As I have written before on this blog, your academic assignments can be a great source of transferable employability skills. Your essays (either with a given topic or the topic of your choice), exams and dissertations can teach you a lot about written communication, organisational and time management skills, teamwork, self-motivation, IT skills, technicalities of research and analysis, etc. However, you can take your academic work even further: you can use your assignments to make yourself more employable.
There are two main ways to do it. The first one is merely to include your assignments in your CV (if your marks are high, I advise you to do it in any case, especially if the topics of those assignments are relevant to the job you are applying for). The second way is getting your academic work published.
1. Academic achievements and your CV
Let’s talk first about putting your academic achievements on your CV. There are two main reasons why you should do that:
Your academic work is the testimony of your academic and professional abilities
The people who hire you don’t know you. They don’t know what you are like. However, your academic achievements (listed specifically, not just an average grade for the year) can tell them quite a lot. First of all, if you’ve made effort for your degree, it is more likely that you will also make effort for your job. If you have shown examples of hard work, resilience, research skills and analytic insight for that essay, you will also show it for that quarterly report you will have to do – even if the subject you’ve studied is not very relevant to the job.
If your degree is relevant to the job you’re applying for, your assignments can make a huge difference
Imagine an engineering graduate the title of whose dissertation was ‘The influence on the use of bio-fuels on internal combustion engine efficiency’. Imagine how helpful this would be when applying for a job in the bio-fuels industry! Or an English graduate trying to get into journalism who has written two essays with a free topic, as well as his dissertation, on various aspects of the language of the news media. Coupled with some experience – even if it is writing for his own blog and the university newspaper – this boosts his chances of success enormously. A biology graduate who wants to do a Master’s in medicine and has written her dissertation on chemical reactions to certain type of drugs in the body is much more likely to get onto that Master’s programme than she would had she decided to write her final year project on ecosystems.
In short, if you feel that a certain assignment of yours is relevant to the job you want to do, do not hesitate to put it on your CV. It shows that you like the subject, that you’re genuinely interested in the area and that you want to learn more about it – all of which raises your profile in the employers’ eyes, and this is what we are aiming for.
11.2. Publishing your academic work
Publishing your academic work is a great way to get ahead of the crowd of graduates – after all, not many students can boast having publications. The best way to publish your work is by submitting it to an undergraduate research journal. In order to be published, it has to fulfil two conditions: it must be your original research (otherwise known as a ‘free topic’ essay) and it must have received a high grade. If you want, of course, you can submit something marked below 60%, but then expect to see ‘substantial revisions’ on the comment sheet, and you’d better know how to revise an academic paper.
Here’s the website of the British Conference for Undergraduate Research (www.bcur.org)
And here is its American counterpart (www.cur.org)
Undergraduate research is not as big in the UK as it is in the USA, but it’s catching up pretty fast. There are quite a few undergraduate research journals in the UK and the British Council for Undergraduate Research (BCUR) has been hosting UG research conferences since 2010, providing aspiring researchers with an opportunity to present their work.
Here are some useful links for you if you consider submitting your work for publication:
Subject: All accepted
Title: Diffusion: the UCLan Journal of Undegraduate Research
University: University of Central Lancashire
Subject: All accepted, but you have to be a student at UCLAN
Title: Début: The Undergraduate Journal of Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies
Subject: Languages, linguistics, area studies
Title: Pixel: The Cambridge Undergraduate Journal of Development Economics
Subject: Economic development
Title: Ideate: the Undergraduate Journal of Sociology
Title: The British Journal of Undergraduate Philosophy
Title: The Plymouth Student Scientist
Subject: Science and Technology. Not sure if you have to be a student in Plymouth, but I think you do.
University: Oxford Brookes
Subject: Geography; one has to be a student in Oxford Brookes.
Title: Earth and E-nvironment
Subject: Environmental science; one has to be a student in the University of Leeds.
Title: Bioscience Horizons
Title: Enquiry: The ACES Journal of Undergraduate Research
University: Sheffield Hallam
Subject: Arts, Computing, Engineering and Sciences. One has to be a student in Sheffield Hallam to contribute.
The problem with those journals is that more often than not they are connected to one particular university and it is hard to get published in them if you study elsewhere. However, the U.S. has a large number of well-established journals and the Council of Undergraduate Research in the U.S. lists them on their page:
Hope this helps. Enjoy your academic research and best of luck!
P.S. This article is based on a chapter from Vlad Mackevic’s new book CAMP UK 10/2012: THE ULTIMATE POST-2012 UNIVERSITY SURVIVAL GUIDE, in which Vlad explains how to make the most out of your university experience. The book is coming out in October 2012, but extracts from it as well as related articles will be published on The Lecture Room as well as www.FirstYearCounts.com throughout the rest of the year.
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