Things I learned from students yesterday

I attended a very interesting event yesterday evening: ‘Coffee and Careers’ at the University of Derby. This was an opportunity for 2nd-year Accounting and Finance / Business students to get some networking practice and to find out a bit more about how their careers might develop after studies are over.

I didn’t expect to, but I learned a few things myself. As follows:

  • Students these days work hard! One person I spoke to was going on from the networking event to her evening job in a supermarket. Another was looking to do some volunteering work in addition to his part-time job and packed study schedule. This isn’t the university life that I remember.
  • Because I was lucky. I graduated in 1993 and the job came to me. Things are very different now; competition is intense and the general feeling seemed to be that the chances of finding a job in a relevant field are slim.
  • Derby students are polite and interesting. The majority of those I spoke to asked good questions, listened to the answers, and seemed pretty good at the networking thing already.
  • They all seem to have thought about what they want to do – even if they don’t yet know the answer. Again, not my experience.
  • I’m older than I thought I was! University seems like a very long time ago indeed.

I was impressed. I had a number of interesting conversations and I quite often ended up giving advice. This wasn’t my plan for the night, but I was asked. So I dispensed the following pearls of wisdom:

  • A good cv opens the door, but the right attitude gets you the job.
  • Make sure your door-opening cv looks good, doesn’t have spelling mistakes, and mentions your achievements as well as listing your duties. Get it proof-read by others a couple of times.
  • Don’t just email your cv out and sit back. Also send a good, relevant, personalised covering message, and follow up your application with a phone call, a letter, or a polite message on LinkedIn.
  • Oh yes – LinkedIn! It’s a really excellent networking tool and gives valuable insight into the company you want to join, the team members, and the hiring manager. Other online networking platforms are available.
  • Assume that your future employers will also be checking you out on social media, so make sure your profiles are clean and tidy, and present the image you want people to see.
  • Learn about marketing. It’s no good being the best in the world at something if no-one knows you exist. This applies to you as an individual as well as to your business, if you have one.

Some of the students have connected to me on LinkedIn already, which is good. Others haven’t (yet). Following up on networking events like this is pretty important, as you never know who might be able to help you in future.

My star prize goes to the student who actually gave me HER card. A good example of exactly what I was trying to say above.

In conclusion: I enjoyed the evening and I thought the students were a credit to the University. Thanks for inviting me, Rachel Hayward!

Matt Byrne