As both a careers adviser and lecturer in academic skills, I am lucky enough to work with mature students in two crucial ways throughout the academic year: introducing you to how to study when you arrive, and helping you to find the work that’s right for you as you progress through your degree and get ready to leave.
One of the main issues that comes up in my discussions with mature students is confidence. If you had a negative experience in your earlier years in education, then this can throw a bit of spanner in the works when it comes to approaching university life with confidence. Alternatively, it may be the case that you have made a significant change to your lifestyle and are wondering why you have left your job to be a student again, and whether or not someone will think you are employable at the end of it all. Whatever your concern, here is some guidance that I hope will help to allay your fears and concentrate on getting the best out of your degree experience.
You are not alone!
I help with our mature student induction programme and it’s great to see so many of you all in the same room at the same time, talking to each other and making contacts. When you are going through the process of getting into university, especially if you have come in through an Access course, you may be worried that you will be the only mature student in your class, or that you won’t be able to cope with the step up to degree-level study. Please take advantage of what is on offer to you. It doesn’t matter if you meet other mature students who are not studying on the same course; you could still arrange to meet in a local café once a week to talk about what it’s like coming back to study and discuss any issues that come up. Make sure that you attend any induction events or social opportunities on offer to mature students, if you can; this will help you to feel less alone and more able to access the University’s Support Services which are here to help you if you run into difficulty.
Planning your next move
You may not be thinking about your career in great detail in your first year with us but, if taking a degree is a means to you moving onwards and upwards, then there is a lot on offer if you simply want to explore your options. If you have the time, attending employer presentations and Careers In events during the autumn term can give you a taste of what it’s like to work in certain sectors, learn more about them and meet company representatives, all of which will help you to make career decisions later on.
If you are about to return for your second or third year, then come along to our Welcome Back Day. We are offering some short talks about how to use your coming year to be best placed to get the job you want, as well as informal opportunities to talk to Careers Service staff and enjoy a cup of coffee and a piece of cake! If you are further along in your degree and considering the transition back into employment, we also have a range of workshops and skills sessions throughout the term that can help you to develop your employability and get a feel for what awaits you after graduation. Many of these events are run by employers, so it’s a great opportunity to find out how they regard more mature applicants and what they would like to see on your CV.
Applying for graduate jobs as a mature candidate – some myths and worries busted!
Recruiters want to see applications from candidates of all backgrounds. What is crucial is how you sell what you have to offer to that employer as positively as possible.
- Employers only want to hire 21 year olds
Not true! They want the best person for the job, and the best person may be one who has already enjoyed substantial experience in the workplace and can be regarded as ‘a safe pair of hands’, rather than someone who has itchy feet because they didn’t take a gap year.
- But I still don’t want to be competing with people going for graduate schemes
Fair enough. A lot of younger graduates don’t take this route either. You can look at company websites for vacancies for ‘Experienced Hires’, and start using your contacts to find out if they have any opportunities when you finish studying. We have a Careers Network of Bristol graduates who can offer you advice, and you can also make speculative applications to companies that interest you. You can find advice on updating your CV on our website, too.
- I’ve only been a housewife/carer up until now!
In that case, you will have been running a household, managing a budget and juggling responsibilities for several years, all of which are valuable transferable skills in the workplace. I hosted a talk last year by an experienced barrister who explained how some mature students had successfully launched legal careers relatively late in the day and without relevant previous experience. It’s about making the most of your opportunities while you study and showing your enthusiasm for your choice of new career.
- My CV is hopelessly out of date
No problem! Come into the Careers Service for advice and guidance on how to update your CV and make the most of your skills and experience. We can also help with those tricky application forms that employers seem to love these days, as well as with preparing for interviews if you feel out of practice.
We see mature students on a regular basis at Careers for a wide range of queries, so please come in, whatever your question, and we’ll do our best to help. Enjoy making the most of the autumn term and we hope to see you soon!
Dr Tracy Johnson, Careers Adviser