30 May 2012 10:16 AM

70 things to do before you leave university (as well as research your career!)

Yes, we’re all about getting ahead on your graduate career research, but don’t ever let that stand in the way of making the most of all the other things on offer at university. It’s all about balance – any good employer will want to work with someone who’s had some fun and learnt something about who they are, as well as aced their exams and researched their career. Let’s face it, when else in your life are you going to have chance to devote your time to sleeping at strange hours, researching a subject you love just for the sake of it, joining obscure societies, organising charity events, surviving on cheap cider and whatever’s left in the fridge, and having house parties on a Wednesday night?

At CP Towers we’re all well into our old age - well, early twenties to early thirties; trust us, it feels old when you work with students for a living – and so we’re more than a little envious of all you carefree youngsters out there. So we decided to pass on our collective wisdom! Here’s our complete guide to the things you must, must do before you leave uni - and yes, we’ve either done them, or know someone who has, so get cracking…

1.  Get a degree! (this one is pretty important…)

2.  Wear the silly gown and hat and cringe while your parents hug you.

3. Feed the campus wildlife. Bonus points if you can befriend a specific duck/squirrel/rabbit.

4. Fall asleep in a lecture.

6. 'Borrow' a traffic cone, shopping trolley, or life-sized cardboard cut-out.

7. Make friends with the freshers and enjoy a brief moment of being revered for your wisdom and life experience.

8. Hand in an essay early. Feel smug.

9. Hand in an essay with seconds to spare. Sweat blood, curse printer. Swear you will never, ever do it again. Repeat at least once a semester.

10. Climb on the roof of your halls, preferably while wearing a superhero outfit.

11. Read Ulysses. Cos it’s what students do, innit?

12. Or, pretend you’ve read Ulysses and nod sagely whenever it comes up in conversation.

13. Make friends with the porters and the cleaners – make no mistake, they rule all!

14. Make friends with a lecturer. They know all the good pubs!

15. Go on a date with a lecturer (not one teaching your course, or they’ll get fired!)

16. Aggressively shush noisy first years in the library.

17. Have a frisky romantic interlude in the chemistry section of the library– no one ever goes there to do anything else, trust us!

18. Realise that you actually love researching your dissertation, and bask in the nerdy glow.

19. Negotiate with a librarian over an overdue book as if they’ve breached your human rights.

20. Form an unusual society.

21. Walk on grass that you’re not supposed to walk on.

22. Sit in on a lecture that’s completely out of your field, in the front row. Take copious notes.

23. Play ‘Human Buckaroo’ and see how many household objects – books, shoes, cuddly toys, cushions - you can pile onto a sleeping flatmate.

24. Turn up to a 9am seminar still drunk from the night before. Proceed to engage everyone in a spirited discussion despite the fact that you haven’t even glanced at the reading material.

25. Turn up at a 9am seminar still in fancy dress from the night before. Proceed as above. Except this time, do it in character.

26. Organise a flashmob. Water fight, bursting into song, dancing – you name it.

27. Do something really, really silly for charity.

28. Crash a campus event. The more formal, the better!

29. Attempt to blag your way into a club or a gig using a highly implausible sob-story.

30. Go for a hike in the countryside with a big group of friends. Take Pimms and sandwiches.

31. Go to a gig or a club night that you’d never normally choose, with an open mind, and boogie!

32. Participate in impassioned late-night alcohol-fuelled discussions about politics, life and the universe.

33. Take part in a student theatre production. Bonus points if it’s Gilbert & Sullivan.

34. Play a game of tag across the entire campus. Preferably in the dark.

35. Watch Withnail and I, and feel uncomfortably like you’re watching a documentary.

36. Get thrown out of a campus event. Preferably for something harmless yet outrageous, like building a human pyramid on the dance floor or attempting to kiss the bouncer.

37. Run for student office – or failing that, at least remember to vote!

38. Become on first-name terms with your local takeaway delivery driver.

39. Go out stone-cold sober – yes, really!

40. Swim in a fountain, river or other inappropriate body of water.

41. Set two friends up on a date…

42. …then watch it implode spectacularly

43. ...or realise that you’ll end up going to their wedding in a few years’ time

44. Invite your lecturer for a drink with your seminar group.

45. Hug your dissertation supervisor and give them a bunch of flowers. Thank them profusely for their saint-like patience in reading and re-reading all 10,000 words of your inane ramblings.

46. Go to a foam party. Preferably in a gay club. While wearing at least one item of neon or spandex clothing.

47. Realise that never again will you be able to devote this much time to pre-war French poetry, the Stanford Prison experiment, or dark matter. Enjoy it while it lasts!

48. Present a show on university radio.

49. Make punch using every form of alcohol you have in your flat. Preferably in a bucket, bathtub or other non-beverage-designated container.

50. Dress up as member of the opposite sex.

51. Host a house party.

52. Write for the student newspaper.

53. Do something outrageous that gets you written up in the student newspaper.

54. Take part in a protest.

57. Host a study group at exam time. See how many people you can fit in your room at once.

58. Instigate a standing ovation in a lecture – for maximum effect, this should be a lecture on something decidedly uninspiring, like study skills or business accounting.

62. Form a band, then grab all the other bands on campus and hold a mini-music festival.

63. Perfect the art of the toasted sandwich.

64.  Do all the touristy things in town – ghost tour, sightseeing bus, zoo, museums…

65. Kiss someone of a gender you wouldn’t normally go for.

66. Play a ridiculously elaborate prank on someone. Going into their room and turning everything upside down – from the bed and desk to the posters on their walls – always works a treat.

67. Go to a pub quiz. Participate with enthusiasm. Lose spectacularly.

68. Hold a Christmas dinner for everyone in halls just before you all head home for the holidays.

69. Organise a road trip during the summer break. Get a flat tire. Bicker endlessly with your travelling companions. Sleep in a tent. Then do it all again next year!

70. Finally, have fun and create some amazing memories. Yes, you need to think about the future, but not to the point where you get stressed about it! To make researching your career easy, visit www.careerplayer.com and get the inside scoop on how to choose your career.


17 May 2012 04:42 PM

No-nonsense graduate career tips: How to fill in an application form

The top graduate recruiting companies - banks, law firms, the big 4 - tend to use online application forms to help them sift through the huge number of applications they get every year. if you want a graduate job in one of these firms, you'd better get good at describing your achievements in 250 words or less, because you are going to be filling in a lot of these!

First things first - if you are incapable of writing in sentences, using full stops and checking your spelling - despite the wonders of spellcheck, the internet and that trusty proofreading friend who you've bribed into helping out - you are probably not ready to apply for a job at a world-leading graduate recruiter. Just sayin'...

Assuming you've covered the above, what else can you do to make your application stand out? Most advice runs along the lines of 'Make sure you show HOW you've achieved XYZ, rather than describing it.'

But what does that actually mean in the real world?

Let's say you're being asked to 'Describe a time when you went the extra mile to achieve a great result'. You're already a bit jittery on this one because a) you've never had a job apart from that horrible summer job in a cafe after A-levels, and b) you've just used all your academic examples in the previous question. You are already having visions of your competitors describing the time they went the extra mile by rowing their entire university rugby team down the Amazon after a plane crash, and then leading them to victory against the opposition despite having had to eat one of their teammates in order to survive in the jungle. What do you say?

First of all, rest assured that the graduate recruitment team is not expecting you to have done anything overly dramatic - they just want to know that you fulfill certain criteria - often referred to as core competencies - that they look for in their staff. You need to read between the lines of each question to work out what they're really asking. For example, in this question, they want to know if you're the kind of person who can use initiative, work to achieve a goal, and perhaps go over and above the line of duty.

Got that? Good. Now, if you can bear to, think back to that summer in the cafe. Did you ever have to deal with a difficult customer and keep the other staff calm at the same time? Did you ever offer to sort out the holiday rota or cover a shift for a sick colleague? Did you make the effort to chat to new customers so that they felt just as welcome as the regulars? Did you, in short, do anything to make life easier for your boss, colleagues and customers?

Pick your favourite example. Now, write it out as if you were describing it to a friend - just to get it down on paper:

'During my summer role at Bob's Cafe, I used to do the rota for my manager because he spent most of his time flirting with the florist next door and didn't understand basic organisational skills like listening to staff, writing things down or using a diary. He was a bit of a waste of space and it got everyone down when the rota wasn't organised, so I picked up the slack for him.'

Obviously, you can't put this on an application form - it's accurate, but it needs translating into professional language, and it needs the STAR touch. You need to rewrite it describing the SITUATION, the TASK, the ACTION you took, and the RESULT.

So, for this example, you could write something like:

'During my summer role at Bob's Cafe, the owner's managerial commitments meant that he sometimes fell behind on rota organisation. I observed that this had a detrimental effect on staff moral and motivation as they felt unable to achieve a work-life balance. - SITUATION
I volunteered to take charge of the rota in an addition to my assigned tasks. -
I did so by implementing a system in which staff members contacted me each Friday evening with their availabilty for the coming week. I then sorted the shifts into an online calendar which I emailed to all staff after seeking managerial approval. I also printed a copy so that it was easily visible to all staff in the office. -
The new system improved staff motivation and resulted in a significant reduction in staff absences at short notice.'

That's it, you're done! Now repeat, using different examples, for the other eleventy-billion forms you need to fill in - and good luck!

P.S. Of course, don't forget to research the company - we have interviews with members of all the Big 4 Accountancy Firms here, so get clicking to watch. 


Aim high on your application form and you won't go far wrong... 


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