Enhancing my employability from home

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by Chloe, BA(Hons) Fashion Communication

Now my three years of studying at UWE Bristol has come to an end, I’m in the same position as many other graduates, wondering what we can be doing during the pandemic to boost our employability, from home.

Leaving education was a scary feeling and to ease the transition into job hunting, I decided to continue to educate myself whilst seeking employment. For me, I wanted to use this time to build and grow myself as an individual by learning new skills.

How to learn new skills after you graduate

During lockdown, I wanted to build my CV and show potential employers what I have been up to whilst the world paused. So, I went online and found several great websites which provide a range of courses and some are even free:

  • LinkedIn Learning – online training
  • EdX – 2,500+ online courses from 140 institutions
  • Future Learn – a variety of online courses from Business & Management, Creative Arts & Media, to Psychology & Mental Health

There is such a variety of courses available and something for everyone, I recommend checking these sites out!

I’m currently working my way through a Consumer Behaviour and Psychology course which is topic that has always interested me, I just hadn’t had the chance to learn about it. The opportunity to continue learning and expand my knowledge is really exciting and it also helps to give structure to my days.

More importantly though, doing the course has given me a real sense of achievement and feeling of growth, which has been great during a time where life has a lot of uncertainties.

Why not do an online course?

Reach out and get networking

Something I would advise all students and graduates to do is network. The ability to meet valuable contacts, engage in dialogue and open conversations will really help your journey into a career. And as a graduate living in a digital age, it is easier now more than ever to reach out and contact people across the world.

As a creative, I have found contacting people through Instagram a very successful method. By having conversations with other creatives or companies about their work and their journey, it has really opened up new paths for me. For example, during the pandemic, I have offered my design skillset to a number of local and regional brands to help boost their interactions with customers and remain both relevant and visible in the eyes of their audience.

How to network from home

You may think, but where do I start?

Consider this – is there a company you aspire to work for? Is there an individual or collective that inspires your practice and profession? Well, reach out!

  • Email – for the best chance getting a response from a company, try and find a specific named email and avoid “info@” addresses.
  • LinkedIn – find the company, job role and individual you want to directly contact.
  • Phone – this may seem a bit daunting, but simply picking up the phone and having a conversation with someone will get this networking process out there faster
  • Instagram – contact the individual who inspires you and show your interest in their work.

Once you have connected with someone, ask them questions. How did they get into this career? What advice do they have for graduates wanting to pursue a career in X? What are the stepping stones, or journey you need to take to get to that point?

And finally…

Securing the perfect job isn’t easy, but keep searching, learning and networking, and you’ll get there.

And remember, as graduates we will continue to have access to the University career services, including coaching appointments for 3 years after graduating and use of the Career Toolkit and vacancy search for life!

My top tips for completing job applications

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by Chloe Matthews, BA(Hons) Fashion Communication

The process of writing an application can be daunting, but it’s all about seeking opportunities which will develop your skillset and enhance your CV. Thinking about jobs is often scary, but it is important to gain experience which sets you apart from future candidates.  Remember – you don’t need to know what you are going to be doing in ten years’ time, just arm yourself with experience and skills to widen your opportunities later on. 

During my time at UWE Bristol I’ve worked as a Student Ambassador, volunteered for a charity and recently started working as a Student Content Coordinator. For all of these, I’ve had to complete an application to be shortlisted and it got me thinking, what makes a good job application?

I’ve rounded up the top tips which have helped me in the past that I hope will help you with your next application too!

Decide where and what to search for

Since studying at UWE Bristol, I found the UWE Job Shop and Infohub Vacancies valuable tools when trying to find volunteering and work experience opportunities. The site offers a range of vacancies which will enhance your knowledge and employability. I found a volunteering vacancy as a Social Media Coordinator at Sue Ryder, which allowed me to explore an area I had little experience in, but always wanted to try. I discovered that the position held more responsibilities than I had anticipated but led me down more avenues to explore.   

But what if you don’t know what to apply for?

Use Infohub to find vacancies!

Identify your skills to you find the right role for you

If you identify what you enjoy doing and what you are good at, you will discover an umbrella of paths to explore. By researching these key skills, you will find out what job titles surround your interest and abilities – which will create a direction for your job hunt. 

Once you’ve found an opportunity try to understand the role 

Once you find a role which interests you, ensure you understand what the advert is asking of you. Are there particular skills or qualities the job requires? 

Make a list of what the job requires and make a list of examples of when/how you have done this. Source key skills you have exercised on your degree, for example, communication, team work and time management. By doing this you will uncover core transferable skills which are crucial for all jobs. Never under estimate the experience and qualities you have, as everything you do holds significant value. 

Learn about the company you are applying to  

When completing an application, it is important that you show a level of understanding and knowledge of the establishment you are applying to. What do you like about the company? 

Showing that you have an interest and an awareness of the company will demonstrate initiative and engagement, which counts for a lot!

And finally…

Remember, there is no harm in trying and there is nothing to lose when applying to jobs. Even if you don’t get the role, it’s all good experience so keep your eyes peeled for opportunities and keep working towards your end goal. 

Check out the applications section of the Careers Toolkit for useful resources and tips on how to complete a successful application.

What a degree can do for you

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by Sophia, BA(Hons) Marketing Communications, MSc Marketing 

More than a degree

Going to university is a big decision and will shape the next three to four years of your life, so it is important to make sure that it is something you want to do. Continuing your education can be very rewarding not only in your professional development but also in your personal one. Many people who have gone to university will tell you that it was the best few years they have experienced and would recommend it to anyone.

Getting a degree is so much more than a piece of paper.

The most common reason why that time is so cherished is because, as well as attaining a degree, it was also the first step into adulthood for them. Moving away from home and living with strangers can sound scary but so many people have matured and have made lifelong friendships that way. This really is a time where you get to learn to become independent and build a future for yourself.

Getting a degree is so much more than a piece of paper, it’s having multiple opportunities to meet new interesting people, to become a part of a society, to learn how to cook, how to manage money and so much more. Whilst you’re working towards your degree, your university can also offer you to do some of that work abroad on an Erasmus programme, which is an amazing opportunity to learn a new language and experience a different culture. There is so much that you can benefit from getting a degree, you just need to take advantage of all the opportunities.

How can a degree help your employment prospects?

After three years of hard work, graduating and receiving that degree can be one of the most rewarding feelings. You feel accomplished and ready to step into the big world. Naturally, the next step is employment, and this is where you’ll realise that staying up late finishing all those assignments and the long hours of revising for exams haven’t gone to waste.

You’ll notice that one of the requirements of many employees is having a degree in a field of study related to the job. By having that you’re already at an advantage. Some would like to see some experience also, and many of you might think that it seems unfair to have experience and a young age if you’ve been in education the entire time, however choosing a sandwich course that entails being on placement for a year can give you that advantage as well as a lot of confidence and valuable experience.

Getting a well-paying job after attaining a degree is a great achievement, however it’s the journey that took you there that you’ll always remember and cherish.

Another way to start off a career is by doing a graduate scheme or programme, which is incredibly common amongst companies. These schemes are specifically designed for students that have graduated from university, they are a great way to start a career as it offers training, high earning potential and even global opportunities. In general, it is known that about 90% of graduates either get employed or go into further education, so there is a high likelihood of job security. Getting a well-paying job after attaining a degree is a great achievement, however it’s the journey that took you there that you’ll always remember and cherish. It’s a life experience that will shape the future you.

Find out more about getting career ready

How a degree can enhance your career prospects

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by Prisilla, MEng(Hons) Aerospace Engineering and Pilot Studies

The countdown begins. For some of you that might be when you start A-Levels or when you hear the ominous word ‘university’ or when you press submit on your UCAS application. Whatever it may be, going to university is a tough but rewarding decision to make. As someone who is on her fourth year of study (placement year) and has one final of year of Masters left to do, I have seen quite a bit of university life and the degree – the good and the bad times. So even though I am getting eager to leave university, I thought it might be good to tell you about what a degree can do for you through this blog.

A glimpse into your future career

To begin with, your chosen degree is your first glimpse into your future career. Through the lectures, the practicals and workshops, you will begin to know whether you want to continue in the chosen field/industry or if there is something else you enjoy. Most of the lecturers on campus are ex-industry employees, which means they have experienced the industry. So, you can quiz your lecturers about the good and the bad of the industry and maybe even open a chance to network with your future employer (if they have come from a company you are interested in). As you attend lectures and grow on your theoretical knowledge, your degree is helping you to understand the basics and core information. The practicals and workshops really get you stuck-in to the course, showing how theory works in reality. Depending on the module, the course and the coursework, the hands-on experience can vary with projects.

However, a degree is not just all work and no play. Most of the degrees have a dedicated society affiliated to it, which means you can take part in social activities and projects. It does not matter if you are a 1st year or in your final year; all societies love to have the extra help with their projects which means you get to have fun while learning a new skill. As a Student Ambassador, you can represent UWE at various events, gain extra interpersonal skills and showcase your knowledge – the great thing is you are paid to do it!

Get those career enhancing opportunities

Because you study at UWE, your entrance to the annual Employers’ fair is guaranteed. This fair, which takes place around October, brings you in direct contact with about 180 employers from all different industries. They bring with them opportunities of placements, graduate schemes and free goody-bags. If you are successful in applying and securing a placement, I would consider that as a great achievement. Going out on placement is a rewarding experience as not only do you put into practice what you have learnt in your lectures, but you get to see how a company interacts with political, social and economic changes. But it is fine if you don’t get a placement, as you can still get a job with what you’ve learnt in your degree, as 96% of UWE Bristol graduates are in work or further study six months after graduating.

If you are willing to take hold of everything UWE has to offer, you will not notice the time fly by!

The university listens to its students through student rep forums and makes sure their facilities are up to standard. Over the past years, I have seen the Frenchay campus grow in size due to new buildings for the faculties, which means more spaces to work in, more computers and more classrooms. With the added benefit of being able to download subject specific software and Microsoft Windows onto your personal computers, there really is no worry about not getting your work done on time.

Making connections with industry

Finally, in my personal opinion, it is through your degree that you make some great connections which last a lifetime. You not only meet students from all around the world and from all walks of life but you meet with industry professionals who will give you an insight into the working world and help you make the starting step into the field.

Want to see what a day at my placement looks like? Watch my Instagram takeover below!

Find out how to get those career enhancing opportunities at UWE Bristol.

Stephanie’s international placement was a life-changing experience

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Physiotherapy student, Stephanie Joy Evans, talks about her once-in-a-lifetime experience of her clinical placements in Rovaniemi, Finland.

The land of Santa Claus

UWE Bristol’s Study Abroad made the unimaginable my living reality!

Moving to Finland, the land of Santa Claus, to complete two physiotherapy placements was beyond my wildest childhood dreams.

Waking to wild reindeer outside my window and sleeping with the glow of the northern lights peeking through my curtains, was certainly a unique opportunity.

Horse riding through Lapland’s famous woodlands, camping in its wilderness and swimming in its vast lakes; I’ve never felt so close to nature. All this, alongside my degree. I assure you, I can now spell phenomenal!

New opportunities and challenges

Sometimes it’s easy to think that your normal is the only way of life, but this experience exposed me to completely new opportunities and challenges that I never thought I would face.

It’s reinforced the idea to me that diversity needs to be embraced, not just with people, but also in workplace practices.

We can learn so much more if large groups of people collaborate together, sharing ideas and professional opinions, with enthusiasm and respect.

Using this approach, we can make positive changes to healthcare, driving an ambition forward with the goal being to provide the highest quality of care possible to those who need it.

Teamwork drives change, but a team celebrating diversity, strives towards positive change for all – I know which team I would rather be a part of.

Embrace the unknown

This opportunity has urged me to embrace the unknown, welcome change and challenge and to remain optimistic in all situations. In healthcare, these skills are assets to overcome the daily complications that so commonly arise.

My confidence in my ambition to strive forward, to achieve my career aims – to create the greatest possible impact upon those in need – has strengthened.

This experience has given me the courage to believe in myself and my ability to make my goals a reality.

The development of my non-verbal communication skills has progressed to beyond what I originally thought possible. Leading exercise classes independently and motivating individuals through their rehabilitation, without any common language, has advanced my use of facial expressions and body language in physiotherapy practice.

A priceless learning opportunity

This learning opportunity has been priceless and upon returning to my next clinical placement, I plan on progressing my ability of reading and responding to a patient’s body language. I will achieve this by associating a patient’s spoken words with their use of body language, which I can then apply if an absence of language becomes present in my future career.

This opportunity took me far outside of my comfort zone. As an individual with limited international travelling experience, the idea of moving abroad for any length of time was a daunting thought. However, this trip has taught me the wonders of diversity and encouraged me to embrace differing cultural traditions and ways of life.

My appreciation towards planet Earth has grown enormously. My aim upon returning to the UK is to reduce the negative impact that I make upon the planet and to encourage others to do the same, in aid of the whole ecosystem.

Advice to other students: Just go for it!

What are you waiting for?!

Just apply and think about the practicalities and logistics later – filling in that application form will be the best decision that you ever make!

Don’t think you’re not good enough, because you are! Just go for it!

I applied thinking – I would never be chosen – and here I am now, in my third year of university, having travelled for the past three months – funded and everything!

I wish I had known

Unfurnished means no curtains! Turns out the midnight sun literally means the sun never sets, meaning that I lay in broad daylight waiting for the possibility that it might just set – even for a minute! It didn’t, so I lay and watched the birds outside of my window wondering if they ever slept and how they maintained their energy levels!

Once in a lifetime opportunity

My lasting impression from this once in a lifetime opportunity, has been to actively encourage both myself and those around me to take a leap of faith into the unknown.

As long as the experience is approached with optimism, an open mind and a hard-working nature, your personal and professional development will progress far beyond what you could ever imagine.

A truly phenomenal experience that will stay in my heart forever.

How the experience has changed me

This experience made me realise that life is made to be lived and enjoyed, so I’m going to face challenges head on, with a drive to reach my career ambitions.

There are so many people in this world, all with different stories to tell, and I want to work in the most multicultural environment as possible to expose myself to new learning opportunities. I feel like the hospital is the best place to start!

Find out more

Find out about the benefits of going on placement from Francesca

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Francesca tells us about her fantastic placement with Sony.

Hi, I’m Francesca and I’m studying BA (Hons) Marketing Communication Management at UWE Bristol. It’s a fantastic course and one of the great aspects is that it includes a placement year. I secured a placement with Sony from July 2016 – July 2017, where I worked as a Trade Marketing and Channel Communications Executive. Going on placement is invaluable and I wanted to share my experience with you.

From day one, this was very much a real job with real responsibilities. My role involved creating communications such as newsletters, webinars, an SMS service and emails. I also got involved in monitoring sales, producing reports and supporting customers. I was impressed how much I was able to get involved in as a placement student. It was a little daunting at times, but I loved the opportunity to gain real experience.

The best part of my placement was working for a multinational corporation for the first time.

“Names don’t come much bigger than Sony so I was excited to be a part of this global brand. “

And I had some fantastic opportunities during my placement. I worked with colleagues across Europe, attended meetings in Paris and Malaga as well as trade shows in London and Bristol. These experiences brought my placement to life and gave me a better understanding of the business.

My advice to anyone going on placement is to take all opportunities that come your way. Remember to put yourself out there and network. Be proactive and ask questions. Take responsibility for your own learning, and you’ll get the most from it. And it’s normal to feel nervous, I certainly did. But everyone knows you’re on placement and they’re often happy to help – you just need to ask.

Going on placement has increased my confidence so much as I’ve gained new skills and experience. I’ve become more organised, which has been useful in my final year. And I now also understand the business world far better – I’ve had first-hand experience. I’m confident working with people at all levels too having learnt how to articulate myself well. In fact I’ve become a different person since the placement and I’m sure it will help me secure a great graduate position. I can’t recommend going on placement enough – you won’t regret it.’

Learn how students support each other through the Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) scheme.

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Elizabeth tells us about being a PAL leader. What it is and how it’s helped her make friends and grow in confidence. PAL stands for Peer Assisted Learning and is a scheme where students support each other throughout their studies.

Hi, I’m Elizabeth and I have been a PAL leader throughout my second year here at UWE Bristol. I used the PAL scheme during my first year and found it a really good way of helping me settle in and get to know people. It was good to talk to people who had been through it already and learn from their experiences. My brother had also been a PAL leader before me and so it was something that I really wanted to get involved in.

As an academic PAL leader I run a range of study support sessions. These are timetabled and group based and can be attended by students from all years. I run workshops to help students with academic skills and guide them to get any other support they may need.  Other PAL leaders run sessions to help with emotional resilience and careers and employability.  We make the sessions fun with interactive activities and games, so they’re a great way to get to know people.

We get to design the workshops based on our own experiences, along with help and support from staff and the senior PAL leaders who are in their third year. We find that workshops are particularly busy just before exams  where we talk a lot about coursework and how best to prepare.

Being a PAL leader has really increased my confidence. You are responsible for making sure you get to the sessions on time, sticking to deadlines and deciding what to talk about. I’ve also developed my presentation and organisation skills and used work based tools such as power point, which will look great on my CV.

I’ve made lots of friends through being a PAL leader. It’s a great way to widen your circle and get to know new people.  You get to talk to staff around the University which is a great confidence boost and it’s great fun as well.  I really want to become a senior PAL leader next year and would recommend getting involved in this scheme either as a leader or for the great support and advice it offers you.

Find out more about Peer Assisted Learning