Working outdoors in the sun while writing in a notebook

Five things you can do over summer to build up employability skills

By 02.08.17

By Sophie Chadwick, STEM Graduates

1. Wider reading and independent projects

Summer is a time to take a break from studying and relax your mind ready for a new term. Or, if you have just finished your degree, time to take a break before starting employment or focus on getting a job. However, we often see employers requesting to see a candidate’s passion for their subject outside of their required modules. Especially for technical roles, writing your own code or creating your own game can be an excellent way to demonstrate your own personality and motivation through your work.

You can also take the opportunity to read around your subject of interest or look into some of the wider reading suggestions from your tutors, as this will undoubtedly add merit to your work for next year. With wider reading, you will be able to supplement your arguments and demonstrate your understanding of your subject of interest. Reading at your own pace over the summer can also add to your enjoyment of the subject and give you time to engage with material in your own way, away from the pressures associated with a deadline or lecture. Consider throwing a subject book in your holiday case to read on the beach – it can only be helpful in the long run.

Reading from a tablet while sitting on a chair

2. Volunteering opportunities

Volunteering, even outside of your desired industry, demonstrates that you are a rounded individual and interested in contributing to the wider community. Being willing to give up your time to help other people is an excellent trait and shows you would work well as part of a team. There is a great deal of variety to choose from when it comes to volunteering options from coaching children’s sports clubs to running your local charity shop.

You can also gain great work experience and skills from these opportunities including leadership, teamworking and organisation skills. Having a variety of experiences to draw upon whilst in a job interview can demonstrate how well you work in different settings, as opposed to solely in university group work tasks.

3. Internships and placements

Applications open early for the internships and placements with large well-known companies, so be sure to start thinking ahead around autumn time each year for a placement the following summer. An internship with a company you’d like to work for in the future can result in you being fast-tracked through several stages of application for their graduate scheme. Some students even get offered a graduate job after they have completed their internship.

However, a placement or internship at a large or small company can always be an eye-opening experience, even if it wasn’t your first choice. You can get a taste of what you like or don’t like in a role, for example, do you prefer desk work or field work? Do you want to work independently or spend most of your time working on group projects? Do you want to work in a client facing role or a strictly technical lab-based role? Often an idea of what we would like to do career wise can only be truly realised through experiencing it first hand and that is why work experience is so important.

Colleagues working together at a computer

4. Pursue your hobbies

Summer can be an excellent time to pursue your own hobbies, find new hobbies and travel. Long summers off are unique to students so be sure to make the most of them. Plan an interrailing trip with friends to experience new places around the world, volunteer abroad on conservation projects or work for camps like Camp America. If you already have a hobby you love you can dedicate time to improving at it or you could even start a new hobby. Joining a local badminton group in your town could give you the confidence to join your university team in the next term and being part of a university club can really give your CV an edge!

5. Work on your CV and interview skills

Finally, you can take the time to really sit down and work on your CV. Putting time and effort into making your CV eye-catching and relevant can make a huge difference to your employability. Avoid generic templates that employers see many times and make your CV stand out, this is particularly important if the work you want to go into requires creativity.

You can find generic CV advice everywhere but try to read advice for your particular industry and experience. A graduate level CV will be different to the one you had for part time jobs in college and different still from one you will use when you have a few years’ experience. Your careers service at university may also run CV workshops where they can help you create a fantastic CV.

Summer can be a great time for you to grow and develop yourself and become more employable so make sure you take full advantage of it!