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University Challenge

University Challenge


For many years, university has been the place where many young people have aspired to go and to achieve, encouraged by parents and family members.  To many, education is the key to success – or is it?  Well, my own personal opinion is that it depends.  With the average cost of attending university now in the region of £53,000  I believe it is time that we thought a bit more carefully about how we succeed in life.
In the past, there were limited places at university – and this is still the case but now there are so many weird and wonderful degree courses available and there are more and more students applying.  I was even told that there is a course in Harry Potter, however on investigation it seems that it is a module not a whole degree.  But still this shows the range of degrees on offer so there is probably going to be a course for all tastes!

But back to a point I made earlier – there are more and more people going to university. People from all socio economic backgrounds are being encouraged to study for longer and on more challenging courses.  This is great for social mobility.  But – and unfortunately there is a but- there is a limit to the number of graduate jobs available.  Which means that there are probably going to be quite a few unemployed graduates.  So your parents, grandparents, your friends and your teachers all advise you that university is best.  If you’re thinking about going, or even if you are already there, do not despair.  I have some handy hints!

  • Ask yourself why: If you are thinking of going ask some hard questions about why you want to go – if it is for fun, because all your friends are going, because your parents went, or because you just don’t know what to do with your life yet, then you probably shouldn’t be applying.  I’m sure you can think of other ways to spend £53,000 that involve lots of fun and socialising!


  • The Right Course: Think about the degree itself.  What will this course lead to?  If there is a career progression, does that involve years of studying after the degree, and are you prepared to do that?  Can you afford to?  How competitive is the degree?  For example degrees in psychology are very popular.  To be a successful psychologist involves years of extra studying, volunteering, hard work and luck.  Obviously, some people do manage this but is this realistically going to be you?  Or do you get distracted when it’s time for Big Brother? Remember, many courses can be completed on a part time basis, so can be more easily combined with work or volunteering.  Perusing a degree based on interest does have its merits of course – but getting a job at the end of it may not be one of those merits.


  • Is there another way? If you know you want to be a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher, then university is the right place for you.  You need those qualifications to do the job.  If you want to be something else ask yourself if the profession requires a degree, or if there is another way in to it.  If you’re not sure what to do, its probably a good idea to take some time out.  See if you can get a job so you can have a social life and have some fun without getting into debt.  You can always go to university later, if that’s what you decide you want to do.


  • Stick with it: If you are already at university, it is a good idea to stay with your course because you have already invested time, energy and money into getting where you are.  To drop out would be the worst of all worlds – chances are you will still be in a significant amount of debt but you won’t have a degree at the end of it.


  • Stand Out: To succeed you will need to stand out from the crowd.  This means gaining experience and volunteering is a great place to start to gain this.  Do-it is a great place to look for ideas of what is available and from there you can also contact your local volunteer center, where you can find loads of expertise on what is most suitable for you.


  • Money Matters: Keeping your money under control is another positive move – the less debt you have when you leave university the better for your future.  If you have spiraling debts this is going to put even more pressure on you to find a well paid job.  One of the ways to do this is to increase your income through work, the other is to minimise outgoings.  All may sound obvious but these simple steps can be very difficult to apply, especially when you have the freedom to choose when to buy that shiny new phone or Xbox.


  • Apprenticeships:  Although they are low paid, the benefit of apprenticeships is that you get valuable training and work experience which will be invaluable when you apply for jobs later.  In order to work your way up, you need to have a solid foundation, and on the job experience will never be time wasted – even if it’s because you decide the job is definitely not for you.


  • Not what you know: If you are well connected (or your parents are), you might be able to start work in a company and work your way up. Is there anyone who could help you by way of introduction?


For more help ring Kelly Oliver Dougall on 07881294894 or email kelly@cygnetnortheast.com

Returning to Work After a Gap

Returning to Work After a Gap

It can be difficult to return to employment following a gap for any reason – whether that is because you have been looking after someone (bringing up a family or supporting a family member due to ill health), because you have suffered a health problem yourself, or if you have been working in a career and decide you would like to pursue a different direction.

Without recent experience in the field that you would like to move into, or without an idea of what it is you want to do it can be difficult to know where to start.  There are many options open to you, and your path will be determined by a number of factors.  These include your current financial situation, how long you want to work towards your chosen field (are you prepared to retrain or volunteer for a few years?), what your current skills are and what your values are.  Its also wise to think about the opportunities that are available to you.  Is it realistic to want to be the next Prime Minister?  Well someone has to be but it’s important to know what might be involved in this and whether you think it is worth the effort.

Having a fixed idea of what you want to do can be helpful as it means you will be able to plan the steps you need to take quite easily, however there are disadvantages to this approach if you don’t have any flexibility and you are not prepared to change course if opportunities arise on the way to your chosen goal.  However on the other hand not having any idea of where you want to go and being swayed by every potential opportunity that comes your way can be a massive barrier too.  This is due to having too many opportunities and not focusing on any one thing, you are less likely to achieve any of them.

So the point of this article really is to point out that it is good to have a plan, but a plan that is flexible and one that is dynamic based on developments of the situation that invariably come up in your life.  If you don’t know where to start, or you just need a little bit of help, I can help you to get onto the right path and help you to stay focused.  Sometimes, just knowing that there is someone there asking how you are getting on with your plan can help you to stay focused and make sure you do all the things you say you are going to do!

If you need help to decide what next, or how to be successful in finding a job after taking a career break for whatever reason get in touch – Kelly@cygnetnortheast.com or phone 07881294894. Or you can use our contact form.  We can help you to explain why you haven’t been in work in a positive way.