As a Modern Language graduate of the University of St Andrews, I remember that feeling towards the end of my course, when I knew I had to start thinking about what to do with myself after graduation. In those days, with no internet and the lack of literature on career options, deciding what to do after university was rather difficult.
However, today, there is so much choice that the pre-graduation period can be just as stressful. Recent statistics on Modern Language graduates’ destinations upon leaving the University of St Andrews reveals that a language degree can be a passport to a wide range of careers. Recently, language graduates have gone into sectors as diverse as Accountancy, Law, Management Consultancy, Human Resources, Publishing, Insurance and PR, as well as the more obvious choices such as Teaching, Translating, Interpreting and the Tourism industry.
At the Careers Centre, we rarely meet people who have a ‘vocation’. Most people are confused about their next steps. The days of life-long jobs or even careers are long gone. Researchers estimate that today’s graduate can expect to have up to seven different jobs during the course of their working lives.
This is borne out by the experience of the Careers Centre staff themselves here at St Andrews. Collectively, we’ve worked in accountancy, advertising, graphic design, human resources and primary and secondary teaching – to name but a few. Many of the employers we work with have also changed direction themselves a few times.
So, rather than thinking about what to do with the rest of your life, which can seem overwhelming at times, our advice would be to think about your next steps. Your first job is exactly that: a first step into the “real world”. However, it’s important that this step is right for you and that you are happy with it; This is where the Careers Centre comes in. For some, a gap year is appealing, others are keen to do further study, and some are motivated by the higher salary brackets of the financial sector or the challenge of a creative career. Whatever your current leanings, it’s worth talking things over with a careers adviser. If you’ve already got a Plan A that you’re happy with, why not come and talk over a Plan B, just in case things don’t work out and if you’re just confused, you’ll get some useful advice to move you forward.
Now is also a good time to be thinking about work experience or internships for the summer. Many language undergraduates spend time over the summer perfecting their language skills in different countries. Tour-guiding and au pairing are popular with students in the early years of their degrees. Other students use their language skills here in the UK, with a number choosing to work at British summer schools, hosting children and young people from overseas. Some have also obtained work with various tourist information services such as the Edinburgh Tourist Board, where having a number of languages can be a real bonus as tourists from around the world flock to the city during the summer months.
Whatever you do over the summer, it’s important to make sure that once you’ve done it, you present it in a way that outlines the skills you’ve developed very clearly for a potential employer. The place to do this is, of course, on your CV, and you’ll find that the Careers Centre website has a number of sample CVs for you to have a look at and use as a starting point for your own version.
Whatever stage you’re at, whether you’re thinking about jobs after graduation, a postgraduate course, or summer experience, the Careers Centre has resources and staff who can help you. Our advice is: don’t leave it until after you’ve graduated! Come in now and have a look at what’s on offer.
University of St Andrews Careers Adviser