Find your Pathway

Morgan Smith is a current University of Exeter student studying Flexible Combined Honours in Economics with Geography and Study Abroad. In June 2021 they took part in the Pathways to International Trade programme and following the training, completed an internship with Martec International.

In this post, we hear from both Morgan and Brian Hume, Managing Director at Martec, on their experiences of the programme.

Please briefly outline the project you worked on during your Professional Pathways internship and any achievements you were particularly proud of.

Morgan: During my Pathways internship, I worked as a Distributor Manager for Martec International. My role involved reaching out to potential overseas clients and starting a dialogue with regards to a partnership in selling Martec online learning products.

Initially, I contacted potential clients via email, and this yielded little response. I then had the initiative to try contacting people through LinkedIn, which resulted in much higher engagement. I was able to reach out to individuals from a number of companies and my initial conversation with one individual has led to Martec International’s partnership with Future Sharp, a subsidiary of one of the largest retail companies in India. It was amazing for me to be able to see the tangible impact of my work whilst working for Martec International.

“It was amazing for me to be able to see the tangible impact of my work.”

Morgan Smith, Flexible Combined Honours in Economics with Geography and Study Abroad, and successful Pathways applicant

How did hosting an intern via the Professional Pathways programme benefit you and your organisation?

Brian: We were able to start a project that we have not had capacity to resource before.  We have a successful distributor of our products in America.  We want to recruit more of them in other countries and covering other market segments. Our intern helped in drafting a series of initial messages to potential executives and then sent the messages in my name.  This approach really surprised us at how well it worked.  Lots of CEOs and SVPs in target firms connected with me and got engaged in dialogue.  Our intern was able to participate in the initial face to face (via Teams) meeting with the CEO and COO of one company.  We now have electronic dialogues in progress with another 6 or so companies, albeit at earlier stages in the cycle.

Successful completion of this project will benefit my local team because it will help a faster recovery from the pandemic shockwave, it will strengthen the resilience of the business and protect jobs.  It will increase the staffing levels we will need locally as volume builds up. Morgan made sufficient promising progress that we arranged to keep him on for another three weeks on our own payroll to move the project on to more valuable deliverables and hopefully, much greater job satisfaction for him. When it works for the intern, it frequently works for us too!

Brian Hume, Managing Director at Martec

Given the Professional Pathways internship is 35 hours in total, what advice would you give to other students to ensure they gain as much as possible from the experience? 

Morgan: It is really important to work with your manager to make the most of your limited time with the company. In my case, I decided to work part-time in order to have more time for clients to respond to my requests. This worked so well that Martec International kept me on for another 3 weeks to see the project through to a desirable endpoint. Ultimately it is important to try and provide as much value as you can to your company using the skills you have developed both in your degree and your Pathways training. This will allow you to have the biggest impact and also help you to get the most out of the work you are doing.

How was your experience of hosting a remote working intern?

Brian: It worked very well because we are a virtual business anyway and everyone is remote to everyone else, so we have the processes and IT systems to manage it.  We have a Wednesday morning Teams meeting with everyone and Morgan joined those meetings to see everyone else in action and to build a relationship with colleagues.  We also did specific project meetings via Teams regularly, so there was a high level of dialogue with myself and colleagues. Morgan is very personable so he built relationships quickly. Immediately before the project started we had a meeting with everyone involved and reviewed the project plan so we all knew where to start immediately on day 1. We updated the plan regularly as events unfolded. We spoke most days during his time with us.

Applications for all Professional Pathway programmes close next week on Tuesday 18 January at 1:00pm, don’t miss out on applying. You can find further details on the available Pathways and how to apply here, or contact:

Your Career in Translation

Anam Zafar, Exeter alumn and Translation Editor for Cadenza Academic Translations, and Freelance Literary Translator

Anam Zafar graduated from the University of Exeter in BA French and Arabic, 2018. She’s currently Translation Editor for Cadenza Academic Translations, and is also an award-winning Freelance Literary Translator. 

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

I’ve done a range of things since leaving Exeter. Since before Exeter, I have been a keen volunteer for various charitable causes, and knew that the humanitarian and development sector was a possible career option. At the same time, I loved my degree, and wanted to be able to use languages in my career. I especially enjoyed translation, which we got to try out in the final year of University, and in final year I decided that I wanted to do an MA in translation.

I wanted to have a break from academia before the MA, so I first worked and volunteered for a year in the humanitarian and development sectors to see what it was like as an employee rather than a volunteer, and to see how my languages could come in useful. I began the year as an intern for Islamic Relief (in Business Development) and was then employed by them temporarily (Archives), before going to Greece for three months to volunteer in refugee camps. Although all these roles needed language skills to a certain extent, I realised that unless I found an actual translation job within the humanitarian and development sector, I would rather engage with the sector as a volunteer. I also realised how much I missed intense language work, I knew that I definitely wanted to do the translation MA. Therefore, one year after graduating from Exeter, I joined the University of Leeds Applied Translation Studies MA course.

“The literary translation work is going well so far: I’ve won some translation awards, been longlisted for another, and have had work published in literary journals.”

The MA made me realise how much I enjoyed literary translation (translating novels and short stories, rather than translating business documents or articles). I knew it was very hard to make a decent living from literary translation alone, but I was determined to fit it into my career somehow. So I decided I would try to become a freelance translator, where I could balance commercial translation work with literary translation work.

After finishing my MA in summer 2020, I went straight into an internship with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna (Editing and Terminology), and at the same time was awarded a literary translation mentorship from the National Centre for Writing. I didn’t do any actual translation as part of the IAEA internship, but I realised how much I enjoyed related language work such as editing English-language articles. I wanted to find a part-time in-house translation position with a translation agency after this internship, to build more experience before going freelance, but at the time there wasn’t anything going in my language pairs.

Instead of spending months applying for jobs, I decided to become a freelance translator straightaway (Jan 2021). I did this for eight months, and was then offered an in-house position as an editor for an agency I was already freelancing for: Cadenza Academic Translations. Now, since September 2021, I work for Cadenza four days a week editing academic articles that have been translated into English from French and Arabic, which leaves time for literary translation on Fridays and some weekday evenings.

I also deliver creative translation workshops in schools with the Stephen Spender Trust. The literary translation work is going well so far: I’ve won some translation awards, been longlisted for another, and have had work published in literary journals. My objective going forward is to work with publishers to translate and publish full-length books from Arabic and French into English. I’m interested in adults and kids literature, including novels, short stories, and graphic novels. I’ve appeared online at some literary festivals this year, and also volunteer for World Kid Lit.

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

As my passion for languages increased during my BA at Exeter and my MA in Leeds, I knew I wanted to use languages in my career. After my internship at IEA where I did a lot of editing, I also realised I’d be happy adding editing to my career. With Cadenza Academic Translations, I enjoy how much I learn about the world on a weekly basis, and being on top of the latest research in the humanities and social sciences by getting to work so closely with academics and their papers!

My colleagues are all equally passionate about languages and editing, and I appreciate the conversations we can have about the placement of punctuation or whether or not to capitalise something – conversations many other people in my life may not appreciate so much!

“With literary translation, I enjoy the creativity needed to recreate a story or a novel in another language. I am a very creative person, and I appreciate being able to use this aspect of myself in my work.”

With literary translation, I enjoy the creativity needed to recreate a story or a novel in another language. I am a very creative person, and I appreciate being able to use this aspect of myself in my work. I also enjoy the freedom that comes with choosing your own projects: if I enjoy a book in French or Arabic, all it takes is to make sure no one else is already translating it, and I can get going with trying to get an extract published in literary journal, or pitching the whole work to English-language publishers. I’ve also made some great friends through the literary translation community.

With both aspects of my career, there are chances to network and socialise, and these are very important to succeeding and finding out about opportunities. But the work itself is very much ‘head down’, which I’m totally fine with. If I enjoy my work, I prefer being left to get on with it and don’t mind sitting in front of the computer on my own for most of my working time. I also appreciate that my career allows me to work from home.

What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?

I had some inspirational tutors who genuinely cared about our progress. I enjoyed speaking lessons a lot. The biggest highlight was my year abroad in Jordan, during my Second Year. I think it was a good idea to send us abroad in second year, because our Arabic level improved extremely quickly, which we were then able to hone for two more years when we got back to Exeter.

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

The translation classes I had in my final year at Exeter, for both Arabic and French, were vital to getting me where I am now. The grammar lessons were also vital, because as a translator and editor, you must be able to understand the text in the original language inside out. While I’m only involved in written translation and not spoken interpreting, I still appreciate the spoken language lessons I had in both languages. This allows me to communicate with authors in my literary translation work.

“Do all the homework and attend all the classes – it really makes a difference to be fully committed.”

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

Do all the homework and attend all the classes – it really makes a difference to be fully committed. Don’t be afraid to reach out to translators and other types of professional linguists online. As a student, I did this a lot, and it helped me to understand the industry and to work out if this really was the career for me.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to stay at Cadenza for at least a few years. I also want to continue developing my literary translation work. I’d love to translate some full length works, and will continue pitching to publishers. I also want to continue with translation workshops in schools, and start speaking on panels and giving presentations to encourage emerging and potential literary translators.

Find out more about Anam on her website

How to Use your Finance Degree to Pursue a Career in Jordan

Raniah Raed Talal Shawkat, University of Exeter alumn, and current Acting Credit Manager, Iiwwa Inc, Jordan

Raniah Raed Talal Shawkat graduated from the University of Exeter with an Msc in Finance and Management. She’s currently Acting Credit Manager, Iiwwa Inc, Jordan.

Where do you currently live and work? 

I now live and work in Jordan. After my studies in Exeter, I joined multiple internships then started working as credit officer for SMEs clients at liwwa, Inc. I’ve been with them for 3 years and 3 months, and recently promoted as Acting Credit Manager.

Why did you choose to pursue this career?

I chose this career as it needs analytical skills in addition to decision making, which I like. And I can use the knowledge and skills acquired during my studies to implement and develop through this career.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Exeter?

The first point as it is one of the top UK universities, the second thing is my interest in the programme I wanted to study and finally its location as I know some relatives and friends who studied there previously and could gave me ideas and advice about the city. I liked everything about Exeter: the city, the campus, the availability of resources at the library.

Why did you choose your particular degree subject?

I liked the programme and its modules. I also took into account recommendations form friends studied there before me.

How did your degree help you prepare for the position you are in now?

It taught me analytical thinking, quick problem solving, ownership, entrepreneurship, solidarity, agility, and active listening.

Please tell us about the application process for your graduate job, and how you prepared and/or managed this?

I found the job through LinkedIn, went through multiple interviews, the cover letter and a follow up email reflecting on the interview, expressing the interest, the skills and values that can be added had a good impact.

Did you use the Career Zone whilst at Exeter? If so, what especially helped?

I attended some job fairs at the campus which was helpful to get an idea and planning about the career.

What aspects of your UK university education worked in your favour during the application process?

I could sense the focus on developing analytical skills and strategic thinking. Also, living abroad alone for the first time in my life taught me a lot of things and made me a stronger person mentally.

What did you do at university that you think gave you a competitive advantage in the job market in your home-country?

The practical dissertation part of my degree. It gave me the opportunity to work on a real life cases, analyse the financial theories and practice forecasting and valuation which solidified all that I had learnt through the programme on a practical level. I also was a member of the Financial group.

What were the biggest obstacles in gaining a graduate job in your home-country?

There is almost no or very rare organizations that offer internships for graduates, this has a bad impact especially for people who didn’t gain much experience before getting their postgraduate degree.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were applying for opportunities?

The importance of continuous learning and obtaining professional qualifications.

What is your advice for any international student seeking a career in finance and wanting to follow a similar path to you?

I would encourage them to focus on their studies from the first day they join the school.

Our alumni networks in these countries are available to help you socially and professionally now and in the future. You can connect with them whilst you are a student to take advantage of their support when you are back home during holiday season, and of course, reach out to them when you graduate.

The Alumni Office organise regular virtual employability events, which are a useful resource both for graduates and current students. For a full listing of events, please click here and to watch historic records, please click here

Alumni Profile – André Luis Martins Filho, Co-Founder and Head of Product at Uello

André Luis Martins Filho studied Bsc Engineering and Management at the University of Exeter on a 1 year exchange program, Graduating in 2016. He is the Co-Founder and Head of Product at Uello

André Luis Martins Filho, University of Exeter alumni, and Co-Founder and Head of Product at Uello

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now? 

As soon as I left Exeter, I came back to Brazil and co-founded Uello, a logistics tech startup. Going straight from the University to founding a startup is not your usual career path, and it has been very demanding. We began as a company of just 2 people sitting in a co-working space, validating the business model. Today we have over 90 employees, 10,000+registered drivers, and have delivered over 2 million packages in Brazil with an innovative business model revolving around the gig economy and technology. When you found a startup, you have to do a little bit of everything from carrying boxes in warehouses and delivering packages to modelling the business plan, planning budgets and building operational processes. Today, I lead the product division of the company and am responsible for identifying, prioritizing and delivering technology and product enhancements.

“When you found a startup, you have to do a little bit of everything from carrying boxes in warehouses and delivering packages to modelling the business plan, planning budgets and building operational processes.”

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

I always liked doing things differently than expected. At Exeter, for example, I sought out experiences that I would have never had in Brazil, such as being a part of the Rifle Club. Many of my friends and classmates from University were seeking out careers in banking, corporate or consulting, but I wanted a different experience. What I enjoy most about my work is how much ownership I have. I am a part of every major decision that the company makes and am involved in every step in a way it would take me years to achieve had I followed a more traditional career path. I also like the fact that I can look back and be proud of how much we built from scratch; it is very satisfying and keeps me going even in the hardest times.

What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?

I have always been a very practical person; I prefer to get my hands dirty and actually execute rather than just study. The Engineering and Management course provided me with several opportunities to visit actual companies and see our studies in action and being implemented. My final paper, which I wrote under the tutelage of Prof Voicu Ion Sucala, was a wonderful experience exactly for this reason. I got to work with a metal manufacturing company directly and simulate their processes in different scenarios. It was great to present my results and to know they would be used to generate positive results for a real company. I left wanting to experience that again with more intensity.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

I enjoyed how international my experience in Exeter was. I got to meet people from all over the world, to live among them, and learn a lot from them. It expanded my horizons a lot.

“What I enjoy most about my work is how much ownership I have. I am a part of every major decision that the company makes and am involved in every step in a way it would take me years to achieve had I followed a more traditional career path.”

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?

The University of Exeter was one of the most prestigious and recognized universities available within the scholarship programme I was a part of. At the time, though I was studying engineering, I very much wanted to pursue a career in business. The Engineering and Management course seemed like a great fit for what I wanted, and my experience at Exeter and how it has influenced me since underscores how great that choice has been for me.

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

In an early stage startup everyone has to be generalist to some extent. There are just not enough people to have specialization. So I think that being able to navigate through most areas of a business whilst not necessarily being a specialist in any was invaluable. Courses like Business, Engineering and Management and others provide the necessary knowledge to become that generalist. For a startup, being tech savvy enough to communicate with and understand software engineers and other people in more technical fields is also critical. The rest is drive, dedication, and hard work.

“For a startup, being tech savvy enough to communicate with and understand software engineers and other people in more technical fields is also critical. The rest is drive, dedication, and hard work.”

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

Find a company with a mission and identity to which you connect completely. You are going to be working a lot and facing difficult odds, so there has to be a lot of drive, motivation, and eagerness to make this work. This only happens when there is fit between you and what the company represents. Also, don’t be afraid to take risks, especially in the beginning of your career because it only gets harder to take those risks later.

What are your plans for the future?

I fell in love with the startup and innovation environment. I plan to keep with it, either growing Uello beyond and beyond or helping other companies navigate through their journey.

Pathways to Arts, Culture and Heritage

Georgie Rubega is a current University of Exeter student studying BA Liberal Arts with Study Abroad. In June 2021 she took part in the Pathways to Arts, Culture and Heritage programme.

Tell us about the work you carried out during your Professional Pathways internship. 

Georgie Rubega, BA Liberal Arts with Study Abroad, and Professional Pathways intern.

During my Professional Pathways internship at Powderham Castle my job title was Educational Visit Programmer, and my main role was to work on a project to create a teacher pack for a new school class visit to Powderham. This involved extensive research on both the history of Powderham, including visiting and touring the castle, and the educational programming area of the heritage sector in order to know what to include in the document. I had to make sure that my proposed school visit supported the National Curriculum, had cross-curricular activities, and of course, was inspired by and originated from Powderham Castle’s history. Overall, it allowed me to be creative in the production of the final document and thinking up the activities and use my written communication, IT, and research skills extensively.

How has the Professional Pathways programme helped you in taking the next steps in your career?

The Professional Pathways programme was really useful as it helped me confirm my decision to pursue a career in the Arts, Culture, and Heritage sector. The training days were an amazing introduction to the different areas of the sector, such as educational programming, marketing, commercialisation etc. and really showed me how diverse and interesting the sector is. The internship itself at Powderham Castle also opened my eyes to the reality of working for a heritage organisation and the experience I have gained will certainly boost my CV and help me stand out in the future.

“The Arts, Culture, and Heritage sector is known to be quite hard to get a job in and so any experience you can get will definitely help to boost your CV and make you stand out.”

How do you think this experience will impact on your employability as you enter the job market as a recent graduate?

The Arts, Culture, and Heritage sector is known to be quite hard to get a job in and so any experience you can get will definitely help to boost your CV and make you stand out, and I know having my internship at Powderham Castle to look back on and refer to going forward, will definitely stand me in good stead for my future career! Furthermore, I feel I developed a good relationship with my line manager and so I hope this networking and connection will also help my employability as I now have a contact in the sector who may think of me for roles in the future.

What advice would you give to a student who has to complete an internship remotely?
I would say that maintaining regular contact with your line manager is a must in order to stay motivated and to check you are working as they want you to – during my internship we had a WhatsApp chat which was really useful as it meant I could get replies to my messages quicker than if I was to send an email, and we also did a few Zoom meetings to chat more extensively. There were two other Pathways students also doing the Powderham Castle internship, so we also had a group chat together to discuss how we were getting on with our work and ask each other any questions which also helped to not feel as isolated and more like a team!

Applications for Professional Pathways 2022 are now open and you can find further details on the different Pathway programmes and how to apply. We plan to run the training in-person on our Streatham Campus and internships available will be a mix of workplace-based roles and remote-working positions. The deadline to apply is Tuesday 18 January 2022 at 1:00pm.

 

How to Impress UK Employers as an International Student

Claire Guy is an Employability and Careers Consultant at the University of Exeter.

For many international students, understanding what UK employers are looking for can be difficult. In my experience, many UK students don’t understand it too well either. That’s why UK universities, including the University of Exeter, have qualified, experienced careers practitioners providing a wide range of information, advice and personalised guidance to help you with your future plans. We support you to present yourself in the very best light and really shine in your job applications.

Like many things in life, creating a career plan and implementing it is a much more complicated process than most people realise. The modern world of work is more complicated than it ever has been. The graduate job market is competitive with large numbers of students and graduates applying for opportunities. One of the challenging things about applying for graduate roles is that there are many misunderstandings or myths about what employers are looking for, and often students spend their time and energy on things that employers don’t value that much instead of focusing on what employers are actually interested in.

A ranking of the skills and attributes that employers say students do not have.

So what are UK employers looking for? 

The UK is fairly unique in that most graduate employers are not very interested in your degree subject. There are of course some exceptions, such as employers who look for engineering degrees or those seeking a graduate with a statistics based degree. But on the whole, the biggest proportion of graduate employers will welcome graduates from any subject/discipline.

This means that they are not looking for specific technical knowledge from a university course, but are instead looking for students who can be shaped and trained by the organisation, who have the potential to grow into a role. The way that they judge potential is to assess whether you have the skills that they think are important. You will know what skills each employer is looking for because they will tell you in the role description or job details. Each employer is looking for a slightly different set of skills so it’s very important for you to pay close attention to exactly what they are asking for.

What skills are important in the UK? 

In a recent 2021 report by the Institute of Student Employers, employers ranked the skills that they felt graduates were lacking. The lower the score the more concerned employers are about this skill.

Understanding what skills employers want, the skills they struggle to find in graduates and the specific skills needed in the career / industry or role you are applying for puts you in a great position to impress employers. The next step is where you can really create a brand for yourself as an international student, which will make you stand out.

Highlighting your skills as an International Student

You are a unique breed of student. You’re a risk taker, a pioneer, a brave adventurer and explorer of new worlds. This is wonderful! It’s important to be really clear with employers about the skills you’ve gained as an international student. Here’s a really great list to start you off by Study International 10 Reasons Why Employers Love Graduates Who Have Studied Abroad

Let’s think about the chart above and some of the skills that employers are struggling to find in graduates.

Career management. If leaving your home, family and friends to pursue an education which will lead to gainful employment isn’t good career management, I don’t know what is! You could provide even more evidence of your intentions for a strategic career plan by taking part in the Exeter Award or our Professional Pathways programme.

Commercial awareness. You can find out more about Commercial Awareness from Bright Network. (Top Tip – it is really helpful to search for a definition of any skills that employers are asking for- this will really help you to explain how you have that skill!). Essentially commercial awareness is your understanding of how the industry you are considering works, and how it is affected by what is going on in the world. As an international student, you are in a unique position to talk about an industry from a UK perspective but also from the viewpoint of your home country. You may not know much about it at the moment, but I bet you could call on friends or family members at home to help you find out more. This will allow you to impress employers with your international commercial awareness! We are experts on commercial awareness within Career Zone and can teach you how to improve yours (search for upcoming workshops on Handshake). Our Sector Research pages are also a great starting point.

Resilience

As an international student, you have a lot to cope with- living far from your loved ones, managing your finances, and navigating the visa regulations (don’t forget there is a lot of help available at Exeter from International Student Support). I am convinced you have the resilience of a rubber band (i.e. a lot!).

The reason you get rejected may not be the one you think 

I hope I have convinced you that you have brilliant skills- my final point is one that applies to all students, revealed by the Institute of Student Employers in 2021.

The most common reasons that stop students from getting the jobs that they apply for

This chart shows that it is not a lack of work experience, or your grades that lead to an application being rejected. It’s actually your ability to write an application in the style that UK employers are looking for. Just like learning to write in English, or learning how a UK essay is written, the process of writing a tailored UK job application is a technique. Very few people write in this style naturally. It’s an approach to writing that we can teach you. Once you understand how to do it, your success rate will increase. That’s why we run regular workshops on tailoring your applications (bookable via Handshake) provide online resources and also 1-2-1 appointments where you can get feedback on your application before you submit.

If you want to understand more about what UK employers want, why not get involved in the many opportunities we provide for you to meet them? Come along to a careers fair, employer-led event or form a more personal relationship with a professional through our Career Mentor scheme– these are brilliant ways to really gain understanding of how to impress UK employers as an international graduate.

Employability Monsters – challenge your employability barriers with Lego® Serious Play

Employability Monsters

Kate Foster is Career Consultant (Widening Participation) and Career Coach (Early Career Researchers) at University of Exeter. 

Background to the Employability Monsters Project

Last summer the Career Zone was lucky enough to secure a small research grant from the Centre for Social Mobility. We knew that students from underrepresented and disadvantaged groups often face barriers in developing their employability, and that the current global pandemic may have created even bigger gaps for these students. Research from the social mobility charity – UpReach (July 2019) highlighted the challenges students from less privileged backgrounds face; ‘(they) have more limited access to careers advice at school, are less likely to have completed professional work experience and lack useful social networks.’

With the funding secured we therefore had a fantastic opportunity to research and to focus on particular underrepresented groups of undergraduates – those in receipt of Access to Exeter bursaries, BAME, Disabled, Care Leavers /estranged and mature students. In particular we wanted to find out from these groups:

  • The challenges and barriers they faced with the development of their employability and career plans
  • How the Career Zone could further develop support to better equip these students to overcome these barriers and challenges – and to encourage them to engage with our range of services.

So how did we do it?
We wanted to make the online experience as engaging and creative as possible, so rather than the traditional focus group format we used the Lego Serious Play® methodology. Participants received individual packs of Lego® to enable them to build individual and shared models which represented the challenges they faced, plus the support that would enable them to overcome barriers with their employability.

The use of experiential methodology centred on liminality research (Hawkins & Edwards 2015, 2017). Experiencing liminality in a workshop through “hands on” activities e.g.,/building representations of “monsters” would offer the students the opportunity to explore challenges, barriers, try out new ideas and identities and reflect on their experiences both individually and with others.

In addition to playing with Lego® (!) students also completed questionnaires and polls asking about the range of employability support they had engaged with to date, plus they all had opportunity to receive a Personal Employability Report (managed up our charity partner upReach), to help them identify strengths and potential areas of development.

Yana is 2nd year Law student who took part. “I have found it highly enjoyable to participate in Employability Monsters in my first year of Uni. As a mature student, I have encountered numerous difficulties researching and planning my career. This is where Employability Monsters have come to the rescue and taught me how to embrace the challenge and build on my strengths. How? By taking a very creative approach: Lego bricks! Throughout the project, I have met many wonderful people from across different faculties, with whom we shared our struggles and uncertainties, faced the fear of barriers to workplace and inspired each other to discover different paths to success.”

Example Monster – build a model that represents the barriers and challenges you face in your employability. “The bricks form a wall, these are barriers to my employability. The red transparent brick represents communication difficulties, like seeing things through a lens”.

What did we find out?
Working closely with 32 x 1st and final year UG across all our campuses – Exeter and Cornwall – the following key findings/themes emerged from the students in terms of challenges and the support that would help them with their employability:
– the need to further develop employability and softer skills
– finance was a barrier to securing professional experiences eg. internships
– an increased in depth knowledge of the graduate level recruitment process
– to gain advice from both peers and career mentors who have similar lived experiences
– the lack of knowledge of the support available to help them with their employability and career planning

What next?
As a direct result of the Project I am pleased to say that a web page is about to be launched – Careers Support | Widening participation student support | University of Exeter which details (in one place!) all the help and support available to students from underrepresented groups – (including funding to set up internships through the Access to Internship scheme. The peer mentoring scheme for students receiving the Access to Exeter Bursary has further developed with final and second year Bursary students “mentoring” 1st years.

The Projects not stopping there though – we’re going from strength to strength! The Team has funding to work with the original participants (some who have now Graduated) plus 100 more undergraduate students this year. So if you’d like to join the conversation and make a difference we’d love to hear from you. Find out more about the Project and how to register here. PS – you’ll get a bag of Lego® and a £10 voucher for taking part!

WikiJob’s Guide to Psychometric Tests

WikiJob is a great resource we frequently signpost students and graduates to. In this guest post they break down their top tips for acing all kind of psychometric tests. 

Effective preparation is the key to putting in your best performance, as well as calming your nerves.

If you’re applying for a graduate scheme, work placement or internship, you’ll likely be asked to complete one or more psychometric test as part of the process – but don’t be daunted by this. It’s standard practice, and the right preparation will help you take it confidently in your stride.

What Are Psychometric Tests? 

Psychometric tests are a form of scientific assessment widely used in recruitment. They are designed to give employers an indication of how suitable you are for a role based on your cognitive abilities and/or personality traits. For undergraduate and graduate positions, they’re just one part of a wider hiring process, used alongside interviews and assessment centres. The type of tests you’ll be asked to complete will be dictated by the type of role you’re applying for, but most employers will use a combination of test types:

Aptitude Tests

These are a measure of your natural reasoning capabilities. They not only tell the employer if you have the required aptitude for the job but also give a good indication of how you’re likely to perform in the future. They require no pre-existing knowledge, but rather test you on a range of innate strengths, including:

  • Numerical reasoning – These determine your ability to work with data in a work-based context. You’ll be asked to interpret information presented in tables, charts and graphs.
  • Verbal reasoning – Here you’ll work with written information, applying critical analysis to identify assumptions and inferences, evaluate arguments, and draw evidence-based conclusions.
  • Logical reasoning – These are a measure of your problem-solving skills and generally involve working with shapes, patterns and sequences. They come in various forms including abstract, inductive and diagrammatic reasoning.
  • Spatial reasoning – Another test of your problem-solving ability, here you’ll need to mentally manipulate 2D and 3D objects.
  • Error checking – These test attention to detail by asking you to spot check information to highlight inaccuracies at speed.

Behavioural Tests

Employers use behavioural tests to determine how well your character suits both the role and the organisation and to evaluate how you’re likely to perform in various workplace situations.

The two most common types here are:

  • Personality tests – These usually take the form of a self-report questionnaire and are used to assess your behavioural styles and working preferences. For example, you may be asked to state where you sit on a scale between preferring to work under specific instruction or autonomously.
  • Situational judgement tests – Here you’ll work through various workplace scenarios, selecting what you deem as the most appropriate response.

What’s the Best Way to Prepare for an Aptitude Test?

  • Find Out Who the Test Provider Is. There are a lot of aptitude test publishers out there – you may have heard of names like SHL, Talent Q and Kenexa – each with their own variation of style and format. Knowing who the test provider is will allow you to be specific with your preparation.
  • Familiarise Yourself with the Different Questions Types. Most aptitude tests are multiple-choice, but contain a range of question types. Here, questions may assess your language comprehension, critical thinking or understanding of word relationships. The more familiar you are with each question type (and what it’s asking of you) the quicker you’ll be able to respond. Try taking a verbal reasoning test as an example.

Build on Your Skills

  • Aptitude tests are a measure of natural ability, but that’s not to say you can’t improve on your skills.
  • Extend your vocabulary, read texts with a critical eye, brush up on basic arithmetic – you can even use brain training apps to strengthen your logical thinking. Just like physical exercise, this kind of effort will improve performance.

Take Practice Tests

  • You’ll find plenty of these online. Take them at regular intervals and be sure to monitor your scores. This will boost your confidence as you see your performance improve, and help identify any areas that need more work.
  • Don’t Neglect Your Weaknesses. Avoid the temptation to practice more of what you’re good at, even if it does make preparation more fun. You want to put in a good all-round performance, so make sure you give your weaknesses ample attention too.

Work Against the Clock

  • Aptitude tests are typically timed, with your final score a combination of accuracy and speed.
  • Rather than attempting to complete the assessment in full, the trick is to find your optimum pace. Taking practice tests in timed conditions will help you here.

Be at Your Best on Test Day

  • For full concentration, make sure you’re both mentally and physically prepared.
  • Get a good night’s sleep, eat well, and keep yourself hydrated.

What’s the Best Way to Prepare for a Behavioural Test?

  • Behavioural tests differ from aptitude tests in that there are no right or wrong answers. What the employer is looking for is a true reflection of who you are.
  • You can of course prepare for these tests by looking at organisational values and analysing the person specification. However, honesty is the best approach.
  • Culture fit works both ways and if you try and cheat a behavioural test you may end up working in a role ill-suited to your character.
  • What’s more, your test results may prove inconsistent with how you perform in the rest of the selection process.
  • When taking either a personality or situational judgement test, don’t overthink things – respond instinctively. If the role on offer is indeed the right one for you, your honesty will pay off.

Conclusion

Psychometric tests give employers an objective way of assessing candidate suitability, and they allow you to prove your skills in action. In the graduate job market, there’s often little to differentiate between candidates – your test results are a chance to stand out from the crowd. Following the steps laid out here; effective preparation is the key to putting in your best performance, as well as calming your nerves.

If you’re looking for more help, our own ‘Help with Assessment Centres and Psychometric Testing’ pages are a great place to start. 

My ‘with Employment Experience’ in Spain

Emily Worgan is a Final Year student studying BA History and Ancient History with Employment Experience, at the University of Exeter.

Emily Worgan is a Final Year student studying BA History and Ancient History with Employment Experience, at the University of Exeter. She talked to us about what it was like living and working in Spain, and the unexpectedly powerful impact it had on her life. 

Humanities undergraduates can gain work experience across a wide range of sectors as part of their degree on programmes such as ‘with Employment Experience’ or the ‘Humanities in the Workplace’ module. If you’re a Humanities student and want to find out more about work placements head to: https://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/careers/undergraduatestudents/   

When I had decided to include ‘with employment experience’ in my degree, I hadn’t expected to be where I am now. I had always been keen to live and work abroad at some point in my life, with aspirations to practice my less than mediocre language skills and push myself out of my comfort zone. However, when I attended a placement fair at university in my second year, I had looked at domestic placements, being anxious about actually deciding to apply for a placement abroad. I looked on Handshake, in newsletters, on websites and more. However, after not finding anything which really excited me, I was introduced to the British Council, an organisation which aims to promote the English language and British culture. The British Council has a program which allows people to be placed in other countries as a language assistant, teaching a range of ages and in a variety of locations.

“Due to the pandemic and Brexit, it was hit or miss as to whether I would or even could carry out my placement, yet, in September 2020, I took my first solo flight to Madrid and then travelled on to Soria to start my experience.”

I had originally wanted to apply to France, as I had taken a module of French and wished to develop my language skills further. However, it was required to have a B1 level of French in order to apply, and I had A2. Therefore, I looked to apply to Spain, where it was not a requirement to know the language to a high level. I have never truly studied Spanish, yet wished to really push myself (which, in hindsight, was absolutely mad!).

The application process was fairly simple and the university was a great support when it came to the personal statement and reference. When the pandemic happened, I was convinced that the program would not continue and that I would have to carry out my ultimate year of my degree instead. However, the British Council decided to continue with the program and informed me that I had been successful in my application in June.

Due to the pandemic and Brexit, it was hit or miss as to whether I would or even could carry out my placement, yet, in September 2020, I took my first solo flight to Madrid and then travelled on to Soria to start my experience.

“…don’t be disappointed if you feel scared or homesick when you first arrive – it is normal… Be kind to yourself and recognise that this is just another challenge to overcome!”

The first night was the hardest and I had considered giving up, however I persevered and day-by-day being away from home became easier. I had amazing support from people in Soria that I had met online and my colleagues were incredibly helpful during those first days. The most important thing to remember when you take on an experience like this, is that it is going to be hard at first but it definitely gets easier. So, don’t be disappointed if you feel scared or homesick when you first arrive- it is normal. Once you get past your first few days, you can be proud that you overcame the panic and then look forward to the amazing experience that you will have. Be kind to yourself and recognise that this is just another challenge to overcome!

Now, over a year later, my experience since that night has been the most incredible of my life. I have never felt so independent, confident and proud. It has certainly been hard – I have had problems processing paperwork, finding somewhere to live and not knowing the language is difficult. However, now I know more, especially in terms of the language, and have incredible support from friends and co-workers here. I have met people from France, the US, China, and Ecuador, not to mention those from all over Spain! I have had several opportunities to visit beautiful places such as Segovia, Léon and Zaragoza, and try new foods and truly experience Spanish culture. I have a say ‘yes’ policy in which I push myself to experience more, despite being anxious. This policy has allowed me to have the best time!

“Now, over a year later, my experience since that night has been the most incredible of my life. I have never felt so independent, confident and proud.”

Working in a primary school in a small village has definitely been a positive experience. Teaching these children and communicating with them has allowed me to make decisions on my future career path. We learn from each other, and every day at work feels like I am in class as well. The staff have been so welcoming and supportive, and many are now my friends. To share my culture and experiences with the children and add to their curiosity has made me very happy! I hope to have had a positive impact on these children’s lives by the end of my placement. I can truly say that I look forward to going to work!

“When I return to University, I know that I will carry this experience for the rest of my life and that if I can get through this, then I can be truly proud of myself.”

So, when I think back to when I had applied to do a with employment experience, this outcome was not what I had in mind. I had expected to have either a placement in the UK or France, and living normally, without a pandemic. But now, I have lifelong friends, an international family and an experience that has made me understand the importance of independence. When I return to University, I know that I will carry this experience for the rest of my life and that if I can get through this, then I can be truly proud of myself.

Alumni Profile – Alla Alexeeva, Finance Controller, Chanel

Alla Alexeeva graduated from the University of Exeter with an MSc Accounting and Finance, 2010. She’s currently Finance Controller (Russia & CIS), Chanel 

Alla Alexeeva, University of Exeter alumn, and current Finance Controller (Russia & CIS), Chanel

Where do you currently live and work? 

I live in Russia. I started my career in the beauty industry when I joined L’Oreal as an Intern just after graduation and was promoted to the position of Budget Controller within a couple of months. Now, I am working as a Finance Controller within the biggest business divisions at Chanel Russia & CIS and managing a team of three finance analysts.

Why did you choose to pursue this career?

My current job is very business oriented. It requires a lot of communication skills. My colleagues not only work in Russia, but also in Paris, London and NYC.

And for those less familiar with the term, what is a Finance Controller?

A Finance Controller is a business-oriented role. A person in this position would be responsible for strategic planning and budgeting, reporting, business analysis and finance key performance indicators.

“My advice on becoming more employable would be to never stop believing in yourself… Being confident and hard-working got me to where I am.” 

 Why did you choose to study at the University of Exeter?

I chose to study at the University of Exeter as it was in the Top 10 rankings in the Times and the Guardian when I started to look for the right place to study. The University provided very comfortable accommodation for international students and the city had good infrastructure. I would definitely recommend a Masters at Exeter due to all the new knowledge I gained, the friendly atmosphere, great networking opportunities among alumni, and the wonderful experience of living abroad in a very cosy city with great history and many places to explore.

Why did you choose your particular degree subject?

I chose to study this subject because I enjoyed studying economics in my bachelors degree and the programme suited these skills.

 How did your degree help you prepare for the position you are in now?

The Business School gave me a lot of practice in building strong relationships with people from different countries who spoke other languages. This is a beneficial skill for all young professionals starting their career in any field.

“While studying at University, I attended numbers of career events, which helped me in the future to do my best during the interviews and throughout the application process.”

Please tell us about the application process for your graduate job, and how you prepared and/or managed this?

I started the process when I was writing my dissertation in the library. I initially planned to apply for an internship with L’Oreal UK, but there were no vacancies. So, I sent my CV to L’Oreal Russia. I finished my dissertation in the middle of September in Exeter and joined the L’Oreal office in Moscow starting from 1st of November. The whole of October was dedicated to interviews and assessment days.

Did you use the Career Zone whilst at Exeter? If so, what especially helped?

While studying at University, I attended numbers of career events, which helped me in the future to do my best during the interviews and throughout the application process.

 What aspects of your UK university education worked in your favour during the application process?

It is compulsory to have an in-depth understanding of all international accounting standards while working as a Finance Controller. The knowledge I gained at University was a solid basis to develop my skills in this field.

“Many employers are searching for candidates with previous work experience – even for entry level positions. Therefore, I highly recommend starting internships and part-time jobs as soon as possible to be the first on the list for the best vacancies after graduation.”

What did you do at university that you think gave you a competitive advantage in the job market in your home-country?

I believe that my communication skills are excellent because I spent 2 years in the UK (1 year studying a pre-masters course in London, 1 year doing a Masters in University of Exeter Business School). It also helped me improve my self-confidence and endurance under stress. I also developed fluency in English, a deep knowledge of IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) and a particularly good command of Excel.

What were the biggest obstacles in gaining a graduate job in your home-country?

Many employers are searching for candidates with previous work experience – even for entry level positions. Therefore, I highly recommend starting internships and part-time jobs as soon as possible to be the first on the list for the best vacancies after graduation.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were applying for opportunities?

My advice for students would be to remember that if you are accepted on a course, you become an asset to the University. It is your right to make your University greater by achieving excellent academic results and taking a breath-taking career path.

What is your advice for any international student seeking a career in finance and wanting to follow a similar path to you?

My advice on becoming more employable would be to never stop believing in yourself. If somebody had told me ten years ago that I would hold one of the top positions in Finance at Chanel Russia, I would never believe them. Being confident and hard-working got me to where I am.

Our alumni networks are available to help you socially and professionally now and in the future. You can connect with them whilst you are a student to take advantage of their support when you are back home during holiday season, and of course, reach out to them when you graduate.

 The Alumni Office organise regular virtual employability events, which are a useful resource both for graduates and current students. For a full listing of events, please click here, and to watch historic records, please click here.