Graduate story: 5 Things I Would Have Told My Student Self

Having graduated from the School of English this year, I found myself facing up to the realisation that I had always known would be coming: I have to get a job. The prospect of a career somehow managed to always seem so far away – even as second year came to a close, third year began and, eventually, I handed in my dissertation. But after walking across the stage, shaking the Principal’s hand and waking up the next day, it all settled in and I double-tapped my web browser to begin my first job search. After three months of CV’s, interviews, part-time work and networking I ended up in the very place I started, taking up a full time job in the Queen Mary Careers & Enterprise Centre.

So, what would I have told my student self with the knowledge I have now?

  1. Get informed & use the experts

The first and most useful thing you can do as a student is collect as much information as possible about your future career. Whether you know what you want to do or you’re looking to find out what the best path is for you, the Careers & Enterprise Centre has a wealth of information to help guide and prepare you. From the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers rankings to fact files on how to ace an interview, there is always something to help you lay the foundation, progress further or discover a route you may not yet know exists.

One of the main issues for most students is how to go about securing a job. Whether it’s the first hurdles (how to write a CV, how to fill in an application form, how to gain experience) or the final stretch (how to perform well at an assessment centre, how to network successfully, how to engage an employer), there are always questions along the way. However, the Careers & Enterprise Centre has dedicated Careers Consultants who you can visit for a one-on-one meeting that will help arm you will all the advice you could need.

students walking

  1. Get some work experience

Undoubtedly, the most important aspect of your CV is the skills and attributes you possess as a student or graduate. A great way to develop these is through gaining some voluntary work experience. The Careers & Enterprise Centre has an award-winning scheme, QProjects, which places students with charities in and around Tower Hamlets. Working just one day a week and with paid travel expenses, QProjects is the perfect way to build your CV whilst having time to study and enjoy your travel expenses. Even better, students who undertake a QProject are 22% more likely to gain employment than the average QMUL student.


  1. Get paid before you graduate

After you’ve gained some work experience in the voluntary sector, it’s good to start looking for paid opportunities. These give your CV texture, as you have a range of different experiences you can apply to different situations, applications and interview questions. The Careers & Enterprise Centre has two services that help students into paid experience – QTemps & QInterns. QTemps sources paid temporary placements for students, whereas QInterns finds department-specific internships to help you take your skills to the next level.

  1. Know what you want and make sure you can get it

The word internship is batted about by students, employers and the media – making it hard to define. However, if you are applying for an internship you should always make sure of one thing: that is a useful placement that will help you advance your skills and secure employment. What makes an internship different from work experience? Are they paid or unpaid? How long should they last? All of these questions have varying answers depending on the company, the time of year and, often, you’re availability. Make sure that whatever you’re applying for, it’s what you want to do – and make sure you are applying for something within your grasp. Internships are often competitive, and it is better to gain some work experience, work as a temp and build you CV first.

  1. Take a Chance

Sometimes the absolute best thing you can do is try something you have never done before. Putting yourself out there can give you an extra string to your bow and help you reach targets you never thought possible. Going to one of the Careers & Enterprise Centre’s Fairs is a great way to expand your potential options as a student or graduate looking for work. There you can find help with questions, meet employers and gain invaluable training from a range of companies.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, then look to start up your own business or attend one of our training days with the Enterprise Programme. Providing advice and financial support to student start-ups, the programme can help you off the ground with its ‘Try-It’ award or climb even higher with the ‘Grow-It’ award. Past student enterprises have included an events management company, a raw chocolate maker and a coding business – so the potential is unlimited.

There you have it, a past Queen Mary students 5 top tips for landing a career in and after graduation.

Sean Richardson

Employer Engagement Assistant


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