Top Resources from My Career Zone Digital for Graduates

Marie Johns graduated in BA Philosophy and Sociology from Exeter in 2017. She’s currently the Survey Project Officer (GBP) here at the University. 

Marie Johns, Survey Project Officer (GBP) and Exeter alumn

During my final year at Exeter, I was pleased to discover that the Career Zone is available to graduates for three years after graduation. I’ve certainly been taking advantage ever since!

In particular, online resources from new platform My Career Zone Digital have been extremely useful in helping me to understand what I want from a job, make successful applications, and ultimately secure employment. Since starting my job, I have enjoyed browsing the resources available for graduates who have entered the workplace. Below, I have compiled a list of my favourite resources from My Career Zone Digital, for graduates at any stage of their career journey.

The Elevator Pitch Builder is a great tool to get you used to talking about yourself by teaching you how to create an effective professional summary. Not only does this help you to develop self-awareness of your strengths and ambitions, but it will help you to talk confidently about yourself in applications and interviews.

The Employer Advice section of My Career Zone Digital contains a number of useful videos covering a range of topics. I found the Job Hunting videos well worth watching. As a recent graduate, I was new to job-hunting and the world of full-time work. It was therefore interesting to hear experienced employers talk informally about which attributes they look for in a new employee and think about how I could demonstrate these to make a good impression.

I found the Interview Simulator to be a really useful tool for interview preparation as it includes many examples of questions you might be asked, grouped into categories. The fact that it allows you to record yourself giving answers enables self-evaluation and improvement and also helps you to build confidence in answering a variety of questions. I also like that there is a way of testing yourself and rehearsing a real interview by having a mock interview which you can either take without knowing the questions beforehand, or create yourself.

My Career Zone Digital

The IT Skills Courses are a great way to brush up on those Microsoft Office skills you haven’t used since GSCE! You can set the course to fit your preferred level of ability (beginner or intermediate) and you have the choice to either actively participate in the tutorials, or to simply watch videos of someone else performing the tasks. My current role involves a lot of work on Excel, which I’d not used extensively before, and I found this course was the ideal way to increase my confidence for the tasks required of me.

The Career Skills Section is great for those, like me, who are in work. There are lots of resources available under sub-headings such as Balancing Work and Life, Being More Productive and Improving Workplace Skills which I have often drawn upon to help me adjust to everyday workplace challenges. It is great to know that these resources are available to me as my career progresses over the next three years.

My Career Zone Digital is there to support you whatever you’re doing now or hope to be doing in the future. There is also a new weekly newsletter you can sign up to which means you can keep up-to-date with new content that’s added.

I fully recommend that you take advantage of these resources just as I have. Good luck!

James Priday – From Undergrad to CEO

James Priday graduated from the University of Exeter in 2011, and is currently the MD at Prydis Wealth and CEO of P1 Investment Management

James Priday, MD at Prydis Wealth, and CEO of P1 Investment Management

After graduating with a First in BA Accounting and Finance, I was invited by the University to stay on for a year to complete a Masters in the same subject and to teach undergraduate accountancy. This meant I could not only get a free Masters degree, but I would also be paid to teach at a University – fantastic at 21 years old! This was an opportunity I therefore enthusiastically took up. However, I had to give up a position in the Corporate Finance team at EY which I had already been offered. This was a decision that I didn’t take lightly but is one I now know was very much the right thing for me to do. At that point I didn’t know if I wanted a career at a big firm, or if I wanted to find my own path; either within smaller companies or my own business. Either way, both degrees would set me up very well for the future.

“I genuinely believe that the base knowledge, skills, and contacts I made at Exeter were the springboard to all of the things I have gone on to do.”

While at University I had also set up my own business developing fitness products. I did this with the help of the University’s Innovation Centre (now Think, Try, Do). The skills I learnt through that process have proved invaluable.

I have to admit; I didn’t have the usual University life. The social side didn’t interest me much, and I was more focused on getting ahead in life. That was far more important to me at that stage. Because of this, I was also completing professional qualifications alongside my degree, and before I had finished at Uni, I was qualified as an investment manager with the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI), and as a financial adviser with the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII).

When I came to finishing the Masters, it had become clear to me that I needed to have full control over my future, and therefore a career at a big firm was not for me. I had a conversation with my father and brother that would change the course of my life.

My brother had just come out of PWC as a Chartered Tax Adviser and started working with my father, who had a small accountancy and financial advisory business. We as a family took the decision that my brother would take over the accountancy firm, and I would take over the financial advisory side, allowing my father to step back from the day-to-day business operations, and enable us to inject some fresh energy and ideas into the business.

We quickly rebranded the firm, and set-up a law firm to complement our accountancy and financial advisory activities. This was only possible because the rules changed in 2012, allowing non-lawyers to own a law firm. During this time I also obtained regulatory permission for the financial advisory business to manage investments. These two developments allowed us to serve clients internally across a number of areas, which was, and I believe still is, something unique in the UK. The new group is called Prydis.

Since 2012, we have grown the business six-fold, with 75 staff and four offices. I have also moved our investment management activities into a separate company, P1 Investment Management. P1 serves not only our clients, but also the clients of other financial advisory firms. Additionally, I have developed a consumer-facing online investment platform, Strawberry Invest, and a new financial advisory offering, Financial Solutions.

Life has turned complicated, but exciting and rewarding. I genuinely believe that the base knowledge, skills, and contacts I made at Exeter University were the springboard to all of the things I have gone on to do.

The Career Mentor Scheme, a Career-Changing Experience

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

Rebecca Lenthall, Career Mentoring and Internships Coordinator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Launch your Career with an Internship in China

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

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

British Chamber of Commerce Shanghai’s Burns Night event

What did your particular internship entail?

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

Did you have to speak Chinese to get the job?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demystifying Spring Weeks

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

Emily Quartly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where will a Spring Week take your career?

So, what is a Spring Week?

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

What will you get out of it?

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

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

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

Making successful applications and interviews.

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

What’s the application process like?

The most common order runs;

CV upload/application form

Numerical Testing and/or situational judgement testing

Video interview(s)

Phone interview(s)

Result

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

What’s the next step?

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

Investment Banking

JP Morgan Spring week

Morgan Stanley Spring week opportunities

Goldman Sachs programs

HSBC Spring Insight Program

Barclays Spring Insight

Investment Management

Fidelity Women in Investment Insight week

Blackrock Insight week

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

CV and application form resources

Psychometric testing Numerical Testing and Situational judgement testing

1on1 appointment booking (Business School)

1on1 appointment booking (Career Zone)

Mock interview with employer events

Your Future Starts Now

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

Life is sweet for Albert after Exeter

Life is sweet for Albert after Exeter

What have you been up to since graduating in June?

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

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

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

How did you find these opportunities?

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

How did you prepare for the life of a graduate?

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

How did your time at Exeter influence your future?

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

What would you tell your First Year self in retrospect?

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

What has the future got in store for you?

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

Getting Social Media to Work for You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. #Employers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Networking!

Paid, Unpaid or Voluntary? Know Your Rights

James Bradbrook is the Career Zone Vacancy Co-ordinator.

A glitzy record company offers an inside track into the glorious world of Artists & Repertoire. They can’t offer a salary, but the experience is priceless. And if you do really well, you might even get a proper job out of it.

Unpaid work is everywhere these days. If everyone is doing it then it must be okay, right? Well, not necessarily. Working for free can be legal in certain circumstances and can offer valuable experience – but often it’s about unscrupulous employers exploiting people who don’t know their rights.

Don't undervalue how much your time is worth.

Don’t undervalue how much your time is worth.

So, what are your rights when it comes to getting paid for the work you do?

What’s in a name? Workers, Volunteers and Voluntary Workers

Your organisation might call you an “intern”, a “volunteer”. They might call your role “work experience”, a “placement”, or an “internship”. They might ask you to sign something waiving your right to the NMW.

None of that matters.

You can’t sign away your right to the National Minimum Wage[1], even if you want to.

And it doesn’t matter what your role is called. Many of the commonly used terms have no legal meaning. What really matters is the actual real life detail of your situation.

In legal-speak, if you’re a worker, you get the NMW. If you’re not a worker, you don’t.

But how do you know if you’re a worker or not? Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes not. But here are the basic definitions.

“One important indicator that can determine whether you’re a worker or not, is the question of reward.”

You’re usually a worker if you have things like set hours, defined responsibilities, have to do the work yourself, and have to turn up for your agreed hours even if you don’t feel like it.

A voluntary worker is someone who’s a bit like a worker (they have set responsibilities, hours, etc.) but who still works for free. The big thing here is who you’re working for. You can only be a voluntary worker if you’re working for a charity, voluntary organisation or a statutory body of some sort. People who help out at their local school or hospital, or do time in a charity shop are often voluntary workers.

A volunteer is someone who has no defined responsibilities, no obligation to turn up or do anything, and gets no financial benefit from the work they do. You can volunteer in this sense for any organisation, not just a charity.

Lastly, there’s work-shadowing. This isn’t a legal term, but if you’re hanging about the workplace (with their permission of course!), getting a feel for what goes on, watching people work, chatting to them about their jobs, etc. but not doing any actual work yourself then you’re not a worker and thus have no right to the National Minimum Wage.

What are you getting out of it?

One important indicator that can determine whether you’re a worker or not, is the question of reward.

Are you getting a payment? Have you been promised some training or a job at the end of your stint? If so, you could cross the line from volunteer or voluntary worker and become a worker.

Once again, it doesn’t matter what your organisation calls the payment or benefit you’re getting – what matters is the detail.

Maybe you get “travel expenses”. If this means you give your bus tickets to your organisation and they give you back the cash you spent on them, then there’s no problem. But, if they just give you a flat rate, regardless of your actual costs, that’s something else entirely. If you’re getting £20 a week for travel but you’re walking to work, then you could be a worker.

The same applies to “benefits in kind” (basically, non-monetary rewards). If the organisation gives you a pair of safety boots to wear on site, or a uniform, then that’s fine. But if you’re working for a music company that gives you free concert tickets or a fashion company that gives you a pair of posh shoes, then that’s a payment, potentially making you a worker[2].

Even promising a paid job at the end of your stint can cross the line and put you in the worker-camp.

“If you feel like you’ve been scammed, then it’s important to talk to someone about it. You can always pop into see us.”

Work experience in your course

If you’re doing work experience as part of your course, you’re not usually entitled to the National Minimum Wage, unless the duration exceeds one year.

Our view

As responsible adults, the ultimate decision to do unpaid work lies with the individual student. Only you can decide whether the trade-off of no cash vs. experience is worth it in your particular circumstances.

However, in general, we advise students to take on unpaid work only when you’re:

  • Doing a placement or work experience modules in your course;
  • Volunteering for charitable and non-profit organisations.

We don’t usually promote unpaid opportunities that last longer than three months, even if these are legitimate. You can find out more about our policy on vetting unpaid vacancies here.

The benefits of other sorts of unpaid work are questionable, with little evidence to suggest that they improve career outcomes. There’s even some evidence to suggest that doing unpaid internships can actually damage long-term prospects.

I feel like I’ve been ripped off … what do I do?

If you feel like you’ve been scammed, then it’s important to talk to someone about it.

You can always pop into see us. We can’t take action on your behalf, but we can certainly give an opinion on whether you have a genuine grievance. We can also talk to you about what you were hoping to gain from the experience and see if there’s a better way to meet that goal.

If you found this job through Career Zone, it’s very important you tell us. We aren’t perfect and sometimes inappropriate vacancies do slip through. It may also be that the employer hasn’t been honest with us – either way, we need to know to make sure other students don’t get ripped off.

The Advice Unit at the Students’ Guild can help with many problems and should be able to chat through the issue and talk through your options.

If you want to take action, you can report the company to HM Revenue & Customs. They can fine companies and force them to pay you what you’re owed. More information on how to make a complaint can be found here.

[1] When we refer to the National Minimum Wage we also include the National Living Wage because National Minimum / Living Wage is a bit of a mouthful.

[2] It’s worth noting that, although benefits in kind might make you a worker, they don’t usually count towards NMW. The employer who gives you a pair of £500 shoes risks making you a worker, but the £500 won’t count towards what they should pay you!

 

Associate Advancement – An Alternative Grad Scheme

Olivia Cottrell is a Service Management Associate at Computacenter

Olivia Cottrell

Olivia Cottrell

I graduated with a BA in History from Exeter in 2014 and I took a gap year re-living my childhood at Walt Disney World working for Mickey Mouse. After this year of fun I took another look at the graduate market to see what I wanted to pursue as my career.

Like many students I felt I needed to secure myself on a graduate scheme where I could gain some training to help me on my career journey.  In the midst of my research I came across Computacenter. They might be one of the biggest computer companies in the UK, but I had never come across them. They were advertising a service management associate role, a customer facing role helping different customers with their IT infrastructure services. The Computacenter Associate Scheme is an 18 month program designed to develop and train you for sales or service management role at Computacenter. Plus, if you’ve just finished university they run graduate schemes as well. The scheme is made up of rotations to understand the different elements of Computacenter’s business.

So why did I apply to the associate scheme within the IT industry?

Originally, like many graduates, I was drawn to the companies I’d seen on campus. However, I knew I wanted to work with technology even though studying History meant I thought the Gothenburg printing press was high tech. The IT industry is a changing landscape and looks very different from 10 years ago, let alone 20 or 30 years ago (we can all be grateful our desktops are not as large as our desks). If you are looking for an exciting and varied industry look no further than IT.

There was also a great variety in the service management role, it’s interesting to see how different companies utilise technology. If you think about how you use technology in your everyday life, businesses and employee’s want to use these technologies in their workplaces. The new ‘digital’ generation and expects digital working environments.  At Computacenter we’re striving to help companies develop their ‘Digital Workplace’. Nearly all companies employ digital technology in their workplace; but, no two companies employ technology in the same way. The possibilities are endless.  If you’re looking for variety and an insight into different companies; a career in IT service management is for you.

Olivia and Computacenter colleagues

Olivia and Computacenter colleagues

So why did this associate graduate scheme appeal to me so much?

There are major benefits for joining a non-traditional graduate programme like Computacenter’s Associate scheme. The scheme has a smaller intake than most traditional graduate schemes. This translates into an excellent support network. The network is to help you make the most out of the scheme and your time on it. As a smaller group we have established some great friendships, I have only been on the scheme a few months but there’s a lot of people to go out and network with.  Plus, we all look great in Hi Vis jackets as well.

Secondly the timing; our associate scheme opens in June and closes in October. This means if you’re looking for a role after you have graduated, you don’t have to wait until next September to start.

Lastly, Computacenter invests a lot of time and resources into this scheme. With senior leaders coming to speak to us within our first week and being interviewed by the companies COE at the assessment day. I feel valued and encouraged to progress within the company. I feel more than just a number at Computacenter and they go above and beyond to support you.

https://www.computacenter.com/uk/careers/future-talent/graduates

Getting into Cyber Security

Eneida Morina is a current BSc in Computer Science student at the University of Exeter. After graduation she’ll be working as a Cyber Security Specialist at an international technology services company. 

Eneida Morina

Eneida Morina

“I took part in the Career Mentor Scheme where I was introduced to a fantastic mentor. She worked in the IT sector and guided me through the different career options that I could pursue with my degree; reassuring me that it wasn’t just coding jobs out there! My mentor encouraged me to apply for a summer internship in one of the areas we discussed, and I luckily got an internship in cyber security at the Met Office.

The internship was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the field as I didn’t actually know as much as I thought I did! It was a good glimpse of the professional working world as well as an insight into the career. I enjoyed the nature of the work and the diversity of it, so I applied for the graduate role of Cyber Security Specialist at a leading international technology services company.

“Cyber security is evolving fast and is more important than ever. Companies and organisations need protecting, so I feel that my work will be really valued.”

Cyber security is evolving fast and is more important than ever. We’re constantly hearing of cyber-attacks on companies in the news, and there’s a real need for more cyber security specialists. This area is exciting as there will constantly be new ideas and issues to work on, and it’s an important field that really matters. Companies and organisations need protecting, so I feel that my work will be really valued.

The company I’m working for really stood out at the Careers and Placement Fair. They promote women in tech which is something I’m passionate about, and they offer great graduate opportunities. They also support continued development and the opportunity to gain further industry recognised qualifications.

The role I’ve taken on is really exciting; I get to continue learning and further build my knowledgebase. I’ll be working within an organisation that’s a market-leader and offers the best products as well as having a great reputation. Furthermore, the organisation is really ahead of the game so I’ll be exposed to all the latest cyber security news and products.

I want to be able to work with impressive clients and make a difference. That’s as far as I know for now – who knows what the future holds!”