Blog post

My Futures Award experience

Sam Chikowore relates his experience of taking part in the Futures Award. 

By Sam Chikowore - 12 July 2021

The Futures Award helps students progress towards their careers whilst they're at the University of Derby. As well as being a sterling achievement you can proudly showcase on your C.V, it also helps you to develop commercial awareness and gives you a leg up into the working world after study.

Bronze Level

The bronze level is the first stage of the Futures Award. During this stage, I learned the value of being a self-aware, individual. I found the quality of introspection to be particularly vital in helping me assess areas of personal development that I needed to work on. For example, the initial assessment highlighted that along with building self-awareness, I needed to work on my career possibilities and ability to job hunt. In becoming more self-aware, I was able to identify areas that showcase my strengths and demonstrate a solid skillset.

It also highlighted my weaknesses and encouraged me to overcome them. By undertaking modules such as: how to effectively write a C.V, developing essential/transferrable skills for the workplace and building commercial awareness. I was able to scope out different career possibilities and paths to take into the workforce.

Going through the course content for the Futures Award helped me to familiarise myself with different aspects of working life, and helped me learn about how to apply them in real-life situations. This has fostered a determination in me to apply what I've learned for self-improvement. It has also helped me become much more employable and fit-for-purpose in any role I may find myself in. Re-taking the initial assessment after having interacted with the different modules, recommended course content, and resources served to highlight the noticeable improvement I'd made.

The bronze stage was a great entry point for me to be able to see why my current approach to job applications, interviews and job prospects had not been as successful as it could be. As mentioned earlier, it was a real eye-opener to be able to take the assessment and note my strengths and weaknesses.

The bronze stage of the Futures Award emphasised the importance and the benefits of creating a portfolio that documents any work capacity or involvement in activity that can highlight areas of responsibility, growth and personal initiative. This is imperative for personal growth and career growth and gives you the chance to sell yourself as an action-oriented person.

This stage also helped to develop an action plan designed to benchmark my progress. During this time, I worked on achieving a higher assessment score that would contribute to my knowledge of how to enter and navigate the workforce, with the aim of working my way up the corporate ladder.

Silver Level

There were many additional career learning outcomes I gained from taking part in various activities once I progressed to the silver level of the award. As I continued on the various career learning programmes, I was able to hone skills that supported successful job hunting and subsequent employment.

It was very interesting taking part in the workplace skills module. This outlined the various aspects that can make you fit for purpose in the workplace. The module has an emphasis on teamwork, being productive and efficient, and being able to know how to manage your time. These were great points for consideration and were also applicable to my current, part-time employment as well as my studies.

The study into leadership at this level was quite beneficial as it sparked a realisation that I could work in the capacity of a leader or manager one day. Having access to personal development like this is crucial in this period ie: when you're about to graduate and enter the workforce. This also helped me realise, develop, and reinforce how important it is to be commercially aware.

I also found that the skills I gained in the hunting for jobs segment helped me to acquire a higher degree of self-realisation and be more aware of how to conduct myself when networking for jobs, approaching recruiters or recruitment agencies. It also helped me to develop little tasks that we may take for granted such as being clear and concise, adapting a C.V for a specific job and how to search jobs relevant to a particular skillset.

I have learned a lot of transferrable skills by taking part in co-curricular activities. The first and primary skill which I can pinpoint directly would be working as part of a team. As a Residential Assistant at the University's Halls of Residence, I have not only had to work with others as part of a team but also realise that each member is like a cog in the machine, having to work seamlessly for the machine to work well and to the best, it can achieve. Knowing that taking responsibility for my decisions not only helps me to work towards my own personal goals but also enables me to support my team members.

Being a line manager has been a keen driver in making sure I show up and achieve the best work possible in whatever task is sent my way.

Taking part in the mock interview during this stage also helped me to research and work on presenting myself during interviews in the best possible light, coming across as a much more personable and genuine prospect.

Another transferrable skill I acquired is being able to dig deep and seek intrinsic motivation that helps to create my "why?" For which I work towards and always pitch my best. Having this has put me in a position to want to achieve more and improve my time management skills, in turn -being more productive in my uni work and in the workplace.

Gold Level

Finally, the big one. At the gold level of the Futures Award, I learned the importance of defining my "why?" For me, this evolved into questioning why I have always strived to attain and embark on a chosen career path in business, mining and other related fields. Having done this, as well as taking part in employability workshops, modules and attending the recently held Gradfest, I have learned that this is my utmost ambition and I will strive to become the best I can be, not only for me but for those around me as well.

There has been a constant theme of continuous improvement as an undertone as I have progressed through the Futures Award. Seemingly routine exercises such as retaking the assessment and seeing the steady but progressive improvement since starting from the bronze award have reinforced that improvement does not always happen in large spurts. Sometimes it is a steady process that takes time to appear and becomes apparent in an activity.

I have also learned the skill of resilience and grit amidst the job search, it is quite easy to give up and lose hope when applications are being turned down and the recruiters are not coming back to you with a job offer. However, a sentiment I gained from the Gradfest was, with each application whether unsuccessful or not, you are one step closer to your dream job! It's essential to keep pushing, not lose heart over the negative outcomes, and realise your "why" as a means that motivates you and spurs you onward.

Presenting and detailing my progress from bronze through to gold helped to reinforce the outcomes that I had learned and been exposed to during my progression. Presenting to a panel that included the Careers and Employability team helped me to explain how I felt the Futures Award was beneficial to my employment journey. It helped me to realise my strengths that can add value, as well as recognise the weaknesses that I have got to work on. I aim to turn these into an opportunity to grow and become a better and a much more rounded individual.

What now?

Having participated in the Futures Award gave me considerable time to learn and reflect on how to build my transferrable skills, be more effective in the workplace in both the capacity of an employee and employer. It also gave me more access to services offered by the University’s Careers and Employability Service such as C.V. clinics, internal and external vacancies that are filtered to my preferred job opportunities and support services for graduates. This is all very valuable for a fresh-faced graduate wanting to go out there, make a mark in the world and build on experiences and opportunities.

About the author

Sam standing next to a mountain wearing a red anorak.

Sam Chikowore
Business Management and Geology student at the University of Derby

Business Management and Geology student at the University of Derby. I also work part-time as a Marketing Representative for the University.