By Idil Serce
While studying for my undergraduate degree, I found myself thinking about the future and the skills prospective employers might want.
In my head, I built an action plan for myself that focused on developing my employability skills and building my life experiences. On paper, I wanted to make myself the perfect candidate for corporate graduate schemes. I sought out opportunities for self-development and confidence building. I put myself up for committee roles to develop and showcase my leadership and team working credentials. For example, I applied for and became a committee member at Enactus Hertfordshire and London Youth.
Unfortunately, the benefits of my efforts were not immediate and I was unsuccessful in my first round of applications to graduate schemes. While it can be de-motivating to receive several rejections, it is important to maintain a positive attitude, remind yourself that competition for such schemes is high and keep searching. I decided to research for other work-based opportunities that would develop and strengthen my skills and increase my chances of securing a long-term job. Here are some of the career opportunities l found.
Volunteering is probably the easiest way to gain work experience and develop the employability skills favoured by prospective employers. It is fair to say that employers value the effort that students make in using their spare time either between their studies or during their summer holidays, to positively contribute to their local communities or wider society. Employers seek commitment, integrity and honesty and volunteering is a great way of demonstrating these qualities.
Depending on your university course, industrial placements may be an option. As a VI student, an industrial placement will help develop your technical skills, competencies and life skills. All of which may provide you with an advantage when competing with others who are applying for the same job.
Internships are another great way for VI students to gain the vital work experience they need while studying or after leaving university. Many companies offer summer and winter internships, meaning that you can use your holidays productively to further enhance your CV and increase your chances of securing a good job.
Leaving university without a place on a graduate scheme made me more determined to secure an intern position. These short-term positions are a great way to gain exposure to an office environment, build employability skills and demonstrate to future prospective employers that VI employees are as capable as their sighted contemporaries.
I was fortunate to secure a six-month voluntary internship with VICTA, as well as a three-month paid internship with Change100. Despite my early disappointments, this proves to me the need to remain positive, not to give up and, to be flexible and receptive to new ideas.
Change100 is a full time three-month paid internship programme that is offered by the Leonard Cheshire Disability Foundation to disabled students who are either in their penultimate year of study or in their first year of graduation. The internship programme offers disabled students who are struggling to find work the opportunity to gain valuable work experience and enhance their job prospects.
Corporate graduate schemes
Depending on your course, the deadline for graduate schemes varies. I found that many graduate schemes open in August with applications accepted until early January. I would also stress that competition for places is fierce and many schemes are oversubscribed, sometimes to the point that they close early. My advice is to keep an eye on your chosen companies and apply early, that way you won’t miss any unexpected deadlines.
With more and more graduates entering the work place, the job market is becoming increasingly competitive. Regardless of who you are, it is important to remember that the journey to employment will not always be as smooth as we would like or hope. The key is to be flexible, manage your expectations and remain resilient in response to any problems you encounter. It is the approach that you take to overcome these issues that will determine your success. Remember, everyone is different and success means different things to different people. You are unique, as is your journey.
Written by Idil Serce