Our guides for employers and candidates on how to navigate the entry-level job market.

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How to Increase Your Employability Whilst Still At University

Charlotte Warrington

When you start university, graduation seems far off, but the three or four years come around very quickly. There are important steps you can take starting in your first term at university all the way until you graduate to increase your employability.

Whilst having a good degree is still important to employers, these days they are looking for other things that will make you stand out as a top candidate. Here are our top tips for making the most of the activities you have been participating in outside of your degree course, helping you stand out from the crowd.

Pick up as many new skills as you can

Take part in extracurricular activities whilst you’re still at university. You’ll pick up transferrable skills which will come in useful when you start applying for jobs. You’ll also find out what your strengths and weaknesses are, and which areas you’d like to improve!

This could be activities such as being a member of a sports team, taking part in an entrepreneurship scheme or joining a society such as debating, which demonstrates communication and speaking skills. If you enjoy writing, and hope to pursue a career in journalism, for example, start contributing to your university’s newspaper – or even try starting your own blog. You may realise that actually you really don’t enjoy writing, and that’s the whole point of the exercise. It’s all a process of trial and error and there’s no better time to discover what you really do or don’t enjoy doing than at university.

Do an online course

A great (and easy) way of picking up skills that will be useful in the workplace is by taking part in online courses such as how to use Excel or even how to code. This will help you to gain extra skills that are seen as attractive to potential employers.

Learn a language

Another way to stand out to prospective employers is by learning another language. Most language departments and universities offer evening classes or it may even be possible for you to take an additional module. In this globalised world, employers are increasingly looking for employees that have strong language skills, so speaking another language can help to distinguish you from other candidates when you apply for a job.

Get some work experience

All forms of work experience are valuable to employers as it shows you are motivated and committed, and that you have had insight into how the workplace works. No experience is bad and having some experience is exponentially better than having none at all! There are a variety of paid and unpaid options available that your university careers advisor can help you with – the earlier you start looking the more likely you are to find something! Ask your friends and family if anyone would be willing to let you shadow at their place of work too. Even a few days insight into what a job in advertising or consultancy or research involves is hugely valuable.

If your university course offers a placement module, it’s worth investigating this further as it allows you to gain first hand experience of the workplace for a longer period of time. This really allows you to get experience in a particular role, all with support and advice from your university. For some degrees, particularly Modern Languages degrees, it is compulsory to take a year abroad. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to gain some work experience so make sure you start planning well in advance so that you get to do something that you’re really interested in and excited to start.

Be proactive in making contacts

Make contact with your tutors, lecturers and guest speakers, as they can help to introduce you to other people and will be able to give advice and support. If you take part in work experience or an internship, be sure to speak to other employees and make a network of contacts who can help to advise you with any future job applications. After you have graduated, connections can still be made, perhaps with other alumni from your university, through alumni Facebook pages or alumni events. Create a LinkedIn account and keep it updated as it is a great platform to make contacts.

The key to increasing your employability after graduation is to start early and to keep exploring your options. Get involved in as many activities as you can to pick up new skills and start determining which direction you’d like to take your career path in after leaving university. Work experience during your long university holidays or as part of your degree course is a fantastic way of testing out different sectors or areas of work before you graduate. Stay motivated and remember that there are so many graduate opportunities out there – your dream job is just around the corner.