Many firms have now determined the outcome of applications for summer vacation schemes and some of you will be celebrating one or more offers. Congratulations! Others (many!) will be licking wounds and wondering what to do next. This isn’t a disaster but now is a good time to think about the summer.
What if you’re a penultimate year student?
The good news is that you’ve got another lovely long summer left before you come back to university for the final year. How could you use it to progress your career aims?
This might be just what you need to set yourself up for a good final year with a strong academic performance. Great, but if you do this in the “right way” you might also be able to build impressive new employability skills.
The key to those skills is the independence of your travel. If you go away on a family holiday funded and organised for you, then you will develop few new skills. The same will be true if you book an all-inclusive holiday including flights, transfers and accommodation. You might brush up on a foreign language but that’ll be about it. The situation will be entirely different if you organise something for yourself (and your friends?) and you head off on money you’ve earned and travel independently. In the latter case you’ll be very lucky indeed if there’s never a time when things “go wrong” needing you to react to changing circumstances and re-plan. The skills you’ll develop will help you to make subsequent applications stand out. You’ll have the tools for effective answers to a wide range of competency questions.
Get a job.
Good plan! This really is a case of any job is a good job! Work in a shop, restaurant or bar? You’ll develop your communication and customer service skills. Set up a local gardening round among family friends, or tutor local children for examinations? Entrepreneurial and marketing skills will be showcased. Work in a back office checking accounts? You’ll be able to talk about your attention to detail. Cook fast food in a burger kitchen? Definitely resilience and a great work ethic! Employers will love all (or any) of this.
Yes, also great and you should be able to showcase similar skills to those listed above and maybe others too. I recall having to overcome utter terror while helping with Riding for the Disabled. On the face of it, I just had to lead a compliant pony round a field. But, I was also responsible for ensuring that if a disabled child slipped in the saddle, he or she did not hit the ground. It was great for my ability to project a calm exterior while inwardly panicking. Definitely a useful skill in many graduate level jobs, including law!
Building a profile?
Effective use of social media to develop your profile could be beneficial. Have you considered blogging? Now, plainly I love talking to the world! A by-product of my enthusiastic and regular writing has been that I have a clear internet profile. If you google my name you’ll find me without difficulty, you’ll also be able to see my work. So how useful is that in your job hunt? If you’re looking for an established graduate scheme, or a training contract in a very large firm then probably not very. If, however, you are interested in working for a smaller firm – where you might be expected to go out and get business from an early stage in your employment, then this could be a differentiator for you. You don’t have to blog, you can be active and engaged on Twitter and Linkedin. Follow groups and employers or other organisations that interest you and join in the discussion through comment.
And if you’re due to graduate this year?
If you are fixed on a legal professional career, you will probably want to put in some applications for training contracts. Think carefully about timings. Each application will take a long time to do and your final exams are beginning to approach. You will need to find a balance between applying close to the deadline (which may damage your chances of success, if a firm recruits on a rolling basis) or trying to manage your time to put in applications and study. Don’t risk your degree by doing too many applications now!
Talk to “Careers”
Start thinking about what you want to do when you graduate. It’s a good time to have a careers appointment to explore your options. You may want to think about working as a paralegal. Alternatively you could apply for a graduate level job in a related area, there are still a variety of opportunities available in the large firms of accountants (and not just in accountancy).
You might be tempted to do a Masters. Think carefully about your motivation. You should go for this if you are really attracted by the idea of further study. Try not to do it just to buy yourself time. Generally a Masters will not materially enhance your applications for training contracts in the UK.
It’s ok to do nothing right now!
You might decide to park everything until after the exams are over. There will be jobs available then. This could be a sound decision now. There will be a range of different jobs available in the summer and you can take your time then to think what you want to do in the short and medium terms.
So the overarching message. Don’t panic!