Friday 21 October 2016

Start preparing for that job from the first day in college

David Broderick has interviewed thousands of graduates as Manager of Ibec's Export Orientation Programme. Employers are hiring again and actively competing for talent. His advice is to prepare well, and be aware that the majority of learning can happen outside of class.

Published 17/08/2015 | 06:00

David Broderick.
David Broderick.

College is only part of the journey... it's not the destination.

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And like any journey the key to success is packing well. Thankfully the jobs market is now back and vibrant. Long gone are the days that employers are only looking at the core degree on your CV. They look at (and want) the full package. Use your college years as a journey to pick up as many 'employability stamps' on your passport to a job when finished college - your CV.

Getting as high a grade possible in your chosen course is obviously your number one priority. But try to get the all-round experience. Don't settle for the easy life. Don't be lazy. Disrupt your normal routine wherever you can. Don't be shy. There is a clear changing trend in employer interviews/ screening where they want to know about all the other things you did during your college years.

From a personal point of view, you must use these years to develop your core competencies and skills. You are leaving behind your secondary education that had an exam focus, memorising massive amounts of data. You are now an independent learner. You must start to think critically. Question things, ask why.

If time management is an issue for you, make extra efforts to develop this skill as it is fundamental to every job. Use your college years to enhance your employability by developing transferrable skills that you can promote during interviews.

How do you do this?

A language will always be an advantage! If you have a second language you will automatically have an edge. This does not necessarily mean that you need to be fluent - but it would help. Nearly every company deals with an international environment, depending on the sector you want to join after you leave college, a good conversational level of a language other than English will help you get that dream job.

Most colleges now offer extra language courses or modules. Take the initiative, put in the extra bit of time. It will pay off. If your college doesn't offer any additional language courses, you can do short courses in a language training centre, investigate the possibility of doing a night course or take advantage of one of the many online courses available.

Use your summer to spend time in a different country. Not only is this the most effective way to improve language skills but it also shows employers that you are capable of living and working with different cultures. It shows independence and adaptability.

Improve your communication skills - written and verbal

Employers are constantly telling me that graduates need to improve their communication skills, both written and verbal. So if there is any opportunity, and believe me there will be plenty during your next few years, grab it with both hands.

Don't shy away from presentations or report writing in your groups over the next few years, see them as a perfect opportunity to be constantly improving. Or get involved with the college paper or debating society.

Do an internship

Practical hands-on experience gives you a chance to prove yourself and learn on the job. If you can't get this through your course you should try to get an internship during the summer. Dedicate a summer to gaining valuable experience in your field of study. It will pay dividends when it comes to job applications.

Clubs and societies

More and more I notice that employers are focusing on the way students have spent their college years. Did they waste it sitting on a bar stool? Or did they get out there and get involved in a club or a society. Better still did they get involved in running one? This shows employers that you can work with budgets, work as part of a team and use some sales and marketing skills to get new members or promote events. Getting involved in a club committee is the perfect way to showcase your multitasking capabilities and will strengthen your employability.

Look for volunteer opportunities

Employers love to meet applicants who have volunteering experience. This is a great way to illustrate your dependability and shows that you're willing to dedicate time and energy to a cause you believe in. Many colleges arrange volunteer projects in underprivileged countries and this could be an interesting way for you to gain experience in organising fundraising events while sharpening your resilience and communication skills.

Get in contact with local charities and demonstrate your intuition and independence. Use some of your spare time to give back to your community and in the process, boost your employment prospects.

Visit your career services or career development centre

The career service in your college is the best resource that you have available to you over the next few years. They will help you along the path of making a decision as to what you want to do with your life after college. Once you decide on your path they will help and guide you along your chosen route.

They will invite companies onto campus so you can meet with them, set up open days (or usually weeks in most cases now) as well as a number of initiatives that will help you become more employable. When you do decide what companies you are going to target they will even help you with your CV, cover letter preparation as well as share interview hints and tips. You would be mad not to use a resource like that!

Final thoughts

So when you get the call for an interview make sure you can talk about relevant, valuable experience from your college years that makes you more employable and demonstrates your worth as an asset to their company. Employers love hearing about social entrepreneurship, civic society activities, charity work etc.

If possible find some extra-curricular activity that compliments your course such as learning a language or consider getting involved in the committee of a club that you're interested in.

Irish Independent

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