Archive for October, 2011

Why take part in Student Competitions?

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Hey, everyone! I hope you all enjoyed the Career Fairs last week and walked out of the Whitla Hall with loads of information, advice, ideas as well as free pens and other goodies!

Maybe you got a sense of what employers you are interested in? If so, the next step is to get them interested in you. At the Career Fairs I talked to recruiters about the sorts of things they want from graduates. Responses varied, but a number of key things came up time and again.

Sorcha McGinn from First Derivatives spoke for many employers when she said:

For us it is essential that you know the job you are applying for, our company and the business environment in general. So definitely do your research.”

In terms of what recruiters expect to see from applicants, Doug Stewart from Accenture offered the following:

We get lots and lots of applications every year, so we’re not at the Career Fairs to get more, but to get through to the right people. Key competences, such as teamwork and leadership are essential to us. If applicants can link their past experience to these competences, that is what we want.”

Also – not to be underestimated – is how you come across. Migue Cabaccero Pinto from Microsoft Ireland said:

First thing, try not to be nervous. Often we meet people with great skills but they lack confidence.”

All the more reason to sign up for one of our Skills for Success or Lunchtime CV, Applications, Interview Skills and Aptitude Test Workshops (check > Events Calendar for details – and even if it says ‘fully booked’ come along anyway in case there is a free place on the day).

Anyway, after the Careers Fairs I kept thinking, yes, maybe I have all those competences – but how do I show that I have them? What experiences can I link these competences to (as Doug from Accenture puts it)? One possible answer – Student Competitions!

So, what are the advantages of taking part in a Student Competition? Firstly, there are always prizes waiting, whether it’s cash for your next holiday, or maybe even an internship. Secondly, it looks impressive on your CV and will make you stand out from the crowd. It’ll also help you gain invaluable teamwork, leadership skills, commercial awareness and the ability to think innovatively – exactly the kinds of things your future employers will be looking for when they’re reading through your job application. So even if you don’t win, you can’t really lose.

Are you convinced yet? Excellent! So what’s out there then? A great starting point is here at the Careers website > Students and Graduates > Improve Your Employability > Competitions where you’ll find lots of examples such as:

New York City’s Next Idea 2011-12 competition, where you can win a trip to New York and a hefty cash prize!

Universities’ Brightest Business Brain where you can win a £1000 prize competing against students from other top UK universities; you don’t even need to be studying a business related degree.

Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Award 2012 which promises an internship within the company and the chance to develop leadership skills during an all expenses paid trip to New York.

That’s just to name a few. For a heap of other competitions, or for more information on those mentioned above, make sure to check out the Careers website on a regular basis, as well as the Students’ Union site.

Next week’s blog will be about how to gain insights into graduate work (or work experience in general) before or during your final year. So be sure to join me again then!

Application deadlines: how to avoid missing them

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Hello everyone, good to have you back. I bet some of you looked at this week’s topic and thought: job deadlines – what… now? If you’re a final year student maybe you’re thinking about applying for jobs after Christmas, or after final exams in the summer – I know I would. But as with many things, the advice is actually the earlier you apply the better. If you’re looking for graduate jobs or postgraduate courses you might end up missing valuable employment opportunities, or vital closing dates and deadlines, and putting yourself under real time (or even financial) pressure when you finish your degree. You may also run the risk of having to take a non-graduate job far below what you’d originally hoped for.

Now is the time to avoid that.

If you’ve already got an idea about where you’re going job or course-wise, why not do something about it today rather than tomorrow, and take the time to check out what’s available and when you need to apply.

For example, the deadline for the Queen’s Initial Teacher Education (PGCE) programme, to start September 2012 is 1st November this year. For many job vacancies with top companies applications have to be in early – in some cases the end of this week. In other words – really early! But don’t despair and think you’ve missed out on everything, there’s still time to get a graduate job.

I don’t want to preach to the converted here by telling you guys how to best manage your time, so let me just offer a few tips:

Check closing dates and what’s involved

Even when the closing date looks far off, have a look at what exactly the application will involve, otherwise you might get yourself into trouble. Like a friend of mine who was applying for a job online, spent days writing the perfect cover letter, only to then find out – crucially only one day before the deadline – that he needed to have two references submitted on his behalf. As you might guess, he didn’t end up applying. Only once you know exactly what you need will you really know how much time the application will take.

Give yourself enough time

Remember to pencil in enough time for researching the details of the job vacancy, selection criteria, the employer and so on. You might also think about taking some extra time for your very first application, because it’ll probably take you a while to get into the swing of it. Also, don’t forget the Careers lunchtime workshops on applications, CVs, interviews and aptitude tests. You can also talk to a Careers Adviser about specific applications using the drop in service at the SGC.

Don’t wait until the deadline

Think of the deadline as the very last opportunity to submit your application. It’s good to take your time and read over your application a few times. In Northern Ireland, applications for vacancies are not generally considered before the closing date, but that might not be the case elsewhere. So, if you want to apply for a popular job in Great Britain or the Republic of Ireland and you leave the application to the last minute, the company might already have received a lot of applications and the job could already be gone.

So, there’s no need to panic, but do make sure you’re aware of these issues as you go along. Alright, that’s me for now. Join me next week, for a look at student competitions and a look at how things went at the Careers Fairs this week.

Career Fairs – making the most of them

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Hello everyone! I’m sure a lot of you have already heard something about the upcoming Career Fairs, but as life tends to rush along you’ve probably had no time to follow up and find out more about them. So that’s why I’m picking up on that theme in this week’s blog.

The world of University might feel a bit apart from the ‘real world’ from time to time, especially the world of employment. Career Fairs, though, bring that real world to you. They give you the chance to meet graduate recruiters and are particularly useful if your degree is non-vocational. You can use them to get a good sense of what range of jobs are out there – many graduate opportunities are open to students from any degree and you might be surprised to find what you’re actually qualified for!

Also, if you’re looking at postgraduate study rather than work there will be a number of postgraduate course providers at both the 25 and 26 October Fairs. So make sure to note down these dates and make space in your diary to come along.

Administration, Finance & Management Fair

Tuesday 25 October 2011, 11.00 – 15.00, Whitla Hall

Engineering & IT Fair

Wednesday 26 October 2011, 11.00 – 15.00, Whitla Hall

Law Fair

Wednesday 9 November 2011, 14.00 – 16.00, Whitla Hall

If you’d like to know more, and find out what other events are coming up you can find a lot more information on the Careers website under Career Fairs.

Now you know when and where they’re on, how can you make the most out of these events? Here are 4 tips:

  1. It’s always good to be prepared – take a moment to look at the websites for some of the employers you’re interested in before you go. Then you’ll be able to ask better questions – and get better answers
  1. Have a think about the sort of person they might be looking for – someone who is motivated and positive, for a start – and the sorts of skills they’ll be interested in; try to put that across when you talk to representatives – and remember to smile! Don’t be afraid to ask them all those questions that have been banging around in your head. If you’re interested, show it
  1. Be open-minded – the skills you have developed through your course could potentially be useful for many different jobs, not just those related to your degree. When you’re talking to the organisations’ reps ask them what degree they did – it might be an eye-opener!
  1. What if you find your dream employer or job? All the better, but don’t forget to note down the full name and contact details of the representative you spoke to and keep your copy of the fair brochure for further reference Then, when you’re doing further research or preparing your application, you’ve got a contact to follow up on if you need to

That’s all for now. I hope this was useful for you and I’ll look forward to seeing you all at the Admin, Finance and Management Career Fair on 25 October. Next week’s blog will be all about how to best manage your time when you have early deadlines for applications.


Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Hi again everybody! Last week’s blog was all about how to find a graduate job, assuming you already have some idea of what field you want to get into. But while writing that I got to thinking what if you’re not actually at that stage yet – how can you get there in the first place if you have no idea what to do next?

Looking at what you want to do as well as what you can do it’s not just a case of doing a Jamie Oliver and throwing all this into a bowl, whisking gently and that’s you sorted – you also need to take into account what is out there and where they are available!

If you don’t know what to do or where to look your starting point should be making a guidance appointment with your Careers Adviser by booking through reception at the Student Guidance Centre (see the 26 September blog for details). Careers don’t just help students who know what they want – they can help you if you’re stuck too.

Also, there will be a couple of 1 day workshops in November and December called “Careers for the Clueless” and these ‘do just what they say on the tin’. Check our Events Calendar in next few weeks for dates and other details.

In the meantime why not have a look at Graduate Prospects and Gradireland Both have lots of useful info on job areas and postgraduate study options. Gradireland’s Careers Report function is also a good way of seeing what you might be suited to work-wise.

Anyway, as well as giving you some tips on what to do let’s also look at 5 things NOT to do when making career decisions:

Don’t be afraid – look outside your comfort zone and don’t let fear of the unknown affect your decisions about your future.

Don’t just think in black and white – simplifying things might make decisions seem more straightforward, but it could also limit you. Look at different options and routes to your dream job.

Don’t drift: do something – try not to get stuck thinking about things and never actually doing anything. This is called ‘analysis paralysis’. Sure, take your time, but don’t over-think.

Don’t rely on others to make your decisions for you – your family and friends all want the best for you, but at the end of the day don’t forget it’s you who decides!

Don’t feel that help from Careers, Employability and Skills Service is for everyone but you – you can still get help even if you’re feeling clueless. Talking to a Careers Adviser and attending events is always going to be beneficial. Of course, the better prepared you are, the more you might take from those meetings and events; but that doesn’t mean you’ve got to know exactly what you want before you turn up – that’s what they’re there for, after all!

Joking aside, even if you feel apprehensive about the idea of a one on one appointment with an Adviser at the moment, don’t forget you can use the drop-in service for a shorter discussion; and you can always sign up for one of the Careers for the Clueless Workshops when details are announced.

I hope you found this week’s blog helpful and look forward to seeing you again next week, when we’ll be talking in more detail about Career Fairs and how to use them.

Looking for a graduate job? Know where to start!

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Hi everybody, welcome to this week’s blog and some ideas on how to find the perfect graduate job.

One of the first and most important things to do is to recognise and accept that looking for a job can be stressful. Thoughts like “I’ve got no idea what I want to do with the rest of my life!!” tend to come to mind. So how can you make it a less stressful experience?

Firstly, start thinking about what you want to do after graduation as early as possible to avoid creating time-pressures. Many graduate jobs have early deadlines. Secondly, you don’t have to deal with it all on your own – you can first get in touch with Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills for help. Here are a few reasons why you should:

Careers, Employability and Skills has a huge Graduate Vacancy Database, which offers not only current graduate job vacancies but also work placement opportunities, postgraduate study with funding options and details of graduate training schemes. The vacancies section at the Careers website also has suggestions about other vacancy websites you might want to check out.

There is also the Financial Services Sector brochure (available as hard copy or online at the Careers website with details of jobs and placements in areas like accountancy, actuarial, banking, finance and insurance. But be quick as some have early closing dates!

Have a look too at the Lunchtime Workshops which are 1 hour sessions to help you with applications, CVs, interviews and aptitude tests. These start this week, but if you miss one don’t worry too much as there’s plenty more coming up. To see what’s on and to sign up, log onto the Events Calendar

And did you know? – there are Career Fairs which are a great chance to talk to employers and find out about graduate jobs and placement opportunities. There are a number of these and the Administration, Finance and Management Fair kicks things off on the 25th October, followed by the Engineering and IT Fair on 26th October.

Don’t forget to make use of the extensive information material available in the careers area in the Student Guidance Centre. You won’t be disappointed, whether you’re looking for general options and advice in Target Job, lists of popular graduate employers in publications like UK 300 or Ireland’s 100 Leading Graduate Employersor information on specific sectors, such as you might find in Financial Service – Graduate and Placement 2011-2012. Many of the books and brochures are free to take. And if you’re still hungry for information, make sure to check out last week’s blog.

Some final tips: think about getting in touch with former employers or organisations you’ve volunteered for in the past – they might not have anything going right now, but it’s good to keep up your networks. If there’s one particular employer you’re interested in, try to keep up-to-date with their website and visit regularly, and if that dream employer has no current vacancies you could always send them your CV anyway to demonstrate your interest – you never know.

And remember – you don’t actually need to stay in your first job until you retire! It really is only about your first job and getting your foot on the first rung of your career ladder – something that will hopefully give you a direction to follow and a passion to pursue. Whatever, make the effort and things will work out.

I hope you’ll join me again next week, especially those of you who would like to find an employer or postgraduate course, but really need to find themselves first…