Think about career options straight away
I always knew that I wanted to go to university and decided to study Biosciences with the ambition of working in this area, although without any more specific ideas. I chose to focus my studies on Zoology because of an interest in animals, meaning my choice of university was restricted as universities that offered a specific zoology course were quite limited and I also wanted to attend a university that looks good in the university league tables. Location was important as well as I wanted to move away from my rural location and achieve some independence.
It wasn’t until the third year at university that I began to consider my career seriously, which in hindsight is too late. I decided in the first year that I didn’t want to pursue a career in science and spent most of my time at university not knowing what to do. But, in the third year I began to get involved in extra-curricular activities including the Union Parliament, where I helped govern the student body through the students’ union. I was also the social rep for my course and had a part time job as a club promoter.
Despite not having a clear understanding of the graduate job market and not knowing what employers were looking for in graduates I applied for a few graduate schemes in the final year. I felt quite a lot of pressure to apply for graduate schemes, but feel I didn’t spend enough time looking at them as they are like a whole another workload. I believe that I developed a clearer understanding of the graduate job market after graduating and starting an internship at my university.
This involved running the course rep. system in the students’ union, something I felt I would be good at after my extra-curricular experience during university. All the while I felt as though I was applying for jobs that I might have the skills and experience to get rather than what I actually wanted to do. After working in this internship role for nine months I achieved a graduate trainee position on the National Graduate Trainee Higher Education scheme at the same university. I found this application process to be particularly long as I had to complete a telephone interview, assessment day and then the final interview.
Looking back on my experience, it isn’t the type of job that I expected to be in when starting university and I feel as though I may have benefited more from doing a different degree. Despite this, I believe my university experience has been helpful in preparing me for employment and I urge current students to start thinking about their careers before the final year as it can be really hectic, so the sooner you start doing it, the more spread out your workload can be.
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