Feeling Lucky, Punk?

Dirty Harry
Dirty Harry

I am sitting in a pub near the university, sipping on a pint, waiting for a friend. Judging by the perfect storm lashing against the oversized fanlight, I feel he may be some time. He may have delayed his cycle ride or interrupted it, seeking shelter. I do what most people seem to do on these occasions; I pick up my smart phone from the sticky table top, check the internet connection and start to browse.

By a haphazard, circuitous route I find myself on the Guardian film website. There is an article here on the top ten film misquotes. Did Darth Vader really say “Luke, I am your father…. ”?  Did Bogart really say “Play it again, Sam.”? Apparently not.  In the top three, is the Dirty Harry quote from the gritty early 70s film of the same name. The quote people remember is “Do you feel lucky, punk? Go ahead, make my day.”

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remember an article about luck and try and find this.

There it is on the Daily Mail website. The Guardian first, then the Daily Mail; we careers adviser like to be impartial and unbiased. There’s a Professor Wiseman  who has researched luck and written a book called “The Luck Factor”.

It is about serendipity.

What five syllable word better describes by it melodious rise and fall its meaning; happy accident?  His argument goes that you make your own luck and having a relaxed, outgoing attitude can influence your life for the positive.

Wiseman did an experiment, the article says. He asked people to fill out a questionnaire which gave an idea of how lucky people thought they were. He then asked the same people to read a newspaper and tell him how many photographs were inside. He had secretly placed a message halfway through the newspaper that read ‘Stop counting — there are 43 photographs in this newspaper’. “It was staring everyone in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people spotted it,” says Wiseman. So, it would seem, you do make your own luck.

This can also apply to your career. One careers theory is called “Planned Happenstance”. Krumboltz argues that some planning, an open mind and following what you enjoy, and has meaning for you, is the best way to a happy career, a happy life.  A happy, go lucky one………

My reverie is interrupted by the arrival of my friend and as he begins that slow, dripping, protracted unravelling of his cycle paraphernalia, peculiar, it seems, only to the British cyclist. I tartly remind him that his lateness means that that it is his round. I soon relent however and join the long, wide queue at the bar. After all, I have been lucky. His tardiness has given me an idea for a blog and a structure.

But what about you? Are you feeling lucky?

Are you feeling lucky, punk?

Go ahead.

Make your day.

Tom McAndrew
Careers Consultant at the University of Exeter 

3 things that are just as important as your degree if you’re looking to land a job in PR

Hannah Stacey
Hannah Stacey

By Hannah Stacey, Exeter History alumna and Account Manager at TopLine Communications.

Are you great at putting pen to paper? A bit of a people person? Good at getting your ideas across? Then you might want to consider a career in public relations. Trouble is that it’s a competitive old world, and getting into the communications industry isn’t as easy as having a sparkling 2.1 in humanities on your CV. Here are three things that are just as important:

1)    Knowing what’s going on in the industry

Potential employers will always be impressed by someone who has a good understanding of what’s going on in the industry they want to work in. Rocking the PR world at the moment are the blurring boundaries of ‘traditional’ PR (media relations) and digital marketing (social media, SEO, blogging etc.), so be sure to knock any interviewer’s socks off with a sparkling knowledge of both. Below is a list of publications and Twitter accounts you might want to follow if you’re looking into getting into PR:

2)    Having a killer CV

You might have brilliant grades but, unluckily for you, so do a lot of other people trying to get into public relations. PR is a creative industry, so get imaginative with your CV (but obviously not when it comes to your qualifications!). Here are some suggestions for sprucing up your CV:

  • Make sure it highlights your relevant skills and experience. Key skills that PR agencies look for are: attention to detail; great communication skills (a must); great writing ability; being a team player; being able to think creatively. This doesn’t mean leaving out your weekend job in the local greasy spoon – just make sure every bit of experience is tied in with one of these skills.
  • Make it look cool. Whether you’re a dab hand at design or you have a few quid to spare, making your CV memorable (for the right reasons) is bound to get you noticed. Here’s a great Pinterest board of creative CVs.
  • Dabble with the format. A written version of your CV is always a must – but why not send along a video covering letter with it? Done well, these will make your application shine (though the cringe-potential is quite high here). Camera shy? Wideo is a great free tool for making animated online videos – why not try that?

3)    Not taking a scattergun approach

Landing a job in PR is not a numbers game. Firing out your CV to a hundred different agencies is unlikely to produce the results you hoped for. Make a list of 10 PR agencies you really like the look of. Then for each write down the answers to the following questions:

  • What type of PR do they do? (Consumer? Healthcare? B2B? Third sector?)
  • What services do they offer? (Media relations? Social media? Crisis comms?)
  • What’s your favourite example of their work on their website and why?

Then make sure that everything you say – whether in your covering letter, CV or interview – is tailored to fit.

If you really want to impress any potential employer, take a look at their clients, do some research  and come up with some ideas of your own for them. Even if they’re a bit off-the-mark, showing that you have initiative and can be creative might just land you that dream job.

Happy job hunting!

Getting started in a career in digital media

Joel Chudleigh from digital media production company MWP gives his insights into pursuing a career in digital media.

The digital media industry has been growing rapidly for the past 10 years. However, it is only very recently that literally every company in the world has taken the Internet seriously.

This is good news for newcomers as you are not far behind the leaders in the industry in terms of experience and skills.

Adding to that point, as the industry is both young and rapidly evolving there are few rules and expected ways to do things. Entrepreneurial spirit and a passion to learn and develop are key. If you have those then you will find a way into this industry. Read More

Phone interviews: how do Exeter students handle them?

Being interviewed is a big part of application process for almost any graduate level job. But we’ve heard from some students that big employers are relying on phone interviews more than ever. How is a phone interview different from the usual suited-and-booted face-to-face affair, and what can you to do prepare?

Imogen, a second year English student, found that every internship she’s applied for has involved a phone interview. The interview stage might be daunting, but Imogen reckons she much prefers phone interviews over face-to-face. It’s easier to refer to notes and she can be in relaxed and comfortable surroundings when the phone rings.

Of course, there’s a risk of being too casual on the phone, so regardless of whether you’re wearing a suit or pyjamas, you should always remember to keep the tone polite and professional. It will help if you’re relaxed – but don’t talk to the interviewer on the other end of the phone the same way you would your best friend!

When it comes to preparing for a phone interview, Eleanor, a third year Geography student, agrees with Imogen about notes. Before her interview, she jotted down the key competencies the company was looking for on some revision cards. But, she says, “too many notes can distract you and you’ll just get confused!”

The trick then, is to make sure you really know your stuff about a company – and the sector they work in – before getting to the interview, so you can answer questions confidently and won’t be left rummaging through your notes at the last minute.

Before her interview with a logistics company, Imogen read a report about the logistics industry, and did a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis of the company (attending a Project Planning session could help you find out more about tools like SWOT analysis – and it counts to your Leaders Award).

Preparing and practising for a phone interview can also help you get your nerves under control – but there are some things beyond your control.

Things to watch out for in a phone interview include a busy or incommunicative interviewer; companies may use interviewers from external recruitment agencies who could have a checklist of standard questions to ask, or your interviewer may be pressed for time. There’s not much you can do in a situation like this – but from Imogen’s experience this is a time to sell yourself against the odds, by remaining calm, remembering your research and staying resilient.

We’ve even heard that some employers – including technology and grocery companies – are taking a high-tech approach to phone interviews – replacing them with recorded video interviews, where candidates speak into their webcam and their responses are recorded to be watched by an interviewer later.

Ellie’s advice for interviews like these is to stay friendly – remember to make eye contact with the camera, be as relaxed as you can, and try to smile! The interviewer will want to see your enthusiasm and knowledge, so do your best to make sure these shine through, even if you’re nervous.

How did Imogen deal with the nerves? “To keep myself calm I tried to look at it as if this was me interviewing the company. I wanted to see if I was a good fit with that role and that business.”

That’s good advice, regardless of how you’re being interviewed.

Sincere thanks to Imogen and Eleanor for their input.

 Josh Smith is the Career Zone’s Information and Systems Assistant.

Have you had any phone or video interviews? What did you think of them? Let us know in the comments below.


Prepare for the Fair

Careers fairs allow you to meet a range of employers and learn what they’re looking for in their future employees. At Exeter we run five across our campuses in the autumn term, offering part time and casual work, international opportunities and graduate vacancies. Our fairs are open to all students and this year exhibitors include L’Oreal, M&C Saatchi and the Bank of England. Even if you don’t know what you want to do, fairs can be the first step to finding out, so you definitely need to get these dates in your diary.

Here are our top tips for getting the most out of a careers fair…

  • Careers FairWho takes your fancy?
    Check what fairs are coming up by visiting our website. You can then see who is attending by viewing the exhibitor list or by reading the fair booklet (available online).  Make a ‘wish list’ of companies and focus on them.
  • Preparation is key…
    You’ll stand out if you can demonstrate an understanding of an organisation, so familiarise yourself with what they offer before the day. Prepare questions in advance and tailor them – don’t ask questions you could find easily elsewhere.
  • …But be flexible
    Don’t panic if you want to approach a company that is not on your list! Look at their fair brochure entry or ask staff on our Career Zone stand for a breakdown of what they do. If you have a smart-phone, Google them.
  • Build your confidence
    Approaching complete strangers can be daunting. So when you arrive, don’t rush to your favourite organisation. Instead, network with others first, to increase your confidence.
  • Brand you
    Recruiters meet hundreds of students, so consider yourself a brand and determine your USP (Unique Selling Point). Impress them and they may ask for your CV. Take up-to-date copies with you but have it checked by Career Zone staff first. However, don’t be offended if they don’t take your CV and simply direct you to their website.
  • It’s not about the money, money, money…
    Don’t get hung up on the salary and benefits. Employers take a dim view of applicants who are only interested in what an organisation can do for them.
  • Fashion statement
    Dress appropriately! You’re not expected to be suited and booted (unless you want to be), but don’t rock up wearing an expletives-covered t-shirt. You’ll get noticed but for all the wrong reasons!
  • Professional to the core
    Be professional, positive, polite and courteous. Oh, and please don’t just help yourself to the freebies, however tempting it might be.
  • Follow up
    Feel free to ask a recruiter for their business card – you might want to ask further questions or reference them in your application. Take a notebook to jot down important facts. Your head will be swimming with information by the end, trust me!

Still got questions? Then why not head to one of the ‘Preparing for the Careers Fair’ sessions the Careers team are running this term. You can book your place by visiting My Career Zone.

Good luck!

Natalie Horlock,
Employer Liaison Officer (Graduate Recruitment),
University of Exeter

An Exeter Graduate in the Non-Profit Sector

Grace Brownfield is an Exeter graduate currently on the Charityworks programme.

Grace BrownfieldI am currently on a paid charity graduate scheme, working as a support worker for older people at Willow Housing and Care, and training my way up to build my career in the non-profit sector.

So, how did I get here? I know it might seem obvious, but volunteering is the best thing you can do to get into this sector. It gives you the skills and confidence needed to get a job, and shows potential employers that you are committed to the sector.

Whilst at university, I started volunteering with Community Action and at the end of my second year, applied for a committee position as Special Projects Rep. Being able to demonstrate that I’d taken responsibility for organising something was really key to getting a job in the sector.

I wanted to continue doing charitable work, but wanted to be paid and build a career whilst doing so! In my final year, I searched ‘charity graduate scheme’ and found Charityworks – a graduate scheme which aims to train up future leaders for the charity sector. I went through the application process for that and was lucky enough to be offered a place on the scheme.

I was placed in my current role as a support worker – it’s a role I never would have got otherwise, as I had no experience in that area. That’s what is so brilliant about being a new graduate in a charity – people are really willing to give you lots of responsibility and a range of interesting projects to work on.

I’ve learnt that so much of the charity sector is about attitude. If you’re enthusiastic and passionate, then people will happily teach you the rest.

Through working in the non-profit sector, there’s a sense of satisfaction that, in my eyes, you don’t get in any other sector. It’s a cliché but going to work every day knowing you are doing something meaningful is really rewarding. At times, it can be stressful, as people are relying on you, especially in front-line roles, but it’s worth it when things work out. Everyone is passionate about what they do, and I am yet to find someone who isn’t really happy to help those new to the sector.

It’s a particularly creative time in the sector – with lots of new projects, initiatives and ways of working coming in – as charities look at any possible suggestions to keep delivering more for less, there’s the potential for fresh, young graduates to have a real impact on the ways charities work and develop in the future.

Some of my tips would be:

  • Volunteer! And try and take on particular responsibility – running a project, taking on a committee position, or asking for extra tasks in your volunteering role are all great ways to make yourself stand out in job applications.
  • If you can, volunteer in an organisation and a role you think you’d like as a job – from what I’ve learnt, so many people got their job by starting off volunteering
  • Remember it’s never too late to get involved – in my role as Community Action Special Projects Rep, I worked with another student in her final year who ended up organising a volunteering project for young carers in her final term – a great experience and addition to the CV!
  • If you get the opportunity to write any academic work on a topic you’re passionate about then do – for example, I wrote a politics paper on Homelessness. This shows you have a good knowledge of the issues you care about in interviews

I didn’t realise until I got into the sector, how much you can learn from others and, often, it’s how you hear about jobs and other opportunities. Don’t be afraid to ask people about their jobs, and how they got them. And you never know, in a few years, it could be someone just starting out asking you how you got your job.

How to Get a Totally Awesome Internship

An internship is a pre-professional work experience position that will give you a chance to gain experience in a certain career field or job role. They are usually highly sort after and even though they are heavily advertised, a candidate will have to go through a rigorous applicant assessment process, which more often than not is the same process that you would go through if you were applying for a permanent position. So how can you push your way to the front of the pile and make sure that you stand out over the other candidates?

Dig a little deeper:

Simply saying ‘do your research’ is stating the obvious; and giving the website a quick 30 minute scan won’t cut the mustard. Recruiters are looking for those candidates who are passionate about the company. Digging a little deeper in the company history, products and values will earn your brownie points, but you can guarantee that companies are looking for those individuals who read the company blogs, understand their competitors and a person who has the mind-set of the company. Very rarely you will get away with ‘blagging’ on an interview as the gap in knowledge will almost inevitably show, which could cost you that all important position.

Show you’re Passionate:

Depending on the role, a recruiter is looking for someone who is intently passionate about the potential job position. For example, if the job is as an assistant in a fashion house, it will help if you are passionate about fashion, but not just in an ‘I like clothes’ way. Those people who design, research and immerse themselves in the job outside their professional life will have a greater chance of getting the job.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car

These are two very simple steps but both points will demonstrate why you want to work for the company you have applied for and how valuable you could potentially be.

I hope you enjoyed this post and that you found it useful. Enterprise Rent-A-Car are always looking for passionate and committed individuals to join their company. We have a range of summer and year-long placements available as well as permanent graduate management jobs.

Guest post from Enterprise Rent-A-Car