How can you stand out from the crowd?
How can you create the fit between yourself and the opportunities?
What do you need to do to make it happen?
Use your career action plan
As you do these activities you can complete the "Career strategies" section of your career action plan (Word - 188KB).
The employer’s perspective
To an employer many candidates look the same, so they are keen to check the skills and experiences you’ve developed on top of your degree programme to help them distinguish between potential candidates. A recent report (PDF - 760KB) from the CBI and NUS said that the key attribute is a positive attitude, which involves “a readiness to take part, an openness to new activities and ideas and a desire to achieve results.”
Building a portfolio of relevant skills and attributes is key to improving your future career prospects.
A former Birmingham student says: "As an employer, I’m looking for someone who has done more with their time at uni than just getting a degree. Be active – societies, volunteering – show me you are motivated and able to mix with a broad range of people."
Making the most of your time at university
Gain work experience. Employers are keen to see evidence of work experience when reviewing job applications as it helps to show transferable skills. This could be short unpaid periods of experience or structured internships.
Start looking for ideas and opportunities on our work experience and internships pages. Consider networking for alternative opportunities.
Watch our YouTube videos on how to get the most out of your time:
Part time student jobs can show flexibility and commitment. The Guild advertises part time jobs through its Jobs service.
Vicky Inch, Tenon Accountants and Business Advisors: "We work with smaller entrepreneurial companies, so having good communication skills is key for us. Developing these skills over time through work experience and other activities from your first year onwards helps you stand out from other job applicants."
- Join clubs and societies through the Guild of Students. You could join one of the university sports teams, become a student rep for your course or become a student ambassador or brand promoter for the university.
- Consider volunteering to enhance your skills set and your prospects of getting into certain careers. The Guild can help you to access an enormous variety of volunteering opportunities.
- Build your network and gain insights into careers of interest. Find out more about mentoring programmes available and career insight programmes in your college such as the Creative Careers series. Link to mentoring and college web pages. Keep up to date with the key dates for relevant recruitment fairs and employer events at the university.
- Enrol on the Personal Skills Award (PSA) – the University’s award winning employability programme. Celebrated by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) and supported by a range of employers, the PSA can enable you to develop, recognise and articulate your skills effectively in preparation for the graduate job market.
- Thinking of setting up your own business in the future? Get help from Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Why take action?
Once you’ve made the connections between your strengths, skills and interests and what’s out there in the workplace it’s time to make some decisions and take action. Taking action and reflecting on your experience will help you to ensure a good fit between you and the opportunities you are considering for your future career. Prioritise the actions which will help you to gain valuable skills and real experience to enable you to get ahead in the job market.
Develop your strategy
First of all, be clear about your short, medium, and long term goals. Think strategically about what will help you to achieve these goals by prioritising which actions to take. Focus on what works for you and what motivates you; above all, employers are looking for motivated and engaged employees.
Careers Network can help you to develop an effective career action plan in a number of ways, and we suggest that you start with the option which best suits you:
- One to one careers advice session – ideal if you want a confidential space and tailored advice specific to your needs. Book an appointment
- Career coaching workshop/career planning session – great for those of you who enjoy working with others and brainstorming ideas in groups. Check our events to see what's available.
- Mentoring – if you know the sector or type of job you want, a mentor with relevant expertise can be one of the best people around to help you action plan. Mentors can also help more generally if you are completely stuck about what you wish to do. See our mentoring schemes for more information.
What does a good action plan look like?
In summary an effective action plan will help you to get you to where you want to be. This can be achieved by ensuring goals are SMART. It will be motivating and you will want to stay on track.
How to set a SMART goal
- S – Specific – Is it focused and unambiguous?
- M – Measureable – How will you know that you have achieved the goal?
- A – Action-oriented – what is the specific action required on your part?
- R – Realistic – Considering difficulty and timeframe, is this goal attainable?
- T – Time-bound – By when do you want to complete this goal?
Setting smart goals in the first place will then make it is easier to review, for example at key milestone dates or by reflecting on progress measures you have set. Remember that goals can include skill development, such as developing leadership skills, or career advancement goals, such as building your professional network or updating your CV. Be sure to set and review a range of goal types.