Comprised of over 40 consolidated events and attended by more than 1 300 company representatives, the UCT Careers Festival is essential for students who are looking to take the next step in their career development journey.
The month-long bumper series of events pulls together the Careers Service’s various annual offerings under one umbrella.
“We put Careers Service through a design-thinking process at the UCT d-school. Earlier in the year, we actually gave it as a business problem for students to work on,” explains director David Casey.
“A key element of the feedback – from multiple data points, measurement of the service’s success, and in looking at how we can attract more students to engage – was confusion around the multiple number of individual events we were pushing out.”
Navigating the programme
The festival is divided into three components: the main and fringe programmes, and the new Student Entrepreneurship Week (#SEW2017).
The main programme includes 35 employer presentations, as well as six large-scale expos, over the course of a month. These have been reimagined to better reflect the demands of the industries that recruit from UCT.
“The majority of companies now tend to recruit from across disciplines.”
In addition to an all-degrees expo, which takes place on 16 August, there are a number of sector-specific expos, including technology, engineering and the built environment, business, and finance and management. This year’s programme also includes the newly created ‘Banking, Consulting and Asset Management Expo’.
Fringe offerings are interspersed throughout the festival. These sessions are intended to get students engaging in their educational career development, says Casey.
They feature presentations, workshops and inputs from employers, subject matter experts and the careers advisory team.
The month is topped off with the Student Entrepreneurship Week, which seeks to empower students to consider entrepreneurship as a career option.
“It’s about students beginning to discover and identify their entrepreneurial selves,” Casey says.
That’s not my industry
Typically, the companies that come to the expos need to recruit large numbers of students.
“So, for example, a lot of science students will say, ‘You don’t have a science expo’.”
While these companies may be recruiting, the numbers they require are too low for them to justify coming to such an expo, he explains.
These students should look at identifying the kinds of companies they are interested in working for and make direct contact with them. (A spotlight on science-related careers takes place earlier in the year through the scientific research Careers Café.)
“Looking back at the last 10 years, and drawing from our graduate exit survey data, we can provide students with information on what students from their courses have gone on to do.”
The recently launched Grad Gallery is another effective way for students to do career research. But it is essential to move away from the notion that certain kinds of companies only recruit from particular disciplines.
“It’s about demystifying the biases that students have, that, for example, the Careers Service doesn’t do anything for humanities students. A lot of the companies that are attending the expos will be, and are, keen to talk to humanities students.
“The majority of companies now tend to recruit from across disciplines,” he explains.
How to make the most of the Careers Festival
“It’s about students engaging with the programme and seeing what’s relevant to where they are at in their career journey and also what’s relevant to the types of companies that they wish to network with at the festival. That may determine the expo that they attend.”
“The key thing to remember is that the people that are here, the company representatives – we have over 1 300 coming to the campus – ... potentially, are the people who may do the interviews. It’s about remembering that first impressions always count.”
Casey’s advice it to research these companies in advance and have your ‘elevator pitch’ ready. Prepare three or four points that you would like to get across to the company to demonstrate your value as a potential employee.
MyCareer includes everything students need to prepare: from identifying their skill sets to preparing for interviews and company assessments. The portal lists hundreds of job vacancies. Merely set your preferences on the system and review vacancy notifications as they are posted.