An insight into a postgraduate alumni researcher at Aston Business School

My name is Nafees Zahir, a recent graduate in, BSc Business and Management from Aston University. I had the opportunity of undertaking a role as a postgraduate researcher within the

nafeesAston Business Schools Alumni relations team.

I am currently in my final week here at the Business School as a postgraduate Alumni Researcher. The role has been very exciting and enjoyable. I have worked within a vibrant team who are at the forefront of forging relationships with Alumni graduates and ensuring they are maintained.

The role has involved conducting research and communicating with a cohort of recent alumni graduates ahead of the FT Masters in Management and Masters in Finance rankings. The role has provided me with an insight as to why students from all over the world want to come and study their postgraduate qualification here at Aston Business School.  From day one I was provided with the responsibility of ensuring tasks that came my way were delivered on time and to schedule. This incorporated updating senior management of progress and sharing my opinion in order to increase ranking figures.

The role has involved me developing my time management skills, by ensuring I plan my day accordingly to the priority of the tasks. My communication skills were crucial for this role as it involved communicating with alumni who were based overseas and to get the message across was crucial. I realised that Alumni students have a strong connection with Aston University and what to give back in any way or form they can that will help contribute to the success of the university, moving forward.  The role was varied in terms of being prepared for the resistance of change as I had to identify a number of tactics in order to reach the Alumni students.

I identified that calling them would be better as I would be able to relay my message clearly. I was unable to reach a number of Alumni to which then I took to social media and was able to reach them via email and LinkedIn.

I would like to thank the Alumni relations team for the opportunity. It has been a pleasure working with you all over the last few weeks.

 

Coping With Stress in Final Year: Planning Your Graduate Career

In a recent survey of 2,460 students, The Student Housing Company found that 96% of students have felt stressed at university.

In addition to this:

  • 56% said they feel “constantly” stressed
  • 79% are worried about getting a job after university
  • 31% believe that it could take as long as 6 months to find a job after graduating

It is clear that students feel stressed and pressured to succeed, particularly in final year when graduation seems to come round so quickly. So, what should you do if you are feeling this way? And what can you do to make sure that you have an exciting job or opportunity lined up after graduation?

Seek the Support You Need

Most universities have specialist support staff who provide guidance to students throughout university. If your studies are being affected by stress or another mental health issue, your lecturers will work with support staff to make sure that you have everything you need to live a happy and successful life at university.

Support staff may be able to help you in several ways: finding counselling or other means of support, offering you the chance to re-sit exams, giving you more time to sit exams, providing coursework extension deadlines, or giving you special dispensation when it comes to marking.

Whatever you are going through, it is important to speak to somebody and resolve the issue as far as you can. Keeping the problem to yourself will only make it worse, but by opening up to university staff, you should find the support you need in order to continue with your studies.

If you are concerned about getting a job after you graduate, make sure you use the resources at your university. Careers fairs often take place on campus, where you can look into the wide range of industries and companies you can work for.

Your university careers service will also be able to point you in the right direction. Even if you’re unsure about which industry you’d like to go into, they can discuss your skills and personality with you, and from that they will narrow down the jobs that you would be suited to.

Gain Experience

A degree will show that you are a smart, disciplined and successful young person, but what employers are really looking out for is experience. So, if you can fit some work experience in, it will be hugely beneficial to your future career.

You can get work experience by contacting your university careers department or by contacting local businesses that can offer you the sort of placement you want. When organising your work experience, it is important to make sure that the hours suit you. So taking a placement during the holidays or on a temporary, part-time basis during term time would be ideal.

What’s more, placements like this have very little stress or pressure attached to them, because they’re usually unpaid. This means they can become a welcome distraction to studying, and you can make some great friends during your placement too.

Get Ready Early

By preparing for your graduate career early, you will minimise the feelings of anxiety that many students experience at the end of their final year to find placements or graduate positions right away.

By getting work experience placements, or researching graduate courses available to you during your time as an undergraduate, you will feel happy knowing that you have something exciting to move on to after graduation.

If you decide to look into graduate courses, make sure you ask these important questions:

  • What are the fees and what are the payment options?
  • What do most students who graduate from this course go on to do as a career?
  • Which universities are ranked as the best for the subject you want to study at postgraduate level?

Travel the World

You should also remember that you don’t have to go straight into work or further study after university – you can take many exciting voluntary and paid positions around the world, or you could just save up and go travelling with your friends!

Experiences like this show you to be a broad-minded, interesting and confident individual. So when it comes to finding an entry-level position, or some work experience after you get back from your travels, you shouldn’t have any problems.

Taking Care of Yourself at University

Many students feel stressed and overwhelmed at university or when they graduate, so it is important to realise that you are not alone if you are feeling this way. To find out more information about overcoming your problems at university, check out our latest wellbeing advice for students.

Written by –  Amy Hirst ( The Student Housing Company )

Valle de los Caidos- The controversy of Franco’s tomb

I decided to revise my knowledge of Spanish history, so I bought the Ghosts of Spain written by historian Giles Tremlett. One morning during my daily commute to work I was reading about El Valle de los Caidos (the Valley of the Fallen), I hadn’t heard of this before. The book stated its location and I was stunned that it was located in the sierra of Guadaramma, very close to the Catholic school where I work, I had always wandered why it was there. It is 150-metre tall granite cross, located along a beautiful stretch of the sierra. Ostensibly erected to commemorate those who had died during Spain’s bloody clash of ideology; it is the biggest and most recent piece of fascist monumental architecture in Europe, Franco’s self proclaimed masterpiece. Beneath the cross is a dome shaped burial site of 40,000 deceased from both sides, lavishly decorated with gold mosaic and black marble.

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The disturbing thing about this grandiose monument is that this is also where the remains of dictator Francisco lie, and that many bodies of los ‘vencidos’ (the defeated) are buried in countless roadside graves in Madrid’s afueras, forgotten without a trace. Campaigners put the figure at 100,000 unrecovered bodies from the civil war. A further controversy being that an estimated 20,000 workers who constructed the monument were Republican prisoners, intent on reducing their sentences. Mayoress of Poyales del Hoyo Damiana González insists the monument remains a symbol of forgiveness and peace between two bitterly opposed identities of Spain’s past.

 el-escorial-valle-de-los-caidos

It is officially regarded as a depoliticised memorial, but there is still the contention of whether it should be demolished, or whether it should be maintained as a vital piece of Spain’s heritage, a historical lesson, allowing them to never return to their twisted past. One things for certain, Franco wanted a conspicuous and imposing presence in an attempt to cement his legacy, fortunately with the populations swift transition to democracy after Franco’s death in 1975, this wasn’t possible.

Hola Madrid!

Goodbye England, and hello Spain!

The second part of my placement journey has now begun. Besides looking forward to the food and weather that Spain has to offer, I was intrigued about how the University and the social side of things would compare to that of Finland, and the UK. So, far the social aspect really hasn’t disappointed, but I have found the academic side is a little different to that of Finland, and England as well, and it might take a little longer to get used to. There is so much going on in Madrid, that it’s not hard not to meet new people. The university itself, is a great campus, but the lectures, and classes are organised in a slightly contrasting manner to England, but it is really not that different.

This takes me back to one of my earlier entries in the Careers+Placements Blog, where I recommended that all students preparing to take a placement year, really think about the location that they want to study or work in. I have now seen through first-hand experience that the location is just as important as the job role/partner university. Students, myself included, usually don’t give the country or city a second thought, and are more worried about what they will be doing on a regular basis, whether it be studying or working. This might come back to haunt you in the future, once you’ve started your placement, and then it will be too late to do anything about it.

When I first landed here, it was difficult to converse with the locals, as few speak English. I have picked up a few words in Spanish, but this is a personal goal that I hope to work on in my time here. This is a good measurement to see how far you have come on your placement – before you start, give yourself some personal goals that you wish to work on during your placement, and then by the end of it, see if you have made any progress, and achieved your goal(s). Don’t think of your year abroad (or in the UK), as another year that you have to complete before you graduate, but embrace it as a chance to improve yourself, your skill-set, your experiences, and most importantly, your memories!

Students who might be put off the idea of studying abroad, as they feel it will be very similar to life at Aston, will be very much mistaken. The experience is wholly different, and does not compare to anything that you will have ever done before. Madrid, has been great so far, and I am looking forward to the remaining four months or so!

So long for now!

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6 months in …

It seems like only yesterday I was on Aston Futures searching for a placement, yet here I am almost 6 months in to my Placement Year, half the year done! Already I have begun preparing myself for my assignment and believe you me, it’s not as easy as you think it would be. When going on a placement at times you can feel disconnected from university. Regardless of working in my place of study, for the longest time I have felt disconnected. This is not a bad thing, this is just a part of me growing up and working hard. It may come to a time where you feel as though, your placement has somewhat matured you, for me this is exciting as I feel I have finally developed the mind-set I need to delve into my final year.

6 months into my placement and I have established a range of skills, I never thought I could develop until after graduation, I have built up my confidence and self-esteem considerably and I have now learnt to trust myself more than any other person in this world, in the world of work, you are relied upon and in order to really succeed, you must also rely upon yourself first and foremost to get the job done.

As the New Year approaches, I can truly say that my placement has made me proud of who I have become and the best part is that I still have 6 months to go. During this time, I have taken part in a range of networking events where I have had the opportunity to liaise with other employers and colleagues, I have contributed to several important meetings and will soon have the chance to chair a meeting of my own. I have also contributed to a few ‘employer away days’ where the team gets together to discuss progress, issues and future campaigns. This by far has been one of the most engaging factors for me, as during this period you are required to think critically about all that has been achieved in the past and how this can be improved in the short/long term. During this period of time you are required to analyse and communicate effectively with other members of the team, it is during this point you come to realise that in order to provide a seamless service, it is essential the team takes time away from the office to brain storm and discuss a range of innovative ideas to
bring about great change.

Not only have I learnt a range of new things I have also met some great people and made a ton of new memories with some new friends. Working in an environment where you are joined by other placement students not only provides you with the moral support you may need, but it just makes the placement all the more fun and interesting. As we all study at Aston I have made friends on my course who I never knew of before and the best part is that we can all help each other with our assignments! The past 6 months have been a treat and I cannot wait to come back in the New Year to see what it may bring.

Remember, don’t be afraid of success, now is the time to push yourselves, now is the time to really do great things – The ‘not so chronically lazy’ placement student.

 

May Your Placement Be Interesting…

Hi again,

So my time in Finland is coming to an end, and it feels that it has done so at the perfect time. I have really enjoyed it thus far, but no place beats home! For students thinking of pursuing a study placement abroad, I would definitely encourage them to do so, but I would like to point out that, there will be some aspects that you might not enjoy to begin with.

When I first arrived in Helsinki, I knew that the Business School I would be attending – Aalto – had a great reputation. This made me wonder how it would compare to Aston, and how difficult the work would be. As Aston, the top five grades you achieve on placement from the modules you choose over the two semesters, contribute 50% to your overall grade for your placement year (the other 50% being two assignments that Aston set you, but we’ll come to this later).

In my first week here, all the way back in September, I had a lecture for a module called ‘Corporate Finance’, finance being the area I want to work in once I graduate. So, I was looking forward to it, more so than any of my other classes. When that first lecture finished, the only thing I could think, was what have I gotten myself into?! To say the content was tricky, would be a grand understatement. It was covering areas that I had never even needed to touch upon at Aston. Before I arrived, I had felt that when it came to the fields of Finance/Accounting/Business, I would be able to do the work to a very good standard, once I applied myself. This lecture took it to a whole new level. I’m happy to say that once I started revising (which was the second I left the lecture after seeing that), I got to grips with the module, and got some good grades for the assignments.

This situation would lead me to tell all prospective students thinking of studying abroad, to really research the University that they will be attending. I later got chatting to a Finn, who said that Aalto Business School really takes their Finance courses seriously (no kidding!), and their degree in Finance is one of the best in the world. I would not want this to discourage anyone from studying abroad, but just make sure what you know what you’re letting yourself in for. Not all of the modules will be difficult, I have completed some courses that are actually quite easy compared to some of Aston’s courses, so it won’t be a one-way thing.

I think you’ll find when you first arrive, your placement will feel a lot like a holiday. I believe this goes for work, and study placements. You’ll have a lot time on your hands, and will be visiting the sites, landmarks etc. Make sure you do all of this, as your placement year is supposed to be fun, and enjoyable, as well as challenging. This brings me to your Aston assignments, for students studying abroad, they’re sort of like a journal, with personal aims, and goals you have set yourself before your placement begins. I would advise you to start these as soon as possible, while everything is still fresh in your mind.

To finish this entry of the Careers+Placement Blog, I would tell all Aston 2nd years to apply themselves as best they can, while on placement. Moreover, you won’t enjoy every single aspect of it, but it is up to you to make the best out of the situation. There will be times where you’ll be having great fun – cherish those moments, and there might be times where you’re wishing you did something else for your placement – these times will swiftly pass.

Good luck with your placement search.

Reece.

Have fun!

Have fun!

Fortune Favours The Brave…

Hi everyone, I’m Adriana. This is my first ever blog entry so kindly bear with me as I take you through the ups and downs of my placement journey.

Firstly, I study Sociology and Social Policy and I’m currently doing my placement year at Aston University. I am working with the Learner Enhancement Team which is a part of the Careers and Placement cohort and I’m working as a ‘Project Assistant’.

I personally have to say that my placement journey thus far has been amazing. I’ve met some amazing people who understands me and my crazy self and I have personally developed in so many areas already just based on my daily responsibilities and encounters with the knowledgeable individuals within my team.

But before you all create an amazing picture of my ideal and compatible placement; let’s first take it back all the way to November 2015 when my placement search officially started (and also the start of my 2nd year at university). So there I was, confident in myself discussing with my friends about how I’m going to get a paid  placement located somewhere in Birmingham and my life would be great and I would be rich and I would take everyone out for drinks with my placement salary that I would be receiving. LOL. (Yep, I wrote LOL, because I’m currently laughing at myself for thinking like that). Little did I know that the placement search wasn’t necessarily that easy (oblivious right…I know); I applied for specific placements such as Human Resources and even those related specifically towards Social policy. I struggled a lot because I wasn’t using the appropriate channels to assist me during my hunt for placements. Despite my many attempts and disappointments of getting no response and rejections, I simply gave up and focused on my academic side of my university life. I completely ignored searching for placements due to my previous set-backs and disappointments but the whole thought of going straight into final year without any form of experience would be a more detrimental burden for me personally.

So once 2016 commenced I resumed my placement search and I received quite a few offers for interstewieviews from various businesses across Birmingham and other places in the UK. At that point, I personally felt that I was accomplishing something but that was only the beginning of my placement journey as it was all very competitive.

I went to some of the assessment centres and despite numerous offers I turned them down simply because they were all voluntary and it was not entirely what I was looking for. At this stage, it was going towards the end of the term and I was truly concerned about my placement and in addition to that, I also had to prepare for exams and also essays and projects. By the way, did I mention that I was working part time every week as well doing at least 30 hours over a three day period(Lawwd help me)…I had a lot of things on my plate at the time and it was truly tiring however I ensured that I did everything in moderation. At times I really struggled to do everything all at once however, I was surrounded by some truly great friends who kept encouraging me to apply for placements and to revise for my upcoming exams.

I then got offers to numerous assessment centres and the roles were paid and I thought that it was going to be my lucky break as the roles were related to the career path that I wanted to go towards. I prepared a lot for the assessment centres, I learnt so much about the companies that I thought I knew more about the companies that the owners to be honest.  I made it all the way to final stage of the assessment centres and in the end, I didn’t get any of them because according to the employers the other individual had more experience than me so as a result I was unsuccessful.

Disappointed once again, I sort of gave up any hope of securing an actual placement that would accept me. And to add pressure to the situation, I was due to leave the country in approximately 2 weeks to visit Jamaica for an entire month.

I was so lost in myself because I wasn’t entirely sure what to do about the placements because it seemed that every single corner that I turned there was some form of barrier or something which knocked me right back to straight to step one. Then I kept applying and I tried having some faith despite the set-backs and then I got invited to an assessment centre at Aston University. I remember that I turned up slightly late to the assessment centre because I had no form of motivation or interest in attending because I thought it would have been another failure due to the other set of disappointments plus it was also on campus and I didn’t even want to set my big toe on campus for another year, much less going there for every single day of every week for the next 12 months *sigh*.  At this stage, I was thinking it’s better to actually try rather than to give up completely.

After the assessment centre I kept applying for other placements hoping to find something else and I could remember clearly the week before I was to fly out to paradise (Jamaica); I was working at Silverstone for the 2016 F1 Grand Prix and I was literally depressed and worried so much because the chances of securing a placement before jetting off was looking rather slim. On one of my very depressed days, I received a phone call from this lovely lady from Aston University; immediately I thought I was in some form of trouble or something but to my surprise I was told that I was accepted onto the team as the new placement student. There and then all I could have done was say thank you for the opportunity over the phone and give the good Lord thanks because despite my many failed attempts at securing a placement I was actually recognised and chosen for a change. And in that very small moment sparked a bit of hope in myself. A bit of hope which I clenched onto till this very day because despite all the odds against me, time was the master in determining how everything would have worked in my favour.

So I went to Jamaica for a whole month and had the most amazing time with my family and friends and I came back to England and started my placement and I personally have to say, my placement journey ever since has been absolutely amazing. Integrated with my team from the get go. They took me to Pizza Express on the first day and that’s how I knew the team was perfect for me because on my very first day we did my most favourite activity together and that’s eating food. (Yes, eating food is one of my many hobbies) But the point is, I’ve been blessed to be a part of such a fantastic team who supports, guide and teaches me so much that I see my ‘unwanted’ placement as a blessing in disguise.
aston2016

But that’s enough from me for now. I’m here writing away as if I’m Shonda Rhimes so let me leave you all with my little placement journey for now. But one thing you should take away from all of this is that even in your darkest times you should always have faith and hope because time is the master of everything.

Take Care!

Adriana aka Shelly (That’s my nickname, don’t ask! )

You think teaching is easy? Think again!

People who say teaching is the easy option need to come and do their placement in a school and have their eyes opened. As a placement student in school I’ve assumed the role of a teaching assistant, helping out in lessons with either less able or disruptive students. Unlike most teaching assistants I have specialist subject knowledge and can really challenge some of the students to learn more than ‘just enough to get them a pass’ which is what many students seem to aim for.
I’ve been on placement 3 months now, and have already learnt a great deal about teaching in general, and these are the things I would share with anyone looking at doing teaching after they graduate like I am.
1. Never show weakness – I’m pretty sure the students can smell fear on you. In my first week I was told that I have full teaching rights and to give out detentions if I feel they are needed. But I was not confident enough to do this and discipline properly, and they could tell I was new. As the weeks went on and I grew in confidence and learnt how to speak to the kids they learnt that I meant business! Now, they do listen to me, and if I set a detention, I’m not bluffing but mean it.
2. Children are nosey – No matter how many times I’ve told them I’m a university student, they always ask if I’m a real teacher. They ask how old I am, if I have children and if I’m married. Most of the time, they’re asking these questions because they’re bored or they just don’t want to learn. Don’t fall into the trap of answering these questions, as they’ll always find more to ask. I did like making them guess my age until one year 11 student said I looked 30… being 21, this was NOT what I wanted to hear.
3. They will not do as much work with a cover teacher – FACT, and I remember this from when I was at school. To even the best behaved students, cover teacher = easy lesson. Sometimes, just getting certain students through a lesson with a cover teacher without any other teachers having to remove them is an achievement, even if all they write is the date and the title.
4. Small arguments will be the end of the world for year 7s – In year 7, there is a huge difference in maturity, and it’s very obvious. Some students still think that, like in primary school, arguments will be sorted by the teacher, but most teachers don’t have time to monitor every small friendship issue. They will sort it in the end. They will learn.
5. You will not just be a teacher – As a teacher and especially as a form tutor (Which I am to a year 7 group) you assume the role of many other people. You’re a parent figure to some children with difficult home lives. You give advice and guide them in things that happen outside school. You council students who are struggling with friendships or find school life difficult. You’re a doctor, trying to decipher when a student is ill or ‘ill’ because they don’t want to do a test. And alongside teaching your main job is that you are a role model, teaching students not only the curriculum, but how to be a good person and how to grow into a good adult.

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!

Charity training worth £1100 is now free to current students

Thanks to a generous grant, Child.org will be able to offer Charity Apprentice 2017 for free to students who dream of working to change the world for the better.

Thousands dream of working one day for a charity. After all, it’s hard to name another job where you have the chance to eradicate global poverty, cure cancer or simply have a direct positive impact in the lives of millions of people.

But charity jobs can be notoriously difficult to apply for. Students often report confusion about what charity jobs are available, where to apply for them and how to gain relevant experience. Many more find it impossible to get their foot on the career ladder without having to work for free in unpaid internships for months on end.

Meanwhile charities find recent graduates lack basic knowledge of how charities operate and simple skills in fundraising and communications. Too many applicants gush about their desire to change the world, but have no clear idea of how they can use their skills to do that and what they might offer to the charity.

To solve this problem, the international development charity Child.org have spent two years working with experts from across the sector to develop Charity Apprentice: a course that anyone can do in their spare time to gain entry-level charity skills. A combination of online learning and fun real-life challenges, Charity Apprentice is a must for anyone considering a career in the sector and covers topics ranging from fundraising regulation and marketing to sustainable development and effective advocacy.

Anna Donaldson, a Charity Apprentice in 2016, said:

“Before I even completed my year as a Charity Apprentice, I had my first paid job offer in the charity sector and the opportunity to work for something really worthwhile that I am incredibly proud of. The course transformed my view of the charity sector and made me realise how important it was to be a part of it in a time when compassion for a cause is rarely enough to make the impact you want to make. Access to invaluable resources, constant encouragement and support and a fantastic opportunity to work in Kenya has not only clarified what impact I’d like to make in my lifetime, it has opened up the opportunity for me to get paid to do it.”

The course fees for a year are priced at £1100, but thanks to a generous grant from the Sofronie foundation, Child.org are able to offer free course places to students and recent graduates for the first time this year.

To see a full course outline and apply for your place, visit charityapprentice.org.

As this opportunity is provided by a third party and Aston do not have any relationship with them other than advertising, we suggest you do your own research before you sign up.