What have you done in addition to your degree to enhance your employability and what do you feel you’ve gained from this?
Whilst at University I joined the Queen’s Rugby Club, such participation afforded me a distraction from my academic studies whilst allowing me to build upon my ability to function within a team
I undertook an Advisor Training Programme with Citizens Advice, subsequently I volunteer in the Shankill Bureau during the week. This experience has been invaluable, not only have I gained a very helpful qualification through the Advisor programme but importantly, I have been able to apply what I learnt in a very real and practical setting. As I intend to pursue a career in Law, experience that I have gained from Citizens Advice will greatly enhance my future prospects as it mirrors the skills that are demanded in the legal profession. The opportunity provides a platform from which I will be able to apply my studies in practical situations. I am confident that this will better my understanding of legal matters and enhance my knowledge of their practical application. In addition, I am enthusiastic to learn other areas of law, such as employment and consumer law, as this has broadened my knowledge.
Currently, I volunteer at a local charity, CHARIS, which is concerned towards children with learning disabilities. It constantly requires me to think on my feet in order to engage with the children and further develops my social skills and ability to work within a team of other volunteers
During the Easter break in my second year at Queen’s I participated in the Study China Programme which offers students a unique opportunity to experience Chinese life, culture, language and business. Throughout the programme I was placed in Zhejiang University which is a highly recognised University in Asia, consequently the quality of the academic modules is worth note and will be of benefit when I submit my CV to perspective employers. Most obviously, the academic aspect of the study China programme lends itself to developing ones depth and knowledge of their chosen module. I chose to study Chinese business culture, I was taught by a local (Hangzhou) entrepreneur and the module structure allowed me to gain an insight into how Chinese business functions. The field trip attached to the module involved my class visiting a private business. Therefore, I was able to appreciate the theory and practical implications of the business style in China. As I am seeking to follow a career in Corporate and Commercial law such exposure is invaluable, especially as China is of increasing importance on the global stage. I now have a sound working knowledge regarding business etiquette which is of grave importance when completing transactions in Asia. Such knowledge will make my CV very attractive as it demonstrates my commercial awareness of a key global state.
In addition to the module in Chinese Business Culture I also completed a module in Mandarin. This basic introduction has allowed me to gain confidence in the language and persuaded me to follow up this module by hopefully participating in an intermediate level course at QUB. Similarly, as China is becoming increasingly important on a political and economic level, Chinese is quickly replacing English as a ‘Universal’ language. Furthermore, the Chinese population in the UK is growing, therefore knowledge of the language is very helpful in enhancing my career prospects as I am likely to interact with Chinese Nationals.
By extension, learning Chinese and participating in the programme has opened up many different work and study opportunities enabling me to establish strong links with a leading Chinese university (Zhejiang), of which I am now an Alumni student, and peers from UK universities. Such links have undoubtedly enhanced my prospects outside Northern Ireland but will also afford me the opportunity to advertise and attract business investment from those contacts into the Northern Irish Economy. My participation in the above modules serves to illustrate my academic adaptability, a feature which is wholly desirable in a competitive market where candidates are expected to tick a variety of boxes.
The Study China experience was not confined to classroom learning. This is why the programme was so beneficial for me as it developed skills that are not within academic reach. Through a curriculum of workshops, trips and excursions I was introduced to the ‘real China’. This afforded me the opportunity to gain a global experience of China and provided me with a fresh diverse perspective of other cultures outside of the UK. Employers actively seek out candidates with global experience and therefore the structure of the programme has greatly benefited my future endeavours.
The programme encourages participants to explore China. To this end I travelled to Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou during my free weekends. Consequently, I was able to visit the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden Kingdom in Beijing whilst in Shanghai I was able to enter ‘Bund’, the Financial district of Shanghai. Taking on such expeditions in an unfamiliar environment required careful management and maturity. To this end the programme certainly provided a platform from which I could test my own abilities. This was certainly stressful however, I now have confidence in my own capabilities and this will have a positive impact on my own on any future programmes I participate on. Nowadays, successful applications for jobs go beyond good merit in academic studies, but also, require a confident personality. I believe self-confidence allows your employer to have trust in your capabilities but also your clients. Study China certainly pushes your limits and as a result, by overcoming my own weaknesses my self-confidence has excelled. I believe the confidence I gained, which flowed from the Study China programme, will enhance my own prospects as I will be an attractive player to have within a work place. The global experience I gained from the programme was furthered by the opportunity to travel extensively throughout China. I covered over three thousand miles whilst in China and was exposed to a variety of Cultural and Business practices within the different regions. Such first-hand experience will prove invaluable if I pursue a global career, as I will have a genuine understanding and sensitivity to other practices. In Asian countries, such sensitivity is greatly appreciated and rewarded.
Non-verbal communication has certainly improved as often there were language barriers when outside the University Campus. The optional module required a group presentation, this has furthered my oratory skills whilst also advancing my ability to work efficiently within a group setting. The nature of the programme is very intense, consequently, my management of time has been better developed in addition to working within a team. The study China programme is perhaps more challenging than any University project I have been involved with as, with study China, nobody knew each other and therefore communicating ideas and putting together a presentation of University standard was testing. Again, however my team’s presentation was a success and therefore I am now confident in undertaking such projects at home.
In sum, the study China programme benefited me because it has thoroughly enhanced my CV as I have acquired transferable skills which will give me a competitive edge when applying for future employment, especially within a global field such as Corporate law.
With respect to the Study China Programme, I would like to record my gratitude to both the School of Law and QUB Careers for the generous funding I received in order to take advantage of the opportunity.
Making use of Careers, Employability and Skills at Queen’s
I attended the workshops for degree plus. I found them very informative and the setting of the seminars very relaxed which encouraged students to ask questions at ease. Furthermore, the ability to get one to one advice with applications was invaluable as I was able to able to get professional advice which, in turn, allowed me to raise my standards and stand out from all other applications. The addition of ‘My Future’ has been great. It allowed me to keep on track of everything that was relevant to me.
Any advice for other Queen's students?
Don’t let the academic workload leave you short sighted. In a world were degrees are becoming increasingly common it is crucial that you gain other skills and experiences which will allow you to emanate the University’s maxim and ‘be exceptional’. Be proactive, check your ‘My Future’ account and keep up-to date with opportunities which are of interest to you.
As students, we will often conclude that we cannot financially afford to take advantage of some opportunities, In my case, the study China Programme. However, don’t reach a negative conclusion before researching what funding may be available. I emailed various agents and was able to secure a generous amount which allowed to take full advantage of, what was, an incredible three weeks.