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My Work Experience Isn’t Relevant – A Graduates Perspective.

4 months after starting my graduate job within the careers department I find myself sat at my desk considering how I actually got here. Looking back none of my work experience seemed relevant to my job. I was a cleaner for most of my time at university and before that I worked within the equestrian sector. But here I am working as a Graduate Careers and Placements Assistant, doing things I never thought I would be capable of.

So how did I get here with work experience which I felt was “irrelevant”? Often we find ourselves selling ourselves short as we feel like we cannot possibly have the experience to do a certain job. However jobs like the ones I did tend to give you a number of transferable skills and a unique perspective on working life. My first proper job was working within a branch of the HSBC bank as a cleaner, I had never had so much responsibility and at the time I didn’t realise how valuable working there would be.  I leant to take a pride in my work – the cleaner the bank was, the more I was appreciated which allowed me to be given more responsibility.  It taught me that I must stay organised, be professional and be able to maintain high levels of confidentiality, whilst ensuring health and safety standards were met.

You may think a job working at the local chippy won’t help you to gain a graduate level role but look beyond the obvious tasks of your job and think about all the different roles and responsibilities you have carry out that may be of importance to the company and enable you to meet the requirements of the person specification. Transferable skills can take many different forms such as:

  • problem solving
  • organisation
  • working to deadlines
  • management and leadership
  • negotiation
  • motivating people
  • making decisions
  • research skills

Next time you think a job sounds beyond the experience you have, look deeper and think about all of the small things that make you different from others and sell yourself; no work experience is “irrelevant” –  it’s how you sell yourself that matters.

How A Recruitment Agency can help students

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A big concern for many university students is how you are going to put all your hard work to good use and get your foot on the career ladder. What many of you won’t realise is just how much a recruitment agency could help in that process, both during your time at university and after graduation.

How can registering with a recruitment agency help me while I’m at university?

The long university holidays are a perfect time to get some work experience and temporary work is a great way for you to gain transferable skills, boost your CV and earn some extra money. Using an agency to get temporary work while you’re studying removes a lot of the stress, because you’ll be allocated a Recruitment Consultant who will know your availability and what it is you’re looking for. They’ll let you know of opportunities that fit your skills, which will save you a lot of time.

Temping can give you a good idea of what kind of role you want to do long term, as you can see which aspects of each role you did and didn’t enjoy and get a realistic idea of what will work for you career-wise. Evidence of work experience on your CV will prove to employers that you’re willing to work hard, make you stand out from other candidates, and give you the essential skills that graduate jobs require. A lot of graduate roles will be office-based and so registering with an agency like (https://www.lawrencedeanrecruitment.co.uk/) Lawrence Dean Recruitment, which specialises in these sectors, will give you relevant experience.

How can an agency help me after graduation?

 Graduate schemes are extremely competitive, and if you aren’t accepted into your chosen scheme straight away, talking about your options will help you to figure out what to do next. If you have your heart set on a specific scheme, temporary work could be a great way to gain experience in the sector you want to work in. At Lawrence Dean Recruitment we also have a wide range of permanent roles available and in these you may find the perfect role that you hadn’t even considered before!

Why is a recruitment agency better than applying for jobs on my own?

 You will have your own Recruitment Consultant, who will give you a realistic idea of what kind of work you can apply for, based on your skills and experience.  They will also advise you if they think that you have unrealistic expectations. This will not only save you a lot of time applying for jobs that you have no chance of getting but will also mean that you’re more likely to be successful in your applications. At Lawrence Dean Recruitment we like to give candidates feedback even when they’re unsuccessful, so that they know for next time what they can work on and improve to give a higher chance of success in the future!

 Your Lawrence Dean Recruitment Consultant will be able to offer you tailored CV advice based on your career expectations and they will know exactly what employers are looking for and what the role entails. You will get support throughout the whole process, as well as having access to a wide range of jobs and advice on which positions will suit you. This removes a lot of pressure from your job search and means that a lot of the hard work is done for you.

For more information on how we can help you please visit our website at https://www.lawrencedeanrecruitment.co.uk/

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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.

Meet the Employer Service Team

 

 

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Top row, left to right: Nick Clarke, Chloe Collins, James Allen                      Bottom row, left to right: Anjulie Mottram, Gill Mckenzie, Sallie Wilson, Ellie Krastina

 

For those of you who don’t know, the Employer Service Team was established in March 2013 and sits within the Careers, Employment and Enterprise Service at the University of Hertfordshire. A team of eight we are the only “non-student facing” group within the service and are tasked with building links with industry and acting as the point of contact for anyone wishing to access the wide range of student talent the university has to offer. We also take the lead on employer events within the university such as careers fairs and employer presentations. The Careers, Employment and Enterprise employer services are non-chargeable to the majority of employers as our focus is on providing opportunities for student / recruiter engagement rather than generating revenue. Chances are if you’re a student meeting a recruiter on campus or an employer meeting a student, a member of the Employer Service Team will have played a part in facilitating that link. There are a range of channels open for recruiters to meet students including but not limited to careers fairs, roadshows, guest presentations and lecture drop-ins. We also aim to be as flexible as possible and to accommodate any fresh new ideas recruiters may have for attracting talent.

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.

UCAS Points – Who Needs Them?

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It’s probably been a few years since you took your A Levels or BTEC so it can come as a surprise to find out that you won’t only need a 2.1 degree or above to apply for some graduate schemes or sandwich placements. Suzanne Ball from our Careers Adviser team explains why some employers use UCAS points as part of their selection criteria and what you can do if you don’t have enough points to apply for some jobs or placements.

Why do employers want to know my UCAS points score?

It’s common for large companies to include a minimum UCAS points score as one of the entry requirements for their graduate training schemes and sandwich placements.  The theory is that good performance at A Level predicts good performance at university and in the workplace. However employers are starting to recognise that they’re missing out on talented students who are performing well at degree level but underachieved at A Level.  It’s also been noted that focusing on UCAS points skews the selection process in favour of students from more affluent backgrounds. On the positive side some large employers e.g. EY and PwC have recently stopped taking candidates’ UCAS points into account and it’s likely that this trend will spread to other companies.

What should I do if my UCAS points total isn’t high enough?

It’s frustrating if you’re prevented from applying for a job or placement that really interests you because the employer is asking for a minimum of 300 UCAS points and you only have 280.  It’s particularly galling if you’re on track for a good degree and have lots of relevant experience.  However don’t despair, even if you don’t have say 300 or 320 UCAS points it doesn’t mean you can’t aspire to a graduate training scheme or placement.  Try the following tactics:

Check the small print. Some employers make life even more difficult by stating that the 320 points required must be from your best three A Levels (so an additional AS Level won’t count) or from exams taken in one sitting (causing a problem for people who did resits).  However others will accept a points total from all your qualifications so it’s possible that additional courses you took while at college or in the sixth form will boost your points total.

Look at other companies. There is some variation in the number of UCAS points required from company to company so don’t give up your job search – particularly if you are a “near miss”.  You can also target organisations that don’t use UCAS points as selection criteria which will include public sector organisations such as the NHS, some large companies and most smaller companies.

Do you have (genuine) extenuating circumstances? Some (but not all) employers will be flexible if there are genuine, verifiable, reasons for a disappointing performance at A Level. If you can provide evidence, e.g. medical certificates, then you should contact the employer’s recruitment team directly by phone or email to see if they would be prepared to take your circumstances into consideration.  Make sure you do this well before the closing date.  Bear in mind that you will usually need very compelling evidence for the employer to be flexible.

Try a foot-in-the-door approach. If you are a first or second year student then you could try applying for sandwich placements or summer internships at companies that have high UCAS point requirements for their graduate schemes.  Some companies have more flexible entry requirements for placements/internships and it’s possible that if you excel in your placement the company might fast-track you through the application process for its graduate scheme.  Another option, if you are very keen to work for a particular company, is to look for a lower level job within the organisation after you graduate with the aim of working your way up.

Resitting your A Levels is usually not the answer. Resitting one or more A Levels sounds like the obvious solution but there are a few problems with this approach.  Firstly, some employers will only accept points from exams taken in one sitting.  Secondly, you need to think about the impact that time-consuming additional study will have on your university work.  It won’t help you to achieve an A in your Maths A Level resit if it means that your degree classification falls from a 2.1 to a 2.2.  Thirdly, there’s no guarantee that you will improve your points total in a meaningful way even after doing resits.

Finally, it’s important to remember that employers rarely specify UCAS points when recruiting more experienced staff so once you have some graduate employment experience a low UCAS points score will no longer be a problem.

No UCAS points?  Look out for our blog post coming up soon.

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 on all things creative via @careerview

 

Life of a Placement Student: Applications and Interviews Abroad

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Hi my name’s Dani and I’m the Enterprise placement student for Careers, Employment and Enterprise. Through these posts you will get an insight into the daily tasks and life of a student on placement. Firstly, I would like to give you some background information about myself; I am a BA Business Studies student at the University of Hertfordshire and have just spent the last year studying abroad at the University of Western Sydney, which was an incredible opportunity.

Whilst abroad, I had the struggle of attempting to find a placement for when I returned home for my third year. Fortunately, I found this opportunity advertised on www.careerhub.herts.ac.uk and sent through my CV and Cover Letter and was lucky enough to be shortlisted for an interview; however it wasn’t your regular interview, it was via Skype. For any student currently abroad applying for jobs back in the UK, or students interested in working abroad, Skype will become extremely important for interviews. To some degree, it makes you feel less nervous because you aren’t in the room with the interviewers. But at the same time you have a lot of responsibilities, in particular making sure your surroundings are appropriate. For example, make sure you’re in a quiet location, preferably your bedroom and don’t forget to put a note on your door…having flatmates or unexpected guests walk in during your interview isn’t going to end well!

Also, TIME ZONES, the bane of our existence, making phone/skype interviews much harder than expected. Make sure you confirm the time of your interview and ensure any number you provide to your potential employer includes the dialling code appropriate for your country. My advice to any student in their second year looking for a placement, would be to start early and make sure you make the potential employer is aware of your location in your cover letter. It’s important to bear in mind some companies may not put you through to the interview stage if they don’t get to meet you in person. However, fortunately there is a growing number of international companies and they understand, that in order to recruit a multicultural and well-travelled workforce, they must appreciate and incorporate these forms of communication when interviewing for a vacancy.

Hopefully you found these tips helpful and I look forward to updating you with further insights into the ‘Life of a Placement Student’ soon!

 

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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