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A taxing question….

Do you know whether tax is payable on either or both of the below – and why?  It all comes down to a point of law.  We pay tax on chocolate-covered biscuits, but not on chocolate-covered cakes apparently.  So, the poor old chocolate hobnob is deemed taxable whereas the jaffa cake is let off.  Why?  Because a jaffa cake is technically a cake and not a biscuit.  After great legal debate, the jaffa cake was eventually confirmed as a cake because, as any baker will tell you, cakes go hard when stale whereas biscuits go soft.  Try it and see – a jaffa cake will go hard when left out of a tin for too long.

Jaffa Cakes NEW    Hobnob NEW

If you are interested in debates like the above and have a talent for problem-solving and well-honed analytical skills, then tax could be for you.  You would also need to enjoy working with numbers and words, building strong professional relationships with private or corporate clients and constantly keeping up-to-date with changes in the law.

The really good news is that there is a shortage of students out there applying for roles in tax.  Every year firms tell us that they are struggling to fill vacancies.    Tax specialists work in a range of employers, from accountancy firms, specialist tax practices, HM Inland Revenue and Customs, in-house for larger companies and organisations, law firms, banks – and many more. You could start by helping complete tax returns and move into consultancy work, gaining highly-regarded professional qualifications along the way.  Pay, as you might expect for a skilled professional, is rewarding.

Mark, a tax specialist, says: “Tax sounds quite dry, but it needn’t be (and isn’t) all about dry calculations.  It gives you an opportunity to be involved in a challenging area that’s always evolving and to use your skills to help individuals navigate important events in their lives, and to be involved with helping businesses make key commercial decisions.”

Interested to know more?  Then come along to the Graduate Recruitment and Placements Fair this Wednesday 27 April in the Forum from 11.00 – 15.00 and speak to SimplTax (www.simpletaxreturns.com) who have graduate roles and summer internships on offer.

And read more about tax here:

https://targetjobs.co.uk/career-sectors/accountancy-and-financial-management/279487-tax-graduate-area-of-work

and here:

https://www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles/tax-adviser

Mary Baldwin is the Careers Adviser for the School of Education.

What counts as ‘conflicting priorities’ and how do I answer that question?

Often, in applications and at interview you get asked this question – ‘How have you dealt with conflicting priorities?’ or a variation of this question. But what does the employer want to hear?

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The question is designed to test your organisational and prioritising abilities – how do you problem solve or deal with demanding deadlines? The employer seeks for you to demonstrate strategic thinking and your ability to understand business objectives, in relation to your own, which should inform how you organise yourself.

Before you can answer this question – think of an example. An easy one is you’re working part time whilst studying. Your manager asks you to come in and do extra work but you also have an important upcoming assessment deadline. You want to facilitate a positive relationships with your manager but simultaneously your degree is extremely  important too.How do you deal with such conflicting priorities?

The answer will of course be your own. You could walk the employer through your thinking and logic when making decisions. It could be that you explain that education is important but your work ethic means a lot to you so you come in to do the extra hours but you then time manage effectively and spend time in the library to complete your assessment to a high standard. I sadly can’t answer the question for you – you’d have to think of an example for yourself.

The key in answering this question is explaining effectively your thinking process behind your actions. For example, some people refer to The Eisenhower Decision Matrix, as below

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Overall, there is no right or wrong answer. All the employer wants to hear from you is a clear explanation of how you deal with pressure/a deadline. As a student, there will be countless examples of conflicting deadlines you’ve faced. Always make sure you walk them through your rationale and thinking of dealing with such situations. The end result for them is to be satisfied that you will be able to withstand pressure and it’s something you’ve dealt with before. The employer wants to be confident that you can work independently and self-manage – so simply assure them of it, using excellent communication skills (whether in an interview or an application) and an appropriate example.

Finally, always talk about the result. So if we come back to my work vs university example – a good way to finish that answer is ‘I achieved a good grade for that assignment, whilst submitting it on time. I also did 6 hours extra work that weekend and my manager was very pleased with the service I delivered’. You therefore demonstrate that your excellent strategic logical thinking lead to a positive outcome. How can an employer resist such a high calibre candidate?

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Kristina Tamane is the Careers Adviser for the School of Life and Medical Sciences and the Joint Honours Programme. You’re welcome to follow her on Twitter or Pinterest for varied job posts and general advice and updates.

One week left to apply for flare 2016!

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With one week to go until the close of round one, the enterprise team are here with some words of advice to help you through the first phase of the competition.

Opportunities aplenty

flare gives anyone with an idea the opportunity to gain recognition for it, no matter how far along in the planning process you are or what skills you bring to the product or service on offer. You might be the business brains behind the venture, the inventor with a gadget that will set the world alight, the technical genius with an app to revolutionise the way we work or you might just have a simple solution to a problem that’s been bugging you for a while.

Here to help

Many of us have an idea but don’t know where to turn, so think of flare as more of a helping hand than a competition. Of course there’s a formal process to it and a deadline for entries, but both of these things can only help you to structure your thinking and move your idea to the next stage.

Don’t be afraid

The first phase of entering a competition is scary, that’s for sure, but only in a good way. Video entries are all the rage in the competition world at the moment, so if you can get your head around the process now, you’re likely to be in a great position for future pitching opportunities.

Stick to the point

Be clear and concise when explaining your idea. You won’t be judged on your acting ability, but we do need to understand what it is that you’re trying to communicate to us.

The judges want to know what your product or service is, how it meets the needs of the consumer, what the benefits are to the end user, what’s unique about it – unique doesn’t mean it has to be the first of its kind, it could be an improvement on someone else’s idea – and why you think it deserves to win the competition.

Write down your thoughts

Why did you come up with the idea in the first place, what are the three or four key things you want to get across to the audience, then say it out loud to people you feel comfortable sharing it with.

Pitch to your friends

Ask them if it makes sense and if there’s anything they didn’t grasp how you could explain it better to them. Take their points on board, you might not agree with all of them, but they’re still worth considering.

Nothing to lose

flare is not the be all and end all. If you make it through to the next round then great, if you don’t then now is not the time to give up. Consider this as a starting point. You have already gained some great exposure and you’ve prepared a pitch that can be used to promote your idea whenever the next opportunity arises.

Ask for feedback

Don’t forget to ask for feedback on your idea; book an appointment on CareerHub to discuss next steps and make sure you sign up to our newsletter so that you can be notified of all the supportive initiatives we will be running throughout 2016.

This blog was written by Kate Serby, Enterprise Officer at the University of Hertfordshire.

How to deal with with difficult interview questions

Question: ‘How many square feet of pizza are eaten in the UK every year?’

Careers, Employment & Enterprise Adviser, Donald Lush, explains the best way to deal with those ‘curve ball’ questions at an interview.

For more information and other resources on interviews, please search for the keyword ‘Interviews’ under the resources section of CareerHub.

You can book an appointment to speak with an adviser about interviews by calling us on 01707 284791.

My Flux 500 Experience part 2

Yesterday we left Jordan exhausted after the first day of the Flux 500 competition. Read on to find out how he and his team fared on day two…

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By the start of the second day, the time seemed to fly by even quicker than the first and the nerves of remembering lines for the presentation was intense. And before we knew it, we were summoned to give our presentation, not only in front of the judges, but also in front of the other three Universities within our group that we were competing against and it almost felt as though I was back in second year at University taking part in an in-class presentation that was worth a percentage of my final grade!

However, from the beginning to end, the presentation seemed to run seamlessly and everyone seemed confident in the way the presentation had gone. Straight after the presentation followed 10 minutes of Q and As on our business ideas which was quite challenging. This was quite difficult to deal with at first because it involved business experts in a range of different areas to ask specific questions but the team managed to tackle every single question, often chipping in to help if a member of the team seemed to be struggling with a particular response.

After this was done, we were allowed a short break and then told about task two which was a 5 minute pitch to all judges, sponsors and 12 Universities. The topic was slightly different and focused on a scenario where the directors needed a four month goal to show instant success in increasing profits to prevent the organisation from closing down.

The catch however was that the winners of the first round were not announced until after preparation for the final pitch was done and only the winners of each stream were allowed to present! And we only had 45 minutes in order to prepare this.

We rushed back to the drawing board and got straight back to work knowing that time was against us and somehow managed to streamline our original ideas into a four month plan, ready to give the final pitch our all and then shortly after, we were summoned to hear the results…

As the winners of our stream were announced, our whole team felt disheartened that we did not qualify for the finals and would not get to pitch our final idea to everyone but we left proud knowing that with the limited amount of time we had, we were able to come up with a strong strategic business plan and deliver an effective 10 minute presentation to business professionals getting our ideas across.

Although we didn’t win, not only did I learn a great deal and develop my key skills in the short amount of time but I also got the opportunity to network with global organisations whilst being at the competition. It was a fantastic experience which I would recommend any enterprising students or even students who watch The Apprentice’ and say “I can do a better job than them!” to step forward, get involved and take on the challenge next year!

 

My Flux 500 Experience part 1

Last week a team from University of Hertfordshire went to Lancaster to represent the university in the Flux 500, the largest student business challenge in the UK. Jordan Batchelor, part of team UoH, tells us how he got on.

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Exciting, thrilling, insightful, chaotic, exhausting and rewarding.

These are some of the key words that spring to mind when I think about my Flux 500 experience. In the very early hours of the day as I was making my way to Euston Station to meet the team my mind was racing with ideas and business plans – and I didn’t even know what the scenario was yet!

As it seemed that no one was particularly looking forward to the lengthy train journey, it gave us all a chance to properly introduce ourselves to one another and allowed us to merge into a cohesive team rather than a group full of individuals.

Upon arriving at Lancaster University, we were shown to our accommodation and then given our schedule for the day.

Our very busy schedule involved a number of events such as meeting the sponsors of the event which included organisations such as Deloitte, Milkround, IBM and BAE Systems. After this was completed, we were given instructions on how the day ahead would be run and important timings to follow and this information was closely followed by revealing what our mystery business scenario would be!

At first, the reality of being on an Industrial Placement for the past six months started to sink in as I was panicking, worrying whether I had forgot everything I had learnt in the past two years. And my confidence was not eased by the sight of many of the other teams fully equipped with up-to-date Business textbooks but nevertheless I was ready to take on the challenge!

We then found out that we were split into three groups of four; with each group having one team that advanced to the finals and then the wait was finally over… We were told what our task was.

Our task was to “Explore and suggest new and innovative ideas that will increase profitability (in a department store) and whether this is achieved through lowering costs, increased revenue or a combination of the two.” At first this seemed to be a dream question because it focused on a business who was not making as much profits as is used to and now relied on our team who were Business Analysts to present the Board of Directors with a strategic plan to rectify this. However, the more information we got with the task made it incredibly challenging to find a new ideas and display how the idea/s would make the business more profitable in both the short and long term.

Once we had been given the task, we went off in our groups to plan for our presentation that would follow the next day. At first, we nominated a Project Manager to ensure that there was a head figure to keep the team on track at all times. Although I was not the Project Manager, I found myself working very closely with him making certain that the team stayed on track as well as making sure no one was left out and if any individuals were struggling with a particular section of work, we could all support them to the best of our ability.

At first we had loads of ideas flying around the table and the ‘Apprentice’ style feel for the task had really kicked in as we had started to run out of flipchart paper – scribbling down all of our creative ideas. In this time we managed to divide up tasks on who felt confident researching in particular sections and started to pull key facts and statistics to bring up for our presentation.

We were only given a limited amount of time with our Enterprise Champion in order to relay all of the information that we had researched for the task and allowed time for brief guidance and advice.

It felt as though we were only at work for a couple of minutes before being told that we had to wrap up for the day and it didn’t hit us until we stopped working that we were all knackered! As a group we decided to get an early night’s rest and meet up a couple of hours earlier than expected to further plan in an attempt to gain an advantage over our competitors.

 

What I wish I knew before: Life as a graduate

06/01/2016 1 comment

Does the white noise during university mean you miss out on the important stuff and only notice it when it feels too late? UH graduate Maria Currant, who now works for the university’s graduate employment scheme in the Careers, Employment and Enterprise Service talks about this, how she felt at graduation and how she found her graduate job.

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3 months ago I had just graduated from the University of Hertfordshire and been handed my degree whilst wearing the black gown and the funny hat and I said to my friend, “Now what?”  Seriously, I had just been dropped into the big wide world of work and it was like “Hey you graduated, you’re meant to have your life sorted by now!”

 

After studying a degree in education studies I had decided within second year that being a teacher just wasn’t for me. I searched online numerous times wondering what else can I do with this degree of mine.  I was lucky enough to have a programme tutor who regularly updated us with vacancies that relate to my degree and that is where my journey began.

I was scrolling through Facebook when an email from said tutor popped up in my inbox titled GRADUATE EMPLOYMENT! – Graduate scheme specifically for University of Hertfordshire Graduates within the Careers, Employment and Enterprise team. I didn’t even know the university offered a graduate employment scheme just for UH graduates. In fact they run this scheme throughout the University not just this department. Something tugged at me to click the link even though after numerous times of seeing a job I liked, clicking the link and deciding that I wasn’t qualified for the job, I took a leap of faith and clicked.  I read the job spec and was so excited but dreaded scrolling down to the person specification, I scrolled down and was surprised when I felt as though I met the criteria.

Without anyone knowing I secretly applied for the position and was called for an interview! I was so happy and scared at the same time. I had never even stepped foot into a formal interview apart from the casual interviews I had for previous cleaning jobs whilst studying. I started to freak out wishing that I knew then where I could go to for some advice. The day of the interview I was met with friendly faces and very happy people. After the interview I went off on my holiday that day and by 7pm that night I had a phone call offering me the job.  What a way to make the start of the holiday even more special. My first day was so nerve wracking but I was so excited. Everyone was so friendly and made me feel right at home from the off.

The main reason I am writing this blog is because I now am 3 months in to my job and absolutely love it but I have learnt that the Careers, Employment and Enterprise team do so much more for students then students know about (although it’s always advertised, which points to student blindness/I’ll put it off until next week syndrome).

Did you know that they do mock interviews? Daily CV reviews? Help with finding a placement? Workshops? Employer events?  Fairs? Advice on what your degree can offer you, and so very much more, the best part is it’s all free, including the workshops. As well as that, being able to access the service two years after you graduate means they can help you even after you leave. I never thought I would be sat here on the other side of the screen screaming at it to tell you all to just make use of these services. Even if it is just for a CV check before you apply for that job, because right now I can see the hard work and dedication the team put in to helping you guys and honestly it really can make the difference between you getting the job to you not getting the job.

I wish as a student I had made better use of the services whilst I was at university and that I hadn’t had the student blindness syndrome, as I wouldn’t have had that feeling when I was wearing the funny hat and holding my degree that I didn’t know what I was going to do next.

 

 

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