First year is the beginning and the foundation of your university race, it is advisable to start well and ensure the right foundation is built. Apart from academic excellence, below are six key concepts that have been known to get first years ahead in their career.
Apply to first year schemes
It may seem very ambitious to be in your 1st year and attempting to go straight into the job market. As the saying goes "there is no harm in trying". In fact, it is the best time to apply for internship as it shows how keen you are. Most firms require 280+ UCAS points which most of you would have already acquired before getting into university. More importantly, applying to first year schemes gives you an insight into the recruitment process of the organisations you are interested in; you get a first-hand trial on psychometric tests, telephone interviews, assessment centres and face-to-face interviews. This then prepares you for internship applications in your penultimate year.
Attend Career fairs and events
Most, if not all universities have firms come in to talk about the various opportunities they provide for students and, it may be in form of a career fair, power point presentation or even employability skills exercise (mock assessment centre). This is a great opportunity to network. I have friends who have been fast tracked to assessment centres based on how they presented themselves whilst networking and also showing a keen interest in the organisations and what they do. Career presentations also give you the opportunity to learn about a company's corporate culture, their recruitment process, what they look out for in applications and perhaps their future aspirations. It must also be said, do not be afraid to ask for business cards. Try to keep in touch with the person so that they remember you when you get that interview. This may very well increase you chances of getting that ultimate graduate job. This again projects your enthusiasm and willingness to learn. Networking skills are particularly important if you intend venturing into the Investment Banking Division (IBD) or professional services industry.
I can't emphasis enough how important this is. Interviewers are not going to ask "how do you find the equilibrium point in a supply and demand curve?" or strictly academic questions. They ask competency questions that reveal those abilities that do not necessarily reflect in your academics. They want to see where you have worked in a team, where you have taken a leadership role, where you have demonstrated creativity and so on. These skills can only be tested and improved by getting involved in extra-curricular activities. Universities have a good variety of societies, sport clubs and volunteering schemes for students to join and become executive members. Do not only become a member of a society or club, try to take on a position of responsibility which you will find very useful during your interview when asked a competency question.
Commercial awareness refers to understanding a business structure and the environment in which the business operates and most importantly understanding how the environment affects the business. This may sound daunting; but acquiring commercial knowledge is far easier than you may think. I would advice to set up weekly email alerts for companies you are interested in and read a lot of student friendly newspapers like the Gateway. Apps like "Summly" are also useful for summaries of daily headlines and company websites have a handful of information too. The more you know and understand the business the more you feel confident and well prepared for future interviews.
It is essential to start thinking of yourself as a brand. You are your own brand manager, you must decide what and how you want the public to view you, especially on the Internet. Some employers search for potential recruits on social media such as Facebook, Twitter etc. Google yourself every now and again to see what you find, delete any inappropriate content on your social media accounts that may be misconstrued. A good way to portray your capabilities is to create a LinkedIn account (the social media with a tie). LinkedIn is a great way to show certain things that may not be emphasised enough on your CV. It also has some really great features which can enhance your employability, for example, the ability to get recommendations from people you have worked with and to get endorsements for the skills you gained whilst working with them (this may serve as a good reference for you and may well impress potential employers).
Most of you will be leaving home for the first time. University is a unique experience to help you gain independence, set new boundaries, try new things and make new friends. As the saying goes "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." It is important to be a well-rounded student but as well as trying to bag that internship or graduate role, do not get too buried in it. Building a network of friends from your halls, your course and other departments etc., can also be as good as networking with professionals as you never know how they can be of help in the future.