All entries for June 2012

June 26, 2012

Make the most of your summer

To do list

We've reached the end of another year. Exams are over and a long vacation stretches ahead. If you've got a pretty packed schedule or a job offer lined up, this is a time of promise and excitement. But if you've got to this point and and are beginning to worry about what comes next, don't panic – you can soon put yourself back in the driving seat. Whether you're a first year or soon-to-be graduate, check out our practical guide to surviving and thriving this summer:

Come and talk to us

  • Student Careers and Skills is open throughout the summer and you can drop in to see a job search adviser, or book an appointment with one of our careers consultants. No experience, career plan or CV required! This is a great time to pop in for a chat but don't worry if you're not on campus – you can email, phone and skype as well.
  • Give your CV a facelift. If you're focussed and job ready it may need just a little 'cosmetic' fine tuning. Don't despair if you still feel your CV is more 'Z' than 'A' list. Our job search advisers can help you develop, re-package and refine your CV. Give yourself a head start by using our CV resources
  • See our website for opening hours.

Build your online profile

Manage your job feeds and news alerts

  • Start with our own vacancies database on myAdvantage. If you want to receive targeted news about graduate jobs, work experience and internships you need to tick the relevant box in the my preferences section.
  • Make use of established job portals like Milkround and TARGETjobs. They've got a wide reach and cover all the major sectors. If you're still hoping to secure a graduate job this summer, then you can check their upcoming deadlines to see what's available.
  • And if you want to be really lazy there's always Graduate Job Feed, which pulls graduate job vacancies from other boards and hosts them on one site.
  • Have you subscribed to industry/sector news feeds? Are you following the right people (and companies) on Twitter....?

Develop your commerical awareness

  • Think this is just the preserve of business graduates in finance roles? Wrong. Commercial awareness is one of the Top 10 skills that'll get you a job when you graduate.
  • Practical experience is best. Internships, work placements and volunteering can all expose you to the commerical realities of running a business or organisation. If you haven't got any work experience lined up this summer try to find a part time job. It might not be the most stimulating work but you'd be surprised how much you can learn from working in shops, bars and call centres. Check out e4S, JustJobs4Students and Unitemps to see what's available in your area.
  • Get informed! You've got a few months freedom from exams, assignments and seminars so make an effort to keep up with the news and read the business pages of the major broadsheets (Guardian, Financial Times, Telegraph).

Do something new

  • Recruiters are impressed by students who demonstrate a 'can do' attitude and curiosity about the world. Use this time to stretch yourself and broaden your horizons. Cultivate a new interest, volunteer, start a blog or maybe brush up on your IT skills (are you really that confident with Excel? If not, there are some great online tutorials. Try Mr Excel)
  • Be prepared to have a go. It can be a real confidence boost to step outside of your comfort zone, and when it comes to job interviews, you'll have plenty to say.

2012 graduates have free access to all careers services for 3 years after graduation Mortarboard

June 19, 2012

A career in retail: more than shop work…


Our love of conspicuous consumption shows no sign of abating, despite the best efforts of the current recession. But few of us consider applying this interest to our career and many of us seem to harbour some pretty negative – and firmly entrenched – perceptions about the retail sector. It’s no wonder that the UK retail industry struggles to attract high calibre graduates to their ranks. Despite holding its position as the largest commercial sector in the world, this is one of the few areas that – year on year – sees graduate vacancies go unfilled.

One of our careers consultants* recently attended an AGR retail focus group to establish why graduates shun this sector and the feedback was conclusive, if not surprising. Retail struggles to gain a foothold with students due to some pretty pervasive myths:

  • There are limited career opportunities and progression
  • The hours are long, irregular and often unsociable
  • The work is basic and mundane with little to challenge or stimulate
  • The pay is low and certainly not comparable with other sectors

It doesn’t require a huge quantum leap to understand why these views persist. For many of us our first experience of paid employment is in the retail sector – working in shops or supermarket during evenings and weekends, to help pay our way through college or university. Whether consciously, or otherwise, retail becomes synonymous with low paid, low status, menial jobs – not what you go to university for, right? But are you limiting your career horizons by holding on to a view that's just a little outdated…?

Retailing isn’t all about shops – it’s about the stuff that makes shops happen

A recent survey by RateMyPlacement highlighted gaps in students’ understanding about the sector: more than 50% were unable to state with confidence what a career in retail involves. The variety both within and between job roles can come as something of a surprise. Yes, there are retail management programmes, designed and structured to develop the next generation of store and branch managers, but this is only one – of many – graduate functions. Other specialist areas include buying, merchandising, advertising, marketing and human resources as well as IT, finance, logistics and law. Thanks to my experience in HE careers, I can say – with some confidence – that these job roles remain pretty popular: rare is the student who discounts advertising, IT or finance positions because they are low status and poorly paid! So why not consider those options in the retail industry?

Don’t discount the benefits of a generalist graduate programme either, particularly if you're looking for a challenge but haven't found a niche yet. A generalist role will give you the opportunity to develop a broad skill set, whilst keeping future options open. Some retailers have their own in-house magazines, customer service departments, environmental policy and community liaison departments – all possible areas to move into from the foundation of a generalist graduate programme.

So far so good, you say - but what about the salary? Well, there are some organisations that offer an eye wateringly high starting salary of £40K - step forward Aldi. Now, it may be a little disingenuous to claim this is representative of the sector but with an average starting salary of £24 000, you won’t be facing penury either.

“The challenge is to bring retail to life

Innovation and sustainability are central to the success of the sector in a globalised economy, and this is where you come in. There is a real opportunity for resourceful, creative graduates to contribute on all fronts, at all levels. You can shape society in real and meaningful ways by influencing decisions about what we buy and how we shop. Think ethics and retail are uncomfortable bedfellows? Think again. The Co-operative may be at the vanguard of fair-trade, ethical initiatives but many of the big UK (and international) retailers are close behind.

Yes, it's hard work.....

The retail world can be hard work and you may find evenings and weekends are not entirely your own. But the chances are you’ll be making sacrifices whatever career path you choose, particularly when you’re starting out and want to make an impression. Just ask those aspirational accountants, lawyers and ad executives how much free time they have. There certainly are graduate training schemes that operate a 9-5 working week, but don’t assume it’s the majority. Try to be realistic about your career choice and the demands of graduate employment. If you're looking for variety, challenge and the chance to take some early responsbility, then don't be quite so hasty to dimiss careers in retail. You might just be surprised.

* Thanks to Sue for her input, insight and dogged determination to raise the profile of retailing!

June 13, 2012

A visual guide to interviews

I'm wondering if this could be my last blog entry on interviews - I'm not sure I can top this fantastic infographic from Liz Fosslien. Creative, funny and true!

Get Hired

Interview objective: join the 180°club

Interview 180

What you hopefully did months ago

Level of importance

Because I GUARANTEE this will happen before your interview


What you should do leading up to the interview

Interview preparation

What you should bring

What to bring

The suit

The suit

This is not a party

Stick figures

"Fashionably late" does not exist

Fashionably late

The handshake


How enthusiastic you should appear


Question Category Overview: What I (the interviewer) am really trying to figure out

Questions 1

Questions 2

Questions 3

Tell me about yourself


What are your strengths


What are your weaknesses?



Your phone


Describe a time you had difficulty working with a coworker


What was your biggest mistake?


Describe your ideal workplace


What do you know about this company?


Why do you want this job?


Do you have any questions for me?

Any questions

What to remember regarding a thank you email

Follow up email

* With thanks to Liz Fosslien, an associate at the Leo Burnett ad agency, for allowing us to reproduce her Get Hired infographic (

June 11, 2012

Finding work experience this summer

PLU branding

A good degree from a good university is a great start but that's not the whole story. Emma from our Placement Learning Unit explains further....

Employers tell us that they look for:

  • Work experience, including part-time work through Unitemps, volunteering and placements.
  • A record of achievement, including society involvement, volunteering and sport.
  • The reflection and analysis tools to pull these together into a unique and personal “story” that can be versioned for different audiences.

Year on year we get feedback from graduates telling us they regret not thinking about their career earlier in their degree studies. Students without work experience are at a particular disadvantage in any graduate application process.

To intern...or not?

It’s true that if you want a job with a Times Top 100 employer, an internship is important; around a third of graduate jobs with these major employers were filled by former interns last year (The Graduate Market in 2012). You may feel that internships – particularly the formal, structured kind –are typically for students with a clear sense of career direction. This isn't always the case and internships can be a great way of gaining experience, even if you decide later on to switch focus, but it's important to remember that internships are not the only source of work experience.

If you are unsure what to do, or can’t find something that you think is relevant to your degree or career aspirations, remember that doing something is better than doing nothing, and a placement or period of work experience is certainly not tying you to a job for life!

What difference can a few weeks over the summer make?

What you gain is about much more than the placement itself. You’ll hone your application skills and experience the selection and interview process first hand. And afterwards, we can help you to think about what you learned, reflecting on your experience so you maximise the value you gain. The benefits are much more far-reaching than the placement itself. And, of course, employability skills like teamwork and communication – in tandem with a better understanding of yourself –will help bring your future applications to life, giving them real context and focus.

Finding opportunities

myAdvantage lists jobs and internship vacancies targeted at Warwick students. Many employers target just a few University websites, so if you aren’t looking on myAdvantage you're missing a trick – being a Warwick student means you’ve already ticked one of their key requirements.

Other useful places to look include:

If you're an Arts student, why not follow our Arts Twitter feed (@ArtsCareers) for current information about placements, internships and work experience opportunities. Perhaps you're trying to source your own placement, in which case you may be eligible for a work experience bursary.

Finding work experience can seem really daunting, especially when you're not sure what you want to do! Don't let these barriers – perceived or real – stop you. Check out our work experience zone for hints, tips and useful strategies to help you overcome these barriers. And remember, we're open all summer so you can always drop in and talk to us once your exams are over.

June 06, 2012

Who am I online?

Digital footprint

In a recent post, I got to grips with the issue of blogging itself, asking how you could use this medium to find - or create - a job. Our student blogger, Emily, reflects on her own digital footprins and the trail we leave online....

Reading the blog post about blogging on May 22nd was very interesting, as a job-seeking soon-to-be graduate. Now that I’m mired in my own job search, the idea of who I am – or seem to be – online has become increasingly important. I’ve tried (and failed) many a time to set up my own blog, and while blogging isn’t for everyone, if you have a Facebook account, tweet occasionally or even just comment on The Boar articles then you’re leaving a web trail for employers that can be just as useful to them, so you need to be aware of the consequences of those throwaway comments. SU President Leo Bøe recently wrote a blog post about inappropriate jokes online – yes they’re offensive, but what if they also lose you your dream job?

We all know the basics about making sure our privacy settings on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter are high so that people we don’t know don’t end up seeing our private information, but I don’t think we really take this quite seriously enough. Companies like Channel 4 spend a long time at their talent pool sessions stressing that you shouldn’t have too many Facebook pictures of you compromising yourself (if you know what I mean) – if an employer ‘googles’ you and the first image that comes up is you with a bottle in your hand, you might want to rethink.

A couple of students who had their radio show taken off them for bad language last week (which generated a Boar article about the incident) now have a link talking about their irresponsibility and bad language at the top of search engine results for their names. Not that I’m recommending that you turn into one of those people who frequently ‘googles’ themselves...

Even what you tweet about can be important. I’ve applied for nearly thirty jobs in the past month and for several of them have been asked to give links to my Twitter account and any blogs I write for – cue me going through several years of previous whinging and deleting tweets... because the internet is not just about expressing yourself anymore. It’s a massively useful resource for demonstrating your interests, your commitment to writing and who you are, or who you want to be. Building up a strong Twitter following could show your marketing, communication or persuasive writing skills and is definitely essential to breaking into radio, marketing and media generally, so if you’re serious about getting into these more elusive sectors make sure you give yourself the best advantage.

And if this doesn’t sound convincing, a friend of mine who recently got rejected from her ideal job was told that the reason was an article she had written for The Boar. Don’t let that be you.

* Emily Middleton is a third year English student and Careers and Skills rep

June 2012

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