If you’re coming to the end of your degree program and wondering how to penetrate today’s competitive labor market given the increasing number of emerging graduates, this article is for you. While a good qualification from a reputable institution may get your foot in the door, you will need more than a generic CV or Resume to secure your seat at the table. Here are some tips on routes and ways to get you started on your career path.

Volunteering

Many recruiters today consider work experience as an essential requirement in addition to academic qualifications. Engaging in some voluntary work before, during or soon after your studies (as you wait for responses to your applications) is a chance to gain some practical experience while building on your work record. Volunteering also gives you the time to develop your skills and acquire new ones, with teamwork being fundamental and valuable to most potential employers. Whether you decide to dedicate your service to a cause that has no direct link to your career target or you do find a position in an organization you would love to work for, volunteering presents an opportunity for networking which could help you land a permanent job in the future. Instead of binging on a Netflix series all day, sign up for a voluntary position and expose yourself to new experiences while expanding your network and increase your knowledge.

Internships

Internships, like volunteering, provide an opportunity to demonstrate your suitability to a potential employer while developing career-relevant skills. Most companies now use internships as a recruitment tool for more permanent positions, so don’t write it off as a menial position. Paid or unpaid, an internship is essentially the first step into a professional career as it gives you the real-life experience of the job. Also, an internship often provides access to events and conferences where you will interact and network with professionals, who can potentially become future references, mentors or employers.

Develop Marketable Skills

In addition to certified technical skills, recruiters today are looking for employees with abilities distinguish candidate one from the next and leverage yourself in a competitive job market, you will need to develop and maintain a set of skills that will. This list compiled by the U.S. Secretary of Labor and the Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS)  highlights some of the key foundation skills and basic workplace competencies that are critical for employment:

  • Basic Skills – Reading, writing, arithmetic, mathematics, speaking, and listening
  • Thinking Skills – Abilities to learn, reason, think creatively, make decisions, and solve problems
  • Personal Qualities – Individual responsibility, verbal and written skills, self-esteem, self-management, and integrity
  • Resourcing Skills – Allocate time, money, materials, space, and staffing.
  • Interpersonal Skills – Participate in teams, teach others, serve customers, lead, negotiate, and work well with people from culturally diverse backgrounds.
  • Information Skills – Acquire and evaluate data, organize and maintain files, interpret and communicate, and use computers to process information.
  • Systems Skills – Understand social, organizational, and technological systems; monitor and correct performance; and design or improve systems.
  • Technology Skills – Select equipment and tools; maintain and troubleshoot equipment, and apply technology to specific tasks.
  • Transferable Skills – Basic skills that transfer from one job to another, which include communication and interpersonal skills of managing, organizing, coordinating, and writing.
  • Adaptive Skills – Personal traits that develop through life experiences. Although these skills may not be specific to any one job or career, they are extremely important to employers and to sustaining employability; therefore, they are very marketable. These include passion, flexibility, leadership, patience, responsibility, maturity, decisiveness, commitment, and enthusiasm.

Continuous Skills Development 

Many young people are under the impression that graduating from a university means waving goodbye to readings, exams, and assessments. Unfortunately, today’s workplace is an equally intense and competitive learning environment that demands continuous skills development. New technology, legislation or customer demand may shift an organization’s goals and needs which has implications for the staff. So before you get the job, look into how you can improve your skills as this will heighten your employability levels. And after you have secured that job, continue to upskill and expand your knowledge through learning a new language, taking on a short course or joining and engaging with professional associations. The more skills you have to offer, the better your CV will be when compared to someone who just relies on his/her university qualifications. These are some useful sites for personal development:

  • Lynda.com is a leading online learning platform that helps people learn business, software, technology, and creative skills to achieve personal and professional goals. Usually, they offer a free trial for LinkedIn members (another reason to set up a LinkedIn account) and they have a wide range of video courses so you can hit various topics you might need or interested in.
  • Udemy is a global marketplace for mastering new skills by learning from an extensive library of over 45,000 courses taught by expert instructors. It’s a learning marketplace where instructors from different fields create lessons on a diverse array of topics – from programming to woodworking skills to publishing your book. This site offers a plethora of courses so you have to hunt to find the perfect course for you.
  • Coursera is a wonderful resource for learning, reviewing, and discussing academia with lessons by top instructors from the world’s best universities and educational institutions. They have recorded video lectures, auto-graded and peer-reviewed assignments, and community discussion forums. For a starting price of $29, you can learn new skills in 4-6 weeks and earn an electronic course certificate that you can share.

Create a professional online profile

In 2019, your digital identity is just as important as your CV or Resume as most recruiters now conduct a web search of your name when considering candidates for a job. ‘I’m already on Facebook, Instagram and very active on Twitter.’ Great! But let’s talk about LinkedIn. The platform has developed into one of the most reliable vehicles for finding networks, internships and job prospects, and if you haven’t already created one, your LinkedIn profile is more important now than ever. Employers actively use this platform to source candidates, with some applications accepting a summary of your profile as a CV so ensure that it is up to date. Use LinkedIn to engage with other professionals in your field of interest, sharing useful and commenting on what others post. The more engagement and wider your network, the greater your visibility. DO NOT use caricatures and avatars for your online profiles. Instead, invest in some professional headshots for all your social media accounts.

Hopefully, these few pointers will guide and help you as you prepare for the world outside the walls of the university.

When Adam Curry and Dave Winer developed a program to download internet radio broadcasts to an iPod back in 2004, they probably had no idea that their program, the iPodder, would one day turn into a popular medium of information that we identify as podcasting today. Their invention was the foundation of on-demand audio which gives the listener the flexibility and the choice in deciding when and what to listen to, unlike traditional radio broadcasts, which often meant skimming through several stations just to tune that one exciting programme. A solitary listener, driving to work, seated on the bus, preparing a meal or counting steps on the treadmill, is immersed into what often feels like a more personal, more intimate and more authentic conversation. Unlike written and video content, podcasts are specifically designed to fit into those moments when you don’t want to scroll through your phone, but you need a little more than some background music. They also cater to those who don’t have the time to sit and read a 2 000 word article but want to keep abreast with current discourse, especially when the information is delivered in a creative and engaging manner, as opposed to the polished authority that traditional media transmit.

Smartphones and high-speed internet have catalyzed the growth of this particular digital medium with increasing content on any topic you can imagine – comedy to education, music, and technology. From panel discussions, narrative storytelling to solo-casts, there is a wide variety of podcasts providing byte-sized information (with room for further probing) and entertainment at no cost, as most podcasts are free to access. Podcasts also create communities, bringing together like-minded individuals to share and exchange knowledge and experiences on common interests. The conversation often turns into a sort of feedback loop where podcasters produce content which listeners consume and comment on, generating more ideas for more episodes. Whether you’re looking for inspiration and information, looking for some escape into the world of fiction, or just looking to optimize your time during a long commute, there’s bound to be a podcast for that will cater to your interests and time. Today, we’re highlighting seven podcasts that are worth a listen.

  1. Oxford’s Future Makers Podcast gives insight into key issues for the future of society in the light of the ever-changing times. Listen in for informative debates by the institution’s academics who are at the forefront of their profession as they explore past and on-going research in different topics. The first season of the podcast focuses on Artificial Intelligence, from the automation of jobs to the inherent bias of algorithms.
  2. The Conversation. Every week, Kim Chakanetsa hosts two women from different countries, backgrounds and age groups with common interests, passions or careers are shaking up the status quo. This podcast brings the female voice to the forefront, bringing together interesting and engaging women on a platform that values their unique experiences and knowledge. The show appeals to a range of professional fields – from skateboarding, climate change advocacy to sport.
  3. The Ted Interview. Fancy a 30-minute commute with  Bill Gates or making dinner with Andrew McAfee? This is the podcast for you! The host, Chris Anderson (Head of TED) delves into the provocative and powerful ideas of this time as he speaks with some of the world’s most interesting people.
  4. The Gary Vee Audio Experience. If you’re looking some motivation to get you going through your entrepreneurial journey, this podcast is a great channel to subscribe to. Gary Vaynerchuk is an entrepreneur, investor, vlogger, and public speaker and uses the podcast to share his insight on marketing and business through the #AskGaryVee show, keynote speeches and segments from his DAILYVEE video series.
  5. The Guilty Feminist. Hosted by Deborah Frances-White, the award-winning podcast and live show explores the big topics all 21st-century feminists agree on, whilst confessing the “buts” – the insecurities, hypocrisies, and fears that undermine most lofty feminist principles. Every episode, which is recorded in front of a live audience, begins with a confession: “I’m a feminist, but…”, an acknowledgement of the difficulty in living up to the tenets of feminism.
  6. Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations offers intimate, heartwarming and inspiring conversations about the significance of values, character, purpose and meaning in one’s life. Oprah, a celebrated media executive, actress, talk show host, television producer and philanthropist, sits down with thought-leaders, modern-day influencers and game-changers to unpack the current climate of politics, religion and culture.
  7. Jesus and Jollof No, this podcast is not about religion or the popular West-African rice dish. The name of the podcast is actually inspired by the two things that co-hosts Luvvie Ajayi and Yvonne Orji cannot live without. Join the two Nigerian women, who grew up in the United States as they have hilarious discussions about the things they love, their stories, and life in general.

 

 

 

  1. The Freshers Week Friend

You probably met during orientation at one of the many welcome events at your university or residence. It was great having a friendly face to help each other settle in the first few weeks since the move to London was a new experience for both of you. This friendship usually wanes off after some time as you realise you have different interests and make different friends. Or it might be forever at first meet, s/he could turn into the sibling you always wished for. Either way, everyone needs this friendship to get through the transition into a new residence, new university and new city. Even if you do grow apart, you are still able to exchange warm smiles and keep fond memories of those first weeks.

2. The Study Buddy

You’ll meet this friend in the department common room or the library more than once. A friendly chat during a study break and a few classes together, you find yourself engaging in mutually beneficial conversations over this theory or the other. The study buddy challenges you to stay on top of your reading lists and provides that healthy competition that motivates you to do well. This friendship thrives on helping each other succeed and can develop into a lifelong friendship as you explore other mutual interests out of the university walls.

3. The Classmate

You see this friend a couple of times a week, s/he even goes out their way to save you a seat when there’s a full class. There’s always some small talk about the pressure of writing that 5 000 – word paper or an upcoming exam. You enjoy this friend’s company in the university setting and even after several attempts of meeting up or hanging out in a different setting, it never really happens. This friendship one convenience and thrives on proximity — the minute you leave the lecture room each of you returns into your world only to meet at the next class. Social media heart emojis and thumbs up become the only way to keep up with each other’s lives after you graduate.

4. The Party Friend

Always up for a good time, the party friend knows where to get the cheapest drinks on a Tuesday night. After bumping into this friend a couple of times in the student bar, you exchanged numbers and now s/he is that familiar face that lights up and announces your arrival to the rest of the party group at every party. You’ve even grown to have one of those ‘So, where are we heading to after class?” type of friends. This friendship is coloured with a lot of cheering, toasting, bathroom runs, hugs and that one random blackout (that you still can’t remember). Even though you don’t have time to go out every Friday, having a party friend is good for those nights when you just need to blow off some steam.

5. The Friend for Life

This is your person. On meeting this friend it feels like the universe conspired for your atoms to meet at this point in your life. You feel like you’ve known each other all your lives and you find it so easy to talk about anything and everything. S/he just gets you — no judgement. You have so much in common and your differences seem to complement each other. This friendship tends to grow beyond university and lasts a lifetime. If you are lucky enough to find this friendship, treasure it.

According to the World Health Organisation, mental wellbeing is a dynamic state in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. It also entails an emotional resilience which enables us to navigate through and experience the ups and downs of life — the joy and pain, the excitement and disappointment. That ability to appreciate life despite its struggles also requires flexibility as one must continuously juggle and find a balance between conflicting needs, goals, duties and responsibilities. Together with the physical, social and emotional, mental well-being allows us to engage productively and effectively with family, peers and colleagues.

Efforts to strike a balance between the demands of academic life, societal expectations and reality have left many young people feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and deeply anxious. The expectation of ‘having it all together’ at all times plus the race towards unrealistic life goals has fostered a persecutory perfectionism among young adults and this often manifests as anxiety, self-harm, depression, eating disorders, and dissatisfaction with oneself and one’s personal achievements. This is compounded by the feeling of isolation despite various virtual connections and significantly impacts how students feel about themselves and how they engage with student life. Underlying causes vary from person to person, with some having nothing to do with the uni experience, although the demands of the academic journey can become potential stress triggers, ultimately impeding academic progress and personal development.

It’s taken for granted that good grades are achieved at the expense of disrupted sleep, anxiety, periods of stress and depression. While higher education can be overwhelming and challenging, the tendency to dismiss it as a norm, that university is just a period of stress and suffering that everyone has to go through creates a societal and personal stigma that makes the pursuit of mental well-being even more difficult. Students are then often reluctant to seek help, particularly for mental health illnesses, which studies reveal are alarmingly increasing as evidenced by the rise in cases of psychological distress and illness in universities. While mental health difficulties can develop at any stage in life, there has been growing concern in the student demographic as a highly vulnerable group.

Between writing long essays, studying for exams, pulling long hours into research for your dissertation and trying to maintain some sort of social life, it may seem like there’s just no time for anything else. It feels like there is an incredible pressure to excel in everything. It’s true that university is taxing and stressful but your mental well-being is crucial for you to get through that phase of life (and every other phase as well). Life only gets more complex and challenging as we transition and navigate through different stages ( just think back to how learning to write your name was such a big deal and the only worries you had were if you missed watching a certain cartoon after school). The pursuit of mental well-being, you will soon find, is a life-long exercise and it takes more than implementing “11 Steps to Boost Your Mental Health”. It involves taking care of your emotional, physical and mental needs constantly and consistently.

Now that you know this, it’s time to re-commit to taking better care of yourself ( it probably was one of those new year’s resolutions that never really made it beyond the list in your diary). Start today. On one of your study breaks, take a few minutes to jot down your achievements so far. Keep that note safe and every time you ever find yourself comparing yourself to your peers and apparently failing at life, look at that list of achievements. You did that! Now grab a bottle of water and place it within arm’s reach. Take a sip now and then, it’s amazing how keeping hydrated will keep you alert (plus all the trips to the bathroom will give you a bit of exercise). Try going to bed 30 minutes earlier tonight, and unplug — from your phone, from the internet, from social media especially. Instead, play your favourite song and just take those 30 minutes to relax and ease into a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow is another day and you’ll tackle its challenges in the morning.

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