“So….. What are your plans for after university?”.
Whilst it’s tempting to try and avoid answering the question and joke about “staying at university for the rest of your life”, at some point you’re going to have to start thinking about the future and start applying for those jobs and internships.
The next problem that you have to face is how to turn those 3+ years of essay writing, group assignment nightmares, and mid-semester breakdowns into some kind of professional-sounding experience. This is particularly difficult as satisfying the selection criteria for job applications when graduation day finally rolls around, or even during university when you’re applying for internships, does not usually involve “pulling all-nighters before assignments before nights are due” and “pub crawls”.
Satisfying all the criteria for jobs is particularly difficult as the demands of university, including its social aspects, don’t really leave you with the best opportunity to go out and get the experience required for your dream position.
Even if you have worked throughout your university degree, sometimes your extensive experience as a barista and your exceptional latte art skills aren’t going to be the best opening line of your application. The solution? Getting involved around campus.
Not only is getting involved a great way to pad your resume; it’s a great opportunity to make friends, learn new skills and follow your passions. As someone who is currently applying for a series of graduate programs and jobs, I’ve found myself drawing on some of these university experiences and extracurricular activities in order to satisfy some of the essential criteria for certain applications. Even with limited time after my study and part-time work (have to pay rent somehow), I’ve managed to find a few key extracurricular activities to help prepare me for life in the big world.
Some of these include: being a committee member for the Italian Social Club, a sub-editor/writer for Unimelb Adventures, and a Model UN delegate with the Melbourne International Relations Society. Whilst these are my personal examples, there are a myriad of groups you can get involved in a wide-range of roles and responsibilities you can undertake in order to prepare you for the professional world.
Some of the things prospective employers are looking for
- Strong oral and written communication
- Achieves results
- Working under pressure
- Organisational Skills
- Time management
- Analytical mindset
- Leadership Skills
Above are some of the most common criteria that employers look for. Now you may think that you can use just your university studies for the majority of these skills, and this may be true for some of them. However, it is also great to have some experience outside of just your university studies to draw upon when you’re applying for jobs and internships, and extracurricular activities are perfect! For example, my experience as a Model UN delegate involved debating other students – ie. ‘strong’ oral communication skills – and experience analysing and researching international issues. I also spoke about my experience as a committee member for the Italian Social Club and how that helped develop skills relating to time management, organisation and teamwork as I worked with other committee members to organise and run events for the club, whilst balancing other commitments. Even my short time with Unimelb Adventures has come in handy as I speak about ‘meeting strict deadlines’ related to coordinating with writers to edit articles in preparation for publishing.
Whilst it’s important to try and put your best foot forward, it’s also a good idea not to over-exaggerate your role and experience when applying for your jobs. Whilst it may be tempting to say you pioneered a project that stopped climate change, or that you speak 7 languages, if you are lucky enough to progress to the interview round, you are likely to be further questioned on this experience. So be honest, you’d be surprised what kind of skills you develop through these experiences and how you can use them to your advantage.
As there are so many extracurricular activities you can be involved in around campus, it’s also important to make sure that they are the ones you are going to enjoy the most. Whilst it may be tempting to choose only the ones that will stand out your resume, or to employ a cutthroat Frank Underwood-esque approach in your rise to become President (of that society), my advice it to also follow your passions, and it may even help your studies!
For example, my role as a committee member of the Italian Social Club is driven by my love of the Italian language, culture, food, a passion that I wish to share with others. It also ties back to my studies and family history, and it gives me even more opportunities to speak Italian!
For more tips on applying for jobs and internships, check out the Unimelb Careers page for more advice from seasoned professionals
All the best for your applications!