The image of the student as the vocal, politically-minded do-gooder is one which is fully embedded in the public consciousness. However, campaigning whilst at university could in fact set you up for a successful career.
“I definitely do think that campaigning, when presented correctly, increases employability”, says Michael Abiodun Olatokun, the SU’s Environment and Social Justice Officer.
“From my experience, students who have been involved in campaigning societies show a subtlety that sets them apart from other graduates. I attended a meeting of Labour students, the Greens and other student groups…[they] showed practical analysis ability in selecting specific actions, targeting decision makers and timetabling their steps, taking into account the possibility of unforeseen events”.
“It was the skills I’d built up participating in the LGBT network that allowed me to prove that I wasn’t just another graduate”.
Transferable skills such as this can have huge value on a CV, giving employers a means to select students who have had some of the “real-life experience” that will be important in the workplace.
“Over the course of the interview process, my degree, modules or dissertation weren’t questioned or built upon, rather it was the skills I’d built up participating in the LGBT network that allowed me to prove that I wasn’t just another graduate”, says Tyler O’Sullivan, a Nottingham alumnus now working in local government.
For some graduates, the experience of activism can lead almost directly onto a job, providing practical experience in organisation, project management, and communications.
“I truly believe my activism whilst at the University of Nottingham helped me get my current job”.
Dalia Fleming, an ex-LGBT network member now working in strategy in an inner-city government, echoes this view: “I truly believe my activism whilst at the University of Nottingham helped me get my current job, working in strategy at an Inner London local authority. Having (award winning) research and proof of outcomes is something not only am I hugely proud of, but is appealing to employers.”
For Nottingham students, there is the option to participate in activism in an accredited way: The Advantage Award runs a module entitled “Public Engagement, Volunteering and Citizenship”. The module aims to supplement volunteering activities by encouraging students to consider their participation critically. It also directly teaches students the skills they will need in the workplace which can be gained from public engagement.
“Activism attracts a certain type of person”.
A multitude of societies aiming to get students involved also exists, including Aegis, which offers training in public speaking and campaigning. This could involve going into schools, putting on workshops and campaigning around Nottingham.
However, while taking part in activist groups might be able to bolster the CV, it’s unlikely to be employability that attracts students into a campaign group.
As O’Sullivan notes, “Activism attracts a certain type of person, it would be hard to be an activist if you weren’t hugely dedicated and passionate.
“It’s this passion and enthusiasm that I think really shines through to employers…you’re likely getting involved with something you care deeply about and would enjoy extending into your working life”.