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Student view: Taking opportunities

Charlie and Elliot discuss the opportunities they’ve taken at uni to gain valuable work experience and the impact it has had.
When you are a student, you might have to get part-time work, because reality is, money might be quite tight. I’m here with Elliot, a third-year literature student to discuss some opportunities we’ve taken while studying, and it’s helped us develop. Elliot, so what opportunities have you taken? So in terms of work, I’ve done quite a bit on campus. I’ve worked as a cashier at one of the shops around here. I worked as a bartender on campus. I’ve worked in private events as a cocktail bartender as well. On top of that though, I’ve also worked as a graduation ambassador, a tour guide, for some of the open days.
As well as working as a social media manager, a content writer, a copywriter, as well as a video editor. So it seems you’ve done basically quite a bit. I’ve done a fair bit, yes. And the amazing thing was I managed to find all that through the University, which kind of blew me away, I’ve got to say.
When I came to Uni, when I was a fresher like, I was convinced I needed to get a job straight away. So I started work at this nightclub in town. And each night it was terrible. Oh god. I was all messed up, I got underpaid. And then in my second year, I got a job through Campus Jobs instead. And I think that obviously brought the benefit that I was working with reputable employers. So even if there were an issue, which it was unlikely there would be, I could go through Campus Jobs to support me. So I got a second year job working with kids, like a scholar mentor, something like that.
And I have no problems whatsoever, the pay was good. And because you’re working through Campus Jobs they basically recognise you are a student, and they’re just so more lenient. Now I remember, like I said, I’ll go back to what freshers was like. I was going around handing my CV to random places, and I got turned away so many times. It was terrible. Oh, god’s sake. Campus Jobs are just much easier, because aswell they give you support. My applications were terrible at first, but you can put one-on-one career meetings, and that improved my CV so much. Oh god, yeah. The Career Centre has been amazing. It’s got everything from– CV prep, you’re right, and helping you develop that.
Even if you’re not sure what you want to do in your life, if you’ve never worked before and you want to just sit down and say, how do I do this, they’ll guide you in that process. I agree, it’s a matter of, I guess as you say, figuring out what’s around you and using that. There is a lot of opportunities around campus and at the University. I mean, you might as well use it, you’re right there.
Well see, I’ve only had a couple of jobs in my time. But I don’t think I could do that much, still manage to find that balance between working and socialising. So how have you managed that? I mean that’s actually a really good point. I think a rule of thumb that I had to keep in mind is that you can do anything at University, you can’t do everything. A lot of the times you’re going to have to pick and choose what’s going to be important.
So sometimes it’s going to be a matter of, between social life, study, career preparation, and say, personal hobbies you may only be able to do two or three out of those four, and you have to prioritise at different points. So maybe one term I sit down and think, all right, this is the term where I really need to get my CV up to order, I’m going to focus on these projects. Other terms I’ve got a little bit more free time to focus on personal hobbies and societies.
So it’s being smart about it and being organised, I think, but it’s never impossible Does it ever get to a point where you think, well, I’m actually doing too much, I need to pull away a little bit? Oh, 100 percent. It’s kind of just a learning curve, isn’t it? You do you have to kind of find that balance. Sometimes I would think, oh yeah, I just need to go crazy. And I think one of the low points was definitely,
I was finishing bar jobs, coming home at 3:00 in the morning, then getting up at 6 o’clock for a 7 o’clock start for a graduation, or like tour guiding for some of the University open days. And that was pretty draining. At that point, when your life is kind of nothing else, that was the point I was like, ah, probably need to step it down a little bit. Yeah, definitely that was the low point. That’s what I thought, like you say, you still need to make sacrifices. I’m in my third year, I’ve got my dissertation to focus on and everything.
I still want to have a social life, and the way I’ve sort of found it– it’s like you said, you make sacrifices. So whether that’s me staying an extra week at University over Christmas and having some catch up. Because realistically, I think, we need to work out where you work best. At home I do nothing. I’ll be sat in front of the desk for like five hours and get less than a page done. Oh, 100%, same here. So that’s what I mean. It’s solid to stay at uni, so you realise your strengths as a worker. That’s definitely right, that’s what I say.
One thing that I would say to people who are thinking about getting involved with extracurricular activities, it’s not essential, but sometimes have an idea of what you want to do. For example, I always knew I wanted to go into the police, and I wanted to volunteer. So I sort of tried to blend them together. So there’s a police scheme I was looking at. So the volunteer route I went down ultimately looked good on my application to the police. It’s not always essential, but it can always be a good idea to think as early as you can about what you need, because then you can tailor what you do towards your later career.
100%, it’s a matter of thinking ahead a little bit isn’t it? And just thinking, even if you’re not certain of the direction, what kind of thing do I like? Finding a way to explore that while you’re on campus, I think that’s exactly it. Are you pretty narrowed in on where you want to go? Now that I’m in third year, I mean, yeah. I think part of the thing is as well, is that I’m a mature student, I’m considerably older than a lot of students that are here right now.
When I came in, I did have a set goal in mind, and that was figuring out what that direction was, what exactly it was I wanted to do, and then making sure I built my CV up the entire year. I think my goal was, when I graduate, have the equivalent of one year’s worth of entry-level experience. And with everything that I’ve managed to find just here, on campus, I’ve managed to hit that. So I feel pretty happy.
I think there is one thing that I would definitely say, and this was very much the case when I came in, you’re going to feel, hear, and get a lot of pressure about, you need to know what you’re doing, you need to know your direction. It kind of doesn’t matter. Yes, in the end, it is kind of why we’re at University. But coming in, 18, 19, 22, 23, if you don’t have a clear idea, that’s OK.
I think a much more productive thing is what I would advise myself, if I was coming into University again, is have more the idea of I’m not certain what I’m going to do, but when it happens I’m going to be ready, I’m going to do really well. Because your focus then becomes what skills can I pick up. It’s a good way to focus down, you focus on what skills are you doing now that’s going to make your life easier. You remember the transition from college to University, right, how crazy that was. Not just in terms of the study, but like life things, and even just like shopping, cooking, you know socialising, following advice.
I still can’t cook I feel that’s a pretty common story. But I mean, the thing about that is when you leave University you’re going to experience that again, but far more intense. And I think that’s something we have to kind of remember. So I’m talking about skills, we were talking about making sacrifices or what you focus on, this is the one piece of advice I think I would give to every student, be it third year, second year, first year, even considering University.
This is the rule of thumb that I keep. If you are finding that your time is going to something, something specific, which is keeping you from figuring out what your goals are, what your dreams are, and making that happen, that’s what you need to work on, and that’s the skill you need to work on right then.

In the third of our student to student discussions, Charlie and Elliot discuss the opportunities they’ve taken at uni to gain valuable work experience, how they try and balance work alongside their studies, as well sharing some of the lessons they’ve learned along the way.

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