Ben Glass, final year Philosophy student, offers his guidance on how to use lockdown to think about your career and spruce up your CV.
Quarantine has provided us all with a surprisingly large amount of time. But how to fill it? For many ambitious university students, improving your CV or LinkedIn profile is the natural, productive choice. Ok, but how? This post will run through a few strategies that myself and others have used — to varying degrees of success!
Before leaping in, however, it’s important we remember not to put too much pressure on ourselves. The quest for your dream job is tiring! There will be many rejections on the way. So, before applying 100% of your efforts, give yourself time to decompress from whatever project or set of exams you may have just completed.
Begin with the end in mind
First, you need something to aim towards; it’s up to you to determine your horizon here. It could be as near as the second-year internship you desperately want, or as far away as 2030 — just pick whatever motivates and inspires you.
If you’re not really sure what you want, that’s also fine. I would suggest reading back through old applications or your university personal statement, or think about how you’ve spent your time over the last five years. What did you enjoy? What causes do you care about? Alternatively, you might start from a set of expectations: What will I have done in my life by the time I am x?
If you’re still stuck, try Mark Manson’s “7 strange questions that help you find your life purpose”, such as “What makes you forget to eat and poop?”.
Work backward to move forward
Now that you have something concrete to work towards, the idea is to map out a path towards that goal. Since this is quite personal, I am unable to give much in the way of actionable advice. You could find job descriptions for a few jobs you think you would enjoy, and work out what skills and work experience you need to be competitive in the application process. From there, map back to the present, planning one project in each of Term 1, Term 2 and the Summer (Term 3 is when UCL’s exams take place).
Just looking at your plan and imagining yourself at the end should make you proud. If it doesn’t, go back to the previous step. If you miss your targets, don’t worry. There are so many ways to that desired goal. Besides, the best opportunities and experiences will be the ones you could never have planned! Keep hustling and it’ll work itself out.
So what can I do right now?
A great question! First, take a look at your plan. What is the next step? As I write, UCL is gearing up for the Term 1 2020/21. Pursuing a committee position on one of UCL’s 290+ societies might be on your radar…
The key to success is realising that the people picking you just want to see that you can do the job (duh). This is often cause for consternation: “To get a job, I need five years experience, but to get five years experience, I need a job”. Whilst this is somewhat true, there is a way around it: you show that you can do the job by already having done the job or elements of the job.
For example, let’s say you’re interested in Marketing, specifically Brand Strategy. You identify that some of the Brand Strategists at your target company started their careers as UX Designers. So, you identify a committee position that would give you jurisdiction over the website (probably a Marketing role). You know you want to redesign their website, but you don’t really know how. Quarantine is your moment to learn — through online courses or just experimenting. When you get to the application stage, you can now show them your ideas for the website — you have done one element of the job.
Obviously, this isn’t a failsafe method, but it will increase your chances of success and — if you do the first bit thoroughly — fulfillment.
Good luck with it all!
Benjamin Glass, final year Philosophy student