Pathways to Career Development

Holly Van Ryssen, a 2nd year English student, worked as a Marketing Development Assistant for ‘Powderham Live!’ as part of our Pathways to Arts, Culture and Heritage programme.

Holly Van Ryssen, a 2nd year English student, took part in the Pathways to Arts, Culture and Heritage programme earlier this year. Due to COVID-19, Professional Pathways was converted to remote internship opportunities, with students undertaking internships in a variety of roles across a wide range of companies. Holly talks about her role as a Marketing Development Assistant for Powderham Live!’ and what she has gained from completing an internship remotely. 

When I tell people that I study English at the University of Exeter, I’m always met with the following response: “Ah, so you want to be a teacher then?”. Certainly, I’d be lying if I said that teaching wasn’t a profession that I’ve considered. However, I’ve always believed that the beauty of an English degree is that it enables you to study a subject you love while at the same time leaving your options open to explore several different career paths. Perfect for someone who can’t make decisions!

Going into my Second Year, nearly halfway through my time at University, I suddenly became acutely aware that I had no idea what I wanted to do at the end of my studies. I was keen to start exploring the options I had available to me and, was hoping to be able to use the summer before my final year to gain some invaluable work experience. When I heard about Professional Pathways, a careers scheme run by the University of Exeter providing sector-specific training and week-long paid internships, I knew that I had to apply.

Then, of course, Covid-19 hit. We were all sent home, the Pathways assessment centre was cancelled, and it seemed as though the prospect of a paid summer internship was firmly off the cards…

“Numerous cover letters, and a couple of video interviews later, I’d secured an internship as a Marketing Assistant at Powderham Live!. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!”

When I received an email from the Pathways team informing all applicants that they were working on securing some remote internships, I was shocked! While I felt terrified at the prospect of applying for and completing an internship entirely online, I knew that it was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down and that would provide me with invaluable experience moving forward into the future. Numerous cover letters, and a couple of video interviews later, I’d secured an internship as a Marketing Assistant at Powderham Live!. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

During my internship at Powderham Live!, I worked on many different projects, all of which aimed to find new ways to promote not only the event itself but also the young musicians and their huge network of supporters. In particular, I enjoyed creating a set of brand guidelines that will now be used to inform all content published by Powderham Live!, both in print and online. Not only this, but I enjoyed working on a new social media strategy; in recent weeks, it has been really rewarding to see many of the campaigns I planned featured on the Powderham Live! social media pages.

Having had little experience in marketing, I was worried before starting my internship that I wouldn’t know what to do! At first, both Emily (fellow intern and University of Exeter student) and I felt hugely daunted at the prospect of creating a professional document that accurately represented the values and ethos of Powderham Live!. However, both Derry (Heritage Manager at Powderham Castle) and AJ (Countess of Devon and founder of Powderham Live!) were extremely supportive, clearly explaining what they wanted while at the same time allowing us to indulge in our own ideas and creative spirit. We were even invited to whole team meetings where we were able to share what we had been working on and give feedback to the other team members!

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, I found it extremely rewarding to work on a project with a clear social purpose. I know that the work I carried out during my internship will not only help the team behind the scenes at Powderham Live!, but will have a huge impact on the experience of young musicians in Devon.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic, I found it extremely rewarding to work on a project with a clear social purpose. I know that the work I carried out during my internship will not only help the team behind the scenes at Powderham Live!, but will have a huge impact on the experience of young musicians in Devon. Indeed, at a time when the Arts, Culture and Heritage sector is facing unprecedented challenges, it felt amazing to work on a project that I know will bring so much joy to so many people, and that will help keep the magic of the arts alive!

Without a doubt, the experience I’ve had working remotely at Powderham Live! will set me in good stead when entering the job market during these difficult times. Thanks to the Pathways scheme, I’ve now had practice applying for, beginning, and completing an internship entirely remotely, an experience that I know will be invaluable moving forward into the future! In particular, I’ve been able to improve my video-based interview technique, as well as develop my ability to work from home productively, skills which will help me both when completing my third year of university online, and also when applying for jobs.

“Without a doubt, the experience I’ve had working remotely at Powderham Live! will set me in good stead when entering the job market during these difficult times. Thanks to the Pathways scheme, I’ve now had practice applying for, beginning, and completing an internship entirely remotely, an experience that I know will be invaluable moving forward into the future!”

When I received the email from the Professional Pathways team back in May informing us of some remote internship opportunities, I very nearly didn’t apply… However, I’m so glad that I did! While I’m still not sure what I want to do post-university, I now feel more confident about the prospect of graduating in the middle of a global pandemic! Pathways 2020 has taught me many things, most importantly, how to be adaptable and open-minded in the face of adversity. However, best of all, it has given me an answer to that dreaded question: “What did you do over lockdown?”.

Applications for Professional Pathways 2021 are now open! You can find further details on how to apply here. The training programme will be delivered entirely online in June 2021 and we currently anticipate the internships will also be remote-working.

Develop your career with an internship

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.”

GREATEST SUCCESS

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.

Avoiding Job Scams

James Bradbrook is Employer Engagement Support Officer (Vacancies) for the Career Zone. 

How many times have you read a story about someone being conned out of money and thought, “Idiot! I would never have fallen for that!”? Don’t be so sure.

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.

The point is not to develop a paranoid suspicion of every recruiter, but to take  responsibility for your job search. If something about a role or company doesn’t seem right, investigate it! 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.

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.

More information

If you’d like to read around the subject further, here are some useful links to get you started.

Safer Jobshttps://www.safer-jobs.com – This non-profit website is a collaboration between industry, government and law enforcement. Useful general information but not regularly updated.

Action Fraudhttps://www.actionfraud.police.uk/a-z-of-fraud/recruitment-scams – Managed by the City of London police, this website provides general information on fraud and cyber crime. The link we’ve provided is a specific page dealing with recruitment fraud, but there’s plenty of other interesting information.

CIFAShttps://www.cifas.org.uk/insight/fraud-risk-focus-blog/internet-safety-tips-for-students – Another anti-fraud industry body, but with plenty of information for consumers too. The link connects to some general internet safety tips specifically for students.

Need more help with your job search? https://www.exeter.ac.uk/careers/ 

 

 

Kick-start your engineering career with a student project

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. 

Final-year Mechanical and Electronic Engineering students during their project with 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.

Grafters Only – Getting into the Beauty Industry

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. 

Maddie Davies, Exeter Alumn and current Content Beauty Writer for 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.

Enhance your career with a GBP role

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. 

Jennifer Fox, Exeter Graduate and current GBP

 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.

From GBP Intern, to Business Manager to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education)

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. 

Jonnie Critchley, Business Manager to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) and former GBP Intern

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.

A virtual internship during lockdown

Georgia Humbert is a 2nd Year Business and Management with Industrial Experience (at Warner Bros). 

Georgia Humbert, 2nd Year Business and Management with Industrial Experience (at Warner Bros), working from home on her internship.

I’m on my 7th month of an internship with http://spoton.net a web design company with whom I started in October 2019. I found the marketing internship through My Career Zone, and the experience has been amazing for developing my workplace skills, and has shown me where my strengths and weaknesses lie. I would really recommend everyone to consider doing one! I have the aim of working in either the fashion or the entertainment industry, so wanted to explore if marketing would suit me as a potential long-term career. My time with http://itseeze.com/ (subsidiary company of Spoton.net) has been really valuable for this and, as a result, have just secured a third year placement in marketing. Furthermore, it has provided me with clarity that creativity is one of my strengths and something I enjoy applying to my work, so I intend to pursue creative roles moving forward. Prior to the internship I had started a hand painted wall art business

and have subsequently found my own ways of marketing it, so it’s been great to push myself to go about things slightly differently, and I have learnt skills I will carry over to my personal work.

For everyone doing a term time internship, we all know that juggling lectures, assignments, societies, as well as this regular commitment can have its challenges. But now, working from home due to the Covid-19 lockdown is a new one to overcome. As I started the internship a while before lockdown, I have had to change from working in an office once a week to homeworking, a change that seemed a bit daunting. I have a desk at home which I work from and I structure my day as I would if I was going to the office. Despite the big adjustment I would say it’s nice to skip the long commute to Torquay! This means I wake up with time to get ready so I can start at 9am and take a lunch break as I would normally. I find that I tend to take more breaks in the day at home because my family is there, so I usually make up for it by working a bit later into the early evening. I find this actually helps my productivity because breaks help me to stay motivated and alert.

Luckily for me, the team at http://itseeze.com/ are really supportive and as a web-based company, pretty much all my work can be done remotely. The marketing team is very small with just three of us so it’s easy to stay in contact, mostly through email or Trello. Because of the nature of my work, which is often content creation or routine tasks, plus how we use online task managers, we didn’t often have meetings in the office so this hasn’t been a problem since lockdown measures.

The original plan was for me to work in the office for a whole week in April, after which I would finish my internship, but since lock down we have decided it would be more useful for the company if I stuck to working one day per week. It will be strange to finish the internship remotely after working in the office for a few months, but the change has been another learning experience in terms of being adaptive and organised to work independently.

If you are currently doing a term-time internship from home, here are some things I’ve learned from the transition which might help you:

Make sure you have all the resources you need

One of the main things to consider if you’re used to working in an office is transferring all the files, passwords you’ll need etc. It’s probably a good idea to ask your manager to do the transfer of essential data to you; for me that was email passwords and social media logins. I had a bit of a struggle to set up my work email from home but once it was managed it has been a lot easier to stay in contact with the rest of the company (Thunderbird is a great desktop app for this).

You might need to change how you are allocated tasks 

Since I started at  http://itseeze.com/ we have used Trello as a tool for my managers to give me tasks online, allowing us to all see my progress. If you are used to chatting to your supervisor about being given jobs to do, suggesting this could be a good idea as it is really clear and easy to use plus you can add attachments and messages. It will probably be useful to your manager at this time in particular, if you can get on with your tasks without having to constantly communicate, and this is a great way to do that.

Get used to working independently 

As said before, every working environment is different, but if you run out of jobs to do it’s a good idea to have a list of other things to be getting along with without needing to be asked. For example, I have set up a Pinterest account for  http://itseeze.com/ so I can spend time managing that. If you’re stuck for ideas, competitor research and new marketing ideas never go amiss! We have a routine of procedure for my colleagues to give me feedback, via either email or Trello, the week after I send it; this way we all know what time frames to expect and I can access all the feedback online.

Don’t worry too much and keep in contact 

Checking in with your supervisor regularly with any questions or concerns is great for everyone, so they know how best to support you and can get a heads-up if things aren’t going to plan. It is understandable that the transition can take a bit of time to get used to, but the more you work independently the easier it becomes!

My Experiences on the Civil Service Early Diversity Internship Programme

Joshua Peters is a second year Politics and International Relations undergraduate at the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus. 

Joshua Peters, Politics and International Relations student, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus

Last year I made the decision to apply for various first year schemes on offer by many companies. I applied to companies in Law and in Banking but being a Politics student, and someone whose family has had a history in the Civil Service, I also made the conscious decision to apply to the Early Diversity Internship Programme (EDIP). Fast forward 6 months, an application process and a telephone interview – I found myself at The Oval cricket ground in South London attending the opening ceremony of the EDIP scheme.

On the train journey to The Oval I had no idea what to expect from the opening ceremony. I felt nervous, excited, anxious and curious all at the same time! When I finally arrived, I was greeted so warmly by the staff that I quickly lost all the anxiety and nervousness that I came there with, and instead I felt eager to hear and see what the opening ceremony had to offer. A quick scan of the room and it was almost impossible not to notice the diversity that existed. This certainly helped me feel more at ease. Everyone on the scheme had been allocated places to sit at a table. It was great talking to the other people partaking in the scheme. Speaking to the other interns showed me diversity in terms of degrees being studied. One person studied PPE, another was studying Law and someone was studying Finance and Mathematics! This showed me that anyone from any background can have an interest in a career in the Civil Service. The opening ceremony itself was really illuminating. We heard from a number of motivational speakers who detailed to us the trials and tribulations they had gone through and how they had overcame them to be where they are today.

“On the train journey to The Oval I had no idea what to expect from the opening ceremony… When I finally arrived, I was greeted so warmly by the staff that I quickly lost all the anxiety and nervousness that I came there with, and instead I felt eager to hear and see what the opening ceremony had to offer. A quick scan of the room and it was almost impossible not to notice the diversity that existed.”

When you gain a place on the EDIP scheme you are allocated a government department. I was assigned to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Within this department I, along with another EDIP intern, was assigned to a civil servant, Mel, who worked in the food section of the department and even more specifically, the ‘food labelling’ sub-group (I didn’t know this was a thing either!). Shadowing Mel for the week was great and extremely insightful because I was able to see first-hand what working in the Civil Service actually looked like. I attended every meeting that she attended and saw most tasks that her and her sub-group were working on. I felt as though I came at a bad time as quite literally all work in the department was related to Brexit and creating contingencies if we left the EU with no deal. However, seeing how the Civil Service dealt with an issue such as Brexit was very interesting. Also, during the week, we were given a talk by Fast Streamers on different streams. The Fast Stream is the graduate scheme within the Civil Service, which offers many different streams, including a diplomatic stream, and an economic stream. I’d recommend paying a visit to the Fast Stream website to find out more about this.

I would highly encourage first years to apply for the EDIP scheme. The scheme allows for a first taste of networking at the opening and closing ceremonies and also a unique insight into a workplace as varied as the Civil Service. If you’re having trouble deciding on whether you’d be more suited to corporate employment or public sector employment, EDIP can certainly be a great starting point in helping to figure this out!

Insight Weeks Explained

My name is Maxine and I’m a 3rd year Business and Management student at the University of Exeter, Streatham Campus. In April 2018 I participated in an insight week at KPMG on their ‘Women in Deal Advisory’ programme. This summer I completed a summer internship at KPMG in the same department and in 2020 I’ll be joining them as a graduate. 

Maxine Mukunga, BA Business and Management student, University of Exeter

What are insight weeks?

Insight weeks, also called spring weeks, are short internships offered to early year university students so that they can learn more about a company. They are intended to give students an ‘insight’ into what a company does and what career options they offer. Despite the name, they vary in length depending on the company, with some being a full week and some only a couple of days. Insight weeks are often used by companies as recruitment channels for future internships and placements.

What time of year should students apply for them?

Applications open from as early as August up to around January but the exact dates do vary from company to company. On many company websites, there will be the option to sign up to be notified by e-mail when their applications open. Application deadlines also vary, with some even closing early.

Some people I know who applied to many spring weeks found it useful to create a spreadsheet with the opening and closing dates for all of the companies they intended on applying to, and the stages they were at with each application.

Most insight weeks will be for first year students if they’re doing a three year course or second year students if they’re doing a four year course. Some companies will accept penultimate year students, so it’s still worth doing your research if you’re a second year student on a three year course, or a third year student on a four year course.

Where did you find out about your insight week?

I wasn’t aware of insight weeks until I attended an employer event on campus where they talked about the one they ran. After the event, I did a Google search of other companies that did them. Google directed me to websites like e4s which list opportunities from many different companies, and also official recruitment pages on company websites. I was mainly interested in consulting so I looked at consulting and professional services companies.

When I first started looking, I planned on applying to management/strategy consulting but as I had (surprisingly) enjoyed the accounting module I had done in my first term, I decided to also apply to the KPMG Women in Deal Advisory insight week as a wild card. I applied for 4 insight programmes but decided that KPMG was the one I wanted.

What was the application process like?

The first stage of the application was completing a form with information about myself, work experience and education. The next stage was completing a situational judgement test and a numerical reasoning test. In preparation for these tests, I practised with ones I found online and through My Career Zone. After that, I was asked to record myself answering set questions related to why I was interested in deal advisory, and why I was interested in KPMG.

The final stage of the process was an invitation to their London offices where I had to complete a case study exercise on one of their laptops in a room with the other candidates. The case study involved reading through a booklet of information with written sections, graphs and tables, and financial statements about a company. After given time to read the case study, I then had to answer questions and make recommendations for the company based on the information provided. Spellcheck and autocorrect was disabled on the laptops during the case study exercise. I tend to type quickly and hope that spell check corrects me, so not having that safety net did make me a bit nervous. So, if you type like me, I would recommend getting comfortable with typing without autocorrect and spellcheck in case you encounter something similar!

Was it paid?

I was paid for the duration of the internship which was great. Luckily I was able to stay with family members which meant my costs weren’t too high anyway, but lots of companies understand not everyone is that fortunate which is why many insight weeks are paid. If you find one that isn’t paid but the travel/living costs would be affordable, I would recommend doing it as the experience is worthwhile.

What did you do during the week? Who did you meet? 

During the week, we had presentations from various employees, from recent graduates to partners. They talked about their career paths and the projects they had worked on. Throughout the week, we were given group activities to do related to the roles available. One of them was working together to come up with a solution to a problem and then presenting our ideas to senior members of staff. We also got to shadow employees at various levels of the business.

The final day was an ‘assessment centre’ style session where – if successful – led to a summer internship offer. The first part of the assessment was a group exercise with several stages. The assessors swapped tables for each stage so we were judged by a different person at each stage. The second part of the assessment centre was an interview with a senior member of staff asking us more about our motivation for deal advisory, our career goals and also some competency questions. Having spent the week learning about the work employees did, the interview was much easier than others I’d had in the past as I had lots of information to draw on for my answers.

After the assessments, there was a networking drinks session with employees we had interacted with during the week and others. They were all happy to answer any questions we had and keen to find out more about us.

Was the insight week useful? 

I found the internship to be very useful. As it was an area of business I hadn’t had much exposure to, I learnt a lot from hearing the experiences of current employees, getting to ask them questions and shadowing them. Getting to see what they did day to day made me feel less nervous about going into work after graduating as the tasks were not as complicated as I had imagined them to be.

Has it influenced your career choice? 

The insight week led me to choose a completely new career path. I was set on going into management consulting before it but now I have accepted a graduate offer from KPMG in deal advisory. I am very glad I took a chance on something new and started thinking about my career early on.

Which professional services and consulting companies offer spring weeks in 2020?

 To find out if a company offers insight weeks, head to their careers website. Here is a brief list of some of the most popular insight weeks:

KPMG

Deloitte

PWC

EY

McKinsey