Hi!! It’s Gaby, your go-to campus buddy, back with another useful tip to help you make the most of your time at the University of Exeter. As you might know, I’m an international Masters student here on Penryn campus. When I first arrived, I felt a bit clueless about my career and didn’t really know what to do after my studies. The thought of having just one year for my Masters was pretty stressful.  

Then, during Freshers Week, I discovered the Exeter Award scheme, introduced by the Career Zone team. It made a huge difference for me, and I’m excited to share it with you! 

So, what exactly is the Exeter Award? It’s an extra and co-curricular employability achievement award available to both current undergraduate and taught postgraduate students. Yes, you read that right – it’s for undergrads too! 

Think of this award as a step-by-step guide to boost your career prospects and CV. It starts with development activities where you need to complete at least 35 hours of work or volunteer experience and attend some super useful events. From there, you’ll be directed into the main Exeter Award journey, which includes practical experiences like filling out mock job applications and participating in mock interviews. 

I won’t dive into all the details here, but you can find everything you need to know on their website: Exeter Award.  

In this blog, I’ll mostly share my journey and some tips that helped me along the way. So, without further ado let’s jump right in, starting with how I got the 35 hours of job experience! 


Exeter Award Development Activities (first stage)

Work experience 

Looking for a part-time job can be a bit challenging, especially if you’re an international student, but it’s definitely doable! The key is to start early and be persistent. If you’re starting at the University of Exeter this September, I’d recommend beginning your search before your course starts. Here are some tips on where to find job vacancies: 

  • University Emails: Keep an eye on emails from the Students’ Union (or Students’ Guild if you’re based in Exeter) and Career Zone team. 
  • University Social Media: I found my current part-time job as a Student Content Ambassador through the University’s Instagram (@uniofexeter / @uniexecornwall). It’s a perfect match for me since I love creating content, including this blog post! 
  • University Website: You can check out the University’s job vacancies here including jobs at both the Cornwall and Exeter campuses.
  • University Career Zone: Read Tom’s post to learn more about part-time work and how Exeter’s Career Zone can help you find a part-time job.
  • Handshake App: Handshake is a career platform where you can get various job vacancies and useful events. Just search for keywords like SCP (Student Campus Partnership) and SBP (Student Business Partnership), especially over the summer when there are more internship opportunities for undergrads. Plus, another great reason to download it is that it links to your Exeter Award journey! 
  • Online Job Posts: I found my volunteer position in town through an online browser. I just typed volunteer in (city I’m in)

So don’t worry, there are tons of resources available to help you search for work. Just remember, while getting job experience is valuable, your studies should still be your main priority. And the requirement for this award is only 35 hours, so don’t burden yourself too much. 🙂

Attending events

Another requirement for the Award is to attend several events, including a CV/application form event, two personal development sessions, and a relevant career event. The great thing is you don’t need to hit your work experience goal first. You can participate in these events while gaining work experience. 

So many options for the personal development events

For me, this stage was all about upgrading my soft skills and boosting my talents while job hunting. It’s a chance to enhance everything from communication skills to time management abilities. My advice here is to take some time to understand yourself better. Identify your weaknesses and work on improving them with the sessions available from the Career Zone team. You can also get help online, like free online courses on YouTube or BrightNetwork for virtual internships.

Another key step is to join more networking events, not just the ones held on campus. These events are a goldmine – not only for finding more job opportunities but also for honing your networking skills. You’ll learn how to communicate with people more effectively and pick up valuable tips from friends and potential employers. 

Personally, I’ve found that pushing myself outside my comfort zone has been incredibly beneficial. The more I expose myself to different environments, the more comfortable I become. Sometimes, new skills develop naturally without you even realising it. For example, last year, I attended a big conference in London. I was really nervous at first since it was my first time, but I soon discovered that many other students were in the same boat. By the end of the event, I had expanded my network significantly and received some great advice from company leaders. 

Also, start checking out the companies you might want to work for. I’ve found that some companies offer free seminars that can be really beneficial. These seminars can give you a better idea of what they’re looking for in potential employees. For example, in my field of mining, there’s a great resource called Responsible Raw Materials. They offer a wealth of information, expert opinions, and learning materials for free. You can check it out here

If you’re studying business, you might want to look at McKinsey’s website. They have excellent webinars and podcasts that can be incredibly insightful. Here are a couple of links to get you started: Growth, Marketing, and Sales and McKinsey Live

So, don’t be afraid to step out and immerse yourself in new experiences. It’s all part of the journey to becoming a more confident and skilled professional. 

Moving on to the last stage of the Exeter Award journey:  

The last stage of the Exeter Award journey

Mock job application & interview experience 

One of the main reasons I love the Exeter Award is that it doesn’t just help you with the mechanics of filling out job applications and doing interviews. The careers team guide you through every step of the process and give you the opportunity to practice before you apply and interview for a real job. Here, you don’t have to worry about making mistakes or failing because it’s all about practice. It’s much better to stumble now than later when it really counts. 

My final advice

Sometimes, all it takes is that first action. Once you take that initial step and keep going, you start to get the feel for things and understand yourself better. 

Because of these experiences, I received a summer internship offer from a prestigious company. If you’re wondering how I managed to get it, I’d say this journey has been instrumental from the start. As I mention throughout this blog, engage in numerous events and networking opportunities, upgrade your skills, listen to advice, and keep practicing job applications and interviews. I’m sure you’ll manage to secure the job you’re dreaming of.

Oh, one last thing: you can wrap up this journey earlier if you already have 35 hours of work experience. That means you can dive into full-time job hunting sooner, whether you’re aiming for post-graduation jobs or summer internships during your breaks.