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!

Do:
> 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

Don't:
> 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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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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26 October 2012 10:18 AM

10 tips for getting a publishing job without doing a publishing internship

Most humanities graduates have, at one time or another, considered a career in publishing. If you're one of them, no doubt you've imagined a glamourous 'Devil Wears Prada' magazine career involving a terrifying boss, free Dior handbags and trips to Paris Fashion Week.

But what is it really like? Click here to find out more, or read on...

As it happens, before I joined CareerPlayer I was a magazine journalist - so here's a list of the things I wish I'd known before I turned up starry-eyed on my first day at an international publishing house:

1. Beware unpaid work - there is another way! It's important to get your foot in the door, but if you don't value your work, no one else will either, so don't work for free if you can possibly help it. Unpaid work experience may be the norm, but it's only worth doing for a couple of weeks to get a feel for the industry. There are entry-level jobs out there, so instead of doing endless unpaid work, do a few bits of short term in-house work experience and focus instead on building up your portfolio of skills in a specialist area. Lots of people can say 'I like to write' or 'I'm good at designing' but what editors wants to see pop up in their inbox is someone who can create a highly-specialised feature for their target audience, with minimal input and editing from the production team. Got a special interest in music, triathalons or computer games? Know the industry inside out? Great! Start a blog, build contacts with suppliers and key people in the industry, then call up publishers and ask if they're interested in having you write a freelance article or design a graphic for them. Point out your specialism, the contacts you can bring in, the expertise you can offer. Direct them to your blog so they can see a sample of your specialist knowledge and abilities. Repeat as necessary with publishers large and small.

2. Publishing is not like it's portrayed in the movies. It involves a lot of hard work, yes, but it's also not nearly as cut-throat and backstabbing as Hollywood would have you believe. People tend not to take themselves too seriously and are often about as casually dressed as you can be without actually wearing pyjamas as daywear.

3. Publishing is a team sport. Most publishing houses have a small core team assigned to each magazine. Larger magazines will have various hangers-on like section editors, editor's PA, art assistants, editorial assistants...the list goes on! At minimum, this will have an editor (who oversees the editorial direction of the magazine), an art editor (who oversees the creative direction of the magazines, but is subordinate to the editor - which leads to the odd, erm, 'creative difference') and a production editor, who is the hapless dogsbody entrusted with keeping the peace, making sure everything is where it's supposed to be, proofreading every page, sourcing images, arguing with the printers, writing all the regular content and building relationships within the industry. Guess what my job was?

4. Essentially, magazine production is a process-driven industry. You need to be creative, yes; but while a certain degree of artistic scattiness is acceptable on the design side of the fence, editorial teams need to be on top of everything at all times. If you enjoy lists, order and ticking things off, it's a good area to work in. You need to be fairly calm, organised and focussed as you'll be working to some truly horrendous deadlines from time to time - ten days to turn around a 70-page magazine, anyone?

5. No one likes a diva. Make friends the moment you arrive with the hermit-like individuals (usually men in baseball caps) who inhabit the print room. They are in charge of final page setup and creating proofs, as well as essential bits and bobs like business cards. Get them on your side ASAP. Ditto for the receptionists and PAs (who are the people responsible for keeping the entire organisation together, often a rather thankless task) and the classified ad sales teams (who are the ones actually making money for your magazine!)

6. You do get quite a lot of freebies. Depending on the magazine you work on, you may end up with more clothes, makeup, hair products, books, cupcakes, computer games or mountain bikes than you know what to do with. In my magazine offices, we had whole cupboards full of free stuff that were occasionally flung open for everyone, from the cleaners to the MD, to take their pick. You can also pick up a few perks like free hairdressing appointments, photoshoots and trips to fashion events.

7. You won't be retiring at 30. Magazine work is NOT well paid, to put it mildly. You will find that 90% of people who work on magazines do quite a lot of freelance work in their spare time. So be prepared! Build contacts in the industry and you'll always have a bit of extra work coming in.

8. InDesign rules all. If you haven't heard of this software yet, you will! It's one of the most commonly used publishing packages and it's a bonus for an editor if they don't have to teach you how it works from scratch. Get hold of a free trial version and learn the basics. It will really make you stand out.

9. The future of magazines is definitely digital. Make sure you take every opportunity to get to grips with social media, SEO, blogs and websites. Knowing how to use a basic website content management system won't hurt, either.

10. Finally, some words of wisdom from an industry veteran I worked with. 'Always proofread everything three times - once for sense, once for structure and once for luck.' 

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10 September 2012 09:48 AM

Top Tips For Developing The Skills You Need For A Graduate Job

  • Network, network, network! Family, friends, contacts you meet by chance – it all counts!

  • Go to university careers fairs and employer presentations – not only can you pick up lots of helpful info on the industries you’re keen on, you will also have the chance to make a lasting impression with recruiters.


A final tip - believe in your own abilities and focus on presenting yourself as confident...but not arrogant. No one wants to spend all day working with someone who's full of themselves!

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10 September 2012 09:28 AM

Four Vital Skills for Landing your First Job

Graduate employers aren’t just interested in hiring candidates with the right qualifications – they’re also keen to meet people with the right skills for their company. The top skills graduate recruiters want are:

1. Commercial awareness - this is about knowing how a business works, how it’s positioned in the marketplace and how it relates to the wide economy.
    
2. Communication skills – this vital ability covers putting your point across effectively, public speaking, listening to people, writing well, and tailoring your message to your audience.

3. Motivation – are you someone who can pick themselves up again after a setback? Can you keep persevering when the going gets tough?


4. Confidence – can you be assertive without being arrogant? Can you master business lingo and meet company directors without sounding nervous? 


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22 August 2012 10:58 AM

Postgraduate Study: The No-Nonsense Facts

Thinking about postgraduate study? Read this first! There are pros and cons to the postgrad route, and lots of potential traps for the unwary, so make sure you're informed.

The good...

  1. A postgraduate qualification can help you get into your chosen profession - for example, if you want to be a lawyer or accountant, you'll have to suck it up and do the necessary exams. Fortunately, you'll often be funded through these by your employer if you can secure a job with them first, so make sure you explore this option.

  2. If you get to the end of your course and decide you actually want to do something else, a postgraduate degree or conversion course can give you the qualifications needed to make the switch - think law, teaching, psychology or medicine.

  3. If you've got 1st class grades across the board and your whole world revolves around 14th century stained glass, cellular biology or solar physics, you might be one of those people who is cut out for a career in academic research. If you're one of those people for whom the world of academia fits like a glove and you can't imagine being happy working as anything other than a mildy eccentric professor, go for it! 

The bad...

  1. Not knowing what you want to do is NOT a good reason to do a postgraduate course. You'll end up in a pile of extra debt, and it'll be hard to explain to a potential employer why you chose to do the course if you didn't have a good rationale behind it at the time. You'd be much better off finding a job and saving up some money, or doing some voluntary work and building up skills and confidence.

  2. Postgraduate life is not like undergraduate life, so if you're thinking of doing another course just to prolong the student experience, think again. Being a postgraduate student is much more like having a job - more lone working and less socialising! It can be really rewarding, but it's definitely not the same experience.

  3. Postgraduate study costs a lot of money upfront as there are no undergraduate-style student loans available. In fact, there is very little funding to go around. To be in with a chance of getting funded, you'll need to be an exceptional student. It often makes better sense to either try and get a job in the field that will fund your studies, or save up some money and study for a postgraduate qualification part-time while you work.

  4. Sadly, many universities and education providers will try to convince you that their postgraduate courses are the best thing since sliced bread without giving you realistic facts about the tangible benefits of the course or the effect on your employment chances. Remember that they are primarily after your money! There are often far more postgraduate students taking a course at any one time than there are jobs available, but it's not in the course provider's interests to tell you that so they are likely to minimise it. If a postgraduate course promises the earth yet demands suspiciously low entry grades, it pays to do your research and go in with your eyes open.


In summary, there are three good reasons to do a postgrad course:

  1. If you absolutely adore your subject AND you have loads of research ideas, fantastic grades, glowing references from lecturers and the patience to write endless funding applications, by all means don't be put off. If you want to be a university lecturer, this is the necessary route, so go for it!

  2. You've known for ages that you want to be a clinical psychologist/solicitor/maths teacher and while you have good work experience and knowledge of the field, you have to do the course to get into the job you want to do. Generally speaking, if you are this organised at 21, you're unlikely to rush into anything blindly anyway. We trust you :)

  3. You have secured a job in a field you want to work in, and the employer is prepared to fund your course OR you have secured a job that means you can afford to fund a part-time postgraduate course alongside it.

No ifs, no buts. There are really no other good reasons to do a postgraduate course, let alone put yourself in debt in order to do so. We know it sounds harsh, but it's for your own good...

If you can't decide, why not take some time out? Remember that you can always go back to a postgraduate course in a few years' time, with more money saved up, some work experience and a better idea of what you REALLY want to get out of the experience.

To find out more about careers in academia, click here. To find out about choosing a career and assessing your options, click here.
 


22 August 2012 10:21 AM

5 Things You Need to Know About Engineering Graduate Jobs

Engineering can get a bit of a bad rep, unfortunately, which is a shame because it has the potential to be one of the most satisfying and stable careers out there. Read on to find out five things every aspiring engineer must know:

  1. It's not just for the guys! Watch this film to find out what women who work in engineering have to say - the general consensus seems to be that not only is it not nearly as 'blokey' as you might think, it's also easier to get noticed for being good at your job when you're the only woman on the team!
  2. There are plenty of jobs in engineering companies for non-engineers - think Sales and Marketing, Project Management, HR, Logistics. A graduate scheme at an engineering company can be a great way to get transferable business skill that will translate to a wide range of careers.
  3. It can offer some of the most flexible hours of any professional job - many companies offer perks like flexitime, and some even give you every Friday afternoon off - yes, really! 
  4. Some engineering graduate schemes will consider candidates with a 2.2 - so this industry can be a good choice if you've not quite hit the grade you hoped for.
  5. Engineering can offer the option of lots of international travel if that's something that takes your fancy - definitely worth bearing in mind, we say!

For more information on careers in engineering, click here.

Or click on the image below...

 


21 August 2012 03:30 PM

3 Ways to Top Up Your Summer CV

So, the summer vacation is in full swing, any internships or summer placements are drawing to a close, and it's raining (again) - what's a bored student to do? Far from being a drag, the end of the summer vacation can be a great time to build up your skills and show future employers that you're capable of seeking out opportunities and making things happen. Read on for our Top Three Tips:

  1. Getting a part-time job can be a great way to keep busy, gain useful 'soft' skills such as communication and dealing with customers - and, of course, earn some much-needed cash before the Autumn loan payment kicks in! You can also use even the crummiest job to your advantage on those all-important application forms - click here to find out how.
  2. If jobs are thin on the ground - or if earning money isn't your main priority right now - why not look into volunteering locally? Summer is a great time to give something back to a cause you love. In fact, a lot of employers like to see volunteering on a CV because it suggests you're someone who's well-rounded and socially responsible.
  3. Learn something new! Yes, this may seem like the last thing you want to do after a year of studying hard, but it's a great way to add to that pesky 'Other Relevant Skills' section on application forms. This doesn't need to be a formal qualification - there are plenty of online courses where you can teach yourself a new language, learn some basic programming or brush up on your typing and Microsoft Office skills.

It goes without saying - don't forget to relax and unwind, too! You've got to be ready for the start of the new term and (more importantly) ready to party all night in Fresher's Week!


20 August 2012 04:12 PM

The Perfect Graduate CV: Dos and Don'ts

So, you’ve decided that the whole corporate-grad-scheme-application-form route isn’t for you. You’ve found a couple of entry-level jobs that sound just perfect. They all ask for a CV. You don’t have one. Now what do you do?

Essentially, a CV is a list of your work and educational achievements to date. Note that it’s not a list of ALL your achievements – your future employer doesn’t want to hear about your SATs results or your grade two cello certificate – instead it should be detailed, professional and focussed. Here's a quick rundown of what each section should (and shouldn't) contain:

Contact details
Do:

  • Put your name, address, phone number and email address. And make sure they're all correct. How else will they get in touch to offer you an interview!?

Don’t:

  • Include irrelevant personal information, like your age, religion, marital status, or a photo of yourself, when applying for a UK-based role. This is standard practise in some countries but is considered unprofessional in the UK, and could open the employer up to charges of discrimination based on age, looks, race, etc – so it’s best avoided.

  • Fire off emails from any address containing any the following: random MySpace-style capitalisation (how old ARE you?), the words ‘sexy’, ‘babe’ or ‘hot’, cutesy nicknames, or references to your fondness for all-night benders. If you have any doubts about the professional appropriateness of your email address, it’s not appropriate. Set up an account with a sensible address – you can’t go wrong with something along the lines of firstname.lastname@emailprovider.com.


Personal statement
Do:

  • Keep it short – remember the abstract you had to write for your dissertation? This is the equivalent, so proportionally it should be two or three lines, max.

Don't:

  • Feel like you have to include one for the sake of it. Having said that, it’s quite a good way to summarise your CV for the recruiter – and anything that makes their life easier after reading 100+ CVs is bound to count in your favour. 


Work experience
Do:

  • Start with the most recent job and work backwards, making sure that you list any useful skills or responsibilities.
  • Get the balance right between inserting buzzwords that the recruiter will pick up on when they scan through the CV, and resorting to clichés. Positive, action-filled words like ‘organised’, ‘managed’, ‘coordinated’ and ‘responsibility’ are all great – generic sentences like ‘I have great customer service skills’ are less useful and fill up valuable space. A sentence like this is only acceptable if followed by ‘…because I did x and y while working in job z.’

Don't:

  • List every job you've ever had from babysitting to bar work. If, for example, you've had a succession of bar jobs plus one or two internships, it’s worth listing those first in more detail, then summarising the less relevant bar work in one or two lines – unless, of course, you’re applying to work in a bar!


Education
Do:

  • List your educational achievements reverse chronological order, starting with your degree and working backwards.
  • List your A-Levels in full.
  • Consider putting 'Education' at the beginning of your CV you’re a recent graduate with no work experience but who boasts a shiny new 1st from a top university.

Don't:

  • List all your GCSEs if you're pressed for space. It's fine to put something like ‘9 GCSEs at grades A*-B, including English and Maths’ – this shows employers what they need to know without boring them with the finer details of your GCSE French coursework.

Relevant skills
Do:

  • Include things like unusual software packages you can use, organizations or societies you belong to, positions of responsibility you've had - anything that adds to the impression that you're a nice, well-rounded, professional person who'd be great to work with!

Don't:

  • List mundane things that 99% of people do in their spare time like 'Going to the pub' or try to be funny - the only exception to this is if you are applying for a very select group of industries i.e. certain branches of media and advertising. Tread very carefully here - and if in doubt, keep it friendly but professional.

Final thoughts
Most people put off writing a CV until faced with a job application deadline, but it’s worth keeping a generic version of your CV up to date at all times, which you can then tailor to suit each job you apply for. Warning for the unwary and/or lazy: when we say tailor, we mean just that – NOT rewrite two sentences, stick in the name of the company and press send!


15 August 2012 12:27 PM

3 things graduates need to know about consulting

For many graduates, consulting has a glamourous ring to it – the idea of walking into a different organisation every fortnight and helping to smooth out their business issues. However, it’s notorious for being a highly demanding career path – have you got what it takes?

1.    Commitment

Consulting is not a profession for graduates who aren’t 100% committed to their career – it involves frequent travel and long hours, with often only a day week spent in your base office. If the idea of becoming closely acquainted with a variety of hotel facilities across the UK doesn’t faze you, then a graduate job in consulting might suit you.


2.    Diplomacy and tact
Consultants are often brought in to help organisations that are having difficulties, so an ability to empathise, be tactful and work collaboratively to solve problems is a valuable skill. 


3.    Organisational skills

You’re not going to be based in the same place all the time, so your ability to get (and keep) yourself organized needs to be top-notch.

Still think you’ve got what it takes? Find out more about careers in consulting by clicking here.


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