Ways to make the most of summer

Last week I completed the final exam of my degree and so for me that means that my summer break is finally here! At Lancaster University we get around three months off for summer and whilst this provides the perfect chance to take a break and recharge I have also found that the summer break is a time which can also be utilised for personal development and growth. There are a variety of ways that you could use your summer so I hope I can inspire you all by sharing how I have utilised past summers.

Travel: One way to use your summer is to travel to new countries to gain global perspectives and gain exposure to new languages and cultures. Last summer I used my summer break to travel to Hong Kong, Japan and Australia for the first time. Travelling to new countries enabled me to learn more about the world and learn about different cultures and experience some of the business practices of countries. In addition, travelling enabled me to develop a variety of soft skills including planning skills, time management and adaptability. This is because when travelling to a number of countries it required the time to be effectively utilised and agility to deal with any issues which may occur.

Volunteer: Another way to use your summer is to get involved with volunteering opportunities. In the summer break after my first year I volunteered at a Foodies Festival which was being held in my local area. By volunteering at the event it enabled me to expand my work experience and understand more about the events industry. In addition, I was able to gain employability skills including teamwork, communication and confidence working in a varied work environment. Particularly, this is because the event required me to take on different roles across the event days and liaise effectively with other volunteers.

Learn something new: I have also found that summer can be the perfect time to focus on learning something new, such as a new hobby or skill. During my summer last year I took on the challenge of self-teaching myself Cantonese and then I attempted to apply my new language skills when I travelled to Hong Kong. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to learn everything during the summer break but it definitely felt rewarding to be able to gain basic Cantonese language skills and to be understood by Hong Kong locals.

Work Placements and Internships: I have also previously used my summer break to gain work experience by completing a work placement at a marketing agency. Although my work placement was only one week, I found that completing a work placement was a great way to gain industry relevant experience and learn more about possible career routes and opportunities. In addition, the work placement allowed me to recognise the skills that I need to develop and the experience I need to gain to improve my employability when I enter the graduate market.

Whether it be learning a new skill or gaining work experience, there are lots of ways that you can make the most of your summer! I hope that by sharing with you how I have used my previous summer breaks I have inspired you with ways that you could use your summer. For everyone that has started their summer, enjoy the break and good luck for results day!

Deciding the next step after your degree

Some of you will come to university knowing exactly what it is you would like to do after you graduate. I suspect however that the majority of you will either have some vague ideas but are still unsure, or you may be someone who hasn’t a clue. I can safely say that I am somebody who fell into the latter category. Almost two years down the road however, I have a much clearer picture on the route I want to take after I graduate.

It really is common for students to begin university not knowing what they want to do after they complete their studies. After all, you probably found it hard enough picking what A-levels to study, and what university to firm, so picking something that you may do for a large chunk of your life is very difficult. I feel that it’s hard to expect students to be certain of what job they want, especially just after starting university life. Fortunately, no one at the university is expecting this from you, so do not feel rushed into making your career choice, something that is frankly a big decision.

What I have learnt is to not spend too much time thinking about what it is you want to do after your degree. Rather, focus on your studies and achieving the best degree classification possible. Even though it’s perhaps not wise to contemplate too heavily on your aspirations, this is not to say that you shouldn’t immerse yourself to gain as many valuable experiences as you can whilst at university. As I have mentioned, I did not know what I wanted to do after university, so I made a strong effort to attend a variety of careers-based events and talks which give me insights into different industries, and opportunities to ask questions to those in the world of work.

I would also recommend trying to gain some work experience in fields that you are even partially interested in working in as this will help you to learn more about what industries you may enjoy working in. I feel that the way that I have gained most knowledge regarding my future goals after university is through a combination of work experience and attending events at Lancaster University. I hope you recognise the importance of gaining these experiences in helping you decide what you would like to do after you graduate, as I think that my experiences over the last two years have in a way made my mind up for me, or at least have heavily contributed to my decisions.

I have learnt that employers are less concerned with your degree title, and more about what you can bring to the company. This has implications in two regards. Firstly, do not see your degree as a limitation or barrier. By this I mean, just because you have chosen a Marketing degree does not mean you can only go into marketing. Of course, some roles will require particular degrees such as Medicine to become a Doctor, but on the whole, you will have the opportunity to work in almost any sector. So, when you do come around to thinking about what you do after you graduate, be sure to consider opportunities beyond your degree scheme.

The second implication is use your time to build yourself up the best you can over the course of your degree, rather than using your time worrying about not knowing what to do. Your ambitions will come naturally to you, don’t feel obliged to go out of your way looking for them.

4 Reasons Why You Should Definitely Get a Part-Time Job

Attending university in the UK is expensive, there’s no getting around it. With tuition fees currently at £9250 a year (and that’s for UK students – international students can often find themselves paying more) and costs of living on the rise, it is no wonder that more students find themselves taking on part-time work alongside their studies. In fact, in a survey conducted by Endsleigh (2015), it was estimated that eight out of ten – around 77% of students – are currently working part-time to help fund their studies.

I am one of these students. I currently work most evenings for the university Alumni Office, which amounts to between 10 and 12 hours a week, and I am a strong advocate for being employed during your degree. Here’s why:

  1. It’s another opportunity to make new friends – University is all about meeting new people and having a part-time job is another way to make friends. Most people I work with are also students but they all have very different backgrounds and I would probably have never met them had it not been for this job.
  2. Financial independence – This one goes without saying. Knowing that you have money coming into your bank account at the end of the month is a great feeling, especially when you know that you worked hard to earn it.
  3. Gaining transferable skills for your CV – Even though the part-time job you get is unlikely to be directly related to your dream career, the skills you gain on the job will be very useful when you start applying for internships/jobs after graduating. Fundraising probably won’t be my long-term career path, but the skills I have gained from this job, such as negotiation and the ability to meet targets, are highly valued in whichever career I chose to pursue.
  4. Having less time actually forces you to get more done – This is a bit of a weird one but hear me out: because I know that 12 hours of my week will be spent at work and another 11 hours spent in lectures and seminars I have to manage my time very effectively, especially if I want to get in a good 7-8 hours sleep a night and spend some time with my friends. Ironically, the less I have to do, the less I get done.

Lancaster University is great for helping you find a part-time job, with regular updates about job opportunities on the iLancaster app and a great Careers Service that will help you with your application, either by having a look at your CV or doing mock interviews or sorting out any problems you might have with P45 forms (which are the opposite of fun).

Note: It is worth mentioning that international students may have some restrictions on the number of hours they are allowed to work, as per the terms of their visa. Make sure you double check this before applying to jobs. Also some degree courses (Medicine, Postgraduate etc.) are particularly intense, so it is also a good idea to consult your course adviser about whether you could feasibly commit to a part-time job during your studies.

Guest post:Putting theory into practice

Nadeem Khan, a current student on the MA Human Resources and Consulting,  has already started putting the theory from the programme into practice, working with a bank in Pakistan. Here, he talks about how he applied what he has learnt so far on the programme.

Nadeem (far right) delivering the session for SBP in Pakistan.

Nadeem (far right) delivering the session for SBP in Pakistan.

As an HRD Consultant I had worked for several years prior to starting the programme. Before leaving Pakistan I had informed clients of my schedule during the programme and that I would be open for assignments during my winter break. The National Institute of Banking and Finance (NIBF), a subsidiary of The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) wanted me to deliver a two-day learning intervention in December 2016 on ‘Building Dynamic Teams’. I believe this proved to be a great opportunity for me to put the theoretical frameworks and skills that I had learned from the programme into practice.

The design and dynamics module had prepared me early on to outline the structure and activities that were to be incorporated in the two-day learning intervention. I picked up lots of ideas and activities drawing from the coursework. As there were 18 individual contributors from teams from all branches of SBP, I also had to keep in mind learning from difference. The careers module played a significant role when it came to selecting the relevant content for the SBP intervention through its focus on communication and effective team dynamics.

The MA HRC is set in a way that I had the opportunity to both study and experience firsthand group structures and processes, feel the power dynamics and struggles in teams, live the communication patterns and decision making and experience team leadership on the programme. Therefore, when I was delivering the workshop I was able to share my experience of being in similar shoes to the participants, making my examples more credible and worthwhile.

Overall, the improved design, theoretical framework and quality content enabled me to score higher feedback than previous interventions I had facilitated at SBP.