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My Graduate+ Experience - Avin Slojak

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Graduate+ is an incredible award scheme that helped me develop and grow into the person I am today. In 2015, I arrived in the UK as a Syrian refugee, where all my previous awards and certificates were not considered valid, so I had to go through a long process to continue my education. During this time, I was under a lot of pressure because my focus was to ensure that I was doing well in school, besides having to attend various appointments with my parents and translating so many documents and letters for them. So, I had no time to seek professional opportunities to help develop my personal and professional skills. In 2018, I started my university journey at BCU, and I realised that mostly everyone around me either had a part-time job or work experience, which I lacked. This placed me in a disadvantage because I struggled to get part-time jobs due to my insufficient employability skills.

Graduate+ was introduced to me by one of the Education Development Service team at BCU and she explained how this would help me become more involved in extra-curricular activities, which can allow me to develop employability skills. So, I started completing my Graduate+ Bronze award and this allowed me to start writing a CV. The award introduced me to the Careers+ team, who supported me with writing my CV and cover letter. The Graduate+ website also had multiple resources that improved my interview skills and job searching, which improved my overall confidence.

In my second year of university, I used the skills from my bronze award, such as my CV, interview and job searching skills to apply for professional placements. I managed to secure a yearlong placement with the NHS, where I worked as an Assistant Psychologist in an inpatient ward. My placement helped me develop reflective and clinical skills, as well as problem solving and team working skills, which allowed me to complete one of the activities for the Graduate+ Silver award. Luckily, because of the networking skills I developed during my placement, I was able to secure a part-time role with the NHS, which was beneficial for my career. This also helped me immensely in my third year, as I was continuously developing my clinical and professional skills on various wards, whilst helping me financially. My part-time role also contributed towards my silver award.

Because Graduate+ helped me with my professional skills, I was able to apply those skills, in addition to my personal skills, to work on my dissertation project. I used my organisational, team working and reflective skills to complete my project. This also went towards my Graduate+ gold award, as the award was embedded into my dissertation module. This embedded award offered me a space to reflect on my project and see what skills I have gained from it. I discussed how I utilised digital skills, such as using Microsoft, Canva and other digital resources to advertise my study, recruit participants, conduct interviews for data collection and write up my report, whereby I ended up achieving a first-class grade.

To me, Graduate+ played a huge part in my personal and professional development. It served as an academic diary, where I put all my skills and experience gained throughout my university journey in one place – the Graduate+ award. I believe we live in a very fast paced world, and Graduate+ offers you a space to slow down and reflect on your achievements. This helped me a lot when it came to job applications and writing cover letters, because I had all my experience and skills written down in one place, which saved me so much time. I was also able to complete them in the comfort of my own home whilst receiving certificates and badges upon completion of each award, which was very rewarding.  In addition, I believe Graduate+ has helped me rebuild my personal and social identity in this country. I had a very challenging start when I moved to the UK and I thought I would never be as good as my counterparts because I lacked what they have – opportunities, experience and skills that would take them far. Graduate+ is not just an award scheme, it is about the people you meet along the way that can help you achieve your full potential, and it is about the stories you hear that can spark a sense of inspiration in you. And I am now very proud to be part of the Graduate+ team and be involved in helping others succeed in what they are passionate about.