Category Archives: Hints and Tips

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!

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!

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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 😊

Mastering Madrid.

Greetings from Madrid!

I have now been studying here for roughly two and a half months, and have loved every bit of it. This post will mainly focus on what Madrid has to offer, so anyone aspiring to do their placement here, can receive a few hints, and tips of what might be in store for them. I will also briefly touch upon the finances of studying, and living abroad, as this is a big factor in the decision-making for most people, myself included.

Where to begin?! The University life here is somewhat similar to that of Aston, however, I found that there are some differences, mainly in the way you are examined, and in the way some of the courses are organised. First, and foremost, I got to choose my own modules here, something that you do not get the chance to do until final year, if you’re a joint-honours ABS, and LSS student like myself. This is something I feel is a benefit, as you are given more autonomy, and can focus on a field that you enjoy, or are good at, or both! At UC3M, which is the University I am studying at, there is a big emphasis on continuous evaluation, and mid-term tests. This is something we do not really encounter at Aston, but I have found that they are really not that bad, and can work out in your favour, as there is then less stress on you for the final exam.

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The social life is great, and there is so much to do. The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) team here are really helpful, and arrange some great events. You should sign up for the ESN card, it’s only €5, and it great value for money. I would recommend everyone to take part in the early events, as it is a great way to get to know people, and to learn about Madrid, and all of it’s hotspots. The food is unbelievably cheap – especially compared to England! Madrid really is a sports-mad city, so for any football or basketball fans that are planning to study, or work here, they will not be disappointed.

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Generally, the city itself it relatively cheap. Accommodation is cheaper than the majority of anything that you will find in England. You can purchase a travel card, which is €20 a month for students, and with that, you can travel anywhere within the region of Madrid, on any mode of public transport. Flights back to the UK are also quite cheap, so you can return home, if you need to. So, for anyone that wants to do their placement abroad, but is put off by the expenses, should really look into it, as Madrid is relatively cheaper than most other European capital cities, and you will be guaranteed to have a great experience.

Thanks for reading!

Settling in…

Welcome to my second post of the Aston University Careers+Placement Blog.

Actually settling into your placement can be a testing time, there’s so many new things to get used to. Namely, being away from family and friends, a completely new culture, new foods, and possibly a new language.

What I did before I came to Finland (and which I would highly recommend to all 2nd years), would be to do some research on the new culture that you will soon be facing. Just read up on transport, food and drink, and any other norms that will differ to the UK. This way you won’t be in for any nasty surprises, once you land.

Once settled, visit the local area, and find out what is located nearby, and get familiar with the city. Take the new environment, and atmosphere in – what I saw with Finland, was that it was a lot more relaxed, and laid-back than England. This can bring both pros and cons. For one, on the whole people are more friendly, but some simple jobs can take you a lot more time than you would expect. When I visited the biggest bank in Helsinki, I was waiting for two hours to pay my rent! Shocked would be an understatement.

Take full advantage of all the opportunities, and make as many new friends as you can. Treat your placement like you treated your first year at Aston. Try everything, visit as many places as possible, and photograph everything. This will provide memories for many years to come. A benefit of doing your placement abroad is that you can visit a number of countries a lot easier than from the UK, while you work or study. I have visited Sweden, and Estonia while in Finland, and hope to visit more European countries when in Madrid, for my 2nd semester.

Don’t count the days, make the days count!

Get out there and explore!

Get out there and explore!

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.

Start of Your Placement Journey!

Hi guys, thanks for taking the time to read my first Careers+Placements Blog post.

I’m Reece, and I am a 3rd year BSc Business and International Relations student, where I am currently studying in Helsinki for the first semester of my placement, and Madrid for the second semester.

When I first started at Aston, I was really looking forward to the placement year, and what it would hold for me. When 2nd year came around, it was quite easy to see that me, and everybody in the same boat, would need to put a lot of effort into securing a good placement.

This is why I will just give my thoughts on some hints and tips for all 2nd year students at Aston:

  • Utilise all of the help – There is so much going on around campus to help you secure a great placement: take advantage of all of the services that the Careers+Placements office offer e.g. going through your CV with you, providing mock interviews, help with assessment centres. All of this will help you when you apply for jobs/study placements, as you will be able to stand out, and offer more than other students from universities all over the UK. It is important to remember that there are thousands of students looking for a placement, so anything that can give you an advantage over them could be pivotal.
  • Work on your CV and Cover Letter – I repeat do NOT have one cover letter for all of your applications. Tailor your CV and cover letter for each position you apply for. You might think this is a waste of time, but 10 well written CVs and cover letters will bring you more success than 50 badly written ones. It is highly beneficial if you work on them both in the summer, as this could be vital in you being able to apply early on.
  • Take the Role/Placement AND Location into consideration – You might have your heart set on a specific industry, but I would definitely encourage you to think about the location, as this is just as important. I have really enjoyed Finland so far, so I would say to anyone thinking of doing a placement abroad, to grab the chance with both hands, as this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and you should take full advantage of the all links and contacts that Aston has. Before you know it, you will be graduating, so you may as well have some great memories to take with you into your working life.

Thanks for reading, I will be posting again soon!

Maybe choose somewhere warmer than Finland!

Maybe choose somewhere warmer than Finland!

Every placement has an end, but in life every ending is a new beginning

Hello all!

Hope you are all well and good! In all honesty, I don’t enjoy being the bearer of bad news.. but my placement has unfortunately come to an end. I never imagined my time would come to an end so suddenly, but it seems if you keep yourself occupied long enough, you won’t even realise where time has disappeared to! It’s truly sad to see the placement coming to an end and especially saying the final farewells (the part I find the hardest!). The way I see it, it’s all part of the learning process and I’m really grateful for the opportunity that I have been given. I was always on the fence about choosing a career in clinical psychology, but I feel I have a much clearer idea now.

As this is my final blog post, I will give the most credible and honest (believe me when I say this) feedback about my time as an honorary at BSMHFT. I will give you a breakdown of the service, what I did on a day to day basis, the psychological interventions that you will encounter and important tips to remember if you are one of the lucky ones working in a CMHT setting as part of your placement year!

Community Mental Health Team (CMHT):

The core function of CMHTs are to provide assessments and interventions for people experiencing moderate to severe and enduring mental health problems. The diagnosis criteria includes psychosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression,  bi-polar disorder and OCD. People can only be referred to this secondary care service by their GP or a primary care service such as IAPTs (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) or BHM (Birmingham Healthy Minds). To accomplish and complete shared objectives, a CMHT is made up of professionals from different disciplines including Clinical Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Support Workers, Occupational Therapists and Nurses.

Responsibilities:

➔ Shadowing assessments and other members of staff: I was given many opportunities to sit into assessments which measure a persons suitability for psychological therapy. During this, the clinician usually requested me to make notes from which I could make a formulation (see below). As you’ll be working in a multi-disciplinary team, you will be able to shadow other team professionals such as psychiatrists, occupation therapists and support workers.

Writing formulations and case histories: Throughout the year, I was involved in planning service user care programmes. Following an assessment, I would use the 5P formulation (Predisposing, Precipitating, Presenting, Protective and Perpetuating factors) to organise the notes and present them to the clinician. Also I was given the task of completing detailed case histories which required reading through their past history and summarising the information into one easy to read document. Both helped in making a decision whether the client should be taken up for therapy.

➔ Facilitating group programmes: At my CMHT, I was fortunate enough to participate in a depression group programme. Here the service users were provided with therapy (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness) in a group setting. My role as an honorary assistant was to write up progress notes, scoring measures and facilitating mindfulness exercises.

➔ Attending meetings: On a weekly basis, I attended multi-disciplinary team meetings which involved discussing about team caseloads. Here different professionals would offer their own insight into how best resolve managing a service user. Also on a monthly basis I attended business and depression group programme meetings.

➔ Conducting audits: As an Honorary Assistant, you will be required to complete an audit during your placement time.  This will involve you collecting and analysing data from the database and trying to identify anomalies that shouldn’t otherwise be there. Once complete you will have to report back in the meeting.

➔ Maintaining databases:  At the CMHT, the psychology team will have their own spreadsheet database which allows clinicians to track referrals to Psychology. As an Honorary Assistant, it will be your role to keep this spreadsheet up to date by entering referral dates, appointments attended and assessment forms received.

➔ Aston CPD programme: On a weekly basis you will be given training on topics relevant to your placement. These will be facilitated by clinical psychologists based on their speciality. Topics will cover basic formulations, psychosis, and research methods.

➔ CORE/Scoring measures: During assessments, service users are required to complete questionnaires. These are used to assess the severity of the individuals problems. You will come across measures such as Becks Depression Inventory, Depression Anxiety Stress Scale and Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire.

Psychological Interventions offered in a Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) setting:

Out of all psychological therapies provided, you will see that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) will be administered quite frequently and is the first choice of therapy by Psychotherapists. There are interventions which focus on relapse prevention and early warning signs. Here therapists focus on making coping strategies which can help clients handle their symptoms and identify signs of relapse. This reduces the number of clients from becoming admitted to hospitals. A powerful and newly emerging therapy known as Mindfulness Based Cognitive therapy (MCBT) which aids in preventing relapse of depression, especially in individuals with major depressive disorder.

Therapy specially designed for treating patients with trauma related symptoms such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. Individuals who may suffer from chronically suicidal thoughts and diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be offered Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). Behavioural Activation therapy is often used to encourage individuals to develop positive behaviour that they would usually avoid doing.

Things you need to remember:  

➔ You will most likely feel overwhelmed  when encountered with word terminologies and areas of psychology which you might not be familiar with. Don’t worry you will pick it up without realising but don’t be scared to ask others if you are unsure! They know you are a placement student and would be happy to answer all your questions.

➔ This placement year will be a steep learning curve, expect to make mistakes, but make sure to learn from them!  Through my own experience I would highly recommend carrying a diary and making good use of it. Placement staff will begin to trust you when you can prove you can work by yourself and show self-initiative. As the placement progresses you will be given more and more to do!

➔ Before sitting in on an assessment to see a client, it is useful to read up on their background history. This will help you know what to expect!

➔ You will only gain shadowing experience if staff are aware of who you are! Try and get yourself known within the team by attending meetings and any other social events.

➔ You will have been assigned a placement tutor who will give you useful advice throughout the year and will be happy to talk to you about any thoughts, issues and most importantly your systematic review.

➔ You will have regular contact with other Aston placement students and will be attending weekly training sessions provided by the NHS. Make good use of this time to address any worries you may have with your peers.

➔ If you have any issues that you wish to raise don’t be afraid to speak up. Both the placement and Aston university want you to make the most of this year but also at the same time want you to enjoy it thoroughly.

Disclaimer: You will be expected to complete the minimum 150 days which will require you to work full-time unpaid 4 days a week. Remember don’t count the days, make the days count! Once you have finished for the day you have actually finished; you will not be required to take any work with you home. This leaves your evenings and weekends completely free!

It’s been a pleasure blogging my placement experience to you all! I wish you all the very best in life and hope I have been of help! Whenever in doubt remember:

“There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs!”

Ali

All good things come to an end

So apologies for being out of the loop these last few months, my work has taken over and with a busy social schedule, so I haven’t really had the chance to write. I’ve kept my placement blogging to short and sweet top tip posts as I know there are always questions you want to ask from those who have been abroad and it’s great to see so many of the other bloggers sharing so many pics and memories so I thought I’d stick to a good ol’ theme.

Placement year has been amazing, it cannot be denied. It’s hard work, of course! But it also offers the chance to easily (for how much longer I don’t know) travel across the globe or at least central Europe to visit friends doing their placements too. With all this travelling, work, social life and even a little time for yourself if you can spare it, you need to be thinking ahead when it comes to things with deadlines and by this I mean your placement essay.

With all this travelling, work, social life and even a little time for yourself if you can spare it, you need to be thinking ahead when it comes to things with deadlines and by this I mean your placement essay.

Here are my top 5 tips for getting ahead and on a roll stress-free:

1) Plan early, if you’re thinking about doing interviews, questionnaires or anything that requires data collection, validation and formatting etc why not start early. It only has to start with a casual mention to your manager over lunch or coffee or a quick email to see if it’s possible and if it’s not then it’s no stress, you’ve got time to change tack! I know it sounds like every piece of advice you’ve ever heard, but remember there isn’t the possibility on a work placement to stay up until 4am (if you’re that type) to finish your report or nip into uni to catch your lecturer and you’ll often need permission and managers have a lot more on their plate than just your report, so don’t expect them to jump when you click your fingers at the last minute.

Think: Website has broken down vs. my intern needs my signature 2 days before their deadline – I think we all know what’s on top.

2) Figure when you like to work best and work around it, if you’re a daytime person you’ll only have your lunch break and weekends and if you’re night time person you’ll only have dinner time and the later evening alongside any social commitments and work do’s. This is much less time than you’d have at uni so your report will take longer overall if you spread it out realistically. You know how fast you write so just make sure this is planned for.

3) Find somewhere away from your room, I know in Paris the apartments are often super small and this was the case for me. Not only this, but it was my place to crash and relax after work so the last thing on my mind was doing a report! Centre Pompidou has a library open until 10pm so whatever time you finish work this should adapt to your needs. There are also other libraries in Paris, but most shut on random days of the week or much earlier – i.e. latest 7pm.

4) Do a final check of the dates and requirements in advance: does your report have to be posted? When is it due in? – Don’t do what I did and assume it was May 31st only to find out it was, in fact, the 13th May and that you’d flipped the numbers around – luckily I checked weeks in advice, but it’s a simple step to save a load of stress and panic.

5) Relax once you’ve submitted – book up your holidays and enjoy those final moments of time before you’re in final year – it really doesn’t last forever!

All the best for your placements year and journeys!

Here’s a few from my recent events, birthdays, Bastille day, Switzerland and more!

A la prochaine, Jessica

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

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“…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.

 

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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