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Student Blogs: Preparing for the graduate job market in your first year at university

September is surely a memorable month in a first year university student’s life, including Fresher’s Week, new friends, a new environment and new flatmates — probably! The initial weeks of calling a new city 'home' may be daunting to a few, exciting to many, but a whole new experience to all.

These early days typically mark the time when you explore the campus with your new friends and plan out the most exciting itinerary for yourself in the coming days... which actually seems redundant on a Sunday night prior to the commencement of your first week of immersing yourself into a world of academic theories, navigating yourself to lecture theatres, and a pre-sessional talk on how important every module is and why it’s going to be essential for you to make the most out of it.

First year doesn’t count, right?

Not until you realise that you want to fulfil your academic dream of spending a year abroad, or when you are struck by reality when your dream job asks for a predicted classification (an unofficial transcript in some cases), stunned by seeing the deadline to decide upon your upcoming modules, or you need to forgo a night out to familiarise yourself with the concept of insight days. Simply put: jog your memory back to the time when you were told to make the most of your first year.

Making the most of your first year means getting well-acquainted with your peers and creating a strong foundation by deciding how you want to capitalise on all the time (and money) you have invested in your university life!

Given the wide variety of university societies and events on offer, it is quite enticing to join a society that sounds creative and worth spending your time and a few pounds on. By all means, follow your instinct with enthusiasm. Additionally, do join another society which is relevant to your course. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book; networking and knowing the right people can undoubtedly give you a head start into the practical dimension of what you seek to pursue. Make sure you go for events organised by your department to get first-hand experience with recruiters whom you will — at some point — pitch your professional profile to and more importantly, your first year at university is the best time to find yourself a referee.

In other words, the brand ambassador of your goals.

You may be one of those students who opts for an exchange programme, where you can immerse yourself in European culture, lifestyle and grandeur for an extended period of time. For example, if you have decided to pursue a year in a beautiful city in the south of France, which also happens to be home to a sought-after university for Cultural Studies, you are much more likely to be given a welcoming offer letter if there is a 2:1 or above printed on your study portal, at the start of summer.

The joy of getting a well-paid job while at university can be as fruitful as all the time spent referencing your coursework, dedicating time to an official reading list and giving due efforts to the suggested list. This can help secure you an added advantage over other contemporaries aiming for one of the few positions in an industry, or company, that handpicks its candidates. Nearly all of the companies running an undergraduate placement scheme pride themselves on handpicking the best pool of candidates.

Frosty winters and limited positions on insight days share the same traits; hard to adapt to and harder to thrive in. You should remind yourself of the limited number of positions available on insight days, and the sizeable number of competitors, both in your classmates and throughout the country, who wish to include insight day experience on their CV — get your application in early to avoid disappointment.

Given the competitive nature of the graduate job market, and the pressure to make your tuition fees worthwhile, your Students' Union is another platform that can help you develop your profile by conducting workshops in your interest, give you work experience in order to create a competitive candidature, and provide emotional support and help you overcome your inhibitions, be they academic or non-academic.

Your first year can offer insight and understanding into yourself, and a process of creating your brand value. Give your modules some time, get acquainted with your peers, let your hair down when you see fit, and don’t forget to thank the people who gave you the chance to experience university life and culture.

Pooja is a penultimate year Communications major at the University of Birmingham, who enjoys reading and networking. She writers on various subjects ranging from lifestyle, student life and new age. You can view her LinkedIn profile here, or check out her blog.

Note: 'Student Blog' pieces highlight the student perspective on issues relating to ProtectED. Consequently, this article reflects the views of the author and not ProtectED.

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