I finally plucked up the courage to apply for a government graduate scheme

 

I always wanted to work for the government but I ended up trying the supposed ‘silver bullets’ of career paths. After unsuccessful stints in the corporate world and startups (not for me) and a very positive experience in PR (my career spirit animal); I knew that I had to take the risk to apply and get my foot in the door. The National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) recruitment drive is an investment of your time regardless of what stage you get up to…my recruitment was almost a year’s process! Please do not think that graduate schemes are for fresh faced 21 year olds! I graduated with my BSc with a study abroad year almost 4 years ago. Since then, I have gone onto to complete my MA, tried different careers paths, lived in different cities, got lots of life experience and developed as a person before ending up in government. I have met those on the scheme who have completed PhD’s as well as stints in other industries! The more life experience and skill sets you can bring to this job, the better!

 

My advice for the recruitment process? Take it one step at a time. Try not to overthink it and do not second guess everything. The main thing to keep in mind when applying is ‘fit.’ How do you fit into local government? Why do you fit into local government? What area of local government do you fit into? Are you aware of the financial and community difficulties that lie ahead in a post-Brexit/Trump era? How can your soft and hard skills help local governments work together away from central government? All central funding is to be cut and local governments to be financially self-sufficient by 2019/2020.

A lot of my friends have successfully applied for various government graduate schemes with varying degrees of personal satisfaction and professional gratification. The key to local government is will the work at local government satisfy you? Non-statutory services and duty of care are not ‘sexy’ topics to discuss but play a central role in people’s lives. If services were to be removed or become inaccessible, then we would be failing our residents. In local government, you are on the front line. From library services being cut, rising adult social care costs and a booming young population, the pressure is on to balance the books while meeting our legal requirements before central government pulls our funding.

 
I am currently in my first placement on the scheme working with the stronger communities’ team and my second placement will be working for the Chief Executive herself. The content of the work is very enjoyable but working with different key stakeholders can be a challenge. There is a lot of overlap with my undergraduate degree, Politics with International Relations and my MA in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. Your ability to mix your soft and hard skills are put to the test on a daily basis. While this can be challenging the support has been second to none. I have a dedicated team at my local authority to look after me, along with a mentor, my line manager of my current placement, those on my current cohort at my local authority and those across the country, the alumni network and the programme directors of the scheme itself. The NGDP also enrols you onto a professional qualification at the Institute of Leadership and Management. This has already helped me understand and navigate issues that I, as a future leader, am encountering. How to bring together an intergenerational workforce, what are the expectations of flexible working, how does this impact the service delivery of statutory and non-statutory services?

 
I highly recommend anyone to apply especially those, who like me, tried different career paths before heading down the road of government. If you need any more insight into the programme, I am happy to help. Please ask Careers+Placements for my contact details. I will most likely be replying back when I am not in back-to-back meetings and can access my emails! But I will get there! Pace yourselves and good luck!

Regards

Katrina Rattu

Benefits of going abroad for placement year

It’s proven that taking a placement year will benefit your future career prospects. Taking a placement abroad and stepping out of your comfort zone is not only an incredible opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture, it will also prepare you for the global employment market.

Adding the ‘abroad’ element to your CV, already adds value, because it shows the employer your capabilities as a person without knowing you.

I have chatted to a number of students who have undertaken their placement abroad and quizzed the knowledgeable C+P international team, and here’s some of the reasons which stood out about why going overseas is so beneficial!

Skills

Being in a foreign country, you will find yourself having to adapt to the culture, way of life and also looking after yourself where you are all alone without family. You will gain so many skills such as adaptability. Employers will see that you can adapt to situations and that you can do things out of your comfort zone.

 

Personal development

This links in with skills but being by yourself in a foreign country helps you to spend time with yourself and to get to know yourself a bit better. Being in a new place by yourself can be overwhelming at times, and it tests your ability to adapt to diverse situations while being able to problem solve. You will learn new things about yourself and realise you can do many things, which you probably thought you couldn’t, like networking with people.

 

Explore!

This is also a great chance to explore and take part in activities while doing your placement. Sometimes, we don’t get the chance to do this while studying but you have the chance with placement year!

 

 

 

The world is your oyster!

Why go abroad for your placement year?

I am currently undertaking my placement year abroad, so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts and experiences on why you should consider doing a placement abroad.

 

You can conquer a new language! 

The great thing about undertaking a placement abroad is that you can learn a new language!

I am studying and working abroad with the sole intention of improving my French.  I have incorporated speaking French into my daily routine. I deal with my accommodation, bank, doing my shopping and also my classes are in French.

Don’t worry you still get to speak English! Most of my friends are outside of school and are international students. With them, I do speak a lot of English! But, I also have thrown myself out of my comfort zone by attending buddy programmes without my international friends, and this has resulted in me making some real French friends.

 

Or you can learn the basics…

Alternatively, you can work or study in English in another country. I have friends across Europe who are working in English while living in cities from Amsterdam to Barcelona. I am sure that outside of work they try to learn some of their local languages so that they can use public transport and buy their groceries. I know in France, French people really respect you if you try to speak French even if they realise that you’re not French or that your sentences are incorrect!

 

You can see the world! 

I have already mentioned in my previous blog that I have visited some pretty cool places like Grenoble in France, undertaking a placement year abroad is such a great way to explore. My most recent trip was to Lake Annecy which is BEAUTIFUL! With placement year you have some time, some money and no real responsibilities tying you down to go out and explore. It is your opportunity to make the most of every weekend, to visit other friends from Aston who are living abroad and to see some new places.

 

 

 

Learn about a new culture

Living in a country enables you to learn more about the culture present and get a feel of the country rather than hearing it on social media. The most significant thing I have learnt so far is the difference between the French and English education systems. In France, most lectures are 3 hours and 15 minutes long, with a break after the first 90 minutes!

I am attending a business school, and it really does feel like I have gone back to school! I am in a class of 30 people, who remain the same in every lesson. Each group has a different timetable, so I follow my 30 friends from Group A for the semester. The classrooms are set out like you would imagine in a school, and our professor picks on individuals during the lesson to answer his or her questions. The class is mandatory and monitored, and missing lessons results in a mark of 0 for your midterm exams!

Other things you will discover are new foods, customs, traditions and social norms. I have learnt a lot about the local cheeses, wines and the local green liqueur “Chartreuse”.

 

Make new friends 

In my class, all of the students come from French-speaking countries – places in France, Belgium, Chad, Congo, Madagascar and Senegal. I am taking a class to improve my French competencies, and everyone in this class are from China, all hoping to take the Desma exam to prove their fluency in French. My international friends stretch from Australia, Germany, Hungary, Denmark and many of them are American and Irish. I have made friends for life from various countries and have even been invited to visit some of these countries with my new found tour-guides!

 

Have some life experiences 

This could be your once in a lifetime opportunity to try living abroad for six or twelve months. You have no obligation to ever work abroad again if your experience is negative, or you may find somewhere that you absolutely adore and wish to work after university. However, you can only find out about life in a new country by going to live there. I think the first month was where I learnt the most about myself.

I moved into a studio on my own, I knew no-one in my new city and I had a ton of paperwork to do to settle into France. I had to find ways to make friends, speak French with as many people as possible and set up my bank, doctors, financial aid, water, electricity, accommodation without the help and advice of my parents and friends. I also lost my EHIC on the plane which seemed to be a huge problem to resolve and meant I was unable to complete some of my paperwork in the first few weeks – it felt like a weight was lifted when I finally (finally!) received a new card. You find yourself without your close usual support network for a few weeks, and this is when you realise you are strong enough to do anything if you put your mind to it!

Career opportunities 

Following on from my last comment, you will have experienced such a steep learning curve when moving abroad on your own, that you will have endless examples to give in interviews. You will learn to be independent, work in a team effectively and tackle challenges that you had thought were impossible. Secondly, if I haven’t persuaded you yet, maybe you should consider that your work opportunities could effectively be doubled if you have exposure to a second country alongside your exposure to England.

I have had a handful of interviews for jobs in Paris last week and am awaiting a response. I already have friends in Paris and they have told me that they adore it so much that they are already considering working there after university. I can only hope that I will receive a job offer in the next few days so I can experience the excitement and joy of Paris for myself!

 

A month into placement year in Switzerland.. how am I finding it?

Hello everyone!

My name is Lauren, and I’m an International Business and French (IBML) student working at Deloitte in Geneva, Switzerland for my placement year. I’ve been here for just over a month, and I’m really enjoying it so far.

As this is my first blog post, I thought it would be nice to share just a few things that I’ve learnt after only a month of placement:

Change is hard

 

At the start of second year, I began to question why I decided to study languages and force myself to leave England for a French-speaking country. Nevertheless, I’m here now and I am already starting to see a change in myself and my independence. Moving countries requires a lot more work than you would initially think, but once you’re living abroad, you realise that it’s all worth it. You meet different people, experience new cultures, try lots of different foods, and get the opportunity to live in and be surrounded by beautiful cities.

 

Budgeting is even harder

 

 

As I’m sure, you can imagine, living in Geneva is super expensive. Accommodation, food, washing and Wi-Fi are all things you need living abroad. You will need to find a way to pay for these yourself. This is something I should have thought about more before moving to one of the most expensive cities in the world. However, budgeting is something that I will have to improve upon by the end of the year if I want to live with a roof over my head, and having it as a skill will be useful at every stage during my life. I know that even in the past month I have managed to set myself a weekly amount and stick to it, even making room for travelling to nearby cities to visit friends from university which has been a bonus! Also, because you’re in a different country, you can use that as an excuse to do lots of stuff that you won’t have the chance to do at home without worrying too much about how much money you’re spending.

 

The possibilities are endless

 

 

You may think it sounds a bit OTT, but moving abroad really has allowed me to meet lots of incredible people in such a short space of time. During this, the main thing I’ve found is that the word is bigger than I had originally thought, and you definitely shouldn’t limit your placement options to just the UK, or just France when looking for a French-speaking country. Whether you want to study, work, or do a mixture of the two, make sure you use this experience to your advantage and try to visit as many places in the world that put you the furthest out of your comfort zone.

Speak soon!

Lauren x

How to get a perfect placement – and you only need to conquer these three steps!

It’s that time of year again where thousands of students apply for placements across the UK. If you want to get the perfect placement, take note of some of my tips and tricks that will help you on your placement search!

Apply! Apply! Apply!

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 Don’t just apply for 1 or 2 roles. But apply for many as you can. You aren’t guaranteed to get a placement by just applying for 1 role as it is really competitive. I applied to around 40 companies before I got my placement role. How did I apply for so many roles? I made sure to apply for 1 to 2 roles per week!

Don’t be lazy…tailor your application!

 

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 I know we all get lazy when applying for jobs and we don’t bother to change bits of our CV or cover letter. I can certainly tell you that there were times I didn’t bother applying for roles because they required a cover letter.  Most organisations will ask for a cover letter, so it’s best to stop lazing around and get to work. Another lazy tactic we adopt is using the same cover letter for all the roles we apply for rather than tailoring it to the role we want. Make sure you change your cover letter for each role you apply for. Your cover letter needs to seem personal and written like it was made for that role in mind so put that hard work and effort in, it will pay off! Your cover letter is literally your initial selling point – those first impressions count!

Use Careers+Placements

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many students don’t realise how much Careers+Placements can support students with their placement search! It’s only with Careers+Placement’s support that I am where I am today. If you are struggling with your application, need to check your CV or want to brush up your interview skills, Careers+Placements are there to support you! Book an appointment via Aston Futures!

Also, make use of the events that run on campus throughout the term that Careers+Placements organise. They have weekly employer events where various companies come onto campus to talk to students and some of them even host workshops! There are also the annual career fairs such as the placements fair, where more than 30 companies come onto campus (there are always some big names). I found out all the information about events via the weekly newsletters I received from Careers+Placements and their social media channels.

Don’t forget to use Aston Futures to find your perfect placement role. Careers+Placements advertise more than 1,000 roles a year on the online portal (a combination of placement, part-time and graduate roles).

The more you engage with Careers+Placements, the more you will benefit, trust me, I work with them!

Placement year? It should be called YOU year!

Hi, my name is Harjap and I will be blogging regularly about the things I am doing on my placement year and about my experience. I am currently on placement as a Marketing Assistant at Aston University.

 

As an LSS student, I know that there are a lot of students who decide not to do a placement as it is not compulsory.  Many of my course mates are currently in final year as they chose not to look for a placement, and I can’t help but think why? Why when placement year is such a great and rare opportunity to do something new and gain invaluable skills that will only benefit you in the near future, it is something that you definitely don’t want to miss out on. It is a year all about you and your development- nothing else.

I decided to do a placement because I knew the experience will benefit me in the future when applying for graduate schemes. I also wanted to do it to take a break from studying, and I did not want to enter final year knowing I have to do a dissertation (God please save me)! Give me a break already!

I can’t thank myself enough for deciding to do a placement. I am only four months into my placement, and I have learnt and developed so many new skills, exceeding my own expectations! To my surprise!

‘Me time

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Placement year is a time to focus on yourself. You will work a typical 9-4 or 9-5 job, and after that, you have free time to do whatever you like, unlike school where you have to spend your out of hours studying and revising. I wanted to make the most of the time and so I decided to work on my personal goals that I’ve wanted to complete for some time now but never had the time to do them because of my studies.

 

So what have I done in my spare time?

 

I have joined the gym, enrolled onto a Sikh studies course, I’m working on building my skills for my future career, spending time with friends, and exploring the UK. I have many more things I want to  achieve  this year,  And I hope to achieve them before my placement is up.

I honestly feel like I have never been productive enough when it comes to developing skills and qualities. I have done so many things over these four months; I can’t wait to look back after a year to see how much I have grown as a person I really recommend placement year to everyone. Of course, it’s all about getting the experience and I love my placement, but we sometimes forget that it is also the time to develop on ourselves and to tick off our own bucket list!

Why do a placement?

Hi, this is Hannah and I am currently doing a study abroad placement in France! Stay tuned as I will be blogging my placement experience throughout the year!

Why do a placement?

I went to Aston knowing that everyone is encouraged to do a placement year, yet even towards the end of second year, I still had no idea what I wanted to do.

So I’ve put together this list of useful reasons why you may want to consider a placement/study abroad:

 

It can help you to distinguish yourself from other people when you apply for jobs

Employers value students who have undertaken a placement. You will have gained some knowledge of the working world, developed new skills and adapted to a new culture (within your business or your new country) while becoming independent and mature. You will have made decisions for yourself, discovered how you work effectively and efficiently while developing new skills with new softwares or business practices. You can use your experiences as examples to the common interview questions: In what scenario have you been a team player? When have you shown management skills? How do you cope with stressful situations? I know that I can laugh with employers when I explain how I adapted to the French culture or how I overcame the language barrier when working in groups. In all honesty, a placement year is a valuable addition to your CV.

 

You will expand your network and could jumpstart your future career

Your placement could lead to a graduate job if you have impressed your managers throughout the year. If you are an asset to the team then your manager will remember this in the future. Alternatively, by studying abroad, you meet people from all over the world, who have heard of job opportunities across the globe that could interest you. You can use sites such as LinkedIn to connect with people that you meet so that in the future you can use this professional network to regain contact with them and remind them of opportunities for jobs that you discussed months or years ago. Since arriving in France, I have made friends on my course who are native speakers and can help with my CV’s and Cover Letters and who know of internships that are available for me to apply for – from Paris to Montreal.

 

It will be the first time in your life that you have earned a proper salary (or you have an Erasmus grant to spend if you’re studying abroad!)

You’ll finally have some money, and you can treat yourself with it – some people chose to live in nice accommodation for the year or treat themselves to regular meals out, but ultimately most people try to save some of their money. A lot of people decide to travel if they have time in summer before final year, or even after university. If you work or study abroad, then it is so easy and cheap to have multiple weekends away, visiting local towns and cities. I have spent two of my last three weekends in Marseille and in Geneva with new friends, and visiting old friends – I feel like I am on a mini gap year alongside my studies!

If you do decide to do a placement, you will be proving to yourself, your tutors (who most likely will write your first job reference when you leave Aston) and future employers that you are experienced, motivated and ambitious.

Career in Policy and Public Affairs

Sometimes I find it hard to describe what I do for a living. ‘Policy and public affairs’ isn’t a career path that everyone has heard of, or knows much about. But I think it’s probably one of the most interesting and rewarding careers going.

I loved ancient history and literature at school, and went on to study at the University of Birmingham. After graduating, I was sure that I wanted to work in the public sector, and to do something that used my skills – reading and absorbing information, seeing patterns and analysing situations, and setting out my arguments in writing. After a while tempting for the NHS in an admin role in London, I managed to get onto Birmingham City Council’s graduate programme.

During my time on the graduate programme I worked in several different roles which enabled me to get a sense of what I did – and definitely didn’t want to do in future. It was during a placement in a waste and recycling depot on the outskirts of Birmingham city centre, where I was researching and designing different ways to encourage Brummies to recycle more and throw away less, that I discovered my interest in public policy.

I made a sideways move from working directly in local government to working in higher education policy in London. I wasn’t working for the government department responsible for universities, but for a policy organisation that represents universities – so it was my job to try to influence policy from the outside. I started as a Policy Researcher, and within three and a half years worked my way up to become a Policy Analyst and then a Senior Policy Analyst, eventually managing my own Policy Researcher.

I’m now Aston University’s Policy Advisor. It’s my job to know what is going on in the political world outside, and work out how it might impact on Aston. It’s also my job to find ways of letting policymakers know about all of the excellent work that goes on in Aston. Life as a Policy Advisor is often varied and always interesting. One day I might be watching a parliamentary debate live online to see what the government Minister is saying about universities, the next I’ll be responding to a consultation on what Brexit will mean for the UK’s higher education sector, and another day I’ll be drafting letters to send to MPs about an exciting development at Aston University, or organising a roundtable discussion event.

One of the great things about policy as a career path is that you realise policy roles are all around you, and your skills are really transferrable. As well as the option of working within government or with a particular politician, pretty much any organisation that interacts with government in some way, whether in the public, private or charity sector, will need people to run their policy and public affairs operation.

If you have developed the right skills and experience – like being able to read and digest lengthy and complex reports, analyse what a government announcement will mean for a sector in practice, think how a politician might think, or write a persuasive letter – in a way it doesn’t matter what context you are working in. You can learn that detail of the job as you go along.

 

My advice for anyone thinking about a career in policy is:

  • When it comes to job hunting or looking for work experience, think outside the box – it’s not just government that has policy roles. Universities, charities of all kinds, political parties, think tanks and representative bodies do too. And it doesn’t have to be in London if that’s not your scene.
  • Your career can be incredibly varied, so don’t pigeon hole yourself into one area of policy. I moved straight from environmental policy to higher education policy so I know it can be done.
  • Do your research and keep up to date with current affairs. If you’re applying for a policy role, have a look at the organisation’s recent news releases or blogs, find out which government departments they interact with and which politicians are in charge, and read one of their recent speeches. This will impress recruiters and show that you have already thought about their policy challenges.

Lizzy Woodfield

Policy Advisor, Aston University

If students would like to talk to someone to gain some advice on how to break into a career in policy, or to discuss any other aspects of their career planning, do book an appointment with a careers consultant via Aston Futures (www.aston.ac.uk/careers

My advice…

Hi guys! 

I thought I would share with you some advice and tips to help you on your journey at Aston.

Being at Aston University is a very exciting experience, I know it was for me. Aston has so much to offer – you need to ensure you make the most out of your time here, take up new opportunities and get involved!

So here are some key tips from my experience at Aston…

Tip 1. Open your emails

I know being a student can get extremely busy, trying to manage lectures, studying, group-work, sleeping and socialising etc. And the last thing you want to do is to read through emails. However, always open university emails because they do contain a lot of important information and OPPORTUNITIES!

Image result for email memes

Tip 2. Peer Mentoring Scheme

Sometimes as a student you want guidance from a friend who has already been in your shoes, experienced things before you, and just someone to tell you it’s all going to be OK. This is why the peer mentoring scheme is so helpful.

I have been involved in the peer mentoring scheme since my first year. Each year I was assigned to a mentor who was also doing the same course as me, who would guide and help me with anything and everything. It has been a great scheme to make friends, gain help and advice. I even took up the opportunity to become a mentor myself – to give something back to the university and the students.

Tip 3. Extra opportunities/jobs

I was always looking for new opportunities and things to get involved in. For example, on many occasions I got casual/part-time work as a university tour guide and helped with jobs over the holidays, and got paid! (Opportunities were found at the JobShop).

Tip 4. Join Societies

Again, make sure you join societies and clubs! They are a great way to socialise, make friends, gain experience and responsibility. I joined Aston’s Sikh Society and in my second year I was lucky enough to make it on to the committee as Events and Marketing Coordinator.

Tip 5. Careers+Placements

Now when it comes to looking for a placement, a lot of us leave it till last minute. However, do get in touch with Careers+Placements as soon as possible. They offer a range of services and resources in helping you find your placement. I visited the centre many times to get advice from the careers consultants, get my CV and cover letter checked, and attended their careers events. I used Aston Futures (Careers+Placements online platform to search for job vacancies and events) to apply for placements and eventually secured one through them as well!

Being proactive and getting involved has really boosted my CV and EMPLOYABILITY!

And so to some it all up, take advantage of what Aston has to offer and build an unforgettable and valuable experience for yourself.

Thanks for reading!

Kiran 😊

Joining the IT industry from a non-IT background

Maya Modi

 

 

I graduated in BSc English Language from Aston University in 2016 with the intention to study Medicine post-graduation. I’m now an I.T Consultant.

 
 

 

 

I know what you’re thinking and trust me, they are linked. In this blog post, I hope that my story inspires you to consider post-graduate career options that are out of the box. You’d be surprised how fitting your work and academic experience to date can be in an industry you had never seen yourself working in before.

 

I chose to study English Language in preparation to do a Masters in Speech Pathology after – something I’d wanted to do for a good seven years now. I was dedicated and was lucky enough to secure lots of placements to support my application later. I also worked for the NHS at the time, which gave me real-time clinical experience. Speech Pathology is a small but vital sector within the allied health professionals unit of the NHS, but being exposed to trauma and other departments in the hospital made me fall in love with general medicine. I spent a lot of time deliberating whether I should drop out of my course in second year and reapply to Medical school, as there was no point continuing with my degree if I knew I didn’t want to use it for a Masters, like I had originally planned to.

Placement year arrived and I chose to continue with my degree, as I had just secured once in a life time study abroad placements in Spain and Hong Kong. They were the best, most challenging but amazing days of my university experience. As scary as it was to live in a country where I wasn’t fluent in the local language, I got through it and my bravery sparked a new level of ambition within me – I was definitely going to apply to Medical school. I thought my placement year would change my mind about applying, but, if anything, seeing how other people live in the world made me want it more.

Final year came around and I was busy studying for my finals and studying for my Med school entry exams too. On top of everything, there was a strong possibility that I may not get into Med school, so I was applying for my Masters as a backup route and applying to graduate schemes just to explore all options. There was no guarantee that any of these options would work out on their own, which is why I applied to all at the same time to see what route worked out best. I’m very much someone who needs to have a forward plan and cannot rely on chance (I’ve learned that it’s OK to be this way), so I did everything I could to ensure that I was either doing a postgrad degree or working upon my pending graduation. In this time, I visited lots of careers fairs to chat with delegates and explore the “what if?” options. I had some interesting conversations and some that put me off post grad working life altogether. One careers fair stood out to me in particular – a careers fair aimed at females looking to go into I.T, but with career discussions over afternoon tea. It was the most interesting concept for a careers fair and the most valuable to me – as it’s where I started my relationship with my current employer (and I got free cake!).

The delegates from Capgemini reassured me that I didn’t need to have a technical background to join a technology consultancy firm. My people skills, ability to work under pressure and quick learning skills that I developed from working in health were all factors that are required when consulting. Consulting can either take the route of being functional or technical, whereas it’s thought to be mostly technical. I applied to Capgemini shortly after the careers fair and to my surprise, I got the job. I accepted with the intention to still take my medical entry exams, but the option of not studying for another four years and adding to my tuition debt seemed more and more viable.

Now, it may seem as if my decision to drop the Doctor dream was money influenced, but hear me out. I realised that as a technology consultant, I can influence medical technologies to the NHS and work on projects that help to restructure their current business models, leading to efficient strategies. This is crucial to the NHS in the current state and unfortunately, as a doctor, I wouldn’t have as much of an influence at a business level as I do now. A year on at Capgemini and a ton of learning under my belt, I’m finally moving onto projects that will allow me to carry this out.

Sometimes, you have to reroute your plans to achieve your goals. I may not be a doctor and I do miss the patient contact, but my consulting is ultimately going to save lives and this is the most satisfying thing to me.