A blog post written for studentlifestart.com which unfortunately closed in April 2019.
The art of saying “YES!” - How to use weird, wonderful and even wearisome experiences to market yourself
Do you remember your first crush, the first concert you ever went to, or even the first film you ever owned? These events are memorable because they were your first-time and you may have even learnt from the experience too.
As a student, you’re just starting out. That means you’re probably testing out adulting and having lots of ‘first-times’. As nobody seems to know what they’re doing when ‘adulting’, life becomes filled with questions like; can you really do all your white and colour washing together? Is there a way to undo your laundry coming out pink, due to that one offending red sock? Can you still eat something after the ‘Best Before’ date? These questions are just some of what you’ll experience when leaving home and becoming independent at university. Rather than stressful or scary, think of it as just part of trying out lots of new things. Here are a few tips on how new experiences can help you in the future.
What new things should you try? It honestly doesn’t matter. Any experience, especially if you haven’t done it before, can be helpful. Try and work out how it fits within your overall story and you’ll probably be able to identify the benefits whether that’s learning a new skill or becoming a pro at an old one. Saying ‘yes’ is definitely the way to go. In other words; you should say yes to anything and everything that you’re interested in.
If you have a secret interest, passion or just plain FOMO, university is the time to hunt down that activity/interest. Work out the things you’d like to try and then do some research in your city or university – Freshers’ Fair can be a great place to start. I remember my first Freshers’ Fair, where I wandered around for hours talking to nearly every stand and trying to get those all important freebies! Maybe I was a bit over-ambitious that first day as I never did attend tryouts for rowing, rugby or the choir (despite their incessant emails) but I did find other passions like hip-hop dancing which I continued with throughout my degree.
So, try not to say yes to everything at once. You want to focus time and energy on the project/activity that you’re doing. Remember you have university deadlines still to meet, and probably want to spend time with your uni friends too. Don’t plan on doing something everyday. If you spread yourself too thinly you won’t have the same chance to practice and showcase your skills. The right amount will be different for everyone, but maybe start with two new societies at the beginning of the semester and see how you go. If they’re both weekly that’s a lot more of a commitment than monthly or even a one-off, so find out what works for you!
Now, you may be reading this and thinking one of two things; you don’t have the time to start something new? Or you don’t think you have the money to try a new experience. Trying something new doesn’t have to be the weird and the wonderful. Sometimes it’s just volunteering for something that you hadn’t done before. Maybe even doing a part-time student job can help open up new possibilities.
Every opportunity is a way to build skills that will stay with you for the rest of your life. For example:
Waitressing is good at teaching you customer centric thinking. It’s also a great crash course in empathy. You may want to mention if you ever go for a role as a designer or a product manager.
Being a shop assistant might give you the opportunity to think about inefficiencies and processes. It might also become pretty good training for leading sales conversations. It will give you a unique angle when talking to someone about becoming a project manager later on.
Tutoring might teach you about structuring information, which can come in handy when you need to do some project management or even perhaps web development
Everything I’ve just mentioned also show good organisational skills, if you’re juggling studying and working. You see that I’ve turned what could be a boring part-time job into a way to market yourself to future employers. If you like what you’re doing then it’s even easier to talk about. It will make you an interesting applicant to interview.
So maybe now when you're stuck at work or doing something you don't like, think about it from a different perspective and imagine what skills/experience it is giving you for the future. If you’re sitting at home wondering what to do with your time, see what your university has to offer, as doing something is always better than nothing! Whatever you decide, it may become the stepping stone into the job/industry you truly have a passion for.