Not knowing what you want to do is okay

By: Jake Jones

Don’t know what to do after you leave university?  Can’t decide what you want to do with life?  Well don’t stress!  Not knowing your next career move is completely normal and few people have a prepared a grand career strategy ready for when they graduate.

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Not knowing your next career move is completely normal

Not many graduates step out of university and straight into their dream job.  For most of us, it takes time and trialling to find a job that suits us. It’s also common for people to change careers, travel, have a change of scenery or pursue greater work benefits.   Instead of thinking about your big career plan, it’s often more beneficial to consider what the next best step is and work towards it.

This might not be obvious, but there are many things to think about which could help you make a move in the right direction:

Learn more about you                                      

A useful first move is to understand more about yourself.  What do you like?  What are you good at?  Think about what makes you excited and how you enjoy spending your time – can you think of any job which might involve these?  Sometimes, answering these simple questions can be difficult (‘I don’t know!’ ‘All my options sound boring!’ ‘I like seeing my friends, reading and eating hummus – how can I tie these into a career?!’), but there are many ways to learn more about yourself.

During your studies or after you graduate, you’ll have many opportunities to discover more about yourself.  Perhaps try an internship, volunteer, or get a further qualification, work experience or job in a field you’re curious about.  Remember, job hopping is perfectly common. Give a job a go for a while and then change if you’d like to try something new – you’ll never know if you don’t try!

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Some graduates work in industry for a while then come back to do a PhD.  Some get an office job or casual work in Manchester to give their brains a break, save up some cash, and have time to meditate on their next career move.  Others find a job that they really enjoy and keep at it.  There are hundreds of options and you might have no idea about which is best for you, but this is completely normal and it’s fine to change!

Work out what you enjoy and identify your strengths whilst you study

There are also lots of things you can do during your studies to help you discover what you enjoy and identify your strengths.  Maybe try a part-time job, volunteer with a local charity, get involved in some student societies and projects, or get a summer work placement.  By trying new things and stepping outside your comfort zone, you’ll learn about your likes and dislikes, how you feel in different environments, meet new people, and also boost your confidence along the way.

Perhaps you’re considering teaching?  Participate in some outreach events at local schools, or maybe try Teaching English as a Foreign Language in another country.  Or what about research?  Talk to some academics and PhD students and ask if you can shadow them for a day.  Interested in writing?  Try blogging or getting involved with student media.  There are hundreds of things you can try to learn about different careers!

Think about your priorities

It’s also worth thinking about what’s important to you.  What kind of lifestyle do you want?  Would you sacrifice a chunky salary for lots of free-time and the flexibility to travel?  Or do you place more value on a stable salary and a good pay cheque?  Remember, it’ll probably be easier to travel and try new jobs as a graduate fresh out of uni than later in life when you might be limited by greater work commitments, mortgages and families to support.

Ask for advice

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The Careers Service offer a wealth of knowledge on your options, tips on what you can do with your degree, advice on applications and interviews, and guidance sessions with a careers consultant to help discuss your ideas.  Make the most of them whilst you’re here in Manchester, but rest assured that their full range of services are still available to alumni two years after they graduate.  Learn more about the Careers Service here.

Also, consider talking to your lecturers and academic advisors – they might be able to offer advice or connect you with some industry contacts.

Check out graduate websites, they’re aimed at giving career advice, advertising job vacancies, and providing news on various job sectors.  The most popular sites are Target Jobs, Prospects, and Milkround. These resources are a goldmine of information and job vacancy postings – but don’t feel overwhelmed.  Researching these can give you a good idea of what jobs are on the market and what graduates with your degree typically do.

Don’t panic

Sometimes not knowing what to do next can make you feel lost and anxious about your future, but rest assured this is the norm!  Most people don’t fall into their dream career immediately after graduating and it’s natural to spend a few years experimenting with different jobs, contemplating your options and trying new things.  The first steps on any new journey are often small, so start now by trying new things, exploring your options, and learning about what suits you!

5 Reasons why you should work at a Summer Camp!

By: Mary Johnson

I admit I was once a cynic amongst the converted… Those tanned, cheerful folk, returning rejuvenated from THE ‘best summer ever’. However, after experiencing it all first hand, I can truly say that spending my summer as a camp counsellor was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

So, if you’re still sitting on that white picket fence about it, trying to decide whether or not committing to a summer State-side is for you, let me give you a few reasons and a gentle shove in the right direction…

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1. The Friendships

Without a doubt, the bonds you make at camp are unique. Complete strangers become your colleagues, your room mates and your confidants, all in the space of orientation week. You see each other at your best and your worst; first thing at breakfast as you race to the granola bar, to last thing at night before you close your eyes, agreeing that the fan must definitely stay on. It’s like an impossible recipe for friendship to get wrong!

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The kids aren’t such bad company either!

 2. It will be Beautiful!

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Most camps are situated in some of the most stunning, well preserved locations in the country. As a sailing counsellor, I got to enjoy the crystal clear spring-fed lake that we were so fortunate to call our waterfront. N.B. Free up that iCloud storage in preparation for the hundreds of photos you will no doubt take of everything around you…

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The commute to work – It’s no M6 but it’ll do

 3. It’s Pretty Straightforward

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One of the things that really appealed to me when applying, was the seamlessness of the application process. There’s a great range of recruitment companies out there, ready and eager to get you employed (and take a cut of your earnings…) That said, if you’re in it for the money and less so for the experience, you may want to rethink your summer plans! #notfo’golddiggas I personally went through Camp America and found their VISA and staff application processes really straightforward.

4. FOOD

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In most cases, 90% of the food you have is lovingly made on site by your camp’s kitchen staff. However, the rest of your culinary decisions are at your full discretion on days and evenings off and depending on the local eatery scene, the possibilities can be endless… Think ice-cream huts serving virtually every flavour under the sun and endless ‘soda’ refills on trips to the cinema! *Bumps up health insurance in preparation of type 2 diabetes*

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The Maine event: lobster

 5. The Authentic American Experience

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Before coming to camp, I had never stepped foot on American soil (bar the embassy) and I can’t think of a better way to have first experienced it! From the amazing welcome I received and the total immersion in all things American, including late night Walmart trips and Fourth of July fireworks, to my after camp travels along the East Coast, it was all amazing!

 My only regret is not doing it sooner!

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Land ahoy! Next stop, Camp 2017!

What is PASS?

By: Florian Forster

“Where am I and what exactly am I doing here?” – the first weeks at University can be a little overwhelming, but thankfully we have great systems in place to ease you in. The Peer Assisted Study Scheme (PASS) is one of them and here’s how it works!

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PASS was introduced as a Supplementary Instruction (SI) in the early seventies in the US to support students in notoriously tough courses and has since spread around the world. It is an approach to learning by brainstorming with different students. To get the ball rolling, each session is led by two PASS leaders who introduce the day’s topic to a group of students.

Personally, the scheme is extremely beneficial as it allows the students to share their

thoughts on a given topic and act  as a first point of contact at university to find friends as well as support.

The leaders also benefit from the experience as they undergo professional leadership Pic3courses and have a chance to put their skills into practice at the weekly sessions. The scheme is run by a handful of coordinators in each school who set agendas, supply resources and keep improving the scheme.

The scheme also allows leaders to bring new ideas to the table, which ensures we’re always innovative with the programme. Recently, I worked with my peers on a student guide to course selection for the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science.

This just shows that schemes like PASS are not just beneficial to the students, but also to their leaders. PASS has taught me to not be afraid of taking up new projects, , making the most of the time at University and meeting new and interesting people.

Come along and get involved!

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6 reasons to travel while at University

By: Cristina Jiang

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

Travelling is a good way to spend your time with family and friends, but it also is extremely valuable in your personal development. In fact, when you travel you gain essential skills and valuable knowledge that will stay with you your whole life. As University is a time to learn and explore, here are the top 6 reasons why you should travel while doing your degree.

  1. Long holidays

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As students, we have about 160 days of holiday in a year, so it’s the perfect time to travel before committing to a job and a family. In fact, when you start working, you will be entitled to only about around 28 days’ paid holiday (self-employed folks out there, I envy you!), Life won’t be as carefree as now, so take advantage of it and go explore!

  1. 16-25 railcard

If you want to travel around the UK, why not apply for a 16-25 railcard? It only costs £30/year and will get you all over the country for 1/3 of the price. Buy “advance” tickets and you’ll get to London for just £14.50 and to Edinburgh for £12.20! What are you waiting for?

  1. Travel around EuropePic2

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sonta

If you are an international student or you just want to explore the continent, this is the time to do it! With over 50+ countries and diversity in cultures, Europe is a fascinating place to explore. Your destination is just a short flight away and for a fairly cheap price. You can find really good deals with popular low-cost airlines such as Ryanair, EasyJet, Flybe, Jet2.com and many more. When flying back home to Italy, I always book my tickets in advance and compare prices across different airlines, to get the best deal possible. Sometimes you can find some really crazy deals, such as Ryanair flights to Hamburg or Brussels for only £9.99. So get booking!

  1. Interrail


“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Pic3Unlike flying, Interrail is an incredible way to see the country as you drive by! You can hop off the train at any moment and explore as many cities as like. All you have to do is purchase the train pass and you’ll be eligible for unlimited rail travel within 30 countries for a maximum period of one month. Backpacking through Europe is an unforgettable experience that you’ll be telling your kids in years to come.

  1. Volunteering

 “You don’t have to be rich to travel well.” – Eugene Fodor

Do you want to travel AND raise money for a charity? You can join one of the Universities’ charities and travel across Europe, while helping others! In the past, our Students’ Union Raise and Give (RAG) society has taken part in a Jailbreak fundraiser. The idea is that you have 30 hours to get as far from Manchester as possible, by any means possible – for charity. Past Jailbreakers have ended up in Berlin, Paris, New York and even Hong Kong!

There are so many ways you can make your travels more meaningful; take time from your summer holidays and volunteer. Spending your holiday in Manchester? No problem, there are countless numbers of charities that you can join, such as Cancer Research UK Society (CRUKSOC), Unicef on Campus and WaterAid Society. Personally, I am a member of CRUKSOC and every year we organise open 5-a-side football tournaments to raise money for Cancer Research UK. Being part of the events does not only mean I’m helping others but also means I can develop and build new relationships. Volunteering has given me the opportunity to also pursue my hobby as a photographer and video content creator as I take photographs and videos of the events.

More info about volunteering at the University here

  1. Global Graduate

“Investment in travel is an investment in yourself.” – Matthew Karsten

Being an outstanding student is no longer enough.  Nowadays, employers are seeking “global” students that possess a wide range of skills, including adaptability, global knowledge and cultural agility. Big companies often look for employees that are flexible to move around the country, to fly for business trips or to work abroad. The Global Graduate scheme is how you can get ahead!

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The programme offers 32 undergraduate students the opportunity to visit one of the seven host cities across the world – Hong Kong, New York, Singapore, Toronto, London, Paris and San Francisco to go and gain experience in the industry. It’s an opportunity to both practice and develop your existing skills, to start building your professional networks and to increase your understanding of your employability. The best part? It’s completely FREE. Want to hear from one of our Global Graduates? Read here for Alasdair’s experience in Hong Kong to find out more.

Top tips for UCAS fairs

By: Orla Hadjisophocleous

UCAS exhibitions can be the perfect starting point when researching Universities, courses and opportunities. They can also a great help when trying to decide which University you should put down as your firm or safety option! While the UCAS fair are really helpful they can also be extremely overwhelming. So here’s a list of my top tips for attending a UCAS fair:

  1. Familiarise yourself with the floor plan so you know where each University is and you only speak to those you want to.
  2. Before you attend, take a look at any talks or workshops that will be taking place at the fair. Some UCAS exhibitions have speakers on University subjects or advice sessions regarding personal statements, clearing, adjustment andstudent finance etc.
  3. Bring a pen and paper and make sure you note any questions you want to ask or anything  you found useful. Here are a few things you may have questions about:source
    • Your course – content, how flexible it is regarding elective modules and if you can choose ones beyond your school of study or discipline, number of students, nationalities, how diverse it is in terms of age, gender, religion, nationality
    • Assessment – when it takes place, how you are assessed (coursework, exams, presentations, practical work, group projects)
    • Industrial Experience opportunities or Study Abroad options
    • Teaching practices – how many contact hours, seminars, lectures
    • Diversity of the university and the area
    • Accommodation – prices, locations, characteristics of each area (for example at Manchester there are three main accommodation areas  and one is considered to be more of a party area than the other two), proximity to things like supermarkets
    • Facilities (including both buildings like football courts and facilities for student wellbeing such as counsellors, wellbeing rooms etc.)
    • Societies
    • Student Union – what societies do they have, opportunities it can provide you with, how to get involved, do they have student support services? Living costs
    • Transport links
    • Dropout rate of your course
    • Also, use your pen and paper to take notes; your memory can’t absorb all that information!
  4. Talk to as many people as possible from the Universities you are interested in and remember they’re there to help you! Many times, staff or students available are willing to provide their e-mail to you so you can follow up on any queries. This can be a great point of contact in terms of support but can also work in your favour as showing further interest in the University. They may also be able to put you in contact with someone directly related to your course (staff or student) if no one is readily available there.
  5. Pick up any leaflets with information and note down things said to you so you can take home and think through it again or get opinions from friends, family and teachers/academic advisors/counsellors
  6. Plan your time to make sure you speak to everyone you want to (keep in mind there is a waiting for each representative!)
  7. Explore alternative courses to the one you applied to; there may be something out there you’re not aware of that is more fitting! Even if you have sent your applications in, you may still be able to change courses if you contact your University.
  8. Don’t sign up for any e-mail lists or pick up prospectuses from Universities you’re not interested in; you will just become a spam magnet!

Hope these top tips help you at the fairs!. Wishing you best of luck with all UCAS fairs, application processes, potential interviews, decision making, and finally, the amazing University experience which will inevitably come!

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Differences between A-levels and university learning styles you need to know about

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By: Tasnim Chowdhury

My first ever lecture, I got there early, got out my notepad, pens and highlighters, ready to begin this new journey. But there was a teeny tiny problem; I had no idea what to do, what to write or how a lecture was even taught…

University can differ a lot to A-levels, and rather than leaving you in the dark, I’m here to tell you how the two differ based and tell you all about my experiences

Lectures

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Going from an A-level class of 15 students to a lecture theatre with nearly 250 students was a big change for me. In short, lectures are weekly classes where an academic teaches you the basics of a topic, which often they specialise in.

How you focus and take in information in lectures really dependent on the person. For me, writing up notes during lectures helps me understand what I’m being taught, for others it’s printing out lecture hand-outs or using a laptop to type up notes instead.

Something I’d advise is not to write or type up everything from the slides. You won’t have enough time and you might miss something important said by the lecturer which isn’t on the slide. Making brief notes is easier and saves time, anything you miss; you can catch up on from lecture slides.

What I’ve learnt from all my lectures is that each academic teaches in different ways. I found that some use hand-outs or booklets, others use lecture slides, some not at all , so in the first lectures you can plan out how to take in the info. There is never one ‘ideal’ way of learning, for me though, the most useful are lecture hand-outs and note taking.

Tutorials and Seminars

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Tutorials and Seminars are essentially the same thing. These sessions are a lot more
similar to A-Level classes. Groups are made up of 10 to 15 students with a seminar/tutorial leader, who is either an academic or a PhD student who specialises in the unit you’re studying. These weekly or fortnightly sessions dig into the topic you studied in your previous lecture. Here is where you will ask questions, discuss in groups, practice exam questions and get your feedback. In my tutorials, we usually work through worksheets which are relevant to the lectures and often are in the style of exam questions.

Again, like how every lecture differs; seminars and tutorial sessions also differ. For some, we work through sheets, we go over the lecture readings, planning essays or learning to use features for exams or essays.

My advice is to prepare for your sessions and have questions ready. This is the time where you can clarify on your readings or anything you find confusing. It’s easier to get a clear answer and ask for any examples to help consolidate understanding.

Group work

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Being assessed in your learning differs by each course unit. Sometimes you’re assessed on individual work but often its group projects. Group sizes range from pairs to 4 people, you work together to produce a piece of work which you submit together.

Working in groups is a great way to develop collaborative skills, leadership and communication. It’s also a great way to meet people in your course.

For me, in A-levels I never really had to do a group project or a presentation and when I did I worked with my friends. So this was a whole different experience, which isn’t too bad when you share the workload, communicate with your group and regularly meet up to see how you have progressed.

Readings

Each week, you’ll be assigned Pic4readings to supplement your learning in lectures. These could be chapters in textbooks, articles or journals.  Again, this was a massive difference compared to A-levels where the only reading I had to do was for English Literature. This was pretty daunting at first, but the readings weren’t so bad and did help my learning.

I recommend doing the reading bit by bit, so you don’t overwhelm yourself, anything you find important or helpful, make a note of it.

A really useful thing that the University offers is online textbooks. It’s a great way to save money and makes your readings accessible. The University library also has a high demands section, where you can take out a book for 24 hours.

So there it is, my take on the different learning styles at university and A-levels! I hope I haven’t bogged you down with too much info. Starting university can be scary but it’s also a massive part of your life and it can go by pretty quickly, so make the most of it!

Got any questions? Or if you’re a student, got any tips? Please leave a comment!

Tasnim x