Can your dissertation help your career?

With the costs of education rising at an alarming rate across the world alongside increasing indebtedness, dropout rates, and general budget cuts, now is a time when one must seriously consider the cost to benefit ratio of higher education.

It was always a given before; simpler. There was a time where going to university would automatically put your CV at the top of the pile, and add some figures to your starting salary. The problem however, is that a lot of people cottoned onto this and ergo the number of CVs in the pile grew and the number of available jobs shrank – significantly changing the market.

Excuse the extremely simplistic analogy, and generalizable nature of the previous lines which probably anger many readers here, but the above is true, and we need to learn how to deal with it.

Many employers across all professions, now look to experience in addition to academic achievement. Having a Saturday job no longer cuts it. Experience now means: paid work, demonstrations of entrepreneurialism, volunteering, exceling at a talent (such as sport or music), languages, being well travelled, proven leadership skills… etc. And actually you can obtain many of these things through University.

I see University not as a place to get a degree, but as a whole life lesson (as contrite as that may sound). They are little microcosmic societies that provide a springboard to many opportunities one may miss if simply out in the ‘real world’. University is a time of self-discovery and exploration, a time that many people around the world are not as lucky to have the opportunity to take part in and so if you can I think you should.

The range of clubs and societies one can get involved with stands you in good stead for entering the job market as you get to know how organisations work, whether it just be the cheerleading team or a sub branch of Greenpeace; whether you just turn up to events or run for president. The more things you do, and the weirder and wider ranging they are, the higher your chance of clambering back up that CV pile. When else in life can you do things you enjoy that add to your employability? Because once you are already in full time work, let me tell you, you simply won’t have the time.

Your dissertation can also be a brilliant catalyst for prospects, as it gives you a chance to explore in depth a more specific area of study which can allow you to direct yourself towards your chosen career path. If you want to work in marketing – you research the latest trend, if you want to work for a charity – you write about the effect of their work, if you want to be a journalist – you find a news black hole and become the go-to gal for that topic. You talk to people already working in your chosen field, and relating to your preferred area of work and make contacts which you will keep in contact with, ask to look over your work, and BAM! Spam with speculative applications come graduation. People want to help students interested in what they are interested in; every academic field wants to feel like the hot guy at the party.

So although you will more than likely live off of bolognaise for four years (because it is cheap and it is the only thing your mum taught you how to cook), and although the debt will be huge and you will spend a good portion of your working life paying it off; it is better to be in a career that you have had time to ponder, choose, select, and work hard to get (having fun whilst doing so) than being stuck in run-of-the-millsville on a comparably equal gross wage.

The benefits outweigh the costs for most people, especially (if somewhat paradoxically) those from middle to lower income backgrounds who may not already have the doors open for them. For those people, university is a gateway, and a massive eye opener to the number of opportunities out there if you have got the balls and the stamina to go grab ‘em!