Category Archives: Business, consulting and management

What Would I Do Different?

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Hi guys! I’m Sophie and welcome to my first blog post 🙂

As an introduction I thought to give advice on what I would have done if I was to do the application process again, I know a lot of you will be at the time consuming stage of applying to as many relevant applications as possible!

There are so many things which I would have gone back and told myself when I began the process of applying for placements and I hope when I cover some of these in this blog, it helps you to avoid these same mistakes!

I study Business Computing and IT at Aston University (Year 3 Representative) and despite it working out well for me securing a placement in Vauxhall Motor’s IT department in Luton as a Business Intelligence Analyst, there are many things which I could think of which would have made my process easier to give me less stress.

Mistake: Last Minute Applications
I believe that I left applying for placements much too late. When I began second year, I didn’t start to look into placements as soon as I should have and this is what put me behind in the process. In my head I predicted I would have secured a placement by my summer exams, however I had to go to assessment centres through this exam period (which was hell), and this could have put my grades at jeopardy.

Solution: Plan Your Time
If I was to go back, I would plan my time and my studies out in the first term and make sure I set aside real study time to apply and research into placements. A lot of placements deadlines are before Christmas, and so it is essential that you would note down the deadlines of ones which you are interested in and complete these first. I also underestimated how time consuming the process of applying for placements is – it is literally like applying for a real job – you go through various stages which can take hours to complete. This can be a challenge when you need to juggle both coursework/revision and applying for placements so great time management is the main thing I would recommend for this process. Put specified time aside in your diary to apply to placements, you will thank yourself for this later.

Mistake: Limiting My Options
Before I secured my placement I was mainly looking on RateMyPlacement – the main website to search for placement and job opportunities, if you have not looked at this website, look now! (I inserted a hyperlink, I got you 😀 ). However, I found my placement external to RateMyPlacement and the only reason I found this was because another student who had secured a placement there told me to look at Vauxhall’s website.

Solution: Search Everywhere
I would recommend to search for placements on RateMyPlacement, but also on specific company’s websites which you are interested in working for as they may have opportunities for internships and placements of your interest – look at their ‘Careers’ section on their website. Even if the company you want to work for does not have placement opportunities readily available on their careers page, send them an email to inquire! What do you have to lose?

The process on a whole can be described as time consuming, frustrating but completely worth it. A placement year can help structure your career, I will write more posts about how General Motors and my experience has helped me finally decide what I want to do! So I would recommend to take the application process serious to guarantee you spend a year doing something you enjoy and will benefit you the most.

Good luck!

Sophie x

Lessons: Where the magic happens

Two things I’ll be discussing and sharing my experiences with you are:

Getting out my comfort zone and not waiting for people to explore (They kind of intertwine)!

These two things are extremely important to me, because I learnt that when I started to take these things on board (in Germany), it really helped me  adapt, settle in and just experience new things. I was where the magic was happening (I love this phrase, and you’ll see that I willl use this often, just to emphasize how good life is outside the comfort zone haha!)

The Comfort Zone

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noun

  1. a situation where one feels safe or at ease.
  2. a settled method of working that requires little effort and yields only barely acceptable results.

You see the term I just defined above – RUN, FLEE, ESCAPE, JUMP, out and away from this “zone” as far as you can. Doing this will help you develop yourself as a person, grow in different areas of your life, being open to new things which can yield new opportunities, meeting new people who can be useful in the future, adapting to new environments. The list is endless!

Getting out of my comfort zone meant that I had to do things that were new to me and made me feel uneasy. A prime example for me was speaking German (in my silly British accent lol, you can imagine how uncomfortable that is). This was not an easy task, because I tend to be a perfectionist = I didn’t want to make mistakes, I wanted everything to sound perfect and most importantly I didn’t want anyone to laugh at me.. soo that meant I chose what was comfortable for me and I spoke English. But because of this mindset, I was trapped in my comfort zone and I was hindering myself from being in that place “where the magic happens”, which for me was developing my language skills and being confident speaking German. Recently, I was in a situation where I was forced to speak German because the customer service advisor only spoke German (In my head: How can she not speak English? What’s all this?). Usually when people tell me this horrific line, I don’t even give them the time of day, I’m just like bye Felicia. BUT this time I stayed on the line (Mate, I ordered new products and I didn’t have time for it to get sent back). If you heard our conversation you would’ve laughed. I was stuttering, I was piecing sentences that I learnt in my German class together, praying it made sense – fam I was sweating (BUT, I came out of my comfort zone just to rescue my products being sent back haha!). As our weird conversation went on, there was this sudden feeling of victory, fulfilment, confidence, knowledge and wisdom (All in one, I tell you!) because No.1 I just had a flipping conversation in German pat yourself on the damn back Temz, well done! No.2 GUYS SHE ACTUALLY UNDERSTOOD ME!  She even said to me in German “I thought you couldn’t speak German, your German is good”, No.3 I rescued my babiessss from being sent back into the wilderness of the DHL supply chain! I was where the magic was happening baby!!!!

But going back to my point, clearly it was fear that hindered me from recognising my own ability to hold a conversation in German and put it to use!  Since then, I’ve gradually tried to get myself out of that zone permanently and speak the language as much as I can, even if I sound silly or make a mistake – because I was always corrected and I just learnt from this!

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From this experience I can boldly tell you that, once you get out of your comfort zone its like life just starts flowing. You become more open to try new things, meet new people which makes it easier for you to adapt and settle into a new environment (especially abroad). You kicked out the spirit of fear, and in came the spirit of confidence which has stopped you from doubting your knowledge, skills and abilities. Going back to the 2nd definition of “comfort zone”, once you get out of this,  you stop yielding average/barely acceptable results and you begin to yield unimaginable results and have new opportunities! It is easier said than done, I for one know this,  there may/will be bumps along the way but you can only learn from these and carry on.

EXPLORE: DON’T WAIT!

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Someone: *SHOCK HORROR* You’re going XYZ place (usually a restaurant) on your own?!!

Me: Yes…..

Someone: ON YOUR OWN???? Rahh you’re on it boy or wow, I could never do that

Seriously guys lol you need to stop asking me these questions in such shock. So because I have no one to go with me to eat or do things, I should now stay in my room?Do not rely on other people to have fun, to explore, to go out, because if you do this you are only going back into the forbidden comfort zone.

For e.g. Let’s say there’s this meet and greet event or something of the sort going on and you reallly want to go, but your friend doesn’t want to go. Do you also say you’re not going? Let’s say you don’t go, and the next day you find out there was someone important there who was giving people the opportunity to… I dunno, get some experience with them  (or something sha you get my drift!) That’s an opportunity just missed there (there will be more of course, but you never know when the next one will come)

Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity

If you want to go somewhere/do something don’t have the mindset that you need someone there with you (Unless you’re going on a night out, and its unsafe lol). Learn to be independent, especially when you’re in a new environment (because most of the time you won’t know anyone or have friends). You really wanna see or do something, make plans for yourself and if someone else wants to come along then heyyyyy why not? Just don’t make your plans solely based on whether or not you have someone to come with you.

I’ve missed quite a few opportunities being in Hamburg, it hurts, but now I’ve realised where I went wrong. The two points I just mentioned above is where I went wrong and it’s still a working progress for me but I’m really encouraging myself to get out of my comfort zone and not waiting for people to go places so I can open myself up to new experiences and opportunities. I hope this post has been helpful in someway!

Till next time x

May/June Highlights: Summer is that you?!

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This was my favourite picture of the month at Planten un Blomen

Helllooooo guys!

So much has been going downnnnn in Hamburg since May 1st; it was like 1st May just marked summer for us here. It was like event there, event here, mate I can’t complain. Anyways I’ve decided not to write too much in this post and instead have more pictures (because I’m soo lazy to write I won’t lie lol). Anyways, relax yourself and enjoy the pictures!

May – Hafen Geburtstag

One of the first events in Hamburg this may was the Hafen Geburtstag (the Birthday of the Harbour) and to celebrate it there was a festival/carnival along the Harbour, which went on for the weekend and it was unforgettable! It felt a bit like Notting Hill carnival, just smaller, along the harbor, and people were fully dressed.

It was filled with beer huts, food stands, ships, souvenir shops, clothes shops, lights, huge speakers, music stages etc. Carlos Santana performed on Friday, but I didn’t know so I missed this 🙁

(You guys: Who’s Carlos Santana? Me: The guys that sings Maria Maria! You guys: Oh yeahhhhh him)

and if after this you still don’t know………. then this is awkwarddd.

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Excited or Stressed?

In a meeting with my Professional Development Manager this week, I was reflecting on my year. She asked the question, ‘Now that you’ve been here, are you more or less excited or more or less stressed when you consider finishing University?’

Hmmmmm.

I think back to securing my placement. Stressful. For the fear of being sent to the last place on Earth you wanted to be, doing the worst job you could imagine, you just HAD to find a placement. Whilst keeping on top of everything else of course. So when you spend 3 days writing an application, submit it and receive an automatically generated email within 2 minutes of pressing the button, your heart kind of sinks. Especially knowing, you’ve got to go through it all over again.

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Will looking for a grad job be exactly the same?

I was having coffee with my Mum and I was talking about some options I was considering for when I complete my degree. She exclaimed, ‘Isn’t this just so exciting?!’ The idea of just starting out, with so many paths in front of you made my mum green with envy. ‘You have the chance to do exactly what you want to.’

Is she right? So why don’t we feel excited?

Maybe we’ve become cynical; because there’s so much competition we’ll never get a job and we’ll be paying off out student loans forever, and we’ll never be able to afford to buy a house…

These are statements I hear a lot. I blame the media. However, none of them are fundamentally true. I’ve come to thinking that I got here didn’t I? Why would a grad job be any different? In fact, I’m in a better position than I was before with a year’s industrial work experience under my belt and a number of people I could turn to for advice or support. I also have a much clearer idea of what it is I want.

So actually, although placement/job hunting can be a stressful experience, let’s start getting excited! There really is so much to look forward to.

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Love Serenna xxx

Don’t spend that money all at once chile!

Regardless of what situation you’re in I hope this post can be of good use to you. Although we all know the importance of budgeting some of us still don’t take it into consideration.I thought I would share some of my “experiences” with my spending and budgeting whilst I’ve been abroad.

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I was off to a new country and my parents, aunties & uncles had already given me that money handshake before I went (IF YOU KNOW YOU KNOW). So at this point I felt like I was the Queen’s daughter with all this cash on me. Of course I knew majority of it would be going to my rent and my maintenance but I was still a rich girl in my head. For my first month I told myself “Temi don’t worry, don’t expect to save anything, you’re in a new country there are loads of expenses to be paid and things to buy.” This was literally the excuse I was using throughout July and into August, and the fact that there were delays with me opening up a bank account meant that I had all my cash on me which led to me spending even more.

After paying all my expenses I still had a substantial amount left over, so what did I do? SPEEEENNND like a MUMU!! Listen I wasted 95% of my money on restaurants, takeout’s and drinks and the other 5% on random things. I was lonely and was missing home – so the next best option that made me feel comforted was food. Lol when I say I was taking myself out to all of these fancy shmancy restaurants to keep myself occupied. I really couldn’t care less on how much I was spending because it was the only thing that was making me happy at that point. There was not one weekend where I didn’t take myself out to eat – if I went sightseeing I’d tell myself “yeah girl you need a snack!” lol. (DISCLAIMER: I don’t have an eating disorder loool, but I love food).

One mistake I made was not planning for contingencies or “just in case” scenarios which dealt with me severely at the end of my first two months. I remember after my first pay I was literally left with zilch as soo much had been taken off my wages (Transport, deposits, additional rent costs etc.). I was left with €150 for the month! Sorry, but what was that chicken change going to do for me? I was depressed just looking at my bank account. Then I was really forced to BUDGET!! No more dates with myself and I didn’t even bother leaving my room because then “I’ll deserve a snack lol”.

You would think from that situation I would learn my lesson. WRONG. Why was I still out on the strip every weekend, partying and spending like I was related to Richard Branson? It was not until my birthday (which was 4 days before pay day) that it hit me. Lol I saw €5 in my account I was soo stressed all I could do was laugh. I felt like the prodigals son at this point. How was I leaving my teen years with €5 please, even my little brother had more money than me and he’s unemployed. This was me on my birthday:

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We thank God my sister came to rescue me from this financial problem lol. Think about it, if I had set out a budget and didn’t spend all my money on invisible restaurant dates lol I would’ve had some emergency cash to fall back on. I literally had no excuse for the foul spending I was doing, because my company provides me with A LOT of financial incentives. Budgeting is so important especially when you are away from home and have to be independent.

QUICK TIPS!

  • Be responsible with money. Budget how much you’d need for the month (inc. bills, utilities, necessities, groceries etc), you can put a bit aside for leisure (restaurants, clubs, activities).
  • SAVEEEE the rest/Have contingency monies. (You don’t even need a reason to save because either way it will benefit you!).
  • Save also before you go abroad! ERASMUS payments were DELAYED last year because so much people applied. Don’t make the same mistake I did and solely rely on them, because I didn’t save money before I went, when the payment didn’t come on time, I was screwed and I had to go to the Bank of Mum.

 

The Ugly – Finding Accommodation in Hamburg

Finding accommodation here is NOT EASY AND it is different to finding one in the UK. There isn’t a “Unite” or “Canalside” type of accommodation here. 90% of the time students/interns/trainees live in a shared flat (WG).  When I first got to Hamburg I didn’t have a permanent place I was staying somewhere temporarily. Overall I have moved 4 times – I just moved again two/three weeks ago.

Now I had no idea where to start looking when I got offered the internship. I didn’t even know what to type into Google. I was the definition of lost. I will split up my experience into 3 sections:

  1. FRAUDS

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Yes guys, it’s not only Nigerians who are fraudsters. But omg the amount of fraudulent activities I experienced (especially on the Erasmus website). It’s not Erasmus as an organization, but more of the “frauds” who sign up and advertise fake flats. Don’t get me wrong, I also experienced fake adverts on the other flat rental websites but the ERASMUS website was the worst. The ERASMUS website didn’t do quality checks for fake accounts, whereas the other websites did and they would send you an email to warn you.

These frauds really take advantage of the fact that you’re a foreigner and have no clue about the city you’re about to move into. We’re like fresh meat to them.

Some fraudsters will send you “pictures” of “them” and “their fake family members”.  Honestly these pictures looked so legit I never imagined for them to be fake. I was sent pictures of the different rooms in the flat etc and they were all fake like seriously where were they getting all of these pictures from. After all the picture sending they’ll then ask you where your work location is and then BOOM! miraculously the next email from them will be a random house address near your workplace and because you don’t know any better you’ll just be so happy of how lucky you are that it is walking distance from your workplace and how decent the price is. Then I said I’d like to come and visit and then all of sudden they were on “business trips” and never returned. I lost count of the amount of times this happened to me and from then I knew it was fake.

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Application/Interview Tips!

Hey guys this is some quick CV & interview tips for when applying for internships. This month and last month my department held interviews for the next intern to take my place for when I leave. Lucky me, I was able to sit in the interviews with my two bosses and pick up some good knowledge on what applicants need to do to get further in the assessment stages.

I cannot stress how IMPORTANT it is for your CV and Cover Letter to be top notch when applying for jobs – especially if that is all the company requires from you.

  1. CV
  • In the education section of your CV always state the modules that could be relevant to the job you’re applying for.
  • STATE GRADES by them – even if you haven’t received any maybe put down your predicted grades.

Some of the placement opportunities offered on the Aston Futures site are exclusive to Aston students only. Imagine a whole load of ABS students send in their applications; of course they all do the beloved “Business Game” and many other modules – so you need to differentiate yourself. Your grade could be your selling point!

  1. Cover Letter

STATE YOUR INTERESTS FOR THE JOB! WHY THIS ROLE? WHY THIS COMPANY? RELEVANT SKILLS? OR YOU ARE WILLING TO LEARN MORE SKILLS? If you are struggling, go to the Aston placements office – THEY ARE THERE TO HELP YOU!

Do not send a basic cover letter please I beg of you – those do not get looked at.

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My job has taught me to travel

Before my placement, most people would have considered me as one of those career driven types. I had researched many of the top companies and developed an extensive CV to market myself. I always thought, I’ll secure my degree, get a good grad job and then I’ll be flying! Then I started at IBM.

It’s not that I’m any less ambitious now about the career that I want, but maybe I want a different career. Or maybe it’s just not been a good week.

For the first time in my life I have been earning money that has allowed me to travel. In December, I went to Bali and the Gili Islands for 2 weeks, last month I was in Dublin, next week I will be in New York. In April its Paris and in May, Santander. I’m having a break then (as I have no more holiday allowance left!) and then in September it’ll be a flight to Turkey. I have the bug.

The temple that floats in the sea once the tide comes in!

Pulling a pint in the Guiness Storehouse, Dublin Kecak dance performance in Ubud Watching the sun go down on Gili Trawangan Seminyak Beach Kilmainham Gaol

When I say my job has taught me to travel, I do not mean travelling through my work. Let me explain why. In IBM, one of the largest divisions is GBS (the Global Business Services). To you and I, that’s the consultants who spend 4 to 5 nights a week away from home. I speak to many graduates who join GBS a few months after their inductions. The typical story goes a bit like this…

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A Day In The Life

A typical day in the life of… Me? I guess

5:00am – My body wakes up without permission 2 hours before my alarm, I AM NOT IMPRESSED. I either try to fall asleep and  if that fails I say my morning prayers so I don’t forget. Then I PREEEEE what the owls on twitter who never sleep at night have been saying or I watch some YouTube tutorials or vlogs

7:10am*vibrates vibrates* ALARM goes off. Today the snooze button got abused till 8:30am lol.

* Side note to make you all VERY jealous* I don’t have a fixed start or end time at work. I can come in when I like. Why? Because I’m just that guyyyy – I’m too cool for rules……Or how about we have a flex-time system where we clock in and clock out, and as long as we do our 7.36 contracted hours a day then we good! So I guess the earlier you get in the earlier you can get the hell up on outta there.

7:15am – bath, brush, make myself look good (if I want to), make breakfast. And voila here’s the end product after all that

After I get myself together. En route to work!

After I get myself together

8:05am – Leave for work which is a 15 minute walk. You see the red path in the picture below, that’s the lane for the cyclists and the grey pavement is for the pedestrians of course. 10 marks for the person who answers this question correctly.

Why do the silly cyclists drive on the grey AND the red path?

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8:20am – arrive at work. *another side note to make you all jealous, I hope it’s working lol* We have a wonderful canteen that serves breakfast, hot lunches, salads, confectionery delights, alongside with different hot drinks and soft drinks. So if I’ve missed breakfast I’ll just grab something at work.

8:35am – Leave canteen with breakfast and a drink. Go up to the office and have a chinwag with my supervisor about our weekend and evenings. Then the day of work officially starts. But my supervisor is on holiday right now so I’m left in charge 🙂

So what do you ACTUALLY do? What’s your role?

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So they didn’t tell you?

….Tell me what?????

Before I get into the nitty gritty of this post I’d just like to say two things:

  1. Guys I have been in Hamburg for 6 full months and two weeks! (Everybody blow your trumpet!! Pa na na na na na). 2015 let’ssss go!
  2. AND also let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New year, full of good health and I pray that God continues showering you down with blessings!!

Now that that’s done…. into the nitty gritty!!!!!!!

Well this post is to tell you what previous interns may/may have not told you. Because at open days/career fairs, they always seem to forget to mention the dullest and slowest part of their placement – THE BEGINNING. So because of this you start work with the highest expectations on your first day or month, Lord knows I did. I had expectations of walking into work on the first day with an atmosphere like:

BUSY WORK ENVIRONMENT

“BAMMMM LET’S GET TO WORK PEOPLE!!!! *claps hands rapidly*” “Oi you, what’s the update on Americas region?!” (As you can probably tell, I watch a lot of movies)  

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