A graduate’s journey: Part 1 Looking to the future…

By my final year at university, I honestly thought that completing my degree was easier than using it to plan for my future. I knew that learning the material and revising the content were the all-important steps to passing the exams. But, how to use my degree to get a job in the real world, err…next question please!

It’s fair to say, I was clueless. I think that’s one of the amazing things about university, it caters for people who know exactly where they want to go, like the doctors and lawyers etc. and also  those who submitted their applications in college, vowing to think more seriously about their future when they got to university. Of course, we’re then hit by the student bug that for some reason leads you to believe, student life will last an eternity. I was definitely in the latter category and by my final year I became an expert at avoiding any thought or discussion about jobs and a future career.

Harsh reality is, although three years of a life science degree sounds a lot, it actually went pretty fast and now I’m into the third month of a Masters in Public Health- Where’s Bernard’s watch when you need it! 😉

I have to say I fell in love with my Human Biology degree over the three years and found it covered some of the most amazing and mind-blowing concepts of Science. Unfortunately, whilst being wrapped up in one practical after another and then the dissertation, before I knew it, graduation day was over and I was just another statistic in the list of unemployed.

Given that final year of any course can be one of the most demanding and intense experiences of a student’s life, the prospect of being unemployed and having next to no plans for the future can make the entire experience a whole lot more daunting and stressful. But, before this sounds like a cue to hide under the duvet, there is still hope! It’s just about changing your outlook on the situation.

After months of drowning my sorrows with way too many Oreo biscuits, it occurred to me…I was looking at the situation the wrong way! Being a graduate in Human Biology was in fact reassuring, especially when knowing that my degree would empower me to ‘create my own future’, quite literally, depending on the paths I take and the doors I choose to open.

Britain’s job sector is comprised of a whole lot more than just those all-generic names that are usually the first to pop into our heads, and it’s up to us to hunt them out. So, although we may not all be on a degree programme targeted towards a specific job, you could say that it means we’re not restricted in our options.

The key is that looking for a job on the basis of the degree, discipline or subject you’ve studied, is only the beginning. It’s a great way to start but it’s most definitely not the only way. My advice: Think about those all-important transferable skills. Every degree and discipline, from English to Chemical Engineering or Philosophy to Geography- each single one, confers students with a set of skills that in some ways may be similar or different to the skills gained in another degree.

Practical skills, communication, writing, teamwork and time-management, these are just a few of a long list of skills that we all may have gained from our degree, and that will set us apart as candidates in the jobs market. Not only that, getting a grasp of the skills you’re gaining or have gained with your degree may also open your eyes to an entirely different jobs sector, one that you’ve probably never even considered. Take my word- a BSc graduate who’s now working in marketing!

I’ll admit the hardest thing is realising your personal skills set, but its not impossible. That’s where the university’s in-house careers centre and >>Progress>> service come in. Both are extremely useful places to get to grips with those all-important skills and learn how to apply them effectively, helping you to reach your full potential.

You can access >>Progress>> via the my progress tab on the front page of mybham

It doesn’t end there, the careers fairs organised courtesy of the CEC are also valuable opportunities to explore your prospects and try out your newfound knowledge and outlook. In fact, the Finance, Consultancy and Professional Services Fair (Wed 26th Oct) and Science, Engineering and Technology Fair (Wed 9th Nov 2011) will be playing host to a huge diversity of companies and organisations, so you’ve got plenty of time to top-up on your knowledge of personal skills, before you go and impress the employers.

Good luck! The world is your oyster … or at least the jobs market is!

Ani (BSc, MPH)

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About careersbham

Student Engagement Officer for Careers Network University of Birmingham

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