As the 2016/17 academic year gets started, it’s a good time to step back and assess what you really want to get out of university – and how to achieve that. Through our research with international students, we know that the primary concern for many students is how to improve their employment prospects. Often, this is also the key reason they want to attend university and/or study abroad in the first place. So apart from gaining a place at a reputable university, doing well academically and securing some work experience, what else can you do? The answer is simple – get involved! To provide a personal touch, here’s my story in five simple parts. My name is Dasha, I’m the International Education Specialist at QS and I love my job. I studied at the University of Nottingham and here’s my advice on how to improve your employment prospects, based on my own experience.1. Choose a degree you loveIt is absolutely and utterly important to select a degree that you find interesting and will enjoy. Choosing a course simply based on estimated or historical employment prospects will not do the trick. In fact, you will probably end up hating the course and not making the most of your experience and opportunities at your university.I studied mathematics and philosophy at university, with no particular idea as to what career path this may lead to; I just knew that I liked maths and I was interested in philosophy. I can now say, this was a good decision.2. Realize that it’s not just about your degreeNow that you have chosen a degree you like and are happy to study, it’s time to look around you. Are there student clubs and societies you would like to join? Have you already got a hobby you’d like to pursue further at university, or perhaps you’ve been thinking about trying a few things out? Whatever you situation is, you should absolutely find an extracurricular activity you think you’ll enjoy and sign up. It’s important to make time to pursue your interests and socialize. Not only will this make you more attractive to employers, it will also teach you to manage your time.3. Select a hobby you loveI’d always wanted to try acting, so I joined the student theatre straight away. I didn’t stop there, however. I soon became a student representative for my course, joined the university volleyball team, the student radio, completed an internship with a local charity, the list goes on. Why? Because I realized how much these different activities, meeting new people and developing various skillsets enriched my student experience. This is not to say I neglected my studies; I just learned to fit more in. And this is my advice to you – the more you do, the more time you have. This is not literally true of course, but it is true that you learn to value your time and become more productive.4. Take the initiativeOnce you’ve tried a number of different activities and found your feet, it’s time to take on more responsibility. Perhaps there are certain societies you enjoy more than others – each of which will offer opportunities for you to take on a leadership positions. This is something many students tell us they want to do at university, but very few actually do. It’s not easy to take the initiative, as it involves getting out of your comfort zone, knowing how to work in a team and being aware of your strengths and your unique selling points. Having taken on various positions of responsibility within student societies, I ended up running for a full-time student leader position. It was a massive challenge, scary, stressful… and probably the most incredible thing I did at university! My extracurricular commitments at university allowed me to discover my real passion – a passion for education. And this is something employers are really looking for – someone who’s not afraid to take the initiative, someone aware of their strengths and able to play to them; in other words, a leader.5. Connect with people you wouldn’t usually meetIt’s not just who you know and it’s not just what you know that matters – it’s both! Being equipped not only with knowledge but with contacts is certainly the best way to improve your employment prospects. Most of the time, networking happens naturally when you follow the four steps above, without any conscious effort. And this is the best kind of networking too, as it’s genuine and all you’re doing is following your interests. In fact, this is how I ended up working here at QS, working on the QS rankings and other research projects.Want more content like this? Register for free site membership to get regular updates and your own personal content feed.