Friday, 22 August 2014

Wait, Ring of Fire Isn't an Extracurricular Activity?

If you've been doing your homework, you have a life plan. You have a goal, and you've worked out some tasks you'll need to tick off along the way. How exactly do you go about doing that, though?

It's important to know your destination, but that's only part of the equation. What path are you going to take to get there? There's plenty to choose from – perhaps more than you realise – with different pros and cons. Let's take a hypothetical – let's say you've just left education, and you want to move into employment.

Ok, so it's less of a hypothetical, and more my actual life.

Still waiting on the paychecks, though.

But, anyway, let's run with that. Now, what I've found is that a degree, in and of itself, does not necessarily open as many doors as it may have in the past. Don't despair, though; a degree may not be quite the skeleton key it once was, but it's not as worthless as some naysayers would have you believe, either.

An aside: whatever your circumstances, if you're looking for new employment, it's important to remember that you are quite literally selling yourself to potential employers.

To do that, you need to bring as much to the table as possible.

You're trying to convince employers to pick you over any number of other candidates, and to do that, you need to stand out; you need to offer as many perks and advantages as possible; you need, in short, to make it an easy decision.

Not that easy, mind.

Now, obviously, if you're already in employment you'll have things like extensive practical experience on your side – but that is not the demographic of this blog. Let's say, instead, that you're one of those lucky bastards  students still in education.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that it's enough simply to attend all your lectures and hand in your coursework on time.

Hard as it might be to believe considering the extended trial that is third year, this is the bare minimum your course requires of you. You can take it as a given that you'll be competing with a hell of a lot of other graduates, all of whom will have also achieved that bare minimum – and if everyone has done it, it's no longer special.

You're gonna need a bit more than that.

The specific opportunities available to you will vary from one university to another, but they are there. Let's see if I can dip into my dark and murky past and drudge up an example, eh?

So, I read English at University, with an emphasis on writing creatively. As it happened, the university produced its own creative writing magazine which, besides providing a venue for my writing, also gave me the chance to try my hand at proofreading and some basic editing.

That's exactly the sort of extracurricular opportunity you have to seize – and quickly, too.

There are plenty of other ways your university can support you, too. Most – if not all – will have some sort of employment office, which can hook you up with work experience over the holidays or interviews after graduation. It's also worth taking the time to talk to your lecturers – they're likely to have connections in and first-hand knowledge of the industries you're still learning about. Your university library should stock a range of industry publications too, which are a great way of learning about graduate schemes, industry movers and shakers, and the sort of bleeding-edge developments that your course just won't cover.

Increasingly, we live in a world where a degree is simply not enough. However, there is a lot of extra value you can squeeze out of higher education, if you know what to look out for and have the drive to go after it.

Of course, you can say that about a lot of things – and next week I'll talk about how you can apply the same sort of approach outside of education, too.

Don't forget to check out the latest Charity-Shop Book Review – Annie Proulx's Close Range – over at Yuppee Magazine, and make sure to follow @DaneCurel as well, to keep up with the latest news.