One thing I always recommend when starting university is to build a life outside the classroom. Being involved in different activities has allowed me to gain valuable experience for my CV, improve my skills, and make new friends.
What have I done?
The first work experience I took part in was The Birmingham Project, a project over the summer for first-year students. Since the second half of my first year was disrupted by the pandemic, I completed The Birmingham Project remotely. The project involved group work to build a product to incorporate the arts in improving the wellbeing of people in Birmingham. From this experience, I honed not only my research skills, but also communication and teamwork skills. Particularly working in a team virtually, which has proved to be integral for the workplace in years to come.
The best way to find new opportunities at university is through societies! I joined different societies: The Indonesian Society, Trampolining Club and more. Yet, my favourite society would have to Writers’ Bloc, which quickly became the highlight of my university experience. It has also impacted my academic performance positively: meeting like-minded people who are just as passionate for English and Creative Writing. Writers’ Bloc became the first step in challenging myself to undertake work experience - I ran for committee, to be the Publication Editor. It has allowed me to immerse myself intimately in environments that support literature and creative writing and is where I discovered my passion for editorial work as an area to pursue.
Another opportunity that has been equally beneficial was becoming a Student Ambassador. It is good part-time work to do whilst studying if you want to gain work experience and earn whilst studying. I also applied for a Digital Student Ambassador role, which focuses more on the creative and marketing content creation side of student recruitment. I was handed the opportunity to work with the College of Arts and Law in creating international student content, which allows me to challenge new skills, including public speaking, and computer skills with programmes such as Canva and iMovie. Some of the things that I created as a Student Ambassador are a Bournville Tour, my life as Writers’ Bloc’s Publication Editor, Verve Poetry Festival in Birmingham vlogs alongside blog posts and podcasts.
Where did I find these opportunities?
Emails! Whether it be Student Ambassador work or information about The Birmingham Project, everything is communicated by email.
Another good way of looking for new opportunities is through the Careers Network, the university’s career support service for students and alumni (still available two years after graduating!). I am now benefitting from Careers Network’s Mentoring Scheme, where I am receiving helpful guidance in terms of my career journey from a professional who is working in my field of interest.
How have these experiences supported my career development?
The experiences made me realise my strengths and which direction I want my career to take. For example, I found that I enjoy producing content as a Student Ambassador – I realised I love incorporating art and creativity into marketing. I discovered my love for editorial work and being in an intimate environment with writers and artists through my committee position in Writers’ Bloc.
The skills I gained from these experiences also opened the doors for future opportunities. I was able to volunteer as Magazine Editor and Social Media Manager at Small Leaf Press from my enhanced editorial skills through Writers’ Bloc. In return, this volunteering experience helped me develop a better understanding of social media and content creation, which has helped me in securing work as Communications Assistant at the University during fresher’s week.
Main take aways
Keep exploring! Keep an eye on opportunities and don’t hesitate to try new things or get involved in activities if it resonates with you. If you’re worried about balancing studying and working, start with work experience that doesn’t require a lot of commitment. Once you’re used to prioritising tasks and managing your time, that is when you can branch out and look for something more challenging. The most important thing: You have time. Take care of yourself and enjoy your university experience!