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


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?

Good…
- 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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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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30 October 2012 02:37 PM

Application time: Internships and work experience

Graduate employers are looking for more than just a good degree, and at this time of year it's coming up to internship application time, with most schemes closing around Christmas or January. To be successful in the graduate job market you need to demonstrate that that as well as academic ability you have employability skills which will enable you to be an effective employee from day one. Work experience will enhance your practical workplace skills, while testing out a few different working cultures will help you to decide where you fit in.

  • Part-time jobs or vacation work - any work experience, however irrelevent you think it is, can used to demonstrate valuable skills on your CV.
  • Traditional internships - these are paid, structured placements, often taken over the summer. Many industries offer placements, with law internships, marketing internships and investment banking internships being some of the most popular. They offer you a real taste of life at a large company.

  • Work placement - some degrees, particularly those with a vocational element such as engineering, offer a year-long placement as part of the course.
  • Voluntary work and gap years - Whether you're working with kids in Peru or helping serve tea at the old peoples' home down the road, volunteering is great work experience. Not only does it help you build up workplace skills, it also shows that you're capable of taking the initiative, and that you've a nice person!
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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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19 September 2012 08:50 AM

Spotlight on: HR Graduate Jobs

HR has shed its paper-pushing image in the last few years and is seen as an increasingly attractive destination for graduates from all degree disciplines. If you're commercially aware and also a real people person - tactful, empathetic, confident and a great communicator - who wants to use these skills in business, this could be the industry for you.

Watch a real HR professional talking about the best and worst bits of his job here.

HR departments have historically had a bit of a bad rep as the boring, 'computer says no' zone in the company - so part of your role as a modern HR professional is to change this image! HR strategy these days is very much about retaining and developing staff, not just making sure they follow the rules arbitrarily. Your understanding of employment law needs to be top-notch, too, so HR can be a good choice for law graduates who've decided that life as a solicitor or barrister isn't for them, but still want to use what they've learned in a business context.

With many companies recognising the advantages of flexible working, part of any modern HR role is to help the company and staff maintain a work-life balance that's mutually beneficial to everyone. To do this requires tact, diplomacy, empathy, assertiveness and negotiation skills. Remember that you will often be dealing with people who are in difficult or emotionally-charged situations - illness, bullying and work stress don't tend to leave people in the most calm frame of mind.

As well as the day-to-day liaison between staff and employers, HR professionals also have a big role to play in the strategic direction of the company. At a senior level, HR teams will advise on employing the right balance of staff in terms of skills and experience, advise on and help to implement training and development programmes across the company, consult with recruitment agencies, give input on pay scales, ensure compliance with current employment and working practise legislation, and lead company strategy on equality and diversity. Whew!

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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.
 

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