[Image: Freepik.com]

Welcome to my second part of ‘What I Wish I did At University’ if you have recently joined and haven’t read the first part then you can do so here.


Be Proactive

To an extent I am good at motivating
myself to get things done. However this point has been added because the number
of students that moan that there courses do not include a placement but then
do not arrange work experience themselves is staggering. By planning your own
placement in the university holidays (and face it students, you do get a lot
of time off!) will show employers that you have a genuine interest in your
chosen career path, initiative (or common sense depending which way you look at it), and motivation find your own placement.
Learn how to use software packages
effectively
As dorky as it sounds it was only until
after university and in my first full time role that I realised I just had no
sodding idea how to use Excel and Outlook properly. Excel is such a powerful
tool and the stuff I know now would have been really useful in my degree. If I had listened more to my Photoshop classes I would have been a lot better at Photoshop then I am now.
Attend lectures outside your subject area.
A little known fact is you can attend
lectures in other subject areas as long as they are not oversubscribed. A
little knowledge about business and marketing from lectures would have been
really handy and shows employers that you are not just one dimensional but proactive in
furthering your skills set. 

Creating contacts
It took until my first proper job to really understand what it meant by building a list of contacts. At Uni I didn’t build any contacts at all. Now working in marketing means I have contacts with print suppliers and design agencies, as well as a couple of handy work mates when I need advice. I also use Linked In to build a set of professional contacts. Linked In is a great tool to get yourself out there. A couple of people I know have had job offers through Linked In.

Don’t be too over reliant on Extra Curricular Activities
Here I am not saying don’t participate in extra curricular activities but doing them alone will not get you your dream job. Being Captain of a uni sports team for example is great as it shows team work and communication skills (and probably the ability to drink copious amounts of pints) but its not going to score you many points with employers. I think this is because by now employers expect you to be or have had some real work experience and not just sticking within your comfort zone. I used to play in a university sport team, be a course rep and take part in environmental audits for the university Green Impact scheme. Which although I enjoyed it is totally different from being employed in a work environment.

Keep yourself as free as possible
When I was younger (and more naive) I would go into shop jobs and have a couple of weekends where I wouldn’t be able to work when I could have really cancelled my plans. Looking back what is the point of employers employing someone who isn’t free straight away. I know a lot of students have genuine responsibilities which is absolutely fine. Sometimes I feel that people are too restrictive when they are choosing their first jobs. Some people very much want a 9.00- 5.00 Monday to Friday job when they have no other responsibilities or going for roles which are way over qualified experience wise for. I think if you being too restrictive and picky it will only damage your prospects and potentially you will be looking for a job a lot longer.

As many students are starting or making there way back to university it has got me thinking about my time at university and how I didn’t really make the most of it. I left university two years ago graduating with a 2:1 BA Hons Geography degree.

I have been lucky and had a job I really enjoy since graduating but I know for a lot of recent graduates this has not been the case and it has been a hard time facing unemployment. When you drill down to the reason why jobs are so hard to come by for graduates, it is usually the lack of relevant experience. University isn’t a three year piss up anymore, with employers looking for more than just shop experience for you to stand out about the increasing volumes of applicants. This has made it tougher than ever to land a meaningful role. This post goes through some of the decisions I have made and what I would tell my 18 year old self now.

Choose a Course with a Placement Year
My course did not include a placement year. Looking back this does put you at a disadvantage for a variety of reasons. A placement year is a great opportunity to try a career path or to explore a new one. A previous friend of mine found that the career path she originally wanted to follow (journalism) was not the right path for her after going on placement at a local radio station.
Placements lead you to making connections which will help you in the future and could even lead you to a job. My fiance got a job after a week’s work experience at a newspaper. These days employers do not want to spend time to train up employees (not necessarily something I agree with but that’s a different story) so by gaining experience in a variety of different areas will make you more desirable.

Admittedly I did go on a  ‘placement’ module which was helping one of the university academic’s with research. I was interviewed which meant being up against my course mates so was thrilled when I got the placement. However this wasn’t enough. All my research could be done from home so I wasn’t in a physical work area where I could interact with people, the consequence of this was no networking. Nonetheless juggling two research projects in my final year (the other being the dissertation) showed potential employers that I could deal with pressure and I think was one of the reasons why I was employed in my first role after university.

Gain lots of work experience in a variety of different areas.
In three years the only job I held down was a full time cleaning role in the summer holiday and about four weeks work experience in a school because at the time I thought I wanted to be a teacher. Therefore I had tonnes of spare time in term time and just wasted it. I should have written down two or three career paths I was interested in, got on the phone and asked places if they would take someone on for a few weeks. A student on my course at one point held down five different paid and unpaid jobs in her degree so gained many transferable skills that made her stand out. She deservedly was the first student on my course who landed herself a graduate role.

Research the jobs market
Studying Geography I was focused on the environment and humanitarian work. However I didn’t research if there were many long term roles in that area and what skills are required. If I had researched this I would have been able to tailor my experiences to fulfill the skills requirements or broaden my horizons a lot more.

The Saturdays are by far one of my most liked girl groups. Although they haven’t always had number ones (I think they only had one number one with What About Us). They have still have managed to churn out such hits such as Up (my personal favorite), Ego, All Fired Up and Issues among others. They have a song for pretty much any problem a female may come across such as men (I am looking at you Forever Is Over) or girly outing (Notorious). So finally after years of admiring them from afar I brought tickets to go see them on their Greatest Hits Tour at the Birmingham NIA.

The theme for this concert was travel. So five minutes before the concert a voice announced that ”The Sats Airlines will depart in five minutes” and every minute thereafter. As it was the greatest hits tour tune after tune after tune were just belted out. For  a set list click here My best songs were Work as the male topless dancers on stage were pretending to be working out at the gym which is a sight I like to see ;). Gentleman for the imagery on the screen. When the girls were singing the list of men near the end of the song the image of Obama that flashed up on the screen from behind got a chuckle from the crowd. The final song What About Us had the girls on screen dancing around a fire engine and the dancers on stage got a hose and blasted out smoke which was quite funny to watch.

The support acts
The support acts included Calvin Goldspink who used to be in S Club Juniors!, SD-Jem and Beth Sherburn. I cannot comment about Beth Sherburn’s performance because I arrived just as she was finishing her set. SD- Jem were good, Shanel’s voice was incredible. Her voice was so strong and bold and from looking at their website it seems they are already making tracks in the UK Urban music scene having supported Cher Lloyd on her tour. BriBry a solo artist from Ireland was fantastic. His music is very folky, chilled and the song lyrics are sung from the heart. He was cracking jokes on stage and was taking the piss out of himself which makes him really easy to relate to. He is the only support act that I have listened non stop on Spotify as I have been going about the daily monotonous tasks of travelling to work and cleaning my house… An up and coming artist, I think will be huge in the next few years.

Although the set was very simple with a platform on the stage that the girls and dancers can walk up and down on. There was enough variety in terms of the dance moves, fast and slow songs positioned appropriately and the background screen meant you were not getting bored. The girls grouped together often which was great for taking photos and when the girls spoke to the audience and to each other you could see that they are good friends and enjoy each other’s company. The Saturdays seemed very down to earth and I feel personally are fantastic role models for the younger generation.

Favourite song to watch
Gentleman definitely for me, just for the imagery on the screen. The image of Obama got a chuckle from the crowd.

Would you go and see them again?
Although the concert wasn’t the best theatrically if you are a die hard fan of The Saturday’s then I certainly think it is worth going. I thought the ticket price £32 was reasonable and the lasted around two hours which was the perfect timing as the end went off with a bang rather than dragging it out for too long. I had a really good time and it was such a laugh.  

   

I bought these gloves back in September because I wanted a pair of fingerless gloves as the weather got warmer and came across this pair on Amazon. I had read the reviews and they seemed to be positive and were cheap (£5.24 including p&p).

These gloves are a bargain, when I first tried them on I was worried that they would not be flexible enough around the thumb and index finger. However after a few rides out on my bike they were fine. My hands aren’t sweaty inside the glove and the gloves do not feel bulky on my hands. The material is comfortable due to the gel and foam pad and provide enough grip and protection in dry and wet weather. The top part of the glove is a flannel like material which I find useful for removing sweat.
I have put the gloves through the wash several times and they have kept their shape. The gloves are also more longer lasting than my other Crane gloves which have only been out a few times and already the material is going bobbly.
If the colour red does not take your fancy, a bright yellow and pale orange pair are available and for £5.24 you cannot go wrong.
Have you got a pair of these gloves, if so what do you think? Are there any cycling gloves that you would recommend?
XXR Ultimate Gears Red Cycling Gloves
Red and Black XXR Ultimate Gears Cycling Gloves

Yep today I am talking about Strava one of the best cycling apps around (in my opinion).

My partner got me using Strava because he was using it and I liked the idea of being able to compare my time to other riders.
Before I was using the ibiker app but I found myself in a lull with cycling and being able to compare yourself to other riders appealed to me.

So why do I like Strava so much? Well…
Easy to use- as someone who is interested in new technology and usability. I love the orange and black interface. It is very clear and basic and cuts the rubbish out that you don’t need. I like the fact that the activity summary is displayed clearly and that you can see how many ‘trophies’ you or others have achieved. When you scroll further down you have your all time and year to date targets which are nice to look back on.

Screenshot showing Rebecca's Strava Profile

A competitive edge
I have fully enjoyed achieving personal bests and being in the top ten but also being able to collect a Queen of the Mountain (QOM) or two or three… As someone who is used to coming last and being the slowest, it is nice to be the best for once. 🙂

The need for speed
Again being increasingly interested in my progress, the speed graph has come very useful. It has made me want to improve my average speed. It wouldn’t be as good as using a proper speedo but it does the job for me. A note also that the Speed and Elevation charts are clear and easy to understand (I haven’t paid for premium so have not seen the Suffer Score, Heart Rate and Power Zone Analysis sections).

Seeing the Pro’s…
I am very nosy and I have looked up pro cyclists to see if they are on Strava. The Strava QOM on The Woman’s Tour really opened up the idea of looking to see how the pro’s performed.

Screenshot of Dani King's Strava Profile

 

Website backup
The website has the same slick design that the app does and is easy to navigate. The privacy option is vitally important and to be able to map your own route is useful as well.

What I think Strava could improve on…
Again my opinion but two things I could think straight off the top of my head is that I think the challenges could be more ‘novice friendly’. With a full time job and at the level I am the challenges I feel are unrealistic. Additionally, I would love to buy Strava cycling kit but they are just too pricey (although others may think the price is reasonable for a decent set of cycling kit).

Another app which deserves a nod is mapmyride. I don’t personally use it but my partner does and he has planned many routes on the app. He brought a phone holder for his bike and it has been very useful as a Sat Nav for the route.

So this winds up why I enjoy Strava, it is certainly a fantastic little app and you get so much considering it is free. I feel it is the leader in the market in comparison to similar apps out there.

Do you like Strava? Is there any other cycling related apps you would recommend?

You can find Strava here on there website.