When I started university, my priorities were to branch out on my own, make friends, learn a bit of law and ‘fit in’. When my second year came about I suddenly realised that soon I would be half way through university with no clear idea of where I was headed or where I wanted to end up. Knowing my way around 20 drinking establishments blind-folded was not going to give me direction or endear me to future employers.
I decided to start at the beginning – drafting a stellar CV. I managed about half a page and ran out of things to say (after stating I could play the piano when in fact I could play the chopsticks but not much else). My CV was bare, boring and wasn’t going to pique anyone’s interest. I had to take action, immediately.
I went down to the university library and scoured the notice-boards to see what extra-curricular activities I could get involved in, to flesh out my CV. After lengthy consideration I chose to participate in a client-interviewing competition (where you interview a client who has a problem, draw out the facts and provide them with legal advice) because (a) it didn’t seem to require much preparation or take up valuable socialising time, (b) was related to my degree and (c) it looked like it could be a bit of fun. After signing up I was paired up with the only other person who also didn’t bring a friend along as a ready-made partner. At first I thought we were the only two losers without a mate to help us out; turns out it was pretty lucky.
As we were strangers we had to quickly get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and focus on what we were there to do – interview people, probe into their problems and offer them some solutions. It was a brilliant experience and led me to conclude that I wanted to end up in a career focused on advising people. The outcome? We won the internal university competition, came second in the regionals and second again nationally. I made a good friend, learnt a great deal about engaging with, and interviewing, people and ultimately ended up getting a training contract with the law firm who sponsored the event (where I am still happily employed).
So what pearls of wisdom did this life-changing experience teach me? Firstly, take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way both in and outside of university, whether it be ultimate frisbee, debating, joining a theatre or film club or a conservation society. You won’t like everything you try but you may just stumble on a passion you never knew you had, a potential business partner, an idea for a business or decide on the job you want to aim for. Secondly, meet as many new people as you can; getting out of your comfort zone and working with strangers will help your personal development and could lead to exciting opportunities and lasting friendships. Finally, (and trust me on this), you will never have as much time and freedom as you do now to explore who you are, what is important to you and how you want to shape your future career. So don’t waste a second, step out of your comfort zone and get involved.