Careers and Employability

Ethan and Libby sit down with third year student Pravjoth to discuss how university can help you gain work experience and set you on the right track for a career. During university, Pravjoth has set up her own business, taken on a part-time job and completed a placement year, so she's an expert in making the most out of your time at uni!

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[00:00:02] Speaker 1 Hello. I'm Ethan. [00:00:03] Speaker 2 And I'm Libby. [00:00:04] Speaker 1 And we're both first year students studying at Birmingham City University. [00:00:08] Speaker 2 This is the Get Ready for Uni podcast, where we talk about our experiences of first year and give you guys advice on it. [00:00:14] Speaker 1 And if you're looking for more tips for starting uni, you can just visit the BCU website and go to the get ready for uni hub. [00:00:20] Speaker 2 Today's episode we are going to be discussing the opportunities in which the university brings in terms of like careers during and after university, because we've had quite a lot of questions about, you know, what if my course doesn't help me get a job in the future, or will this course, you know, secure me a job after university. So we're really going to go into that in depth and talk about our own experience so far. [00:00:45] Speaker 1 And I'm also right in saying that we will have a special guest joining us later won't we, Prav I believe her name is. [00:00:51] Speaker 2 Yes. We'll have Prav, who's a third year student. So she's got a bit. [00:00:53] Speaker 1 More a bit more under her belt, a bit more knowledge. [00:00:57] Speaker 2 Obviously, I was bounced around. I didn't know what degree I wanted to do. I was like, should I do law, I do psychology, and then obviously ended up on media. My family would constantly be like, What you going to do with that? My university degree is going to help me get a job in the future. I feel like with uni as well, you have to have a lot of links too, and I feel we're quite lucky with our course because we're media production. We have a lot of links to like directly to the BBC and like we also do stuff for like Channel four and the external companies, but for university as a whole, like this university as well, they do give a lot of advice on careers. I don't know. I've seen loads of emails always and they always do like careers fairs as well. [00:01:36] Speaker 1 It's like we've even got this team like Careers Plus, which is I think it's partnership of the uni at least, where they're always sending out, you know, job opportunities. And this is for every course as well. So and the thing is as well, obviously we have like speakers that come into the uni. [00:01:51] Speaker 2 Yeah, we do workshops to. [00:01:52] Speaker 1 Exactly that and that's for pretty much every course I believe. [00:01:55] Speaker 2 As well. So like I'd. [00:01:56] Speaker 1 Say there's like a lot of stuff which you know, can help you kind of further progress yourself for when you leave uni to go into the real world and say get a job or something like that. [00:02:06] Speaker 2 Yeah, I feel like with the because we did have, in our lesson, we did have a careers plus lady come in the student, the SSA lady, student support advisor and you know they said they give all this help on if you need help finding a job for university or even just a part time job while you're doing your studies or even just one for afterwards. They said they'd like stand and support you whole way through and they give you advice. So it's really good in terms of like helping you and like guiding you through it because obviously it's quite a scary thing. You're coming to a completely new city. You, you know, you've never had to get a job really, and you're moving into like the adult part of your life. You don't know what to do. You haven't really got your family near you to be like, oh, this is what to do is what to do. So it's kind of nice that you've got this support team around you as well to kind of guide the way and help you with like your career. [00:02:54] Speaker 1 Because obviously it's like when you come to university, you're now looking to get into a job with what you want to do the rest of your life as opposed to, you know, doing like what a retail job or like hospitality job, which is just something that you can do on the side. And obviously you can even do it on the side whilst you're at university. Yeah. So like for instance, you used to have a retail job, didn't you? [00:03:15] Speaker 2 Yeah, yeah. Worked at card factory for a bit. But that was kind of I feel like with our course as well though, I've got to be like quite specific to our own experiences. It wasn't bad balancing at all with the job and the uni work because I was is quite flexible. Obviously. I think it's a little bit more difficult for those with very heavily work loaded subjects like law. [00:03:36] Speaker 1 Also possibly people in like older years because obviously they'll have a bigger workload. [00:03:41] Speaker 2 Yeah, but then again it's people have proven that's not impossible. You know, I have loads of friends who have jobs and they do like law degrees and they do sports as well and they manage their time. It's just it's just basically managing your time. [00:03:53] Speaker 1 Definitely. [00:03:54] Speaker 2 So yeah, basically just like, you know, time management and keeping up with both uni work and your job kind of, you know, helps you keep a good balance. But I feel like it's a bit different for different courses. So we'll actually get Prav on now and then she can talk about her experiences with balancing the job and uni work. [00:04:11] Speaker 1 Because she's a third - oh no. [00:04:13] Speaker 2 She's third year. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Completed her university experience now. So we'll get Prav on now and then we'll talk to her more about her experience of university. [00:04:21] Speaker 1 So now we've got Prav here today, so if you'd just like to introduce yourself. [00:04:25] Speaker 3 Hi everyone. My name is Prav. I'm a third year business management student at the Business Law and Social Sciences faculty and I'm really happy to be here today. [00:04:34] Speaker 1 Lovely, lovely stuff. So I understand that you do have a job, don't you? Actually, yeah. [00:04:40] Speaker 3 Currently I work a part time job at Tesco's as a customer service assistant, and so I work two days a week in the night shifts and we're going to talk more about like time management and how I manage to do that, especially as I do nights as well, because it is a bit difficult. [00:05:00] Speaker 1 Because that's like the time, you know, most students, when I get home at night, kind of do all their work, don't they? [00:05:04] Speaker 3 But yeah. [00:05:05] Speaker 1 You're just going out to go and do more stuff, right? [00:05:08] Speaker 3 Yeah, definitely. On the plus side, it does allow me to, like, go through the day, go to classes, yeah, lectures and seminars and then straight go to work afterwards. [00:05:17] Speaker 2 Yeah. I guess it doesn't like clash with uni, which is a bit better if like. [00:05:22] Speaker 3 It does clash when it comes to like social activities. Yeah. Majority. Because I'm involved in a lot of societies so they're mainly happening around like five six and that's the time I have to go to work normally. And my shifts are usually like towards the end of the week like, yeah, Friday. Oh. [00:05:40] Speaker 2 So it's prime going out. Okay. [00:05:43] Speaker 3 So wanting to go out and all of that. [00:05:45] Speaker 1 So about these societies then, so like what do you do. Would you recommend that people like sign up for them at all or. [00:05:51] Speaker 3 Oh yeah, definitely. So currently I used to be the president of and Enactus BCU, which is a social enterprise, allowing students to create projects to impact the wider community. So I don't know if you heard about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. [00:06:07] Speaker 2 Yes. [00:06:08] Speaker 3 Yeah, that's what our projects are around. And so I've just recently ended my tenure, but throughout the three years I was doing, we were creating projects that would tackle food waste, helping disabled people, educating people in Malawi and all of that stuff. And so that's a society that allows students to not only go forward and help the community, but that in return you get employability opportunities as well. [00:06:38] Speaker 2 I was going to say you get loads of skills from that. [00:06:41] Speaker 3 Yeah, definitely. Because we work with an organisation called Enactus UK, which they are partnered with so much companies such as Enterprise, such as Amazon, HSBC, etc, etc. And so when it comes to gain placements or gain graduate opportunities, they have been an enabler for students to be able to go out and get fast track opportunities. Like I know one of our previous society members, she managed to get a job offer from Enterprise just because of the experience within Enactus. And so that's been something that's been amazing for her. She's been able to get a graduate opportunity out of just helping others in the community. [00:07:24] Speaker 1 So it's almost as if like from just this society alone, which is, you know, kind of like an add on to your university studies either way has progressed her further it's. [00:07:36] Speaker 3 Yeah. And so many other students as well, you just don't need to get it from those companies that they are partnered with but so much other opportunities as well. You can put it on your CV saying you've done this stuff and that meant that you have more experience like e.g. like project management skills. Yeah. As well as connecting with a higher network of people as like you guys were talking about before, like having links in the industry. Yeah. So that was really important. [00:08:08] Speaker 2 So what with your course do you have because you do business management? Yeah. So do you do like you did any placement or like work experience for that. [00:08:17] Speaker 3 Yes. So I did a placement. I actually worked in BCU. I worked in the business school where I'm studying at, and I worked as a business development assistant for a year, and that meant my placement revolved around helping small businesses to grow and develop. And so I used to network with a lot of small businesses across Birmingham in the West Midlands. And so that meant that I was able to see from other small businesses like what they've done to improve them, their business, and able to pursuing their personal development skills as well. And so from that I was able to do a dissertation based on small enterprises, which was so interesting to look at. But yeah, having a placement opportunity within like the university was a great experience. Like not only I had to like I didn't have to leave, you know, because I know some of my friends have done placements as well. Like one of them worked at Spinmaster, which is a toy company in London. [00:09:20] Speaker 2 Oh, that's quite far. [00:09:21] Speaker 3 Yeah. Yeah. So I was able to stay in Birmingham, which was amazing because I'm from Leicester originally and so that's not a full commute. Yeah, that was so much easier when I found that. Just got it at BCU, but like as my friend did hers all the way near London. She had to make a huge transition. [00:09:40] Speaker 2 Yeah, exactly. [00:09:42] Speaker 3 Yeah. And she's, she did a marketing placement as well and mine was most focussed on small businesses. So like our department has been really helpful with helping us find placements as well. [00:09:53] Speaker 2 That's quite good. I'd say like with your course as well over like the, because you've done how many years three? or four. Four years so over those years, have you become more confident in your like, how are you going to get a job and stuff like that. [00:10:09] Speaker 3 Definitely, like in first year I was very like naive and timid when it comes to like trying to apply for like a part time job. So I ended up first year getting a student ambassador job, which was so easy to do because it was very flexible. You get to work on open days, applicant taster days, and that was a really useful experience. And then I got on to the clearing hotline as well. That was during the COVID 19 pandemic. And that was really interesting to look at because it was very flexible in terms of my studies. But then I was really like, I need more experience because the amount of time that you come through your first year and trying to find a part time job is really hard because, yeah, if you don't have much experience, then you see these can be. [00:10:54] Speaker 2 Really. [00:10:55] Speaker 3 Difficult. [00:10:55] Speaker 2 They're quite harsh on things. Externally anyway. [00:10:58] Speaker 3 Yeah, I see ones for like years of experience and I'm like, I don't have any, I'm only an 18 year old but yeah. And then what I ended up doing was I was researching on particular like opportunities that I could get and then it was so random because I remember one day I was just going to the gym as normal and I realised there was a need for having a personalised health and fitness scheme for disabled people because I myself have a disability, I have cerebral palsy and so I decided to start my own business. [00:11:35] Speaker 1 that's quite cool. [00:11:36] Speaker 3 providing like an online health and fitness service for disabled people, especially because there was a gap in the market for that. [00:11:45] Speaker 2 That's quite good. So you've used that your own unique skills to then like develop your own sort of business and then that's claimed as that experience, then. [00:11:52] Speaker 3 Yeah, definitely like I was able to use that towards so many things. I was on the BSEEN program, which is like an entrepreneurial thing for students to help start their businesses. And then obviously the placement on top really helped with like talking to other businesses about how they started was really useful for like a student, like myself. Yeah. And so as I progressed further, it was I became more confident in knowing what experiences that I needed to go forward after graduating. [00:12:24] Speaker 1 So like over your whole kind of university life, you've obviously done quite a lot of stuff, you know, from like stuff in your societies, your job. Yeah. Also doing this thing about being like the entrepreneurial kind of thing. So would you say like you've obviously done quite a lot. Say to a first year student coming to uni that wanted to, you know, make the most out of their uni? What would you say to them? Like, would you say go for it or, you know, like maybe approach it differently as to what you did. [00:12:57] Speaker 3 Okay. So my advice for like first year students, and it is a really tough part to go into uni firstly, trying to make new friends, trying to see what employability opportunities out there, I know now you guys have almost finished your first year and it must be difficult to go through that year knowing like, Oh, this is a new place. I don't know anyone. I'm not sure where you guys are from originally, but like going into a new city, going into a university which is so big as well. The Campuses are so big, definitely. You don't know how to navigate across that. And so what my advice would be, take it one step at a time. Like maybe start off with making new friends and then maybe start joining some societies where you think that may fit you in that sense and then and then start looking out what can you do to advance? So I know that's like graduate plus, which yeah, helps you in that your bronze, silver or gold awards. And so work through the work through what you need to do for that and get the experience that you need from that. And then you can showcase that as well. You can add that to your CV. [00:14:05] Speaker 2 Didn't know that, we've done our bronze, but I didn't know you could add it to your CV. [00:14:08] Speaker 3 Yeah, you can start doing you silver and gold and platinum eventually as well. And so from that you are able to learn more about yourself. In that sense, it also helps you in interviews as well, because when you go for your silver and gold level, you are able to use a technique which you can use for interviews. So for example, the one that they recommend is the STAR technique. So you can use that, you can write that down in graduate plus, and then after that, you can use that same technique when it comes to interviews. So it tells you what situation you have been, what task have you been put under, what actions have you done, and then reflection upon that. And so that's been really useful for going into interviews for jobs, for example, where you can say, Yeah, I've done this, this is an example I can provide. And so I think this approach, like Careers plus as well as being great, they can through for your CV, they can through your cover letters, see what you can improve, also help you with things like psychometric tests. Obviously for business students we have to do them assessment centres and all of that. So I really think Careers plus is a really useful tool as well, but also just explore what the university has because there's a lot of resources out there for students who can navigate their way into starting off university as well. [00:15:34] Speaker 2 Exactly. Yeah, Yeah, definitely. So that's a big point that we spoke about careers earlier on and how there is always a support kind of system. And I thought it was a really good point. But also say like with your experience with like jobs and all that, like did you, did you struggle to find the jobs at first or did you, like, manage to get them straight away? [00:15:56] Speaker 3 Are you talking about placements? [00:15:59] Speaker 1 No, just just normal jobs, either one of them, or like placements [00:16:02] Speaker 2 Kind of both. [00:16:02] Speaker 1 Yeah. [00:16:07] Speaker 3 I can talk separately actually. So for like general jobs, like, like part time jobs start off with student ambassador because that's the easiest you can get into. You don't, they don't really need to interview for that you can just join, or any jobs that the student union may have as well. Yeah because I know they're recruiting for like catering staff and also the pub as well. You would definitely have to explore your way around, see what experiences you have. Don't just apply anywhere, just apply for the ones that are relevant to your experience. And then I would say for placements, I applied for a lot of placements. Like my advice would be start early on them if you want to do a placement because I started in the middle of second year, that was a mistake because I realised, Oh God, there's a lot of jobs out there that's already people doing interviews with these placements. Yeah, and I'm only just starting looking for them. And so the placement ended up doing was the last one I applied for. I had like interviews from like the NHS, from Amazon and one of them I did have many interviews, but I applied for so many placements I didn't have many interviews. So the main two were the NHS and Amazon, but then ended up getting this job here. [00:17:20] Speaker 1 Definitely got to get your foot in the door. [00:17:21] Speaker 2 Yeah, it's a lot of like. [00:17:22] Speaker 3 So my advice would definitely be start from September if you're trying to get a placement because it is a tough gig out there. [00:17:29] Speaker 2 Definitely. [00:17:30] Speaker 3 And I've been so close to jobs before, like for my NHS job, which was a human resources placement, I was like the top two, but I only got beaten up by one person. [00:17:40] Speaker 2 Oh, that's so annoying. [00:17:41] Speaker 3 Yeah haha I was so annoyed with that, but yeah, I would say start early. That's what I would say. And also see what experiences you may be interested in doing. Don't do just random placements. Yeah. Like I think I applied for a couple where I was like not really interested in it, but I was like, I just want to do a placement. But yeah, just look for the ones that specifically is relevant to your course and is relevant to your career path as well. That's what I would say. [00:18:11] Speaker 2 We did have some questions which were sent to us. And from what you've just said, there's one quite similar and it reads, So they've looked at quite a few job fields, but they're not specifically what one they want to go into as of yet. So they're basically asking, is it better that they kind of go into just a general subject to study to kind of break down into what they want to go into or to go into more of like a niche subject, which they're not sure that they will totally want to do by the end of that course. [00:18:42] Speaker 3 Yeah. So that's kind of a tough one just because for some courses you do have to go a bit general like for especially for business does a lot of general like business placements, general business graduate schemes, I don't know for other courses, but there are some courses that do general ones and some students may want to explore what they like within those placements. Like the graduate scheme that I told you before, my friend is going to, she did a general management trainee contract and so she was able to see what kind of areas in business that she enjoyed, but then also if you already know what you like, like, for example, i know i'm into HR, people, resources and so my placements were mainly towards, I was looking for HR but then i was also interested in entrepreneurial. Yeah. So i was looking towards those kind of things. But then I would say it depends because, well, on one hand some people may be wanting to a general things get a taste for what they like, but then if you already know what you want to do, just go for the one you enjoy. But then if you can't make up your mind about which one you want to do. I would say firstly talk to Careers staff about it because they can explore what are your strengths and your weaknesses on the subject. [00:20:08] Speaker 2 And they have like all of those resources in like schools and A-levels and stuff, don't they as well? [00:20:14] Speaker 2 So yeah, in six forms. Yeah. [00:20:15] Speaker 3 Yeah. So definitely speak to the careers team. But then also like as you're starting university in your first year, especially if you go into this like different, like academic societies for example, they were able to help you explore what kind of area within academic societies you're interested in, and then it can help you make your mind up as well about what you want to do. [00:20:38] Speaker 2 Okay, that's actually quite interesting because I didn't really think about that. Like because obviously with the more generic one, you're more likely to get more opportunities then, you know. [00:20:48] Speaker 3 You may not enjoy it. [00:20:49] Speaker 2 It, you may not enjoy it. So it's like we have to you have to kind of think by go into more research. We've got another question here as well. It says STEM degrees normally have a straightforward career path, like becoming a doctor or an engineer, whereas arts and humanities degrees like English or media don't necessarily have clear career paths. I kind of feel like there's a negative stereotype around courses such as media. Like obviously we do media production and I feel like most people say, Oh, you know, there's no job opportunities here. You know, you won't, What are you going to do with a degree like that? It's just a waste of time. You need to go get an academic, a great degree like law, business, sciences, you know, all that kind of stuff. But then when you give it enough research and you look into it enough, you actually realise like there's way more job opportunities than you'd ever actually imagine. But if you're looking for something, you really want to go into degree like a media one, an ADM, arts, design, media, then definitely look into it, make sure that you've done your research because our one especially, we get emails about job opportunities, work placement for shows like Channel four shows, or we can go and do placement for the BBC, we can do volunteering with these companies as well. And then we also have like workshops and stuff where they come in and they'll help us do our CV's as well to help with like our external side of stuff. And then we also have a lot of equipment that we can use to help benefit our skills. So like we have Green Screen studios, we have normal studios, all of our equipment. You know, we've got it's like state of the art. It's really good, isn't it? Yeah. So like, I feel like all of that stuff that we have at this university, especially, it really helps in our degree and it helps build our skillset and then it will, you know, eventually lead to more opportunities and more like a stepping stone. [00:22:28] Speaker 2 Yeah, getting a job, you know your end goal and it's kind of just helping you ease into where you want to be. [00:22:33] Speaker 2 Yeah, So yeah, I'd say that, um, but definitely I'd say like, maybe do, do research, look into it. I don't think it's a waste of time at all. If it's what you want to do, do it. Because obviously we've done that and I feel like it's a bit different to your degree where it's like, you know, it's more business, more academic, more exams. But then again, you know what you want to do and we know what we wanted to do. And yet, you know, hopefully in a few years time when we get to your stage, we'll have just as much skills as you. [00:22:59] You probably will. You will. [00:22:59] Hopefully. I hope so. Yeah. We've got one more question here. It says, Where can you start if you have literally no idea what career you want to go into after university? [00:23:09] Speaker 3 Oh, so with that, I would say get a ton of work experience at a young age because I knew exactly what I didn't want to do. So firstly, I did work experience working in a chemist for two weeks and I realised that was not it, because it was basically like retail. Yeah, that was basically what my work experience consisted of and I knew I didn't want to go into retail and then I went into a teaching for a little bit. So I did the teaching job, didn't want to go into that either. And then I ended up loving business so much I just wanted to do a business degree and when it came to my placement, I really enjoyed it so much. [00:23:48] Speaker 2 Because it's like as humans we know what we don't want to do as opposed to what we do want to do. It's really odd, but. [00:23:55] Speaker 2 Like, it's like trial and error. Really. [00:23:57] Speaker 3 Basically, yeah, trial and error. So I would say just research into each like each of the subjects that you may feel like you have, like you enjoy the most and maybe get some work experience in that at least just to trial it out, even if it's not paid, just do it. Because I think the best way you would ever know what you want to do is to try it. Yeah, try before you buy. That's what I would say. [00:24:25] Speaker 2 The worst thing that could happen is you don't like it. [00:24:26] Speaker 2 And then also, after doing all of your placements and stuff like that, you'll also be able to build up like your experience. So then when you do find something that you love, you've got this whole backbone. [00:24:36] Speaker 3 Yeah, just like you learn a lot of skills. So I was able to build on my communication skills. I was able to build up my team working skills or problem solving and such and such. Even if I don't want to go into business in the future, I still got the experience to go into anyone anywhere else. Yeah, like my degree is so broad we could pretty much go into anything with that. [00:25:00] Speaker 2 Yeah. It's quite beneficial to you then. Yeah. Okay. Um, yeah, I think that's all we've really got for today. Thank you very much for coming in. Um, I hope we will see you later. [00:25:11] Speaker 2 Unfortunately, that's all we have time for today. But if you do have any questions which you like answering, you can send them to us on the BCU social channels and we'll be able to answer them next episode for you. [00:25:22] Speaker 2 And if you need any practical guides and tips, you can head over to the BCU website as well. They've got everything over there, from finance to budgeting planners so it would be good to have a look before you guys start university. [00:25:32] Speaker 2 Lovely. Thank you for watching. [00:25:34] Speaker 2 Thank you. [00:25:34] Speaker 3 Goodbye.