“Most of us go through university hoping that our ideal career will just hit us in the face and it just doesn’t work like that.”
Andre has been very active with the Students’ Union at his university and has held an elected post. Now (at the time of writing) he is employed with Nationwide as a Banking Analyst. Being an active guy, even in his last year at university, there was no way he would get away with not giving me an interview, and I am glad he has agreed to share his experience.
Faizan (Interviewer): You’ve been busy through the year with the Students’ Union’s activities and university modules, assignments etc. When did you start looking for a job?
Andre: Because I ran for a Students’ Union Sabbatical Position at the end of February and then had dissertation deadlines, I only started updating my CV and applying for jobs over Easter.
Faizan: Wow, you typify what I’ve always said, it’s never too late to begin. Good stuff. So, how did you find out about this job? And what’s the assessment/interview procedure like in the Banking industry? Any tips for future students?
Andre: Through Milkround. The process was a standard CV + Covering Letter, Online Testing, Phone Interview, Face-To-Face Interview and Final phone interview with line manager. Tips wise, I found it really helpful to write down everything extra-curricular I’d done so that whenever I was asked skills-based questions, I could easily refer to something I’d done.
Faizan: Yes, Milkround is a pretty good website. On that note, I would advise students to look at other job boards as well, e.g.: Prospects, Gradcracker, etc. What would you advise students at university, with respect to choosing a career, extra-curricular activities and using the Careers Service?
Andre: Most of us go through university hoping that our ideal career will just hit us in the face and it just doesn’t work like that. You need to be proactive and really research potential areas of employment, and also try and find case studies of those that have also attained jobs recently in that market.
Extra-curricular activities are a bit of a double-edged sword. As someone that has been involved in a lot for the sheer enjoyment of it, I’d personally be quite annoyed if someone got involved purely for CV building reasons. However, if you do genuinely want to get involved, then make the most of it. As for me, it really helped being able to talk about situations outside of my academic career. You also need to be able to know when to apply which extra-curricular activities, take a look at what you’ve done, and try to identify the skills involved with it.
The Careers Service helped me a little with finalising my CV. I’d also been to one or two sessions in the past and found them very helpful, the onus is really on the student to make the most of the Careers Service.
It’s never too late to start looking and don’t just apply for the snazzy graduate schemes. With the graduate market as it is, it’s going to be much easier to change jobs later if you’ve already got a job and experience than if you’re unemployed. Another thing that really helped me was choosing an area which I already had a lot of knowledge in. When I was asked for opinions on certain things at my interview, I could easily reference things that I’d seen in the news, read or done myself.
Above all, the graduate jobs market is a buyers market right now with an oversupply of recent graduates and also graduates from years gone, which means that students really need to sell themselves. Just because you have a 2:1 from a good university doesn’t mean you’ve got the job; in reality, it only really means that you’ve hit the minimum requirement. From that point it’s all up to you to show what you can add to your prospective employers’ business.
Faizan: Thanks for giving us this interview. I wish you good luck for your future!
(The following interview was conducted by the author during the time he was contracted for writing for UOL Careers Blog, where the interview appears in original)