All 2 entries tagged Mythbusters

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September 03, 2012

Careers advice – what's it all about?

Which way?Way back in the mists of time when I started this blog (ok, May) I promised to launch a mythbusters series challenging popular career myths. The second post may be just a little later than scheduled, but here we go....

Myth: I'm career clueless - I should have some idea what I want to do

This is a common refrain from students and seemingly stops a lot of you from coming to see us. It seems counterintuitive, doesn't it? How many of you go along to a GP armed with a diagnosis and a full treatment plan? But the perception that you should have some idea about your future direction is pretty entrenched. You might be surprised to know that there's an awful lot we can do to help if you haven't got a clue. Some of us felt much the same way at university, so we certainly empathise with those feelings of anxiety and panic. I remember feeling acutely conscious that I didn't have an impressive CV, and I was worried the adviser would judge me or question my motivation. A chance discussion with a careers adviser, some years after graduation, proved to be a real turning point. If only I'd had the benefit of hindsight in my student days!

Careers advice is useless anyway

This is another of those 'if I had a pound for every time....' type comments. I don't think I'm betraying my colleagues if I note that careers advice has not always had the best press. You could say that we have something of an image problem. If you scour the internet - and to be honest you don't have to look very hard - there are plenty of disgruntled commentators bemoaning the quality of school and HE careers advice. Some of these criticisms have acquired legendary status but they're less grounded in reality that you'd like to believe. Yes, we may suggest that you access one of the computer guidance programmes like TARGETjobs Careers Report or Prospects Career Planner, but only as part of a much richer, wider discussion and with the very strong caveat that we make an appointment to discuss and interpret the results. If you're fearful that we're just going to send you away with a computer printout and a firm goodbye, then prepare to reconsider. You may be thinking that we're out of touch, struggling to bridge the generational divide. Well true, you may struggle to find any Gen Y folk, but we pride ourselves on challenging and confounding stereotypes (once a careers adviser....) and I think it's fair to say we've kept pace with the needs of today's students and jobseekers. Try not to let past experiences colour your view and be prepared to buy in to the process.

So why should I bother?

If you are wondering what on earth to do next - whether now or in 5 years' time, then we can really help de-mystify the whole process of career planning and job hunting. You may be paralysed by fear, feeling completely overwhelmed at the prospect of finding what to do with the rest of your life. It may seem like everyone else around you has a burning desire to work in law/banking/media/PR (tick as appropriate) and knows - with searing clarity - just what to do, and when. They don't, but perception can override logic. We see plenty of students that have little, or no idea, about what to do and where to start. And here's how we can help:

  • by exploring your motivations, interests and values...and their impact on career choice
  • by looking at your skills and strengths...and the gaps
  • by challenging your assumptions about jobs, careers, sectors ...and yourself!
  • by allowing you to share your thoughts, ideas and suggestions ...without being judged
  • by helping you interpret labour market information ...and signposting to additional resources
  • by discussing job search strategies ...old and new
  • by helping you find work experience...and making the most of it
  • by giving you the time and space to talk through all of the above in confidence

If the myth hasn't been entirely busted, I hope you're a little more receptive to the benefits of careers advice. Why not book an appointment and find out? It may be one of the best decisions you make.

May 13, 2012

Mythbusters: Assessment Centres

I've had a few student encounters recently that have highlighted some common misconceptions around jobs, careers and life in general. Given my own shortcomings in addressing the 'Big' questions, it's probably better to stick to familiar themes. So, welcome to the first post of my new 'mythbusters' series, in which I'll be exposing and challenging popular career myths.

Myth: You need to beat the other candidates to succeed at assessment centres

Employers are recruiting against a standard – there are not normally any 'quotas'. If you – and your fellow candidates– demonstrate the required competencies, there's a strong chance you will progress to the next, or final stage. Have a look at chapter 6 of the AGCAS film, 'At the assessment centre', which gives a great insight into how group activities/discussions are assessed.

Assessment centres can feel highly charged and very competitive, with candidates jostling for top spot but dominating group discussions and tasks could well get you noticed for all the wrong reasons. Recruiters are not looking for autocrats – they want team players who can co-operate, collaborate and communicate. I've seen a number of comments online referring to the 'testosterone' fuelled environment of assessment centres, questioning the merits of a selection process which seemingly favours the alpha male, 'greed is good' stereotype. In reality though, most recruiters view such behaviour negatively –don't be tempted to mirror what you see.

There is a fine line between being assertive and aggressive; If you're only interested in self promotion and fail to recognise (or acknowledge) the contributions of the other candidates, your interpersonal and management skills may be questioned. Graduate recruiters are certainly looking for evidence of leadership skills, but you can demonstrate this quality in far more effective ways than simply 'shouting the loudest'. Consider how you can add structure to group discussions and exercises; if you feel the group is losing sight of the objective, try to steer them back on course. By skilful management of group activities you can demonstrate a whole range of competencies – communication, problem solving, initiative – without undermining your fellow candidates.

Stand out for the right reasons:

  • Introduce yourself and refer to other candidates by name. Not only is it more courteous but it shows you're paying attention!

  • Volunteer and contribute, but don't monopolise the discussion or exercise. Encourage others to join in, and acknowledge their input.

  • Try to establish rapport with your assessors but don't overdo it. You wont score points though brown nosing.

  • Avoid being negative or critical. Companies want team players, not individualists.

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