It’s almost a year ago that I interviewed Andre Lopes. He had just got a graduate job and I interviewed him about his job search and his time at university. You can read about it on my old university careers service blog.
I thought I would take the opportunity to interview him again and see how the graduate job experience has been for him. Thankfully, he agreed to the interview and I hope that through his graduate job experience current students or recent graduates can get some information and motivation.
Faizan (Interviewer): Almost a year since our last interview. How has this year been and are you still working at Nationwide or have you moved? By the way, what is your title at work?
Andre: I’m still at Nationwide in the same role as a Strategy Analyst but my responsibilities have changed and grown.
As a whole, my year has been all about settling in and adjusting to working life.
Faizan: In this one year, have you seen students improve their job search or felt they are a bit careless? Do you keep in touch with student activities – since you were involved in the Students Union – are you actively involved with student activities now?
Andre: With the economy continuing to stagnate, the graduate jobs market seems unlikely to pick up in the short-term so candidates are going to face similar challenges to graduates of recent years.
From what I’ve seen and heard, there’s definitely been a response to the increased competition for jobs and the best graduates are getting both more imaginative and prepared for getting a job. However, it’s all too easy to forget that hunting for jobs is really a question of quality, not quantity (though sometimes both!) so despite being in a tough jobs market, graduates really need to target where they want to work and really know the ins and outs of that company. For instance, you could do a quick SWOT diagram (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), if you can’t fill it in then open Google up and find out some possible answers. After all, if you were looking to hire someone, would you go for the candidate that can recite your company’s 100 year history or the one that knows the strategic challenges it faces?!
I’ve kept in touch with my university’s rowing club over the past year and taken part in several socials which have been really enjoyable, even as a graduate! I’ve yet to get involved in any of the university alumni activities but I’m aiming to do so in the coming months.
Faizan: Do graduates ask you for tips or help with finding a job – what do you tell them? If not, then do you think graduates should approach other grads who have a job to find out more?
Andre: When I’ve been back to Leicester, I’ve been asked for advice from friends; some are worried that they’ve waited too long or that they don’t have enough accomplishments to talk about.
My advice to them is that jobs are always coming and going so missing grad scheme deadlines in the Winter doesn’t mean you’re stuck for a year and accomplishments are everywhere – no matter what you’ve done outside your course, there’s going to be something different and interesting that an employer will want to hear about, your challenge is to understand what skills you used and what you got out of it.
If you had to pin me down to give a single piece of advice, it would be to learn from your mistakes – try and find out why a certain approach didn’t/isn’t working and adapt – your chances of employment can only get better!
At least while they’re still at University, graduates do want to know how each other got their jobs, they just need to keep in touch once they move away so that they keep their contacts and continue to understand how others achieved their job.
Faizan: Are you involved in any extra-curricular activities outside work? How has life changed with getting into work and having a different lifestyle? What’s the one thing that really hit you as a change?
Andre: Not a great deal at the moment – the lack of decent rivers nearby has (temporarily!) cut my coxing career short while I’ve also been putting off making the leap into local politics. The biggest change I found was about keeping in touch with friends from university; it’s completely different now I can’t just walk 5 minutes and knock on someone’s door so making the effort to stay in touch and stay interested in what each other are doing is really important.
Faizan: Do you think, as a graduate, what you thought about work life has come true or is it a good / bad surprise? Do you think graduates can prepare for the working life or is it impossible to envisage how similar / different work life is?
Andre: On reflection, I don’t think I’m that surprised about how work life has changed my day-to-day life really – it definitely makes you appreciate your evenings and weekends in way you wouldn’t as a student though! Best way to prepare? Get into a routine before you’re due to start work!
Faizan: Are you happy with this working life? Do you miss university? What are your plans for the future?
Andre: For the first few months, I was definitely still a student at heart and I did yearn for that flexibility to…well.. do and get involved with what I wanted! What I came to realise is that the flexibility is still there, you just approach it in a different way. If there’s an area of work I want to get more involved in or there’s more responsibility to take on, the opportunity is there for me.
Outside of work, of course there’s opportunities to get involved in similar things to student activities, you just need to make that effort to find out what you want to do and what’s available around you.
Faizan: Would you like to mentor 4-5 students from your university through their final year? Would you ever take up mentorship to help other graduates?
Andre: Personally I’ve always found it incredibly hard to admit that there’s something I can’t do on my own and actually ask for help, so I’m always happy to offer advice to someone that’s willing to ask.
Faizan: Once again Andre, thanks for your time. This is the second time I have interviewed you, and again, I am sure it will help students and graduates get an insight into the graduate job experience. Good luck to you in your future endeavours!