University: Getting A Grad Job

Now, I might not be the best person to write about this, so the simple reason that I don’t have a graduate role lined up. However I’ve been through the application process (both for my placement and for a grad role), and I’m still actively looking for something – so maybe I’m the ‘realistic’ person to talk about graduate employment. I definitely know more people without a job than with one at this point in the year!
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Grad Schemes or Job

I know for the area I’m going to get into (note the determination in that sentence!) the majority of grad schemes are now closed. That’s probably not the case for most industries, and whilst I feel like it should be stressing me out, I’m well aware that there are plenty of graduate-level jobs out there. They might not come with quite as fancy training packages, but they will throw you in the deep end, get you working, and aren’t an option to dismiss.

There are so many sites and companies out there to help graduates find jobs. Spotlight Recruitment is a website specialising in marketing careers. Not my industry I must admit, but I have browsed the site to see what they’ve got – I love that you can narrow down your search by region. Covering categories such as digital marketing, communications and e-commerce, it’s a really easy to use site and has useful tips like on selling yourself in interviews, what to include on a CV (I wrote my own guide here) – all pretty much essential information.

Applications or Recruiter

No doubt about it, job applications can be stressful, long-winded, frustrating. They can involve getting the perfect CV, then answering endless competency questions, completing online tests. Then there’s various interview stages; telephone, face-to-face, assessment centres… trust me, if you get through all of these, get told you passed every stage with flying colours and still don’t get offered the job, it’s pretty damn soul destroying.

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with some absolutely lovely recruiters. Whilst no, I don’t have a job yet, they’ve offered help and guidance as to how to hone my CV, I’ve had a few very positive interviews, and the stress and time consuming part of the application is nicely reduced.
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Application Hints & Tips

I’ve written quite a few guides to careers and getting a job before (ironic, huh?!) – but I think the biggest key is to be prepared. Make sure you know what the job entails and how your experience and aspirations relate to it, spend a lot of time researching the company. I would also try and think of a few questions you want to ask – it’s always something you have the opportunity to do, and the right questions give such a good impression and show you’re super interested in the company. But my biggest tip of all? If you do get a rejection, no matter how dreadful it makes you feel, always ask for feedback. Then get your chin up, smile and do 10x better in the next one.

How do you find the job-hunting process? Any tips to share?

Careers: Getting THAT Work-Life Balance

This is it, my biggest bone of contention. I love the career I’ve chosen for myself, but I hate that I’m pretty much going to be a slave to it for the next few years. I’ll be working full-time and pushing through some of the hardest exams there are (whoop for 30% pass rates!), I’ll be completing 3-years of work based skills and hopefully I’ll have qualified by the time I am thirty

 photo Life vs Work_zpsy46vepz5.pngI’ve actually been working over the last 13 months, doing an extended internship as part of my degree – I’ve loved it, I’ve worked with some amazing people, and with just four working days left to go I’m tearing up as I type. It’s not been easy, far from it. The job is technical, there’s complicated mathsy stuff, lots of learn, legalities to take care of, and then there’s working 9-5. I thought my work ethic was good at university but nothing prepared me for a full working day. For the first few weeks I was constantly exhausted and relied far too much on One Pan Mac’n’Cheese. As with everything though, finding the balance is key. It took me a while, but I eventually got there!

It was the struggle to get the balance right that led me to be totally interested in the Work Life Balance Quiz compiled by Simply Health. I did this honestly, but wasn’t at all surprised by the results – as expected I’m a “Volleyer.” Good at prioritising, I’ll switch from integrating and separating work and fun stuff, depending on what the situation calls for.

So, what’s the key for balancing my life? Well…

 photo 4fb9dacd-00b9-4020-ab50-d1deb97658db_zpsb7644b64.jpg photo 2015-01-10 20.09.54_zpsyk0ey3wo.jpgPrep and Plan Meals. I mentioned that I survived for far too long on easy, stodgy meals when I first started work, and not only did that make me feel pretty bloated and lethargic, it also didn’t help with some sneaky weight gain. Far better is to spend a little while at the weekend working out what meals to have. I’ll plan when I’m likely to have to work late, when I’ve got anything planned socially, and what I fancy eating. I’ll even do bits like chopping veg in advance – and obviously batch-cooking and freezing meals is a great little tip too.

Plan Evenings Off. A busy social life is great. Spending all evening typing away at blog posts makes me feel super-organised. At the end of the day, everyone needs some down time, and so I try to plan evenings when I don’t do anything but read, paint my nails, and think.

Have Me Time. Failing whole evenings off, just plan a bit of you time into every day. I like to sit in the park and read at lunch – even if it’s only for ten minutes when I’m really busy. I like to sit in bed each morning with a cup of tea. I like to read a few chapters of my latest book before bed.

Don’t Bring Work Home. I’m lucky in that company policy when I started dictated that I didn’t receive a laptop – so I couldn’t physically bring work home. I know if I did I’d always be tempted to do a little here, a little there, and I’d never fully switch off. Obviously I know its not always practical, but my aim is to try and keep my job limited to working hours as much as possible – whilst still getting everything done.

 photo 2014-09-24175026_zps64eef189.jpgWork Smart. When you are working, work. No checking twitter (guilty), emails (guilty) or texting the boyfriend (double guilty). If you work smartly you’ll get tasks completed quicker, leaving more free time. To-Do lists are something I rely on hugely – I couldn’t live without carrying my Filofax around with me!

Cut out Perfectionist Tendencies. I’m a huge perfectionist, I hate having uncompleted work or making errors. I’ll constantly check my work for mistakes, I’ll take on more and more responsibility in projects to retain control, and none of this is particularly healthy. Sometimes you need to accept that things do go wrong. By all means do everything to the best of your ability, but don’t stress over it.

Enjoy It. Above all, enjoy what you do. Enjoy your job, enjoy your life out of work. If not, the balance is clearly off!

Disclaimer: I was invited to take the quiz and share the results, however this is not a sponsored post and no money exchanged hands. And as ever, all opinions are my own!

How do you make sure you have the right work-life balance? What kind of a worker are you?

Careers: The Job Hunt

Having secured myself a year-long placement in my chosen field I was pretty damn chugged with myself, so I thought I’d so a little career series. I talked about how the write the best CV a few weeks back, but now it’s the turn of hunting down those opportunities.
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Make a List

More specific for graduates hunting down post-university roles I guess, but having a list of potential companies makes hunting down jobs a lot easier. Despite not even heading back to university I’ve already start a spreadsheet of companies, whether they offer specific graduate schemes and, if so, requirements and anticipated opening dates. Better overprepared that under!

Utilise LinkedIn

I cannot recommend this enough. I’ve recently been headhunted to apply for a graduate scheme ahead of the competition through LinkedIn, so whilst it might not directly get you a job it will get your noticed. Keep it up to date with your skills and experience, and share interesting industry news. Treat it as your professional facebook!

Search Often

Obviously it depends on how desperate your are, but I would suggest searching a couple of times a week. I know a lot of jobs that are filled on a rolling basis rather than having a specific closing date, so keeping a close eye is the best plan.
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Think Outside of the Box

I would never have gotten my placement had I not researched lesser known insurance companies. I had never heard of my company and know a lot of people have no idea who I’m talking about – it really does pay to search around.

Take Risks

With my placement I also tried an area out I hadn’t previously been too interested in – turns out I love it and it would be great to come back to it after graduation. Try something new out, you might end up loving it!

And above all – Don’t Lose Heart

I think the key to job searching is don’t give up. It can be sole-destroying when nothing comes up (believe me, I’ve been there) but if you keep at it the right opportunity is out there.

What are your top job-hunting tips?

University: Dream Jobs You May Not Know About

Remember when you were little and asked what you wanted to be when you grew up? I remember one year I found out there was a person who tested out water slides – and I was desperate for that job. I also wanted to be (in no particular order) an RSPCA Inspector, vet, interior designer, quantity surveyor and accountant. I’m now pretty sure I’m working towards my dream job, ironically not one of those on the list.

I recently came across this list of of slightly ‘odd’ dream jobs and I couldn’t help but share – who wouldn’t want to earn £39k a year tasting ice cream?!

View Interactive Version (via Savoo).

Note: this is NOT a sponsored post.

Any careers on the list that tempt you? What did you want to be when you were growing up?

REBLOGGED: Diary of an (Actuarial) Undergrad – Trials and Tribulations of a Good CV

I was recently asked to do a couple of guest posts for my university’s careers service blog, which can be found here. I must say, the support I have already received from the University of Kent in terms of careers has been outstanding. I reccomend a look on their website even if you aren’t a student, as there is some amazing advice. Definitely check out their blog too, and here’s my original post.

 

I’ve just finished my first year in Actuarial Science (which is, to put it very simply, a mixture of mathematics, applied statistics, economics and finance) and will be beginning a yearlong placement in the summer of 2014 as part of my degree. As of yet applications are only just starting to open, so I’ve been concentrating on getting my CV up to scratch.

 

The simple fact is you will be asked to produce a CV for potential employers at some point in your life.

I’ve held two part-time jobs whilst studying, and both of these were obtained by handing my CV to a prospective manager, so I know firsthand how crucial these ‘little bits of paper’ are. I also know that having to quickly produce one to hand over is probably one of the most stressful things in existence. So even if you ignore everything else I write in this post, at least do one thing; prepare your CV now, when you have a spare minute, and then update it as and when needed.

 

So, the perfect CV. What’s in it? What definitely shouldn’t be in it? How long should it be? What font should I use?

There’s a list of endless questions you could ask, and I’m not going to pretend I have all of the answers. But I have been told my CV is strong, and I’ve also had some fabulous advice from Nikki Ellis (the industrial placement adviser in the Schools of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science) so I hope I can guide you to the right direction.

The general consensus is that a CV for industrial placements (and indeed graduate roles) should be 2 pages in length. That should be a full 2 pages. Not 1.5 with hugeeee writing. And not squished-up-with-tiny-margins-and-tiny-font 2 pages. You shouldn’t be altering the layout of your paper and the size of your font to compensate for too short/long CVs. On that note, go for a standard font (something like Calibri or Arial) – none of the fancy swirly stuff! Keep the size between 10 and 12, any smaller and it will be difficult to read, any larger and you run the risk of it looking a little child-like.

The layout used is a bit more personal. I went for a tabular style CV, with section headings down the left. I also made important details (sub-headings such as educational results and job titles) stand out by putting them in a bold type face. One of the best pieces of advice I have been given is to  break up large chunks of text, either through bullet points or some other means. A hunk of text will be off-putting, you want something easy to scan, something that will easily highlight how wonderful you are.

Content is a bit easier for me to advise on. I’ve been told that the order of the section in a CV should be as follows; contact details and profile; education; experience; skills; interests; and references. This is the order in which I will discuss the sections, just to make it a little easier for both me and you…

  • You want to start with your name and contact details. Make sure you include a phone number, email address and postal address.
  • Then go with a short paragraph (or maybe two even shorter ones) called a profile. This should briefly introduce yourself, summarise your experience and education, and state your current career goals. This section should be brief and to the point, and no more than a few sentences. Now is not the time to waffle (actually, at no point should a CV contain waffle!).
  • Then comes the education section. This should be in reverse chronological order, i.e. the most recent first. A good piece of advice, particularly if you find yourself short of space, is that the most recent qualifications should be talked about more, and the ones you took years ago the least. Hence I have just two lines devoted to my GCSE’s on my CV; the institution I sat them at, and the grades received. I haven’t mentioned specific subjects (although it is a good idea to clarify that they do include Mathematics and English), but I did mention the subjects I studied at A-level and devoted a little more space to these qualifications.
  • University modules and grades are often far more important. If your degree is directly relevant to the roles you are applying for, I’ve been told to detail the modules you have taken. I was also advised that, if ALL of your module grades are of a high standard, to include them in your CV. However, I really wouldn’t advise doing this if one is significantly lower than the others, or if they should any kind of inconsistencies in your academics. Best to use your own judgment to make that call!
  • Again in reverse chronological order comes your work experience. This can be anything from volunteering roles to employment. My personal advice would be to head each section with the place of work and the timescale, then briefly evaluate which skills you have gained from the role.
  • Following this section should be where you detail your key skills. My opinion is that bullet points are best for this, but at the same time make sure you write in full coherent sentences. Steer clear of clichés, and make sure you don’t repeat yourself. I know when I first got my CV reviewed by Nikki Ellis she counted a ridiculous 21 “I am”s in mine! Keep things clear, to the point, and relevant to the kind of roles you are applying for.
  • Next is the interests section. I’ll admit my CV actually lacks this, as I was short on space and it the thing that should be compromised on as opposed to nixing part of your education or employment history. This section is more important to some companies than others (do your research when applying!) and remember that any hobby or interest you list will give an impression about you as a person so think carefully about any potential implications.
  • Finally references. Here you have a choice; include full contact details of your chosen referees (make sure they are happy to provide references prior to submitting your CV if you chose to do this!) or state that you have references available on request. At university I’ve been told I need to include on academic referee (check with your department who the appropriate person is) and one employment referee; I have stated these two referees, and also mentioned that I am able to provide further employment references on request (as I have held done more than one job in the past).

 

And so that’s it, my not-so-brief guide as to what a CV should look like and include. I hope it helps at least one of you to create an excellent CV and hopefully gain a job! I’ll hopefully be back in a few weeks with a post on application processes, and those lovely online logical and numerical reasoning tests that a lot of companies implement into applications. Until then, have fun updating your CV…