We are in the final few weeks of the University term and for many this will mean one thing, exams. But aside from being inundated with revision tips and de-stressing secrets (which are all very helpful and important, don't get me wrong) there are a few other things you should be looking into before you leave for summer, particularly if you are in your final year.
Utilise your careers service
I was guilty of taking my careers service for granted. Having a resource available five days a week that was designed to help me get a job meant that of course, I never visited it. Now having worked with many careers services I know how much time and effort they put into sourcing great people to give presentations, companies to offer internships, events for students to network, and often they have a very low response. As students are becoming more concerned about their career prospects, it really doesn't make sense that these committed little hubs of careers advice are being ignored. When I left Uni I could've cried out for someone to sit down and talk me through the best way to construct a CV, or the importance of tailoring cover letters, but when at Uni it never crossed my mind. Go and show your careers service some love IMMEDIATELY!
Pick a reference for job applications
When you start applying for jobs you may find that a lot require at least two references from the last three years. Obviously, you would have spent the last three years at the institute you are about to leave, so the most reliable reference will be that of a lecturer or course leader.
Choose a lecturer that you feel understands your skill set the most and can advocate you as a brilliant member of the student body, and your academic reference will become as respectable as any reference a previous employer could give. It may be beneficial to ask your lecturer before you leave if they are OK with being your reference, and the best details to contact them on, as often they may not stay at the institution or may reply quicker using a personal email address, and also, they'll probably be flattered you chose them, which can't hurt.
Join the Alumni Association
I only became aware of the Alumni Association as I worked for them in my final year taking part in their annual call campaign. They contact former students and ask for feedback, and ultimately, some donations as well. I learned whilst working there that the Alumni Association's main goal was to maintain your relationship with your university beyond the first year of graduating and much further into your future. I spoke to alumni who had graduated 20 years before and still had glorious memories of their time at the university. Because so many people feel an affinity to their university, they are more willing to help graduates from the same institute, offering placements at their current employers as well as coming in to give guest lectures. You have an immediate network of tens of thousands of alumni at your fingertips that may be able to help you further your career. They hold networking events and have their own groups on LinkedIn, so get involved anywhere you can.
Have something planned. Anything.
When you leave university you will most likely be hit by an overwhelming feeling of 'so what now?' The only way to prevent this is to have something in the pipeline, no matter how small, that you can look forward to and prepare for. Whether this is securing a place on a graduate scheme, planning travels or even knowing you can go back to a summer job, it is important that you put something in your diary to break up the last endless summer.
I half-managed this. I knew I wanted to return to my university town of Bournemouth and so would need a summer job to pay for my first few months living expenses. Having that ultimate goal allowed me to focus on something other than what my University results might be and the monotony of not having anything in particular to do. Going from the high-pressure of exams and dissertations to complete relaxation can sound like a dream, but it soon becomes boring, and I know that even though working at an insurance call centre for three months over summer wasn't as glamorous as one would hope, it was worth it to achieve my goal of going back to Bournemouth for one more year, and wasn't permanent.
Prepare yourself to go home
It doesn't sound like a big deal, you visit home all the time at holidays and stuff. But this time you won't be the eagerly awaited visitor, the prodigal son returning from their studies, you will be an ordinary resident in your own house just like everyone else, and it is going to be tough.
Having become reasonably independent you forget that sometimes you have to tell people what time you're going to be coming home, and maybe not everyone wants to watch Jersey Shore together. It's nice to have your mum's cooking again but not great to be nagged for already having eaten without warning anyone. You will feel like a teenager again but soldier on. It is inevitable but if you prepare yourself mentally for the big return home at least it won't be such a shock, and you might actually be able to appreciate all the luxuries of living in a family home instead of student digs.
One thing that I did manage to do before I left Uni was enjoy every second of my last few weeks with of freedom as a student, and I'm confident you've all already got that covered, right?
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