“The future depends on what you do today” – Mahatma Gandhi
The University of Chester aspires to be a ‘Healthy University’ and is committed to the health and wellbeing of its students and staff by creating a learning environment and organisational culture that enhances the health, wellbeing and sustainability of its community, enabling everyone to achieve their full potential. This is particularly pertinent during these difficult times when we’re all trying to find the best ways possible to ‘navigate the choppy waters’ of COVID-19 as best as we can.
During these unprecedented times, staff within Careers and Employability – Student Futures are embracing the University’s ‘Five Steps to Wellbeing’: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give and we encourage students to do the same. The five steps were developed by the New Economics Foundation, as part of their Mental Capital Wellbeing Project. They were published in 2008 and were subsequently adopted by the University. Research suggests that by following the five steps as individuals we should feel happier, more positive and more productive.
We fully appreciate that social distancing and/or self-isolation are not ideal scenarios for anybody, although extremely necessary currently to ensure non-essential contact. To achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally, why not practice the power of positive thinking by forgetting the trials and tribulations of COVID-19 and instead focusing on making the most of the situation using the Five Steps to Wellbeing while taking the time to think about, and to prepare for, your future career.
Connect – this is all about meeting people and taking the time needed to develop and maintain effective and meaningful relationships to help your future career development. Connecting with a wide variety of people can also help increase your feelings of happiness and self-worth and can lead to better health and therefore a longer life. Perhaps consider:
- Creating a professional profile on LinkedIn, if you don’t already have one, to make contacts and to enhance your professional reputation, or spending some quality time developing your network on LinkedIn, by connecting with individuals or joining relevant groups, in order to gain industry insights and information relevant to your future choice of career.
- Continuing to connect with your academic department and support services at the University – e.g. Careers and Employability (Student Futures), Study Skills (Learning and Teaching Institute) and Student Support (Student Futures), who are available, virtually, to offer support and are also continuing to run numerous virtual workshops and sessions.
- Booking a telephone or Microsoft Teams appointment with one of our Career Consultants: 15-minute Career Chats are available for an initial chat or 45-minute Guidance Appointments can be booked for an in-depth discussion. Whether you have a clear career path in mind or not, Careers and Employability can help you to explore your options and to make the right choices for you.
Be Active – this is all about being active by doing what you can, enjoying what you do and moving, or elevating, your mood. Being active through regular physical activity is proven to have a positive impact on our mood and mindset and is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety. However, you don’t just have to go to the gym to be active. Perhaps consider:
- Applying for part-time, full-time or graduate vacancies advertised on CareerHub – careers.chester.ac.uk to increase your experience, skills and knowledge – make the most of this precious time you’ve been given
NB – It’s also important to taking adequate breaks from job hunting to undertake some form of exercise – moving and exercise is proven to have a positive impact on wellbeing.
- Working remotely through UniJob – new roles to be advertised soon
- Applying to the Santander Entrepreneurship Fund (eligibility criteria apply)
- Applying to the Futures Employability Fund (eligibility criteria apply)
- Attending one of our Careers Workshops to acquire or develop the skills that employers are looking for in their future employees.
Take Notice – this is all about being aware of the present moment. As individuals we tend to live busy lives, so remembering to take time out is vital as studies have shown that being aware of the present moment can help to maintain and improve our mental wellbeing. Perhaps consider:
- Taking notice of the part-time, full time or graduate vacancies being advertised on CareerHub – careers.chester.ac.uk or what’s going on in the world around you
- Noticing your thoughts and feelings of life under lockdown and by not putting pressure on yourself to always be doing something or planning for your future career. Don’t forget about the simple things that give you joy!
- Noting how well you’re doing during the lockdown period. Consider how well you’ve adapted, the skills you may have developed, the new things you may have learnt about yourself or others and celebrate your achievement by letting employers know about them.
Keep Learning – this is all about embracing new learning experiences and seeking out new learning opportunities. Learning new skills can help boost self-confidence and self-esteem, helps with goal setting and enables us to connect with others. Perhaps consider:
- Attending one of our virtual ASK sessions (Ask questions, Shape ideas and Kick-start careers) to meet informally with employers to ask about their career journey, find out more about the sector/organisation in which they work and to discover what they are looking for from future employees – these will be published on both Portal and CareerHub.
- Learning a new skill or language which might help you take a step closer to your future career. Why not consider an online course through FutureLearn, OpenLearn, My World of Work, The Skills Toolkit (National Careers Service) or take time out to practice Psychometric Testing, which often forms part of the application process for students and graduates when applying for graduate jobs/schemes.
- Learning about what makes a good CV, cover letter and application by making the most of our CV and Cover Letter Guide. This is a great starting point for all the information you need on how to tell employers what makes you a great candidate for their jobs and it will help you to learn about the skills, attributes and experience employers want.
Give – this is all about giving your time, your words and your presence. Doing something nice for a friend, family member or even a stranger by volunteering your time is good for your mind and body and is extremely rewarding – even the smallest acts can count! Not only does volunteering provide you with a sense of purpose, it also enables you to meet new people and make new connections, take on a new challenge, learn new skills, gain experience and perhaps even acquire new qualifications. Perhaps consider:
- Volunteering in your local community. Find out what local charities and organisations are looking for volunteers – there are many schemes which have been developed during the current pandemic requiring volunteers to offer support to anyone feeling overwhelmed, anxious, nervous or just in need of a good old chat! Did you know you can also gain points towards the Chester Difference Award for any volunteering that you do?
NB – The Volunteering and Mentoring Team within Student Futures have created a blogpost on virtual volunteering opportunities that students can do during this time which of course helps to develop employability skills for students!
- Give yourself some time to learn about, and to compare, potential career paths of interest, to identify jobs that match your skills, experience and passions, to establish SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) goals and to develop a career action plan outlining the next steps that you ideally need to take?
“The Wellbeing and Mental Health Team are big fans of the Five Steps to Wellbeing to help encourage us all to make small changes throughout our days, weeks, months that will have an overall impact on our emotional health. We use the Five Steps to Wellbeing when having conversations with students and it crops up often in the wellbeing sessions we deliver. We also have a 5-step Challenge on the support section of the University of Chester app which students can work their way through.”
Rebecca Hughes – Student Welfare Project Officer: Student Futures Support
And finally, remember… be kind to yourself and take each day at a time. If on one specific day you’re not feeling particularly positive remember that it’s OK to feel how you’re feeling. These are strange, uncertain and sometimes overwhelming times for everybody so you’re probably not alone in feeling the way that you do and it’s totally fine for you to feel ‘fed up’ or ‘freaked out’ – we all need support from time to time. To find out more about the service and support available through Careers and Employability – Student Futures, please log onto CareerHub or email careers.chester.ac.uk