Recently I posted about the fact that some graduates are finding themselves either in further study or jobs that wouldn’t normally been considered as ‘graduate’ jobs.  The worry I’ve got is that some students are missing out, to be honest.

Some students perhaps feel like they don’t have the practical, professional experience that they need or even that their degree is undervalued by prospective employers so much so that they feel that the only way forward is to either take a job that doesn’t require what they’ve achieved at university… or simply to study more to actually add some value to their CV.

Do employers set too higher standards?  Are degrees ‘worthless’… or do universities not prepare you well enough?  Whatever the reason, it seems to have an impact on what students do – so much so that nearly 14% of students find themselves in the ‘Retail, Catering, Waiting and Bar Staff’ working category – perhaps not what they were expecting from their degree.  13% of them don’t even go down the job route at all and just immediately go into further study and go down the ‘study for improvement’ route that many probably thought was finally done with when you donned the mortarboard and down in the first place…

Not what you were expecting, eh?

Well, chin up.  There are some big things that students can do to enhance that CV so that perhaps some of the things you weren’t counting on doing to get yourself started might not need to happen.  Of course, I will point out that you’re entirely at your own disposition as to what you do, but if you’re concerned about your prospects when you leave uni then you might want to take a read…

Here’s what I’ve done that has helped my CV along.

I’ve been learning a foreign language

I’ve always been a fierce proponent of learning modern foreign languages to some level, yet I’ve always felt as though the way we’ve got issues in the way we teach them.  This might seem a bit of an irony then, as I trumpet my support for it… However, I can’t stress their value enough.  I could go on about the highly globalised economies that we are increasingly seeing in this day and age, but I’m sure you’ve had that drilled into you ever since you started learning them at school…!
Still, even a language at university doesn’t need to involve a pure study of a given language – you may have the option to study a module of a particular language each year, all of which will help develop language skills (whatever the level you choose to work at…)

I’ve been on Erasmus

Speaking of learning a language, I found a very practical application for it.  My love for learning French eventually took me on Erasmus for a year, studying in Grenoble as part of an exchange programme.  The experience you get of immersing yourself in an entirely new culture are so important that I really couldn’t ever give it enough praise. Having practical experience in a language and culture goes exceptionally high on my list, whether you choose to study or find a work placement.

I chose a study placement for my Erasmus experience and I think it certainly helped me along greatly with some of the things I was learning about in my undergraduate studies in Lincoln… All in French made it a definite challenge too.

Whilst people sometimes have a perception of Erasmus of ‘well, it’s all about partying and you never get any work done’ I think they have to understand that everyone will get something different out of it.  If you can turn round and say to someone ‘yes, I did this/that’ it will be greatly appreciated and worth a great deal to a prospective boss.

I have some professional work experience

Regardless of the skills that you learn in studying for a degree, prospective employers are always keen to see how these translate to the real world of working. Of course, the easiest way to get in on this is to find yourself a job, perhaps one over the summer.

If you’ve got a part-time job doing something then this is a good start – you’ve perhaps got customer service experience and know how to interact with people. However, being able to apply what you’ve been studying about in university is really going to impress – employers are going to consider graduate applications based on degrees and so any practical experience gained whilst studying is definitely going to open a few eyes.

Companies all over the place do look for students to take on for a summer – if you get a full-time position you’ll be paid reasonably and it’ll prove to be a valuable tool for the future.  It doesn’t matter so much what you do – just so long as you find a respectable company doing something you enjoy.  OK, so you might get long hours… but it’s not a bad way to spend your summer!

I have outside interests and have done some volunteering

The great thing about playing American Football for me has been around the teamwork side of things – it’s a great addition to my CV.  Indeed, any interest or sport that you regularly get involved with shows a real desire to commit to something and stick at in the long run.  It also shows to an employer that you have some humanity and life outside of work – perhaps a desirable quality to have in the scheme of things.

Volunteering also makes my list as something a graduate should have – for me I have helped with sports projects in schools and taken part in sports officiating over the last two years.  I think if you have something you love, you could well be excited enough to pass that knowledge and learning on to someone else.

For me, I’ve got a little bit of all of these on my CV, all ready to help me when I graduate.  I think if everyone had at least two of these on there, it’s a great start.




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A vagabond traveler whose first love is the written word, I advocate for continuous learning, cycling, and the joy only a beloved pet can bring. There is plenty else I am passionate about, but those three should do it, for now.