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Q Taster: A Taste of the Working World

QTaster is a programme offered by Queen Mary’s careers service which offers you the chance to gain an insight into the ins and out of the professional world. Through visiting a range of companies, you can get a head start at networking with graduate employers, receive tips on building your CV, and gain a commercial awareness of the different roles within an organisation. Even if you’re not yet sure of your chosen career, QTaster is the perfect avenue to start researching.

For the sake of honesty, I will admit I signed up to QTaster because my parents told me I should. I do want to “grow as a person” and “increase my skill set”, but honestly, before this week, the working world terrified me. Often, when I think of what I’m going to do once I finish university, my mind fills with panic and I throw the idea to the back corner of my mind. However, as I was approaching the start of my final year, I realised that it was time to start dipping my toe into the employment pool. Instead of checking my emails once a month and missing the deadlines for countless opportunities, I decided to conquer my fear of the future first-hand by just taking a deep breath and attending the introductory talk on the first day…

The introductory talk began how one would expect: A bunch of 18-21 year olds lining up outside a classroom, standing in awkward silence. You could cut the tension with a knife. Once we got into the room, the ice broke and people started to introduce themselves. I made friends with a girl sitting next to me who studies medicine. “Medicine”, I thought. At least one of us has some sort of career path when they leave university. Once the talk began, I tried to approach it an open mind.

Immediately, I learnt that it is important to think about what makes me unique and memorable, not just as an employee, but a person. I realised through talking to the girl next to me that, as simple as it sounds, everybody has something in their life that makes them different, and that could perhaps be the key to getting a job one day.

The second thing I learnt is that I am able to put myself forward for a range of different jobs, that may not be related directly to my literature degree. I was reminded of the phrase “transferable skills”, which comforted me because I immediately began to feel a weight lifted off my shoulders. I’ve always had the pessimistic perception that I could not get that many jobs with my degree, but I learnt from QTaster that companies hire people with all sorts of different degrees, that are not always related to their current jobs. For example, we learnt about a philosophy major being hired for a technology company, all because he was able to think differently. Suddenly, I felt a world of possibilities opened up for me. The third thing I learnt that day is that I should probably make a LinkedIn. To be honest, I’ve always dreaded this, but I remembered what I told myself: Keep an open mind.

So that was day one complete. Initially, I thought the talk would be super strict and the pressure would terrify me into skipping the whole week’s sessions, but strangely, I left feeling more motivated than ever to explore my potential career path. I think a big part of this is due to the speakers, who I found to be very supportive and helpful. So, I thank them for making me feel less afraid. From then on, I decided to follow their advice and try to make the most of this week, to see what I could learn.

By the end of the week, having visited three different organisations, I had surprisingly learnt a lot. For the past few years I’ve always assumed that to get a job, you have to pretend to be someone you’re not: “A good communicator”, “An effective team player”. All these career buzzwords scared me away from ever looking into what I wanted to do because of the pressure to be a perfect employee. But this week, all because I stopped being cynical, I learnt that it is most important to just be yourself. Don’t get me wrong, QTaster did not cure me overnight. I didn’t walk away with a full understanding of my career goal, but now I have the tools to start finding out. I was able to approach my final year of University with the feeling that I’d definitely made a step in the right direction.

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