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Find out how your university's careers service and advisers can help you explore work experience, graduate careers and further study options.

Careers services (or employability centres, as some are now called) provide expert, tailored advice to support you in finding rewarding and fulfilling work or further study when you graduate, and they are there for the career-minded and career clueless alike.

They offer a broad range of services, from CV and application clinics to access to alumni networks. Their role is to help you make the most of your time at university, build on your employability skills, get the job or course you want and embark on the voyage to a successful future. It is also increasingly common for them to offer an employability award that records and validates your extracurricular activities. This helps to give graduate recruiters a fuller picture of what you have to offer.

Careers advisers – friendly, knowledgeable and professional

Careers advisers are unsung heroes and experts of the graduate careers world. If you feel sick with fear about what you are going to do with the rest of your life or are desperately worried about not having sorted out an internship, careers advisers are the antidote. Here are some of the key areas in which they can advise and support you:

  • job hunting strategies, including your CV, applications, interview technique and performance in psychometric tests. This may also include your use of social media and your LinkedIn profile.
  • networking.
  • types of work that you might enjoy and be suited to, and the typical entry criteria. This could involve a strengths analysis.
  • smarter, more strategic job hunting. Focusing your job search. Making speculative applications where appropriate.
  • graduates’ accounts of their experiences of the recruitment process and the workplace.
  • company information. Careers services typically organise various employer events on campus that enable you to find out more about organisations that interest you and make a positive first impression.
  • work experience placements, including spring insight days or weeks and summer and graduate internships, and opportunities to gain work experience on campus.
  • postgraduate study.
  • working abroad.
  • understanding the UK job market if you are an international student.
  • the list goes on…

Ask them a question and they may well ask you a few more back to set you on your road to discovery. The careers adviser can encourage and inform you and help you see your options more clearly, but in the end, the job hunting process is about you and your choices. Your preferences, strengths and motivation are the key to your future career success, and the careers adviser will help you clarify what you want and how to get there.

Alumni, employers and events – making introductions

Careers services are your bridge to the world outside university. If you want to see into the future, alumni (past graduates) could be the answer. Many careers services keep in contact with alumni and keep a database of those who are happy to be contacted by current students. You may be able to meet with a graduate who is working in a career that interests you or set up a work shadowing opportunity. Information on what graduates from your degree have gone on to do may also be available through the Destination of Leavers of Higher Education surveys that are compiled by careers services every year.

Employers like to meet prospective students and one of the best ways to do this is through visiting campus to attend careers fairs and events arranged by the careers service. A range of events are set up throughout the academic year, from general career and work experience fairs, to sector-specific events (eg law, IT, engineering and finance) and discovery sessions where experts come in to talk about their profession.

For an insider view on a particular organisation, keep an eye out for employer events and presentations co-ordinated by the careers service. At these presentations an employer will tell you what they have to offer and what they expect you to know about them – you can pick up some good tips for your applications and interviews and meet with people from the organisation.

Your careers service is also your route into the local jobs market if you want to stay close to university during your summer vacation or remain in the region after you graduate. Careers services often have close relationships with local companies that employ graduates or are looking for part-time or temporary help – these employers don’t normally advertise online or in the mainstream graduate recruitment press. Drop into the careers service to find out more, sign up for regular job bulletins or beat a path to the ‘job shop’ door (if your careers service has one).

The careers service typically works closely with other student services such as the student union, and may also be directly involved with student societies as part of accrediting students’ extracurricular activities.

How an employability award can help your job hunt

Employability awards are structured to help you show recruiters the skills you’ve gained through taking part in extracurricular activities such as student societies. These awards usually validate your participation, so employers can be assured that you really were committed and made a contribution. They are also typically designed to help you identify the skills you developed through taking part, and to guide you through the process of coming up with examples of your skills drawn from your extracurricular activities.

As this is what you’ll need to do in your application forms for graduate schemes and jobs, an employability award is excellent preparation for job hunting. Employability awards help you translate your student life into the terms graduate recruiters are looking for.

Workshops, clinics and skills sessions – practical help

Every student wants someone to tell them how to get a job. Term-time, rain or shine, careers services hold regular workshops, drop-in sessions and clinics to tell you how. You can sign up or drop in (depending on what’s on offer) and you will get your opportunity for some personal attention or to be part of a session where you can ask your questions. Careers service sessions can include:

  • CV and application clinics
  • assessment centre workshops
  • aptitude test practice sessions (under authentic conditions)
  • presentation skills training
  • business skills workshops (for budding entrepreneurs)
  • Job hunting in a supportive environment – facilities and tools

From career planners and laser printer access to large print publications and information in a range of formats – the careers service is a haven for creative job or course hunting. In a supportive environment surrounded by focused information you’ll be in the right place to perfect your CV or applications, think about your skills and find the right employer or course for you.

Rely on the hindsight of previous graduates who wish they’d found the careers service sooner. Go in and have a good look around, sit down at a PC, and ask the careers service staff questions to get started.

Easy things to find out about your careers service

  • Resources available on your university’s careers service website.
  • Where it’s located and how to get there.
  • When it’s open – term time and vacation.
  • Whether there is a dedicated careers adviser for your school or subject area.
  • Times of any drop-in sessions, CV and application clinics, group exercise and aptitude practice tests.
  • Timetable of events and workshops arranged by the careers service.
  • What’s on offer for students in your year.
  • Whether it offers an employability award.

Whether you’re a fresher or a finalist, it’s never too soon or too late to pop along.

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