Top Resources from My Career Zone Digital for Graduates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Career Zone Digital

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

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

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

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

James Priday – From Undergrad to CEO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Career Mentor Scheme, a Career-Changing Experience

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

Rebecca Lenthall, Career Mentoring and Internships Coordinator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Launch your Career with an Internship in China

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

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

British Chamber of Commerce Shanghai’s Burns Night event

What did your particular internship entail?

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

Did you have to speak Chinese to get the job?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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