The Degree Plus initiative at Queens means that you have the opportunity to earn an extra award alongside your degree. One of the biggest appeals of university for many people is the opportunities it gives you to meet new people and engage in activities which interest you and might help you make further decisions with your future career. And with Degree Plus you actually get credit for doing this!
There are numerous ways you can earn your Degree Plus, here are just a few;
Volunteering opportunities – something that always looks great on your CV, helping people for free! Within the university you will hear about many different volunteering opportunities, one of my personal favourites is Homework Club. Volunteering at Homework Club is the perfect activity if you are considering going into a career in education as it allows you to practise the skills needed to help other, younger students learn. And even if a career in education doesn’t interest you, Homework Club gives you skills in communication and is all round just a fun thing to do on a free afternoon!
Work experience – Any kind of career placement you do (as long as it’s not already part of your degree) can also earn you a Degree Plus. Personally, I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t do this. Placements are already great things to do as they give you an insight into your aspired career, give you skills that will make you stand out, and help you make contacts which will be highly valuable when you graduate. Once again, this is an activity that most people would want to do anyway and with Degree Plus you rewarded with more than just the experience!
Society Committees – Another example of activities that contribute towards a Degree Plus is joining a society committee! This is something which I highly recommend you do anyway, it’s a great way of meeting new people with similar interests and making friends, and much like everything else it helps you develop new skills to add onto that ever-growing CV. Joining a society committee is about as university as you can get, it’s something that you’ll never have the opportunity to do again, so go for it!
These really are just a few of the opportunities to earn your Degree Plus here at Queen’s. Hopefully it has given you some sort of idea as to what you can do here alongside your degree to make you stand out from the crowd. So, the bottom line is, go and discover a new adventure with Degree Plus! You never know what it might lead to.
You can check out the full activity lists and details of how you apply on the Degree Plus site.
At Queen’s, you’ll find lots of opportunities to develop your skills, create your own brand and discover your own personal USP (unique selling point), that will ultimately get you hired in the future. Here, Lucy, Lauren and Daniella from our MEDIA programme reveal the different tacks they have taken to improve their employability and their career confidence.
‘I’m building an online brand’
“In the year of 2020, we have seen that anything can happen! This year has meant that not only have we as students have had to adapt our ways, but so too have employers. The increase of webcam interviews has meant recruiters will be researching candidates’ online profiles more than ever before. So, there is now more pressure to demonstrate an online presence to potential employers and recruiters.
But developing an online presence doesn’t have to be difficult! It can be as easy as gaining a social media following, constructing an online portfolio of works or starting a LinkedIn account.
Not only is LinkedIn free to use, it is also a great way of making connections with professionals in your sector.
There’s also a handy job search engine with plenty of job listings waiting for your application!
Not to mention, you can upload your CV and create content for potential employers to view when they’re exploring your profile.
So why not create an account? Simply add a professional photo, a summary of yourself, your skills and employment history and there, you have an online presence!” -Lucy Roy
‘I’m volunteering online’
“For a lot of young people, volunteering is a great way to gain skills for employment and gain independence. This has been a little bit tougher to do during the COVID-19 lockdown with a lot of charities closing their offices and working from home. I personally am a really dedicated volunteer of Women’s Aid and have been for over six years. I’m used to attending events and public speaking which both haven’t been possible. I’ve found a way that I can use my other skills to still positively impact the charity from home as I am a broadcast production student and have experience making short films. I decided I would produce short videos for the charity’s social media to compliment and promote their campaigns. For their autumn campaign, I made a short film called ‘Walk A Mile In Her Shoes’ where I emailed staff and volunteers to take a video of their shoes walking outside in their gardens or on their walk for example so that I didn’t have to come into contact with anyone and I could still edit together a really powerful piece to push their campaign forward and encourage more engagement. This really benefited my skills and working remotely under the extreme circumstances of the pandemic, but still being able to produce work.
If there is a cause or charity you volunteered with before the pandemic and you haven’t felt connected or felt there was no way you could contribute, then think deeper and approach them. Maybe they don’t know how you could be helpful but see it as an opportunity to progress your career and enhance and gain skills. For me, this was producing short videos because that was something related to my degree and I knew I was capable of it but whatever degree you are in, think about what skills you have or need for that career and approach a charity that could really do with your help remotely through these tough times. This could also be as simple as an online fundraiser for a small local charity that is struggling to stay afloat. So get involved and make a difference in your community from the comfort of your own home so you can develop your CV.” -Daniella Timperley
‘I’m attending career-enhancing events’
“Cinemagic, Belfast’s Film and TV Festival, hosts a CineFocus Jury event every year. If you like to watch films and appreciate the cinema this type of event is for you. Do you tend to discuss and review the films you watch? The CineFocus Jury event is for you!I recently took part in the event. The event is for 15 – 25 year olds which means it is the perfect event for students in university. You have the opportunity to watch movies from all over the world. Review, comment and judge them with forms that you send in. Ranking the films as you review them you decide what will be shown at the festival.
It is an interactive and challenging experience based on your critical skills and experience with film. You can add it to your CV as an experience.
It is pretty easy to do, you email and apply for the event. With a small fee you receive the details to sign and receive the link to go onto the online Cinemagic Festival online. You create an account; login and the event should be added to your screen. It’s as simple as that.
Cinemagic is a great site for events along the media sector. It’s also a way to connect with others in the industry and join events where they host meetings with professionals in the media sector. It’s a great place to gain valuable insight. So be sure to check the website out!” – Lauren Watt
Thought about volunteering but don’t know where to start? Órla Mallon from our MEDIA programme has collated this handy guide. Read on and prepare to feel good.
Volunteering is a fantastic way to make a difference during your time at University – and Queen’s has an opportunity for everyone. You can develop a range of skills, communication, organisation, problem solving, adaptability and much more. The invaluable skills you can gain will look great on your CV and will show potential employers that you can take initiative and work hard for something you’re passionate about. Being a volunteer also gives you a chance to give back to your local community and make new friends!
Here are seven different volunteering opportunities available – but remember the list doesn’t end here. Check out the QUB Volunteer page, or Volunteer SU website for more options.
Raise Funds for Charity
Charities such as Nexus NI, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and Action on Hearing Loss (and many more) are always in need of local fundraisers. Not only could you be helping raise funds for charity, but you can demonstrate your organisational and communication skills. Or, if you know any other worthy causes, don’t be afraid to get involved to raise some cash!
Volunteer with the Elderly
Sometimes older people need a hand sometimes – and it is so easy to be there for a chat. If you consider yourself a good communicator, or you want an opportunity to develop those skills, there are many roles available with Parkinson’s UK or Age UK, or, become a helpline operator onHourglass NI. You could also lend your hand to those suffering with Dementia or Alzheimer’s through The Alzheimer’s Society.
Be part of Local Conservation Efforts
If you have a passion for environmental issues, and especially if you want a career within the environment sector, this is a perfect opportunity! Belfast City Council often runs conservation programmes, as well as opportunities with the National Trust.
Help in a local Charity Shop
There is a charity shop on almost every street in Belfast – and they are often looking for volunteers! Oxfam, Cancer Research UK, British Red CrossandMarie Curie are just to name a few. Check with your local charity shop to find opportunities and develop your interpersonal and communication skills while you’re at it.
Join the Fight to End Homelessness
Volunteering with Simon Community NImight just be one of the best things you ever do. They are Northern Ireland’s leading charity in the bid to end homelessness and aim to provide a roof over everybody’s head. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they have issued an urgent appeal for emergency staff, demonstrate your ability to take initiative and volunteer now!
Promote positive Mental Health and Wellbeing
Northern Ireland charity Mindwise aims to support people living with severe mental illness, through a wide range of methods, including providing housing, navigating the criminal justice system, supporting vulnerable people, and creating resource centres for people to socialise. Many of their volunteer opportunities involve facilitating or teaching a class – so if you have an interest in music, photography or gardening, this would be perfect for you! Mindwise also provide Safeguarding Adults training, and First Aid training, skills that are valued in any workplace.
This is just a short list of all the potential ways you could make a difference while you’re at Uni, so keep looking for opportunities to create positive change!
Volunteering can count towards your Degree Plus award. To find out how, visit the Degree Plus site.
Emma Kelly, a student on our MEDIA Programme, on why Degree plus is the secret CV weapon every student needs.
1.Employers recognise its value
Degree Plus is an employability award that you gain alongside graduation that demonstrates your dedication to extracurricular activity at Queens University. It adds an extra boost to your CV and is well renowned among employers as it signals to them that you worked hard to develop the skills that are needed for their workplace.
2.It can give you an edge in the job market
University students are constantly being told that the job market is fierce and competitive, regardless of what field you are in. Unfortunately, the situation has only worsened during the pandemic. Final year students may be feeling hopeless at the prospect of graduating into our economy; therefore, we are continuously looking for something to give us an edge over our competitors. Degree Plus could be that extra something to boost your CV.
3.Alumni vouch for it
Queens University Belfast alumni Ciara O’Neill graduated with a BSc in Psychology. In her final year, Ciara looked towards Degree Plus as a way of strengthening her CV and received Degree Plus with her degree. Since graduation she has completed a Master’s in Clinical Psychology, worked as a project worker for a children’s charity and is now a senior psychologist. Ciara’s resume speaks for itself; she has done incredible things since her graduation and she credits Degree Plus for strengthening her applications to her Master’s programmes and subsequent jobs.
Ciara felt receiving Degree Plus demonstrated to her employers that she was well-rounded and was more than her First Class Degree. Her volunteering and societies participation were outside the realms of her degree, this strengthened the view that she went above and beyond just completing a degree at Queen’s.
4.It provides great examples for interviews
When applying for her positions post-graduation, Ciara drew upon the skills that she developed through her experiences with Degree Plus. These extracurricular activities allowed her to develop her communication skills – which is the hallmark of any psychologist – and her Degree Plus experiences provided a great talking point in her interviews. It also demonstrated her flexibility and her ability of time management – skills that are valued by employers in all fields!
5.You can choose how you earn it
Degree Plus has two routes, verified activities (previously known as route A) and combined experience (route B). Ciara opted for the Combined experience as she met the requirements through her volunteering and participation in societies which she fit around her completion of her Psychology degree.
6.You might already qualify and not know it
Ciara recalls someone mentioning Degree Pus to her in her final year, she checked the requirements and realised she met them. She didn’t have to do anything extra. “It looks great on my CV,” she said, adding that the formal recognition of extracurricular activities was a testament to the life she lived on Queen’s Campus. Ciara thoroughly enjoyed the time she spent volunteering and in societies – the Degree Plus qualification was just an added bonus!
If you are a final year student reading this post, it’s important you check the Queen’s website to view the requirements for Degree Plus. Perhaps you might be surprised to see you meet the requirements – there are hundreds of activities which could qualify you for this award.
To learn more about Degree Plus, join our information session on 6 October at 1pm.
Taking a year out after graduation to travel, gain work experience or volunteer while you consider your future can be a worthwhile and fulfilling experience. Here, some useful sites with information and opportunities across the globe.