I am a Careers Information Assistant at the Employability and Careers Centre at Essex and I love my job because I love the variety. I get to meet lots of students during drop in sessions and, as everyone is different, I get to answer a whole range of interesting questions. There is one area though, that I wish didn’t differ so much from student to student: that is the extent to which students can’t get a ‘grip’ on their employability.
How employable are you RIGHT NOW?
We’re not expecting you to have a clear, labelled and beautifully presented copy of a career plan that you update every week before venturing out into the world beyond Essex. After all, this is your chance to look around, consider different options, try new things and have some fun (I would always advise you to do this; as a priority and with vigour, in fact!)
But, once in a while, take a step back and look at the bigger picture and ask yourself: ‘how employable am I right now?’
Why do you need to get to grips with your employability?
Here are a few facts to face:
Firstly, in the current and competitive graduate labour market, having a ‘good’ degree is no longer always enough to get you that great job. Employers have more choice and so can ask for more in a graduate. Currently they’re looking for well rounded, work ready graduates with, if possible, a global outlook.
Secondly, you have made a huge financial commitment to furthering your education – second only to having a mortgage for many – this is your time to give yourself the best chance of getting the best job and to get the best return on your investment.
Thirdly, time flies. Final term, final year might seem a long way off now, but it’ll soon be upon you. The sooner you ’get to grips’ with your employability, the less you have to do each year. Who needs that stress during finals?
Finally, the hard truth is that you have to take responsibility, keep an eye on your progress….’get to grips’ with your employability and, through this, your future.
How can you get to grips with your employability?
This is the easy bit, learn from the experts and do a bit of Personal development Planning (PDP). PDP is a term used by many of the top employers and often means a regular process that they expect their employees to go through. You don’t need to be this formal about it, but the process is based on common sense and everyone can have a go – you don’t even need to have a job in mind!
- Establish your purpose or direction
Get a ‘good’ job is sufficient to start with, but the more precise you can be, the more effective the next steps are. If you have no idea where you’re headed, that’s fine, maybe spend 15 mins on the Prospects Career Planner narrowing down what you like, or don’t like to do. Alternatively you could make an appointment to speak to one of our Careers Advisors who will ask you the ‘bigger questions’ to help you focus in on options that appeal to you. Remember, nothing’s set in stone, your plan will help you see if and when you need to try a change of direction.
- Identify development needs
This means finding out what experience, knowledge and skills you’ll need to be highly employable in your area of choice. Prospects have some great job profiles that will give you these details for numerous roles. Next, you need to honestly assess where you are with these – do you have them in abundance (with lots of evidence to share with employers) or do you need to develop some aspects further?
- Identify learning opportunities
Now that you know where you stand, you can find ways of filling any gaps you’ve identified. This is where we come in. With years of experience behind us we have loads of ideas and lots of resources / services especially designed to help you build the experience, skills and knowledge you’ll need to succeed. If you’ve identified that you need some relevant work experience, take a look at Frontrunners and Essex Interns, if you want your community spirit to shine through have a chat with the Student Union about V Team. Essex Startups are the people for you if you have entrepreneurial ambitions, and Essex Abroad is your first port of call to gain that sought after global experience. If, at this stage, you simply want to gain the benefit of someone’s experience consider our Career Mentoring Scheme. If your skills or digital profile need a good polish, check CareerHub for our latest events. Finally, make sure you sign up to the Big Essex Award – if you’re going to all this effort you need to make sure you’re getting the credit for it.
Of course, if this all seems a bit much, simply drop in to the Employability and Careers Centre between 10 – 4 Mon – Fri and we’ll help you navigate your way through.
- Formulate an action plan
This doesn’t have to be pages and pages of detailed action plans– if you’re a fan of the bullet journal make it one of your pages, or just make a tracker if that’s your style. Jot down your gaps, list the ways you’ve found to fill them, and sketch out which ones you’re actually going to do and when exactly you’re going to do them.
- Undertake the development
If possible, take the easy approach; do it a bit at a time, over the course of your time here. The earlier you start, the less you have to do each year. If you are a late comer to the employability party, don’t worry; it’s never too late to start! Set yourself objectives for every activity you undertake, measure your progress and see your employability grow.
6. Record the Outcome
Always update your plan –simply fill in a block on your tracker – whatever it takes. Write out examples of how you gained the skills, experience and responsibilities ready to use as that all important evidence when you complete applications. Update your CV.
Spend a minute to think about what you’ve achieved, keep up to date with your progress. Are you on the right track? Do you need to make adjustments? This will get easier the more you do; just ask yourself – does this fit with my plan, will it get me where I want to be?
Work through the action checklist every now and then and, believe me, you’ll be ahead of the game come graduation; cool, calm, collected and highly employable.
What have you got to lose?
Follow this blog to be first to hear how one of our students ‘got a grip’, and how she’s reaping the rewards now.
Thanks to the CMI knowledge bank for the outline action checklist and cycle diagram.
Image credits: Hip homeschooling / Google