Written by Amanda Conway, Careers Consultant at The Careers Service
As semester two lectures begin again, the atmosphere fills with the good intentions of final year students, eager to focus on their degree and get the result they have worked hard for. For many students who may be unsure of their next step after graduation, this comes with the cost of not thinking about life after university, job hunting or what might come next. The dilemma of what to prioritise and how to spend the final months of university life can weigh heavy.
So, is it okay to put off thinking about your future until after university ends? Is it okay to focus on your finals, or can leaving career planning until later leave you panicking?
My first and foremost message is, yes, it is okay! Please do not put pressure on yourself to do everything and decide your entire life now. We often make our best career decisions when we better understand what we are about – what our strengths are, our interests and what’s important to us – and when we know more about the opportunities that are out there. This can take time. Many graduates find that they explore a few job areas before they find their fit, with the time they spend after graduation working in different roles often being where they learn most about themselves.
So, is it worth thinking differently about how to spend the last months at university? Could making time for some of the below actions now help you to “leave it” whilst still setting yourself up for your future?
- Get the insider information on what’s possible and where you might fit
Hearing from former students about what they are doing now, what they enjoy and what a job is really like can be a very helpful. Scrolling through job adverts and company websites can be vague, misleading and often confusing. You can find yourself going around in circles trying to work out which careers are best for you.
When you have a chance to hear from someone who can share what a job is really like on the inside and what has helped them with decisions, we recommend taking it. Maybe just choose a couple of job areas that interest you, and either log on to a session (look out for the Meet the Professionals sessions advertised on CareerConnect this semester) or watch recordings of previous sessions on our YouTube channel. You could uncover some areas that fit with your interests and skillset and help you narrow down your focus. Watch one or two as a starting point?Time needed 60-120 mins
2. Don’t miss out on the wisdom around you
We are often our own worst critics and often don’t recognise where our strengths lie and what we are good at. But those around us often do. Our lecturers, academic adviser and our fellow students will all be a great source of feedback for us. Asking them “what do you think I am good at?” before you go your separate ways in June could be an eye opener and even a confidence boost. Time needed 5 – 20 mins
Similarly, there are online tools that can help us unpick our abilities and our thoughts. Whilst you are still at Manchester, why not try out a couple that you have access to? Knowing a little more about ourselves can help us recognise when a good opportunity comes our way. Time needed 30-60 mins
Profiling for Success – register with your university email address for free access
Strengths Profiling – try the introductory version for free
3. Uncover opportunities that make a difference for graduates
If you want a graduate job that will build your experience, provide responsibility and the opportunity to make an impact, it can be hard to know where to look. Endlessly scrolling on Indeed or other national job portals can be disheartening when you are not sure what to look for or what is relevant. Why not focus closer to home? – Are you set up to get weekly job emails from our University portal CareerConnect? Employers using this site are looking to hire Manchester graduates and it is used year-round. You may not have heard of Manchester Graduate Talent (MGT) too? This scheme provides paid one-year graduate jobs exclusively to University of Manchester graduates and is a popular way for our graduates to gain responsibility and really grow their CVs for the future. If you do nothing else, setting yourself up to receive job updates from these sites now will ensure you hear about graduate roles. Time needed 15 minutes
4. Are you getting in your own way? – is it time to take a chance on something
Why not challenge yourself to click on just one job vacancy and explore a little further. Go on, just one? What does that role involve and is there anything about it that interests you? Job titles can sometimes be misleading or the role behind them unclear, so slow down and take a closer look. This guide to job titles could help. Graduate jobs are advertised all year-round, you have not missed everything. What’s more, we often doubt ourselves or underplay our abilities. Take a closer look at what is asked, you probably won’t have the direct experience already, but can you show you have the relevant skills? Is it worth a try? Time needed 20 mins – 120 mins
5. Don’t lose access to the tools you will need
Applying for jobs is not straightforward, and understanding what employers are really looking for can mean tapping into the help available around you so that you can make a positive impression. As a student and graduate at Manchester you can use our free CV checker tool, video interview practice site and access over 40 practice online employer tests for free through Graduates First. If nothing else, ensure you have an account with all of these tools, and practice each stage before you complete the real thing. Every year thousands of our students use these tools to adapt their approach and make that positive impression. Unfortunately, too many graduates don’t realise they are here. Time needed 20 mins
Feel you have time for more?
For more information about what else you can do this semester, we have a great summary blog of what’s on for final years this semester and some of the other help and support that you have access to.
All the best for the next few months.
We’re here when you need us!