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Thinking beyond your degree

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I can remember distinctly the smugness of some of my classmates when they'd get that highly coveted First. Don't get me wrong – it's something to be proud of, sure. In fact, it's something we'd all love to achieve, quite rightly. But I look at some of them now, perhaps unemployed, perhaps working a job they hate, and I think to myself 'just how far can a good grade REALLY get you?'

Of course a top result can open doors for you. There are certain graduate jobs that have certain requirements – often a 2:1 or a 1st class degree. However, these days, that's just not enough. In reality, you need to take it beyond studying and out into the real world to secure your dream career. How should you do that? Here are a few ideas:

1. Work experience. If you only do one thing on this list, make sure it's that. Apply for something field related, even if that means it's unpaid. Unfair? Yes, but right now, there are times when this is your only option. During my time at University, I popped down to London for a few weeks to work for a magazine. Worth every penny I saved to be able to go!

2. Join a society or a team. Nobody is asking you to be 'Mr or Miss University 2014', but showing a little dedication to something – whether affiliated with the University or not - can demonstrate all kinds of things that future employers are looking for. You know, the buzz words you can then put on your CV, like 'dedication', 'motivation' and 'team work', to name but a few!

3. Get a part-time job. In all honesty, it could even be at a fast food chain, providing you know how to manipulate your skills picked up there to fit in with your working aspirations. Were you given responsibility? Great! Or perhaps you helped train or manage other staff. This all really adds up and providing you can talk and write about it in applications, it will take on a significance far greater than you could ever imagine.

4. Take part in a hobby. You wouldn't believe the amount of carbon-copy cutouts who all present themselves in their droves for the same job. Want a hint? The employers just aren't buying it that you're passionate about work above all else. It might be cute, and there are definitely times when a little bit of exaggeration is never a bad thing, but displaying a passion – a genuine, true passion – outside of your work career is going to get you a million brownie points, I promise. It doesn't have to cost a lot, some of it can be done from right here in student accommodation! Whether it's music, sport, film, travel or literature, they want to see that you have a personality. That they'd enjoy working with you. And that maybe, just maybe, you're spirited enough to have the enthusiasm they are looking for.

5. Show that you're open minded. Open your eyes, meet new people, and see the world from outside of your own perspective. It doesn't matter if you travelled and did a 'gap yah' in Peru, or you volunteered with the homeless in your own hometown, prove that you're a compassionate person who is strong, independent and cultured enough to broaden your horizons and add fresh perspective to a team.

Ten years ago, it might have been possible to walk out with top grades, and get exactly where you wanted. Whilst this still might be the case in some instances, these are few and far between. Of course, studying and doing well will always be desirable. Luckily, at Liberty Living, you're pretty much all set for sorting that part out! But unfortunately, you have to wake up to the fact that everybody has that same idea, so it's going to take more – a whole lot more – to reach your goals. Don't worry though – you're still young, so there's plenty of time to figure out exactly what they may be!

Liberty Living provides student accommodation, including summer accommodation, in 17 university cities across the UK, including Birmingham, Cardiff, London plus many more.

Posted on 27th March 2014 by Claire L.

Claire Louise Sheridan lives and works in Peterborough. She recently graduated with a degree in English and Communication Studies from the University of Liverpool.

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