All entries for October 2012

October 09, 2012

Entrepreneurship – the alternative career path

EntrepreneurshipWarwick graduate Mahdi Shariff talks about the (career) path less travelled - entrepreneurship...

With a tough job market and tuition fee rises for higher education, the options for a fresh graduate seem to be narrowing; don't assume, however, that your options are confined to Milkround.com. An alternative - but frequently overlooked - career path is Entrepreneurship. Whether or not you have ever considered starting your own company, or even if you are dead set on joining the corporate ranks, by developing an entrepreneurial mindset you can determine your own success in whichever path you choose to follow.

What are your options?

Whether you're still studying or freshly graduated, securing entrepreneurial experiences will help develop the key skills and attributes that employers are looking for. These can come from a range of formal and informal experiences, so here are a few suggestions to get you started.

University societies & competitions

Entrepreneurial societies, such as Warwick Entrepreneurs and SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise), are great at nurturing entrepreneurial talent. By getting involved with these projects early in your university career, not only will it get you in the right mindset, but you will be given the opportunity to gain experiences outside of your comfort zone as well as introducing you to potential employers. The Warwick Apprentice competition (run by Warwick Entrepreneurs) is a perfect example of this. With over 100 students involved and teams being 'fired' at each round, it is a fiercely competitive challenge and a high pressure environment. Each team were given a new task each day for a week, ranging from sales and negotiation to investment and marketing, with the final teams pitching to four Managing Directors of Credit Suisse. Not only did they gain a unique networking opportunity, the winners (Yaw Okyere, Lexie Titterington & Mahdi Shariff) shared £1200 prize money and developed themselves personally through their involvement in the competiton. Getting involved with these activities early on in your university career will ensure you have the right kind of experience to help you establish your own business, secure further work experience and may even make the difference between graduate employment and the job centre.

Internships & start-up experience

Entrepreneurial internships and working in startups are great sources of experience for both graduates and undergraduates. Sites such as Enternships and Workinstartups have made the process of finding these startup opportunities even easier, and with positions across a range of functions and industries, you can now strategically plot your career path. Working in a startup not only gives you the chance to demonstrate your initiative and drive, but offers you highly differentiated and relevant experience, and exposure to roles and responsibilites beyond that of a normal entry-level graduate position. Even if you find that the path of the entrepreneur is not for you, your time will have been well spent gaining a valuable network of contacts in your industry, developing new skills and a better understanding of the career you wish to pursue, or at the very least, a set of perfect competency based examples that every graduate dreams of.

An internship in a startup is a great way to gain experience and learn about business. It can also end up as a permanent position, as many startups use internships as a way to find graduate talent - Rajeeb Dey, CEO & Founder, Enternships.com

Entrepreneur First

So graduation day comes and your heart is now set on becoming the next Richard Branson - but where do you go next? Your first port of call should be Entrepreneur First. This is a great government-backed initiative which is the first scheme of its kind to truly offer an estabished route to entrepreneurship for young entrepreneurs straight after graduation. The scheme works by equipping you with the skills, training and environment you need to succeed. They help to build startups that lead to economic growth and job creation by focussing on three things:

  1. Supporting people who have the ambition to build scalable businesses
  2. Only supporting startups that want to innovate
  3. Selecting people who have the skills (either technical or business-related) to make the first two things a reality

This highly sought after scheme also provides mentoring, office space, introductions to investor networks, and a warm welcome to a group of ambitious, dynamic young entrepreneurs. This could just be the place to find your next cofounder, discover an exciting business venture or even befriend the next Steve Jobs.

So why do we think EF is different? EF is designed to help build the type of startups that do lead to economic growth and job creation. So, if you have the ambition and the skill, EF is a great place to get started - Matt Clifford, CEO of Entrepreneur First

Supporting partners of the scheme include McKinsey&Company, Microsoft and Silicon Valley Bank, so even if things don't quite work out as planned, in true entrepreneurial form you can bounce back and use this experience to convince employers that you're creative, enterprising and prepared to take a risk. With applications opening from September, you can find out more at Entrepreneur First or get in touch with two of Warwick's own top grads @IsaacLewis @evidetta who are currently on the scheme.

Watch out for the band wagon

Although entrepreneurship offers a wealth of opportunity, it can be a rocky road, with successs some way in the future. And that's before we mention the hard graft - palatable to some, but not for the faint-hearted. So at this pivotal stage of your career, before you quit the job search and begin working on a start-up, think carefully - have you got the makings of an entrepreneur, or do you value security and certainty? The entrepreneurial lifestyle can be exciting and rewarding, but it's not for the risk averse.

High-growth entrepreneurship should be viewed as a high-skill profession. Initiatives that present founding a business as an accessible alternative to employment, particularly in a difficult economic climate, will tend to produce in aggregate a group of new firms that are not well equipped to scale - Peter Tufano, Dean of Oxford's Said Business School and Founder of the Harvard Innovation Lab Schemes

This is why schemes like Entrepreneur First are highly selective and prestigious - they only support individuals making a conscious decision to pursue entrepreneurship. And it works - some of the first graduates to complete the Entrepreneur First scheme are turning their backs on city jobs to pursue their ambitions instead. Being able to make these decisions requires a high level of confidence and assertion about your future goals and objectives. This is why gaining entrepreneurial experiences early on in your career gives you the grounding and confidence to make a measured and educated decision on which path is right for you.

The ball's in your court.

With your goal in mind, whether working in a corporate or with plans for entrepreneurial world domination - entrepreneurship offers a viable alternative route for those hungry for success. Get those skills out on the court and you might just find employers are more than willing to play ball.

Mahdi Shariff is a Warwick graduate, former winner of the Warwick Apprentice Competition and now works as a Corporate Finance Analyst at Ernst & Young. Read Mahdi's blog for further thoughts on life, work and social media.


October 05, 2012

Welcome to Warwick

Top 10A warm welcome to all our new students from Anne Wilson, Head of Careers.....

You may be thinking a careers post is just a little bit premature; you’ve barely had time to unpack, settle in, make friends or borrow some coffee. Fear not – we’re not here to tell you what to do with the next 30 years of your life, we just want to make sure you enjoy the next 3!

We’ve scratched our collective heads and have come up with a top 10 tips to help you make the most of your Warwick experience. And they may just help you get a job too at the end.

  1. Follow your passions. Join at least one club or society. Explore your curiosity, try something new or use your existing talents in a new and creative way. You might enjoy it so much that you decide (a bit later on) to pitch for an exec or leadership role. This will give you plenty to talk about when it comes to future applications and interviews.

  2. Use myAdvantage in order to access and book one of the 100s (yes, 100s) of activities we run: skills sessions, careers events, appointments, employer presentations and fairs. And that’s before we get to vacancies and internship opportunities. Customise your profile and set your preferences to receive the weekly newsletter and job alerts.

  3. Develop your skills. What would you like to improve or develop? Have you had had a long standing, deep-seated fear of presentation skills and are dreading your first seminar? Don’t suffer in silence – our skills programme is designed to help. And you could even get an award!

  4. Find work experience. The single most influential activity which recruiters look for is evidence of work experience. This may be related to your career interests but, remember, any experience is better than none. It’s also a great way to ‘try before you buy.’ Our Placement Learning Unit can support you and if your experience is unpaid you may be eligible for our bursary.

  5. Volunteer. It’s a way to do something worthwhile and there are a variety of ways you can ‘make a difference’ to others. A bonus is that you will also develop skills graduate recruiters value

  6. Meet a graduate recruiter! We offer a vast array of employer events during the academic year (215 and counting) - from large careers fairs, sector events in the autumn and spring terms through to employer presentations. It’s a great way to meet recruiters and explore the opportunities available to Warwick graduates.

  7. See a careers consultant. If you have no idea what you want to do (and don’t worry – that’s probably most of you) this a great time to see a careers consultant and get the ball rolling. You’ll find one linked to your department. We are happy to see students at any stage of their career thinking – from absolutely clueless to focussed and driven.

  8. Begin with the end in mind. Time invested finding out who you are and what matters is time well spent. The more self-aware you are, the more informed your choices will be later on. If you get stuck, look at the resources on Warwick Advantage.

  9. Get involved. If you want to make a difference to the quality of your fellow students' experience (and your own), consider becoming an SSLC representative. When you've found your feet, you could even apply for one of our careers reps posts next summer. And if you're feeling really bold or fired up, start campaigning...

  10. Enjoy yourself! You’ll only do this once (probably) so make the most of it. Have fun, make friends, get stuck in and the rest will follow.


October 02, 2012

CV profiles: are they killer or filler?

This blog has moved to a new address.
If you are not redirected automatically, follow the link to careersblog.warwick.ac.uk/2012/10/02/cv-profiles-are-they-killer-or-filler.

profile

Careers profiles, career objectives, personal profile, personal statement – all permutations on a theme and one you can’t fail to have noticed if you’re pulling your CV together. The big question is: do you need one? Well, the jury is well and truly out on this one. Some people – including careers consultants, HR managers and recruiters – swear by them. Others – including including careers consultants, HR managers and recruiters – don’t! So it’s not surprising if you’re feeling a little bewildered by such conflicting and contradictory information. I’m going to try and get to the bottom of this thorny issue and help you decide if, when and how you should use one.

Personal profile or career objective

Although they occupy the same space on the page, there is an important distinction to draw between the personal profile and career objective. A personal profile highlights your current situation, skills and USP. A career objective describes the type of job you’re looking for, and where.

Career objective

Computer science graduate seeking challenging position in software development company to fully utilise my Java programming skills and confidence with concurrency and multi-threading.

Personal profile

A highly motivated computer science graduate with a first class degree, experience in Java and award winning undergraduate dissertation.

I have chosen these examples to contrast the different approaches but in practice the two often merge to create a hybrid statement, along the lines of:

Highly motivated computer science graduate, with an excellent academic credentials including first class degree and award winning undergraduate dissertation. Looking for a graduate position in a software development company, where my Java programming knowledge and strong problem solving skills can be fully utilised.

If you're applying for an advertised vacancy then think twice before you include a careers objective. The parameters of the role are already defined so an employer will be confused (or worse, irritated) by the inclusion.

How to write one

The internet is awash with examples of personal profiles, and this is something to bear in mind should you decide to include one. Recruiters are savvy folk – they spend a lot of time sifting through applications, CVs and cover letters. They have a well-honed (*insert fruity word*) detector and can sniff a fake or a liar a mile off. They’re also time poor, and don’t want to waste it reading a bland statement that reads like a laundry list of adjectives. If you're going to add a profile, try to follow these simple recommendations:

  • Avoid making bold, overblown statements. You’re a student/graduate not the CEO of Coca-Cola. If in doubt, ask someone to sense check it for you. Explosive laughter is not endorsement!
  • Say something specific or tangible. Try to find a point of difference or USP. You’ll be competing with your peers. If everyone has a 2:1, work experience and society involvement what makes you stand out?
  • Keep it factual. Yes, you need to sell yourself but not at the expense of your future reputation and integrity. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
  • Make it focussed and succinct, not vague and repetitive. Space is at a premium so aim for 2-3 lines maximum and please, please, please give buzzwords a wide berth.
  • Read your statement aloud and apply the ‘so what’ test? If your intended audience could respond with a 'so what', the chances are they will.

Do you need one?

At this stage in your career, probably not. Career profiles work best when they include demonstrable – and often quantifiable – experience or, achievements. For example, an applicant with '3 years in-house marketing experience, implementing a successful social media strategy and co-ordinating retail campaigns' is more notable than a 'recent graduate with strong communication skills and creative flair seeking a challenging role in a marketing or PR agency'. The latter may promise potential but recruiters are generally looking for cold, hard evidence.

It is really difficult for a recent graduate to offer the range of experience and knowledge that transforms a bland, generic statement into an impressive, eye catching profile. I have worked in HE careers for over six years but despite reading many careers profiles, less than a handful have made any kind of impression. A memorable example was the PhD student who used a careers profile to great effect, pre-empting concerns about her ability to transfer 'academic' experience to the workplace. She found a job in publishing soon after. Careers profiles can work well for career changes but for most graduates I would advise against. Feedback from our recruiters is lukewarm at best and a weak profile may hinder, not help, your application.


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