5 things you can do in a coffee break to improve your career prospects

No matter where you are in your career planning – whether you’re in your first year and have no idea what you want to do after graduation, or you’ve completed an internship and know exactly the path you want to follow – it is important to use your time at university to ensure you stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs.

Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to improve your career prospects. Here are 5 things you can do in a 20 minute coffee-break to get yourself employer-ready – small tasks you can fit in around your work to give yourself the best chance of success.

1) Make a list of your key skills. Often students start their job hunt by identifying careers they know about – from friends, family and the media – and seeing which ones seem appealing. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it tends to produce a limited range of options when, actually, there are lots of jobs out there which you might not have heard about. An alternative approach is to write a list of your skills, attributes and interests. What interests you? What are you good at? Some people find working intensively with others really energising, but some find it draining. What energises you – and, on the other hand, what drains you? It’s worth doing this regularly, even if you’ve got a career path in mind, as new experiences will often broaden your understanding of your own abilities. You can do this just with a pen and paper, but Target Jobs also has Careers Report – a series of interactive questionnaires which will help you to identify your skills. See: https://targetjobs.co.uk/careers-report

2) Identify skills gaps: This interesting article on The Telegraph website about ‘How to become employer ready by graduation’ suggests trying to find out which skills you need to develop further: ‘Ask your tutors, anyone you’ve recently done a group project with, or a previous work experience employer. Ask them to give you an honest assessment of what they believe your strengths and weakness are.’ Why not spend a spare twenty minutes writing an email to ask for this ‘honest assessment’? Often other people’s perspectives give you new insight and identify strengths and weaknesses you didn’t know you had.

3) Work out how to fill skills gaps: The Telegraph article also suggests making the most of what you already do in order to develop your skills. Are there any activities you’re already doing which you could use to further grow your skillset? The article says that ‘If you’re already a member of a society or club, a little extra input now can really help you in the future.’ Similarly, if you belong to a community or religious group, if you have a part-time job, or if there are any events in your department, see if you can proactively use what you already do. Take 20 minutes to think about your existing commitments through the lens of career development; this can help you to see them in a new way, and to identify opportunities.

5) OK, you can’t exactly do this one IN your coffee break. But we have 20 minute appointments at the Careers and Enterprise Centre where you can get tips on how to improve your CV or application, and get advice on how to find jobs and internships and how to pursue roles in different career areas.

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