How placement prepares you for final year

 

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When making the decision to take a placement year, there are a variety of benefits you will be made aware of, for example, it is real life on the job experience, you will likely receive a salary and it is more experience to add to your CV before you graduate. However, one major factor that may be forgotten is how it may benefit/prepare you for final year. As a student currently on placement, I can already see how certain skills I have learnt and developed over the past 8 months on placement will help me.

Time management; an area that many of us believe we’re good at, but when it comes to submitting assignments, we are all too used to those late nights wishing we had started weeks ago. Does that sound familiar? When it comes to final year, the workload is immense; thank you to all my final year friends for making me fully aware of what I’m letting myself in for. If like me, you’re considering doing a dissertation, this skill becomes even more valuable. My major recommendation, would be to treat any essay you are given, like a report your manager has asked you to complete. I know you might be thinking ‘easier said than done’, but for those who haven’t had the opportunity to go out on placement, they will likely be in the same mind-set they were in in 1st and 2nd year. View your placement as a trial year, for getting the hang of planning and meeting deadlines, because your managers certainly aren’t going to be as lenient as your tutors.

Public speaking; did a wave of panic just hit you, like it did me? In 1st year these were two of my most dreaded words, from presenting in class, to answering questions. In your final year, group presentations are likely to be a common assessment, so ensuring you are confident and prepared is essential. My advice would be to get as much experience presenting while on placement as you can, whether it is just to a couple of colleagues or an all team meeting. This is an opportunity to practice how you present yourself, in terms of body language, projecting your voice and overall confidence. Being able to perfectly execute a presentation will allow you to clock up those essential marks that will certainly help your overall grade. Another area this will help you with, are interviews for graduate employment, being able to sell yourself is essential.

So there are you are, a couple of skills that I have learnt while on placement that I believe will be invaluable for final year.

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Mind the gap – presenting gaps in employment on your CV

 

The function of your CV is to make a fantastic first impression and help you secure a role. Therefore, it’s vital that your document is well presented and formatted and is showing the very best side of you – highlighting your skills and what you can add to the company.

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Often, an employer would look for a flowing story of your employment, education and experiences and wherever possible you should avoid having gaps in your employment.

Typical reasons for employment gaps include, and more:

  • Maternity leave
  • Travel
  • Study/work break
  • Being dismissed from a role/made redundant and the associated psychological and personal issues of getting back into employment
  • Change of career path
  • Health issues

A gap in your history needs to acknowledged, if not through your CV, then cover letter or application form. Please remember that a gap in your employment is not a gap if you’re studying.

How to present gaps – a guide

Now that you’ve decided on that perfect job of Fortune Cookie Writer, you need to make sure your CV is up to scratch, showing your best sides only and convincing your employer that you’re the one for them.  How do you explain a year out or any gap in your education/employment? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Starting a degree/course and not completing it – what do I put on the CV?

If you started a degree course and decided it was not for you – you can disclose it on your CV but you do not have to – this depends on your situation and where you’re applying. It would be advisable to try and not have any large gaps on your CV. Say you started a degree at one university and then transferred to UH – simply state each university as a separate educational entry.

  1. Date formatting

If you have a gap in employment and is only very small, consider how you state dates. Rather than giving the full date, day of the week and starting time to the second – just leave it at month and year, such as May 2015 – June 2015. That way you could have started the role on 29/05/2015 and finished on 1/06/2015 but it does look slightly more whole on your CV.

Do not lie about the length of your employment to cover up a gap as the recruiting company could call your previous employer and check the information you provided, which may be problematic for you and could mean you will not be selected.

  1. Formatting magic

Make sure your CV is strategically formatted – showing your significant achievements, education and experience early on, on the first page.  Your front page could contain:

  • Your full name and contact details – phone number and e-mail
  • Your key skills
  • Your relevant education
  • Your relevant employment/work experience if you hold any (do not forget about volunteering!)

This way the first page of your CV then states all the employer is looking for and hopefully has intrigued them enough to want to interview you. Make it your aim to engage the employer with that Page 1.

  1. Keeping busy

If you did have time away from education or work, there is a good chance you would have kept busy somehow. Whilst travelling, you could have worked, which you would state on your CV. If the gap is due to maternity leave than you would have had your hands full with raising a family. State this, whatever it may have been, so the employer sees your progress.

If you’ve done any volunteering or undertaken courses (even self-taught) – mention that on your CV as well. A volunteering position can be stated as a role if your employment is described under the sub title Work Experience. You would simply state the organisation you were volunteering with, length of your time there and your job title would be ‘Volunteer’.

Finally, if you struggle with disclosing gaps on your CV and need someone’s input – book an appointment with us through CareerHub and we will gladly advise you on your formatting and content.

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 LinkedIn or Twitter or Pinterest for varied job posts and general careers advice.

Time to start planning your summer?

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It’s long been a frustrating fact. When you’re a student you have long holidays and little or no money to go anywhere, and when you’re working it’s the opposite: a bit more money, but the time off in which to enjoy it is sadly curtailed.   With a bit of planning, though, you could have the best of both worlds.  How about working on a summer camp in the USA (several are currently being advertised on Career Hub), or working as an au pair or in hospitality in a Mediterranean resort? Check out Mark Warner, Summer Jobs Abroad and Gap 360 for further ideas.

How does it sound to have the beach or pool as your workplace?  If you are over 16, a good swimmer and can stay focused in an emergency, then working as a lifeguard might be the ideal job for you.  You could either work in a pool (outdoor options possible in the summer) or on one of the 200 lifeguarded beaches around the UK.  It is also a highly portable qualification if you want to work abroad or find part-time work while studying.  Find out more about beach lifeguarding from the RNLI and about pool lifeguarding from the RLSS.  Incidentally, you can qualify as a pool lifeguard at UH – the next course starts in April.

You could use your summer to test out a future career.  If you are considering teaching, Teach First offers taster days, or you could contact local schools to find work experience – the Schools Web Directory has a database searchable by location.  Inspiring Interns has short-term openings, as has Employment for Students e4s. Formal vacation schemes are highly-prized, offering an insight into an employer and, if you perform well, the chance of a longer-term job.  Inspiring Interns, Career Hub and Rate my Placement can all be good starting places to look.

For more ideas, come along to our Work Experience Fair on Wednesday 16 March in the Atrium on de Havilland. Around 30 organizations offering jobs or work experience at home and abroad will be on hand to tell you more. Career Hub has full details.

 

How to answer common interview question: ‘when have you worked well in a team?’

No UCAS points? No problem!

no ucasIf you were educated outside the UK or are a mature student it’s likely that the qualifications that won you a place at university won’t be included in the UCAS points tariff.  While this won’t have been a problem when you were applying to university it can cause difficulties if you want to apply to a company that requires a minimum UCAS points score for its graduate schemes or placements.  Suzanne Ball from our Careers Adviser team explains what the UCAS points tariff is and gives some tips on what to do if you encounter difficulties because you don’t have any UCAS points.

What are UCAS points and why do employers ask for them?

UCAS points were designed to help university admissions tutors set entry requirements for their degree courses.  Qualifications taken by school and college leavers in the UK are awarded points which vary depending on the level of the qualification and grade achieved. Although the UCAS tariff wasn’t designed to be used by employers, some large companies do use UCAS points to help them filter applicants for their placements and graduate schemes.  You can read more about why some employers use them here.

Can I find out if my qualifications have UCAS points?

Your first port of call should be the UCAS website as this has sets of tables giving details of which courses attract UCAS points.  The tariff does include a few international qualifications, such as the International Baccalaureate, however the vast majority of international qualifications and some UK qualifications aren’t included. International students may find it helpful to speak to someone in the Admissions team in the Student Centre as staff there will be able to tell you the UK equivalents to the qualifications you gained in your home country which may help you to work out a UCAS points score.  Bear in mind, however, that this won’t necessarily help you if the employer specifies that the UCAS score should be taken from your best three A Levels or if your score turns out to be lower than the employer is asking for.  If you are a UK student without the traditional university entry requirements then it may not be possible to give you any sort of UCAS points equivalence.

If I don’t have UCAS points, does this mean I can’t apply for some placements or graduate schemes?

Don’t worry if you don’t have any UCAS points as this shouldn’t be a barrier to applying for jobs and placements – particularly if you meet all the other requirements. You may encounter some problems during the application process but read on to find out how to tackle these.

So what should I do when filling out application forms or writing my CV?

Online application forms are usually the main cause of difficulties as they will often include a section that asks you to enter your UCAS score.  If this section includes a box where you can enter some text you could clearly and concisely explain your situation.  If the entry requirements for your degree course match or are higher than the UCAS score the employer is looking for then you could mention this.  In many cases, however, there isn’t the option to enter some text and you either have to select from a drop-down menu or enter three numbers.  If this happens then you’ll need to contact the employer directly to explain your situation and ask them what you should do.  It can sometimes be difficult to work out how to get in touch so try looking at the recruitment pages of their website – there will often be a generic recruitment team email address.  Alternatively try looking at the contact us section of the company’s website and use the most appropriate email address.  Make sure you include your name, any reference/candidate number you were given when you registered on the company’s recruitment site, the job title and any reference numbers for the post you’re applying for.  Clearly this will slow down the application process so you’ll need to start applications well before the deadline in case you need to contact the company to ask for guidance.  If you are applying using a CV you have more control over how to present your qualifications and you should include some explanation either on the CV itself or in the cover letter. If you would like help with how to present your situation to an employer you can make an appointment for a one-to-one with one of our Careers Advisers.

Don’t forget…

The UCAS points issue is only likely to cause problems while you’re a student or a new graduate; once you’ve landed your first graduate job it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever be asked your UCAS points score again!

Please note, this is the second instalment of our UCAS blogs. Click on the following link to read the first instalment: UCAS Points – Who Needs Them?

Suzanne Ball is the Careers Adviser for the School of Creative Arts and the School of Health & Social Work at the University of Hertfordshire.  She regularly tweets about all things creative via @careerview

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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.

Industry Liaison Update: Semester A roundup

With 2015 an increasingly distant memory and the summer fast approaching it feels like an appropriate time to look back over the past year and take stock of the achievements the University of Hertfordshire’s Employer Service Team has made on behalf of our students.

Semester A employer / student engagement

As a part of our central program alone, between September and December of 2015 the Employer Service Team hosted approximately 152 employers on campus and as a result directly facilitated the opportunity for over 2600 of our students to meet with industry representatives. Alongside bringing employers onto campus we are also working on behalf of our students to source and build cross industry links with both SMEs and larger businesses.

Changes to the team

In the summer of 2015 we added to our numbers with the appointment of Anjulie Mottram and Ellie Krastina. Anjulie is linked with the School of Computer Science and brings with her a wealth of business development and higher education experience. Ellie is a University of Hertfordshire student on her placement year and has joined the team as an Events Assistant to support in all aspects of the organisation and promotion of our careers focused events. In the short time since their appointment both Ellie and Anjulie have had a hugely positive impact on the team enabling us to provide an even more professional service to employers looking to engage with the university and our talented students.

To find out how we can support you in accessing the full range of student talent and recruiter services please call 01707 284 791 or email recruit@herts.ac.uk

This blog was written by James Allen, Employment and Placements Adviser at the University of Hertfordshire.

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