Now that term has begun, inboxes will soon be filled with offers to join various societies, compete in competitions, attend networking events and apply for schemes and open days. However, you will quickly realise that it is impossible to ‘just say yes’ and attend the array of opportunities that swoop into your mailbox each day. After experiencing various emotions (eg, excitement, stress and denial) in response to my inbox last year, below I share my tips on which invitations to say yes to and which to delete.
Despite what inspirational quotes on Instagram tell you, it is physically impossible to say yes to everything and even though all of these amazing opportunities seem too good to pass up, remember that they will likely occur next year as well and that you need to eat, sleep and socialise as well as study and network in order to be happy and productive. During first year, your degree should be your priority as you take the leap from A-level to degree-level studies. Only once you have got to grips with the new workload, new city and ‘adult’ life is it a good time to start looking into extra opportunities. In second and third year, the transition back into uni life after a deliciously long summer is a lot easier, so these opportunities can be embraced earlier on.
The first wave of invites will come from societies. Freshers fairs are always overwhelmingly busy with a society for literally everything you could think of – from baking to finance and economics. Last year, as I discussed in a previous post (“First-year round-up”), I failed to actually join any societies outside of the Law Society – one of my biggest regrets and something I aim to amend this year. On a demanding course such as law, two or three societies is a good place to start rather than signing up and paying the fee for nine societies and only ever attending two. For balance, perhaps look to choose one social and fun society that you enjoy and one that is more serious and CV focused. This way you can make friends and have fun via societies while also gaining further opportunities within your field of academic interests.
At UCL our Law Society has a wide array of competitions that are open to all years – including debating, mooting, client interviewing (where you can act as a client in first year and a solicitor thereafter) and negotiations. I took part in client interviewing in my first year and despite the nerve-wracking nature of competitions, I found it to be an enjoyable and rewarding experience, which also provided networking opportunities and insight into the sponsor law firm. The prizes for winners are often impressive and can even provide a fast track towards a dream job. I would advise that one competition a year is enough to boost your CV while not becoming too much of a distraction from your studies; also, it is better to dedicate your energy to one endeavour and perform well, rather than to spread yourself too thinly.
Although competitions and societies can provide ample networking opportunities to keep you busy after class, if you have the time to extend this to external events then go for it. However, when networking, it is important to be proactive and ask for people’s names or business cards to arrange further meetings and discussions which may lead to insight into firms in which you are interested. Even if an event does not have formal networking set up, such as a panel discussion, write down the name and firm of people in which you are interested and send an email asking for further information or a meeting. I have found that people are surprisingly eager to help and guide students who do this!
Most of all, remember that it is impossible to embrace every opportunity that comes your way. Instead prioritise, balance your time well and get involved in a productive and effective way. Your stress levels will thank you!