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

Apply Yourself

Jenny Woolacott-Scarr is Career Zone Information Officer based in the Forum, Streatham Campus. 

Jenny Woolacott-Scarr, Career Zone Information Officer

You’ve seen your dream job, and only one thing stands between you and getting an interview; the application form. Little boxes? Impenetrable questions? STAR technique? Don’t worry, we’ve seen it all before and we’re here to help.

Do…

Answer the question. If you’re stuck, think about it from the employer’s point of view; they’ll only ask something that’ll help them decide whether to interview you or not. If they ask about leadership then the role you’re applying for will involve leadership.

Give clear, concise answers using the STAR technique; think of it like telling a joke, we’re waiting for the punchline, the employer is waiting for the Result. Employers don’t just want to know what you did, they want evidence that you’re good at it too.

If there’s a word limit use all the space available, otherwise it looks like you don’t have much to say. If there’s no word limit try and keep your answers around 500 words.

When you talk about your work experience employers are also looking for transferable skills like teamwork, leadership and time management. Have a look at the job description and person specification and try and mirror the language. Job applications are not a time to be subtle.

Show evidence that you’ve researched the company, the role and the market; but go beyond what’s on the website. Every employer thinks they’re different (and better) than the competition, you need to show them you know what sets them apart.

Demonstrate that you really want to work for them; show passion and enthusiasm. You wouldn’t interview someone who didn’t care about your company.

Book an appointment to have your application form checked, we’re here to help.

It might sound cynical, but at the end of the day, when an employer sees your application form, cover letter, CV, or you, they’re really only thinking one thing; ‘what value can you bring to my company?’ Once you get used to this idea, job applications can get a lot easier. 

If you could invite anyone living or dead to a dinner party, who would you chose?

Don’t…

Poor spelling and grammar could ruin your chances; some employers have a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule, no matter what language you’re applying in.

Don’t forget to show your academic success; be proud of your achievements. If you don’t tell the employer about them, how will they know?

Don’t be shy about ‘selling’ yourself; tell the employer what sets you apart from the other candidates, but don’t be arrogant and never put anyone else down.

Don’t give generic answers; be specific and keep it relevant. We know it’s hard work applying for jobs, but employers really can tell if you’ve copied your answers from other application forms.

Don’t try and dodge the answer. Employers find this really annoying; reading anything other than a direct answer wastes their time.

Don’t repeat yourself. If you’re an undergraduate employers won’t expect you to have loads of relevant work experience, but don’t use the same example for every question.

Unless the employer specifically asks for it, avoid phrases like ‘I have exceptional attention to detail’ or ‘I have excellent spelling and grammar’. Whenever I see that on a form I think ‘challenge accepted!’ and search until I find a mistake.

Dealing with the weird ones…

Occasionally employers will throw a curve ball and ask something like ‘if you could invite anyone living or dead to a dinner party, who would you chose?’ The way to deal with these seemly pointless questions again goes back to the kinds of skills the employer is looking for. Some might want a quirky answer that sets you apart, but most of all they’re looking to see how you cope with a problem that has no correct solution, and how your thought process led you to your answer. They’re basically trying to get into your head.

Final thoughts…

One question we get asked a lot is ‘how many application forms should I fill in?’. The answer depends on you; the more applications you make the greater your chance of getting an interview. However, don’t do so many that the quality slips, and above all never do so many that your academic work or your health suffers.

Good luck!

Your Future Starts Now

Albert Linney graduated from the University of Exeter in 2017 with a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He talked to us about life after Exeter, using the Career Zone to get ahead, and making the most of your time at Uni. 

Life is sweet for Albert after Exeter

Life is sweet for Albert after Exeter

What have you been up to since graduating in June?

I’ve always been fascinated by global economics so after graduation, I travelled around India and Sri Lanka for six weeks. It was an extremely informative experience, meeting so many amazing people along the way. It inspired me to work with emerging economies like India later in my professional career, though quite how, I’m not sure just yet.

I managed to bag a graduate job at a large multinational trading company as a Junior Agricultural Commodities Trader, but was also inspired during my philosophy modules to give writing a go so I’ve actually been doing some freelance remote blogging for a company called Cluboid. Studying a split focus degree like PPE just made me hungry to try all sorts of avenues to be honest. I’d always worried that selecting a degree would pigeonhole me, or mean I was only considered for one specific field, but it’s been quite the opposite. It seems to just have opened tonnes more doors.

“I’d always worried that selecting a degree would pigeonhole me, or mean I was only considered for one specific field, but it’s been quite the opposite.”

How did you find these opportunities?

Right from the start of my 3 years at Exeter, I made sure I was hooked up to the Career Zone email alerts – I was getting notified weekly with opportunities ranging from CV boosters to interview advice. The Career Zone was of particular help in preparation for the final round interviews for Graduate applications – conducting mock interviews was a massive help.

How did you prepare for the life of a graduate?

Whilst at university I was keen to keep myself occupied. This meant that when I wasn’t in lectures or the library, I participated in the French and Debating Societies, as well as in Boxing and the Officer Training Corps (A British Armed Forces initiative for Uni students to learn army-related skills and experience). I even acted as president of the PPE society where I was directly responsible for the running of a society consisting of over 100 members. During the summers, I’d occupy my time with internships. I found the continuation of work experience prepared me excellently for graduate job applications, because I was that much more accustomed to the business acumen and how to conduct myself in a professional environment.

How did your time at Exeter influence your future?

I owe a lot to my tutors, two of which stand out for me in particular. Firstly, Gary Abrahams was a great source of inspiration. Having been a huge economic success even in spite of the 2008 financial crash, I was so enamoured by his insights. His approach to the Economics of Financial Crises module was inspired, with a heavy focus on morality and changing behavioural standards in the finance world. Insight like that made me feel like I was approaching the field with something to give. Secondly, Lenny Moss – my Philosophical Anthropology lecturer – is an absolute expert in his field. He inspired me greatly towards further education. In fact, I’m currently in application for my masters in Politics and International Relations at Kings.

What would you tell your First Year self in retrospect?

I would have loved to have gotten more involved with the sporting side of Exeter – being one of the top sports Universities in the country. I’m pretty injury prone though, so I would have perhaps have told my first-year self to take rehab and physio more seriously. Maybe then I could have!

What has the future got in store for you?

I’m still intrigued by International Relations – a subset of politics. My dissertation focused on the North Korean nuclear situation and the Obama Administration so working for an NGO or political think-tank to address current issues such as this would be the big dream. Having said that, the nature of my course has made me hugely interested in so many different roles and areas, so quite honestly – who knows.

Getting Social Media to Work for You

Rachel Coombes is a Careers Consultant based on the Penryn Campus.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram – these are all social media platforms you use for fun, right? But have you also explored how they can help – or hinder – your job hunting? Here are my top 5 tips for how to go about making the most of Social Media when planning your career:

If this is your LinkedIn profile photo you're probably not doing social media right

If this is your LinkedIn profile photo you’re probably not doing social media right

  1. What Happens in Vegas stays on YouTube, Instagram, or Twitter…for everyone to see

We all know the importance of maintaining a good presence online, yet some people are still getting into problems with posts that they (or others) made. Remember, employers may check what information there is about you online before you join and have been known to withdraw offers based on what they find. So what can you do to protect yourself?

  • Make sure you lock down your privacy settings and regularly check these as they are often updated, meaning that things you thought you had secured may have become open to the public again.
  • Google yourself – check what is already online about you and do this regularly. Clear up anything you wouldn’t want anyone to see if they Googled you too.
  • Set up Google Alerts for your name to be informed about anything that is posted about you.
  • Always take a second to think about the effects anything you post may have before putting it online.
  1. Build Your Brand

Having a presence online can be a positive thing, and building your brand online can really help you get ahead of the game and stand out to employers for the right reasons. The more active you are on social media sites, the higher you’ll come in the Google rankings. Even just having a LinkedIn account (we’ll come on to that later) can help you get to the top of a Google search, so get involved.

  1. To Blog or Not to Blog…That is the Question

Blogs are easy to start up and one of the most popular and easy to use is Word Press. But how will blogging help you with your career? For a start you can use it to demonstrate your knowledge of certain areas, interest in a topic or skill sets. For example if you were interested in becoming a journalist your blog can show your writing ability. Or say if you wanted to get into marketing, you could blog about your views on various marketing strategies you’ve come across in the media, or any you had personally created. You can then add a link to it on your CV or LinkedIn account to demonstrate more about you. Make sure however that you update your blog regularly otherwise there’s no point.

  1. #Employers

They may stalk you online but you can also do the same, so get proactive.

  • Go to the employer’s website and find out which social media sites they use. Some may have separate sites for careers related information so always go onto the recruitment section of their website first to check.
  • If you like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter you can then get regular updates on job openings/events/company information etc, all from the comfort of your phone.
  • YouTube can also be a great way to find out more about the company and the various roles within it from current employees or recent graduates. Some employers will also post clips on how to succeed in their recruitment process and what a group exercise might look like.
  • Interact with them – don’t be afraid to ask them a question or get involved in discussions. This can help to get you known to the employer so make sure this is for the right reasons. Make sure the questions you ask couldn’t easily be found out from their website or recruitment literature otherwise it will look like you haven’t done your research.
  1. We love LinkedIn

And we hope you will too. Feedback from students however is that a great number of you have LinkedIn accounts but aren’t sure how to make the most out of it. So here’s some key tips to help you get started:

  • Time – it can take some time to start reaping the rewards of LinkedIn so be patient and know that the more time and effort you put into it the more benefit you will get from it.
  • Research – you have access to millions of CVs in millions of different job roles through LinkedIn so get researching. Just type some key words of roles you’re interested in into the search bar at the top of LinkedIn and find the profiles of people involved in those areas. Have a look at how they got into it, what companies they’ve worked in, and build a greater knowledge of that industry.
  • Networking – start connecting with people. This can be other students, friends, contacts, employers you’ve met, work colleagues etc. They may not necessarily be connected to the area you want to get into but they may know someone who is. You can even search for particular companies and then find relevant people within that company you may like to approach. Make sure when you send out your request to connect that you change the generic text box and target it to that individual so they are more likely to connect with you.
  • Profile – LinkedIn will take you through the necessary steps to help you set this up and give you pointers on how to improve your profile. Just like your CV it should be targeted to the area you wish to get into. Make sure you detail clearly in your work history the skills and experience you have gained, including key words which employers may search for.
  • Groups – this is a great feature of LinkedIn and allows you to join groups that may be of interest to you. Doing this can help target your profile and enable you to participate in discussions and learn about certain areas. But which groups should you join? Search for ones related to your career area or previous experience. The University of Exeter has a group so why not start by joining that. Professional bodies and company specific groups can also be great ones to join.
  • Is it worth upgrading? There are a few benefits to getting the professional upgrade however the majority of what you need to do can be done without needing to upgrade so don’t feel you have to do this at this stage.
  • More, More, More – if you want to know more come along to one of our LinkedIn labs which will shortly be advertised on My Career Zone.

In summary Social Media is a great way to open up your job search and help you approach your job hunting in a more creative way. Not only can it help you access that all important hidden job market but it can also help you network and get yourself known to employers. Make the most of it as a resource and be sure to include it in your job hunting action plan.

To start on your social media journey why not come along to one of our ‘LinkedIn webinars’ or follow the Career Zone on social media to keep up to date with all things employability.

Happy Networking!

My Experience of an Assessment Centre

If you’re applying for a graduate-level job or an internship you’ll probably need to attend at least one assessment centre. But don’t worry; they’re not as scary as they sound. Katy Barker, MA Translation, told us about her experience. 

Keeping calm and reading questions carefully is key to assessment centre success.

Keeping calm and reading questions carefully is key to assessment centre success.

Over the Vacation, between consuming copious amounts of chocolate and getting to grips with CAT tools, I had an interview with a language services provider in Surrey. This was my first ever assessment day for a graduate role, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

The morning started with meeting the other candidates and staff. We also briefly met the company’s CEO. One piece of feedback we received later was that our first impressions, in particular how smartly we had dressed, had been very good – definitely worth dressing ‘too’ smartly.

The rest of the morning was dedicated to practical assessments. There was a proof-reading exercise, and a multiple choice assessment on time management strategies. There was a lot of vocabulary and questions that seemed more suitable to a GCSE Business Studies paper; keeping calm and reading questions carefully was the key.

“My first ever assessment day experience was certainly a positive one, and I learnt a lot. Hopefully it might be helpful to you for knowing what to possibly expect.”

There was also one fairly entertaining assessment, called ‘Talent Simulation’. Its name sounds a little scary, but was in fact a series of videos showing mock work situations. For example, one video showed a manager asking for feedback on a difficult colleague. Underneath each video was a series of possible responses your character could give, and we were asked to select the most and least effective responses. My best piece of advice for this would be to try not to get pulled in to the story too easily in case it starts affecting your answers – I quickly found myself not liking the colleague ‘John’ in the videos, who seemed determined to complain about absolutely everything!

All the assessments we completed were provided by SHL, an interview assessment provider. The Career Zone has access to free online tests https://www.assessmentday.co.uk/exeter/ so it’s really worth having a go at some. However, a word of warning – as the mocks online are for general use and form part of the company’s mechanism for collecting research data, don’t be discouraged if you do badly. I did a couple of (quite hard) practice tests and received a feedback report entirely in red. But when I came to the actual assessment day, they were appropriate to the role, adapted to a graduate with little experience of a work environment, and the right mix of difficult and easy questions. So don’t panic.

The final assessment of the morning was the competency-based interview – time to bring out the old faithful, the STAR technique! For anyone who isn’t sure about interview technique for this type of interview, I can really recommend the Interview Experience run by the Career Zone. It prepares you well for this type of interview, as during the day you get to grips with the format and structure, and how best to answer questions, both the easy and tricky ones. Well worth doing before you leave Exeter.

The afternoon started with an informal lunch with the CEO and some staff. This was a lovely relaxed way to meet members of the team, and ask questions about the company and their experiences of the sector. It doesn’t all have to be business-oriented though – at one point, we were discussing the wonderful entries in the Easter hat competition the company was currently running for its staff!

Lunch was followed by presentations. We had each been asked to prepare a 5-minute presentation on a subject of our choice. We had all picked something different, and had all chosen topics we really enjoyed talking about – for me, the places off the beaten tourist track in Padua, where I spent my year abroad! Hopefully, our enthusiasm therefore came over in our presentations.

My first ever assessment day experience was certainly a positive one, and I learnt a lot. Hopefully it might be helpful to you for knowing what to possibly expect.

Working Behind the Scenes at The Career Zone

Getting work experience while you study is crucial to landing your dream job. Kerry Mann current BA History, Streatham Campus, told us about her time on the Uni’s Student Campus Partnership (SCP) scheme. 

Jo McCreedie, Kerry Mann, and Sam Jackman delivering the Pathways training week

Jo McCreedie, Kerry Mann, and Sam Jackman delivering the Pathways training week

Student jobs are supposed to be working late in bars and clubs, right? Wrong!

My experience as an SCP for the Internships Team has given me a real insight into the workplace, and how the University works hard to support its students. My position as the Administrator for the Pathways to Arts, Culture and Heritage programme means that I’ve taken this training and internship from the planning stages to delivery.

The Pathways programme sought to provide a group of talented students intensive and specific training from industry professionals and then place them in companies in the arts, culture and heritage sector, to implement their new found skills and ideas. As a History student myself I was excited that the University was providing such an in-depth programme for a sector which is often neglected. To pull this programme off, with the help of Sam Jackman from the RAMM and led by Jo McCreedie, was really satisfying, especially seeing how enthusiastic the students were about something I had helped to create.

“Being given the responsibility of supporting the development of an important new programme was at first a little daunting but now I am proud of what we have achieved and feel ready to take on any graduate job.”

Working with the Internships Team has been a blessing for my personal development. From the basics like working the telephone to spreadsheets (lots of them) and Twitter I am now fully equipped to get on with the job and feel confident in what I do. Being given the responsibility of supporting the development of an important new programme was at first a little daunting but now I am proud of what we have achieved and feel ready to take on any graduate job.

My role has involved a lot of project management skills. Advertising the programme back in January meant liaising with the Design Team to create posters, banners and flyers and the overall brand of the programme. I then managed the application process, becoming competent behind the scenes of My Career Zone. Having never thought myself as a computer wizz, I’ve built my confidence learning new systems and even how to schedule tweets on Twitter. I’ve then been involved in booking rooms, food, speakers and coordinating paperwork between students and internship providers.

For me, being involved in running the assessment centre was the most exciting and relevant part of the job. Being able to see exactly what it is that assessors want to be hearing will be particularly useful in future job applications. It was, however, being given the opportunity to be an assessor on the day that fuelled my interested in HR. I really enjoyed matching the student’s attitudes and capabilities to those we had outlined to assess and have since sought further experiences in this sector.

Being around a careers team has shown me opportunities many students miss out on whilst they are at University. As I’m constantly telling my friends: ‘check out the Career Zone website; there are tonnes of info, and you can get loads of support like on the Career Mentor Scheme and eXepert!’

“What’s it like having a ‘real’ job while at Uni? Well it’s actually a lot less stressful than your average retail job.”

What’s it like having a ‘real’ job while at Uni? Well it’s actually a lot less stressful than your average retail job. Firstly it’s an internship, so there’s a lot of support and training. Plus the regular (and daytime) hours, flexibility and being on campus makes it the perfect student job. I would encourage anyone to get in touch with the Careers team to help you start getting an edge on those grad job applications, whether that’s through research, a job or a Pathways programme next year.

Coming to the end of this job I knew I wanted to do something similar in my final year, and was fortunate enough to get the position of eXepert Administrator, working with the same team, I really didn’t want to leave! As I’ve really enjoyed my experiences in recruiting and assessing students, I have also secured experience with a recruitment agency for the summer- something I would not have dreamed of without the experiences and support I’ve gained in my position.