Uni is full on. For many it is the first experience of living alone, of taking charge of ordering not only our own study, but every aspect of our own life. The scope and scale of decisions made during our uni years can feel huge, and it is true that they can have a long lasting effect on our post-uni life.
It can be easy to be overwhelmed by this reality. It can be tempting to leave what happens after graduation in the hands of fate, to focus solely on the immediate challenges and opportunities of student life. But there are simple steps you can take - whilst still embracing the joy of university study - that can make sure you are well set for the next transition into working life.
Try these ideas to get a head start on your future happiness.
Make Your Uni Years Count
University is a time of unparalleled personal, social and academic growth for most people. Make the most of it - seize the opportunities you have to experience new things, learn beyond your subject, get to know yourself and what energises you. Your time will be demanded by dozens of competing demands - from study, to clubs, to social activities and employment. You will find the years whizz by in a heartbeat, so make them count.
Have an Online Footprint (That You're Proud of!)
Until now you may not have worried about anyone other than a curious family member looking over your online history. But in a few short years, it will be prospective employers searching your online footprint. Welcome to the new world. Start thinking now about what you're sharing online, and even better, actively create an appealing and professional online footprint through a blog and a presence on professional social networking sites. You don't have to hide your personality from your online world - but a perfunctory filter is definitely helpful.
Build a Network
You might think that at uni you make friends - you don't 'network'. And it's true, networking gets a bad rap - but a network is simply a circle of people; friends, colleagues, contacts and acquaintances. Start building a network now, using the opportunities presented to you to meet people face to face, and connect online. You never know how you might help each other out in future years.
Draw on The Resources Available to You
There are a lot of demands made on uni students, but you are also able to access a fairly unique range of resources and support. Use them. Visit your careers service, join the mentoring program, attend out of subject lectures and events. Go along to the milk round even if you don't think you're interested, and sign up for scholarships, internships and volunteer work.
Prioritize Transferable Skills and Experiences
Reach out for new experiences and gather armfuls of new skills. They will all help, somehow in future life. Even the experience of learning something new helps you understand your own preferences and develop your own skills in personal development.
Within this however, think about the transferable skills you are gaining. If you take a position of responsibility in a club, you gain leadership, communication and negotiation experience. If you arrange a college social, you're expanding your network and learning to liaise with a varied set of stakeholders. There are great transferable skills in most every opportunity.
From a longer term perspective, the key to using your uni years well for most people is to keep your mind open about where your future will take you. Even if you are in a vocational course, you might have certain choices and options - and the reality is that we very rarely follow the exact course we think we will when we are eighteen. Simply make sure your choices keep open as many doors as possible at this stage.
Understand Your USP
As your university years progress, you will start to think more actively about securing a first full time position. The best starting place in this is perhaps to understand yourself really well, and figure out how you find, develop and communicate your own unique selling point to prospective employers. Work out what you do well (it is often something you enjoy, as we tend to practice and perfect these skills more), and how it can help you find your dream job.
Create Your Personal Marketing Campaign
Before actually applying for internships or graduate positions, you will need to develop your own personal marketing campaign. Write a compelling CV, and cover letter. Let your network know what you're looking for, and ask for their help and support. Research companies you're interested in, and start to approach them - both with speculative applications and by connecting with the hiring managers on a personal level. Get comfortable with selling yourself - it can feel intimidating at first, but it really is a learned skill.
Reflect, Grow and Develop Through Rejection
Whatever happens, you will experience some rejection through this process of finding your first job out of university. Take some time to think about it when it happens. What, if anything, can you do differently? What did you learn? And then, what's next? Reflect, but then get back out there and use every rejection as an opportunity for personal growth.
Pay it Forward
And finally, once you have your position secured - and you will get there - pay it forward. Offer to be a mentor to students who are about to embark on the same path as you, give information to your university career service, connect with current students and give others a foot up where you can.
Much of your time at university will certainly be spent enjoying the moment - and this should certainly be the case to make sure you wring the most from your short years there. But a few simple actions in addition, such as those in this list, can add not only to your experience whilst a student, but also to your chances of securing great employment after graduation. Give them a go, and let us know how you get on!