Freshers and Employability Skills

As promised in a previous post here are the activities from the fresher’s fair linked to the employability skills. I had intended for this post to be uploaded sooner, however between illness and a hectic couple of months it’s taken longer to write than I expected. In addition, I resigned from the committee in November due to personal reasons.

Self-Management

Running a society requires self-management, there is no one above you to ‘motivate’ you to work, or in this case run a society.

For fresher’s we were required to develop our resources (although we were spared the job of printing out the leaflets, saving the society some money). This included developing our skills, e.g. IT, to match what was required/identified, designing the marketing material, making and attending meetings, including between the committee and with SU staff to finalise arrangements for both the fair and taster event, marketing, and networking (the week after was a busy one with various events going on including the Creative Minds launch event).

Teamwork

The committee is a team, and we have to work together to ensure the success of the fashion society for the benefit of its members. Throughout fresher’s we had to communicate, solve problems together, and most importantly, compromise to an agreeable solution when we had different opinions.

Business and Commercial Awareness

Business and Commercial awareness played a small role in the planning for fresher’s, but a greater one in planning for events throughout the year. At a minimum a basic understanding of the fashion industry was, and will continue to be, required.

Problem Solving

A problem that occurred on the day of the taster event was finding out that the gazebo was locked, and that the booking hadn’t been passed to security. Fortunately this was relatively easy to solve as it involved finding a member of the student union staff to confirm the booking.

Communication and Literacy

Communication between committee members, and society members. Communication between the fresher’s fair and the taster event reminding those who signed up to the mailing list of the taster event.

Application of IT

Application of IT fell into three main uses:

  • Use of design software and Microsoft PowerPoint to design the posters/leaflets,
  • Facebook to promote the society online,
  • Use of Mail Chimp to setup the subscriber mailing list,

With the design software, none of the committee members had prior experience, but after a bit of trial and error, came up with a suitable flyer to promote the taster event. We also discovered that Microsoft PowerPoint allows you to design fold over leaflets.

Numeracy

Estimating number of attendees based on feedback and identifying costs from these, while ensuring to remain within budget.

Project Management

As the fresher’s fair and taster event were one off events they can be classed as projects (or alternatively as activities of an overall project).

Languages and Cultural Sensitivity

As Anglia Ruskin has an international student base we had to consider our words carefully when promoting at the fresher’s fair. While slang was avoided as a matter of professionalism, we also had to remember that not everyone has the same level of proficiency.

Social Responsibility

As volunteers we’re giving something back to the student body.

Well that didn’t go to Plan…

By chance I picked up a book over the summer titled ‘Black Box Thinking’ by Matthew Syed (currently on buy 1 get 1 half price at Waterstones). Black Box Thinking gave me some new perspectives and ways of reflecting when things go wrong, how to ask why they went wrong and what can be improved on. Most importantly thou it helped emphasise why it’s important to admit that things went wrong in the first place. By freely admitting what went wrong you are able to start the process of finding out why, and crucially, reduce the chances of it happening in the future.

Events over the past week have already provided me with a good cause to exercise these.

Let’s set the stage. Last week was fresher’s week at Anglia Ruskin and on Friday it was the fresher’s fair. As a committee member of the ARU Fashion Society I was part of the team that planned the society’s materials for the fresher’s fair and the organisation of the taster event.

What happened?

At the fair:

  • We ran out of leaflets within 3 hours,
  • We ran out of signup sheets and resorted to the back of the sheets,
  • Our signup sheets were too cramped which meant that the writing was cramped, thus difficult to type up after,
  • Few people signed up as members (OK, this one is fair enough. At the fair it’s important to interest people in the society and convince them to attend the taster event),

I also didn’t get a chance to look around and collect free pens to last me throughout the year (minor gripe).

A Lot of things did go right however, we generated interest in the society and had 143 names on our mailing list. We met new people who are interested in fashion and connected with some of the other ARU societies and are looking forward to cooperating on future events.

At the taster event, the catwalk and dance performance we hosted did go as planned and we were able to recruit volunteers from the fair to take part, however there were only a handful of attendees.

At the taster event there were two main points we identified that could have been improved on:

  1. Don’t have the taster event on a Saturday. Next time we’ll conduct our own market research for the ideal time for the taster event rather than relying on second hand information.
  2. Introduce a presentation between the dance performance and catwalk. Of the handful of attendees all left within half an hour of arriving as we had the show reoccurring while waiting for more to arrive before we started the presentation. For those who had arrived at the start the wait was too long, and had we started the presentation earlier we could have informed them about the society before they decided to leave.

Despite this setup we are still committed to delivering activities and events throughout the year, moral may be dented by the lack of attendees and few signups for membership, but we still have time to recover.

Watch out for my next post where I’ll be linking the activities from fresher’s to the employability skills from my previous post.

The Summer and Personal Development

During the first semester of university one of the modules taken was ‘Academic Skills’, and part of the assignment was to submit a Personal Development Plan (PDP).

Over the summer I expanded on the original document I submitted, and updated as a number of short term goals & objectives had been completed during the second semester. While expanding I decided to include my past employment and development, including my employment history and courses that I had taken prior to starting university.

I found that while writing about my past employment experiences, which included my roles, tasks and projects that I had taken part in, I was able to better identify my skills and knowledge. Thinking back also allowed me to identify areas of improvement.

Seeking to continue my personal development over the summer I was fortunate in that I had an excellent opportunity, and found (or, I should say, it found me) a summer job that enabled me practice old, and rusty, skills, and learn some new ones.

I was also able to keep up on my reading and, finally, got around to reading Capital in the Twenty First Century by Thomas Piketty, along with a number of books on technological developments, geography and politics (geopolitics), and tax (keep an eye out for a future post on this last one).

Going forward from here I plan on completing the Employability Program at Anglia Ruskin, writing about the ten key skills will be made easier thanks to my work on my PDP. I recommended having a look at the employability program to everyone, at the very least it helps you think about your experience and areas where you can improve.

The key skills are:

  • Self-Management,
  • Teamwork
  • Business and Commercial Awareness,
  • Problem Solving,
  • Communication and Literacy,
  • Application of IT,
  • Numeracy,
  • Project Management,
  • Languages and Cultural Sensitivity,
  • Social Responsibility,

As treasurer in the Fashion society this year is looking to be a busy one. As this will be the first full year of the society’s existence we’ve a full range of event ideas that are being implemented. Part of this involved building my awareness of the fashion industry (see key skills above, I’m able to link this is business and commercial awareness) and I am fortunate to be working with a veteran of the fashion world, who is also the president of the Fashion society.

In martial arts it can be said that you’re always training, from practicing your breathing to your movement (carrying a tray full of drinks, I found, has a way of focusing your mind to keep the tray balanced as you move). I applied this over the summer and took the opportunities to expand not only my skill set but also knowledge.

All C&C’s are welcome.