All entries for May 2012

May 11, 2012

Maximise your work placement


Last week one of the RateMyPlacement bloggers, Chris, summarised what he thought were the 'Top 10 Components of A Perfect Placement', based on student and employer feedback. With experience as a placement student himself and through his encounters with hundreds of graduate recruiters, Chris is in a strong position to recommend how employers can best support student placements.

Here in the Placement Learning Unit we thought it would be good to flip that on its head and consider how students themselves can optimise their placement experience. So, with thanks to Chris for the original idea, here goes '10 Components', take two....

Pre-start communication
Have you communicated with your placement provider and fellow students/interns? Take this opportunity to network as much as you can before you start, it will help neutralise any anxiety about the first day. Is there a Facebook group you can join (or start, if you're feeling brave) to get to know each other? Make sure you've checked all your accommodation and logistical arrangements - travel, dress, food?

Comprehensive induction
This may be your first experience of a professional environment and hopefully your employer will provide a thorough induction programme to ease you in. Some dos and don'ts are universal, but companies also have their own distinct culture. If there's no formal induction, then try to find someone at Warwick (or through your other networks) who's worked at the same company. They may be willing to share their insights. If your placement is in a country you're unfamiliar with, research any cultural and working practices beforehand.

Have a clear plan of action (and line management)
Ideally, your employer should have a clear plan for your placement. Find time to talk through your expectations with your line manager early on in the placement. Mentoring can be a feature of more structured, formal internships but if a mentor isn't allocated to you, then suggest it to your line manager or placement supervisor. If this draws a blank, then approach someone on an informal basis – perhaps a recent graduate. You'll probably have come clear goals or objectives you'd like to achieve on placement. Perhaps there are specific skills you'd like to acquire or develop; use the tools in our work experience zone to help you identify skills or knowledge gaps.

Throw yourself in at the deep end, build responsibility
Take the initiative and contribute. There's a difference between work shadowing and work placements – yes, you will need to spend time reading, researching and familiarising yourself with the work environment, but ulitmately you are there to gain practical experience. If a project hasn't been assigned to you, ask for one!

Gain a wide range of experiences
A placement is all about getting experience – try to get exposure to as many different aspects of the business/company as possible. Don't get to the end of your placement wishing you'd asked for more opportunities. You will draw on this experience in future job applications, so make sure you have plenty of evidence to strengthen your case.

You should give and receive feedback
Ask for regular feedback and keep your line manager informed. Thank them for opportunities and don't be afraid to ask for more. Why not say, "I seem to be managing my work quite easily, could I perhaps have something more challenging?" As long as you are polite and professional, an employer will rend to respond positively. Just don't feel too disappointed if they can't always accommodate your requests.

Create opportunities and activities out of work
A placement is not just about the work. You should look for opportunities to get involved outside of the office: charity projects, sports clubs or social committees. Networking isn't confined to the workplace and the benefits can reach far beyond your immediate placement.

Exit interview (and feedback)
Engineer the opportunity (if it isn't offered) to give and receive comprehensive feedback at the end of the placement. Some employers may even give you an exit interview. Bear in mind that work placements/internships are often used as a pipeline for graduate programmes and you want to be remembered for the right reasons.

Keep the employer warm
If you wish to be considered for graduate opportunities, make sure you invest in a continued relationship after your placement. Don't bombard them with emails, but keep them updated and stay in touch. In you really want to demonstrate your commitment, why not suggest they employ you as Brand Manager on campus, to promote their organisation on campus?

Plan your next steps
When you return from your placement (usually post summer vacation), come and speak to one of our job search advisers. They can help you translate your learning and development into 'application friendly' content. You may be having doubts about your career path, following your placement experience and if this is the case, we'd suggest talking things through with a careers consultant to help you find a new direction.

What now?
Ok, I know we said 10, but there's always room for another! If you're feeling a little overwhelmed by all the information out there, then book a place on our 'Making the most of your work experience' sessions on 22/26/28 June. There will be plenty of hints, tips and useful advice to get you started, so log in to myAdvantage and book now.

May 09, 2012

The Summer Fair – reflections from an arts student

Hi - we've got a great guest post from Emily Middleton, an English student and Student Careers & Skills rep. Emily takes a reflective look at yesterday's fair and asks, "what's in it for arts students?"....

As an English undergraduate this is a question that comes up a lot. Warwick is the second most targeted university by graduate employers in the UK, but the assumption among us artsy types tends to be that they're only here for the BSc graduates. What's in it for us if we don't want to be high-flying bankers?

This was my mission at the Summer Careers Fair this week. As I entered and clocked the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants my heart sank a little, and I admit the Navy didn't spark my interest (I don't think I appealed much to them either!), but that doesn't mean there isn't something for everyone. I was immediately impressed with the number of people – both students and recruiters – making the most of the event.

When I got chatting to Unilever, I found that for six of their graduate programmes, they didn't mind what degree you have. they focus on five competencies: growth mindset, consumer and customer focus, bias for action, building talent and teams, and accountability and responsbility. If these sound like a mouthful (& they really do), then have a look on their website – they've broken them down in a more meaningful way.

The Unipart Group look for intellect, drive and judgement – all of which they reckon Warwick students can demonstrate. Creativity is a large part of what they do; the representative I spoke to was keen to tell me how one of their operations managers studied Classics ("that one with Odysseus"). If you've ever written an essay – about Odysseus or marketing strategies – you've probably demonstrated some of these skills already. See the connection?

At Explore Learning, graduates go straight in as Assistant Directors in their centres, handling everything from finance to marketing. The rep was a drama graduate, who was very excited to tell me that the company's Head of Recruitment started off in the same scheme – which only asks that you achieve a 2:1 and have some experience with children.

There were some very trendy promoters from Abercrombie and Fitch where, yet again, the degree subject doesn't matter. You go on quite an exciting journey with their International Merchant Graduate Scheme, as you get to oversee a first product from its design to sale. What are they looking for? Enthusiastic students with leadership skills – plenty of arts students fit the bill.

So, what did I learn from the fair? Well, the one recurring theme was around degree subject – it really doesn't seem to matter to most recruiters. Don't make this a barrier when job hunting. It's not just about the grades either: one employer informed me they're more than happy to consider applicants with less than a 2:1, if they can prove themselves. What they want is for you to demonstrate your competency, passion, creativity and leadership. If you need to develop these, then start now and get involved. Why not volunteer, join a society, or work for Raw? Whatever it is, throw yourself into it and don't miss the chance to take the lead, show your initiative and develop the skills employers want. It's not about degree subject, it's about you!

If you need more help, then use Students Careers and Skills. It's what they're here for. So check out their career success toolkit and get on it!

May 03, 2012

Work that fair

Careers FairIt's the summer fair season again (although I use the word ‘summer’ advisedly!) and plenty of opportunity for you to scan the job horizon and see what’s out there. Careers fairs can be quite daunting – particularly for the uninitiated – it seems everyone else is smoothly working the room, chatting to employers, picking up brochures and placing one foot firmly on the career ladder. In reality, many students fail to play the 'fair game' and miss the chance to make a really strong impression on a potential recruiters. With some basic preparation and an open mind you can turn this around. Just make sure you know 'how get the most out of careers fairs'.

We’ve got some great feedback from employers who came to our autumn term fairs and have a pretty clear idea about what they want to hear. Make yourself memorable for the right reasons. Here's what they had to say:

Some of the best questions...

  • What is the company's direction in the short and long term?
  • What is the best way to make my application successful?
  • What motivates you to go into work every day?
  • How has the economy affected your business?

And the worst...

  • What do you do? Who are you? What are you about? Not a good opening line
  • What freebies have you got? And yes, students do still ask this
  • Can I have your number? It's not an opportunity to pick up a date (the recruiter's words, not mine!)

In terms of general tips, the recruiters pretty much covered what was in the Guardian article, with much of the emphasis directed towards good research, commerical awareness and the right attitude: be confident, enthusiastic but also respectful. A careers fair isn't a social occasion – don't treat it like one.

I'm going to have the final word (it's a habit I'm trying to break...) and remind you that many graduate and internship opportunities are open to students from any degree background. Don't count yourself out before you even started, keep an open mind and entertain new possibilities.

Ok, that wasn't quite the final word, but this is: remember it's our Summer Careers Fair on Tuesday, 12-4pm in Rootes. See you there, just don't forget to read the fair guide first....

May 02, 2012

Calling all finalists…

Career Success Toolkit brandingAre you a finalist still looking for a job, or even some direction? This summer the Centre for Student Careers and Skills is running a series of events, workshops and sessions, to help mitigate the rising panic that often accompanies the third term of your final year. Yes, we know that our reputation is built on a mantra of 'plan early' (it's still not bad advice....) but we're savvy enough to recognise that a pretty big – and often silent – majority are simply not ready to tackle the challenges of job hunting and form filling until now.

It's something of a cliché, but true nonetheless, to say finding a job can often feel like a job itself. Opportunities don't just create themselves and people rarely fall into jobs; it takes effort, commitment and a hefty dose of resilience to help you aim for success, but also prepare for (temporary!) failure. Some of you have, no doubt, spent a fair few months on the application treadmill, and it can be really demoralising if you're finding that job offer – or even interview slot – remains elusive.

Whether you are suffering application fatigue, or consider yourself a complete careers novice, there is something in our 'Career Success Toolkit’ that should tempt, or at least offer a fresh perspective. If you're happy to leave your assumptions at the door, then we're happy to address some of those misconceptions about career planning, job hunting and inevitably the graduate job market.

Our launch event – the Summer Fair – will give you ample chance to talk to employers across a range of sectors, and can feel a little less intense than its autumn term counterparts. Over 40 employers will be there, many of them offering jobs and internships. You can also sign up for some employer and centre-led skills sessions, so check the fair guide to help you plan what to do and when. We’re all decamping to Rootes for the day, come and find us on the Careers & Skills stand. We’ll happily field any question you might have, just don't ask which employer has the best freebies – we like to keep that secret!

Understandably, finals will be occupying most of your time and energy between weeks 4-7, so we’ve concentrated most of the events and sessions in weeks 3, 8-10. Hopefully this should give you sufficient time for post exam recovery before getting to grips with your future plans. The sessions are deliberately pitched to reflect and accommodate the different stages of career readiness and with over 50 to choose from, you should find something that resonates.

There are familiar themes – applications, interviews and assessment centres, but we have also taken a few creative detours along the way and you’ll find sessions on workplace transitions, building ‘bounce back’ into your job search, commercial awareness and finding your strengths. You can attend as many – or as few – as you like, but whatever you do make this your summer of career success.

It all starts here

Welcome to the new Careers blog, it’s good to have you on board! We hope this will be the first of many visits...

The blogosphere can be a noisy, crowded place – everyone has something to say. So why should you listen to us? Well, try this for starters:

1. We know how busy life can be for Warwick students. It’s hard enough trying to reconcile the demands of your course with extra-curricular commitments; finding the time to source, read and digest all the careers related stuff is just adding another thing to your ‘must do’ list. This is where we come in. Our team of experienced careers professionals have their antennae raised and know where and how to find the information that really counts. They will be using this blog to share ‘news and views’ on graduate recruitment, job and sector information as well as top tips to help you plan the next stage.

2. We will be asking recruiters for their thoughts, recommendations and insights – they’re really well placed to share the snippets you’ll need to ‘get in and get on’, whatever sector or career path you decide to follow. Expect some interesting and lively guest posts around recruitment strategies, social media, interview dos/don'ts, as well as the general low down on Gen Y applicants.

3. There will be links and information about key careers events on campus and further afield but we won’t be using the blog to promote everything we do. With over 200 unique events we’d lose the plot and you’d lose interest. If you want to know what we’re doing on a weekly basis then sign up for the myAdvantage newsletter and check our homepage for news and events.

We're not going to make any assumptions about your career interests, job readiness or future plans. This blog is for all students – from first years to taught postgrads – and there’ll be articles, news and resources covering a range of topics. Whether you’re a first year wanting to make an early start, or a finalist without a clue, there’ll be something here for you. And if not, get in touch and let us know. Read, follow, comment: make this your space!

May 2012

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