Making the most of University

Time at University offers you the chance to discover who you really are, enhance what you can do, and establish yourself as a working professional in a career that makes you smile. Starting all this now with the less amount of pressure you face as a first year student, will help you open doors to very beneficial experiences unavailable to many final year students, which in turn can help you secure a more fulfilling career path for yourself after you graduate. The following will provide you with the tools, knowledge, and guidance you need to begin making the most of your time with us.

See how past students (alumni) made the most of their University experience to help get them where they are today.

 

If you do anything in your first year, make sure you do the following three things:

Work out who you are

Knowing in your own mind what you value, and what your strengths, weaknesses and preferences are, is key to achieving career success. Understanding your own values for example allows you to ensure they align with everything you do, from your career to how you spend your spare time. Having self-awareness is also highly valued by employers themselves, as it can drive self-development and enhance an individual’s emotional intelligence.

Key to growing your self-awareness is the ability to be reflective, or in other words, to explore your experiences through your thoughts and emotions, to grow your understanding. The tools below will help you to achieve this, but only if you challenge any initial thoughts and feelings you have with evidence. When answering questions, or completing tasks from these resources, be sure to ask yourself questions like “How do I know that?”, “Why is that?” or “What proof do I have for that?

  • Career assessments on myCareer – Answer set questions to receive reports providing an idea of your temperament, strengths, resilience and much more.
  • Core values exercises (PDF) – Identify your core values via answering key questions, or by narrowing down lists of values you find yourself drawn to.
  • Letter writing to your future self/past self (PDF) - This can open you up to new levels of self-awareness, as well as free you from previous anxieties, and provide greater clarity/confirmation on the direction you are going.  

Further information on developing your self-awareness, from understanding your working style to your role in a team, can be found on myCareer through videos, podcasts and activities.

Gain experience

Your experiences will be what opens doors for you, both at University and after graduating. They highlight to others (such as potential employers) the breadth of your horizons and perceptions, the levels of tolerance you have for difference, the scope of your learning, the skills you have nurtured, and the motivations you have. They will help you start conversations and add to others. Starting to gain experience in your first year is key, if you are to build, develop and learn from these experiences to boost your employability.

What experience you acquire need not be strenuous or necessarily related to your degree discipline. Extra-curricular activities such as playing for a University sports team, volunteering for a charity at the weekend or undertaking a part time job are all sound experiences to help you grow. As part of the delivery of some degree programmes, students can make use of work-based learning and/or collaborative research opportunities with external organisations and researchers. The following hopes to provide you with inspiration on how to go about building experience:

Volunteer in the local community – Your Students’ Union (UPSU) can connect you with local charities, environmental projects, and community groups in need of volunteers.

Get a part time job – You can view a list of part time jobs available on campus and in Plymouth in the vacancies section of myCareer, including roles such as a University Student Ambassador

Join a student society – Supported by your Students’ Union (UPSU), student societies are a great way to make new friends, try something new and broaden your perspectives.

Undertake an internship – These are a popular way of gaining experience during the holidays. Currently available internships and micro-internships (around two weeks in length) can be found in the vacancies section on myCareer.

Represent your fellow students – If you are passionate about enhancing yours and your fellow students’ university experience, whilst standing up for those who struggle to be heard, then a student representative role may be of interest to you.

Consider undertaking a placement year – Students do not tend to do a placement year until their third year, but there is no harm in your first year exploring what a placement year could entail.

Join a university sports club – Supported by your Students’ Union (UPSU), student sports clubs are a great way to take a break from your studies and enhance your team working abilities.

Talk to your lecturers – They will have a fountain of knowledge and connections in industry to help you seek out opportunities. Some may also have opportunities to assist them and other academics with their research.

Whatever it is you end up engaging with, be sure to give your time to one or two opportunities, rather than spready yourself thinly across many roles and activities.  


Start exploring and build your network

You are in your first year and so you have got a little while before you start applying for graduate jobs. Without such pressure, now is a really good time to simply start exploring where you would like to be after graduating, even if you already have an idea. Do not forget that 70% of all graduate roles are not advertised, and so making sure you know where to find these jobs in readiness for your final year is key. Tools to help you explore include:

  • Networking is a great way to hear directly from potential employers and other people who can support your career path. Crucially, it is a way to get your name out there and start building relationships that may end up helping you secure internships, placements or even graduate jobs. You can do this a few ways:

The Careers Service organises a number of Careers Fairs and other networking opportunities, which you can book onto via the events section on myCareer.

You can also explore, connect and more crucially, talk to potential employers on LinkedIn.

The University’s Plymouth Connect platform is a very useful tool to connect with, and seek advice and guidance from previous students of the University (alumni).


Enhance your Future programme

This programme is open to all first year students, and is either delivered to you as part of the first year of your degree course, or is available to take part in via a myCareer pathway (a self-directed course with a variety of online exercises, zoom workshops and reflective practice to engage in. The programme aims to inspire you to make the most of your time at University to achieve career success.

Set up a LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn is the professional social media platform favoured by employers. Get your profile up and running today, to build your personal brand, explore your interests, and connect with potential employers. 

Excel at your studies

The University offer several resources and services to support you with your writing abilities, knowledge of maths/statistics, presentation skills and other areas. 

Student Learning Services

Connect with past students

Past students of the University (called alumni) have a wealth of knowledge that can help you make the most of your time at University, connect you with employers, and provide tips on how to reach your goals.

Sign up to Plymouth Connect