Category Archives: Graduate recruitment processes

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

Finding a Graduate Job 🎓

Hi guys, welcome to my first blog post 🙂

I’m Kiran, now an Aston graduate – YAY! I studied Business & Management and graduated in July. I am also very pleased to say that I secured a graduate role in the Careers+Placements team at Aston University, as Student Engagement Coordinator.

Job hunting

So, after my exams finished in May, I had a few weeks off to recuperate after years of studying! I then got my CV checked and approved by visiting a C+P drop-in session and meeting with a careers consultant (the C+P centre hold weekly drop-in sessions to help graduates with any career related queries, CV checks and tips etc.).

I then began applying for marketing related jobs on websites such as, Aston Futures, Graduate Advantage, Gradcracker, LinkedIn, and even sent personal emails to companies of interest.

The phone call

There I was lying on the couch, engrossed in an episode of ‘Breaking Bad’, when I got the call! It was a member of the C+P team inviting me for an interview – I was over the moon! 😀 After all of those endless applications I had finally got a call back.

Interview

On the day of my interview I ensured I wore smart clothes – black trousers and a white blouse – can’t go wrong. I made sure that I took a copy of my CV and my portfolio of previous work. I got to the interview ten minutes early (which seemed like forever because I was nervous). The interview went really well, I spoke about my achievements, previous jobs and education, and showcased some pieces of work from my portfolio. A question I find that always crops up in interviews is ‘how well can you work in a team?’, so make sure you always have an answer prepared.

My first day

I started work the following week, my first day was ace! I met so many friendly colleagues from the C+P team. I was given a handover and had some meetings with my team to bring me up to date with things. My manager and the team are so lovely and supportive. Since I’ve started I have been provided with daily updates and resources to make my job easier.

I have already got stuck into so much. I’ve been here three weeks and have already had a team away day which was so much fun, and I have a team lunch coming up.

So, I would like to congratulate those of you who have secured your graduate roles and best of luck to those still searching! Don’t worry it’s still not too late, keep at it and get in touch with the C+P team!

– Kiran 🙂

Job Search Advice: Don’t get catfished…

Applying for a job is a necessity whether it’s for a part-time job , a placement year or your graduate job search, searching through hundreds of jobs can seem like a bit of a chore. We often see stories in the news of graduates who go more than the extra mile to get noticed e.g. the unemployed graduate who spent his last £500 on an advertising billboard. Online scammers are taking advantage of desparate graduates who are searching for their perfect job, so here are some top tips on how to stay safe in your job search…

1. Don’t give out any sensitive personal information

Justin Bieber Password

Most of us have some sort of online profile, so don’t complete the puzzle by giving out any other information! There is absolutely no reason why a recruiter or employer would require your bank details, NI number or mother’s maiden name at application stage. Get in touch with Careers+Placements if you have any concerns.

2. Definitely be suspicious towards anything concerning you giving money to an employer

Give me all your money job scam

You shouldn’t ever have to pay an employer or agency money in return for a guaranteed job, or even help with your job search. We have had students in the past lose £££’s to get a job abroad disguised as ‘processing’ or ‘visa fees’. There are some legitimate companies who have fees, but contact Careers+Placements to check before you hand over any money!

3. Little or no experience required? It is too good to be true I’m afraid!

When you lie on your CV and still get the job

An ‘employer’ has found your CV online and is offering you a role as a Trainee Business Executive, with all training provided for £45k a year and they say the job is yours if you want it. Genuine graduate job adverts will at least have a brief description of duties and a person specification in regards to your qualification and experience- have a look on Aston Futures and see for yourself!

4. The ‘we found your CV online’ scam

who are you and how did you find me

Online scammers are evolving, using lists of email addresses found anywhere online. Whether you are applying for jobs or not, you can receive emails claiming to have seen your CV online. Often the email address will not be legitimate e.g. Aston University’s email addresses follow the format @aston.ac.uk but if you receive an email from @aston.com/aston.ac.uk@ahx.com you can identify this as a fraud email. Also be aware of any telephone numbers or websites which don’t follow the company’s usual format.

5. The ‘ I turned my £5 into £500 in one hour’ scam

I'm serious

Hook. Line. Sinker. I know we all believe we’re too smart to fall for this one, but many of us already have! ‘Companies’ can publish testimonials to look as if they are coming from a genuine person who even has a LinkedIn profile, but these scammers invest time into building an online presence as a marketing ploy to get you to fill in any kind of personal details. Even if you don’t go ahead and apply, having your email address on file may be enough for them to sell onto another scammer who may try a different tactic a few months down the line.

6. Don’t get catfished…Use Google

Don't get catfished

Any time I have been unsure about a legitimate company, I tend to write their name into Google followed by ‘scam’ or the first line of their email, or the email address it’s coming from. There are several websites you can use to check the legitimacy of a company e.g. Companies House and Company Check. You can always contact Careers+Placements to investigate for you.

Follow these simple steps and stay safe when applying for jobs!

Guilty face

Aston University Careers+Placements
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Safely search for your graduate career on Aston Futures

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Hayley

Written by Hayley, Student Engagement Coordinator Aston University Careers+Placements

Getting into Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing Manager - Andy Lockley

Digital Marketing Manager – Andy Lockley

Andy Lockley, Digital Marketing Manager at Cloggs and Aston Business & Management Graduate of the class of 2010, outlines the key things you need to know if you’re looking to pursue a career in Online Marketing.

Digital Marketing is one of the fastest moving industries you can work in. In most cases, by the time a textbook has been written it’s obsolete as soon as it rolls off the printing press. If your passion resides in Digital, here are 5 handy tips to make sure you get your foot in the door;

  • Learn the lingo – Digital Marketers speak a different language to traditional Marketers, and if you’re looking to impress your interviewer, knowing the definition of a few key terms and acronyms can put you head and shoulders above the competition. Know your PPC from your SEO and your CPC from your CPA and it automatically puts you head and shoulders above the competition.
  • Find a mentor in the industry – Do you have a friend or relative that already works in Digital? If so pick their brains about what’s keeping them awake at night and the new trends that are really exciting. If there’s nobody in your immediate proximity, look into professional mentorship schemes, like the one offered by Aston. Even a couple of hours with someone in the industry can be gold dust for someone trying to secure their first role.
  • Have examples of websites you like and why – ASOS junkie, Amazon Devotee? Make a list of the sites you visit on a regular basis and what you like about them, is it personalisation, how crisp and clean the site is, how the products are presented? Turning your mind to what makes a website good really helps you get into the mind-set of an Ecommerce marketer.
  • Excel at Excel – In spite of how quickly the Digital Marketing industry moves, a lot of the bare bones analysis is still done in Excel. Getting yourself on a basic Excel course can give you a real head start. Make sure you know these basic formulas and tools to get your career off to a flyer.
  • Vlookup: A rule of life in Marketing is that data’s never in the format that you want it to be in, so the ability to join 2 or more Excel sheets together allows you to do some really clever analysis.
  • Pivot Tables: The faster you can dissect data, the faster you can make decisions; the easiest way to compute massive amounts of data is a Pivot table. Though intimidating at first, they’re a gateway to fast, detailed analysis.
  • Conditional Formatting: Despite sounding basic, Green = good, red = bad is still the fundamental principle that most business dashboards run on. Learn how to automate the process and save yourself loads of time.
  • Show enthusiasm for the industry – If you’ve done some research and have a visible passion for the business, many managers will take you on despite your lack of experience. There are loads of ways you can bolster your learning and understanding of the business before you’ve even started working in the industry;
  • Google Ad words Certification: There are very few online businesses out there that don’t rely on Paid Google Clicks for at least some part of their online traffic, by knowing the basics, you jump to the front of the queue and save them hours of training.
  • Google Analytics Certification: For many small businesses, Google Analytics is their go to tool for website performance analysis. Knowing your way around and having the ability to build some basic dashboards will help get you in the analytical mind-set of a Digital Marketer.
  • Got a passion? Blog about it: One of the biggest shifts in Marketing over the past 5 years has been the rise of Content Marketing. I always set my new graduate hires a content task to assess their writing ability, if there’s something you’re passionate and knowledgeable about, why not start a blog and link to it on your CV? Recruiters are always looking for a bit of ‘colour’ when they’re flipping through CVs, and a well written, thoroughly researched blog is a great sign that someone will flourish in their role. It also gets you thinking like a marketer in terms of optimising titles and meta tags for search terms, looking at promotion through social channels and thinking about how you get other sites and blogs to link to your content.

Digital can be an intimidating industry to understand and break into, and I hope these steps provide some building blocks for how to jump start your career in Digital.

Your first career step as a graduate is unlikely to be your last (and other career insights for students)

next step the future pic

“…You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.  So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Steve Jobs

The above quote comes from a speech Steve Jobs delivered a few years’ ago to an audience of new graduates.  The speech got me thinking about when I was nearing the end of my own time at university, when I used to utter the words “I don’t know what I want to do for a career.” It’s taken me to now to see how the above quote applies to my own situation, and how I’ve gone from “not knowing” to a place where all my previous work experiences have led me to this point in my career, to work I enjoy and which I hope plays to my strengths.

Whilst I may have the benefit of hindsight for my own situation, the students I work with may not yet.  Many are still at the “I don’t know what I want to do for a career” stage.  When we were at school we knew what was coming next, the years were laid out in front of us.  Primary school, secondary school, lessons, coursework, exams and then for many, university.

When you get to university, once settled in, the familiar routine can kick in again.  Lectures, seminars, coursework, exams, tutorials, socializing.  Repeat.  Whilst all this is going on, some students get work experience, they work over the summer, or complete a placement year, but still may come back disheartened as the experience hasn’t cemented in their mind exactly what they want to be doing within their career.  Some may not have enjoyed the experience at all, and few may even consider it time wasted.

The end of university can seem daunting for many students.  You may only see an expanse of time and space which was once occupied by progressing to 2nd year, placement year or final year.  Having worked with students and graduates for the last 15 years, there have only been a handful of times that I have met students who knew definitely what they wanted to do for the rest of their working lives.  I can also think of only three people I know who are now following career paths linked to what they have always wanted to do since university.  One is a doctor and the other two are engineers.  And the doctor is now considering a career change.

If you can relate to any of the above, you are nearing graduation (or even if you are in your first year), and are not sure yet of your next career steps then read on.  The following insights may be worth considering and holding on to as you navigate your way into the workplace to start “connecting the dots”.  These come to you as a result of my own career experiences, and the vast mix of people I have been in contact with through my own professional life as a careers consultant and as a recruiter:

1. You may not know what you want to do within your career…and that’s ok

For many students about to graduate, your experience of the workplace may understandably be limited.  As with many things in life, it isn’t always possible to know what you want until you try it.  That same logic can also apply to finding a career that you want to pursue.  However if you can, try to gain some experiences whilst at university.  A placement or summer internship could give you a head start in “trying” what’s out there, and building workplace skills at the same time.  Gaining experience in your spare time can also help do the same.

2. Your first career step is unlikely to be your last

This is also closely linked to the notion that there is no longer a “job for life”.  I once read a piece on the internet that suggested people can have up to 7 career changes in their life.  I’m not sure how true this is, but career changes or moves today are not uncommon.  The workplace is changing.  Advancements in technology and the global market are just two factors that influence how companies work and hire people.  People work on a contract basis, people work more flexibly, and companies are changing how their employees work together.  Job titles exist today which may not have done so five years’ ago.  You could find yourself in a future job which doesn’t yet exist.

All of this is happening before you even consider that you are changing too.  Your priorities and career motivations at 21 may be very different to when you are 35.  With experience, you also learn more about yourself, what you like, don’t like, strengths and so on.  An increase in self-awareness can mean changes in your career too.

“Job titles exist today which may not have done so five years’ ago.  You could find yourself in a future job which doesn’t yet exist.”

3. Any work experience is good work experience

When working with students I hear many of them say that the experiences they have of the workplace whilst at university are not relevant for when applying for a “grad job.” Many employers want to see evidence of how you have developed yourself.  A placement year is only one way that you can achieve this.  Part-time work and volunteering count, as they are still giving you the chance to experience the “workplace”, and develop yourself as well.

Working with customers, facing difficult situations, event organising, planning, negotiating, and working collaboratively with others towards a common goal are skills that employers value, and these also say a lot about you. So do start appreciating the experiences you are having, what you have learnt, and how this can contribute to your future workplace.  Employers will start seeing you as valuable too.

4. If you are not accepted onto a “graduate scheme” it is not the end of the world

It’s a fact that there are not enough graduate development schemes for every graduate in the UK.  As many graduate schemes are offered by larger, and in many cases, well known employers, they are easier to come by.  Most companies in the UK are smaller, and the fact that you may never have heard of them, doesn’t mean they cannot offer great job roles for keen and eager graduates.  These opportunities require a little more perseverance to find them, but could be well worth considering as part of your career planning strategy.

5. There is no point in comparing yourself to your course mates/flat mates/other university colleagues etc.

One or more of your friends finds a grad job before you do.  Your flat mate has an assessment centre coming up and you don’t.  It can be very easy to start comparing yourself and wondering what you are doing wrong as the job offers are not coming your way.  This can make you feel worse, and more so if you are not even sure what you want to do after university.  Try to keep in mind that we are all on different paths.  No two careers are the same, there is often no “one route” into a specific career, and in the meantime any experiences you have will be helping to develop and shape you as an individual.  If we all followed the same career journey, that really wouldn’t be very interesting for future employers to read or hear about.

6. Don’t expect to find your dream career/job straight after finishing university

This is closely linked with number 2 in the list.  Sometimes it can take a while to find what you want to do within your career.  Hence why your first career step out of university is unlikely to be your last.  If you are learning and developing then you are growing as an individual, and this can help you to carve out your future career path.

7. Proactivity, positivity and patience can really make a difference

Whatever stage you have reached in terms of your job search and career planning, mindset plays a big part.  If you’ve applied for a job and you are awaiting the outcome, instead of constantly scrolling through job websites, try to remain proactive by mixing up your approach to career/job searching.  Look for guest lectures, events organized through the professional institution associated with your degree subject.  This can bring you into contact with a range of professionals within your area of interest.  Research smaller companies and make contact to explore their work and opportunities. Getting out there and talking to people can really make a difference.

 

thumbs up

May be you work part-time for a company right now but what you are doing doesn’t really appeal in terms of a career choice. You are bored and frustrated.  May be another department carries out work of potential interest?  May be there are projects that you could volunteer yourself for?  Positive steps like this could help put you out of your comfort zone, expose you to new areas of work, and can help build your achievements, and may be discover a career you may not have been aware of.  May be you know someone who works in a career field of interest.  Make contact, ask questions, and enquire whether you can visit the company to find out more.  Finding meaningful work can take time.

8. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself…and keep going

It can be very easy for students to pile the pressure on themselves when it comes to their career, and sometimes they think they should know by the end of university what they should be pursuing for a career.  If this describes you, then try and remove the pressure from yourself.  You may be unlikely to wake up one day and you know all of a sudden what you want to do.

For many, building a career usually takes place gradually step by step, and in some cases by trial and error.  Through gaining new experiences, knowledge, creating and taking opportunities, and all the while adding to your valuable skills and attributes, this will hopefully lead you to a meaningful career that is right for you.

As the coming weeks roll by and you are nearing the end of your time at university, keep these eight points in mind.  They will hopefully provide some perspective and a bit of reassurance when you are planning your first career step out of university.

By Sarah Warburton, Aston University Careers Consultant

 

 

“Think outside of traditional careers – be alternative.”

Sometimes you may feel pressured to know what kind of profession you want before starting university or at least during studying. But it’s not always a bad thing to be uncertain, as long as you keep an open mind and you’re proactive in searching; you may discover a whole new career that you never knew existed!

blog pic 1I studied Psychology at uni, but not necessarily to become a psychologist. In fact I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at the time.  Like many students, I chose my degree because it was interesting and would give me plenty of transferable skills to choose from a variety of industries.

After graduating I was faced with the puzzle of deciding what to do with my life, there were a few options available:

  1. I could go for a traditional career path of clinical psychology, of which I had gained relevant experience in during my placement year. However from what I had learned from others, I knew this path was tough and did not guarantee success. I didn’t really feel passionate enough about it to endure the process.
  2. The other option was to go for a generic graduate scheme that accept psychology graduates, such as HR or marketing, although this didn’t really get me super excited either.
  3. Something different, I don’t know what just yet!

blog pic 2I didn’t want to jump into something that I wasn’t passionate about and I was very much open to trying something different. To start this journey of discovery, I needed to understand myself a bit more and I tried a somewhat structured approach in analysing and identifying my interests, skills and ambitions. This helped to rule out some ideas too, which was just as useful.

Tip: Understand yourself:

  • Make a list of the kind of areas that interest you, and the skills you already have, whether you want to do more formal studying, the kind of environment you want to be working in and the lifestyle you aspire to. Afterwards, think broad – list the types of industries, activities and professions that may relate to those (don’t get too hung up on specific jobs to start off with).
  • If you find certain professions attractive, break it down and identify exactly what it is about it that appeals to you, and what other professions may fulfil those needs in a different way.
  • Although obviously you should go for something you are passionate about, unfortunately some interests do not make for a smart career choice and it is important to take into account things like job prospects, career progression, and how the industry may change in the future. Therefore consider which of your needs and interests could more appropriate as a hobby or something you could fulfil through a side project/volunteering rather than making it into a career (e.g. if you love painting, it is more realistic to keep that as a hobby than aiming to become a professional artist).
  • Get help from those who know you best – ask your family and friends about what they think your shining traits are.

Through this, I realised that I wanted to make use of my skills in research and understanding human behaviour, but to apply this in an industry that was thriving and that involved doing creative work, such as technology or business. The next step was to research heavily; my goal was to find such a connection between psychology and technology. After lots of web browsing, talking to other people including an Aston careers advisor, I was introduced to the field of User Experience (UX). I did my reading and went to a couple of UX meet ups to find out more about it.

Tip: Research and networking:

  • Do your research; read blogs and articles. Join relevant pages on LinkedIn and social media. Take part in forums and discussions.
  • Networking isn’t just for finding jobs; talking to people who work in the industry is one of the best ways to learn about it and get advice. Go to meet-up groups, find out what people love and hate doing in that job. Don’t be shy if you don’t know much about it, people love talking about things they are passionate about and will appreciate your eagerness to learn!

blog pic 4Although I hadn’t had direct experience in UX, my background and interests lent itself well to the field. Moreover I felt an enthusiasm towards this that I had not experienced before and my gut instinct was that this was something that I was ready to pursue. I had been told that doing a MSc in Human Computer Interaction would give me a good step into the industry; the thought of doing a master’s degree seemed daunting at first, but I went for it and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made. Since graduating I am now working as a User Experience Consultant in a large UX agency in London, and loving it.

It’s amazing how when you think outside of the common realms, you can end up in a place that feels so right for you. It just takes being proactive and persistent, and getting the balance with not settling for something you’re not happy with, but willing to give things a try. Often you learn the most about your strengths and interests from doing stuff rather than just from thinking about it, so don’t hesitate to throw yourself in the deep end and give things a try, take a bit of risk and trust your instincts – you may just surprise yourself by discovering a new passion!

Misha Patel, BSc Psychology 

Please see below for links to resources on the Aston careers website, which cover some of the career development topics covered in this blog article:

Exploring your options

Identifying your skills and competencies

Subject and occupational information