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.

Working in Berlin

Phoebe Chubb is a current BSc Politics and International Relations with EEA at the University of Exeter.

Phoebe Chubb, current BSc Politics and International Relations with EEA at the University of Exeter, in Berlin.

(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.

Shoot straight and hit the mark – assessment centre success

Our brand new edition of In the Zone, your essential careers magazine, launches today.

 

 

We’re taking Tokyo 2020 as our theme and looking at how to make your career journey a success. Hear from current students, recent graduates and the Careers team on everything from scoring a 10/10 at interviews, winning the postgraduate relay, standing out on the podium with LinkedIn, and sprinting across the finish line to land your dream graduate job.

Katie Bennett, BA Spanish and Management with UK Work Experience

In an extract from In the Zone, Katie Bennett, current BA Spanish and Management with UK Work Experience tells us how she hit the mark to succeed at a Deloitte assessment centre. 

 

Be prepared

The Career Zone were extremely helpful when applying for my industrial placement. I booked onto the Deloitte Autumn Careers Evening through My Career Zone, which was instrumental in inspiring me to apply to their scheme. I subsequently attended a talk about how to prepare for psychometric tests, explored an array of online practice tests, and borrowed numerical reasoning books to refresh my maths skills and explain how to answer typical psychometric questions. Using the Industry Reports on My Career Zone Digital gave me a better insight into the Consulting sector, and what key skills are required. I also sought advice from the Business School Career Zone team, and attended their Careers Café to refine my CV, and get some last-minute advice for my assessment centre.

 

Do your research

The ‘Assessment Centre Tool’ on My Career Zone Digital was helpful in giving me an insight into what format the assessment centre could take, as well as information on how to best-perform in a group exercise, e-tray exercise, and interview. I researched the placement role, the company, and the industry by reading the company website, as well as forums, blogs and news articles, and by listening to podcasts. Doing so gave me a good foundation of knowledge which I could draw upon during interview. I looked at practice interview questions online, and planned out possible answers and practised answering them out loud. I re-read my CV and thought about where I had developed or demonstrated particular skills, linking these to the espoused values of the company.

 

On the day

For the presentation, I drew on my academic knowledge and online research, using company reports and reputable websites to form the basis of my ideas. Practising your presentation to a trusted friend/family member is helpful for making sure you can articulate your ideas fluently and keep to the time limit. Like my friends, I was most nervous about the group exercise. A useful tip would be to speak up as early as possible – you don’t have to be the first one to speak, or take on the role of primary leader, but try to say something early on so that you can find your voice and not get lost amongst everyone else’s ideas. This also stops the experience from becoming too overwhelming and enables you to become a confident and active member of the group. Remember that nominating yourself to be the timekeeper, and bringing quiet members of the group into the conversation, or showing your agreement with your teammates’ ideas, are effective ways of showing leadership and teamwork.

 

What’s it really like?

The assessment centre is a chance for you to perform to the best of your ability. Everyone is in the same boat as you, and will be a lot more collaborative and friendly than some of the forums suggest! I would advise you to bring along snacks to give you that boost of energy you might need throughout the day! Thorough preparation is key to building your confidence, but you should also have confidence in your abilities and who you are – the company sees potential in you and wants to get to know you better, so have some self-belief and do the best you can.

 

Result!

I’m pleased to say that my hard work paid off and I was delighted to accept an offer from Deloitte for an industrial placement. I’m really glad that I put a lot of time and effort into my application and the assessment centre, and I’m excited to start my placement next year.

 

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!

Creative Visualisation

Henry White graduated from the University of Exeter in BA English, 2012. He’s currently Photography and Videography Editor for P&O Ferries. 

Henry White, Exeter Alumn, and current Photography and Videography Editor for P&O Ferries

After graduating, I moved to London and worked for children’s charity Action for Children as a web content editor. The role gradually involved more and more photography and video production and after two years my job was formally changed to Multimedia Editor and I took up full responsibility for video and photo production. After five years with Action for Children, I moved into management for The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust as Digital Content Manager. This job didn’t really suit my interests or passions, taking me away from the practical creation of imagery, so after four months I secured a new job, with P&O, and moved to the south coast to start my new role, plus get some fresh sea air and a quieter life away from London. I now work for P&O Ferries as Photography and Videography Editor, responsible for all of the company’s imagery across social media, advertising, B2B and internal comms. This can be as varied as filming stories about crews working on the North Sea to making stickers and animated gifs for Instagram posts, or photographing hazardous waste being shipped between Ireland and Belgium. No day is the same and there is huge variety. I am also gaining loads of new skills and even being trained in seafaring practices to help me do my job whilst at sea. From my desk, I can see France across the English Channel, but more often than not I’ll be scrambling around a mooring deck or deep in an engine room, trying to take photos or capture footage for the next bit of promotional work. It’s good fun.

“I’m responsible for all of the company’s imagery across social media, advertising, B2B and internal comms. This can be as varied as filming stories about crews working on the North Sea to making stickers and animated gifs for Instagram posts, or photographing hazardous waste being shipped between Ireland and Belgium.”

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?            

I studied A Level photography, and always enjoyed creating images and capturing those moments. It just seemed like a natural thing to do – to be the fly on the wall recording events for posterity, or amusement, or to share with others. I like the idea of capturing things which future generations will find useful or interesting to view, and being able to tell stories about the world we currently live in.

Were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?           

Exeposé Photography Editor 2010-2011, then Exeposé Editor 2011-2012.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Exeter?    

The course was varied and had enough modules to cater for all interests, especially in some more niche areas. I still find myself using knowledge I gained on the course, although annoyingly nobody has ever asked to see my Degree Certificate. Overall, it definitely helped me to better understand ways of interpreting our world, interpreting motivations and viewpoints, and to work independently and efficiently.

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

Patience, perseverance and resilience. Sometimes you won’t hit a target, or a project you work on goes wrong. Sometimes technology lets you down. The ability to bounce back and try harder, adapt plans and aims, or to completely switch directions is fundamental to doing well. The seeds of these skills are sewn at university; when doing research for essays, preparing for exams, failing to achieve the mark you wanted, or just struggling to juggle workloads, they all teach valuable lessons for the future.

“The creative arts sector is incredibly cutthroat and challenging, even for established people, but never, ever work for free – it simply devalues yourself and makes it harder to start charging at a later date.”

Do you have any advice for beginning a career in your area?

Practice; anyone can buy a camera and use it, but creating imagery which works for your audience, which sells a product or tells the exact story you want to, takes practice and hard work. For every good image you take, there will have been 100 bad ones previously, so go out with your camera, set yourself clear aims and briefs, and try to achieve them over and over again, getting better each time. Nobody ever stops learning, especially with modern technology changing so fast, so practice what you do, watch what others do, and evolve your skills.

The creative arts sector is incredibly cutthroat and challenging, even for established people, but never, ever work for free – it simply devalues yourself and makes it harder to start charging at a later date. If other people want to work for free, that’s up to them, but know your worth and stick to it, it’ll work out better for you in the long run. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to work for money – time, favours and experience are all types of currency, especially when starting out. You may find you can provide someone with photography in return for drinks/food and travel costs. This gives you the chance to show off your skills, make connections and practice your craft. If it goes well then the next time they hire you, they may pay in cash instead. Stick with it, find another job to cover your costs if you need to, and practice constantly. But set yourself realistic goals too. If you haven’t got to where you want to in five years, 10 years etc., then change your approach. Be realistic about your chances, options and abilities, if you fixate on one area or idea you may miss other exciting opportunities, there’s always more options in the area you want to work.

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