I graduated from the University of Manchester in 2010 being able to write that I had 2:1 degree in politics on my CV. I could write little else and my CV looked pretty cold and barren when I began applying for jobs in the summer. As a result of this lack of experience (and exacerbated by a global economic recession that has hit the young hardest) I found myself working a wide variety of temporary jobs for the best part of two years. Now this wasn’t in itself a bad thing; I certainly gained valuable insights into the world. But, there was no permanence in any of these jobs, and insecurity is worse than poverty, as Confucius supposedly said.
A couple of years of saving and the taking out of a loan allowed me to go back to university to do a master’s degree in 2012. This time around I decided I was going to try and make the most of the time available to me – I was in complete control of my hours and was going to use them well – a few years of 9am starts in jobs makes you appreciate the value of being largely in control of your own time as a student. I became a course representative (and to refute any cynics I will say that academics do genuinely want to know what their students think about the course) as I wanted to get involved in collective representation and did not subscribe to the notion of ‘students as consumers’.
A benefit of volunteering for this role was the experience it provided; meeting with senior staff and academics, collecting and representing student’s views and suggesting proposed changes to the course (several of which have been subsequently implemented). Experience such as this is now vital when applying for jobs because, as unfortunate as it is, a degree is now considered to be the bare minimum on an application form.
Along with becoming a postgraduate course representative, I helped commission articles for an online academic journal. I also helped set up a reading group that discussed books that were not part of the syllabus. This was much more than I took part in as an undergraduate. These activities were also directly related to my programme of study at postgraduate level.
Currently I am working on a one-year graduate internship programme at The University of Manchester Students’ Union, where my job is focusing on improving course representation. Although my extra-curricular activities as a student were not the sole reason for getting the job they almost certainly helped.
I did my extra-curricular activities because I believed in them; the utility it had in boosting my CV was completely incidental, so whether undergraduate or postgraduate, do get involved with as much as possible at university; banal platitudes aside, the time you have in Manchester is invaluable and there are a myriad of things available to do, whether it volunteering, joining a society, taking part in a campaign or something completely new and different. It costs nothing, and you’ll be a better person at the end of it.
If you would like to write for the Careers Service Blog, get in touch. We would love to hear your story and share it with students at the University of Manchester. Have a read of our blog post or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.