Even if you’re still in your first year, it’s worth dropping into your careers service to familiarise yourself with the services they offer. They aren’t just for people looking for a “corporate” style job – the careers centre will offer advice on postgraduate study, self-employment, working abroad and much more.
I found a three month summer job through the careers’ service, and later my first job after university (with a small IT company). Now that I’m freelancing, I wish I’d gone to their small business and self employment workshops, too.
Here are a few of the typical features of your careers service to take advantage of:
In person services
Information on different careers and companies
Your careers service is likely to have books, pamphlets and leaflets on popular career areas (such as accountancy, law, teaching, IT, finance) along with files full of information about different companies.
Investigating broad career categories is really useful when you’re early on in your university studies, as some careers, such as teaching or publishing, will expect you to have undertaken some work experience before you get started. Your university summer breaks (and, to a lesser extent, the Christmas and Easter breaks) are great opportunities for getting this experience.
When you’re in your third year and looking in more detail at specific job opportunities, the information held on specific companies is very useful. My careers service collated everything from newspaper clippings about the company to feedback from students who’d worked there (very useful if you want an honest opinion!)
Advice and support in choosing your career
If you’re not sure what you want to do after university, the folk at your careers service are there to help. Don’t be shy about making an appointment to chat through your ideas and options – that’s what they’re paid for! I always felt that I’d be “wasting someone’s time” because I wasn’t especially interested in big business or “milkround” style careers – but I’ve realised since that getting some advice could have been very helpful.
As well as one-on-one sessions, your careers service might provide group workshops on specific careers or aspects of job hunting. They can also help with writing CVs (resumes) and cover letters – very useful when it comes to applying for jobs.
Depending on what you’re studying at university and on the career you’re aiming to go into, you may need to take aptitude tests or selection tests when you apply for jobs. Big companies also employ personality profiling tests.
As with any sort of exam, practice really helps – and your university careers service will offer a number of these. Ask at their reception desk for details: usually, there’ll be tests which you can take away to do in your own time, and sessions on specific dates when you can sit practice tests at the careers centre.
You may not even need to visit your careers centre in order to access a lot of the services that they offer. Check out the website (you’ll probably need to use your university login to access most of it). You’ll typically find some of these features:
If you’re looking for a temporary job during the Christmas, Easter or summer break, the first place to search is your university’s careers service site. Employers looking for students for temporary work will often send their job adverts to universities, and they’re much more likely to be legit and well-paying than adverts on sites like Craigslist and Gumtree.
Employers with graduate-level jobs will also send their vacancies to careers services. Usually, you can search these online – and many careers services will offer opt-in lists of the latest jobs in specific areas. (Such as “Publishing and Journalism” or “IT and Technology”.) Even if you’re not currently job-hunting, it can be worth signing up to any of these lists that interest you, or having an occasional search for the opportunities available. It might give you some ideas for the future – or you may even find an amazing position that you want to apply for straight away.
You might also find personality quizzes online – where you can run through a series of questions that will help you to figure out what career might be right for you. This can be helpful if you’re at the stage of thinking about what you do want to do after university. Don’t take any suggestions you get as being set in stone – but don’t dismiss ideas that come up out-of-hand.
(One of the quizzes I did with my career service suggested “copywriter” for me – which is pretty much what I do now!)