwhelmed.

This is as much a sermon to myself as anyone else, because as I come into the final leg of my first year, I’m trying to implement this advice into my own university life. Trust me, it isn’t as hard as it sounds – and I still have no idea about the form my future career will take!

Are you yet to start thinking about your career? Our events are a great way to get a flavour for what might interest you. If you have some spare time, we also feature a host of volunteering and work experience opportunities online – a great way to enhance your CV, whether you’re in your first, second or even third year.  

Image Credit: Michal Jarmoluk

Posted in Student Bloggers