Career Coaching With Akua Ampah: Making the most of your time while in the university
School in my opinion is the best place to discover yourself and unleash your potential. There are a lot of activities and platforms where one can try his or her hands on things to get some experience and discover some strengths, weaknesses and personality traits. You have the opportunity to engage with your peers, teachers/lecturers, and even the people in the community your school is located.
Unfortunately most people are not aware of this great opportunity at their disposal to discover and nurture themselves for a better future. Many people focus only on their coursework and count the days they have left to graduate from school, without taking part in extracurricular activities.
The decision to whether or not to engage in extracurricular activities is no longer yours to make but a requirement in order to be attractive or standout from your peers upon graduating. Recent employers are no longer interested in only your degree/first class, but want to know how well you utilized your time while in school (inside and outside the classroom).
What skills are you bringing to them? Employers are confident in young graduates who were active in clubs/societies, took leadership roles and planned or organized activities/events while in school. They believe one gains a lot of skills when engaged in extracurricular activities and such people when employed are likely to add value to an organization than those who did nothing while in school.
My goal is to help young graduates become outstanding and sought after by global employers once they graduate from the university if they do not have plans of starting their own business right after school. In this light, I will attempt to walk you through what these employers are looking for in graduates and how you can position yourself to acquire the skills to be ready for the corporate world even before you graduate from the university.
Ø Join a club of interest: Most universities have clubs/societies for their students. These clubs are formed based on the various interests of the students; find out the clubs available in your university and join any that is of interest. You will be amazed at how the activities of these clubs can impact your life positively. A lot to learn and make a meaningful contribution to your peers on campus as well as your community.
Remember it is not enough to just join a club, but be sure to be active – attend meetings regularly and volunteer to take up roles or tasks.
I know there are people who say none of the clubs on campus is of interest. If you are able to identify that the clubs are not of interest, then its time to start a club of interest. Don’t always bail out just because things are not going the way you wish for them to go. Have an attitude of a Self-starter – it is a vital skill employers love to see exhibited in young graduates. It will be great to see Co-Founder of XYZ on your CV.
Ø Visit your school’s Career Office if any is available: In recent times, most universities are placing much emphasis on the need to have a dedicated team responsible for assisting students with career guidance and coaching to help students make the right future career decisions. For students who have this services available in your school, take advantage of this services and seek guidance as often as possible. Share ideas such as personal and career workshops you would like the Career Office to expose you to. Take advantage of one-on-one counselling.
They can help review your CV, prep you for interviews, connect you with industry players, assist you in securing internship placements, etc.
If you do not have a Career Office in your school, you can seek the services of an external career coach for your personal and career development.
Ø Take up volunteering roles: Anytime your school needs students to volunteer/assist with projects or events, avail yourself for the experience. You can volunteer to be an usher for your school events, planning events, photography, designing posters, managing your school’s social media platforms, etc. All these little tasks help you harness your skills which in the long run benefits you by making you a great asset to organizations who need these skills.
Ø Be an active group member: I know most people don’t like to work in groups, but unfortunately you have to learn how to work with people. The ability to work in a team is crucial in today’s corporate world. You need to tolerate people from diverse background in order to achieve great results.
When you find yourself in a group assignment in school, embrace the challenges and have an open mind towards each member in the group and focus on the ultimate goal. Give constructive feedback and listen to the opinions of others even if you do not agree. This is very difficult, but you have to learn this skill, in order to be successful wherever you find yourself.
Ø Take part in class presentations: Yikes!! Class presentations!! I hate it, don’t we all? By now you should get the sense that we have to do the things that make us uncomfortable sometimes. Come out of your comfort zone!! You can do this.
Effective communication especially oral communication is something you have to take seriously and improve if that is your weak spot. No employer is ready to employ anyone who cannot express his/her thoughts clearly or unable to address a group of people. Public speaking is not just for people who want to be employed, everyone needs this skill up in his/her sleeves. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you would have to address your employees and also sell your products to potential investors/clients.
You can harness this skill by speaking in class and volunteering to speak on behalf of your group during class presentations. You can join a public speaking club such as Toastmasters (check this club out and join one close to you) or start/join a public speaking club on campus where your mission is to improve on your public speaking skills through regular peer presentations.
Ø Secure internships during your summer holidays: You will do yourself a great service if you are able to get a hands-on experience of what is taught in the classroom and what actually happens in the corporate environment. The ultimate goal of your education is to prepare you for your future job or start up business. With this in mind, you have to get a sense of how the corporate environment operates. Regardless of what you want to do after school, it is advisable to get some paid or unpaid internship experience when school is not in session.
Do not spend all your time partying, dedicate most part of your summer holidays to acquire hands-on experience through internships or apprenticeship.
Remember, the money is not important so much as the skills and experiences you are gathering. Internships open doors for future job opportunities - Keep this in mind!
It is advisable to make a conscious effort to stand out from your peers even while you are in school. Bear in mind that most people will graduate with good grades, but what will set you apart and sought after by employers are the employability skills you gained while in the university through extracurricular activities, voluntary roles and internships.
What are world class employers looking out for?
Ø Self – starters/leaders/Critical thinkers
Ø Graduates with good communication skills; both written and speaking
Employers are looking for people who are articulate and confident
Ø Team players – able to tolerate other people’s views
Ø Excellent interpersonal skills
Ø Graduates who have been active with extracurricular activities while in school and are well-rounded
Ø Proactive individuals- take initiatives
About the Author
Akua Ampah is the Founder of Virtual Career Office, an online consulting agency which provides career services to individuals, especially recent graduates and young professionals by reviewing and helping them write a winning CV, interview preparation, career coaching/grooming and personal development, employability skills training amongst others.
She is also the Careers & Internship Placement Coordinator at Lancaster University Ghana where she prepares students for the corporate and business environment through training workshops, coaching and internship placements.
She is a graduate of Ashesi University, where she studied Business Administration and majored in Human Resource Management, Supply Chain Management and Strategic Brands Management.
Akua loves theatre arts, photography, swimming, mentoring and volunteering.
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