Parents and teachers may be surprised to learn that leading employers are not concerned if young people don’t have a university degree as long they demonstrate initiative, passion and self-motivation, according to research published last week by Uni’s not for me (UNFM), an information and advice resource for young people considering the alternatives to university.
As young students across the country head out into the working world, Hattie Wrixon, founder of UNFM, urges them to start developing the qualities employers are looking for now: “Competition for interesting, well-paid work with top employers is fierce, whether you’re a school leaver or a graduate, so don’t leave it until you’re knocking on their door to start thinking about what really matters to them. You want to start thinking now about what an employer does, what you have to offer, and what you want to say. Be prepared.”
Based on hundreds of conversations with leading companies across the UK, here are UNFM’s five top tips to make sure young people are one step ahead when it comes to getting work experience, an apprenticeship or full-time work.
In a digital world, it’s never been easier to connect with people and organisations. Whatever area or career you’re interested in, look at companies’ websites, follow them on Twitter, understand a bit about what they do and what openings you can pursue. Engage early, ask intelligent questions so you make yourself visible and are informed when it comes to asking for work.
- Remember who’s buying whom
Employers will be investing in you so will want to understand what value you offer their organisations – you need to bring that to life. So, learn to listen and focus on why you’re interested in what they do, why you’d like to work with them and why they’d benefit from having you in their team; a list of qualifications and attributes is not enough, do the hard work for them.
- Be realistic
Ambition is great – but be prepared to be flexible in your approach to an end goal. You’ve got a lot of working life ahead and you might not get it right first time. Sometimes things don’t work out exactly as you hoped or planned, and that’s fine. But take the positives, learn from your experiences and enjoy the fact that failure is usually an important stepping stone to success.
- Earn or learn
The numbers of young people seeking paid work is dwindling – this is where you can stand out. Not everyone is a natural entrepreneur, but equally not everyone is knocking on doors in search of a Saturday job. You’ll begin to learn your worth, the art of negotiation and how to sell yourself. Doing something will all add to your experience and demonstrate that you’re someone who can motivate themselves.
- Don’t forget the obvious stuff
Get your CV and personal statements polished and relevant (but please don’t download chunks from the internet or make things up just to look better – you’ll always get found out). Make every approach personal – employers will be overjoyed that you’ve taken the time and trouble to research them. Be a little judicious, but on balance, no matter how big or small the opportunity, grab it and use the experience.