Empathy, Resilience and Organisation – A Career in Education

It’s Never Too Late… helps final-year Humanities students get advice from successful Exeter alumni, and showcases opportunities from the Career Zone.

Lizzie Carter is currently working as a Key Stage 5 Achievement Coordinator at a grammar school and graduated from Exeter with a BA in English in 2012. Find out how she went from primary school teacher, to Ministry of Justice clerk, and back into the education sector. 

Elizabeth Carter, Exeter Alumn and current Key Stage 5 Achievement Coordinator

“After graduation, I had a ‘roller coaster’ career. I knew I wanted to go into education since being inspired by my former English teachers, and I was certain that job satisfaction was highly important to me. Feeling perhaps too young to teach teenagers, I went straight into a Primary PGCE and became a Junior school teacher for 3 years. This was a rewarding but demanding experience. Desperate to gain an insight into a profession outside the classroom, I took a leap of faith and gained a role with the Ministry of Justice as a High Court Judge’s clerk. When not commuting to London, I travelled across the country with my Judge sitting in on criminal trials and working with esteemed lawyers; an incredible experience. After 18 months, and being a little older and wiser, I knew I wanted to get back into education. So now I have returned to my old Grammar school where I studied for my GCSEs and A Levels (a surreal yet wonderful change of events!).

“The freedom I have in my role is fantastic as I manage my own workload and am moulding the position into my ideal job.”

My current role is titled ‘Key Stage 5 Achievement Coordinator’ which means I support sixth-formers by resolving pastoral issues, monitoring attendance, organising enrichment events and helping with career choices and university applications. As I have QTS, I also teach A Level Sociology, EPQ and am a mentor for GCSE English students. The freedom I have in my role is fantastic as I manage my own workload and am moulding the position into my ideal job! My days are never the same as it is very much student-led, so it can become quite hectic but brings an enormous amount of satisfaction – something I missed when employed by the court service.

The recruitment process for jobs in education – particularly teaching – is very rigorous with a formal interview, set tasks, a tour of the school (sometimes by students) and most of the time you’re asked to deliver a lesson in which you’re observed. Although it’s a daunting process and you know that everything you do is being scrutinised, you’re working out if the school is right for you as much as senior staff are assessing you as a potential employee. I would say that if you enjoy the day as a whole, it generally means that you and the school are a good fit. In both jobs I’ve had in education, I’ve been contacted on the same day as the interview with the outcome and feedback. This is a standard process in the sector and is real a positive as it means that you’re not waiting by the phone for days on end.

Undergraduate study definitely prepared me for a career in education because I can share anecdotes with students about my own time at university, singing Exeter’s praises in the process. What’s more, completing a dissertation allows me to offer research advice and referencing tips to my students writing their EPQ projects. My second-year module ‘English in the Workplace’ meant that I secured an 80-hour placement in a school. This counted as academic credit alongside submitting a reflective portfolio (which included an essay on the issue of equality in education). I also delivered a presentation to my peers and first-year students to describe my experience. I believe this module was a real asset when applying for my postgraduate course and subsequent jobs.

“I believe I’m a walking example of someone who thought they knew what career they wanted, and still do, but have followed a peculiar pathway before arriving.”

In order to succeed in education, I would say you need empathy, resilience and good organisational skills as working in a school never has its dull moments and keeps you on your toes! More importantly, you really need to have a lifelong desire for learning as this inspires students to achieve their potential and be as committed (as clichéd as it may sound). Working with sixth formers has motivated me to seriously consider applying for the MA Education online course at Exeter; something I would probably never have considered had I entered a different profession.

Ultimately, I hope to progress to becoming an English teacher within the department at my school and eventually gain a leadership post. Everything has come full circle which has been very strange but fulfilling. I believe I am a walking example of someone who thought they knew what career they wanted, and still do, but have followed a peculiar pathway before arriving. Between finishing my degree and gaining the job I have now, I have acquired a range of skills and confirmed that education is the right sector for me by testing the waters elsewhere. Even if I could, I would not change my journey as the life experience – and couple of grey hairs – I bring to the classroom enriches both my pedagogy and my students’ learning.”

If you want to access more bespoke resources, have a look at our intranet pages and connect with the College of Humanities on Facebook and Twitter.

Sprint – The Groundbreaking Career Development Programme

Sprint is designed for undergraduate women of all ages, from all backgrounds and stages in their lives and study to develop their potential and address study and career issues. 

Rosanna – Psychology student and Sprint participant

Applications are now open for Sprint so we caught up with a previous participant – Rosanna – to hear about her experiences of the programme.

“I’m a Psychology student here at Exeter. I decided to apply for Sprint as I knew I needed to gain valuable skills to help me in my future career. Being a Psychology student, the career options seemed endless, and I didn’t know where I wanted to go with my degree. However, Sprint teaches you skills for any profession, which was something that was really important to me.

I wanted to apply for Sprint as I hadn’t had any previous training on creating a personal brand, networking and identifying my own skill-sets. The knowledge Sprint gives you really is comprehensive. In addition, I think it’s great that you learn in a female-only environment, as we get to tackle issues that predominantly affect women in the workplace

Sprint helped me when it came to self-confidence, as it taught me how to find my own strengths. This helped me in interviews, and I have now secured a graduate job in Accounting. 

In the long-term, Sprint gives you a sense of confidence in the world of careers. You are given amazing advice by professionals, as well as a folder full of information to take away and review at any time. 

In the short term, Sprint allows you to meet many like-minded and driven individuals, and take time out from studying to just focus on you and your future career. 

If anyone is unsure of applying, just go for it! Yes, you need to take a few days off studying, but it is so worth it, and will really compliment the rest of your time at university. You’re still learning on Sprint, but learning about things perhaps no one has said to you before. Don’t miss the opportunity and never end up learning these things.” 

The Sprint webpage has more information about the course, including how to apply. If you have any questions, please contact Rachel Sloan or ask us a question via My Career Zone.

The Career Mentor Scheme, a Career-Changing Experience

Rebecca Lenthall is the Career Mentoring and Internships Coordinator, based on the Streatham Campus. 

Rebecca Lenthall, Career Mentoring and Internships Coordinator

Working for the Career Zone, we’re in the fortunate position to get that ‘aww, I’ve helped somebody today’ feeling pretty much every day in the office, but every now and then you receive an email from a student or graduate that upgrades that feeling to a full-blown case of the warm and fuzzies!

In bleak early January, we received this email from a graduate who had benefitted from the Career Mentor Scheme during her time at Exeter, and two years or so later, she took the time to get in touch again and let us know just how much she feels it helped her out. Now to let her do the talking…

“I am an MSc Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture alumna (2014-2015) and I applied to the Career Mentor Scheme in November 2015 when I was doing an internship with a local food marketing company in Torquay (I was able to obtain this internship thanks to the Career Zone).

My mentor had had an amazing career developing a publication so successful that it was sold to the Informa group. Publishing has been an ongoing dream of mine and I have always enjoyed researching, writing and communicating insights in accessible terms. Since my mentor had a relationship with Informa, she was able to help me “get my foot in the door” with them. That resulted in my first publishing contract ever. That was a thrilling experience that has improved the confidence I have in the commercial value of my work. Furthermore, I had a positive experience with my first publishing contract with Informa and that resulted in the publication of an additional two reports.

“My mentoring experience was a fantastic opportunity that has contributed to my self-esteem, my negotiation skills and the belief in my ability to reach any goal I set my mind to. My mentor was incredibly generous with her time and knowledge and she has made a lasting impact on me.”

This continued to give me the confidence boost that I needed in the beginning of my career. I am now a PhD student in Spain and plan to pursue a management consultant career in sustainability issues when I graduate. My mentoring experience was a fantastic opportunity that beyond the publishing contracts, has contributed to my self-esteem, my negotiation skills and the belief in my ability to reach any goal I set my mind to. My mentor was incredibly generous with her time and knowledge and she has made a lasting impact on me.”

This graduate’s story really showcases just how much of a positive impact a Career Mentor can have on your future career and indeed, your personal development. It really does have the potential to provide an insight like no other and to give you that boost of confidence that is sometimes just what’s needed in order to find the inspiration to fill in another application form.

The deadline for applying to the May – October 2018 Career Mentor Scheme has now been extended to Monday 26th March (final years graduating in summer 2018 are also very welcome to apply). We really hope the lovely story above will inspire you to have glance at the mentor profiles on My Career Zone and submit an application for a mentor of your own.

Launch your Career with an Internship in China

The University of Exeter has recently partnered with the British Council and InternChina to run a bespoke funded internship programme exclusively for Exeter students this summer 2018.

Mark Pettitt, an Exeter Graduate of History and Middle East Politics who spent 7 months in Shanghai with CRCC Asia (the British Council’s other partner provider of Internships in China), tells us about his experience as an intern in China and the impact it has had on his life and career so far. 

British Chamber of Commerce Shanghai’s Burns Night event

What did your particular internship entail?

I worked for the British Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. As part of my role, I led co-ordination and marketing of a project finance workshop on behalf of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and the Chamber. I also led production of a report to the Executive Committee on the Chamber’s annual events, making recommendations on how to increase profit. On top of that, I gained experience preparing marketing materials and managing internal and external communications at the Chamber. I was offered a permanent position with the Chamber upon completion of my internship.

Did you have to speak Chinese to get the job?

No, not at all. Nearly all interns spoke zero Mandarin. My placement provider offered Mandarin lessons but they were not compulsory nor did your level of Mandarin impact the ‘quality’ of your internship. Whether you made an effort learn was down to you, your natural drive and how seriously you treated your experience.

What did you enjoy most about living and working in China?

I loved how different it was to what I was used to (a small Yorkshire village and Exeter!). My experience in a huge foreign city and culture opened my eyes to the wider world and took me completely out of my comfort zone. It was a chance for me to grow personally and professionally. Meeting a diverse range of people as part of the internship and making lots of new friends (other interns and local people) with whom I still stay in touch years later was the best part of the experience. It’s an experience that has shaped me, made me stand out CV-wise and given me a huge lift in getting to where I am today career-wise.

‘Employers frequently emphasise the importance for graduates and young professionals of combining overseas experience with other transferable skills in order to maximise their employability. China is becoming an important player in the world economy, and, increasingly, careers involve an international element. In this context, helping young generations to gain experience of China and improve their cultural fluency is an excellent investment in the future.’ – British Council

Where do you work now? Would you say working in China has made you more employable?

I would absolutely say my time in China has made me more employable. But only because I took it seriously and went with the goals of growing personally and professionally as well as having a great time and experiencing a new culture. The travel, exploration and enjoyment is important. But so too is making the most of the internship. I was offered two jobs in China off the back of it.

I now work for the Civil Service, in the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. I am responsible for the design and build of a new radiological monitoring and information management digital project.

What would you say to Exeter students considering working in China?

Absolutely do it but take it seriously as that’s where you will maximise the value. It’s better not to go it alone – use an intermediary like CRCC Asia or InternChina who will find you a host company. Equally, be mindful of your expectations. You will not be placed in a massive company as you’re a student. You will likely be put into an SME (Small or Medium Enterprise) and in many ways this is better as if you do well it will afford you more responsibility and allow you to shout about your experience more on your CV. Future employers want to know what you have done and achieved, not the names of the organisations you have worked at.

Feeling inspired by Mark’s story? Ready to apply for an internship in China this summer? The deadline for applications to Exeter’s China Internship Programme 2018 is 18 March. Industries covered include engineering, law, business, architecture, translation and many more.

Professional Pathways

Rachel Dean is Employability and Work Placement Support Assistant (STEM) based on the Streatham Campus. 

Rachel Dean, Employability and Work Placement Support Assistant (STEM)

Looking for a paid internship this summer? Interested in getting an insight into an industry through tailored training? Then Professional Pathways is perfect for you.

Professional Pathways are unique programmes, during which students receive a week’s training from industry experts, and a paid internship in highly sought after industries. Following on from last year’s successful programmes, we are expanding our offering to cover 7 sectors:

All the Professional Pathway programmes will be delivered at the same time. The training will be delivered over either 4 or 5 days between the 18 and 22 June, with the internships taking place the following week.

The Pathways are delivered on either the Streatham campus or the Penryn campus, but are all open to students from either campus. They are open to any student, studying any course at any level.

Pathways 2018

Why do a Pathway?

There are many benefits to undertaking a Professional Pathway, but one of the main ones has to be the chance to gain paid experience in sectors that tend to be hard to break in to – this experience will help you stand out when applying for jobs in the future.

In addition, the training is also an exceptional opportunity to network with and learn from professionals currently working in the field, who can tell you what you really need to know in order to succeed in the sector.

A previous student who undertook the Pathway to International Trade summed it up best when she said, “I’ve enjoyed this programme immensely. I not only gained knowledge but additionally friends, network contacts, and a real understanding of the industry.”

How do I Apply?  

Applying for a Pathway is a useful activity on its own, as it will give you valuable experience that will help when you come to apply for other internships or graduate jobs.

The process has two stages:

  1. The application form. This form will ask you to answer four questions, including questions such as what you hope to gain from taking part in the Pathway, and what qualities you have that make you suitable for the programme.
    The best applications stand out because they contain lots of detail and passion for the sector – there is no word limit so take advantage of the space to really show us why you are interested and how the Pathway links to what you love.
  2. The assessment centre. Lots of employers use assessment centres to decide on candidates for both internships and graduate jobs, so this is a perfect opportunity to get some practice in!
    We will shortlist applicants based on their application forms and then invite the shortlist to an assessment centre that will be tailored to each specific Pathway. The assessment centre will involve four tasks that you will be asked to complete, involving tasks in small groups as well as some individual tasks. As you complete these tasks, you will be marked by an assessor to help us make the final decision on who to accept on to the programme.
    A top tip for succeeding at the assessment centre would be to make sure that you speak up and share your ideas with the group, but also ensure that you don’t talk over others and control the discussion too much – you want to show teamwork skills, not just how brilliant your ideas are.

Applications for this year’s Professional Pathways are already open, so apply now on My Career Zone for the chance to take part in this fantastic programme.

Finding a Common Purpose

Natasha Lock is studying BA History, International Relations & Chinese at the University of Exeter, Streatham Campus. 

Natasha Lock

From the 5th-11th January 2018, I was lucky enough to be selected for the Common Purpose Programme hosted at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Here, amongst 30 other students from Exeter, I was given an insight into leadership skills, the city of Sharjah and Emirati culture, and how to ensure that cities of the future are both inclusive and sustainable.

Boundaries are everywhere: between sectors, specialisations, geographies, generations, backgrounds and beliefs. Common Purpose aims to support future leaders who can work across these boundaries, who are therefore ultimately more likely to solve problems and create change. In the ever competitive world for graduates seeking employment, it is no longer enough to rely solely on one’s IQ. Common Purpose aims to show the importance of having EQ (Emotional Intelligence) – the ability to connect with people on a social level, and CQ (Cultural Intelligence) – the ability to work with people that are not like you. It demonstrates the necessity of being able to successfully lead people of a different culture, race, age, gender and religion.

Common Purpose students at the American University of Sharjah

The programme was hosted over four days and provided ice-breakers, pitching sessions, guest speaker sessions, trips to businesses and debates. On the penultimate day, we were arranged into groups of six and asked to design a product that would help Sharjah to become a more inclusive and smart city. We were given 24 hours to come up with an idea, design a poster, make a video, produce a written outline of our concept and finally give a 3 minute pitch to three senior members of local companies followed by a Q&A session. I found this particularly memorable, not only because of my wonderful group who worked so well together, but also because of the incredible ideas that every other group developed in such a short space of time.

“Common Purpose aims to support future leaders who can work across boundaries, and who are therefore ultimately more likely to solve problems and create change.”

Common Purpose programmes are based on the idea that cross boundary leaders need to experience the world and the people around them. With this in mind, the programme organised visits to four start-up businesses in both Dubai and Sharjah. Here, we were able to meet with both local and international entrepreneurs and get some insights into the core skills required to start your own business, the most important being resilience. Despite the difference from business to business all of the entrepreneurs agreed that starting your own company is undoubtedly the best way to get a grasp and understanding of enterprise, corporate structures and themselves.

Aside from the programme, we had the opportunity to explore Sharjah and Dubai in our free time. We quad-biked in the Al Qudra desert, went up the tallest building in the world and went to the world’s largest aquarium. Every Common Purpose trip takes place in a different city – previous trips have been located in Nairobi, Kuala Lumpur, Philadelphia and Melbourne – allowing for the unparalleled opportunity to explore a city on a scholarship funded trip.

The Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world

The Common Purpose trip to the American University of Sharjah was a huge learning experience and one that I will value throughout my academic and career progression.

For students reading this and wondering how they can enhance their enterprise skills and employability, here would be my two recommendations:

Local: Get involved with Think Try Do at Exeter University! The team offer sessions to enhance enterprise skills and provide support to students who are engaging with their own entrepreneurial activity. You can find a list of their current sessions and more information on the following link: https://mycareerzone.exeter.ac.uk/workgroups/student-enterprise-support

Global: Apply for the Common Purpose trips! This is a great way of networking with like-minded people, building on your soft skills and having a taster of life in a different city. You can find more information about Common Purpose here: http://commonpurpose.org

Exeter Award Week 2018

Olivia Evans is a Work Related Learning Assistant, based on the Streatham Campus. 

Olivia Evans, Work Related Learning Assistant

The Exeter Award is an employability achievement award for current undergraduate and taught postgraduate students. It’s for both Exeter and Penryn students and is delivered in partnership with the Students’ Guild and FXU. Completing the Award is a fantastic way to gain new skills and boost your CV at the same time. Find out more as we celebrate Exeter Award Week, 22 – 26 January.

The Award will help you transfer skills on paper into the real world and teach you how to really impress employers with a great CV, an impressive job interview, and well-developed soft skills. In fact, students who complete the Exeter Award are more likely to get a graduate-level job within six months of graduating.

“Employers are looking for so much more than just academics in such a competitive market place. The Exeter Award could make the difference for a candidate in terms of making them stand out from the rest.” John Lewis Partnership

Completing the Exeter Award doesn’t just make you more employable though. Many of the skills you will learn can help with your University studies. Our Personal Development sessions can teach you how to better manage your time and stress, how to work productively in a team and how to create and deliver an effective presentation. Learning how to write a strong CV/covering letter and give a good interview could be key to you gaining an internship, work placement or year abroad during your time at University.

“The Exeter Award helped me to improve my CV enormously, which was the first step to getting my first job. On a personal level it improved my confidence too, as the Exeter Award gives you the opportunity to challenge yourself, both on paper and when facing others.”  Sam Ellis, Contract and Sales Manager at Lionsgate (MA English Studies)

The Exeter Award can be easily completed alongside your studies, and you can do it at any point during your course. There are lots of things you might have done during your time at University that can contribute to the award e.g. attending certain Personal Development sessions, employability activities, eXfactor, Grand Challenges, Common Purpose and working a part-time job, internship or volunteering. Almost all of these are automatically uploaded to your Exeter Award progress report- all you need to do is register online to check- you might have done more than you think. Find out how to register here: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/exeteraward/structure/

“Students who complete the Exeter Award are more likely to get a graduate-level job within six months of graduating.”

If you’re already taking part in the Award, thinking about it or just want more information, we’ll be in the Career Zone and the Forum all week. Come and speak to our teams to find out about the range of opportunities we offer:

STREATHAM:

Monday– We’ll be in the Forum all day, so come and win prizes playing our Exeter Award Game and speak to the team to find out more about the Award and its benefits for you.

Tuesday and Thursday (PM): Our International Internship Ambassadors will be there to have a chat and answer all of your questions about International Internships.

Tuesday (10am-12:30pm) and Thursday (12:30pm-1:30pm): Doughnuts and Sign-Ups! If you’re interested in taking part in the Exeter Award, come to the Career Zone and when you sign up you’ll get a free doughnut too!

Wednesday: The Exeter Award and Enterprise teams will be holding drop-ins in the Career Zone all morning, so come and chat to them about Student Start-Ups and the Exeter Award.

Wednesday: Our Grand Challenges Team will be in the Forum all day to answer any of your questions about Grand Challenges this summer. You can also find out how you can complete your Exeter Award and prepare for Grand Challenges at the same time.

Friday: If you’re already taking part in the Award, our Careers advisors will be in the Career Zone all day to give you help and guidance on your mock application form, to help you perfect your job application skills.

PENRYN:

Tuesday (10am-12pm) – Antonia Coppen will be holding drop-ins all morning in the Career Zone for anybody who has questions about starting or progressing with the Exeter Award, or just wants to find out more about it.

All Week: the Career Zone team will be at the Exchange and the Hubs all week, which is great for anybody who wants an informal chat or just has some questions about the Award and how it can benefit you.

We look forward to seeing you.

8 Top Tips for Writing a Great Postgraduate Application

Clare Johnson, Senior Career Zone Information Officer

You’ve decided further study is for you and there’s a fabulous course at a fantastic university which you’d just love to attend.  Writing a great postgraduate application will put you in a strong position to do just that.  The personal statement is perhaps the trickiest part to get right, so here are my 8 top tips to help you: 

Doing your homework on the Institution and the Course is crucial

1  Plan ahead
Preparation, as so often, is the name of the game. You’ll need to submit your application as early as possible, particularly if the course is very competitive.

Consider having a one to one appointment with a Careers Consultant to discuss any aspect of applying for postgraduate study. Think ahead to who you could ask for feedback and references; more on this later.

Read the Rules and Guidelines provided: It’s vital to read the instructions supplied by the Institution regarding completing your personal statement. Many universities will have a particular procedure they want you to adopt and will give you advice about this. Also check the selection criteria.

2  Structure your personal statement
Your statement should have an introduction, main body and conclusion and should grab the reader’s attention from the beginning.

Roughly half of the main body should focus on you and your interests and the other half on the course. Finally summarise why you’re the ideal candidate.

Regarding length, check the guidelines given by the university you’re applying for, otherwise it should be one and half sides of A4, around 1000-1500 words.

3  Show you’re ready to undertake postgraduate study
Give the admissions tutors evidence of your enthusiasm, commitment and motivation for further study and research.

Give evidence of your skills, academic and non-academic, and how they’ll fit with the course. Demonstrate how you’re motivated to do high levels of independent research, and mention completed projects and dissertations.

Show you can manage yourself and meet tight deadlines and show your academic credentials such as critical analysis and communication skills.

“The Career Zone offers one to one appointments for feedback on postgraduate personal statements. It’s also a very good idea to show your statement to an academic in the field.”

4  Do your homework on the Institution and the Course
Researching the course and the Institution will pay dividends. Show admissions tutors you know something about the Institution you’re applying to. Say why you want to study there and what makes the Institution stand out from others.

Are there certain modules exclusive to this Institution, a specialisation which particularly interests you, links to industry or an academic you’d like to work with?

Be specific, and if you’ve visited the institution or spoken to a course tutor or current student, remember to mention it in your application. 

5  Show how the new course links to your past studies and your future career
Is this course a completely new direction for you or is it a development of what you’ve studied before? If the former, you can show how you will deal with the academic challenges which might arise.  If the latter you can demonstrate how your current academic study is relevant, and outline particular skills you have to offer.

Express your interest in the subject, perhaps including some academic references or readings. Giving some indication of which career you might want to get into will show selectors you have a good motivation for doing well on this course. Show evidence that this is an informed and mature career decision.

6  Thoroughly check your grammar, spelling and punctuation
Your written communication skills are also being assessed so taking the time to get these right will be time well spent.

7  Ask for feedback
You may have read your statement a hundred times over, but it always helps to have others look over it too. The Career Zone offers one to one appointments for feedback on postgraduate personal statements. It’s also a very good idea to show your statement to an academic in the field.

8  References In many cases you’ll need to give the names of two academic referees.  These should be lecturers or tutors from your course since they need to comment on your academic capabilities and suitability for the programme of study you’re applying for.

A great personal statement shows just how much you’ve got to offer the programme, as well as what you’ll get out of it and also why you deserve a place on it above other candidates.

Good luck with your applications!

A Christmas Message from Career Zone


Tom McAndrew is a Careers Consultant based on the Streatham Campus.

Merry Christmas? 

Seasons Greetings from the Career Zone

We’re often asked this around this time of year about how to best make the most of the Christmas period in terms of careers. You may find that we hesitate slightly.

It’s a tricky question and we don’t want to get the answer wrong; we’re thinking what’s best for you, the person standing in front of us. Talking to some students recently, I discovered that some have exams BEFORE Christmas and AFTER Christmas too. The ‘Yuletide Double Exam Whammy’, as it’s known. If this is you, concentrate on the exams but make sure you spend some quality time with family, friends and those you love. There will still be some internships available and graduate roles to apply to when you return. You can try and do too much.

If you’re lucky enough not to have exams or coursework to work on, then please send your lecturers a nice Christmas card. Also remember to not shout this out too loudly in front of those that do. If you have time then you could maybe look at some career applications, dust up the old CV and practice a few of those rusty interview techniques. Then again, you could just chill a bit, spend time with family and friends and those who love you and recharge your batteries. Sometimes not giving it 100% all the time can work out better than wearing yourself out.

If you have a paid job you do over Christmas, then you may not have time to sort out your career. Remember that the job will probably look pretty good on your CV so you’re doing great. Spend quality time with family etc. etc. etc.…

We also hesitate because some of our International Students don’t have the funds to return home, and for them Christmas can be quite a bit strange, a bit lonely far from home. A good time to make use of the Career Zone; get your CV or application checked, talk about your plans and see a friendly face.

Christmas is an odd time too. A time of high expectations and pressure to be happy. Which can make people miserable. Yes, It’s a Wonderful Life but not necessarily all the time (NB If the Capra film of that name is not one of you favourites like mine, remember this is not a sentimental film. It is actually quite dark. A man questioning the worth of his existence. Who finds redemption with the aid of an angel realising that he has made an enormous impact on family, friends and the people he loves).

So have as Merry Christmas as you can in the circumstances, taking into account that you might have exams, have to work, or be worn out from a stressful time or be a long way away from home.

I suppose I could shorten that a bit and get rid of the question mark:

Merry Christmas from the Career Zone!

Demystifying Spring Weeks

Emily Quartly is a Final Year BSc Economics and Finance student on the Streatham Campus, and a Career Zone Student Information Assistant. 

Emily Quartly

While I can’t say I’m an expert in the wider world of Finance and Banking, I’ve had my own experience of applications, success and failure, interview pressures and ultimately development and progress on my career path. I would like to think I can offer some words of advice to those in their First Year with curiosity and interest to get involved with opportunities to do with their future career.

I started University with only a small exposure of what it might be like to work under these big names, and applied for Spring Weeks and First Year internships. I was offered places on the Spring Weeks of both Fidelity and BNP Paribas, but as they were at the same time I chose BNPP.

After the week at BNPP I was lucky enough to secure myself a place on their internship program the following summer. Now, as a Finalist I’ve accepted a graduate position within BNPP’s Capital Markets division, following on from the completion of my degree.

Arriving as a newbie to University can seem daunting enough without the prospect of having to think about what you want to do afterwards. However, for many Business School students, having an interest in business and finance is already a great attitude to have when looking at what kind of schemes you could be eligible for even within your first year of undergraduate study.

“Being able to go into a Spring Week with ambition, interest and initiative will take you far.”

From an article released by the Financial Times in 2016, Goldman Sachs attracted more than a quarter of a million applications from students and graduates for jobs in the summer of 2016. The number of applications from students and graduates has risen 40% since 2012, according to figures provided to the Financial Times. The trend is mirrored at several other large banks such as JP Morgan, which says it’s only hiring 2% of graduate applicants into its Investment Banking division.

These kind of figures highlight how highly competitive the places are for these graduate and summer positions. Investment Banks are beginning to see great value in moving away from the ‘churning out of analysts’ and continue to move towards a more ‘Google’ model of attracting and retaining talented candidates.

Where will a Spring Week take your career?

So, what is a Spring Week?

A Spring Week or Insight Week is a week’s worth of work experience. It’s an opportunity to get first-hand experience of how a large corporation functions, and what better way to do that than with the major players in the financial services world. For employers, a Spring Week is a very long job interview or assessment centre.

What will you get out of it?

Showing your interest and applying as early as possible may well mean a good candidate is retained by the employer right though to a graduate position.

Being able to go into a Spring Week with ambition, interest and initiative will take you far. Employers set up these kind of events in order to fully see your skills and prospects, a lot of the time not anticipating any previous experience or technical knowledge. Therefore you’ll be taken through step by step any technical information that the firm want you to learn or have an awareness of.

In a company you know little about, on a desk that’s trading millions of pounds or franks or dollars, curiosity can’t be spoken highly enough. Using information provided and asking intelligent questions should allow you to begin to join dots up about products and processes, as well as show the company you are very much interested and captured by what the firm does. You are assumed to know very little at the beginning it is highly likely you are going to be observed for your skills in learning new things and questioning all the sectors and technical language and processes you are exposed to and come across.

Making successful applications and interviews.

The two key elements to a successful application are knowing your own skills and competencies, and having great commercial awareness about the employer. If you can demonstrate where you add value to a company, and how you understand their business, they’ll be much more likely to take you on.

What’s the application process like?

The most common order runs;

CV upload/application form

Numerical Testing and/or situational judgement testing

Video interview(s)

Phone interview(s)

Result

Bear in mind that rejections happen at every stage of the application process, and it may take several attempts at applications to correct mistakes and build confidence. For myself, I completed nearly 10 applications, a mixture of Spring Weeks and First Year internships, with only 2 successful results.

What’s the next step?

Many of the applications can be easily found through the individual company’s websites; a short list below of many of the popular names can be found for the applications commencing through 17/18:

Investment Banking

JP Morgan Spring week

Morgan Stanley Spring week opportunities

Goldman Sachs programs

HSBC Spring Insight Program

Barclays Spring Insight

Investment Management

Fidelity Women in Investment Insight week

Blackrock Insight week

Making full use of the Career Zone while applying for Spring Weeks are essential. You can find relevant links below to start your process. Including CV and application form resources, a link to booking online appointments and the interview resources and mock interview links.

CV and application form resources

Psychometric testing Numerical Testing and Situational judgement testing

1on1 appointment booking (Business School)

1on1 appointment booking (Career Zone)

Mock interview with employer events