Top 5 Tips for Interview Success

Oliver Laity is the Careers Information and Systems Manager for the University of Exeter. As an experienced interviewer, and interviewee, he knows a lot about the peaks and pitfalls of interviews.

Oliver Laity, Careers Information and Systems Manager, experienced interviewer, and occasional German speaker.

Knowing that you’ve got a job interview coming up can feel daunting. If you’re lucky you might have a relatively simple recruitment process to deal with; you fill in a form, or email your CV and letter, and then you’re called for interview. But you might have to navigate tests, gamified selection ‘rounds’, assessment centres, and in my case finding your interviewer starts talking to you in German after you mentioned you were studying it at A-Level (thankfully 19 year old me was telling the truth and successfully landed the role).

If you get to the interview stage, well done. Depending on the competitiveness of the role, you can consider yourself to be in the top 5% of applicants, which should give you loads of confidence. Whatever comes next, your application has been a relative success, I want to you remember that.

So, let’s think about what you can control, and the art of the possible.

“If you get to the interview stage, well done. Depending on the competitiveness of the role, you can consider yourself to be in the top 5% of applicants.”

Your task is to do yourself justice in the interview, by portraying your true self, your skills, your achievements, and experiences in the best way you possibly can, which is not always easy.

As someone who’s interviewed hundreds of students and graduates for many different roles, there are a few key elements that I always look for, things that make a candidate stick in my mind (in a positive way). I’m looking for someone who can do the job well, but who also fits into the organisation’s ethos, and has something ‘extra’ to add to the team dynamic.

Whilst there’s no guarantee of success in any interview, here are five ways to ensure that you’re in the best position to succeed and portray the best version of yourself to employers.

One – Prepare yourself

Undertake your company research 

This can be done via Handshake, LinkedIn, or the organisation’s website. If the job advert offers an ‘informal discussion’ about the role, take it, but be prepared to ask sensible questions about the company and the role. Practice values matching; how do the values of the organisation match with your own? Will it make you proud to work there, and support the direction of growth that you’re looking for in your career?

In your company research, find out some killer stats about the organisation, the sector, and the external market within which they operate. If you aren’t directly asked a question about the context within which the company works, you’ll certainly have the opportunity to impress the interviewers by talking knowledgeably about the wider environment and circumstances affecting the company.

“As someone who’s interviewed hundreds of students and graduates for many different roles…I’m looking for someone who can do the job well, but who also fits into the organisation’s ethos, and has something ‘extra’ to add to the team dynamic.”

Fully understand the role

Read the job description and person specification fully. Check your understanding with trusted people around you so that there can be no misunderstandings, and if in doubt, contact the employer and ask for clarification.

Understand what’s likely to be assessed at interview. Not everything in the person specification will be ‘tested’ at interview. Traditionally your qualifications will have already been assessed at the application stage, so don’t expect to be quizzed on them. My tip would be to focus on the skills and experiences required, while demonstrating the personal attributes they’re asking for.

Two – Prepare yourself more

Once you’ve fully researched the role and the company, you need to start working on your answers.

Examples and possible responses

Consider answers for questions you could reliably predict. For example, if your company research uncovers an emphasis on teams, teamwork, team players, and talks about clients “as part of the team” along with a job description that cites similar, and an ‘essential’ related to teamwork in the person specification, then it’s very likely that this will come up at interview. You should think of at least two experience-based responses (commercially based if possible) in case one prepared response doesn’t exactly answer the question posed. Remember STAR – Situation, Task, Action, Result/Response and tell the panel what you achieved and what you learned from that experience.

Understand arrangements for the day itself

Make sure you understand the travel plans, dress code, and timings (how long is the interview? If there’s an assessment, how long do you have?). Demonstrating that you’ve planned well and are able to deliver professionally can go a long way to impressing your interviewers and creating a great first impression. If you haven’t been told how long the interview is, or you’re unsure about the dress code etc., ask the employer! No one wants to recruit a person who doesn’t ask questions or check their information is correct.

“If your company research uncovers an emphasis on teams, teamwork, team players, and talks about clients “as part of the team” along with a job description cites similar, and an ‘essential’ related to teamwork in the person specification, then it’s very likely that this will come up at interview.”

Three – Practice

Practice your interview with your friends (and help them with theirs), and with trusted people whose opinions you value. You can also ask your tutor, or other academic if they can listen to your answers. While not everyone will be able to say if you’re doing well, it’ll help you get some of your technique together.

Video interview practice can be very helpful. Within My Career Zone Digital, Interview 360 enables you to create your own practice video interviews based on a number of sectors, or approaches (i.e., strengths based, hypothetical, motivational interview questions and more).

Crucially, if you upload your CV to I360 not only do you get an instant CV review, you also get an interview based on the content of your CV. Because I360 uses AI similar to the kind that employers use, you’ll get feedback that includes criteria such as body language and other non-verbal communication.

Mock interviews

At the Career Zone, we offer a great range of employer mock interviews throughout the year – this may be something you have to factor in, before you get invited to a formal job interview as part of your early career planning. There is genuinely nothing more valuable than getting feedback from an employer working within the sector that you’re interested in. Check Handshake for upcoming mock interview opportunities.

“Within My Career Zone Digital, Interview 360 enables you to create your own practice video interviews based on a number of sectors, or approaches.”

Four – Practice more

It’s time to refine your answers and practice the responses you’ve created to match the job description/person specification. Will these answers score points? Are they STAR? Are they too long/too short? You’ll likely have an hour or less for the whole interview, and the interviewer will typically ask at least ten questions, plus time at the beginning for welcome/instructions, and at the end of questions from you, and follow-up information including when you’re likely to hear if you’ve been successful.

Record yourself, score yourself, identify gaps where you can give more information.

My tip is to create cue-cards, but not write everything down to take into the interview – you need to be very well prepared but not over prepared to the extent where you can’t be yourself or deal with any curveballs professionally. This balance is key.

And finally prepare two to three good, insightful questions that you’d like to ask the organisation. This is another chance to demonstrate several things: Your motivation; the amount of research you’ve done; and your ability to fit into the team.

Five – Be confident, be yourself, smile 😊

So, you’ve researched, prepared and practiced (which is why we do these things again and again!). Following the first four steps above will enable you to be present, to concentrate on making connections and delivering your responses well. Remember, this is about doing yourself justice and showing the best of yourself.

Be genuine – don’t tell them you can speak German if you can’t. Let them see your personality. If it’s appropriate to mention hobbies or personal interests in responses, this can be powerful.

Whether you get this particular job or not, the end goal is to walk out of the interview room (or Zoom chat) with your head held high knowing you did the very best you could.

Now, go get ‘em!

5 mistakes international students make in cover letters

Claire Guy is Employability and Careers Consultant with the University of Exeter Business School.

Research shows that motivation and enthusiasm might be the most important thing to an employer.

Many international students have never seen a cover letter before. Lots of countries don’t use them, or if they do, they are not an important part of recruitment.

Why write a cover letter?

In the UK, jobs for graduates are competitive. There are many students competing for jobs. Cover letters are a way that you can “stand out”. Cover letters can impress an employer and show your enthusiasm and motivation for the job.

Motivation and enthusiasm are very important to UK employers. Research shows that motivation and enthusiasm might be the most important thing to an employer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From What Do Graduates Want 2022-2023 – Research by Bright Network

What should a cover letter contain?

A cover letter should explain 3 things: 1) why you want this job role 2) why you want to work for this company and 3) a brief explanation of your experience / skills in relation to the role. Remember that your CV explains all your qualifications, skills and experiences. To create a strong CV you must tailor the content to match the qualifications, skills and experiences that the employer has asked for in the job details. If you have tailored your CV correctly, you will have explained how you are a good fit for the job. This leaves your cover letter to explain in detail why you want the job and why you want to work for them.

What if an employer doesn’t ask for a cover letter?

Not all employers ask for cover letters. If they don’t ask for one, you don’t have to send one, but you still could! Remember, the cover letter is your opportunity to stand out and show how enthusiastic and motivated you are for the role and the company.

5 mistakes that international students make in their cover letters

1  Not using the correct format of a UK business letter. Employers are assessing your ability to write a formal letter. It is likely in your job that you will write letters to customers or clients. Employers want to know you can do this in a professional way. Search online for “business letter format UK” and you will find examples how to set out a letter correctly.

2  Writing statements like “I want to work for a well-known, global company with a great reputation”. This may be true, but it is too vague to be meaningful. A company wants to believe you genuinely want to work for them, and not just any company. You can show you genuinely want to work for them by telling them things you know about the company. This means doing a little bit of research. Once you know how to do this, you will be able to do the research required in 5-10 minutes. A) Visit the company website. B) Find something you like about them. Something that makes you say “wow” or “oh!”. Something that makes you feel good about the company. It may be an award they won. Or that they let staff have 3 days per year to volunteer. Or their sustainability strategy. Find something that matters to you. That connects to you in some way. C) Write about what you found in the cover letter, and be very specific. Whatever you write should only be true for this company.

“All students want a job where they can develop skills and grow a career! You need to think much more deeply about why you want this specific job role. Why do you want to do this job? Which of the tasks in the job description do you really like? Why?”

For example: “CMG won the RedField award in 2021 and 2022, for your focus on sustainability in your office supply chain. I did a module on sustainable supply chains which I found fascinating and it really convinced me of the importance of a sustainable approach. I’d love to work for a CMG who is doing such a good job of this”. Much stronger and more impactful than “I like that CMG is interested in sustainability”.

Top Tip: start with the “About us” or “Our values” or “Our History” section of a company website. You may have to scroll to the very bottom of the page to find it.

3  Writing statements like “I want a job role where I can develop my skills and grow my career”. I know you care deeply about your own development. Many employers will care too, but a statement like this will not make you stand out. All students want a job where they can develop skills and grow a career! You need to think much more deeply about why you want this specific job role. Why do you want to do this job? Which of the tasks in the job description do you really like? Why? What is it about being a (insert your preferred job role here) that motivates you?

DON’T write: “I’m thinking about project management because it seems like a good fit for my skills. It sounds like an interesting career. I think it would be a good challenge. I’m keen to get some experience and start on a career path.”

Write this instead: “I want to be a project manager because I find leading people, deadlines and resources really motivating. During university I found creating a work plan with time limits and then tracking my progress against the plan really enjoyable, especially when the plan involved other people. I’ve enjoyed helping clients whilst working in retail, so adding my interest in projects with wanting to please the client appeals to me.”

Top tip: This might take a lot of thinking about to get to your real reason why you are interested in the role. use www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles/  to understand more about the job you are applying for. Another way to get a good answer is to keep asking why, like this; I want to be a consultant. WHY? Because I want to have a job which is interesting? WHY? Because I like variety WHY? Because I enjoy doing different things each day WHY? I like meeting different people and solving new problems… and so on.

4  Using overly formal language. Most countries have their own style of Business-English. Many countries use words that are now considered a bit old-fashioned in the UK. Avoid phrases like “your most esteemed company” “I would be honoured to join your respected company”. These phrases may be commonly used in your home country, but in UK culture they feel a bit insincere, and like empty flattery. Instead, find facts about the company that appeal to you. Such as “HGR has 20 million customers across 13 countries. I’m keen to work for a company that provides a quality service which is valued by its customers.”

5  Including information that belongs in your CV. Your CV and cover letter do different things.

CV = how your skills, experiences and qualifications match the job role.

Cover letter = why you want the job and why you want to work for this company plus a BRIEF summary of how you match the role.

Your cover letter should only contain a brief description of skills, experiences or qualifications that match the job role. Why not read our blog 5 mistakes international students make in their UK CVs to improve your CV?

Want more advice about cover letters? Find out what help Career Zone provides with cover letters including workshops, online resources and this handy guide.

5 mistakes international students make in their UK CVs

Claire Guy is Employability and Careers Consultant with the University of Exeter Business School.

In the UK, employers will tell you exactly what they want from the perfect candidate.

CV writing is much harder than most people think. They are difficult to get right. UK students make lots of mistakes in their CVs. Creating a UK CV can be a challenge for international students, especially if you are used to your country’s CV or resume writing rules.  

We see some common mistakes at the Career Zone in the CVs that international students write. Here’s our top 5: 

1 Adding a photo to your CV 

In the UK we have employment laws which are designed to protect people from discrimination. The laws stop employers from hiring people based on their gender, age, or nationality (as well as other things). Photographs reveal a lot of personal information (like gender, age and nationality) and can lead to discrimination. Research has shown that attractive people have an advantage when applying for jobs. The effects are not usually deliberate – interviewers don’t realise they are influenced by how someone looks. UK employment laws are designed to prevent these effects. This means that UK CVs do NOT include information such as nationality, marriage status, date of birth or age, and definitely not photos. The only reason to add your photo is if you are applying for a modelling or acting role!  

2 Including a “declaration of truth” 

Although common in some other countries, UK CVs do not contain a declaration of truth.  Employers trust that you will only include information which is true, and not write anything which is false.  

3 Spelling and grammar 

I can imagine how hard it is to write a CV in a different language! Correct spelling and grammar is important. UK employers will reject a CV with spelling and grammar mistakes. This is because UK jobs require good English. You will be expected to write reports or communicate with colleagues and clients. A CV with bad spelling and grammar will make an employer question if you can do those things. Bad spelling and grammar show poor attention to detail (an important skill for many jobs). Bad spelling and grammar also imply that you didn’t try very hard to write a good CV and that you don’t really want the job. Use a spell-checker! You can also use CV360 – it will give you feedback on spelling and grammar, as well as other things. 

4 Using the same CV for each job  

In the UK, employers will tell you exactly what they want from the perfect candidate. Job adverts usually contain a list of skills that they want. You must look closely at the job advert, highlight each skill they ask for, and then include them in your CV. This means you must change your CV for EVERY job you apply for. It takes more time but is much more successful than sending the same CV each time. If you want to understand more about how to tailor your CV, book onto one of our regular CV workshops on Handshake.  

5 Missing soft skills 

In many countries, soft skills are not an important part of a CV. You may not have added soft skills to your CV before. Don’t simply add them to a bullet-point list. Instead, think about where you have used that skill. Was it during your studies? An internship? In the family business? Choose the most relevant part of your CV and add it into your description of that activity. For example:” Collaborated in a team of 5, to produce a presentation. Met weekly to plan content. Negotiated responsibility for tasks. Presented to an audience of 30 students and academics, developing strong team-working and communication skills”.  

Top tip: It’s a really good idea to look up the definition of a soft skill – they are much more complicated than you think. Simply search online for the skill you are trying to include in your CV like this “communication skill definition” or “teamwork skill definition”.  Reading a skill definition will also help you think about how to add it to your CV.  

CVs are an important part of your success in finding work in the UK. Let us help you get it right. Find out more about the help available from Career Zone with CVs.  

Application Form Dos and Don’ts

Applying for jobs usually involves some kind of application form. They might be fairly straightforward and ask you to list all your all your exam grades and previous roles, or they might be a bit more quirky and want you to tell them what kind of biscuit you’d be and why*. What’s going on?

Writing jobs applications can really take the biscuit.
Writing jobs applications can really take the biscuit.

Jenny Woolacott-Scarr, Career Zone Support Officer looks at the dos and don’ts of application forms.

Do…

  • Give clear, concise answers using the STAR technique The R is really important as you need to provide evidence of your successes. I always think of STAR like telling a joke, and R is the killer punchline that everyone’s waiting for, don’t leave it out.
  • Personality counts, so be yourself. They’re employing you, not a robot; show you have a life outside of your studies. It’s unlikely you’ll have a ton of experience, so they’re looking for your raw talent and ability, and life outside your studies shows us who are.
  • Employers love facts and figures. Imagine two students run the same marathon for charity and both include it in their job applications. Student 1 writes “I trained for and ran a marathon.” But Student 2 writes “I trained for and ran the 2022 Bristol Marathon raising over £500 for Cancer Research UK, demonstrating my commitment, resilience and dedication.” It’s the same event, but which one sounds more impressive?

‘Employers love facts and figures.’

  • If there’s a word limit try and write up to it as much as possible, no one wants to interview someone who can’t think of anything to say about themselves or the job.
  • When you talk about your work experience it’s not just what you did, it’s the relevant transferable skills like teamwork, time management and leaderships that employers are interested in. Don’t be subtle, tell them clearly what you can bring to a role and relate the skills you talk about to those in the job description and person specification.
  • Show the company that you’ve researched them, the role and the sector, but go beyond what’s on their website. Employers want you to go the extra mile.
  • Every employer thinks they’re different (and better) than the competition. Evidence you know what sets them apart from the crowd. Dig deep, do they have a new CEO? What are there plans for the company and how can you help them meet their objectives?
  • Answer the question you’re asked – if you try and avoid it they’ll notice. If you’re stuck, think about it from the employer’s point of view, they’ll only ask you a question that’s going to help them decide whether you’re worth interviewing or not. (This is where biscuit style questions come in – how do you react to a question where there’s no right answer? And what thought processes do you go through to get there?)
  • Demonstrate that you really want to work for the company, show your passions and enthusiasm by making your application as good as possible.

‘How do you react to a question where there’s no right answer? And what thought processes do you go through to get there?’

Do and Don’t… I get asked ‘how many job applications should I make?’ We say, do apply for as many as you can, but don’t apply for so many that the quality of your applications suffer, and/or that it impacts on your academic work and/or your own mental and physical wellbeing.

Don’t…

  • Write over the word limit (if there is one). Most jobs will need you to create some kind of reports or documents, and brevity is always appreciated.
  • Poor spelling and grammar could ruin your chances, some employers have a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule.
  • Don’t forget to show your academic successes from Exeter, being at Uni is a huge part of of your life and professional development, and employers want to hear about it.
  • Your voluntary roles might be just as important (or more so) than your paid work, employers don’t care at this stage, they just want you to tell them about your skills and experience.
  • Don’t be shy about ‘selling’ yourself, tell the employer what sets you apart from other candidates.
  • Don’t give generic answers, be specific and keep it relevant. We know it can be hard work applying for jobs and sometimes boring but employers can tell if you’ve copied answers from other application forms.
  • Try not to use the same experience to answer every question – use examples from academic work, work experience (paid or unpaid), Uni societies and sports clubs etc.
  • Don’t undervalue yourself. You’re at a top Russell Group university, that’s already a huge achievement.
  • Don’t get the name of the employer wrong. You might think you’d never do that, but it’s surprisingly common and employers are likely to instantly delete your application.

If you take one piece of advice from me, think about this – what employers know about you is entirely based on what you tell them. So you need to be as clear and direct as possible. Job applications and interviews aren’t a time for subtlety, hinting that maybe perhaps you’d be kind of OK in the job. 

Looking for more info and advice on applications and everything else careers-related? Our ‘Help with…‘ pages are great place to start. And if you need an application form review you can book in via Live Chat on our website, or come in and see us in person in the Forum (Streatham Campus) or the Exchange (Penryn Campus).

*Personally, I’m a milk chocolate digestive; works well in most situations, outside melts easily but retains a robust centre.

Get started with the Career Zone

Chloe Mabberley graduated from University of Exeter in July 2022 with a BA in History, she worked in the Career Zone as a SCP Career Zone Assistant in her final year. We spoke to Chloe about her internship experience and asked what advice she would give students thinking about their careers or considering an internship with the Career Zone and what skills she had learnt to take her into the workplace.

You were recently awarded a First in History. How did you find balancing your studies and an SCP role?

It’s all about time management and learning what to prioritise. Luckily, when you are an SCP or SBP, your employer knows that your studies will take priority sometimes and they are very flexible with shifts and if you need to change or swap shifts with someone. When you have a deadline looming, it’s often quite nice to come to work and think about something else for a few hours. I use planners to help me stay on track of daily and weekly goals, meaning that I never fell behind and could always find time to do university work. Making sure you have a good sleep schedule too. Having a 9am shift twice a week, meant I was up early, and once I had finished work at 1pm I still had lots of time to do essays in the afternoon.

What 3 things would you like to tell students now you have worked in the Career Zone?

“Use the Career Zone website, there is a vast amount of information on there that is incredibly useful. CV advice, Interview help, information about different job sectors, and personality tests to find out what kind of job might suit you if you are feeling lost!”

  1. Use the Career Zone website, there is a vast amount of information on there that is incredibly useful. CV advice, Interview help, information about different job sectors, and personality tests to find out what kind of job might suit you if you are feeling lost!
  2. Make a LinkedIn account early and start connecting with people you know. Make sure your profile is up to scratch and keep it professional. Recruiters often reach out to people directly on LinkedIn, so you never know what opportunities are out there for the taking.
  3. Start early! Trying to figure out what to do after university can be stressful, so the earlier you start gaining experience and looking at your options, the better.

“Start early! Trying to figure out what to do after university can be stressful, so the earlier you start gaining experience and looking at your options, the better.”

What have you learnt about yourself since working in the Career Zone and how has it helped you in your steps towards your future career?

It has helped me to identify my strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. It has taught me that I enjoy working with people and helping others in a role. It has also taught me that I love looking at CVs, applications, and that sort of thing, as I find it really interesting seeing how people sell themselves on paper.  It has given me more experience in customer service, problem solving, attention to detail, communication skills, project management, and many more skills that I can take into the workplace.

I now know that I want a job that involves working in a team and for an employer that values your opinion and input.

What have you enjoyed and gained from the experience as an SCP in the Career Zone?

As someone who has always struggled with not knowing what career path to take, I have really enjoyed helping students who are in a similar situation. When students come to see us in person, looking worried and a bit lost, it makes my day when I see them leave feeling much more confident about their career after I’ve given them lots of resources to look at, or booked them in for an appointment.

When students come to see us in person, looking worried and a bit lost, it makes my day when I see them leave feeling much more confident about their career.”

Have you received any career advice since you have been working at the Career Zone?

Yes, I recently had a CV review with an advisor, and it helped me massively. She showed me how to take my CV to the next level and really impress employers. She also showed me how going into more detail about my degree, achievements, and work experience can demonstrate to employers the skills I have, instead of just simply listing them on my CV. I would definitely recommend having a CV review at the Career Zone.

What advice would you give to students who are writing their CVs or cover letters now?

Use all the resources on the Career Zone website, there is a CV builder that will make your CV for you, an instant reviewer called CV360 that uses AI technology, example CVs, webinar recordings from Career Consultants, and loads more. If you still feel stuck, book in for a review appointment with one of the advisors!

Have you had any other appointments whilst at the Career Zone?

I had a Career Guidance appointment with a Careers Consultant, which was very useful. I had done some research on different sectors I was interested in, but she gave me some more expert knowledge about them and where I could look for opportunities and find out about potential qualifications I would need. I would encourage students to do their own research first before an appointment, as this means you can get much more out of the 30-minute slot and have more of an in-depth discussion with the consultant.

We understand that you are going to take some time out to travel, as you were unable to during the pandemic.  What are your thoughts about what you want to do with your career planning for your return and longer-term?

The plan at the moment is to apply for some graduate roles for the September 2023 intake and see how those applications go. If I’m unsuccessful or don’t find any roles I am interested in applying for then I would like to look for other opportunities in London. I’d like to live there for a few years for the experience, maybe in sectors such as HR or recruitment, but who knows, I’m open to lots of things!   I’d like to end up in a role that enables me to work with people and something that I genuinely enjoy. Seeing the work that Careers Consultants do has sparked an interest in potentially pursuing this line of work or working in a university setting in general.

What would you recommend to any student thinking of taking an internship with the Career Zone?

Apply! It has been great working for the Career Zone during my final year. The internships that the University offers are flexible, well-paid, look good on your CV, and can teach you loads of new skills to bring to the workplace after you finish your studies.

What is the best advice you have been given regarding your employability, career planning?

Do a job that you enjoy! If you’re going to be working for 30 years, you may as well do something you like.

What advice would you give to others who are thinking about their next steps in their career planning?

Start planning early, but if you haven’t don’t let it stress you out too much as it’s not worth it. See rejection as a sign of redirection, sometimes the job just wasn’t meant for you and means you could potentially land the perfect job at your next interview. If you are really struggling or don’t know where to start, contact the Career Zone who will be happy to help you out.

“Start planning early, but if you haven’t don’t let it stress you out too much as it’s not worth it. See rejection as a sign of redirection, sometimes the job just wasn’t meant for you and means you could potentially land the perfect job at your next interview. If you are really struggling or don’t know where to start, contact the Career Zone who will be happy to help you out. “

The Career Zone recruit SCPs in the Spring and sometimes the Autumn term. Find out how you can improve your employability and find SCP internships by visiting the Career Zone or by searching on Handshake.

 

My Placement at Siemens Energy

Claire Humphries is currently on a Placement Year with Siemens Energy as a Sales and Marketing Intern, alongside her Geography and Business Management (Flexible Combined Honours) Degree. At Exeter, Humanities undergraduates can get 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/

Claire Humphries is currently on a Placement Year with Siemens Energy as a Sales and Marketing Intern, alongside her Geography and Business Management (Flexible Combined Honours) Degree.

I chose to do a degree ‘with Employment Experience’ because I wanted to gain some real-life experience in the workplace to help me understand and get a feeling for what it’s like out in the world of business. I thought this experience would benefit me massively in helping understand what I’m interested and passionate about within a business setting going forward to help with my future career.

“I found placements by looking online, and the Career Zone also had placement adverts. The Career Zone have very useful documents to help with the process such as information on how to improve your CV and how to write a Cover Letter which I found really helpful.”

The search for placements is a tricky one and I would suggest starting sooner rather than later as lots of different companies have different closing dates and there is a lot of competition. It’s also really important to read the information about the placement properly and ensure you fill out everything required to better your chances of getting to the next stage. I found placements by looking online, and the Career Zone also had placement adverts. The Career Zone have very useful documents to help with the process such as information on how to improve your CV and how to write a Cover Letter which I found really helpful. With placement applications I found that practice helps, particularly with on-line tests, and I think it’s really important to remember that even if you get to an interview or assessment stage and don’t get beyond that, it is still a really good learning experience and you should not be disheartened as you will take that experience with you for other jobs that you apply for later on.

“I think it’s really important to remember that even if you get to an interview or assessment stage and don’t get beyond that, it is still a really good learning experience and you should not be disheartened as you will take that experience with you for other jobs that you apply for later on.”

My Placement year has been with Siemens Energy as a Sales and Marketing Intern. Despite my year being severely impacted by the Coronavirus I have gained good business experience, even if it was very different to what I was expecting when I first applied. I may not have experienced working in an office environment, but I have learnt a valuable skill in ‘working from home’ and being part of a ‘virtual office’.  My placement taught me the importance of networking within the workplace as well as the value of informal conversations and catch-ups which help maintain motivation and a healthy mindset. For me this took place in the form of weekly catch-ups with my fellow interns and also some informal team building sessions throughout the year. I also learnt a number of new business skills that I will take with me for my career including time management, project work, presentation skills and the use of different IT platforms.

“Choosing a placement as part of my degree was one of the best decisions I have taken… Having real job experience integral to my degree has helped me discover what I enjoy and also perhaps what I don’t enjoy so much in a work setting.”

Choosing a placement as part of my degree was one of the best decisions I have taken. It’s given me the opportunity to go through rigorous job application processes and it will allow me to use the work experience I have gained to help with future job applications once I graduate. Having real job experience integral to my degree has helped me discover what I enjoy and also perhaps what I don’t enjoy so much in a work setting, and this will help me tailor what modules I choose in my final year.

The Career De-Stress Series: Helping you take some stress out of career planning

In my role as Employability and Careers Consultant, it’s always a mixed bag of conversations and situations, but one thing is clear

Kate Foster Careers Consultant
Kate Foster – Employability and Careers Consultant.

– life for students is currently challenging and stressful – but we are here to help, advise and support you to be in the best place you can be with your career planning.

There is no doubt we’re all living through unique and complex times, add in the usual pressures of University and  life in general – deadlines, assignments, dissertations and demands on our time. I’m not surprised that making career decisions elicit feelings of stress, even panic and avoidance, if you don’t know where to start.

Help is at hand as the Career Zone is here to support you. Our staff have a wealth of expertise and experience to offer students and graduates, and we’ve put together a range of online sessions and podcasts to help guide you through making career decisions and developing employability skills as part of our Career De Stress campaign this week (18-22 January).

We’re all pushed for time trying to fit in as much into our busy lives as possible. If this is you and you’re feeling overwhelmed consider signing up to our Time and Stress Management and Personal Resilience sessions. You’ll have the chance to explore not only how you’re feeling but also through sharing experiences realise that you are not alone. You’ll also pick up some great practical tips and techniques.

Do you dread being asked about your future career plans, and find yourself starting to avoid those people who might ask you?

It can be overwhelming not knowing what to do and where to start, but instead of putting it off and burying your head in the sand (apologies for the cliché) think about booking onto the Choosing a Career session. You’ll find out about different ways of exploring careers, and have the opportunity to focus on YOU in terms of what is important to you and what motivates you.  Our fantastic colleagues in Wellbeing are also working with us as part of “Career De-stress” so look out for the following sessions – Looking after yourself whilst Exploring Careers and Disclosing a Disability to a future employer. These focussed sessions will enable you to not only focus on the key elements of making a career decision or finding a supportive employer, but also explore resources and sources of further help, and identify practical tips and techniques to enable you to manage those stressful situations such as the dreaded recruitment Interview!

If you don’t have much time our podcast series may be just the thing for you as you can download and listen in your own time – https://careerzonepodcast.podbean.com/. Topics include “Delegation”, “How will graduate jobs be impacted by COVID-19”, “How can I beat Interview nerves?” and “How do I choose a Career?”

In addition, there is a wealth of online resources available including the Career Planning section of the Career Zone website, which is organised around Decide, Plan, and Compete – http://www.exeter.ac.uk/careers/ with hints, tips and resources aimed at whatever stage you are at with your future decisions.

My Career Zone Digital includes some great interactive information including professional insights into different industries and sectors, and online tools (like video interview practice) where you can improve your skills and confidence.

My top tip would be…..start somewhere…… look at the Career De stress activities. Grasp as many opportunities as you can and break out of your comfort zone.

Planning and managing your career is a lifelong employability skill so this won’t be the first or the last time that you’re faced with deciding what to do and which direction to take. Some people find it easier (or appear to find it easier!) than others.

My top tip would be…..start somewhere…… look at the Career De-stress activities. Grasp as many opportunities as you can and break out of your comfort zone. You never know what you’ll find out about yourself, you might even start piecing together some ideas for a future career.

For further information on Career De-stress and to book onto sessions – http://www.exeter.ac.uk/careers/events/careerde-stress/