Thinking about life after university can be daunting. Many students worry about making themselves employable during and immediately after their courses, but a lot don’t know what they need to consider and how to use their time effectively.  

Need advice on boosting your employability rating after you finish your studies? Increase your chances of full-time employment with our guide to everything from sandwich degrees and study abroad programmes, to taking Google assessments and combining studies with freelance work.  

Higher education in the UK 

According to HESA, students achieved 757,300 qualifications in the 2016/17 academic period — an increase of 2% on the previous year. Evidently, attaining higher education qualifications is growing in importance. In fact, the latest Labour Force Survey, published in November 2017, discovered that between July and September of that year, 42% of 21-64-years-olds in the UK had gained a higher education qualification.  

Considering that there are approximately 2.32 million students attending higher education establishments in the UK, it’s clear that standing out from your peers is becoming essential if you want to bag the best job. But, what is your best course of action when it comes to making yourself as attractive as possible to an employer looking for a driven, hard-working and valuable worker?  

Take advantage of campus career facilities  

You’ve paid for your studies at university, so don’t leave without getting your money’s worth. Most universities have excellent resources when it comes to helping students find a job following graduation.  

According to Tom Staunton, lecturer in career development at the University of Derby: “A careers adviser can help you think through the different advice you have been given, work out what it means for you and what you could do about it.”  

Head to your university’s career advice department and ask for a one-on-one meeting with an advisor. They should be able to give you up-to-date contacts, tips and guidance on how to get your foot in the door of your chosen industry, how to perfect your CV and how to conduct yourself in interviews to truly sell your strengths.  

In fact, some universities are innovating fresh ways to help soon-to-be graduates secure a job. For example, the University of Kent offers an online service to match career skills with potential careers, while Norwich University has created a card game that helps students link skills with professional situations to help students consider and learn the best approaches to real-life work scenarios. 

Study abroad programmes 

If a sandwich course isn’t available in the discipline you want to study, or your university doesn’t offer it, then consider a study abroad programme instead. According to UCAS, around 24,000 students have spent part of their university life studying abroad, with the top five destinations for international studies being: France, the United States, Spain, Germany, and Australia.   

If you opt to study abroad for a portion of your course, you could gain invaluable language skills, enhance your cultural awareness, increase your level of independence, and learn how to adapt quickly to new environments and people — essential in work life! What’s more, studying abroad shows a potential employer that you have the determination and drive to up sticks, move from friends and family, and try your hand at life far from the comforts of home. This level of confidence, proactivity and ambition is just what employers are looking for in an employee. 

Sandwich degrees 

This type of course is worth considering if you’re heading to university or are considering a change in courses. Sandwich degrees feature a placement year at a company ‘sandwiched’ in the middle of the course (often between year two and three), giving you the chance to work in the industry your degree is associated with and experience how it operates first-hand. Available in a range of disciplines from mathematics to business, sandwich courses offer students a range of employability-enhancing benefits.  

With these degrees, you learn both academically and practically, gaining priceless work experience and making contacts that can help you get your foot in the door after university. Research conducted by ASET found that students on sandwich courses showed a greater academic performance in their final year, with some employers actively looking for new workers who can show professional experience. This suggests that taking time out to put the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired over the first part of your academic studies may benefit you in the long run.  

Many students find it tough to adapt to working life following a three or four-year stint at university, which is why some employers prefer to take on new graduates who can show at least some experience of working a professional environment. What’s more, you often receive a tuition fee waiver or reduction during your placement year, and there’s even a chance that your placement employer will pay you for your work (although, this isn’t mandatory). 

Google online courses 

Getting a certificate from Google is a great way to show off your digital savviness to an employer and make your CV stand out against the others. For example, the Google Analytics Academy gives you the opportunity to learn about intelligent data collection and analysis that will help a company website grow. Established companies may be searching for fresh, young talent to help it with the emerging, digital side of their business, so gaining some tech-based skills in your spare time will help you look eager and boost your employability chances.   

Regardless of your discipline, the online world and digital platforms are almost certainly going to play a part of your working life, which makes enhancing your transformational leadership essential. So, be proactive and take a free online course certified by Google to improve your skills. 

Your LinkedIn profile  

There are almost 550 million professionals and around 11 million active job listings on LinkedIn, according to Business Insider UK. So, it’s essential that your profile stands out in a good way.  

LinkedIn’s career expert, Blair Decembrele, claims that having a professional-looking profile picture is critical — did you know that people with a photo on their account get around 21 more views that those who don’t? Similarly, your summary should be crafted to highlight your strengths, passions and career aims, while it’s also important to include extra-curricular activities to show your personality and make your profile more relatable and memorable — such as volunteer work and hobbies.  

According to ACCA — the worldwide body for professional accountants — the top skills to improve employability are:  

  1. Business acumen
  2. Initiative
  3. Management
  4. Professionalism
  5. Innovation
  6. Networking
  7. Teamwork
  8. Communication

If you can demonstrate these attributes within your LinkedIn profile, and CV, you should significantly enhance your chances of an interview invitation.  

Overall, increasing your chances of employability boils down to you. Be confident, collected and determined, even when things may not seem to be going your way. Positively, the UK job industry appears to be on the up, with vacancies and advertised salaries all increasing by nearly 12% in the first three months of 2018. So, take advantage of placement-focused courses, offer your services for volunteer and work experience, and keep adding to your CV and LinkedIn profile to win the job you want.  

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