We caught up with John, the Director of Employability at The University of Law, to hear about his career background, find out what makes the university a stand-out place and get exclusive tips on how to shine in the application process. Read on to find out more…
Tell us a bit about you and your role…
After leaving university, I was a sports commentator for a while, whilst also balancing training to become a Chartered Accountant. Despite my heart telling me to do something glamorous, I decided to focus on my accountancy career, where I spent the following 20 years. Increasingly this was in a learning and development role that allowed me the opportunity to present in front of audiences - rediscovering my love for ‘broadcasting’ and over the last 10 years in a Higher Education setting I have been able to enthuse the next generation over employability and career development.
In my current role as Director of Employability, I share my expertise of operating in a fast-paced professional environment to help students prepare for their career ahead and fulfil their immediate ambition. I aim to get them ready for the challenges they’ll face along the way, from managing people to dealing with conflict and set them up for onward success.
How does the Employability Department function within the Uni of Law?
One of our distinctive features is that we are a professional university, aka the university of the professions. We are all about preparing students with the skills and knowledge they need for the long term and getting them ready for the world of work.
Typically, our students are commuting and many have part-time jobs, so it’s a very different experience from the stereotypical student life living away from home.
We take a practical approach to teaching, and the commitment to employability is evident from day one of joining us. Part of our induction process for undergraduates is a day-long career development workshop that outlines what students can expect when leaving and allows them to look forward to what’s ahead. As Director of Employability, I’ve personally delivered these workshops all over the country to show students just how important employability is.
What kind of support and initiatives do you run to help students?
It’s a wide and varied offering we provide students, there’s truly something for everyone. We make sure to listen to our students, understand what they want and deliver services that meet this. Often, it’s things like CV, interview and application advice that are greatest in demand and so we tailor our service to reflect this.
The professional and recruitment world is a dynamic space. Even when you think of the simple CV, what it looks like now is very different from what it looked like just 2 years ago and so our aim is to help students navigate this constantly changing environment.
What would you say stands out about Uni of Law as a Further Education option?
As a private institution, we are fortunate that we can come at things differently and aren’t constrained by considerations such as the traditional start times of universities. This means we can operate in a way that allows us to meet the needs of our diverse cohort, for example, our online courses are designed to allow people to fit their studies around work commitments.
Our employability team is spread across the country and is present on each campus, meaning we offer local advice, support and knowledge. With our commitment to providing the best support to our students, we are on hand pretty much all year round so they can access the resources they need to succeed.
The final differentiating factor I want to mention is our employment promise, this means that if our postgraduate students don’t secure a job within 9-months of leaving us they get half their money back. This spotlights how invested we are in ensuring our students are equipped with the skills, knowledge and support needed to launch their careers.
What are the top 5 ways an applicant can stand out in the application process?
This is particularly important in the diverse world we are living in - so be who you are and be proud of it. Highlight the things you’re good at, but equally, show what areas you need to work on because showing these signs of vulnerability read positively. You don’t have to create a picture of perfection, that potentially you won’t be able to live up to when it comes to entering the workplace, instead let people see you and understand what you’re about.
- Commitment to personal and professional development
Work is a continuous learning experience and it’s inevitable you’ll come across unfamiliar things or have to develop beyond what you’ve done before. Employers want to know you’re willing to put the time and effort in so make sure to communicate this. Not only this, dismissing the chance to learn will limit your ability to reach your potential.
- Commercial awareness
Being able to show an awareness of the complexities of the world, from the impacts of Brexit to the consequences of lockdowns is a key skill to demonstrate. Prospective firms want to see that you can put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re talking to, understand what they need and provide insightful advice based on this. We give our students access to Watson’s Daily, an easily digestible, 2-page summary of the current issues.
Firms are increasingly wanting to be seen as good corporate citizens, and so want employees who can help support this mission. Whether it’s volunteering to help elderly residents or fundraising, think about how you’ve demonstrated you’re a positive member of society. This is something that’s risen up the agenda and is quickly becoming a key competency desired by hiring teams.
This is a complex topic that, I think, needs to be redefined but at its core, it’s about how you conduct yourself. For some professionalism is as simple as turning up to things on time, whereas for others it could be the standard of clothes you wear. People’s outlook on this is changing but I’d strongly encourage students to display the more traditional characteristics of professionalism including being on time, being reliable and being courteous as these still matter a lot to people.
If, after reading John’s fantastic insights, you’re feeling prepared to take the strides towards pursuing the career of your dreams – discover how The University of Law can get you there by checking out their profile here.