As the title of this blog post suggests, the New Year brings with it whole new challenges. For some it’s losing weight, getting fit, or learning a new language. For many students in their last year of university, it’s finding the time to secure a career (or even simply work experience) whilst still focussing on completing their work.
It’s with this in mind that Southampton Solent University set up their New Year, New Challenges event – an entire week dedicated to helping students combat the stresses of leaving uni and finding a job.
With talks from industry leaders, workshops with career officers and Q&A sessions with former alumni, the week is a fantastic opportunity for students across all years (not just those in their final year) to hone their networking skills and gain valuable insights into the fast paced job market.
Much like last year, I was once again invited back to be a part of the alumni Q&A session alongside a smorgasbord of other graduates from years gone by, made up of Account Managers, Junior Planners and Marketing Executives; each with our own unique experiences and stories to tell.
There were seven of us in total, having all forged our own path in the industry using the skills we were taught on the Advertising course at Solent. We were also joined by honorary guest Marc Ortmans (who graduated before Solent was even a uni), founder and CEO of Ideaspace Global.
After a brief introductory lunch and a quick (but much needed) catch up with old lecturers, it was time for the question and answer session to begin.
Presenting to a fresh faced audience of around 25 students, we each introduced ourselves, explained our current job title and gave some background on how we came to be in that particular role.
The students themselves were attentive, and seemed genuinely interested in discovering as much as possible. The questions they posed are presented below, alongside a general overview of the answers that were given:
A: Research the workplace and the related industry as much as possible beforehand. Utilise social media to follow other team members and learn relative interests and insights. Come loaded with questions about the job role. Show just how interested, and interesting, you are.
Be professional but show your personality; you will be judged from the moment you walk in to the office, so make sure you make a positive first impression. Practice as much as possible, be it with friends or by attending actual interviews.
It never hurts to send a follow up email thanking them for their time afterwards either. It’s little touches like that that make applicants stand out.
A: Simply put, very. Make sure you tailor both your Cover Letter and CV specifically to meet the needs of the position you’re applying for. Read the job requirements and adjust the content accordingly. Get your friends to look over both pieces and offer constructive criticism; and above all, proof read!
A: We all agreed that students should gather as much experience as is possible. Highlighting the opportunities available to them, we pointed out that the University itself offers freelancing experience and societies, all of which they are able to participate in.
A: London may be the epicentre of activity, but there are job roles going all over the country. If you are planning on moving, start saving early on. It’s going to cost you more than you first thought, so make sure you save as much as possible. Be prepared to flat share, as this will cut costs considerably.
The tutors also put forward some of their own queries, one of the most interesting of which was “Does hunger still trump skill?”, which essentially means does your want and passion for the job role outweigh your skillset?
It was a general consensus among our panel that whilst showing how badly you want the role is never a bad thing; you have to be able to walk the walk once you secure it. It’s no good feverishly pursuing a role if you are unable to then deliver upon your promises once you’re working.
After an insightful round of questioning, we congregated in the conference centre for a few hours of mingling and networking.
The question I was asked most was “how can I stand out?”
Your knowledge is your skillset, so use it to your advantage. For example if you know PowerPoint like the back of your hand, utilise it, and include it on your CV. Perfect your presentation skills and then explain how you’ve taught yourself to do it during the interview process. Practical examples also go a long way.
It wasn’t until I left University that I realised I’d actually built up quite an extensive skillset, especially in the creative department. All of these abilities can then be used to give you the edge you need to excel in the industry.
All in all, I had an amazing day, and it was wonderful to listen to the opinions and concerns of smart young minds.
Thanks to Solent University for having me, and all the best to those students in the future.
Images Courtesy Of Richard Berry