I spent my early career in a job that I inherently despised, and what transpired was endless “dead-end” jobs with limited chances of progression. So, I decided to embark on my own adventure back into education. But my greatest concern was that I had several years of working in professional environments, not specifically related to my field of study, and I was worried about lacking in relevant experience to marketing.

And before I started university, I remember sitting out having lunch with my family. And I was asked: “Why did you decide to go back to university at your age?” And I responded with: “To make professional connections.”

Their response?

Outrage.

And I was reminded of how I should be solely focusing on my obtaining my degree. But the danger is leaving university with just a degree and limited professional experience.

Just imagine attending an interview, and being asked:

“So, what experience do you have?”

And to respond with:

“Well, I’ve worked as a bar tender while I was studying.”

Or even worse, what are the chances of reaching an interview with limited experience?

Probably very slim odds.

A friend of mine once worked with a guy with a 2:1 degree but was clueless about office etiquette- even sending an email proved to be problematic.

This may even sound trivial. But in challenging professional environments, it’s how graduates can stand out from the masses. Brands want employees to drive and innovate their business, and expect staff to fully embrace each opportunity as it comes. So the question is:

Firstly, how can students gain relevant experience and skills that employers are looking for? Secondly, where are these opportunities for students?

Introducing: Kingston Hub

Kingston Hub is an organisation offering volunteering and paid skilled placements.

And during my first year at university, I was part of the Social Innovation Programme.

My organisation was called: Kingston Voluntary Action- and we were tasked about finding ways we could improve their services, which involved: addressing the challenges, writing a report of recommendations, and then pitched these ideas to our organisation.

So what key skills did I learn?

Teamwork

More often than not, when you began working in an organisation, you will be required to liaise as part of a team (and will not have the choice of working with your friends). What I learned is that other people will always have other skills that can be leverage while working together. And during the programme, I learned to make decisions that have an impact.

Strategy

I learned how to create strategic proposals. This was completed by identifying opportunities, and finding ways to implement them. Because for sustainable career success, it is about adding more value to your work. And through creating proposals, I gained key skills on how to consult with brands, as well as the ability to solve problems.

Research

Although this is the less glamourous side to business, data is used to make decisions. But before a decision can be made, you must first be able to collect information, and then act upon it. After the programme had finished, I felt more confident in my ability to conduct research, which has over time has enhanced my degree specification.

It seems like yesterday that I was a fresh-faced first year student. Throughout my journey through academia, I have learned that a degree is a route into employment. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that I am automatically hireable.

So, here’s a thought.

If you don’t know where to look to gain experience? Or don’t have the skills? Then, Kingston Hub is a place that can enhance your professional skills.

Because the future is now.

Aaron

Media Officer 2018/19