By Matt Nicholson a BA Broadcast Journalism NTU Alumni
It’s about this time of year where hundreds, if not thousands, of final year university students up and down the country start to think about life after their studies. Whether you’re a prospective lawyer, journalist or sports scientist, with the job market continuing to be concentrated by university graduate’s year on year it’s more important than ever to equip yourself with the skills, experience and knowledge that will help you stand out from the crowd.
Self-investment focuses fundamentally on enhancing your skillset, not just professionally but on a personal level too. If you imagine every individual in the world decided to devote an additional 5% of their time each month to increasing their expertise in a certain field, eating healthier or learning a brand new skill, then the knowledge and ability of the population would shift forward dramatically, which helps drive innovation and enterprise.
Now of course there are many factors that mean it isn’t as simple as that; we are often so busy we forget to, or don’t find value in taking the time out of our hectic lives to sit down and reflect on the areas we could change or improve upon. However, there is no truer saying than “the best investment you can make is in yourself”. It is the only one that can be truly guaranteed, so here’s a few bits of advice that I hope will show why taking just a small amount of your time to tackle your knowledge gaps and weaknesses could be one of the best things you do before you graduate this year (or in the future!).
LinkedIn is a fantastic platform that when used to its potential can be an amazing tool to aid your career, particularly before making that first step into your graduate working life. Of course you need to make sure your account is up to date, but also consider following companies that are of interest to you, including on other social media sites. This makes it easier to track new opportunities when they arise and helps you build a greater understanding of the work that they do.
Also consider connecting with individuals who are in roles which you aspire to be in. How did they get to where they are today? What are their differentiating factors? What qualifications/experience have they gained to get there? From this, can you identify any gaps in your current knowledge/skillset. If yes, then the next question should be “can I do something about that?” or better still “how can I go above and beyond that?”
It is also important to connect with course mates or those striving towards similar aspirations to yourself to use as a benchmark. This can help you compare your skills and identify your key assets e.g. I excel in public speaking and presentations compared to others on my course. The ability to identify your own strengths and weaknesses is vitally important when trying to stand out in a graduate job market and it is often one of the go-to questions by employers at interview.
Ask five of your closest friends and professional connections what they see as your greatest strength and greatest weakness and make a note. Also ask them if they had to come to you for help or advice on any topic what would it be? This can be really useful to help identify strengths and weaknesses that you might be blind to yourself.
You might also consider undertaking a 360 review or personality test. There are plenty of these available online for free and they can help give a great insight into what your key personality traits are; which in turn can be really valuable in identifying jobs you might be suited to and help you gain a greater understanding of how your personality traits would fit into each workplace setting.
Pursuing development opportunities
Once you have begun to identify gaps in your skillset, look to see if there are any development opportunities that you could pursue. This could include anything from work experience to gaining qualifications. It could be free or paid ranging from finance and budgeting to volunteering on a committee or at an event. It could be something like attending a first aid course or signing up to a mentoring workshop. Whatever it is, the key is not just talking about it, but actually going and doing it! The chosen opportunity is helping you to invest in yourself, filling the gap in your skillset, adding value to your career and ultimately helping you stand out.
Don’t ignore health and wellbeing
The majority of the above focuses on the professional side of life. However, it’s also so important to make sure that your self-investment incorporates much more than that. Make sure you are also taking time out to support your own health and wellbeing, this could be anything from dieting and exercise to mindfulness and sleep. Make time for randomness, deliberately under schedule yourself for a day, to read that book that’s been sat on the side table for weeks, to visit somewhere new or even write a blog post like how I’m doing right now! One suggestion is to sit down and review how you spent your last 8 Saturdays, what did you do? Is this how you want to be spending your free time? This may help identify your real interests and aspirations as opposed to what you think they are.
Remember it’s never too late to invest in yourself. Now is the best time to start tapping into your networks, investing in your own skills and pursuing as many different breakout opportunities as you can. But most importantly start making your own path, in your career and everyday life, for the key to self-investment is to never stop starting.
For help and advice whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.
Support from NTU
Silvercloud: SilverCloud is our online system designed to help with a range of mental health issues.
Wellness in Mind: Advice and support for anyone in Nottingham experiencing issues with their mental wellbeing
Struggling at Uni? Go to Student Minds
10 Keys to happiness
This post is part of our regular NTU Alumni feature. Over the next few weeks we will be posting guest blogs written by our Alumni Fellows sharing their experiences and tips on their student journey while here at NTU.
If you are an NTU graduate and are interested in writing for us contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find more information about our Alumni Fellowship volunteering programme via the alumni website