I was at graduation last week. It’s always great to be able to share that special day with our graduands. On Thursday afternoon I particularly enjoyed the talk given by alumnus, Paul Brown. He gave his top tips for success in the workplace and it occurs to me that exactly the same points apply for making a success of your time at university. So here’s my version of his advice.
1. Have opinions
Doing a degree is about learning to think in new ways. There’s not much point in that if you don’t then use that great thinking ability to have views on what’s going on around you. What do you think about Brexit? Is the world a less safe place following the inaugurations of Donald Trump last Friday? You need to know about the “big things” in the world but that’s not enough. If you want a career in the City, what do you think about the regulatory environment? Is the regulation sufficient? Does it fetter freedom too much? How about Legal Aid? Do the changes restricting access impact individual human rights?
Seminars often involve discussion and you’ll be able to contribute best if you have an opinion. You’ll also learn most when you’re prepared to put forward your ideas and let others argue with you. You might be wrong sometimes. So what? You’re pretty likely to be right on other occasions. It’s great to be able to test your thinking in a safe environment and you’ll learn really valuable skills when you defend your position – not least you’ll begin to recognise the moment to concede defeat.
When you do job applications you often have to express opinions and you’re definitely going to need to confidently opine and try to hold your argument at interview. Develop your confidence now and be prepared to say what you believe.
2. Be known for something
I often talk to students about doing something which makes Warwick in some (small) way different because they have been here. Paul talked about being successful in the workplace by building up an expertise in an area and becoming the “go to” person. They’re similar ideas. It’s about building your own reputation and being known for something really positive.
How do you build that reputation for yourself? First, you might look for a niche area and then you need to really get to know about it. Don’t start to tell someone you have an expertise which you don’t possess. You don’t want a reputation for being a prize phoney!
Many Warwick students are pretty good at networking. There are lots of opportunities here to network with employers on campus at a range of events. Don’t be afraid to seize the opportunity to build up your employer contacts. If you’re feeling nervous at the very thought of networking, try to remember that employers only come here to meet and get to know students. If everyone went and stood together in a corner every time an employer visited us it wouldn’t take long for us to be getting rather lonely. The employers would stop coming!
Don’t forget to network with fellow students too. You’re privileged to be studying with people who in a few years’ time will be the movers and shakers of our world. Build your address book (or develop your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts). One day, when you’re looking for a new opportunity the first step towards securing it might be to pick up that old Warwick contact. Just think about the guest posts on this blog. They’re all from former students I’ve reached out to.
Watch out for a blog post soon with my top tips on networking through social media.