So that’s it, semester one is almost over and many of you are getting ready to head home (or elsewhere) for the winter break. Whether you’re a first year student that’s just made it through your first ever semester at uni, or a seasoned postgrad that knows these winter breaks like the back of your hand, there can be so much going on at this time of year that your future career probably won’t be at the front of your mind. Which is fine… you’ve got your upcoming exams or dissertation to tackle while smiling politely through family dinners and social occasions. Until that dreaded question comes up: what are your plans after university? What do you want to do with your degree?
Cue awkward silence, followed by a muttered response about travelling the world, being snapped up by a major company in London or finally writing that best-selling book.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone in hating that moment – whether you know what you want to do with your future or not. I graduated over four years ago and still get irrationally annoyed whenever someone asks about my career plans. So I thought I’d share my top tips on dealing with this social anxiety and being that cool, calm and collected person with everything under control.
What to tell the family this Christmas
Friends and family are bound to ask about what you’ve been up to this semester and what you plan to do next. To handle this question like a pro, I have three tips:
- Don’t be scared to say that you don’t know what you want to do yet. Many people don’t – so many that we have a whole webpage dedicated to just that. There is no shame in spending some time to work out what you enjoy and deciding what might be right for you.
- Even if you’ve spent the semester enjoying yourself and making friends, fact is you WILL have developed your skills. It doesn’t matter how you acquired them – are you a better communicator now that you’ve worked with (or maybe even had a few clashes with) people from very different backgrounds to yourself? Have you learnt about time management the hard way, having left your work until the last minute? Don’t panic about what you’ve not done, but focus on what you have achieved. Use these skills as a starting point.
- Rejection is nothing to be ashamed of. Learning to deal with a set back and turn it into something positive is one of the best lessons you can learn. So don’t fret if you didn’t get that job you wanted; pick yourself up and keep going. If you need further inspiration, check out these celebs, all of whom were rejected before making it big.
Socialising, socialising, socialising
There are so many social events at this time of year, it can be exhausting. And don’t worry, I’m not going to say “any event is a networking opportunity”. You should enjoy yourself and switch off sometimes. But I will say this:
- Be honest about what you are thinking about for your future. You may find that friends and family have suggestions to help you out – maybe by putting you in touch with someone useful. No pressure.
- By all means, have fun, but be aware of what you’re sharing on social media. Are you tagged in any pictures on Facebook that an employer may not look favourably upon? Are there photos on your Instagram that you wouldn’t want a potential boss to see? Here are some tips on managing your digital footprint.
- If you’re exhausted from being sociable in real life, why not spend a bit of time on your professional profile online? Join LinkedIn if you haven’t done already, and put some time into creating a great profile. Get started here.
Don’t freak out about being “last minute”
Got friends that have already secured an internship for the summer, or landed that grad scheme? That competitive panic can creep in….but it’s all part of the plan, right? Remember that:
- Yes, many of the graduate schemes with big companies close in October/November. But these schemes only account for a small proportion of the UK job market. There will be graduate level jobs advertised all year round – especially in the education sector, media, arts, charities and smaller companies. Look at employers that you might not know much about. There is plenty of time to find the right opportunity for you.
- There are still summer internships out there – just search on CareersLink for those still advertising. Alternatively, our Summer Experiences Internships programme, in which second year undergrads take an internship either within the Uni or a not-for-profit organisation, is not even open for summer 2017 yet. So nothing to worry about yet, is there?
Exams & Dissertations
Feeling stressed about having to do some work and revision over the winter break? Try to keep on top of things while you’re away from uni to prevent too much stress when you’re back. Here are a couple of things to help:
- Exam support workshops in AGLC every day between Monday 9 and Friday 20 January. Check out what we’re offering here.
- While you’re not on campus, remember that the University provides a wealth of online resources to help with things from assignments, dissertations, presentations, or, well, anything really! Search for what you’re after here. I guarantee there will be something to help.
So that’s it for my tips for being in control over your winter break. Of course I have other tips, like don’t eat a full packet of mince pies in one go (speaking from experience, you won’t feel great afterwards). Don’t spend all of your money on overpriced mulled wines (ditto). But above anything else, have a great break and we’ll see you in the New Year!