All 9 entries tagged Employability

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January 18, 2013

Build your brand to find a job

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Bottle Wouldn’t it be great if you could make yourself different to all the other students that are going for the same job as you? Make your target employer aware you’re looking for a job? Make your skills and experience even more attractive to potential employers? How can this be done? Well, the answer lies in building your personal brand.

People as brands

When we think of brands companies like Nike, Apple and Starbucks come to mind. These huge corporations build brands to obtain certain benefits. To make themselves different, to raise brand awareness, the attract customers and charge premium prices to name a few. Can you see some parallels between your objectives and a brand?

The next time you’re in the supermarket look at the row jammed packed with bottled water. Water is a commodity but the good branding folk at Evian get you thinking about ‘youth’ whilst at Volvic they’re all about ‘volcanicity’ and volcanic energy. It’s water. Yes there may be some subtle taste differences but for the most part water is a very standardised product that has, via branding, being differentiated (oh and priced at a premium too). Humans are not standardised. They’re all wonderfully unique. If you can brand water you can brand people. No question about that. Just look at Richard Branson, Barrack Obama and David Beckham. They all have very strong personal brands.

What's your brand?

  1. Grab a piece of paper and draw a table with two columns. The left column should be titled “Words that describe me”. The right column should be “Words that describe my (target employer)”
  2. In the left column note down about five words you would use to describe yourself. Don’t rush. Take your time. This is important. Are you caring, creative, competitive, bold, daring, analytical, meticulous, adventurous, inquisitive? Branding folk call these types of words ‘brand values’. Nike, Apple and Starbucks all have brand values. They lie at the heart of all great brands and provide the foundation for all their brand building activities.
  3. Think about your target employer and conduct some research on how they describe themselves. You’ll be able to find this on company websites under their ‘values’. Write down their values in the right hand column of your table.
  4. Now here’s the crunch. Do at least three of the five words you’ve noted in the left column vaguely resemble words in the right hand column? If they do you’re in a good place because values inform beliefs and beliefs inform behaviour. If your values are aligned with your target employer there’s a good chance you’re going to behave in a way that fits with their culture. You’ll probably connect. Good times.
If the words you’ve used to describe yourself and your target employer don’t vaguely resemble each other then you need to think about the accuracy of the words you’ve chosen to describe yourself OR think about how much you really want to work at that company. You need to be brutally honest with yourself at this stage. It’s very important. Seek advice from a careers consultant if you’re struggling. Or some objective friends.

Finding the fit

If your values don’t fit with your target employer it’s going to be an uphill battle. You may get to interview based on your great CV or insightful personal blog but during the interview the chemistry won’t be right. You’ll behave in a way that doesn’t fit with their culture because your values are different. Even if you do manage to get through the interview it’s doubtful you’ll enjoy working there. You’ll struggle to relate to people whose values fit with the business. Thinking about your values and how they converge with those of your target employer is crucial.

So, you feel your values and those of your target employer fit. Great. Next you can actually start building your brand. You do this by making the words you have used to describe yourself happen (“bring your values to life” use the brand marketing lingo). This is achieved through design, communications and behaviour to name a few. If you’re “creative” and one of your target employer’s values is “creativity” you need to make sure your social media channels ooze with creativity. You need to communicate in a creative and engaging way. You need to demonstrate how you’ve behaved in creative ways during previous placements or jobs by solving problems in unique ways etc. It’s important you get this right. If your target employer thinks creativity is important (one of their values) your brand screaming ‘creativity’ will resonate with them when they experience your brand. They’ll identify with you because they’ll have values that are akin to creativity. This increases the chance of them wanting to know more and this could, just could, get you through the door.

I hope this provides a start and the steps are crystal clear. Err, just like water!

Dr. Darren Coleman has over 15 years brand marketing experience and is the Managing Consultant at Wavelength Marketing. Wavelength offers brand advice, insight, education and design to service brands in the UK, continental Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia. Darren has helped hundreds of students and executives build personal brands. Darren tweets @onthewavelength, blogs and is LinkedIn.

*If you'd like to learn more about personal branding email 

December 06, 2012

Not sure what to do when you graduate? Try TEFL

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Today's guest post is from Helen Hargreave of leading TEFL provider, i-to-i. Helen talks through the benefits of teaching abroad - how it can boost your CV, broaden your horizons and help you stand out in a crowded job market.

Thinking about what to do after University? Job climate got you in a panic? Look no further than TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) - your ticket to instant employability.

This is your chance to get ahead of the rat race, boost your CV, gain valuable working experience and travel - the people you meet, cultural immersion and the fun you have are a nice added bonus! If you can speak English you can teach English with no experience necessary, sound tempting?


There are over 1 billion English language learners = the world needs TEFL teachers!

If there was an opportunity for the taking, this is the one. You’ve got a degree, so why do you need a TEFL certificate too? In most countries a degree is needed for visa purposes but a TEFL qualification will provide you with all of the necessary training to make you a confident teacher.

As the demand for English teachers has increased (especially in Asia) employers are also demanding the level of teaching experience and training that comes with a TEFL Certificate.

Which TEFL course is for me?

When choosing your TEFL course and destination, here are a few things to consider:

  • What age group do you want to teach?
  • What kind of hours do you want to work?
  • What kind of environment do you want to work in?
  • How much teaching experience do you have?

Asking yourself these questions will help you find that dream TEFL job!

What happens when I am qualified?

Armed with a degree and a TEFL certificate the world is your oyster! As soon as you’re qualified you can start applying for TEFL jobs all over the world and get paid. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Italy, Nicaragua...wherever takes your fancy!

Explore typical TEFL jobs to discover where you could be and how much you could be earning!

What do most TEFLers do?

At i-to-i we find the most popular TEFL hotspot is China. Home to the Great Wall and Peking duck, China has an extremely high demand for TEFL teachers as many parents are now sending their children to learn English as young as two! With many employers offering free accommodation, airfare and food it’s no wonder that China is top of the destination charts.

Many TEFLers use their new skills to make the most of learning about another culture. Most TEFL contracts are one year long and this might seem like a daunting prospect but there are endless positives to teaching for one year. It is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture, perfect your teaching and get paid for it, get to know your students and more importantly see how YOU’VE impacted their lives - not only this but it demonstrates to future employers your dedication to a worthwhile cause.

Working hours will vary from contract to contract/place to place etc. but on weekends and evenings TEFLers tend to make the most of their new surroundings!

How can I take TEFL further?

TEFL doesn’t have to end after a year. The beauty of TEFL is that it can act as your passport, allowing you to pick up teaching contracts in whichever country takes your fancy and turn TEFL into a long-term career.

Where will TEFL take you? Download our free Top 10 Destinations to find out more.

Helen Hargreave is one of the TEFL Experts at i-to-i the leading course provider. See more articles by Helen on the The TEFL Blog

November 26, 2012

If only…3 things graduates would have done differently

RegretUniversity can be a great experience: it's a time to try new things, broaden your horizons and make memories that last a lifetime. Enjoy what's on offer and you'll find yourself in a win-win situation: having fun whilst accumulating the skills and experiences you need to compete for jobs later on. Just don't leave it too late. Every year, some grads look back on their time with regret; wishing they'd got more involved, and taken time to prepare for life beyond the bubble. Well, hindsight is 20:20 so find out what our grads 'wish they'd done'...

I wish I'd got involved in extra curricular activities

  • It's never too late to rectify this one. Have a look at the SU societies page to see what's going on. Getting involved with clubs and societies is a great way to acquire the skills and qualities employers are looking for. Team work, leadership, communication, problem solving skills - societies provide fertile ground for developing and enhancing these 'transferable skills'. However, you do need to become an active member; passive participation will not create the opportunities or experiences you need to persuade prospective employers. Don't worry if you're not a budding Olympian - there are over 200 clubs and societies, so you're bound to find something that chimes.
  • Try to manoeuvre yourself into a position of responsibility: social secretary, treasurer...or maybe president? Not only will this provide rich pickings for future applications (great for competency questions) but it sends a clear signal to employers that you can handle responsibility and lead from the front.
  • You don't need to stop at societies: if you're politically inclined, there are campaign groups or perhaps you'd like to hone your journalistic talents by writing for the Boar, or contributing to RaW.
  • Have you considered volunteering? Over 10% of our student population are involved with Warwick Volunteers, many of whom find this enormously worthwhile and life-affirming. The projects are challenging and diverse and there's plenty of scope for you to flex your organisational and management skills if you decide to apply for a position as project leader.

I wish I'd applied for internships sooner

  • In some sectors paid, structured internships are used to feed the graduate talent pipeline; if you want to compete (seriously) for jobs in banking and finance, you'll need to go the internship route. And apply early in your second year. Most internships are open to penultimate year students, so you can't afford to adopt a 'wait and see' approach.
  • Don't get too caught up with the semantics. The term 'internship' has morphed into a 'catch all' word for a period of (substantive) work experience, but whether your interest lies in engineering, law or PR you'll need to get some work experience. In some sectors you'll need to be much more proactive in seeking out potential opportunities - speculative approaches may be the way in, so don't sit back and wait for things to happen.
  • Try before you buy! It doesn't matter if you change your mind and decide career success lies elsewhere. Work experience plays an invaluable part in shaping your career ideas. Finding out what you don't want to do, is just as important as realising what you do.
  • If you're not sure where to start, then come along to our work experience drop-in, 10-12 Monday to Friday in the Learning Grid (term time).

I wish I'd used the Careers Service

  • This seems to be a recurrent theme: every year graduates tell us they wish they'd used the services on offer. That's not to say you won't reap the benefits if you return to us as a graduate, but it's much easier (logistically if nothing else) to make the most of the Centre whilst you're on campus, or living nearby.
  • We're not suggesting that you formulate a detailed plan of action mapped out for the next 5 years - starting early can pay dividends but it doesn't mean you're committed to a specific career path. Gathering information about different sectors, understanding what recruiters look for and using this intelligence to shape your university experience and build your CV, is time well spent. We can help whatever stage you're at, whether it's helping you explore your ideas, find work experience, practise your interview technique, hone your CV or apply for postgrad study.
  • It's not unusual for some students to claim our employer focus is too narrow, and overly reliant on the big corporate giants; this is sometimes (conveniently?) cited as a reason for career apathy, "there's nothing here for me". Well, it's true to say the city and finance firms have a strong campus presence, but don't let perception cloud your judgement. We are actively working with 98 of the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers and have a flourishing sector event programme covering areas as diverse as retail, HR, arts, public sector, technology and international development. Add to this an increasing range of niche events available in your department; many of which are led by your careers consultant or in collaboration with target employers. So, what's stopping you? Check out the schedule and come along.

November 21, 2012

The art of self–promotion

Rachel Guthrie Self-promotion isn't a dirty word: it's a vital part of the graduate job search, particularly if you're looking to establish yourself in the arts world. Rachel Guthrie, final year history of art student and aspiring art critic, tell us how it's done....

Self-promotion has never been an easy idea for me. I’m a wannabe art critic, who's always liked to think that my writing could do the work for me – speaking of my ability and drive to write about the arts alone. But in the world of journalism, and even more so in the sector of the arts where critics, writers, reviewers and reporters are now all freelance and battling for every commission, self-promotion has never been more important. Having an active online presence is key to my future as an arts journalist – it’s the way in which I get known, as well as being the means of getting my writing out to a wider audience of readers and commissioning editors.

Keeping it professional

Self-documentation has always been a more comfortable concept. I began my post-school education practicing art 9-5, and my number one hobby is still photography – I love to document what I see, do and feel. This is in some ways what drew me to criticism because I couldn’t help but respond to the exhibitions I was attending and so I set up a blog (originally a blogspot, now a wordpress) when I left school. It was a commitment I made with myself and the wider web to write about every exhibition I saw. It would be my online portfolio of writing, increasingly building over a period in which I was not writing as part of my education. Here’s where twitter came in: it was a means of documenting, but not simply a list of the day’s activities one by one, but always putting an evaluative slant on all that I did.

Foremost, my twitter account was set up to be a professional rather than a personal account. But at the same time, it had to be personable, culturally all-rounded. If I want to be a critic, I am putting myself in a position where I sell myself as a beacon of good taste. I have to be trusted by readers, I have to seen to know not just what I am talking about (therefore have a good education in art history), but also be able to decide what is good and what simple is not, in the exhibition scene. This is why I’ve linked my twitter into my blog so that people can read how I’m spending my time – how, essentially, I’m broadening my horizons.

Building your persona

Moreover, as a critic, you have to be a persona. This is quite different to general journalism – to your trained news reporter – I have to have a distinctive voice. The most well-known (and fearfully respected) art critic is Brian Sewell. He hates more or less everything he sees, but he is a 100% memorable, recognisable. He is himself a brand, and this is what a critic must be. And as a critic of the visual, I have to create a brand that is visually appealing, hence I have a blog with a clear aesthetic, which hopefully reflects my writing style and artistic [contemporary] preferences, and business cards which too mimic those graphics.

My active online presence – I speak mostly of my blog and twitter account (which I believe should be seen as a form of micro-blogging) – is then a matter of self-documentation and promotion. My blog is the place in which you can find my CV, photographs and read my articles without asking for them, thereby cutting out the middle-man. My website is essentially an advertisement for my expertise, and in being cheeky enough as to suggest that I should be paid for what I love doing, I have been.

Twitter is great for this too. By following key organisations (those you’d like to work for) and including them in your tweets you can catch their attention, and they can catch yours when they mention job opportunities, competitions and the like. I also have an automatic setting so that everything I publish on my blog goes on twitter (as I have more followers on twitter where the things I speak about are broader than those on my blog), and I tweet with hashtags to gain the kind of followers that may be useful for me. By making the most of the internet, I find unknown opportunities arising helping to widen my potential.

Rachel was voted Best Arts Writer at The Boar (2011-12) and shortlisted for critic of the year at the 2012 Guardian Student Media Awards. Rachel blogs and tweets @rachelguthrie8

November 12, 2012

Making the most of your internship

Klara KanFinal year student Klara Kan reflects on her recent internships with PwC and HSBC and shares her thoughts on making the most of your work experience...

Career choice is a tough decision to make. Internships can really help you make more informed decisions, and potentially secure a graduate position at the end of the internship. Over the summer, I had the valuable opportunity to complete two internships at PwC (London) and HSBC (Hong Kong) respectively. While both offered me totally different experiences, what is common is that I have learned so much from the internships that I would not have been able to acquire from my formal studies alone.

Be proactive

Most large companies nowadays offer internships to penultimate year students. As in my case, they are often very structured and tailored to university students. Both organisations I worked for valued interns’ personal development and were greatly supportive. So it is important that students take on as much as they can. During my internships, I was proactive in asking for extra work. I wanted to make the most out of my time and I was glad that I did. It was also a fantastic opportunity for me to observe others around me. There is only so much I could learn from the company website and brochure. The way my colleagues interacted, talked or even dressed, told me a lot about the organisation’s structure and culture, and what made them successful in their careers.

Set objectives

At the beginning of an internship, I set a list of objectives and discussed them with my mentor. For example, for my internship at the professional services firm, I set my objectives as follows:

  • Understand the firm’s structure and different lines of services; the team’s structure and operation.
  • Acquire and apply new skills, business and technical knowledge.
  • Understand the different stages of an audit, the work involved, responsibilities and methodologies.
  • Perform assigned tasks in line with the firm’s documentation standards and methodology; proactively seek feedback to improve performance and incorporate feedback into actions.
  • Contribute to the team to the best of my ability and be proactive in helping the team.
  • Network and build relationships with other interns, team members and staff in my business unit.
  • Be proactive and curious in all my work and throughout my internship.
  • Bring a fresh insight/ suggest new ideas to clients/ teams.
  • Understand the market/ sector and clients’ needs; serve clients.
  • Make best use of my free time; find sectors I am interested in and be proactive in seeking opportunities for work shadowing or work in those sectors.

I also had regular meetings with my mentor and the HR to talk about my progress. I found this to be extremely beneficial because not only did they discuss my performance with me, they also explored my long term career options and goals with me. The business environment is dynamic and rapidly changing, what employers look for in graduates now is an agile mindset and flexibility. At both professional services firms and banks, it is very common for employees to change departments at different stages of their careers. I was very open during those meetings, discussed my options and aspirations with them and sought their advice.

Take responsibility

I carried out unsupervised work most of the time during my internships. After rigorous selection processes, it makes perfect sense that companies have high expectations of their interns. The work that I performed mainly consisted of what a new graduate joiner would do, so the internship gave me a real taste of what it would be like if I were to join them upon graduation. While it was essential for me to perform tasks under minimal supervision and to a high standard, it was equally important for me to make sure I asked for clarifications when areas were not clear to me. In advance of taking up work, I also did pre-reading to get a grasp of the context. As an intern, I had to pick up complicated subject matter quickly. Interns may make mistakes and errors, but what is crucial is to learn from them and improve continuously. Proactiveness is highly valued.

Another aspect of my internships that I really enjoy is networking with different level of staff across the firm. I make useful contacts and also become very good friends with some interns. Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my internships and I would encourage students from all disciplines to apply for one. It is never too early to start.

*Klara is a final year management student and careers rep for WBS.

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