The Only True Job Security – connecting curricular and extra-curricular activities at university

(credit: Yao Hui)
(credit: Yao Hui)

“If anything, please do maximise on learning and mastering skills because a superior skillset is the only authentic job security.”

These were my father’s words of advice as I departed for university. The thought of pursuing my studies at an institution far away from home always evoked a sense of fear. I feared what would happen to me beyond my own nest, comfort zone, country and even my continent. Above all, I feared leaving my own bubble; a bubble of people who talk, think and look like me. It was not only daunting to myself, but to my parents as well. As I joined the University of Edinburgh, I knew I had to be an intrepid person in the chapter that was to follow in my life.

Since my arrival at the University of Edinburgh, my father’s advice has proved to be vital in both my curricular and extracurricular activities. As a first-year Engineering student, I have been challenged to either apply or develop both technical and transferable skills in countless encounters.

Inside Class…

I was challenged to speak my own convictions, thoughts and opinions. During my first semester, I was able to take an optional course based on global challenges from the Medical School. The course provided a platform for me to debate and discuss with my classmates. Doing so fostered listening and speaking skills. The University’s transdisciplinary approach is an attribute that students can use to acquire transferable skills.

Outside Class…

The University of Edinburgh’s busy environment challenges each student to plan their own activities around personalized academic timetables. Ergo, practising planning and acquiring organizational skills. This is a skill that students learn without even realizing.

At the university, the primary form of communication is through email. This has demanded that I critically analyse my writing in communicating. Thereby, practising email etiquette skills on a day-to-day basis.

The University of Edinburgh provides free access to platforms for students to learn technical skills. Personally, I have used the online and self-paced Lynda.com courses to explore and develop my interest in computer programming.

The well-renowned and student-run societies enable members to explore their interests and learn a range of skills. Since I joined Edinburgh Enactus Society, I have continuously been learning team dynamics through working on a project to teach entrepreneurship to high school students. Joining the society has helped me to improve my own skills through actively analysing, criticising, leading, and evaluating during sessions.

Relating Inside and Outside Class…

The possibility of connecting the ‘dots’ of experiences within the University’s environment fascinates me. I have been able to apply skills that I have learnt. An epitome of skill application was in an Engineering workshop; we were instructed to research in groups and present the findings both on paper and visually. This was an opportunity to apply team dynamics, communication and writing skills that I learnt from my extra-curricular activities.

Initially, I was fearful of leaving my own ‘bubble’. My experiences within the university made me realise the beauty of diversity. The university’s population is drawn from all corners of the world. Not only is the diversity of backgrounds important, but the diversity of thoughts and opinions is imperative. It is through the differences in perspectives and thoughts that I have been able to continue developing my skills.

What this means…

In a nutshell, learning skills while in university is essential. The earlier one starts on the progressive journey of skills development, with more practice, the better off one will be. Beyond university, skills are applicable to everyday life. In work environments, transferable skills are mostly recognised and boost employability. Experiences and skills define the fine line between highly qualified and competitive applicants. Fellow reader, if you are a student, I urge you to continue on the journey of consciously developing your skills through deliberate practice. If you are a staff member, I challenge you to create a more enabling environment for students to develop superior skillsets: the only true job security.

Porai Beaven Gwendere

Porai is a member of African Leadership Academy’s (ALA) 2016 Graduating Class. While at ALA, Porai developed and exhibited his leadership traits through engaging in most of the academy’s activities. He is an affiliate of Joshua Nkomo Scholarship Fund, a personal and leadership development programme in Zimbabwe. He desires to develop his professional skills in preparation for his career path. He is a first-year Mechanical Engineering with Renewable Energy student at the University of Edinburgh as a MasterCard Foundation Scholar.

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