05 June 2014 03:36 PM

The Retail Myth

This is a guest post from the founders of the Graduate Retail Fair. Take it away guys:

The Retail Industry is often tarred with narrow and unfair stereotypes. Something that’s addressed well by CareerPlayer in their graduate retail industry film. A rewarding route to follow, it may surprise those entering the world of work at how broad and enterprising retail can be if taken as a career. Charles Cox, a graduate employed in Event Management and In-Store Marketing at Sainsbury’s, emphasises that in his day to day activities ‘no event will take exactly the same path’. This is a microcosm of the entire Retail Industry, an industry with countless branches, of which Event Management and In-Store Marketing is but one; and where flexibility is a must. The opportunities to find your niche on such a broad spectrum are plentiful - there are up to 18 different graduate programmes offered by some major retailers. Every opportunity within retail offers autonomy within a role that is ultimately decision making; and any entrant into the industry can be assured that they will be immediately handed a high level of responsibility. Across any career in retail, planning for weeks and months in advance is integral. This is a component of an industry that is inherently progressive, one untouched by boredom and stasis; one in which opportunity for advancement is rife.

Often overlooked by those unaccustomed to retail is its influence on a national and even international scale. When detailing his role as a Store Manager for Marks and Spencer, Lee Reed mentions that ‘It’s not just about your store sometimes, it can be about wider business issues and it can be about wider regional issues throughout regions you work in’. Retail has an incredibly overarching impact on business and the local community that greatly exceeds most other professions - if you want to effect discernible change on both of these levels, then retail could be the answer for you. Due to the diverse nature of roles offered within retail, don’t feel that you’re limited by your degree specificity – if you’re studying retail, great, but students across many disparate disciplines are sought out by retailers.

Entering a graduate programme with a major retailer offers a clear and vertical career progression, but sometimes that isn’t always the answer for candidates that desire more choice once placed in a role. Alex Williams, a Brand Manager at Sainsbury’s, gives an example of this malleability, suggesting that a graduate who started in customer and marketing ‘could opt for a couple of years in trading’, which would give them a ‘broader more commercial backing’, enabling them to then return to customer and marketing and move up a rung on the ladder. This represents another major advantage of pursuing a retailing career, the scope for moving around within a grade to find a role that suits you, in the object of advancing linearly in a previous role, or merely to find a better fit for your skills, is one unparalleled in most other industries. One main reason why so many applications fall at the first hurdle is because of a failure to properly research the company. Before approaching the process, take time to examine industry sources (such as The Grocer magazine) as well as the companies you’re applying for.

We understand how difficult and daunting it can be for graduates wanting to enter the industry; and this is where we come in. The Graduate Retail Fair on Wednesday the 22nd of October in the Rose Bowl at Leeds University is the perfect arena to explore these possibilities, with many major retailers in attendance, including Marks and Spencer, John Lewis Partnership, Arcadia and Asda. Students from all degree disciplines and institutions are welcome at the fair. With opportunities in event management, buying and merchandising, food and nutrition, marketing, management, logistics, IT, HR and many more; a comprehensive spread of skills are required. If you desire employment within a field that is exciting, ever-changing and unpredictable then the Retail Sector and the Graduate Retail Fair are tailored exactly for you.

It’s not just the Retailers themselves that you’ll be able to get to grips with, the Graduate Retail Fair will help you get accustomed to the stringent application processes of graduate programmes from start to finish. At the Graduate Retail Fair, if a particular employer catches your eye; booking an Employer Clinic is the way to go. A close quarters meeting with the retailer of your choice, you will be able to better assess the tone of the company to see if it aligns with your ideals. When progressing to interview stage at a major retailer, the Assistant Vice President of Enterprise Rent-A-Car Ben Lawson offers sage advice ‘as we look to whether you’re going to be suitable for us, you really need to be interviewing us to see whether we’re going to be suitable for you’. This active curiosity you need to take in a prospective employer in retail should start well before the interview stage – the Employer Clinic offers the perfect platform to engage this curiosity.  

For more information on the Graduate Retail Fair, please visit www.retailgraduatefair.co.uk. Attendance is free and you can register your attendance via the website, which has detailed information on location and transport, like National Retail Graduate Careers Fair on Facebook or follow @GradRetFair on Twitter for further information.

All of the people quoted in this article can be found on CareerPlayer's Graduate Retail Careers page.

Guest Post by Sophie Adams, Simon Pollard & Greg Davis
Smart Resourcing Solutions Ltd

14 August 2013 12:00 AM

Association of Graduate Recruiters 2013 Conference Video

Every year the biggest names in graduate recruitment come together for the most prestigious industry event in Europe.

Taking place over three days, recruiters, Universities and other interested stakeholders network, discuss and share best practice. It's a great event and we were there to film what goes on - watch the video below to find out...

17 January 2013 10:26 AM

Dos and Don'ts for getting on with your parents during uni holidays...

So, the Christmas holidays are over, and If you're anything like most graduates these days, you'll have spent them at the Hotel of Mum and Dad. For many this will have been your first trip back home since they dropped you off at the beginning of freshers' week.

The first visit home can be a bit of a shock to the system for both parents and students - suddenly you're swept from your newfound independence back into a world of folded towels and having to phone home if you're out past 10pm, while your parents are confronted with an adult version of their darling child, who's no longer willing to account for their every move and may have picked up new and different views on life. Cue a few fraught weeks of arguing over milk, cleaning rotas and whose turn it is in the shower - think life in halls but with added parent-child angst. So, if you've had a few clashes with the family, here's a few things to bear in mind for future trips back home - or for when you have to move back in after graduating!

> Be gracious - remember that it's your parents' house, after all! Offer to cook a meal, wash up, entertain Grandma or walk the dog.

> Prepare yourself for a different atmosphere from the one you remember - you may feel very different since moving away, but chances are your parents won't have caught up with this yet. Patience will go a long way!

> Spend time catching up with friends from your hometown - share tips on how to survive! Plus, some time away from your family will make the holidays more enjoyable for everyone.

> Acknowledge how your parents and younger siblings are feeling, and be prepared to compromise on the small stuff. If your dad gets annoyed about people leaving dirty dishes unwashed overnight, is it really going to kill you to do it his way for a few weeks?

> Use the holidays to do a bit of graduate career research

> Allow yourself to be pushed into a 'child' role again - although this might make your parents feel more comfortable in the short term, it's not conducive to a positive long term adult relationship with them.

> Revert to teenage sulking if conflict arises - you'll just sabotage your chance to show your parents that you're a mature, reasonable adult.

> Assume that because you've been to university for a few months and have taken a couple of debating classes, you are now in a position to be dismissive of your parents' religion, life choices, political affiliations or stance on the EU. Constructive discussion, yes. Hectoring, no!

> Get stroppy with them when they offer unsolicited advice. Of course, this is easier said than done - you may have the type of parent who wants to help you find your feet by asking 'helpful' questions like "Have you tried searching for a graduate job on the internet yet?" Grin, bear it and remember that in a matter of weeks you'll be back to the wonderful world of parties, cheap vodka and a diet of super noodles - so enjoy that home cooking while it lasts!

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11 January 2013 10:12 AM

Do graduate job-hunting stunts work?

A 24 year old unemployed graduate has recently made the news by hiring a billboard in London to promote his video CV – and he’s not the first by any means. As grads feel the pinch, we’ve seen cases of ‘Hire me’ messages scrawled on mortarboards, roadside hoardings, and countless ‘clever’ job applications. We’re all told that we need to ‘stand out’ when making graduate job applications, but just how far is too far?

- Intelligent, no-nonsense written and spoken communication
- Individuality tempered by a sense of professional decorum
- An appropriate sense of humour
- An accessible online portfolio
- An awareness of the culture of the industry you’re applying for – creative flights of fancy will go down a lot better at an ad agency than at an accounting firm
- Avoiding coming across as either desperate or cocky – confident competence is the name of the game
- Having a presence on LinkedIn
- Getting peoples’ names right!

Less good…
- Trying too hard to be witty – this can be interpreted as an attempt to cover up less-than-stellar grades, poor experience or a lack of commitment to the industry
- Going for style over substance – think about what can you actually bring to the business and why that’s worth hiring, not just what you think the employer wants to see
- Trying these techniques in the wrong industries. For example, the guy mentioned above, who hired a billboard, is looking for a job in TV production. However, his tactics would be far more likely to impress someone looking for advertising or marketing talent. TV production teams tend to be a practical, behind-the-scenes bunch – they have to be in order to get the creative stuff done and let the ‘talent’ shine. And the job he states that he’s aiming for – junior producer – isn’t actually a job title that exists in TV production. It may seem harsh to nitpick, but it really doesn’t look good to prospective employers in the TV industry – imagine if a law graduate turned up for an interview and didn’t seem to know the difference between a barrister and a solicitor?

What were you thinking…?
Anything that could be remotely construed as stalkerish. Gifts, repeated unsolicited messages or workplace visits to people you don’t know is weird, and the fact that you want a job from them doesn’t suddenly make it ok! If any of your self-promotion ideas have even a whiff of ‘restraining order’ about them, think again.

One of the problems noticeable in a lot of new graduates (as evidenced by Mr Billboard) is the tendency to mash ‘media jobs’ together as if they were one conglomerate. Saying ‘I want to work in media’ is about as meaningless as saying ‘I want to work in an office’ – the obvious question any prospective employer will ask is ‘Yes, but doing what exactly?’ 

If you’re interested in a job in advertising, marketing or PR, a very cleverly executed ‘original’ approach might very occasionally pay off because it shows you’re happy to take risks, drum up publicity and use social media to your advantage – all of which are pretty handy job skills in these areas. But if you’re interested in working in any other creative industry, the best way to get a job is to be better at what you do than most other applicants. Not better qualified, not louder, not more personable, not a harder worker – just better. Whether your creative outlet of choice is writing, programming, filmmaking, graphics, costume designing or video editing, the harsh truth is that you need to be really, really good at what you do. Your portfolio needs to shine. You need to have talent, realism, aptitude, vocation, passion – ‘Well, that sounds quite fun and glamourous’ isn’t going to get you anywhere. Jobs in creative industries are as rare as hen’s teeth and don’t tend to pay well, but if you’re (honestly) as good as you think you are, you’ll get a foot in the door at some point without resorting to gimmicks.

Find out more about careers in TV

Find out more about careers in advertising and PR

Find out more about publishing careers

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02 January 2013 09:49 AM

New Year, New Job-Hunting Strategy? Tapping into the Hidden Graduate Job Market

Graduate schemes only make up about 20% of grad job destinations each year - so while it might feel like the world and their dog is heading off on an all-singing, all-dancing graduate programme, it's really not the case. It's estimated that around 70-80% of all job vacancies never get advertised - so you need to get proactive! Here'a few handy hints for making sure you're in with the best chance of success with speculative applications:

> Networking is key. Building contacts in the industry you want to go into is always a good idea - click here to find out how to start your own graduate recruitment network.
> Research the industry. To make a good targeted speculative application, you'll need to really stand out as someone who wants to work in that field. Recruiters can spot a generic CV a mile off, so take the time to tailor your application to each company.

> Try and find a contact to address your covering letter to - 'Dear Sir/Madam' just doesn't cut it! If necessary, phone up and ask. LinkedIn can also be useful for stalking key decision makers finding out names and roles.

> Be creative - if a company isn't hiring right now, offer to do some freelance work for them or even a free trial (if you can afford to). This is a pretty standard way of getting into certain creative industries, and it'll help your name stick for when a position does come up.

> Make sure your CV is top-notch
- click here for more info on writing the perfect graduate CV.

> Don't give up! Whether you're applying for huge graduate schemes or sending your portfolio off to tiny creative agencies, you're bound to get the odd knock-back. It happens to the best of us, so pick yourself up and try somewhere else - and don't take it personally! Find out more about motivation here.

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19 December 2012 10:25 AM

A quick tour of popular conversion courses...

Are you studying a degree you enjoy but not sure you want to work in that field? Or perhaps you've studied something non-vocational and want a change of direction? A conversion course can help! Postgraduate conversion courses 'top up' your undergraduate degree and allow to you enter certain professions that would otherwise be closed off to you. Some of the most popular conversion courses include:

> Law - It's fairly common for solicitors or barristers to start their professional lives from a non-legal academic background. In fact, many firms say that they take up to half their trainees from non-law backgrounds, and top-class graduates can often get their fees provided for them by their firm. To become a solicitor or barrister, you'll need to take the GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law, also known as the Common Professional Examination), and then depending on the path you choose, you'll take the BPTC (Bar professional Training Course) or the LPC (Legal Practice Course). The BPTC is for aspiring barristers and the LPC is for graduates who want to be solicitors. To learn more about where a graduate law career could take you, click here.

> Property - If you want to work in property or surveying you'll need to take a conversion course that's accredited by RICS (the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors). You can study for an accredited masters degree and then apply for jobs, but some firms will take 'non-cognate' graduates (i.e. those without an accredited relevant degree) and train them on the job. This latter route usually means you'll get your qualification paid for by your company, so it's a good option if you can get it! To find out about the different graduate jobs in property that are available, click here.

> Psychology - If you haven't studied an accredited psychology undergraduate degree and you want to become a practicing psychologist, you'll need to take a postgraduate course accredited by the BPS (British Psychological Society). This will allow you to apply for membership of the BPS and apply to higher-level degree programmes such as a PhD in Clinical Psychology. Psychology is a highly competitive field, so give yourself the best chance of success by watching our top interview tips here.

> Teaching - The PGCE (postgraduate certificate of education) is a vocational course that prepares you for life as a teacher. Graduates with a relevant degree can train to teach a specific subject at secondary level, while graduates from all disciplines can apply for primary teacher training. There are some pretty generous bursaries available for graduates who want to teach shortage subjects such as physics and languages, and there are sometimes financial incentives for people the teaching agency are particularly keen to recruit, such as male primary teachers or graduates with a 2.1 or above. To find out more about graduate teaching jobs, click here.

> Medicine - Graduates can apply to study medicine on a fast-track programme lasting four years. Some courses will accept graduates from any discipline, while others will ask that you studied something relevant at degree level, like one of the sciences. Because medicine is such a strongly vocational course, you'll need to complete relevant work experience, preferably in an NHS setting, before you apply. For more information on graduate jobs in healthcare, click here.

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12 December 2012 09:10 AM

Ten Top Tips For Great Graduate Telephone Interviews

Got a phone interview? Well done you!

Getting to the phone interview stage is a bit like getting a first date - this is your chance to really impress the employer and make them want to find out more about you. So, here's ten tips to help you get through this nerve-wracking process...

1. Treat it like a real interview - sit up straight, put on something other than pyjamas. Sounds weird, but it really does come across in your voice!

2. Make sure your phone is charged and that you've got good signal - cutting out halfway through is not a good move. 

3. Think about what you're saying - don't be afraid to ask the interviewer to repeat the question or clarify it if you don't understand or think you've misheard.

4. Do your research beforehand and make sure you know enough about the company to confidently answer questions about it. Googling annual reports during the phone interview itself is not the way to go!

5. Try to treat it like a friendly yet professional conversation, rather than a grilling. The interviewer is unlikely to be trying to catch you out or make you flustered - they want to hear you at your best. 

6. Have a glass of water handy in case you need it - coughing down the phone is not the way to make a good first impression.

7. If you think it'll help you keep track, make some notes beforehand, but don't read them out like a script - the interviewer will be able to tell.

8. If you get stuck or find yourself mumbling, there's nothing wrong with saying 'Sorry, I'm a little nervous - can we try that question again?' Everyone gets nervous - it's how you handle it that counts.

9. Find a quiet place to take the call where you won't be disturbed - and you don't want your housemates bursting in halfway through, so it's a good idea to let them know in advance.

10.  Be calm! If they didn't like you already, they wouldn't be talking to you, so be confident, professional and focussed.


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05 December 2012 10:39 AM

3 reasons why you shouldn't do an MBA - and 3 reasons why you should

Considering a business management career? Then you're probably the type who likes to plan ahead anyway! You may already have heard of an MBA (Masters in Business Administration). The MBA is a postgraduate qualification taken after gaining some workplace experience - usually around five years - and it's often seen as the qualification for senior managers. However, before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. In fact, there are a few very good reasons not to do an MBA...

  1. It's extremely expensive - an MBA at a respected institution costs upwards of £30,000. If you know you'll want to do one in the future, start saving the pennies right now. Yes, you. Back away from the Starbucks counter!

  2. It's a serious commitment. A full-time MBA takes two years and is a nine-to-five affair (plus the obligatory networking events in the evenings). Like any postgraduate course, studying for an MBA won't give you a sense of direction if you don't have any in the first place. And let's face it, business administration is not something you study for the sheer love of the subject - you study it because you want to go places careerwise. If you're in any doubt as to your enthusiasm for a corporate management career, an MBA is unlikely to tip you over the edge into riotous enthusiasm - and it's a very, very costly, stressful and time-consuming mistake to make.

  3. It won't magically make you into an outstanding entrepreneur, a caring manager, or an ethical business leader. Fundamentally, the MBA teaches you how to run a business, not how to generate ideas, show empathy, or have a conscience. Your own personal qualities will play an important part in your career, not just your qualifications.

An MBA is not a course to be embarked on lightly, and it's not for everyone. But, if you're doing it for the right reasons, an MBA can open up new career opportunities, renew your enthusiasm and give you a fantastic skillset that will prepare you for senior management positions. Here's a few very good reasons to do an MBA...

  1. It's recognised all over the world - there aren't many qualifications where you can walk into just about any corporate environment on the planet and say 'Look what I've got here, hire me!' but an MBA is one of them.

  2. If you really love business, you will probably really enjoy yourself, and do well. Like any postgraduate course, genuine passion for your area of interest is a perfectly good reason to study it, providing you can afford to. And the advantage of being a business geek (as opposed to, say, an astronomy geek or a classical architecture geek) is that you stand a good chance of making serious money out of your interest. So good for you!

  3. You'll be in pretty good company. Of the world's top 30 businesses, 15 CEOs have MBAs, and it can't be denied that having an MBA opens some impressive doors. The global network of people with MBAs is a pretty top-notch club to be a part of.

To find out if an MBA is right for you, click here.


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28 November 2012 11:49 AM

Access to Finance - New Film Launch

We've made another film! Following the amazing success of our documentary about women in engineering, we've turned our attention to the world of finance.

If this word conjures up images of rich blokes swanning around in corner offices, you’re not alone! The finance industry can sometimes suffer a bit of an image problem among young people - many believe it’s only for people who went to private school, or the ‘right’ uni. But that's not the case - as this clip shows, anyone can get into finance if they have the drive and determination...

We’ve teamed up with the top talents of HSBC, the Chartered Insurance Institute, the ACCA and the Financial Skills Partnership to help spread the message among employers, schools, pupils and careers advisors. You can watch the full film, Access to Finance, by clicking here.

To make the film even easier to use we've divided it into handy chapters, which you can find here.

We’d love you to help us share the film on Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else you can think of - and make sure we get the message out there that finance has something for everyone. 

Also, don't forget to look out for our next mini-documentary project on careers in IT - coming soon to a YouTube channel near you!

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21 November 2012 09:34 AM

Five things you should know about graduate jobs in accounting

Interested in a graduate job in accounting? Accountancy isn’t just about number-crunching – you also need to be able to see the big picture when it comes to the future direction of a business. You will help companies of all sizes, from one-person businesses to multinational corporations and charities, manage their finances and comply with legislation. But what is a graduate career in accounting really like? Read on to find out the top five things you need to know before you start filling in that application form…

1. You will probably spend quite a lot of time away from home if you go into an audit role, especially if you work for one of the Big 4 accounting firms (KPMG, Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young). There’s lots of driving and nights away from home at client sites, so you’ll need to develop a certain fondness for hotels, motorway service stations and fast food. If the thought of this brings you out in a cold sweat, the good news is that tax roles tend to be much more office-based.

2. There are three main paths that a graduate accountancy trainee might take after finishing university. Perhaps the best-known route is to train within an accountancy firm (such as the Big 4 or a smaller firm), providing a consultancy-based service to clients. However, you can also train within the finance department of a public sector organisation or a commercial business. Which brings us to…

3. Qualifications! One of the best reasons to get a graduate job in accounting is the training on offer, as it will stand you in good stead for the rest of your working life. And best of all, it’s usually funded by the company. You might also get paid time off to study. The qualification you study for will depend on the organisation you’re training with and the area you want to work in. If you’ve working with an accountancy firm, you’ll probably study the ACA or the ACCA – the former probably has the edge in terms of prestige, but the latter is often said to have more international recognition. If you’re studying within a business to become a management accountant, you’ll take the CIMA exams. Public sector accountancy trainees will study for CIPFA (in case it’s eluded you thus far, accountancy is a profession littered with confusing acronyms – so brush up!)

4. Entry to the profession is fairly stringent – you’ll usually need at least a 2.1 for the bigger firms. However, there are lots of routes, including those aimed at school leavers, so a degree isn’t a prerequisite. A good tip for aspiring accountants at all stages of their education is to get as much work experience as you can, whether it’s in a high-street firm or on a vacation placement with one of the Big 4. All relevant experience is good experience when it comes to getting your first accountancy job.

5. One of the most valuable things you’ll learn as an accountant working with clients is how to relate to different people and businesses – it’s a great way to make contacts across a wide range of areas. Plus, it’s interesting! If you enjoy finding out how things work and thrive on variety, you’ll probably enjoy working with external clients. One client might give you a plush, peaceful working area with a comfy chair and coffee on tap, while a small business might be tight for desk space and have you working in a meeting room or even in a warehouse. Even if you’re in-house, you’ll still be expected to be adaptable and flexible, as you may still need to visit different business sites.

So there you have it! If you're keen to find out more about graduate jobs in accounting and financial services, click here.

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