How I've been developing my career options and employability skills

by Nathan Gaskill

During my time at uni, I've discovered an array of opportunities to explore the careers available to languages graduates, gain work experience, and enhance my personal skills. In this blog, I will explain how I am developing my employability skills and experience as a languages student at Lancaster University.

“So, are you going to be a languages teacher?”

Whenever I talk to someone about studying modern languages at university, the question that they always ask is: “So, are you going to be a languages teacher?” I understand that many people’s experiences of languages are restricted to language lessons at school, but the reality is that a languages degree opens the door to many possible careers after graduation, both at home and abroad.

Although I am still undecided about what I would like to do when I finish my degree – and I still have plenty of time to decide – I have always found my Department (the Department of Languages and Cultures –DeLC) to be truly supportive in helping me prepare for my future career.

International Placement Year (IPY)

The best way to enhance your employability within the framework of a languages degree is to pursue a work placement during your International Placement Year (IPY). The IPY is an intergral part of a languages degree at Lancaster Uni, and you have the option to either work, teach, or study in a foreign country where your target language is spoken. I have chosen to do work placements, and am searching for two consecutive six-month internships, first in France and then in Mexico.

I found planning a work placement for my IPY was incredibly flexible and I could tailor the year to my own interests. Spending a year overseas is not only a brilliant opportunity to improve my language proficiency and broaden my cultural knowledge, but it is also a chance for me to enhance my personal development and demonstrate to future employers that I am adaptable, courageous, and not afraid to step outside of my comfort zone. For me, this is the best part of my degree, and I am excited to start my year abroad after the summer vacation. 

DeLC has been incredibly helpful in assisting me to organise my IPY. Following a series of introductory presentations and workshops, I was assigned a designated IPY tutor to serve as a first point of call for all things placement-related: reading over my CV, sending me job offers that they have received, or helping me prepare for interviews, etc. I am in close contact with my IPY tutor who has always been happy to help me with any questions I have.

Employment-orientated modules

Employability is embedded into the languages syllabus at Lancaster through a series of non-credit-bearing modules called ‘Programme for Academic Skills and Employability’. The programme consists of weekly sessions throughout your degree designed to develop your personal skills and prepare you for the world of work. I enjoy this programme because of the wide range of topics it covers, ranging from refining your study skills to developing resilience.

If you are interested in going into the professional world of languages you can also take an employment-orientated module in second year called ‘Professional Contexts for Modern Languages’. This is a fantastic opportunity to gain insights into the practical application of modern languages.

Alumni connections

DeLC actively engages with its alumni to inform current students of the different careers they could go into. As part of annual alumni events, Lancaster languages graduates return to the university for a day to discuss their career journeys since graduation. I found this was a great way to learn about future career possibilities and networking opportunities and appreciated the honest insights into the world of work. Through the ‘DeLC Alumni Network’ on LinkedIn you can connect with hundreds of DeLC graduates, allowing you to share valuable information and experiences. I am always fascinated to see that Lancaster language alumni go into a variety of careers, and our alumni connections provide me with plenty of inspiration for my own career.

Careers service 

DeLC has a designated member of staff who works closely with the University’s Careers and Employability Service to offer you support in gaining the skills and confidence you need for future careers that are of interest. The Careers and Employability Service offers advice and guidance through specialist careers advisers, organises careers fairs and employer events, and coordinates the Lancaster Award – an award that acknowledges your commitment to enhancing your employability whilst at university. I love attending their career events and chatting to employers about the differing graduate roles and schemes I can explore after graduation.

Work experience 

Lancaster University actively promotes students taking up part-time jobs, and the Employment and Recruitment Service advertises a wide range of part-time and temporary positions both within the University and the local community. Having worked a part time job as a lifeguard throughout my A Levels, I was keen to keep this up at university, and I now work part-time at Salt Ayre Leisure Centre, a local leisure centre on the outskirts of Lancaster city centre. Not only do I earn a bit of money to support my studies, but I also get to work in the local community and get to know Lancaster better. 

Student societies 

Finally, getting involved in student societies at university by running for a position on the society executive is a great way to develop new skills and take on some responsibility. I became the Media & Publicity Secretary for a political society and was able to try out new things such as making a website, creating social media content, and designing a digital marketing strategy. All the skills that I learned whilst on the society executive are applicable to careers in the real world. 

All in all, I have found that there are countless opportunities to prepare for my future career, gain work experience, and develop my employability skills whilst studying a languages degree at Lancaster University, and the Department of Languages and Cultures has been there to support me at every step of my career journey.

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Nathan is a second year undergraduate at Lancaster University, and is studying French Studies and Spanish Studies.

Lancaster University employs students to create authentic content from a student perspective. All views expressed in this article are those of the students, and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Lancaster University.

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