So you are final year of uni (or college) and thinking ‘what the hell am I going to do next’? Yep that was me in my final year of uni. Nearly four years later I am now a Marketing and Communications Coordinator role and am very pleased in my role.

My experience job hunting was pretty average. I started applying for jobs after Easter of my final year which, as a tip, if you are thinking of doing a graduate scheme you need to be looking around about September of your final year. Going into my job hunt I lacked confidence. I felt that the skills I had learned from my degree was not enough. I got caught in the whole cycle of ‘got the degree but no experience’ which was an awful position to be in to be honest.
When I started applying for roles I signed up to a lot of job search engines (Monster, Reed and my uni’s own bespoke job search engine). I wrote my CV and got my partner to look it over and then I uploaded them. I would upload a cover letter and CV bespoke for each job because let’s face it, you don’t want to give an easy reason for a rejection.
My first jobs I applied for were just shop jobs to keep me going and allow me to stay in my old uni town. Additionally I already had my summer job as a cleaner lined up ( I had been cleaning in halls every summer since first year). It was a 16 week contract so knew I had 16 weeks to get myself a job full-time role.
After a few failed interviews I really started to ramp up the job hunt in June. I was applying for jobs every night and by then the interviews were coming in and, on average, I was going to one interview a week.  My work was really supportive and let me have the time I needed for those interviews. I would google all of these interview questions  and  get my partner to practice them with me. On my seventh week cleaning I went for an interview to become a market researcher at an Students’ Union. I was really ill that week ( I had flu), had been sick and was so close to not attending the interview but went anyway. Luckily I performed well and got the job.
What lessons did I learn from job hunting
I didn’t have the option to give up because if I wanted to live with my partner I had to earn money. However some graduates that I knew were living at home not doing a lot and waiting for the ‘perfect’ job.
Looking back, for those interviews I did do my homework and sat and learned as much as possible about the organisations (it is a pet hate of mine for people to turn up to interviews and not know anything about the organisation they are interviewing for).
Practice, practice, practice – get someone to interview you. Google questions relating to the role you are interviewing for.
Make sure you are passionate, is so important for any role and can make up if you are lacking in skills.
If I had my time at University again what would I do different to help my career

I would certainly have had a part-time job throughout term rather than just in the holidays. Preferably several different ones (not all at the same time) so I could get some experience.

Has anybody had any good or bad interview experiences?

For my sixth form years, I had the very rare opportunity to complete these away at boarding school. I decided to go to boarding school for a number of reasons. This included literally being presented the once in a lifetime opportunity (I could only go once), I wasn’t keen on the local sixth forms (I had to leave my secondary school as it only went up to year 11) and it was the chance to meet new people. It wasn’t plain sailing for those two years and there were plenty of highs and lows. Therefore, today’s post will focus on my first impressions, what the school looked like and my daily school routine. The second post will focus on fun things I remember and upper sixth!

First Impressions
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, I was petrified! I had been to the school a few times before on open evenings so knew the jist of it. Over the entire summer holiday before September I didn’t think I would get the GCSE’s to go so didn’t mentally prepare myself as fully as I should have done.  Actually unpacking was dreadful, I remember my room being so hot ( I think I arrived on one of the hottest days of the year)  and I felt dizzy which I had never experienced before. I shared a room, which I didn’t mind too much because I had to share a room with my sister at home. However I knew some students were not keen with this arrangement.

One of my many rooms I was in. Novelty bed covers were the norm
hence, my Groovy Chick bed cover XD

I  shared a study with another female called Cat and she was lovely and very arty. Cat also had a great singing voice and could play the guitar.  The whole wall of the study was covered in magazine covers! I remember watching Charlies Angels with Cat and another girl in the sixth form on the first evening which was fun and got me settled. 

I quickly realised as I settled into school life that academically I wasn’t strong at all. Literally everybody in my sixth form had a string of A*’s or A’s which was practically unheard of in my state school. These students were so smart GCSEs were a doddle to them.

In addition the standard was so much higher at private school. I had taken A Level English Literature and even though I got an A in the subject at GCSE I was so behind the others in terms of what they knew and their writing ability. Some students essays in the upper sixth were at the standard equivalent to their degree. To add to this, I stupidly decided to take A Level Biology and Chemistry because at GCSE I loved science however I just wasn’t at the level needed for A- Level. It was too big a step- up.  It was awful mix at a time where I was really missing being at home, being in a new place and with people so much smarter than me.

Daily Life

A typical day at boarding school consists of being woken up at half seven to get changed for breakfast at eight. Boys and girls ate their breakfast separately. Form time would be at quarter to nine/ nine o’clock. We then had ‘meeting’ which is essentially prayer and reflection for 15 minutes (the school was a religious school) and then we would start lessons. We would have break which I seem to remember being able to eat juice and biscuits. We would have another set of lessons until lunch.  A few more lessons in the afternoon and then free time until about 6pm when we would have tea and then we would have an hour and a half ‘prep’ which is essentially time to do your homework. After prep it was free time until we had to sign in (which was at different times for different years) the sign in times was generally half an hour before your bed time.

Me with some old friends playing 
with the outdoor chess set

I found prep quite hard to deal with. As I was essentially only studying for two A- Levels (three if you counted General Studies) therefore to study every single night for an hour and a half was too much. Sometimes all I wanted to do was to have a break and do nothing all night. You couldn’t get away with it as you had a teacher go around and check you were in your study. The internet was crap at my school therefore you could never stream anything. However it was fun as when I wasn’t studying to chat with my mates.

The Boarding Side
After the initial shock I really began to enjoy boarding. I found being around like minded people everyday and doing something different was good fun as I would have just watched TV at home. A typical room consisted of two beds, a sink, two desks, two sets of shelves and two wardrobes. The girls were separated from the boys and you could only access the boarding school by punching in a code in the door. The boarding house was run by a house mistress and a matron and in the week there was a team of around five staff members who were also teachers in the school taking it in turns to be on duty. The staff members did a lot for us. They put on parties for individual students birthdays, had film nights, had parties such as ‘Bring back the summer’, were there to listen to us whinging and really helped us all round. All of the girls were really nice and we all tend to stick together.

One of the many day trips away, this one was 
in the Peak District

I had two wardrobes in one of my rooms therefore
I used the spare one to keep all non-refrigerated ingredients
for a charity bake sale

Playing pool in the common room

On the Saturday mornings, we had a variety of choices on how to spend the day. Sixth former’s could either have prep (homework) in the studies or take part in a variety of activities. There tended to be lots of sports activities such as badminton and basketball and art activities. Again like the prep at night it was frustrating at times having to do something on a Saturday morning as sometimes all I wanted to do was sleep!

Signs for one of the boarding houses’ many parties

Great Gardens where I used to go for a walk 

The afternoons were ours however and I spent them either chilling at school, swimming in the schools pool (which really wasn’t glam as it sounds!) or shopping. Sometimes there were school trips, ones I remember going on were to the Trafford Centre in Manchester for some shopping and ice skating in Sheffield. On Sunday’s we would have to go to a church service in the morning and then the afternoon was free. The school community was really good. I didn’t find the sixth former’s to be cliquey and everyone was friendly.

That concludes my first post on boarding school life! Did you go to boarding school? If you didn’t would you have liked to go?

[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.