Guest Post: Job offers by November!

MSc Management student, Keira, started receiving job offers in November 2017, and has already secured a management position in a fast-expanding UK-based company, with months to go before graduation. She tells us her job-hunting story here…

First things first, start early. There is no such thing as ‘starting too early’ for career seeking. My first job application was submitted on 4th September 2017, the same day my course commenced, for a job that starts in September 2018. Nonetheless, I started my research on the FTSE100 companies (about their openings, recruitment processes, their values and desired competencies) in early June 2017. Because I acted early, I was able to attract the attention of HRs from top companies and proceed to the next stages, before their inboxes got absolutely flooded with applications. 

Secondly, take advantage of the support from LUMS Careers Team. In the first two months of my course, I met with Martine (Career Advancement & Internships Officer) and Peter (Postgraduate Careers Advisor) at least once a week to perfect my CV, get advice on tailoring my cover letters, discuss interview technique and connect with alumni through their networks. The career coaches are very well trained and experienced. They are there to help you kick off your career at your dream company. I can not possibly express how much help I received from them for my job-hunting. 

Last but not least, practice, practice, practice. LUMS organises many career related workshops, such as mock interviews, assessment centre practice, online tests mentoring and industry networking events. Make sure you participate in these events as much as possible because, as much as I hate to say it, you rarely fail the application process due to being incompetent, but because you are too nervous to perform the best under significant pressure. Once you join Lancaster University, you will be given access to Targetconnect, where you can book your place for such workshops. You learn the techniques to stand out from the crowd in highly stressful and competitive environments, and that’s how you get job offers. 

I handed out over 50 applications by the end of 2017 and another 20 in 2018. I received my first job offer in November 2017, when most of my colleagues have yet to start their first application. Start early, use the career help and practice your techniques. I am confident that you will find a brilliant job to kick off your career. 

Deciding the next step after your degree

Some of you will come to university knowing exactly what it is you would like to do after you graduate. I suspect however that the majority of you will either have some vague ideas but are still unsure, or you may be someone who hasn’t a clue. I can safely say that I am somebody who fell into the latter category. Almost two years down the road however, I have a much clearer picture on the route I want to take after I graduate.

It really is common for students to begin university not knowing what they want to do after they complete their studies. After all, you probably found it hard enough picking what A-levels to study, and what university to firm, so picking something that you may do for a large chunk of your life is very difficult. I feel that it’s hard to expect students to be certain of what job they want, especially just after starting university life. Fortunately, no one at the university is expecting this from you, so do not feel rushed into making your career choice, something that is frankly a big decision.

What I have learnt is to not spend too much time thinking about what it is you want to do after your degree. Rather, focus on your studies and achieving the best degree classification possible. Even though it’s perhaps not wise to contemplate too heavily on your aspirations, this is not to say that you shouldn’t immerse yourself to gain as many valuable experiences as you can whilst at university. As I have mentioned, I did not know what I wanted to do after university, so I made a strong effort to attend a variety of careers-based events and talks which give me insights into different industries, and opportunities to ask questions to those in the world of work.

I would also recommend trying to gain some work experience in fields that you are even partially interested in working in as this will help you to learn more about what industries you may enjoy working in. I feel that the way that I have gained most knowledge regarding my future goals after university is through a combination of work experience and attending events at Lancaster University. I hope you recognise the importance of gaining these experiences in helping you decide what you would like to do after you graduate, as I think that my experiences over the last two years have in a way made my mind up for me, or at least have heavily contributed to my decisions.

I have learnt that employers are less concerned with your degree title, and more about what you can bring to the company. This has implications in two regards. Firstly, do not see your degree as a limitation or barrier. By this I mean, just because you have chosen a Marketing degree does not mean you can only go into marketing. Of course, some roles will require particular degrees such as Medicine to become a Doctor, but on the whole, you will have the opportunity to work in almost any sector. So, when you do come around to thinking about what you do after you graduate, be sure to consider opportunities beyond your degree scheme.

The second implication is use your time to build yourself up the best you can over the course of your degree, rather than using your time worrying about not knowing what to do. Your ambitions will come naturally to you, don’t feel obliged to go out of your way looking for them.

Where are they now?

From the very beginning of the course, I have always enjoyed Employability weeks. These are special events designed by the Careers team in order to prepare us for life ahead. Over the two terms, there have been many events, such as Networking day, Team Building away days, and one-on-one sessions with Martine and Peter (Career Mentors). In such a demanding course as ours, these weeks have been a source of relief, when we don’t have to think about the theories of HRM or the concepts and mathematics of Economics.

One event that stood out to me the most was “Where are they now?” It was basically an event where MSc Management alumni came and told us about their experience while pursuing the course and journey after they had finished and had gone on to pursue jobs. Some of them had over 10 years of experience now, and some of them had graduated just last year. They all had the different opinions and yet in many ways, they were all the same. One alumna, who had graduated in 2002 and had a work experience of over 10 years under her belt, told us to persevere while applying for jobs. She suggested websites which she found relevant when she was applying for placements. Listening to her story rejuvenated us and filled us with hope. After all, failure is not the end and success is not all. She was an international student and I could relate to her story as in many ways, I am going through a similar phase, the confusion of whether to go back to India to work or to keep applying to get a job here in the UK. She chose to go back to China and returned after a few years of experience.

Another alum from the 2012-13 batch, who is currently working in Rapid7, described his learning from the course as a stepping stone to the future. He mentioned that the course taught him the essentials but working life had much more in store. He mentioned that he did not have a technical background, but the knack for learning. He also mentioned that it is essential for us to figure out our strengths and be honest while applying for jobs.

Another alum from the same batch, who is currently working in DHL, mentioned his struggles while applying for jobs. He mentioned that he applied for 27 jobs and got rejected at some stage or the other before landing the job in DHL as a consultant. His will to not take no for an answer made me wonder. I am going through the rejection phase myself, where most of the companies do not provide VISA sponsorship. When they do, they don’t like my application form. If I clear that round, I get rejected in the situational judgment test and if all goes well, there is absolutely no way I’m clearing the video interview round. So far, zero success rate. But what is life without struggle? To have a good story, we need failures and the will to fight back. (Luckily, I am not scared of failure so bring it on, Life!!!)

The session was not just inspirational but informative too. All the alumni gave us insights, not just into the struggles they faced, but how we can apply to the companies they are currently working in. I connected with most of them on Linkedin and asked for their advice on my CV and on whether their companies provide VISA sponsorships. I feel that this event was a good opportunity for people like me who felt they were lost. Getting rejections is not easy but knowing that others have faced the exact same thing and have still made it work somehow, makes it a lot easier.

Capital Connections- Manchester 2018

A mix of first, second, and third year students spent a very enjoyable day in Manchester as part of Lancaster University’s Capital Connections programme, which offers undergraduates the opportunity to gain an insight into working at different companies in Manchester. The trip is fully-funded, and it provides students with a fantastic chance to discover what the city has to offer and the chance to make long-lasting relationships with Lancaster Alumni.

The first visit of the day was to the impressive offices of PWC where we were given an overview of the range of opportunities available to university students. We also engaged in an assessment day-type activity and ice-breaker challenge where we got to know other students on the trip. This was followed by a tour of the incredible PWC office, a Q and A session with some of the company’s employees and then an informal lunch where we could learn about working for a ‘Big 4’ firm.

It was then on to the civil service, more specifically, HMRC’s Manchester office. I found it very interesting learning about all the different fast stream graduate schemes available in the civil service. What was also interesting to see was the contrast between working in the private and public sector. I learnt that the two sectors both have their plus points, and both present so many different job prospects to university students after they graduate.

A short coach ride took us to Salford Quays where the BBC’s Media city is located. We split into two groups, with one group of students going to ‘The Landing’ which is a building of office space available to SME’s. I was part of the group who were lucky enough to have a tour of some studios which the BBC use for some of their biggest shows such as Match of the Day, Blue Peter, and Breakfast. Some of the students even got a chance to do a bit of news and weather presenting themselves!

The group recuperated in the Landing for an evening of networking with a number of former Lancaster University students who now work in a range of different industries. The event began with some speed networking where students could get to know some of the alumni using prompt cards.  Soon after however, we were free to network with those who worked in sectors that we were individually interested in. I found the networking session definitely the best part of the day, and I was really pleased to have some great conversations with BBC journalists and learn more about what they do. I will certainly take on all the advice and insights from successful alumni in areas which I wish to work in in the future.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip and I would certainly recommend that everyone make the most of this fantastic opportunity provided by the university.

 

Networking in London

I don’t know if the sound of networking is a daunting prospect for everyone, but it certainly was for me before the Capital Connections programme. Entering a room of CEO’s, managers and vice presidents, to name a few, was certainly something to be apprehensive about…But I was ready to embrace it.

Studying at Lancaster University Management School, the benefits of networking and the value that social capital can bring are topics commonly spoken of. However, actually building social capital? This was something new for me.

Attending a preparatory workshop with Jackie, Capital Connections Skills developer, I was provided the opportunity to practice and develop my networking skills. It was relieving to know that I was not the only one new to networking. Practicing with other students on the programme, I came away feeling confident and prepared to immerse myself at the networking events that awaited me.

The highlight of the programme was the networking event at Wallacespace in the vibrant district, Covent Garden. At the event, I had the chance to demonstrate my networking skills with professionals who had been in my shoes before – Lancaster University graduates.

I was amazed at how interested the alumni were to hear about myself and their willingness to share their knowledge and advice with me. It was particularly interesting that whilst exchanging experiences about Lancaster University, alumni recognised the value of the skills I am developing through membership in societies. Additionally, the suggestions alumni provided about societies and activities to get involved in has inspired and motivated me to discover even more of what Lancaster University has to offer me.

To finish the evening, it was a privilege to receive an invitation to dine with Liqiang Xu, a senior associate at Deloitte. This was the perfect opportunity to hear more about Liqiang Xu’s experience living in London, whilst capturing the atmosphere of living in the cultural capital of the world.

From visiting just a handful of the workplaces in London, from the BBC to EY, I’ve been awakened to the many exciting and interesting roles available for graduates in London. One thing I discovered is that many of the Lancaster University Alumni that I had the pleasure of meeting had pursued diverse career paths, with many unrelated to their degree subject. This so, I have taken the message to keep my career options open and to always pursue a career I will enjoy.

Looking back on the experience that Capital Connections have provided me, I have learnt that networking isn’t as daunting as I first thought and that with practice it is a skill that can eventually come naturally. Working in London indeed sounds an exciting prospect and I have certainly increased my interest in living and working in this vibrant business and leisure landscape. It is pleasing to hear that the Capital Connections programme is running again this year in April. I would highly recommend it to anyone who would like to learn more about career opportunities in London and to develop networking skills.

Is an Industrial Placement for me?

I have known since the day I decided that I wanted to study a business related degree that I wanted to complete an industrial placement as part of my time at University. I knew that the experience this would offer me would be invaluable, not only for furthering my understanding of my subject, but also when it comes to applying for graduate jobs when I leave Lancaster. But the decision isn’t always so easy for everyone.

Applying for a placement year can be incredibly scary. Because it divides your degree into two segments (first and second year, the placement, and then returning for final year), this means that everyone else completing a three-year course will have graduated by the time you return. This is something I am absolutely not looking forward to – leaving my friends behind during what would have been my last year with them.

Not only that but during first year I felt completely unprepared for a real life, real responsibility, real workload job. As much as I was loving University life, I wasn’t ready to take the next leap on my career path. These are the fears that often prevent people from applying for a placement year as part of their degree.

I cannot stress enough how valuable a placement year is. This is especially true in industries like mine (Marketing) where not just graduate jobs but the job market in general is fiercely competitive. A placement gives you the upper hand over other candidates – you already have a whole year of work experience in your field, working on real projects with real people in a real company. That is something that makes you stand head and shoulders above your competitors when it comes to finding a job at the end of your degree.

Not only that, but the beauty of getting a job in-between your degree is that the support on offer to you is unlike any you will experience outside of University. The dedicated LUMS Careers Team is always on hand – during term time and holidays – to offer you support and guidance, look over your applications, and put you in touch with previous Lancaster students who can guide you through your application with first hand experience themselves.

I myself am already feeling the benefits of a placement year, and I am still only in the application stages. I know I am more confident and independent, and where last year just thinking about a placement year make my stomach churn, now I am excited by the prospects and the opportunities that lie just around the corner. Yes – I am still out of my comfort zone, and each application poses a new challenge, but that is exactly what an employer wants to see. The entire process improves your resilience, self-confidence and ambition.

So if you’re considering a placement year as part of your Lancaster degree, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Though there are sacrifices involved, and some of your friends won’t be here when you return for your final year, the benefits more than outweigh the costs.

Guest Post: Roseanne Willison-Parry- Life as an intern at Valeocon

Roseanne is a MSc Management graduate, who secured an internship with a global company off the back of interviewing them for part of her course. Here, she talks about her experiences. 

Not only did my MSc in Management prepare me for the world of business and give me confidence in many different areas, it also opened the door to my first experience of working in the consulting world. Roseanne Willison-Parry

For my dissertation, I decided to interview CEOs and leading figures in a variety of industries. One such interview was with the CEO of a global consulting firm, Valeocon. After asking all my questions and exploring the use of secrecy and transparency in the company’s strategy, the interview got turned on its head; it was my turn to answer questions! I discussed my ideal working environment – small business, responsibility from the outset, opportunity for travel, creativity encouraged – and Valeocon appeared to be the perfect fit and thankfully vice versa!

Initially, there was a discussion about working with the London office and I began to get excited. A week later I had my job offer; three months at the company HQ… in Hamburg. It definitely ticked my travel box!

Two weeks after my dissertation hand in I moved to Germany and it was absolutely the right decision. Within two weeks I was sitting in on a client meeting and given the opportunity to contribute to the discussion, document interviews and collaborate with a team of consultants. It was a fantastic first insight into consulting.

As well as client work, I was entrusted with organising a three-day conference in Lyon for Valeocon’s global consultants. I was able to see the inner workings of the business and learn what constituted a successful conference. I also gained a first-hand overview of trainings, case studies, brainstorming exercises and the current and future business development of the company. Being asked to teach Ballet/Yoga as an agility exercise at 7am every morning was an unexpected addition! It was an invaluable experience and the accommodation and food was an added bonus!

Throughout the conference and in the weeks following I had a variety of separate tasks to perform – proof reading, marketing refresh, presentation development, research – it has been an all-round education. The level of responsibility and collaboration has been great and I really feel part of the team. It has helped me realise I want to be involved in consulting, next steps have been discussed, and this is the start of a fantastic relationship between Valeocon and myself.