What is your USP?!

A unique selling point (USP) is a factor that differentiates a product from its competitors, in the context of a student it is the quality or skill that differentiates you and enables you to stand out compared to other students.

Whether applying for Spring insight programmes, penultimate year internships or graduate schemes and jobs, having several USP’s can give you a major advantage in the application process and be the catalyst to you securing that role or job. You will be competing with a lot of other students around the country and potentially the world; some of these students will have equivalent degree qualifications (2:1/1st degrees) from other top 10 universities, hence why it is important to focus on more that academic excellence alone.

The following are areas to consider and develop in order to increase your value as a potential employee.

‘All work experience is good work experience’

This statement is indeed true, the most important element employers are looking for are the skills gained from that experience and how it can be beneficial in the position you are applying for.

Work experience, whether a part time job or an internship will help you stand out from the crowd at interviews; whilst on your internship you can take advantage of your environment and begin to network and create professional relationship with others in your chosen field. This is also a great chance to secure employment after graduation if you impress influential people in the company.

Interpersonal skills can be described as a type of social intelligence, they include: teamwork, communication and listening skills. These skills can be developed through general life experiences but entering an actual work environment shows the employers that you have actually practised these skills. Working part time as a student shows employers that you are able to balance study with your job, which suggests you developed time management and organisations skills. Also, effective time management benefits both your studies and life after university. Working part time forces you to learn how to weigh priorities in order to meet deadlines.

A key aspect employers are looking for applicants to have is commercial awareness in their field. Unfortunately, it isn’t simply watching the recap news but you have to pay a keen interest into world affairs and be familiar with current event especially when preparing for interviews.

Personality

In many applications you may be surprised as to the type of question employers ask, rather than simply focusing on your degree subject, they want to get an insight into who you as a person and if you would be a good fit for their type of company. This is usually assessed through psychometric tests, these tests are designed to measure candidates’ suitability for a role based on the required personality characteristics and abilities.

It is a great idea to partake in the Lancaster Award as it will allow you to practise for future job applications. The Lancaster Award is a certificate that rewards you for making the most of your time at Lancaster. There are three different levels of the Lancaster Award (Bronze, Silver and Gold); it is up to you which level you aim for. The award will enhance your future employment prospects by encouraging you to undertake extra-curricular activities and acquire new skills and experiences valued by employers. The process requires you to reflect on the skills you have developed during those activities.

Employers want to know what your personal interest are, e.g. talents, sports, being an active member of a society at university etc.  These show employers that there is more to you than the academic side, which is important because in a work place you need to be able to communicate and work with other employees as part of a harmonious work environment. For instance, being part of the executive team of a society shows that you have the ability to be committed and dedicated to a set goal, it also shows you are able to organise, plan and facilitate events.

Take a risk!

Many people shy away from volunteering because it’s unpaid work but this can be a very beneficial use of your time. Take the time out to research charities or causes you are interested and enquire about whether they offer volunteering positions. It could just be for the duration of 1-2 weeks but you will definitely learn something from the experience, even if it’s just the satisfaction of positively affecting someone else’s life. If you want to make the most of your spare time over the holidays you could finally learn that language or partake in that activity that you have been keen on doing.

You don’t have to follow the status quo, there are so many ways to complete a degree nowadays, the traditional route may not be ideal for you. For example, you could choose to do a sandwich degree which is a four-year undergraduate course in which students undertake a placement year, or internship in industry; normally after the second year at university.  Lancaster university also provide opportunities study a year abroad, you can find more information about this on the university website page.

Employers would be intrigued into your reasons for opting for this type of degree and it can give you an advantage over other applicants because you already have a year experience potentially in your chosen field of work.

Overall, if you really want to stand out it is important to think outside the box, think about what will intrigue and impress an employer during an interview. Try new things, don’t limit your capabilities because you are a student and be creative.