Archive for October, 2010

Student Competitions: You’ve Got to Be in It to Win It ‘Innit’?

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Hope everyone enjoyed the Career Fairs last week. Speaking to recruiters I kept thinking how difficult it is to stand out from the crowd – lots of students have a good honours degree, are involved in clubs or societies and have some part-time work experience. To paraphrase ‘The Incredibles’ – if everyone is special that’s another way of saying no one is. However, one good way to set you apart from the pack could be through entering student competitions.

Why should you enter? First off, student competitions are unique opportunities to win prizes such as a cash sum or an equally (possibly more?) valuable internship with an employer. By entering you can also develop skills in key competencies all employers look for, such as commercial awareness, team working, project management and so on. If you do well – or even win – it will look great on your CV too. Don’t forget, you can have a lot of fun working with like-minded people on a competition and you’ll also get a great a sense of achievement.  

Don’t just take my word for it though – listen to the experiences of  3 Queen’s students who entered competitions.

Caron Malone, an Electrical and Electronic Engineering student at Queen’s entered a competition run by nPower and ended up on the trip of a lifetime to Antarctica! She says:

“I got involved in the nPower competition after seeing it advertised on the internet. [Our team] got through to the final 10 teams in the UK in the competition. We went over to London for the final in December where the winning team would be announced.”

 Caron’s team were highly commended, and following this, she had the opportunity to go to Antarctica –if she could raise £15,000 in a month!

 I immediately started looking for sponsorship and after a load of hard work, determination and support from the University I was able to raise the funds to pay for my place on the expedition…Antarctica is beautiful, incredible, untouched and extra-ordinary!.. I had the most amazing experience of my life-one which I think will be very hard to top!..Of course none of it would have been possible if I had not taken part in the nPower competition. I got so much out of taking part…I developed so much as a person, I learnt how determined I can be and how when I really set my sights to something I can achieve it.”

Andrew Johnston was a 2nd-year Queen’s Accountancy student when he won the inaugural Deloitte Student of the Year Business Competition earlier this year. He was selected by Sebastian Coe to attend the Singapore Youth Olympic Games this summer and gained two weeks’ paid work experience in Deloitte’s London 2012 team. He says:

 “The Deloitte Business Competition was the first competition I entered as a student. The prize of paid business experience and travelling was amazing and it was definitely worth entering the competition. I have since noticed that there are a lot of competitions available to students”

Finally, Vincent Murray is a Queen’s graduate of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering and is now with the Enterprise Unit in the Students’ Union. He won the Queen’s Student of the Year competition this year and says:

  ”Winning the Queen’s Student of the Year competition was a fantastic experience for me, raised the profile of some projects that I am involved with and helped me gain extra-curricular achievements which are priceless in a difficult job market. There’s so many great competitions available to students, some with great prize money, students really have nothing to lose by entering.”

 So, if you haven’t previously considered student competitions, weren’t aware of them or maybe thought they weren’t worth entering in case you didn’t win – think again. Here are a couple of competitions available to enter now:

 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year – a chance to win an internship with one of the employers who are finalists in this Programme. Careers have a further info session on how what this is about and how to enter this Friday, 29 Oct 10-11am in the SGC. Sign up at the Events Calendar. Details of programme at

Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Award – The overall winner will take part in the Accenture Leadership Experience, including a trip to New York to meet a number of business leaders and an internship within Accenture’s consultancy practice. Careers are also running a further info session on this on Friday 29 Oct 11.30am-12.30pm in the SGC. Again, sign up at the Events Calendar. Further details at

Careers Mythbusting, PGCE /Accountancy Applications, and Working in London

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Scared by media stories of no graduate employment? The message in this week’s blog is about busting open the myth that there are no graduate jobs out there. Don’t believe all you read or hear – for example, the ‘70 applicants for every 1 graduate job’ story currently doing the rounds doesn’t give the whole picture. Yes, there is increased competition for jobs with graduate recruiters and some areas will certainly be harder to get into this year. But this statistic originally came from a report based on the results of a survey of 200 top graduate employers, not all employers who recruit graduates.

While many final year students will be considering such firms, others – depending on their career plans – will be looking at other types of employers. Neither is it the case that all job sectors are affected in the same way. Some will be recruiting, others won’t (or maybe not to the same level as before) – it’s not the same across the board. Don’t be afraid by these numbers. The odds are still very strongly in your favour for being employed after university, but it’s up to you to make it happen. 

This is a good point to throw in a reminder of upcoming PGCE and other closing dates. I’ve mentioned this in previous blog posts, but it’s very important to apply early and certainly on time. Applications for Queen’s’ PGCE, for instance, need to be in by 1 November. Many firms, especially in accountancy, have very early deadlines and you will need to apply by the end of October, or even sooner, in a lot of cases.  You can read the blog posts below to understand how important it is to apply early.

And finally…are you thinking of working in London? Here’s another date for your diary:

City Event-What it takes to Succeed in London

Tuesday, 26 Oct, 2010 at Great Hall, Lanyon Building


This involves 5 top London managing directors and business leaders from firms such as Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Cazenove, and UBS Investment Bank sharing their experiences. The panel discussion will be hosted by Lynda Bryans and you can put questions at the Q & A session, or informally at a drinks reception afterwards. It will be an excellent chance to find out what it is like to work and live in London. All panel members have either studied at Queen’s or are currently involved in the University today. As a bookable event you should sign-up early at the Events Calendar on the Careers website. Booking will close on Friday 22 October at 2pm. See you guys there!

Careers Fairs and How to Use Them

Monday, October 11th, 2010

We’re well into term now, and suddenly the tutorial work and deadlines are creeping up way too fast. But before things get too busy, do make time to visit at least one of the upcoming Careers Fairs at Queen’s organised by Careers, Employability and Skills and taking place in the Whitla Hall: 

  • Administration, Finance and Management Fair – 11.00-3.00pm Tuesday 19 October  
  • Engineering, Science and IT Fair – 11.00-3.00pm Wednesday 20 October
  • Law Fair – 2.00-4.00pm Wednesday 3 November

Speaking to John Roger (former QUBSU President!) of ‘Big Four’ accounting firm Deloitte this week, he shared some excellent advice on attending careers fairs:

 “Be prepared and do a bit of research on what potential jobs would be on offer. Quite often staff make a note of people particularly interested or suitable for certain roles.”  

 This was news to me that simply by going to a fair you could end up on a recruiter’s list!  Step one has to be researching the companies attending before you go to see who you want to target. Showing up on the day and checking the list of companies as you go in is way too late! Click here for lists of attending companies this year. 

 If you’re applying to a firm and miss them at a fair it can look like you don’t care enough. Some job application forms ask if you’ve met the firm at a Queen’s Careers Fair, while others even ask for the name of anyone you’ve contacted. Careers fairs are an ideal opportunity to make that contact.

 Graduate recruiters are looking for the right ‘mix’ in applicants. John at Deloitte told me this includes a strong academic track-record, typically a 2.1 Honours degree, but that they:

 “..don’t restrict applications to graduates of specific disciplines; having a workforce with a range of experiences and viewpoints contributes to the wealth of knowledge within our firm and the advice we are able to give our clients. As well as a strong academic performance, we attach great importance to graduates’ life experiences – recognising the valuable skills they have equipped them with…A keen interest in business is also desirable.”

Useful info. My own advice is to show up early when the Fair opens. It can be pretty intimidating meeting a complete stranger and discussing career opportunities with crowds of people swarming around you. By lunchtime, not only will more people be crowding into the Whitla Hall, but recruiters may be too busy to talk for very long. If you’re there at the start it will be a lot less stressful.

Remember to be confident, presentable, and always have specific questions to ask. This shows that you have researched the firm and are taking things seriously. But don’t forget to smile too!

The Early Bird Gets the Graduate Job

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Hope you enjoyed the busy Fresher’s Bazaar and Volunteer Fair last week – I’m sure we all have more free pens than we can ever use…this year I got there early and avoided the rush – later on it was like shopping at a late-night garage on Christmas Eve.

Speaking of showing up early (cheesy link, I know!) the big push this week is making early applications. Most Final Years (like me) probably think they will apply for jobs at Christmas or maybe after exams, or even near graduation time. But this is an extremely risky idea and severely decreases your chances of getting a graduate-level job. I know there is a ton of pressure to stay on top of final year work but applying for jobs right now is essential in case you miss something important. 

The Careers website has a great Graduate Vacancy Database and whether you’re looking for graduate employment or internships – from science to business and everything in between – there are loads of current opportunities. The database spells out all the application processes and deadlines.

A lot of graduate jobs have early deadlines, some as soon as the end of October, or even next week; for example, Friday 29 October for many training contracts for the Northern Ireland Chartered Accountancy recruitment (‘Milkround’) and – even earlier – Wednesday 20 October for similar opportunities in the Republic of Ireland. Click on Financial Services Graduate Opportunities Guide for details of opportunities.

You can also check out graduate employers’ own websites as they have the latest on jobs and opportunities with them. Then again, try some of the other graduate vacancy websites out there – ‘other sources of graduate opportunities’ at the Graduate Vacancy Database link above has some examples. 

Lastly, don’t forget to sign up for the Lunchtime Careers Workshops on improving your CV/application forms or interview skills. These start next week every Tuesday and Thursday at 1-2pm in Conference Room 1 at the Student Guidance Centre. Alternatively, you can drop in to the SGC any time Monday to Friday 9-5pm to see a Careers Adviser about your CV, application form, or just for a general chat if you can’t even think where to start with the big scary Career plan.