Category Archives: Job search

Life after graduation – yay or nay?

5 top tips to help with the transition.

Hey, guys!

I was having a scroll through the C+P blog as you do, and I’ve noticed that there’s lots of content and advice on here to do with placements and applying for graduate jobs in final year but what about life after graduation? Well fear not grads…I’m here to help fill that gap!

So you’ve just handed in your final assignment or completed your last ever university exam and you’re off to Gosta’s beer garden to chill in the sun with great company and plenty of drinks for the rest of the day. This feeling can only be described as somebody finally lifting the weight of about ¼ of the books stored in the library off your head allowing you to gracefully float upwards into the much-anticipated land of happiness and freedom. Mixed in with this mass feeling of euphoria, there is of course, a tinge of worry and a hint of apprehension about what the future holds for you along with the depressing thought of your cherished university friends that have had your back since fresher’s week going their separate ways. But meh…as far as you’re concerned you don’t need to be troubling yourself with that now, right? Definitely not! “C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-E GOOD TIMES COME ON!”

A few months have passed since the post-final exam party extravaganza; you’ve been chilling, watching plenty of Netflix, a bit more Netflix…and then a little more, or you might have been on holiday or even gone travelling the world. Either way, when July comes along, this only means one thing…it’s time to graduate! Now, from my personal experience, I can honestly say that apart from preoccupying myself 40% of the time worrying about tripping up the stairs when my name was called, my robes being skew-whiff and my cap falling off, my graduation ceremony was a day I will definitely treasure for the rest of my life. All of my family were there to support me and the weather was glorious. The sun was perhaps a bit too enthusiastic come to think of it, 30-degree heat in long, thick black robes wasn’t ideal…but nevertheless my four years of hard work at university came down to this very day, I’d graduated, and I was feeling on top of the world.

But after the celebrations had passed, then it hit me…what next? A lot of my friends had secured graduate jobs and suddenly the realisation that I didn’t really have a plan in place after I graduated was becoming increasingly apparent. Perhaps like me, you weren’t really sure about what career you wanted to go into after university and most of your time was spent working on the dreaded dissertation to properly think about it.  You’ve worked extremely hard for the past three/four years and you want a job where you can practically apply the amazing skills and knowledge you’ve learnt from your degree, otherwise, there’s really not much point in that long life debt you’ve just given yourself. The reality of the matter is, life after graduation is tough. I was perhaps a little naïve coming out of university with my 1st class honours degree and placement experience under my belt thinking I’d be able to casually stroll into the first job that took my fancy. This was not the reality, the graduate market is increasingly competitive and I seemed to be getting rejection after rejection and just couldn’t figure out why.

Now, I’m going to stop right there for a minute, because this blog is starting to sound too whiny for my liking and I’m not a whiny person at all, I like to think I’m a pretty optimistic person the majority of the time.  The purpose of this blog wasn’t to put a downer on things and to have a moan about how difficult getting a job after graduation can be. The purpose of this blog was to say, yes life after graduation can be hard, but just because you haven’t landed your dream job straight away doesn’t mean that you won’t. It seemed to me whilst I was at university I was always bombarded with success stories about people landing amazing jobs with amazing companies straight after university but there never seemed to be support out there to tell people that that’s not the only option after graduating! As I was in a very different situation to this, at the time, I couldn’t help feeling a little sense of failure. After having time to reflect I’ve realised life isn’t a race and it’s completely okay to not be exactly where you want to be career-wise after graduating. For those of you in a similar position to me who are starting to feel disheartened – please don’t be.

I’m sharing my five top tips that kept my spirits and motivation high through this tough period – I hope you find them useful!

  1. Don’t compare yourself

As I said before, life really isn’t a race. If your best friend has landed a graduate scheme with a global corporate company, earning the big bucks and loving life (which they are probably exaggerating anyway) good for them. You need to take the time to focus on yourself and really think about your career options and the direction that you want to go in. Everybody is different. Don’t just apply to a graduate job to keep up with everybody else’s lifestyle, it has to be the right job for you, not just a job you think you SHOULD be doing.

  1. Persevere

As disheartening as it can be to keep applying for jobs and getting rejections, miracles don’t happen overnight. Success takes time, you have to be persistent and keep applying to things, sooner or later you will start to get a bit of luck (usually when you’re least expecting it!).

  1. Ask for feedback

When you’re applying for jobs and if your application or interview didn’t quite make the cut, one of the things that is going to be most beneficial to you is to understand where you went wrong so that you are able to improve on this for next time. Most companies nowadays are so busy and preoccupied with what’s happening internally the majority of them will send you a generic email sent from a robot saying they aren’t able to provide feedback. But if you don’t ask, you don’t get so it’s always worth asking anyway!

  1. Improve yourself

As cliché as this may sound if you’ve all of a sudden got a lot of time on your hands while you’re looking for the right job, why not make the most of the time you have? Research the field you are interested in going into thoroughly, learn as much about it as you can to put you ahead of the game! Learn a new skill, try a new hobby, start reading more or take up some work experience at a local SME in a role that interests you. Any work experience that you can get in the career that you want will be valuable to you and it gives you more to speak about in interviews.

  1. Use the resources at C+P available to you!

Now, I know this might be a bit tricky for you graduates that no longer live in Birmingham, but if you do still happen to be in brum, not many graduates seem to be aware that the friendly Careers and Placements team here at Aston are here to support you for up to 3 years after you graduate…so make use of them while you can! Get CV/cover letter advice, visit a careers consultant to figure out your career options, attend interview or assessment centre workshops. There’s a whole variety of help waiting for you so don’t be afraid to use it.

By Hayley Bristow

 

 

The Civil Service Fast Stream

The Civil Service Fast Stream is not your usual career path, and certainly not one I planned as an Aston student finishing off my placement with Deutsche Bank and completing a degree in International Business and Economics. I envisaged a role in Finance or Consultancy (thinking really outside of the box) and although I had a passing interest in politics, moving into the public sector was not on my radar. For those not too familiar with how Government operates, the Civil Service is an A-political organisation that supports the elected Government of the day, and staffs departments such as the Treasury, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence. These departments work with Government Ministers to design and implement policy that impact on normal people.

In my 13 months I’ve worked on the economic analysis of HS2 at the Department for Transport, negotiated with Treasury on funding deals for the NHS at the Department of Health and am now on secondment to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. I’ve had friends work on the renewal of nuclear submarines, legal aid policy and another former Astoner is currently co-ordinating British aid efforts in central Africa (so some pretty serious stuff!).richard-blog-4

The Civil Service is placing huge amounts of resource in to increasing diversity within its ranks, and that includes broadening the number of entry points on to the programme to include apprenticeships, and a greater focus on professions such as Communications, Finance and the Government Economics Service. There is loads more information on every scheme at www.faststream.gov.uk.

The application process has been streamlined to make it slightly more transparent and less tilted towards Oxbridge applicants. The initial application is now a simple registration, followed by an e-tray, video interview and an Assessment Centre that challenges you to think analytically, demonstrate leadership and work well with others.

I can only speak for my own experience but I have found the Civil Service to be an incredibly warm and interesting place to work. When the decisions you make have the potential to impact on so many people that is a really great privilege, and one that isn’t available on many Grad schemes. My only advice for successfully completing the process is to be yourself, get to know the Civil Service Competency Framework and take the plunge and apply.

richard-blog-1The deadline for applications is the 30th November, and if you have any questions do get in touch at richard.parker@faststream.civilservice.gov.uk

 

 

10 TOP TIPS TO FIND YOUR PERFECT PLACEMENT

1)   Use all sources for your search

There are so many places you can look for placement options, so don’t just presume Aston Futures is your be and end all. Use ratemyplacement.com, e4s.com and indeed.com. You can also branch out further, and use family friends and social media to try and find connections for businesses that may not necessarily advertise their Industrial Placement vacancies.

2)   Don’t rule out your own area

Although some people would hate the idea of moving back home for a year after living solo at University for two already- don’t rule it out as an option. It can save huge amounts of money on living costs and accommodation…and you even get your evening meal made for you!!! (Who can resist that, I ask!?) Living at home can also create ease for you, with your home friends around, new friends to be made at your new job and possibly even more mobility if you have your own car or can borrow one at home. It’s a great idea to just Google large businesses in your own area, and have a scout on their careers pages or drop an email to see if they offer any placement positions.

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3)   Be prepared for the various stages in application

These days, companies like to throw all sorts of application stages at you. Below are the possible stages you could be asked to complete before getting to an assessment centre:

  • Large online form to include all personal info e.g. qualifications, interests, CV and Cover Letter upload
  • Simple cover letter and CV upload onto an online site
  • Online personal questions e.g. ‘Give us an example of when you have achieved personal goal.’
  • Online Psychometric and Mathematics tests (they are so hard so do your homework before taking them!)
  • Phone interview
  • Automated or live skype recorded interview
  • Face to face interview
  • Trial day at the workplace (not as scary as you may think!)
  • Assessment centre- this usually includes both group and individual exercises

4)   Apply, Apply, Apply…

My advice would be to apply to as many vacancies as possible and keep your options open. Providing that the vacancy is still relevant to your chosen course, you should ensure that you are applying to as many as you can, and as early as you can. I started from September, and that certainly helped me, as I was in no mad rush to get a load done at once, and all of the stages were conveniently spaced out throughout the year, so I wasn’t stressed when exam and coursework submission period came around. It might be a good idea to give yourself targets of applying to around 3 or 4 a week around September-December, to help yourself keep on track. It may also be important to read thoroughly through the job specification before applying. Not only because this can significantly help with the applications themselves (because they usually contain the answers that employers are looking for), but also because it is important to restrict yourself to only applying to ones that are relevant to you e.g. if they require certain skills, degree channels, unrestricted mobility or qualifications. This will save you a lot of time…and the disappointment of rejections.

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5)   Be savvy with your application questions

Applications are known for being very tedious, monotonous and time consuming, and you’ll therefore be delighted to know that there are some corners you can cut very easily, in order to reduce your boredom and avoid being driven crazy. The main top tip I can pass on, would be to ensure that when answering your personal questions during the application process, make sure you’re adding each question and answer to a word document as you’re going along. This is because a lot of the questions from different companies can give you the same, or very similar questions, and so this will save you a lot of time and effort writing up the same (or similar) questions again. A lot of your answers can often also be reworded and repurposed for different questions. Just make sure you change the company or industry references to apply to the specific job application.

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6)   Have a spotless CV and Cover Letter

Keep both your CV and Cover Letter relevant and short! An employer may only spend around 5-20 seconds looking at each applicant’s document, and so it needs to capture them straight away, and also be very easy to digest. To help you, use subheadings and online examples as inspiration to keep yours tip top! In the CV itself, make sure you sell yourself and take pride in your achievements- convince them to give you that interview! Then once you’re done and before sending it into the Aston Placement Team, ask a trustworthy person to check over it to ensure it is of quality, or even compare with friends to see if there is anything you have missed.

7)   If you aren’t sure…ASK!

If you’re looking for a placement or to study abroad, or even if you are unsure about the placement search or application process- do not be afraid to drop the placement team an email at absplacements@aston.ac.uk or pop into their office in the Student Union. No question is too silly! Be sure also not to leave things too late, as application processes can close early sometimes (particularly for study options abroad), and you don’t want to miss an opportunity!

8)   Be Prepped for Assessment Days!

They aren’t anywhere near as scary as you may think! In fact, a lot of the time Assessment Centres are presented informally and can involve engaging activities- so don’t be worried if on is approaching. However, there are a few things that are worth taking with you to ensure you are fully prepared…

  • Your printed CV
  • A notebook and a couple of pens
  • Lunch (it may not always be provided)
  • Printed background info on the company (to refer to if you forget anything)
  • And of course, it is still very important to look presentable and ensure that you are ‘geeked up’ on all the necessary info too.
  • Most importantly- make sure you bring yourself!! Don’t try and be someone you aren’t, it will show through in interviews, and actually is much better to be relaxed

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9)   Don’t be disheartened

It can be very frustrating getting the dreaded phone call or email…’Unfortunately we have decided not to process your application further…’ But please do not be disheartened!! Keep your spirits high and make sure you keep on applying to other options, as you never know what is around the corner, and only means that you are simply not what the employers are looking for- which doesn’t in any way mean that you are not what a different employer is looking for!

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10)               Don’t be afraid to put yourself out of your comfort zone

There are many aspects about getting a placement which may place you outside of your everyday comfort zone. From interviews in unfamiliar places, to meeting a wide range of new people, or answering questions on the phone or conference call. Do not be afraid or put off by pushing yourself to do these things, visit new places and take pride in meeting new people or having new experiences. After all, it is what a placement is all about.

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!

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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