Although it’s good to be open-minded and try new things, it’s also worth being smart about the clubs and societies you join. It’s good to think about how you might be able to make a valuable contribution to them, either by becoming one of the organisers or contributing your genius ideas to the group.
What we’re trying to say is that it’s better not to spread yourself too thin, but to show consistency and commitment in the activities you do engage in. This will give you something tangible to discuss with employers about yourselves when the time comes to start looking for a graduate job.
However, societies and clubs aren’t the only way enhance your employability. We’ve put together the top 4 things you can do to break the irritating paradox that is needing experience to actually
4 Helpful Ways to Improve Your Employability at Uni
This is one of the simplest ways to get relevant industry experience without facing competition from loads of other applicants. You can apply for a range of interesting voluntary positions with charities or not-for-profit organisations, many of which you can find out about through your university job shop. Alternatively, you can keep a lookout on volunteering websites like
do-It.org, or hunt for opportunities at employer fairs organised by your careers service.
2. Take on responsibilities as a member of the students’ union
Running to become a student representative at your students’ union or on your course is a great way to develop your leadership skills and show employers that you have initiative. You could also become a student ambassador for your uni, giving guides and presentations to prospective students around your campus.
3. Be enterprising, and engage in social media smartly
Why not start a blog (or video blog) about your interests? If you can do this and stick to it (although it might not always be easy) it’ll show employers your entrepreneurial streak. Maybe you have a business idea which you would like to experiment with? Try it! And don’t forget to promote it on various social media channels. Employers will look at this as an example of your ability to take initiative and be proactive.
Canadian Psychology Graduate Lilly Singh, aka ‘Superwoman’ (
@IISuperwomanII), is the perfect example of someone who has used social media primarily to have fun but also to engage in all the opportunities that it can provide. Based in Canada, she creates satirical vlogs about everyday life, common experiences, and her Punjabi culture. With most of her videos amassing over a couple million views, she uses the public exposure she has created for herself to promote her own merchandise, and her music. She also cross-promotes all of her work on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Here’s her vlog on the different types of teacher you find in school:
4. And last but not at all least (drum roll please)... take part in employability schemes!
Over 80 universities have started putting together programmes with their careers department to award students for dynamically developing their employability and figuring out what to do career-wise. Universities that have started this include
Goldsmiths University, Loughborough University, The University of Kent, The University of York, and the University of Warwick. Joining schemes like these will give you a framework in which to do the above activities and give you the motivation you need to get your employability act together. These schemes also require you to document your journey in a self-reflective report that encourages you to keep track of your achievements and learn how to explain them clearly in an interview scenario.
So How do Employability Schemes Work?
To find out more we spoke to two employability scheme organisers: Clare Lewis at Goldsmiths University, and Tracy Salsbury at Loughborough University...
When was your university employability scheme launched, and what prompted you to start it?
“Launched in 2009, it was as a response to student feedback that indicated students wanted more access to work experience and help to develop skills that would enable them to find a job after graduation. This dovetailed with information from an industry survey targeting graduate employers, which indicated that two of the top three things they look for when recruiting are employability skills and relevant work experience.” –
Clare Lewis, Gold Award, Goldsmiths University
“Established 2008, it was created to give students formal University recognition of their co-curricular and extra-curricular activities – to help prepare them for the recruitment process, enable them to articulate examples of their skills and experiences, raise their self-awareness and support career planning.” –
Tracy Salsbury, Employability Development Team, Loughborough University
How does the scheme work, and how do you promote the employability award to students at your university?
“The scheme is made up of 3 aspects: writing a personal development record, attending 4 workshops on various employability topics, and completing at least 30 hours work experience. We promote it at the Freshers’ Fair and at departmental induction/welcome talks, and we also have stalls at some careers service events that enable us to talk to prospective students face to face.” –
“Students take part in a range of activities from paid employment to unpaid work experience, voluntary roles and other extra-curricular activities such as language courses. They reflect and report on each activity, identifying the skills they have developed through each, and receive feedback for their submissions. Later on the student is required to produce a high quality, fit-for-purpose CV and make an Award application, answering competency based questions similar to those used in graduate recruitment. The Award has been promoted to students at open days, careers events and in department talks, through advice appointments and skills workshops, and through the Students’ Union and the Enterprise Office.” –
How many of your students have successfully achieved an employability award with the scheme and then progressed on to work or further study?
“We introduced connecting on LinkedIn as a means of keeping in touch with students after completing the Gold Award approximately 3 years ago – from around 70 contacts, 50 list a current role at places like the BBC, NHS and International Relief Foundation.” –
“Hundreds of students have improved their employability by completing the Loughborough Award since its inception.” –
What Do Students Have to Say About Employability Schemes?
“The Gold Award helped me to analyse my career development over the year and my confidence has grown exponentially because of it [...] This summer I am working for the National Citizen Service as a Senior Mentor. The Gold Award has helped me say yes to the opportunity and I feel ready for anything life throws at me!” –
Robyn Marsh (BA English, Goldsmiths University)
"I would say all the extra-curricular activities I have included in the Award have enabled me to develop the key skills Skanska wanted the person to have for this sort of role, and I was able to talk about these positively in the interview.” –
Oliver Beech (BA Geography, Loughborough University)
As many of you will be going to uni to develop your career prospects, it’s super beneficial to think carefully about how you can use all your curricular and extracurricular experiences to your advantage. The moral of the story is...
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