Look, don’t get us wrong, uni’s about more than just slogging it out for three-odd years to achieve a piece of paper that’ll hopefully secure you gainful employment. The people you meet, experiences you have and motions you roll through go beyond the scope of academic development – especially because (in most instances) it’s your first steps into the ~adult world~ that you’ve been craving to get amongst for years now.
BUT, at the end of the day, you’re there to kick-start your career. And this, good prospective students, is why you need to start mapping out your trajectory before enrolling anywhere. Having a rough idea of where you see yourself down the line means you’ll be able to hone in on what a uni needs to give to you, how you can pair that with external endeavours, what impact the things outside of uni will have on your future, and essentially enable you to live your most employable life.
So, what exactly should you keep in mind when selecting a uni/generating an outline for the immediate future? We turned to the sage wisdom of our very own Elise Stitt, the incredibly talented gatekeeper of PEDESTRIAN Jobs.
Are uni-based extracurriculars (y’know, debate club, etc) still viewed favourably by employers, or have they lost the weight they once had?
It does depend on the extracurricular you are doing. If you are studying law and you join the mooting society, this will work in your favour as it is a skill that is necessary for your career. If you’re involved in a social society which doesn’t add skills that are necessary for your career I wouldn’t include it on your resume. One exception to this is if you are involved in the organisation of the club, e.g. treasurer or president, as this requires soft skills which are transferrable to almost any industry, like organisation and communication skills.
As Elise points out, uni-based extracurriculars can beef up your CV if they’re relevant/prove you have valuable skills. Taking into account what a uni offers in terms of sports and societies ahead of time can help you plan out your overall direction.
Outside of uni, what other extracurricular activities should folks undertake to make them more employable come graduation time?
Competitions and volunteering are useful if they’re pertinent to your area of study. For example if you’re looking to move into radio, volunteering at your local radio station gives you the opportunity to gain some real world experience. Similarly, entering events like Tropfest or the BBFF Screenplay competition allows you to give things a go to hone your skills.
Yep, you should 110% be giving some thought to what you can get involved in outside of uni to further your career – and it doesn’t have to be directly related to it either. Getting involved in a group for your hobby, or lending your time to a charity, will go over very well with a prospective employer. A lot of unis can actually point you in the right direction on this front too.
How many weeks should someone spend in an internship scenario to help their odds of getting a job at graduation?
I don’t think there is a hard and fast time period for this. It depends on the internship and what you have learnt. If you are in an internship and you still feel you are learning and getting value out of it, it’s worth sticking around. If you feel like your internship isn’t providing you with a valuable experience any longer, there is nothing wrong with respectfully ending the professional relationship.
Additionally, a lot of unis focus on organising work experience for its students as a part of the respective course’s curriculum. Undertaking this during the semester means you can use your breaks for some much needed R&R OR to take on additional placements so you’re a smokin’ hot graduate.
What are your options if you’re strugglin’ to find a placement for work experience?
I don’t believe internships and placements are the be all and end all of experience. Asking your tutor, and searching university job boards are a good place to start if you want a placement, but you can use other experiences in your life, like a part-time job, to show off your skills and experience.
As touched on in the point before, if your uni ain’t helping you get a solid placement then, like, NEXT. Being at a smaller uni can help on this front – you develop stronger relationships with your tutors/lecturers (all of which will typically have a truckload of industry contacts) and they’ll often be more than happy to help you get your foot in the door.
How can you turn/spin your experience at a typical place a uni student would work (McDonald’s, coffee shop etc) into something that’ll help you get ahead?
Writing a compelling resume is difficult and often your university will have a careers centre that will help you format and sell yourself on paper. Many jobs will help you develop soft skills like communication, organisation, conflict resolution, multitasking and initiative. Spin these to show off the skills that aren’t taught at uni.
Elise has hit the nail right on the head. These skills are highly sought after by employers, and you can’t typically pick them up through study alone. If you need some help forming the correlation between these gigs and their relevance to future roles, then hit up your uni’s student support services.
Would studying your course O/S help boost your odds of landing a job?
It does give you an edge, and as someone who studied overseas – it’s super, bloody fun. Moving to another country means you have lost your support networks and need to figure stuff out on your own, on the fly which shows tenacity and initiative. Plus, having that extra life experience up your sleeve is never a bad idea, as future employers generally want to hire someone they enjoy being around.
Being able to tick both study and travel off in one hit is a HUGE advantage. You’re able to see some of the world without potentially delaying when you would enter the workforce. From where we’re sitting, selecting a uni that has a strong exchange program is a must.
Do you think taking a gap year/time off from your course for a holiday is something that wouldn’t be viewed favourably by a future employer? There’s a stigma amongst young people that it looks like you’ve slacked off when you’ve taken a break.
I don’t think it’s wasted time. Taking the time to figure out what you want to do is valuable so you’re not rushing into a decision – be that study or a job – that you hate. Additionally, you don’t want to get burnt out by going straight from school to university, and if you need to take a time out to work on yourself and your mental health that is completely your prerogative. If this is an issue with a prospective employer simply explain how you spent your time off and why that was valuable for your experience.
Getting to know yourself and your goals better before making a big decision, like going to uni, can only ever be a good thing. That being said, if you already know what you want there’s no need to second guess yourself.
Sure, there’s a lot to take into consideration – and we wouldn’t suggest trying to apply EVERYTHING that Stitt’s raised (‘cos that won’t end well) – but try your best, folks. Oh, and if you’re looking for an idea of a place that’ll tick off most of the above, then check out CQUni’s courses HERE.