Student Support for Employment

I have used the Careers Service for a number of things over the years, and with the new year approaching and with the urge to do some last minute attempts to boost my CV before graduation, I figured that now is the best time to talk about how the Service has been of help to me.

Careers site

The careers site lists job vacancies in a variety of areas and sectors, and is where I have found paid and voluntary work. It can also be used to see what kind of jobs are being advertised, as a source of inspiration in case you haven’t decided what job you want in the future.

Feedback

The careers service can also provide feedback on application materials. For example, when I was applying for my postgraduate studies, I sent a draft of my personal statement to them and they annotated it with comments for my perusal which was very helpful – I have been invited for a couple of interviews after my application was sent through.

Recognition

Finally, there are numerous certificates that can be given. I have recently heard about an accredited Volunteer Certificate – This is handy as it captures the work experience, making it more than sparing a few hours a week.

So there’s the ways I have interacted with the Careers Service. The future ahead is probably uncertain for some, but there is a wealth of help and advice for getting ahead.

http://www.edgehill.ac.uk/careers/

Preparing for graduate work…

Before the Christmas holidays, I am to prepare for applying to graduate level jobs, which means a new CV, a new cover letter, and a new new mindset considering these jobs will be rather different to the previous jobs I applied for… and they’ll be super competitive to say the least.

CVs

Apart from the traditional CV (which covers, in reverse chronological order, work experience, qualifications, skills and interests), there’s a few types of other CV depending on your circumstances. If you want to pursue a Research career for example, then an Academic CV is most likely required – This focusses on academic achievements such as papers presented at conferences, publications, and funding grants gained, to show to employers what research interests you have and what specialist qualities you can bring. Skills Based CVs are handy for when there’s gaps in employment, as they emphasise what you can bring to a company rather than focus on the past, such as your communication skills and literacy skills etc. – It’s more generic, so can be used for job roles outside of your previous industry / degree subject. Finally, there are Teaching CVs which focus mainly on skills related to the delivery of education, although there is room for other parts such as general interests and general employment outside education.

Interviews

Application processes can be very varied, but common assessments include group activities, solo activities, presentations, and one to one discussions. The group activities usually assess how good you are at working with and involving others in a positive and productive manner – It can be quite formal such as discussing a piece of writing, or something more fun like building a tower with newspaper and tape. Solo actives can put you under pressure to work independently, so it may involve writing a short critical reflection or doing a multiple choice questionnaire. Presentations are common when applying for client facing roles, and generally show that you can focus on a specific task in front of strangers and stay clear and compelling without going off topic. Finally, the traditional part – Answering the questions to test your suitability for the job role. From my own experience, sometimes it’s best to talk steadily and maintain eye contact so that you don’t off on a tangent and bore the interviewer.

I will write more about what I’m doing in the run up to graduation work wise to not only help my readers, but also to make sure I don’t lose track and panic about the uncertain future.

End of Year Career Development

This is as good a time as any for myself to look through my physical career development portfolio – A review is really overdue. Considering my plans for postgraduate study are not guaranteed in the slightest, I need to come up with backup plans as. After January, the first wave of job vacancies will close and second wave of job vacancies will appear before the Summer – Time is running out.

I haven’t dived into the folder for some time now, and I will talk about the parts that stand out for me – Here goes nothing…

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My guide. Small but mighty.

Self Policy

Something I unfortunately forgot about is my Self Policy, where I made a set of guidelines based on my mistakes from the past. These include “Use your initiative in everything” (at the top), “Don’t be lazy”, and “Don’t do anything stupid” among others. That last one seems a little harsh at first, but as I have experienced recently, it is in fact very relevant considering a slight mistake can cause major problems down the line. Looking through the 9 lines, there seems to be themes of pro activity and outside the box thinking – I should apply those themes a lot more as graduation approaches.

Job Interview History

A slightly painful yet handy section is the job interview history section, where details of my failures and successes have been recorded, with details of what went right and wrong. There seems to be recurring mistakes, such as talking too much and hesitating for too long, and recurring successes where I have said essentials only and researched the job role beforehand. The identification of trends ensures that the best practices are used in the future.

Extra Curricular Activities

Apart from Academic Development section, I have pages which detail additional activities to boost my employability, like joining societies, entrepreneurial activities, and volunteering. I have tried to make them relevant to my goals (short term, mid term and long term), but what is missing is strict deadlines for each. I will re assess each one, and say when I hope to complete each activity by where relevant, or else none will get done in line with my goals.

When I feel like I’m getting no where in life, I turn to my portfolio which contains more answers than I think – There are goals, activities, and feedback on my employability. All portfolios are different, but generally they are very helpful in tough times. 

Talking to the Pros

Whilst on my adventures running a record label, one of the artists I worked with is very against using Twitter. Whilst I understand that Twitter isn’t for everyone – ahem cover images which are stretched due to a dodgy website re design, only allowed 140 characters, trolls, spammers, etc. – but as time has gone by and the more I’ve used it, I have seen the advantages of using it.

Whilst back then it was probably a little more tricky to connect with professionals, nowadays it is easier thanks to the internet.

Twitter

Before I go onto more less known ways of connecting to Professionals (feel free to add more relevant ways in the comments), let’s talk Twitter. I use social networks like crazy, so it helps to have an App like Hootsuite so they can all (including my Facebook Pages, Linked In profile) be managed from one place. In terms of talking to Pros, I mainly use Twitter to give feedback on their companies’ products / service – I try to be positive, but sometimes I notice something (negative) that I think could potentially harm them in some way, so I give that kind of feedback too (especially if it’s a good company that I think really deserves to thrive). Whenever I share content from a Pro (like a Soundcloud track or YouTube video etc) then I try to make sure I mention them in the sharing Tweet, as sharing counts as feedback, in a way, too. The thing is, professionals sometimes if not usually take your tweets on board if they are relevant – If this happens, then most likely the Pro will take on board your feedback, but less likely is that he / she / they will implement it in their company. I can say with confidence that once in a blue moon my feedback (if it’s relevant, and others have said similar things) does get heard and I can see the change in the company I tweeted about. Twitter also helps when you are sharing your own content, and keeping in touch with companies that you might want to work for.

Linked In

On the other side of the coin is Linked In. It can be useful for connecting with companies directly (say via the messaging system), although I think Linked In (LI) is more for indirect contact. If I was an employer, and I was searching for someone to fill a vacancy, I might search for jobseekers around that area through Linked In then possibly contact that person; Or more likely when applications for that vacancy come pouring in, and the same person who is applying is one that came up in the previous LI search, the application will shout: “this person has a good digital footprint” (which may help in securing the job). Like Twitter, you can follow employers that you’re interested in as they do usually advertise job vacancies on their professional profiles. Another handy way of connecting to Pros via Linked In is through 2nd or 3rd party connections. It might be that you are a “Connection” with someone you know who works at a company / in an industry you are interested in, hence keeping up with that person’s place within that company via their LI profile updates means that that Contact becomes very valuable, should you want to be introduced to the right people through that contact. It’s who you know etc.

There are other ways of internet connecting. For creative arts, it sometimes works when you constructively comment on their work if an online comment section is there, and generally sending emails or completing feedback forms work too.

The reason I am writing this post is that communication in the professional world is extremely valuable. If a company hears feedback then they can understand their market better so that their product /service is the best it can be, so they can survive longer, and possibly take on more employees (ahem new graduates ahem). It also helps secure employment in the present (I have found work via email, and following employers on Facebook). Be careful though: Communication is not an ego trip (ie. your feedback is heard and applied, hence you were so right and they were so wrong), so it’s best to keep professional communication sensible and restrained!

Summer Work

Something very interesting has happened this year. I have plenty of summer work! This is actually a first for me, as I have been quite unlucky the past few summers in finding work (with one summer being particularly scarring – oh the jobs of competitive job hunting). This post is all about what I’m doing now that the tables have, I suppose, turned.

Blogging

My primary job over the summer is being a Student Blogger. I want to take this blog to new directions and be more deeper in information. At the moment, I feel my posts have only scratched the surface of Higher Education and Employability amongst other topics, and I would like to put more research into future posts. I’m following The Guardian online to read their posts on Employment and Education, so hopefully I can do some commentary posts on some of their articles in the future to give another perspective.

Volunteering

I was told by my landlord that I can stay longer in Ormskirk, which is great news as now I can properly finish off my term as a volunteer. I’m finally getting into the swing of things – clients are now comfortable enough to ask me lots of questions than before, and I’m comfortable enough to answer them. I’m not too sure if I will continue volunteering for my employer after the summer, as although I feel that it’s someone else’s turn to volunteer, I don’t want them to struggle to find helpers like they are kind of doing at the moment. We’ll see when the Volunteer Co ordinator and myself have a Review meeting later this year…

Other Work

I’m still working my Corporate Promotions Assistant job, which I still enjoy doing. I’m working at an Alumni re union at the end of this month, and if I’m seriously lucky, I’ll perhaps be working at the Graduations. I worked at the Graduations last year, and it was quite a curious atmosphere with everyone finishing and emotions being high etc.

Course (Driving and Dissertation)

I haven’t forgotten about my education, though. I’m about to embark on the journey of learning to drive, like reading through the book about the theory and initial taster lessons, and also dissertation research. I’m planning on writing my Diss on cultural capital in record labels, and how it can create a marketable identity so it can earn its economic capital. I have had my first meeting (which went okay; I’m not going down any dark paths), and I’ve got quite a bit of research to do now.

Wow, I actually have more to do than I first though before I started writing. Oh well. I like to keep busy, and rest assured I won’t be out of ideas for the upcoming weekly blog posts.

Creative Opportunities

I don’t know how I missed these chances before. Ever since I won my High Achievers Scholarship in my first year since my entrance grades were high, I’ve been able to afford a Macbook Pro and music production software for it, hence I can make music. But so far, shockingly, I have only used it for productions for Uni work and some unreleased original demos, and have never really made the most of the other opportunities in terms of music production until now…

Me in the new recording studio in Creative Edge. Here I’m just posing, not singing 🙂

Remix competitions

This shock and horror occurred when I realised that I haven’t made a song in ages because I didn’t have access to singer and that recording vocals (in my experience) is extremely time consuming, but I found out recently that vocals are freely available from remix competitions. While I’m glad that I can now download many fully recorded vocal “stems” and do more or less whatever I want with them (in the name of music production practice), I feel like I should have started participating in remix competitions a long time ago. Oh well. I’ll get over the ‘missed opportunities’ feeling in time, but for now I have many, many remixes to make and so little time.

Instrumentals

Overcoming the barrier of having no vocals to work with, I realise with confidence that now I can create original works minus the need for vocals. With so much electronic dance music around, I suppose I don’t really need to spend ages recording vocals and just go down the instrumentals route for now, and maybe collaborate with singers in the future (never do professional projects on your own). In case you’re wondering, I have performed on my own songs before but it takes about a month to record my own vocals due to the extreme amount of recording takes I insist on. I was hesitant about doing just instrumentals as I really wanted to go down the pop song route, but I must adapt to what I have.

Songwriting contests

Finally, if I get enough contacts (like singers, instrumentalists), ideas and luck, I would like to enter songwriting contests. I have heard amazing winning songs in the past, and I would like to be a part of those creative processes. What has stopped me in the past was mostly the entrance fees but I can afford to pay a few now, so we’ll wait and see. I’m still a little shaky when it comes to music production; arranging I can do, but mixing everything together is a different story so more practice is needed right now.

As you can tell, I am into my music production, although I have to be realistic and not aspire to work in music full time as those opportunities are few and far between. Instead, I would like to see how far I can actually take my practice in terms of creating music and participating in competitions. Not only is it good vocational practice, but it also gives me a feel of the pressure of the competitive nature of the music industry as, let’s face it, it’s all competition. I hope this post helps other creative arts students such as myself realise that there are other opportunities outside of Academia that can provide practice for any skills learned from Uni and cultural enrichment.

People Skills

My final term as a volunteer is nearing the end as I have to move out from Ormskirk and back home soon, and while it has been extremely helpful to work in the Poverty Alleviation arena, I can’t help but realise that my people skills aren’t exactly where I would like them to be… I don’t think it’s because of the occasional slow work days where not a lot happens, but more because the people around me just seem to have more confidence than me when discussing, well, anything really.

This post details my thoughts on People Skills (being approachable and treating others as approachable) and how I am to improve my own by the end of the year as that’s when my application for postgraduate study will go through.

Myself (2nd from the right) and my colleagues from my other job. We’re required to communicate with visitors most of the time, hence I use a friendly and strait to the point approach to my work.

My time at volunteering has opened my eyes to the various ways of communicating to others, from the teaching staff, the social workers and the clients. I have noticed the every one has their own style, and usually I can summarise the individual styles in one word such as “cheeky”, “energetic”, “subtle” etc. While I appreciate the styles have their advantages, I observe to see what the effects of those styles are within the different contexts and environments, and see which ones I want to apply to my own practice should my postgraduate study land me a job in Education (teaching is acting).

I already have an idea of what style to maybe use should I end up working in Higher Education, but in terms of general adult education (which is my target area to work in), I draw inspiration from an approach that one of my supervisors at the firm I volunteer at uses, which is energetic and positive which really helps everyone in the classroom including me. I wouldn’t say my potential style is “energetic”, but rather “dramatic”, as I want to convey positivity but seriousness as well because my target area is within the niche of poverty alleviation.

So now that I have my style to be an umbrella approach for whatever I do in the field, now comes the barrier of confidence. I can talk to people and do presentations etc., but what I want to improve on now is how open I am as right now I can get as far as saying facts comfortably (“yes”, “no”, “hello”, “thank you”), but I would like to go further to communicating light opinions (not hard critiques) more comfortably (“it’s due to”, “I think”, “I can relate to that because”), since I find that it’s a great way to build mutual trust more effectively.

I know it sounds like I’m making a big deal out of a small thing, but I really want my people skills to be the best they can be and my volunteering job and my other job (as a promotions assistant) are great platforms to practice talking to strangers. I want to remain competitive in the work world, as there is no such thing as job security. Hopefully I can be more people ready in time for my postgraduate studies…

Teaching ESOL

On Monday it was a trip to the Central Library in Liverpool (it’s quite the sight) for my first day as a classroom assistant for an English for Speakers of Other Languages session (now that uni year 2 has finished, I have more time to do some employability development). I have ambitions of becoming an employability tutor, of which there are many many routes into, and one of the routes is of course an ESOL tutor. I was interested in how it works considering ESOL tutors don’t necessarily need to know a language other than English, and of course the learners don’t necessarily know English that well…

Liverpool Central Library where the ESOL sessions take place. Photo – John Bradley for Wikipedia.org .

Along with the session leader, I was also joined by another one off volunteer who was preparing for an upcoming job interview as an English teacher in Japan so I wasn’t alone. It was the talk between us two volunteers and the leader before the session starting that got me slightly worried about what was about to happen, as she talked about how the complexities of teaching ESOL because there are so many ways to teach so many differently skilled students, with no clear answers. It struck me that this is the real deal in terms of Education.

Because it’s impossible to do one to one sessions in a classroom setting, I was asked to help two students complete a task separate from the others where they write down the different sentences depending on whom is being addressed (like “I wake up”, “He wakes up” etc.). It did get slightly more complicated when it came to words that simply can’t just have an S tacked on the end such as “I have” to “He has” and so on. I must say, it was great. I never knew teaching English was such an interesting thing to do – who knew English was such a valuable skill to pass on. In the end the students thanked me for helping them understand the differences in words as apparently they didn’t understand beforehand 🙂

After bank holiday I am definitely going to continue volunteering for the ESOL sessions, and hopefully the students learning the English Language more and more will increase their quality of life here.

Do you have a Digital Footprint?

I’m currently reading a book called “Cyberspace, Cyberbodies, Cyberpunk” (Featherstone, Burrows: 1995), which talks about various aspects of internet in our society. In terms of Employability, I use the internet to constantly maintain my digital footprint, so show potential employers who I am as a potential employee. It’s a marketing thing – A public professional presence in 1s and 0s.

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LinkedIn.com

First and foremost is the Linked In profile, a digital CV. Potential employers can discover you (like when I look for reviewers to review my record label’s releases) and see how “well rounded” you are 🙂 I think the most important parts are the Experience and Education parts, as they pretty much explain “you” and your professional development as an individual. Keep the Summary short and sweet, and don’t make any of the descriptions of each parts (such as details of your degree, current job) too long and boring – I find that bullet points, rather than paragraphs, work well. I also try to keep the Experience separate from the Volunteer Experience and Projects, as it can get too confusing if everything is all together. The main goal in general is to show that you are a professional who is active and reliable. The main goal on a personal level is to make sure your “career” is well managed – any gaps in necessary skills as evidenced in your Linked In can be planned to be filled (do you need a driving licence, more admin experience etc.), and at a glance you can probably tell what your next career move will be (is it evident that you have extensive experience in certain areas that can be exploited further somehow etc.) It can really help if you don’t yet know what to do post university!

Blogging Professional Activity

I have a personal blog, or website however you want to look at it, where I talk about my professional activity (work experience, volunteering, personal development). Not only do I share my professional blogs (these Inside Edge ones) to it, but it also acts as hub for what I get up to, and conveniently it encourages me to do more “development” as it gives me more to post about. I find Tumblr.com to be a very handy blogging platform, as not only is it free (unless you want a pricey template), but it can be updated wherever via phone or computer, and is very customisable. On mine I have embedded my Twitter and Soundcloud, and added links to my other projects such as my record label and even my fan blog. I post original posts (I rarely re post other’s blog posts) such like original music and artworks, and University media projects like the recent music video me and my team made. I sometimes write culture posts where I share my thoughts on businesses and media, and occasionally personal reflections on my contribution to the arts. No silly posts – Just the relevant stuff! Blogs are like a Linked In I guess, but more deeper. I probably should mention that Twitter should be used with care as those Tweets are usually public – I have had companies reply to my tweets before, and sometimes those tweets were complaints :/ …. You get the idea.

(A music video I photographed – It’s the latest addition to my digital footprint!)

There are other considerations to take into account, such as adding links to the signatures of Email, and even a Facebook / YouTube page if you’re like me and you work in the arts. We are living in a world sort of dominated by social media and the internet after all, so it’s no use creating a blog and Linked In profile then leaving it to rot! On a more casual note, blogging in my opinion is fun to do, and Linked In is fantastic to search around for inspiration in potential future careers – Seriously!

Postgraduate Open Evenings…

This week I went to yet another postgraduate open evening (which was slightly far away but it was manageable), so I figured this week I’ll post about my experiences of them thus far…
Me at Birmingham City University - Looking very tired after a two hour train ride from Liverpool near Edge Hill Uni...
Me at a University Postgraduate Open Evening – Looking very tired after a two hours and 30 minutes train ride from Edge Hill Uni…

When it comes to finding the right postgraduate course, I guess the first place to start is the internet, as well as recommendations.

I made the terrible mistake during my further education years of not going to open days of Universities (other than Edge Hill) before actually applying – There was me immaturely thinking that all Unis are the same, and all courses are the same etc., so it didn’t really matter what I applied for! I was very wrong. As I went to Applicant Visit Days after applying, I recall being utterly shocked at how different the Uni Courses I applied for are in real life compared to on paper (prospectus, online info and all that), and not in a good way 🙁 I’m not making THAT mistake again! Henceforth, if I find a Uni for postgraduate study online, I will check them out at Open Days / Evenings as (cliche alert) it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Applications for the courses I’m looking at start in November so I’m well ahead of the game I suppose. So far feelings from the three Postgrad Evenings I visited have created mixed feelings – Just helps me weigh up which options to put first and last (I think you’re allowed three choices for Postgrad study, not five like Undergrad), and hopefully I can visit some more before applications open.

Uni A is one that I am very familiar with, is in a good location, received acclaim for the courses they offer, and I like the environment – Although the course they offer is only kind of what I’m after. Uni B was not amazing… The environment felt like a prison (lots of white walls, seemingly heavy emphasis on “structure” not “independence”), but the location is good. Uni C is the most amazing – Great location, great environment and they offer a course which is exactly what I’m looking for, although the costs of living there are slightly high…

Decisions, decisions, decisions… I’ll visit a couple more before November and hopefully I can find one with very, very few flaws. I already have an idea of what choice is primary or not of course, but who knows, those plans may change in time. No regrets here in making all those long journeys!