I’m Leyla Mohammed, and I’m in my final year of studying BA English at the University of Exeter. This summer I completed a four-week SBP in Marketing and Talent Administration. My biggest career aspirations involve writing and journalism, as well as social media work and marketing.
I recently undertook a four-week SBP (Student Business Partnership) as a Marketing and Talent Intern with Creative Access, which I found through My Career Zone. Creative Access is a not-for-profit recruitment organisation who aim to provide more underrepresented individuals with opportunities within the creative industries. Though this internship was supposed to be based in offices in London, due to the nature of current circumstances it was entirely remote. It was an incredibly fast turnaround and was quite an unexpected start, which meant that I had to quickly adjust and adapt.
WHY I APPLIED
I chose to explore working in marketing because while I have many different passions, interests and personal endeavours, I’m still in the process of figuring out which direction I’d like to progress and develop my career in. My primary focus has always been writing, and after completing an internship last year as an Editorial Assistant with The Daily Mirror (through My Career Zone too) I found it to be very valuable experience. However, as well as writing and journalism, I am interested in many other industries – one of which being that of marketing. Therefore, I chose to apply for this internship, hoping to gain a first-hand insight into the ins and outs of the marketing sector.
“The team and I recognised my strengths and weaknesses, allowing me to excel in things I had a natural flare for, and work on things I didn’t.”
HOW THE ROLE STARTED
As I was working from home, to start off with the work involved me familiarising myself with the various system software, running meetings via Zoom or MS Teams, and just the general gist of the WFH lifestyle. Getting used to working entirely online was somewhat challenging. I found it difficult adjusting to a lifestyle that involved sitting at home all day and staring at screens for extended periods of time. However, I gradually learned ways to make it more manageable for myself – (which I ended up writing about for the Creative Access blog, which you can read here!)
HOW THE ROLE DEVELOPED
My days followed a loose structure – I would start at 10am, finish at 6pm, and have a daily Teams meeting at midday to check in with everyone. This was ideal as it meant that everyone was aware of what was going on, and what work to complete going forward with the day. The Creative Access team was small (when I joined, there were only six others) so it was easy to communicate through our group chat and on our video calls.
Over the course of the four weeks, I naturally became more confident in my role. Very quickly, I found that I became comfortable with the tasks I was set and consequently took on more and more each day. The team and I recognised my strengths and weaknesses, allowing me to excel in things I had a natural flare for, and work on things I didn’t. Generally, my day-to-day tasks included: managing and updating the system database; organising, scheduling and hosting meetings via Zoom; writing articles for the Creative Access blog; and creating content for all Creative Access social media platforms.
By the end of the four weeks, I was lucky enough to be offered permanent employment with Creative Access, meaning that I will be able to continue to work on a part-time, freelance basis throughout the course of the next academic year.
“Moving forward, this SBP has taught me not only about the marketing and social media industries, but also about my working style.”
As an aspiring writer, I would say my greatest success of this internship was being able to write articles for the Creative Access blog. Not only did I find this most enjoyable, but I was able to share my passion for writing with this new market of people, and have my work published on their platforms.
One of the best things about working within a small team was that they really listened and considered my personal endeavours and interests, tailoring my internship in a way that was most beneficial and rewarding for me.
NEXT STEP IN MY CAREER
Moving forward, this SBP has taught me not only about the marketing and social media industries, but also about my working style, strengths and weaknesses. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy working in all aspects of marketing, and I’d love to progress my career in this industry alongside my other interests. Furthermore, as with any work experience or internship, this SBP allowed me to network with professionals and make new connections, many of whom I’m sure I’ll be in touch with throughout the coming years.
I would definitely recommend taking on an internship of some sort. As a student intern you will gain unique and truly valuable experience that is difficult to gain elsewhere.
After leaving Exeter, I returned back to India and applied for jobs as a structural design engineer in Mumbai and New Delhi. I was then interviewed by various companies and I got opportunity to work with SYSTRA, New Delhi. While at SYSTRA, I worked in Metro projects, mainly the detailed design of depot buildings and metro stations. After working in SYSTRA for 2 years, I switched to Shirish Patel and Associated Private Limited, Mumbai where I got the opportunity to work under Dr Nori and Mr Shirish Patel for Pune Metro and Kochi Metro Projects. I was exposed to detailed design and drawings of Viaduct /Bridges. Currently I am working for Intercontinental Consultants and Technocrats Private Limited, Mumbai. I am positioned as Senior Design Engineer for the fully underground metro line MML3. I am involved in the detailed design and drawings of underground stations including permanent and temporary works. I am also involved in a highway project.
“My advice to all the young students is to never give up. We all have dreams and we all work hard to achieve it. But in the process we may feel demotivated or have self-doubt. It is important to stay focused and have patience.”
The reason for me to choose the profile I am into is because I wanted to stay in core technical field. I am good at math and I like solving math related problems. In my current profile, there are various kind of problems that arise everyday due to site conditions which need to be solved quick and with proper decision making. I enjoy facing these problems and finding solution.
At Exeter I enjoyed receiving lectures by the academic staff mainly by Dr Khurram Wadee and Professor Akbar Javadi. All lecturers in all my subjects made tremendous efforts so that we as students could understand the subject and were open to answering questions anytime during college hours. My lecturers were always polite and have helped me grow academically as well as professionally, which I deeply miss. The biggest highlight for me was the course structure. I enjoyed solving assignments and group discussions with my classmates, spending time in the library in search of answers or studying. The course structure gave me enough time to complete my assignments in time and self-study and also have time for myself since the campus was so beautiful. I made many friends from all over the world and it was quite an experience learning about their country, culture, traditions, and education. Even with such a diversity I found harmony within the campus. Everyone I met from my personal tutor to my career adviser have been extremely helpful and understanding. My experience at Exeter turned out to be extraordinary and much more than I expected.
“My future plans are to gain more knowledge in my field and start a company of my own. I aspire to become one of the few woman engineers in India and around the world who can make a difference.”
My advice to all the young students is to never give up. We all have dreams and we all work hard to achieve it. But in the process we may feel demotivated or have self-doubt. It is important to stay focused and have patience. Exeter changed my life hugely and I feel deeply honoured and lucky in a way. It had such positive impact on my life that it helped me grow into a confident and better person.
My future plans are to gain more knowledge in my field and start a company of my own. I aspire to become one of the few woman engineers in India and around the world who can make a difference.
James Bradbrook is Employer Engagement Support Officer (Vacancies) for the Career Zone.
Finding the right job can be hard work. Sadly, it can be even harder when unscrupulous individuals target jobseekers with the aim of conning them.
Recruitment scams are a growing issue. In 2017, the government estimated that up to 10% of jobseekers have fallen victim to a recruitment scam. Younger people and visitors from other countries are especially at risk – categories that many of our students fall into.
The scammer ecosystem is constantly evolving, so it’s difficult to provide a comprehensive guide, but here are some of the most common that come across our desks in the Career Zone.
The Impersonators …
All fraud involves some element of deception, but this kind hinges on someone pretending to represent a legitimate company. They post a job advert, using the name of the company to attract applicants.
Once you apply, matters can escalate in all sorts of ways. For example:
The highly detailed personal information you’ve helpfully supplied is then used to facilitate identity fraud, phishing scams, etc.
You bag the job (or so you think!), hand over your bank details so they can pay your wages, and suddenly your bank account is compromised.
You’re asked to pay fees of some sort. This can be anything from a background check to a “processing” fee of some sort or travel arrangements (especially with jobs abroad).
Would you like to help my drug cartel launder some money?
This sort of fraud usually takes the form of a foreign company asking for “local representatives” to process payments from their customers. The “representative” may be asked to use their own bank account or set up a new one, which they then use to receive payments from one party and pass it on to another, keeping an agreed share of the money for themselves as their “fee”.
The main risk here is not that the representative will get ripped off by their “employers”, although they may be. Rather it is that their accounts are being used to launder money, the source of which may be as minor as eBay fraud or part of a far larger operation by criminal organisations.
Best of all – for the criminals – is that if the authorities do manage to track the passage of funds, they find … you! And while you might not be involved in the wider crime, you will have committed an extremely serious criminal offense which can carry lengthy prison sentences. International students must be particularly vigilant against these sorts of scams as even minor offenses can compromise their visa status.
How can I avoid fraud?
There’s no foolproof way to avoid being scammed, but you can usually save yourself a lot of pain by knowing the warning signs. Here are some to look for:
Professionalism (or lack thereof!). Are the company’s communications professional and well-written? Bad spelling, grammar, etc. are often a sign that you’re not dealing with a legitimate company. Again, this is definitely a red flag if you’re dealing with someone claiming to represent a large company, but you might sometimes want to make allowances if you’re dealing with smaller companies or someone who’s not writing in their native language.
Unofficial email accounts. Be wary if you are asked to submit an application to a Hotmail, Gmail or similar account. You have no way of verifying whether the person is who they say they are or if they are acting with proper authority from the company they claim to be working for. Only communicate this way if you are 100% sure who you are dealing with. Large corporations will hardly ever communicate this way, although smaller companies might sometimes do so.
Websites. Does the company have a website? Does it look professional? If the company doesn’t have a website ask yourself how the company survives without such an essential marketing component. Very small companies and start-ups may not always have a website but this is unusual and definitely something to investigate further.
Also check to make sure that the domain name of the website is correct. Sometimes fraudsters will create a duplicate website with an address that is subtly different from what it should be e.g. adding or removing a single character. These doctored addresses are very difficult to spot unless you’re paying close attention. The same applies to email addresses. Does the email domain match the company’s website domain? There are legitimate reasons for such a mismatch, but it can also be a warning sign.
If you have suspicions that a website may not be authentic, there are a variety of online tools that you can use to look up information about it (e.g. http://www.domainwhitepages.com/). If the website of an established company is very new, or registered in a country that seems unlikely, there’s a good chance it may be fraudulent.
Lastly, if you’re applying online, is their website HTTPS secure?
Registrations. Nearly all companies are required to meet certain legal requirements to keep operating. In the UK, at bare minimum, all incorporated companies must register certain details with Companies House. Depending on the nature of the company, additional registrations may be required: for example, finance companies must register with the Financial Conduct Authority, charities with the Charity Commission, etc. If a company doesn’t have the registrations you would expect, ask them why. There may be a legitimate reason but then again …
Other contact details. What other contact details does the company have? Do they match your expectations? Registered companies have to provide addresses to their regulators – however, these may not be identical to their operating address. Often, companies will use the address of their accountants or solicitors, so don’t automatically assume that this is a red flag. Use of PO Box addresses is uncommon but is sometimes employed by very small businesses that operate from residential premises. Companies in sensitive industries (especially defence or pharmaceutical companies) may also employ them. Telephone contacts are also worth scrutinizing – does a large company only seem to have a mobile telephone for contact? Or are you being asked to call a premium rate number?
Remarkably easy recruitment processes. Ever been offered an amazing, well-paid job without even having to sit an interview? No? Well, neither have we and that’s because such things do not exist. The better paid or otherwise more attractive a company or role, the pickier the recruiter can afford to be. There’s a simple reason why most graduate recruitment schemes have high entry requirements and are arduous affairs with multiple stages. The easier the recruitment process, the less desirable the role is likely to be. If the company is offering great rewards for little in return, you should be suspicious. Remember, if something is too good to be true, it probably is.
Trust your instincts
As mentioned above, there is no guaranteed method that can avoid fraud completely, but by staying vigilant and thinking critically about the sort of roles you come across you can reduce your risk considerably.
Nor should you rely solely on others to keep you safe and that includes recruitment agencies and job boards (and that includes University ones!). Regulation and enforcement in this arena is notoriously lax and operators will always face commercial pressure to advertise more roles as opposed to less. This is particularly true in times of economic difficulty. And there is always the additional problem of human error.
The point here is not to develop a paranoid suspicion of every recruiter, but to take personal responsibility for your job search. If something about a role or company just doesn’t seem right, investigate it! Ask your friends and family for their view. Or get in touch with Career Zone – we can’t tell you what to do, but we will tell you if we think your worries are rational or not.
Don’t think it can’t happen to you!
How many times have you read a story about someone being conned out of egregious sums of money and thought, “Idiot! I would never have fallen for that!”?
Don’t be so sure. Under normal circumstances, you might be right. But what if you are vulnerable at a particular moment? Are you short of cash? Have you just had a hard breakup? Struggling with your course? Family trouble?
All sorts of life events can temporarily blow us off course and weaken our judgement and we are also vulnerable when we find ourselves in stressful or unfamiliar situations. What affects each individual will be different, but anybody can be vulnerable in the right circumstances.
In the current circumstances of the Coronavirus pandemic and the economic difficulties accompanying it, everyone is under greater and unfamiliar pressures than ever before.
In these circumstances it is even more important to be vigilant and stay connected with people who can sense-check your decisions … and for you to do the same for them.
If you’d like to read around the subject further, here are some useful links to get you started.
Safer Jobs: https://www.safer-jobs.com – This non-profit website is a collaboration between industry, government and law enforcement. Useful general information but not regularly updated.
Joel Fryer, Ryan Thomas, and Kit Phillips are final-year Mechanical and Electronic Engineering students. Along with five other students they completed a student project, working with the Naval Weapons Group Team at Babcock International.
Babcock International is a leading provider of critical, complex engineering services, which support national defence, save lives and protect communities. It focuses on three highly regulated markets – defence, emergency services and civil nuclear – delivering vital services and managing complex assets in the UK and internationally.
Babcock and the University of Exeter have been longstanding partners and this relationship has strengthened even further since Babcock’s acquisition of the Devonport Royal Dockyards in Plymouth in 2007. Having such a prominent and innovative partner on our doorstep is certainly an opportunity not to be missed!
The idea for a student project came to Mark Westcott an Exeter alumnus, now Senior Mechanical Design Engineer at Babcock. The project, coordinated by Professor Brownjohn, saw the participation of four mechanical engineering and four electrical engineering students in the final year of their integrated Master’s degree in Engineering. The students worked with the Naval Weapons Group Team and each had the chance to choose the project that piqued their interest the most.
During their time a Babcock, the team of students had a tour of Babcock’s factory and offices, as well as access to all facilities at Devonport Royal Dockyard. They could liaise with subject matter experts at Babcock and had funding available for building and testing prototypes. When the UK entered lockdown at the end of March, the students quickly adapted to working online, maintaining contact with Babcock through video conference calls.
All students worked to industry standards on a real R&D project, which was an incredible opportunity for them not only to apply their skills and knowledge to real-world engineering problems, but also to improve their employability as recent graduates entering the job market. Mark Westcott said, “I was impressed by the professionalism and commitment the team gave in supporting the projects.”
We had the chance to interview three of these students about their experience on this project.
What did you take away from your time at Babcock?
Joel Fryer: “Personally, having the opportunity to provide useful research for real-life engineering problems was exciting. The project briefs provided by Babcock were refreshing, and enabled us to complete interesting research that actually had real-world applications. Providing beneficial research for a company as prestigious as Babcock really leaves me with a sense of accomplishment, and is a great ending to my life at Exeter University.”
Ryan Thomas: “As a project it is more satisfying to know that what you are working on will have use to others in the future. Whist we were visiting Plymouth, we were able to see how our projects would be useful to structural health monitoring of the naval weapons they work with.”
Kit Phillips: “Creating a design from scratch for a system you will never physically interact with or know every specific detail is strange. It’s also rather exciting, the fact that I could create and simulate designs from the comfort of my bedroom which could be created and used on a real naval ship. Personally I found it very rewarding at the end, and a bit of a confidence boost in what I’m capable of.”
“Providing beneficial research for a company as prestigious as Babcock really leaves me with a sense of accomplishment, and is a great ending to my life at Exeter University.”
Would you recommend a similar experience to future student cohorts?
Joel Fryer: “I would definitely recommend this project to any students making their way into fourth year. Within the overall project, there are a number of varied and interesting parts that enabled us to put to the test our accumulated knowledge from the last three years. Bridging the gap between academic skills and professional work is key, and the experience gained during this project is something I’d recommend for any fourth year, not just those wanting to pursue an Engineering career.”
Ryan Thomas: “A better recommendation would be to choose projects that would be useful to yourself in the future. We were able to pick from around 8 different projects related to structural health monitoring, and we picked the projects we thought suited us well. This meant that we all enjoyed the project throughout the year.”
How do you think this experience will impact on your employability as you enter the job market as a recent graduate, especially during these difficult times?
Joel Fryer: “Personally, the experience was an important talking point during many of my interviews for graduate positions – I’ve been offered a graduate role and I owe a lot of the success with this application to my time working with Babcock. Employers are always looking for candidates that have experience, and providing research for Babcock International naturally comes in very useful. The personal experience was also really helpful. Our project supervisor, Mark Westcott, offered his expertise not only on the project, but also on any personal queries we had relating to our graduate application processes. Not to mention, liaising with a qualified engineer provides crucial professional skills.”
“I’ve been offered a graduate role and I owe a lot of the success with this application to my time working with Babcock.”
Ryan Thomas: “For the job I accepted I presented a 10 minute presentation on image recognition of circuit cards and explained how it is useful to Babcock. Companies like when engineers participate in group projects and it is good to show that you have participated in projects that work with industry personnel.”
Would you considering applying for a job at Babcock in the future?
Joel Fryer: “Definitely! During the project, we were invited to Babcock’s Combined Weapons and Electrical Workshop in Plymouth, where they showcased just a small part of Babcock’s cutting-edge naval weapons technology. This really demonstrated the exciting work that Babcock can offer.”
Kit Phillips: “I would consider and have applied for a job at Babcock, as it’s such a diverse company that the list of challenges to tackle must cover a lot of different fields.”
This student project has been an excellent exemplar of the fruitful collaboration between the University and Babcock International and is just one of the many ways in which students and recent graduates can get involved and kick-start their career with Babcock. The company offers industrial placements in Plymouth, Bristol and Leicester and multiple graduate programmes in Engineering and Science, Business Management and Project Management throughout the year.
We truly believe in this project and hope it will be the first one of many. Professor Brownjohn and Mark Westcott are already looking to create a new portfolio of projects and to recruit a new team of students for next year’s project, global pandemic permitting.
A digitally evolving world has led to traditional processes trying to keep up. More and more companies are incorporating video interviews as part of their recruitment process, and with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, video interviews are now becoming even more common place. This post will give you some useful information and tips on how to prepare for a successful video interview. First, let’s explore the two main types of video interviews employers use.
One-Way Video Interview
A one-way video interview requires a candidate to record and submit their answers to questions without an interviewer being present. Each one-way interview is different, and the employer will have the ability to edit the preferences of the interview, such as the ‘think time’, ‘record time’ and how many takes you can record before your answer is submitted. These interviews are usually a first stage in an employer’s interview process. Usually, you will be given around two minutes to read the question and think of your answer, and two to three minutes to record and submit your response. Some video interviews may also give you the option to re-record your answer. Make sure to read the instructions carefully as this will vary for each company.
Live Video Interview
A live video interview requires both the interviewer and interviewee to be present and are usually ran as a replacement to an in-person interview. In the current climate, live video interviews are a common second stage interview and are usually run through an online platform such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
It is important to treat both one-way and live video interviews the same as you would a face to face interview by dressing appropriately and professionally. Avoid having posters or photos up in the background, a plain wall is usually best to maintain a professional image. To avoid any unwanted interruptions, make sure to tell members of your household not to disturb you and close windows to reduce noise from outside. It may seem obvious, but these issues can have an impact on the success of your interview.
Research and preparation are key to ensuring a successful interview. Make sure to research the company you are interviewing for as much as possible by following the below steps;
Read the company’s website in order to get a feel for the company culture and values
Check if there is anything about the company in the news that could be relevant to the role you are applying for as well any industry trends (what are their competitors doing?)
Research if there are any new innovations or technologies that the company is leading on that you find interesting and could mention or discuss in your interview
Check out their LinkedIn and other social media pages further updates on the company
Doing in-depth research into a company will show your company that you are interested and enthusiastic about the role.
Strengths vs Competency Based Interview Questions
There are two main types of interview questions that are currently used in graduate recruitment, competency based and strengths based. Competency based interview questions require a candidate to give specific examples of when they have demonstrated a specific competency, whereas strengths based interview questions assess how well you are likely to do a job.
Strengths based interview questions are used in order for employers to recruit graduates who they feel will enjoy and feel energised by the work they are doing, as well as to assess how you naturally respond to situations. These types of interview questions are designed for you to give a natural and authentic response. In order to prepare, think about what your natural strengths are and what you enjoy doing. As strengths based questions are designed to deliver more of a ‘quick fire’ interview, make sure to listen carefully, and don’t be afraid to ask the interview to repeat the question if needed. Here are some examples of strength based interview questions.
What motivates you?
What does a successful day look like to you?
How do you ensure you are always learning?
Competency based interview questions are typically easier to prepare for. They require you to think of a specific example in which you have demonstrated a competency that the interviewer is looking for. Have a look on the job description to see what skills are required for the role, as the questions will usually correlate with these behaviours. Use the STAR technique (situation, task, action, result) in order to answer these questions and give context to your examples. It is really important to explain what you did and what the result was. Here are some examples of competency-based interview questions.
Can you tell me about a time you encountered a problem when working in a team, and how you went about solving this?
Can you tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult decision?
Can you tell me about a time where you showed leadership?
Remember, an interview is not just about the interviewer getting to know you, but also about you getting to know the company and if it is the right fit. Make sure to ask meaningful questions to find out as much as you can about the company.
Maddie Davies graduated from the University of Exeter, Streatham Campus, with BA English in 2018. She’s currently Content Beauty Writer for online beauty retailer Feelunique.
Upon graduating from Exeter I went on to travel around Sri Lanka for a month and returned home to begin job hunting. In August and September, I started an internship with London Evening Standard supporting the fashion and beauty team in the run-up and duration of London Fashion Week. During this fulfilling (unpaid) experience, I began applying for jobs that centralised around writing in the beauty industry, which is now one of the biggest industries in the UK. One day I applied for the role as a Beauty Writer for Feelunique; the next day, I was being asked to attend an interview the following week. A month later, I started my first job as a graduate at Feelunique based in Covent Garden.
“My part-time job throughout University was working as a make-up artist for brands such as Benefit Cosmetics and MAC. As an English student, it made sense to combine my love for beauty and my enthusiasm for writing.”
My part-time job throughout university was working as a make-up artist for brands such as Benefit Cosmetics and MAC. As an English student, it made sense to combine my love for beauty and my enthusiasm for writing. I love that I am working for one of the largest industries in the UK, an industry that is creative and constantly evolving. It’s the first major industry to take a positive step forward in animal cruelty and the reduction of plastic. It’s also an industry that welcomes all ages and genders. We are also capturing a new generation – one that is actually interested in what goes into their products, what it does for their skin and how it impacts the wider environment. I am constantly learning in this industry and I am forever excited by what’s to come.
I loved the campus – it felt like a little student bubble plonked right on top of the hill that couldn’t be burst. I loved that I could do my work somewhere different every day and not get bored of it (even if 60% of my dissertation was written in Queen’s Cafe drinking flat whites and eating pastries).
I choose to study at Exeter because of its tremendous reputation for teaching, particularly for English. The syllabus excited me from the moment I saw it on the first open day in June 2016 – I just knew that I was going to study there. With my home being South Wales, the hills and greenery of Exeter didn’t feel too far away from what I was used to. So, I think the idea of a home-away-from-home had a bit of a part to play in my decision making, too.
I’ve learned how to interact with PRs and how that industry works so well with the world of beauty. I’ve had the experience of interviewing major leaders in this field, such as Charlotte Tilbury, Huda Kattan and Trinny Woodall. Throughout my time as an intern I was fortunate enough to be published in Cosmopolitan, Red Magazine, and London Evening Standard Online.
“Email as many people as you can for work experience – for some of my internships I emailed every address I could find (a total of 48) and only one got back to me. From there it snowballed, so don’t be afraid to do the same.”
Get as much experience on your CV as possible; this industry seeks grafters, if they see you’ve been working unpaid, that shows them how much you want to succeed. I hope to go on to be a senior beauty writer and from there I’d be excited to see where the industry takes me.
Email as many people as you can for work experience – for some of my internships I emailed every address I could find (a total of 48) and only one got back to me. From there it snowballed, so don’t be afraid to do the same. Appreciate that you will have to do the rubbish jobs. Mine included picking up dry-cleaning, making tea and cleaning fruit. It doesn’t mean that they don’t like you, some like to see how much you’re willing to do – others are simply too busy to do it themselves. Make sure you’re on the pulse of newness in this field. Something new and exciting is always happening here and to show that you know that is a huge bonus.
Jennifer Fox graduated from the University of Exeter in 2017 with BA Modern Languages. She’s currently a GBP working for the University helping with the transition to a blended learning environment.
I completed my Bachelor’s degree in French and Italian at the University of Exeter; a four-year course with an Erasmus year studying in Italy, and a fantastic experience. In my final year, I felt like I wasn’t yet finished with studying and decided to enrol on a Master’s course in Linguistics at Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. The first year of my Master’s was spent in Belgium and the second in southeast France, where I completed one semester as an Erasmus student and one as an intern at Université Grenoble-Alpes. By the time I’d finished my dissertation and graduated in September 2019, I felt ready to return to the UK, and to transition from student life to the world of work (plus I was tired of being poor!).
Why I applied for a GBP role
As a University of Exeter graduate, I received emails from the Career Zone about graduate opportunities and while I was abroad, I subscribed to the GBP Bulletin to keep up to date with the kind of positions that were being advertised. A Graduate Business Partnership (GBP) role enables you to make that first step into the job market without entering a graduate scheme or needing vast amounts of professional experience to apply for a job. I was attracted to the HE sector and although at the time I hadn’t completely made up my mind that this was the sector I wanted to pursue a career in, I knew that I could use the skills and experience I’d acquired as a student and could apply what I learned in a GBP role to future positions elsewhere.
“A GBP role is a developmental one, which means it is flexible and allows you to take control of what you want to learn.”
How my current role started and how it has developed
I started in my role as a Student Experience Support Officer in January this year. When it began, my primary responsibility was to provide administrative support for Exeter Law School with their Academic Personal Tutoring system. I scheduled and coordinated academic personal tutor meetings by liaising with academics and students. I monitored progress, collated feedback from both staff and students and presented a report to senior staff members. In addition, I assisted in Academic Personal Tutor training and helped run Senior Tutor forums, working alongside colleagues to enhance the academic personal tutoring framework in place at the University.
When all University staff were instructed to work remotely and all face-to-face interactions with students were ceased a week before lockdown, I knew that my work and responsibilities were about to change dramatically. Many of the projects I was working on could not continue and events I was organising would no longer be able to take place because students were returning home. I took the initiative to speak to my line manager and the line manager of the Technology Enhanced Learning team, who were based in the office opposite mine and with whom I’d worked on some previous tasks and I transferred to their team.
The work I do now is completely different. I assist with transitioning teaching and assessments online; producing support materials and advising academics, and professional services staff on a range of software and technologies. This required a lot of self-training, as I had to familiarise myself very quickly with software I had never used before, from Microsoft Teams and SharePoint to screencasting and video applications like Panopto, because I needed to teach other members of staff how to use them. I have also been teaching myself how to navigate the University’s virtual learning environment, ELE, as an administrative user and have built online courses and exams. In the coming months, I will be closely involved with Project Enhance and Enhance Internships, where my team and I will be providing advice, support and training for the SCP Digital Learning Assistants and GBP Graduate Digital Learning Developers, which are really exciting opportunities to assist with blended learning.
“I would highly recommend a GBP role to start a career. Not only does it help you to identify your professional ambitions but it also lays the foundations to achieve them.”
My greatest success and how a GBP will help me progress in my career
I would say my greatest success has been learning to take initiative and adapt in times of uncertainty. I was nominated for an Above & Beyond recognition for overcoming challenges in a new team during the high-pressure Covid-19 situation. Moving to the TEL team was the best decision I could have made; it has given more security and value to my work and strengthened my self-belief – I would never have thought I would be able to do a technology-based role, let alone succeed in one!
A GBP role is a developmental one, which means it is flexible and allows you to take control of what you want to learn. When I first started, my line manager asked me what skills I wanted to acquire and improve to bolster my CV and we tailored my tasks and projects to achieve this. I have used the role to familiarise myself with working in an office environment within a large organisation and across different teams, often meeting and collaborating with different types of people. I have improved my confidence in communicating with senior stakeholders and learned skills in team working, problem solving and resilience, all of which will be indispensable for the next steps in my career.
I would highly recommend a GBP role to start a career. Not only does it help you to identify your professional ambitions but it also lays the foundations to achieve them. It has allowed me to work alongside a range of different people, with different outlooks and knowledge, to hone my transferable skills and to build valuable professional relationships.
To mark the launch of the ENHANCE internships Jonnie Critchley shares how his career has progressed since beginning as a GBP intern at the University of Exeter.
As Business Manager to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), I’m fortunate to work closely alongside senior educational leaders across the University, and with the Officers and Student Representatives of the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union. I have played a role in developing the University’s new Education Strategy, as well as other important projects such as a recent review of Wellbeing. Now, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and the challenges and pressures it brings, it’s a privilege to work with so many inspiring colleagues, all focused on doing the very best by the students of Exeter. It’s also exciting to see the number of Graduate Business Partnership (GBP) and Student Campus Partnership (SCP) opportunities available to get involved in this work – a perfect example of the kind of impact ambitious graduates and students can have in such roles.
“…the GBP opportunity stood out to me…in providing a solution to that frequent problem of ‘need experience to get a job, need a job to get experience’”
I’ve progressed through a series of roles within the University, but my first was as a GBP Administration and Projects Assistant working in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences (CEMPS), in 2014. I’m not an Exeter graduate; I had just finished a Master’s Degree at Warwick, was looking for my first job, and was particularly attracted to a career in Higher Education. HE, by and large, isn’t a sector that you enter via graduate schemes like Finance or Law, so the GBP opportunity stood out to me. It was also perfect, in providing a solution to that frequent problem of ‘need experience to get a job, need a job to get experience’ by offering a graduate-level role structured around specific projects and training opportunities.
In my GBP role I took on a range of administrative duties as well as specific projects such as organising two academic conferences and a series of public lectures. I used the role to learn the basics of working in an office environment, to benefit from as many training opportunities as I could, and to start to build my understanding of how a University worked and to build relationships with academic and professional services colleagues within CEMPS which I’ve maintained since. The networking events and workshops organised as part of the GBP programme itself were also beneficial, for learning team working, problem solving and leadership skills. I should also say that I met my now wife at a GBP training event!
“I spent just under 8 months as a GBP, and it provided a fantastic foundation for my career since. The experience gained could have been translated into any number of careers; I was able to progress within the University into roles which have always had students and education at their heart.”
I spent just under 8 months as a GBP, and it provided a fantastic foundation for my career since. The experience gained could have been translated into any number of careers; I was able to progress within the University into roles which have always had students and education at their heart. I worked in Student Recruitment, and then in industrial engagement roles where I was fortunate to be closely involved in the launch of Exeter’s first Degree Apprenticeship programmes. All along I was building skills and knowledge that have helped me to where I now find myself, including leading high-level discussions with senior management and external stakeholders. I was also really fortunate to have the opportunity to represent the University externally, including building a successful relationship with employers such as IBM and BT, and working at an international Mining Industry conference in Toronto, Canada.
“I’m still early in my career journey, and believe that the success and opportunities I’ve enjoyed to date have all stemmed, in various ways, from the start which the GBP scheme gave me.”
I began my current role working with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) in August 2018 after spending some time as Student Recruitment Manager in CEMPS. I’m still early in my career journey, and believe that the success and opportunities I’ve enjoyed to date have all stemmed, in various ways, from the start which the GBP scheme gave me. In particular, when I look back, it was the respect with which I was treated as a GBP, often by senior colleagues in the College that made a big difference; as a GBP and in roles since I always felt I had a contribution to make. That couldn’t be more true of the GBPs and SCPs who’ll get involved in enhancing education for Exeter students in response to Covid-19, through the Enhance Internships.
Martin Corck is Director of Athletes Inspire, a small-scale business operating in the sports consultancy sector.
This post offers an employer’s perspective, and gives our valued new potential workforce (you, the student) some insight into what’s happening right now. As a potential Graduate taking your first steps towards a new career, doing nothing is not an option for you! I urge you to take action, review your professional job search plan, research carefully, and build intelligence and insight so that you can make well-informed decisions.
As we all experience a phased exit from lockdown, we’re entering uncharted territory. As the owner of Athletes Inspire, a small sports consultancy business supporting the Government’s ambition to create a more active nation, I will have to think and plot my way ahead, for a new look world of business. New thoughts, new values, new systems.
From the perspective of a student preparing to enter the world of industry and meaningful employment, it is recognised that this will be a confusing and testing time for you. Well-rehearsed and long planned strategies for job searching will need to be reconsidered, career choices will need reviewing in terms of the viability and coming back on stream of each sector. Working environments that are being offered to you will require careful reconsideration. You will need to think about whether you need the stimulus of shared team working and an office environment, or whether you are equipped to work from home, saving you commuting cost and potential risk to your health.
“All business will have been impacted by the pandemic, and for many it is a simple matter of survival or closure. For all it has become necessary to re-strategize, reset, and renew our thinking, our policies and our actions.”
All business will have been impacted by the pandemic, and for many it is a simple matter of survival or closure. For all it has become necessary to re-strategize, reset, and renew our thinking, our policies and our actions. The impact on my business has to date been controllable, albeit challenging as we are a remote based organisation, so I spoke to my Brother in Law who is busy heading up the HR function in a global company operating in the highly volatile petro-chemical sector. Interestingly, no matter the size or scale of the business, the challenges and principles moving forward are very similar.
Like all good planning the key to sustainable success for a business is to look forward and to plan back. Intelligent businesses are rehearsing what the new order might look like, how their sector might be impacted, and how long it will take to recover, and are they already well advanced for a return to life in the post Corona era. Office life as we have known it may look different with reduced investment into office space, split on-site teams, phased returns, managed social distancing and a real shift towards home-based working.
There will certainly be a higher investment in technology which serves to strongly underpin any business with an intent to succeed. Increasing VPN bandwidth capacity and new internet-based protocols are most likely in many firms. The use of Zoom for example by so many businesses to deal with multi- person team and client meetings has become the acceptable norm.
“As business owners we have a duty of care to our employees both within the workspace, and whilst engaged in business activity on our behalf, so clear guidance and personal responsibility are vital to the future.”
A return to dedicated desk space to avoid the potential for contamination through hot desking is likely, stronger protocols in terms of personal interaction, and a whole new style of management is likely to be needed. As business owners we have a duty of care to our employees both within the workspace, and whilst engaged in business activity on our behalf, so clear guidance and personal responsibility are vital to the future.
Many will have learned during this destabilising period that we don’t need to be face to face with each other to be effective managers, but that empathy, more collaboration in our approach and innovative ways of working will help us to become hallmarks of us becoming better business leaders. The sense of ‘community’ extends beyond our Thursday night neighbourhood applause of the key workers. Finding effective ways to work effectively from home in a controlled environment will require creative solutions. Health and safety and staff welfare checks will be needed to ensure suitable working environments as part of good team welfare for any business that is rebalancing its office/home based working arrangements. As a potential employee, it is important for you to clearly articulate what you need and want to feel safe and productive.
Most businesses will need to rethink staff/team engagement and the underlying culture that is so vital to making any business successfully tick. There are likely to be reviews of home working policy, relaxing or stiffening of dress codes (home based pyjama days are but a temporary indulgence), and the investment into professional interaction through digital platforms to create a successful and motivated workforce. We are already seeing flexible and innovative ways to operate, with my Brother in Law introducing into an established multinational organisation ‘bring your pet to the virtual meeting’ sessions, a weekly engagement opportunity for all employees with the CEO, a tripling of regular internal communications to keep colleagues engaged and motivated, the introduction of fun based activity such as virtual quizzes, post work virtual social networking and success ‘shout outs’ which name and fame particular achievements. All of these are measures beyond the normal practice. These have all been utilised so that employees feel blended and bonded as a team, not as an isolated end of the line call worker. Full staff meetings have become more common rather than the usual segmented or departmental approach adopted by his, and so many organisations.
“Key to much of this will for businesses to reset the mix of metrics by which personal and team performance results are measured… As the team are working in a more isolated way, I am listening for signs of anxiety or frustration. The mental wellbeing of my team is my absolute priority.”
Key to much of this will for businesses to reset the mix of metrics by which personal and team performance results are measured. Whist results are key to any operation, balanced, motivated, and committed teams and individuals will be vital in a new era of trust based working relationships. I find myself spending more time taking a keen interest in how my colleagues are coping with lockdown on a personal level, and I have strengthened my listening skills. As the team are working in a more isolated way, I am listening for signs of anxiety or frustration. The mental wellbeing of my team is my absolute priority.
So that does this mean for you, as you ponder how to approach your next step in your job search? As I have already suggested, start again with mapping out your options, research the viability of your preferred sector and targeted companies, be clear on your personal preferences to office or home based working, be honest about your capacity and discipline to work remotely in a structured and disciplined manner. Perhaps most importantly is for you to have a clear sense of the underlying culture, support and professional development offered by your potential new employer. Investment in people still sits way above any other quality you should seek as a new entrant. You will offer enthusiasm, fresh creativity, and a new way of thinking to your employer. In return you will need nurturing, valuing as a colleague and coaching as you become business hardened. The new interview style will be more a two-way process than ever before – you need to make sure you are buying into good practice, not simply good promises.
“You will offer enthusiasm, fresh creativity, and a new way of thinking to your employer. In return you will need nurturing, valuing as a colleague and coaching as you become business hardened.”
Ensure that you review your set of transferable skills, and most of all, use the internet and personal networks to gain the intelligence you will need to make informed career choices. There is a plethora of free to access podcasts, webinars, and masterclasses for you to tap into out there.
Yes, the world is changing. Risk management and personal responsibility in decision making has made us all more accountable for our own futures and destiny. To make a better world we must start with creating a better self.
As employers we want our new entrants to survive and to thrive. We are here to welcome you in, irrespective of the challenges that we currently face.
Phoebe Chubb is a current BSc Politics and International Relations with EEA at the University of Exeter.
(This blog post was written before the COVID-19 pandemic.)
In my second year at University, I went to the autumn term Year Abroad meeting for students studying Social Science. I had always considered doing a study abroad year but wasn’t sure I wanted to be saddled with more debt by signing up to another year of studying. An opportunity arose when I was told about a more financially viable alternative the University offered: working abroad.
One year later, I am working for a start-up in the vibrant capital city of Germany, Berlin. I have been here for three months; I have sampled the food, moved flats three times, joined a netball club and met a number of interesting people from all around the world. To alleviate some of the qualms you may have about undertaking a year abroad, I thought I would share my initial reflections of this unique and wonderful experience the University supports.
“On reflection, the challenges I have faced have moulded me into a more resilient individual who is better prepared to deal with complications that arise, complications, which I have no doubt I will inevitably face in my later working life.”
I managed to procure a digital marketing internship for nine months with Labforward, a company that sells software solutions for scientists: an Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) and a Lab Execution System. Now, if you had asked me prior to this internship what both of these were I would not have had a clue. I didn’t study science at A Level, and I do a Politics and International Relations (BSc) degree at University, so I wouldn’t say that I am well-versed in laboratory software. Yet, as a digital marketer, I have found that a large amount of my time is devoted to writing about new technological advancements which revolutionise the way we work, disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Automation and Internet of Things, a job which I thoroughly enjoy. This in itself demonstrates the breadth of internship opportunities that are available with this scheme, don’t limit yourself to one sector, try new things, and make the most of the opportunities working abroad facilitates.
“In this role, I have been encouraged to try new things and develop my skills further, and as a result, I have progressed as an individual both in skillset and in character.”
Unfortunately, my move to Berlin has not been without complications. When I first arrived I had a housing issue as the room I had booked was not as pictured. As a result, I had to move rooms three times and deal with frustrating admin tasks to try and solve the problems which I had no control over. Whilst this initially made me miss the simplicity of University life, on reflection, the challenges I have faced have moulded me into a more resilient individual who is better prepared to deal with complications that arise, complications, which I have no doubt I will inevitably face in my later working life.
I realise that I have been incredibly lucky with my internship. In the workplace, I am surrounded by a driven, talented team of individuals who have alleviated all my prior concerns about working abroad. Working for Labforward has made me realise what type of company I want to work at in the future, after all, working for a company where you are content is incredibly important. In this role, I have been encouraged to try new things and develop my skills further, and as a result, I have progressed as an individual both in skillset and in character.
As for those who worry about being away from friends in the year abroad, it is a consideration, yet should not dissuade you from going abroad. Whilst I miss my friends from university a lot, I’ve found that many people in my year have chosen to do a year abroad, choosing either to study or work. I have a friend who is currently somewhere in Japan, one who is in Brussels and another is in Spain. Plus if you make the effort you get to know people where you’re working, since being in Berlin I have joined a friendly netball club which has allowed me to meet people from all over the world.
“This internship hasn’t just helped me transfer academic skills into the working environment, it has been a journey which has gifted me a number of experiences one can only receive by living and working in a different country.”
My work abroad year has invigorated me with a drive to look into new areas of politics that I had not considered before. Writing about technological advancements has made me question what political and social impacts digitalisation will incur, a subject area I am keen to write my dissertation on. Already I have gained valuable experience that I can use to bolster my CV to acquire post-graduation employment. This internship hasn’t just helped me transfer academic skills into the working environment, it has been a journey which has gifted me a number of experiences one can only receive by living and working in a different country.