The A-Level results are out, last week saw one of the biggest scrambles for university places in clearing for many years, and the GCSE results are looming – so are grades the be all and end all?
We live in a world now, where, in the UK especially, a university degree is taken for granted as the next step after school. But if the majority of us can only offer employers the same grades as the next person, how do you stand out in the crowd? With the recent rise in tuition fees, prospective undergraduates are looking at taking on almost three times the debt of their predecessors – so how do you make sure you are in a position to pay that debt off, in a career you enjoy?
An answer to this common quandary is to start now, by bulking out your CV – whatever stage of the education process you are at, it is never too early to get ahead.
It doesn’t matter whether or not you have decided upon a career path, but experience is key, whether you manage to find a two week work placement, or a regular slot volunteering or helping out. Stuck on where to look for this type of thing? The easiest and most convenient thing is to ask around locally – maybe a local estate agent or solicitors firm – and to ask friends and parents for contacts and references.
Hobbies are very useful – they may just seem a bit of fun now, but playing in that football or netball team can show teamwork, and being a member of that rugby or tennis club for the past few years shows loyalty and staying power. Any qualifications you can gain whilst doing these are great too – whether they be music exams, certificates in dance, drama horse riding or sailing, they all stand you in good stead for the application process, be it for a job or for university. The Duke of Edinburgh’s award is especially good, as it incorporates elements of sport, skill and volunteering, along with team work and organisational skills. Volunteering is another way to gain vital skills, impress employers, and often, to have fun along the way! Whether it be with a charity, in a company, or with a local sports team, volunteering can show employers that you have a range of skills, including responsibility and dedication. Have a look around – opportunities to get involved in all sorts of things are often right under your nose.
This doesn’t have to stop once you reach university. Often people forget about internships and work experience during their fist year, and desperately hunt, panic stricken, during their second and third years. Don’t let this be you – during Fresher’s week head to all the fairs and campus events and get as many details as possible. Sign up to everything – it is often a good idea to set up an email address juts for this purpose – that way you will be among the first to find out about potential opportunities and any society and employer events around campus.
It might seem like a lot of hard work, but lots of these things can be easily included into your daily life. And let’s face it – at best you have got a leg up into the career of your choice, and at worst you have a kick-ass CV ready for any application, guaranteeing you stand out from the crowd. Grades are important of course – who would consider a candidate with only half a dozen U’s, after all?! – but employers are also on the lookout for rounded individuals with experience, so why waste the opportunity, by not making yourself the best candidate you can be?!