Free CV reviews, careers advice, networking… make the most of your careers service

Career planning from home does not mean career planning alone. University careers services offer assistance in a number of ways, many (but not all) of which you can access remotely.

Universities offer a wide range of services to help you kick-start your career, both through servicing jobs and related bodies such as institution centers. Some of these might surprise you – for example, did you know that, depending on your university, you can explore your personality, take free practice psychometric tests (and get help if you don’t do what you need to), apply for funding to support a business idea or charity Want to launch it, or talk to a business advisor? Moreover, there is rarely a fee to use it (unless you want, for example, to rent a space for your start-up project).

If you’re reading this during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s likely that a number of these services will still be available to you. Many forms of help offered by employment services were virtual to begin with, and the services are doing their best to offer things like remote one-to-one career guidance while employees work from home.

I’ve Already Graduated – Can I Still Get Free Career Advice?

Depending on the university you attended and how long you’ve graduated, you may still be eligible to use your university’s placement service – or use a different university careers service, if you live far from your old university. You will not be charged for either. Some universities allow you to use their services for a set number of years after graduation. Others allow their graduates to use their services at any time in their lives, albeit with a strange caveat.

If you live too far from your old unit to visit in person, you can often arrange to speak to a job advisor by phone or Skype. Alternatively, in some cases, you can use the employment service of a university closer to home. This tends to be limited to those who have graduated within the last three years (one year in Scotland) and you may not be eligible to use all of their services (eg you may be able to use their information resources but not have one individual career advice).

Job search workshops, clinics and skills sessions – practical help

Employment Services holds regular workshops, off-the-shelf sessions, and clinics to help you land a job. These usually include:

  • Clinics CV and application
  • Assessment Center Workshops
  • Aptitude test training sessions (under real conditions)
  • Presentation skills training
  • Business skills workshops (for emerging entrepreneurs).

How career counselors can help you

The main areas in which career counselors can support you include:

  • Helping you explore the types of work you might enjoy and be a good fit for, typical entry criteria – this may include a strengths analysis
  • Making your job search approach smarter and more strategic – for example, by helping you focus on your job search and offering speculative applications where appropriate
  • Provide practical advice on success in hiring processes, such as improving your resume, applications, interview technique, and performance on psychometric tests
  • Advise you on networking and making the most of social media accounts like LinkedIn
  • Helping you make a decision about studying after graduation
  • Provide information about working abroad
  • Understand the UK job market if you are an international student
  • Directing you toward more helpful resources such as events, workshops, company information, alumni networks, and work experience opportunities.

Alumni, employers and events – making introductions

Employment services have strong relationships with employers and often also with alumni. Here are some of the ways they can connect you with them:

  • Via alumni databases, which contain details of university graduates in different jobs who are happy to contact them for help or advice
  • Via job fairs, work experience fairs, employer talks, and presentations (sometimes career-specific; sometimes not)
  • through their knowledge of and relationships with employers that may be a good fit for you – in particular, employment services often have close relationships with local companies, who may not advertise their vacancies widely
  • Through their relationships with other student services, such as part-time workshops, enterprise centers, or volunteer centers.

How the Employment Award can help your job search

Employment services often offer employment awards, which can provide evidence of skills you’ve acquired through extracurricular activities (such as student associations). They also usually help you identify the skills you’ve developed and come up with examples of your skills – which is what you’ll need to do when applying for jobs.

11 Potentially Surprising Ways Your Professional Service Can Help You

  1. Interview simulators. These allow you to practice your interview skills online. You might, for example, have an attempt to answer typical interview questions, record and review your answers, and get advice from actual employers on how to answer their questions.
  2. Podcast on job-related topics. Your university might have a podcast in which alumni host interviews about their career journeys, for example.
  3. Site visits. Meeting real-life employers and seeing their workplaces can provide useful insights.
  4. Exclusive work experience and volunteer programs. Many employment services run programs designed to give you a real-world experience that is only available to students at your university. This can include working with other students to help a local organization with a business problem or opportunities for internships with start-ups or small businesses.
  5. Financing business ideas. Employment services and enterprise centers sometimes offer funding to help you explore or develop an idea for a new business, charitable organization or social enterprise.
  6. Mentors from your chosen profession. Some universities run mentorship plans that will correspond to a mentor who is already successfully working in the profession you wish to enter, and who is willing to devote some of his or her time to giving you information and advice.
  7. Vlogs and tutorials on YouTube. Job tips and “how-to” guides are often available to watch from the comfort of your room.
  8. Online courses and seminars. Your university may have opportunities to register for more formal online learning opportunities. Topics may include exploring and applying for jobs, finding work as a freelancer, creating your own business or advising women in STEM fields or international students.
  9. Resume building tools. Check if your university offers a resume builder, which allows you to write details of your qualifications and experience and get a professional resume.
  10. An office space to start your business. Many universities offer customized services to help students and alumni start businesses. This often includes the option of office space, which can yield benefits such as informal networking opportunities with other student/alumni entrepreneurs and shared facilities such as printers. Be aware, however, that in some cases you will need to pay for this office space.
  11. Face-to-face training sessions on an astonishing variety of topics. Some professional service courses are somewhat more unexpected than, say, resume workshops. Some universities, for example, have organized courses in women’s personal development and mindfulness.

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