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Top ways to boost your job prospects while you’re at university

Preparing yourself for the world of work while you’re at uni needn’t be dull and laborious - much of it is simply about meeting new people and broadening your horizons

Going to uni is about throwing yourself into a subject you love and making friends for life, but it’s also to set you up for the working world (it’s not that scary, promise!).

More than anything, it gives you the opportunity to see what’s out there and decide what you want to do next - and you really don’t need to go to careers fairs every week to do this.


Join clubs and societies

Each university typically has hundreds of clubs and societies that students can join. These include everything from your regular sports clubs, to more off-the-wall alternatives

They’re great for finding like-minded people to yourself, filling up your free time with hobbies and interests, experiencing new things and learning new skills.

It’ll also give you something extra to talk about in your CV and job interviews, especially if you take more of an active role in the society. Believe it or not, looking after the budget in your archery club could be the clincher that seals the deal.

In fact, 17% of employed people in our recent graduate survey said that extra-curricular activities they took part in directly helped them get a job.


Use your university’s careers service

Your university’s careers guidance service can be invaluable to helping you both set your sights on a particular industry or even specific job - and give you a better idea of what you need to do to get there.

Don’t feel like you need to have a solid idea of what you want to do for a job before getting in touch with the careers service - that’s what it’s there for. You can also use your uni’s careers service to refine and boost your CV.

Not everyone at uni uses the careers service, but 7% of employed grads in our recent survey said that it directly helped them get a job - so don’t underestimate it!


Go to careers fairs

Look out for careers fairs being hosted at your university. Some are more general and wide-ranging (useful if you haven’t made up your mind yet), while others are more specialist (especially handy for those who already know what they’re working towards).

Careers fairs are good for finding out more about different industries, building contacts, and hearing about work experience opportunities.

There are a few different approaches you can take when you pop along to a careers fair. For example, you may like to make a list of companies you’d like to talk to and make it your mission to gather contact details for all of them. Alternatively, you may want to think of it more like “window shopping” - that is, picking up brochures and leaflets from a range of companies for further research.


Write a CV

Even if you’re not planning on applying for a job anytime soon, it’s never a bad idea to write or update your CV.

For starters, it means that you’ll have something to send if you only notice a job you want an hour before the deadline… plus, it’s good to keep track of all your accomplishments as you reach them, rather than forcing future you to rely on memory alone.

You’ll likely want to tweak your CV depending on what you’re applying for (especially if you’re applying for a range of roles), but we’d recommend having something to work with ahead of time. So get writing! While you’re at it, it’s also worth setting up a LinkedIn profile. You can essentially replicate your CV and build connections online, and you may also be directly approached by employers and recruiters for opportunities.

When you apply for a job, you might be asked to write a cover letter - this is where you explain you're the right candidate for that specific role, based on your experience and skills. Before you put pen to paper, consult our article on how to write a cover letter.


Consider getting a part-time job

If you can find a part-time job that fits in with your schedule and doesn’t distract you too much from your studies, it could be worth doing. As well as giving you a little extra money to play with, it’ll quickly build up your list of skills and experiences.

Working in a bar, for example, gives you experience in a customer-facing role and shows that you can deal with sometimes-stressful situations.

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Find relevant work experience

If you’re pretty firm on what you want to do for a job after uni, one of the best things you can do to hit the ground running is find work experience in that field.

Indeed, 34% of the employed graduates we recently spoke to said that the work experience/ internship/ placement they completed outside of their course directly helped them get a job.

You shouldn’t need to worry too much about this encroaching on your course requirements - work experience is generally organised for outside of term time.

You can often find work experience opportunities online - but, again, careers fairs and your university’s careers service can be goldmines. You’ll want to milk your work experience for all its worth. Even if you discover that you don’t want to work for that company full-time once you graduate, you can still develop valuable skills - and you’ll want to be able to count on glowing references. Check out our checklist of 10 ways to get the most out of work experience.


Learn how to prepare for job interviews

So you’ve sent in your application for work experience (or full-time job) and you’ve been invited for an interview...

First of all - congratulations! If you’ve been invited for an interview, it means the employer thinks that you have the skills and attributes needed for the job.

But the work isn’t over if you want to make sure you shine in the interview and seal the deal.

There are quite a lot of factors at play when it comes to getting ready for an interview, so we won’t go into all the detail here. Instead, head straight to our full article on how to prepare for a job interview.


'I feel underprepared for the world of work - help!'

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and unready for the working world, first take comfort in the knowledge that you’re not alone. Most of us have been in the same boat - and some people who’ve been working for several years even feel the same!

Try to remember that you have a lot to offer. Building up your confidence that there are several opportunities out there for you that you can thrive in is sometimes just about taking the time to reflect on your skills and experience.

And even if you’re not a member of any society at university and you haven’t been to hundreds of careers fairs, there are still options open to you.

To help you figure out how to sell yourself, take a look at What do employers look for in graduates?

No clue what you want to do in the future? Check out these popular careers and jobs, including the route to these, plus these unexpected sources of career inspiration.

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