It’s final year. You’ve had the subject of your dissertation on your mind for a while now, it feels quite daunting and at times you question what the point of it really is other than the fact that it’s a tried and tested, accepted method of finishing your course. Students in the years above have moaned about it, now it’s your turn. But did you know that you can make all that hard work pay off in the longer term?
There are so many skills you’ve learnt through writing your dissertation that you can use in applications for jobs and internships..
1) Time Management
Well, yes- this is an obvious one but you can put this on your CV, talk about it in applications and when the inevitable question, “Can you give me an example of when you had to manage your time effectively?” comes up you have a solid answer. Make sure you use relevant examples such as meeting your deadlines, or working to library restrictions, don’t just say, “I wrote my dissertation”. This is an opportunity to explain what you learnt from the experience.
2) Caffeine Intake
Speaking of what you’ve learnt from the experience, one thing is very likely to have increased – caffeine tolerance! All of those late nights reading and long stretches at your computer requires frequent coffee top-ups. I’ve often pondered the possibilities of being hooked up to a drip… This isn’t necessarily a key skill to show off in an interview scenario, but you can spin it into ‘dedication’ – because it is.
There’s a lot of thought and planning that goes into a dissertation. The amount of research you have done is nothing to hide. All the primary ideas you had, mind-maps, lists, new ideas you came up with when you got fed up with the old ones, figuring out dead ends, the inevitable moment when you forgot your point, the reading, and reading, and reading, and paper trails and … you get the point. You have done the leg work, been thorough and done it (on the most part I’d imagine) proactively. The skill? Well, I just listed three!
4) Decision Making
This point leads on from the last really… In the dissertation module outline it states that at the end of the course students will be able to: “Provide independent critical analysis and draw appropriate conclusions and arguments”. So, after all your research you have to decide what to put in. Even if you’re the kind of person who is constantly worried they won’t have enough words – trust me; you will always end up with too many. And, if you’re the type who is in the enviable decision of over-writing, you’re going to have to decide what to cut. There’s also often the hard choice between all-nighters or getting up early, coffee or green tea, chocolate or actually cooking something ‘real’. Decisions, decisions… you know how to make them.
5) Meetings & Constructive Discussions
This is a fundamental skill in the work place. Knowing how to a) conduct yourself in a meeting b) know how to get what you want from them and c) make the most of them.
We don’t have a lot of time with our supervisors, some are better than others and more often than not the initial meetings leave you more worried and confused than you were going in. However, something massively important to learn about meetings is that you’re the one with all the questions (at least in the beginning, after the draft hand in maybe your tutor will have some of their own – but point 3 should help with those!). Make sure you know what you want to get out of the meeting. Have your questions written down, and make sure you ask them, and that they are answered.
This moves us on to time management in meetings. You might only have half an hour, and while this seems like long enough, there will be loads to ‘clarify’ at the end. Make sure you don’t get lost in your professor’s own research if it genuinely has nothing to do with yours. Save it for the end when you’ve asked your questions. Give yourself the chance to sum up the meeting with your tutor so you’re clear on what to do next. Finally – don’t be afraid to ask even the most simple questions! This is your time so use it.
6) Working under pressure
This one is a pretty obvious point. There’s a deadline, and it’s fast approaching. You will have taught yourself over the past three or four years that planning is key – this time it really is. But keeping it together when all you want to do is throw in the towel is just the kind of serious skill that employers look for.
Ignorance is bliss. There’s nothing important you have to be doing right now, instead of watching Narcos, or going to the S’Oak, or sitting in the living room talking with your house mates about how fast time is flying by….no, wait there is!! Denial is wonderful and you will have perfected it over the course of your degree. Just don’t leave it up until the last minute to get real, not everyone can research and write their 12,000 dissertation overnight!
You’re juggling a lot in final year. It’s not as if other assignments stop. As the deadline date looms, so does the end of term and that means essays from other modules. It also means exams, and perhaps even a job hunt. This can feel overwhelming but take it one step at a time. Compartmentalise it all, and focus on what’s most important right now. This is one hefty skill that you will have learnt throughout uni anyway, but your final dissertation highlights this wonderfully well.
9) Initiative & Creativity
So you’ve hit a wall. That line of inquiry you were heading down has trailed off. The paper trail has done a U-turn – now what? Humanities students are very good, nay, superb at re-thinking. We do it in EVERYTHING; essays, theories, arguments, and especially now. Chances are, you’ll be doing this without even thinking about it so take a moment to realise how great this skill is in terms of problem solving and use it in your applications and interviews!
It would be much easier to not do this dissertation – but you have to. That doesn’t mean you enjoy it all the time. Working through a difficult part of a project is a resilient and impressive skill. It displays determination, independence, and willingness. It’s all worth it in the end.
Final words of advice
You’ve learnt a lot from your dissertation – don’t forget to use it when applying for graduate jobs! For more help with applications, CVs and interviews book an appointment with one our friendly Careers Network staff. They can review your application before you submit it to make sure you have the best chance of getting the job! They also run lots of workshops and events throughout term.
This post was written by Emily Martin, SET student for Careers Network, College of Arts and Law.