Developing employability during a one-year Masters-level programme


The one-year Masters in a UK university is intensive; even more so for an international student in a new teaching and cultural environment. According to many large scale studies on student decision making and outlines in policy statements, higher education is a step towards enhancing career prospects: in order words, developing employability. But, at a personal level, how does an international student perceive they develop their employability during a one-year Masters-level study in a UK university? This is the title of my PhD research. However, this blog post is a reflexive piece about developing my employability during my Masters programme.

I still remember the warm ambience of an intellectual environment at the onset of my acculturation into studying at a world class institution. Fairly quickly, I was immersed in classroom activities; lectures, tutorials and course assessments. I had little time to think about taking active steps towards enhancing my employability or taking advantage of the numerous opportunities on the campus.

However, from a skills development perspective, the process of enhancing my employability during my studies was well underway in various forms. I was a representative at Student Staff Liaison Committee meetings (SSLC). This contributed to my leadership, interpersonal and communication skills. I successfully joined a research team at my School which focused on the area of my dissertation interest. This valuable experience was important for a future research career.

Aside from the activities outlined above, I attended a University Careers Fair where I made contact with a local charity. This led to a volunteering position for an organisation based in Edinburgh. I enjoyed my experience with the organisation. It was an avenue for exploring my creativity and a welcomed social network outside my academic circles.

I also realise that there were other areas that I could have explored during my Masters at the University. I was part of an international student body. The university campus was available in terms of expanding my network of association outside my School. For example, the Edinburgh University Students’ Association has over 260 societies. Yet, I belonged to none.

Considering my overall achievement and experience as a Masters student at Edinburgh, not belonging to a society was not a disaster. Yet, for my personal development, I wondered whether I should have adopted a personal strategy for making the most of the many opportunities available for students at Edinburgh, including extra-curricular activities. If so, how could I have accessed more employability development opportunities (EDOs) outside my Holyrood campus? Or, should I have checked my non-academic related emails a little bit more closely?

Individual student experiences at university follow different paths. My reflections on my experience relate in large part to my continuing study at Edinburgh, my research on graduate employability and increased awareness of the various EDOs across the university. This underpins my belief that despite my positive Masters experience, perhaps there was that extra opportunity I could have taken advantage of. Importantly, it might be that a student reading this piece might need to explore a bit further the array of EDOs at the university and beyond during their studies…

Next steps:

Find out how the Careers Service can help students find employability development opportunities

What does it mean to be a University of Edinburgh Graduate? By Gavin McCabe, University’s Employability Consultancy

Omolabake Fakunle

Omolabake (Labake) Fakunle is a MSc Educational Research graduate and current PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. Labake’s PhD research is exploring internationalisation of higher education and employability. She makes presentations at many university events, international conferences and was awarded the Best Presenter at the 2014 EUSA Internationalisation Conference. Congruent with her academic and research interests, currently, Labake works as an assistant tutor at the School of Education and PhD Intern at the Careers Services.

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