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Advent Calendar advice Career planning Covid-19 Erasmus graduation lockdown Mental Health Pandemic

Careers Advent Calendar: Surviving final year in a global pandemic

Maeve in Madrid

In the summer of last year, I was adjusting to life in a new city having just started an Erasmus work placement in Madrid. I was enjoying my new independence, tapas, and post-work sunbathing. By March of 2020, a global pandemic had well and truly made itself known throughout Spain, and my international experience, like so many other things, came to an abrupt end.

Suddenly, I was back living at home, completing my final year online and coming to terms with the pending post-graduation panic. It was all a far cry from the pre-pandemic blissful ignorance I was enjoying this time last year. 

Final year is stressful at the best of times, with countless deadlines, exams, job applications and big decisions. Combine that with a switch to online classes and a global pandemic looming large in the backdrop, and it’s a recipe for final year fear.

Learning to adjust

The switch to online learning was something I, like many others, found very daunting.  Microsoft Teams classes and breakout rooms were not how I had imagined my final year of university to be, but I am learning to embrace the positives. For starters, I love avoiding early winter morning commutes to 9am classes. Moreover, I’m recognising that the skills I’ve gained by being thrown into the deep end of online working will be highly valued amongst future employers. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, the need for virtual work skills is no longer limited to telecommuters and global teams; it now extends to most office work. The virtual skills I’ve developed through being immersed into the world of online learning are truly indispensable and highly valuable to employers, so I’ll remember to show them off in my next interview. 

Maeve in Madrid

Looking to the future

And as I begin to look at interviews and how my post-university career path will begin to take shape, I’m aware that my comfortable student bubble is about to burst and real adulthood and responsibilities are looming. 

‘What are your plans after university?’ is a question that rings throughout final year, and while some have a five-year career plan up their sleeve, I count myself among the many who haven’t figured out what I’m doing at the weekend, never mind next year. 

If you’re in a similar situation, and are finding your future really daunting, fear not. Here are some tips that have helped me: 

  1. Don’t get caught up on what your friends are doing. It’s easy to feel that just because everyone you know is applying for Big 4 grad schemes, you should too. It’s important to think about what’s best for you, and understand what you really want. Queen’s Careers Service is on hand to help support you in deciding what to do next. You can book a 1-1 appointment with a Careers Consultant to discuss any aspect of your career management or even receive feedback on your CV/LinkedIn profile. 

Book an appointment in MyFuture

  1. Explore your options! Research, research, research. Graduate jobs are not the only option. Think about postgraduate study – maybe a Master’s programme will be the next step for you? Or, with vaccine hope on the horizon and a slow shift back to normality looking increasingly promising, why not think about working, studying or volunteering abroad? Queen’s Global Opportunities Team can advise you about programmes available. You can arrange a virtual appointment with one of the team to chat about the travel options available to you through MyFuture.

Search Global Opportunities

  1. Leverage the new skills you’ve developed. Although this year has not been the most ideal in terms of academic experience, think about the skills you have developed through its challenges. Not only will employers love those new virtual working skills, but also the adaptability gained by facing a having to suddenly adapt to online classes, resilience gained by facing and persevering through your studies during a very difficult period, and undoubtedly problem-solving in overcoming various issues and problems brought about by the challenges of this year. Think about how to showcase this new skillset, considering how this relates to your ‘selling points’ for your next interview. Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills website has some great interview tips and advice to help you think about this.  
  2. Find comfort in the unknown. Be at ease with the fact that 2020 has been completely unprecedented. It is completely normal to feel anxious and unsure about what your next step is. It’s important to remember that your future isn’t a race or a competition, take your time and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your classmates or lecturers. If you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed, there is support available in the form of Queen’s Wellbeing who are on hand to help those struggling through these very strange times.

Contact Queen’s Wellbeing Service

If you are unsure about your next step after graduation, there are lots of tools and resources available to you on our website. 

Explore your options by School or Sector.

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Advent Calendar advice Applications competencies Interviews STAR

Careers Advent Calendar: Demonstrate your problem-solving skills

Employers want to know how you would tackle problems. Can you use logic and imagination to find solutions? Better still, can you anticipate problems and find ways to prevent them?

Good problem-solvers possess the following skills:

  • analytical skills
  • innovative and creative thinking
  • a lateral mindset
  • adaptability and flexibility
  • level-headedness
  • initiative
  • resilience (in order to reassess when your first idea doesn’t work)
  • teamworking (if problem solving is a team effort)
  • influencing skills (to get colleagues, clients and bosses to adopt your solutions).

How can you prove your problem-solving skills?

You might be asked in an interview to talk about a time you solved a problem, or you could be given a hypothetical situation and asked how you would respond to it e.g.

Give me an example of a time when you ran into a problem on a project. What did you do?

OR

How would you react if given negative feedback by a manager on an aspect of your performance?

In both these cases, you should refer to the above list of skills and how you demonstrated each when giving your answer. 

Developing your problem-solving techniques 

The following situations are all good examples of using problem-solving skills:

  • Sorting out a technical problem with your phone, device or computer.
  • Resolving a dispute with a tricky landlord in order to get your deposit back.
  • Carrying out DIY.
  • Serving a demanding customer or resolving a complaint.
  • Finding a way round a funding shortfall in order to pay for travel or a gap year.
  • Turning around the finances or increasing the membership of a struggling student society.
  • Organising a student society’s trip overseas, overcoming unforeseen difficulties on the way.
  • Acting as a course rep or as a mentor for other students.
  • Course assignments that involve problem solving

Articulating your skills

You will need to explain how you identified the problem, came up with a solution and implemented it. Follow the STAR technique outlined on our website. If you tackled a problem as part of a team, explain how your role was important in ensuring the positive solution, but also explain how your group worked together. This could be an opportunity to promote your teamworking skills as well – bonus!

For more advice on developing your problem-solving technique, visit the Target website

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Advent Calendar advice goals motivation self-motivation

Careers Advent Calendar: Three top tips for Self-Motivation

1.Only compete with yourself

Comparing yourself to others can leave you flat, when it comes to self-motivation, it’s much better to set your own benchmark. Set yourself daily or weekly targets that move you closer to where you want to be.

2. Back yourself

Imagine someone asked you to describe what was so great about your best friend. Now imagine they asked you the same question about yourself. Would you be as kind about yourself as you are about others? Whether it’s through daily affirmations or just by talking to yourself more kindly, positive self-talk can super charge your motivation.

3. Show the haters

There is nothing like the promise of proving the haters wrong to speed you along the path towards your goals. Next time you are lacking motivation, think about that person who said you couldn’t and aim to prove them wrong. 

For more top tips on interpersonal skills, visit the skills section of our site 

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Advent Calendar Leadership personal skills Skills

Careers Advent Calendar: 15 Skills That Make a Good Leader

  1. Honesty and integrity

2. Confidence

3. Inspire Others

4. Commitment and Passion

5. Good Communicator

6. Decision Making Capabilities

7. Accountability

8. Delegation and Empowerment

9. Creativity and Innovation

10. Empathy

11. Resilience

12. Emotional Intelligence

13. Humility

14. Transparency

15. Vision and Purpose

Read more about the 15 leadership skills here

Discover more about leadership on the skills section of our site. 

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Awards Black Heritage Equality First Generation Future CFO LGBTQ+ Management TargetJobs Undergraduate of the Year Young Activist

Could you be Crowned Undergraduate of the Year?

Q: ‘I don’t think I have a chance of winning – what’s the point in applying?’

A: As one previous finalist said: ‘If not you, then who?’ 

Each year we hear from winners who said they entered on a whim and were amazed to go on to the next stage and ultimately attend the final. We don’t look for a specific amount or type of achievements. The award partners are most interested in hearing about how your experiences have influenced you personally, and why you consider something to be an achievement to you. Each stage of the process is great practice for job applications, and around half of the finalists go on to work with companies they met at the awards! What do you have to lose?

Q: ‘The entry process is too long – why should I stick with it?’

A: We understand that two hours can sound like a lot; however you can always save your progress and break the application down into manageable chunks. We recommend filling in your initial details and looking at the questions – at this point you can then log out and write up your answers, before submitting them when you are ready. You are next invited to take part in some online tests, which you can do on a morning or afternoon that suits you.  

Q: ‘How do I answer the questions set by the award partner?’

A: Make sure you read the questions properly and start off by making a plan to note down your initial thoughts and ideas of what to include. Make sure you use the word count wisely and try and draw on your experience to help you answer the questions. We also recommend getting someone (a friend, housemate, colleague or parent) to proof-read your answers and offer their opinion as they can help to tweak things and might remind you of something else to include.  

Q: ‘I’m nervous about the psychometric testing.’ 

A: Before each test, you have the opportunity to practise and learn how it will work. There are also websites that let you practise different types of psychometric tests for free. You can always ask friends and peers for advice as they may have experienced testing as part of a job application. Check out the TARGETjobs advice on psychometric testing too: https://targetjobs.co.uk/careers-advice/psychometric-tests . 

Q: ‘Will my university studies suffer if I spend time on this instead?’ 

A: Whatever year of study you are in, we want you to prioritise your university work. However, there will be times when you need a break from coursework and revision! Speaking to past finalists and winners, we learned that they used the evenings and weekends to work on their award applications, having spent most of the week attending lectures and completing university work. It’s a good idea to keep a schedule to keep track of all your commitments, and you can plan ahead to book in time for writing your answers and completing the online tests.

Q: ‘I’m not available on the day of the Awards Ceremony Final in 2021.’ 

A: If you can’t join us on 30 April, you could still win the award. If you impress at an assessment centre you may be offered a role, even though you’re unable to attend as a finalist! 

Q: ‘What does ‘the right to work in the UK after graduation’ mean?’ 

A; Due to the prizes offered by each of the award partners, we cannot accept applications to some of the awards if you do not have the right to work in the UK after graduation. This means if you are on a Tier 4 visa then you unfortunately cannot apply to the awards that list this as a requirement. When considering whether you are eligible to apply, please take your current situation into account, rather than what may or may not happen in the future. If you are an EU citizen or have a British passport, then you can apply to all of our awards. If in doubt, contact us and ask.  

Any other questions? Contact the team at undergraduateoftheyear@targetjobs.com

About the awards:

There are 9 different categories this year, each sponsored by an award partner (such as HSBC or L’Oreal) who provides prizes for the winner in the shape of internships, shadowing opportunities and other experiences. Many previous winners and finalists ‘applied on a whim’ and never imagined they would make it to the final. 

Join the previous winners for an online webinar on 14 January at 2pm to hear their experiences.

Register for the webinar

Check criteria and apply

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Advent Calendar advice communication skills personal skills presentations

Careers Advent Calendar: 5 quick tips for effective presentations

  1. Prepare – think about the audience, what you want to achieve, and create a rough outline of what you need to include and what visual aids you will use. Presentations vary in formality so try to get a sense of what your tutor expects in advance. 

2. Organise – a presentation, like an essay, needs an introduction/overview, main body with clear sections and a conclusion to reinforce important points. A good presentation needs interesting content. Think about how much information you can adequately cover in the time that you have. 

3. Deliver – use notes, cues and prompts (rather than reading word-for-word from a page) and speak to the audience (not to your page!) Look around the room, make eye-contact with the audience, if you can, and speak slowly and clearly. Think about your posture and voice. 

4. Visual aids and handouts – spend some time working on a complementary and informative way to present your information and highlight the main points. This often includes PowerPoint’s: use a large font size, avoid more than six points on a slide and use colour, pictures or graphs to keep your slides interesting. If you are using handouts, avoid large lumps of text; keep these brief and informative too. Be sure to refer to specific slides or sections of the handout in your presentation. 

5. Deal with nerves – A presentation is a performance. To control your nerves, be well-prepared: keep practising and then practice some more! Make a one-to- one appointment to practice in front of a tutor or ask a friend to watch you practice. Make sure that the presentation runs to the right time. Use confident and friendly body language to convey that you are relaxed. Use a clear voice and speak loudly enough. Slow down – it is natural to speed up if you are feeling nervous but breathe and take pauses. 

Want more communication tips? Visit the skills section of our website. 

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Advent Calendar advice group projects group work Learning development personal skills Teamwork

Careers Advent Calendar: Succeed in Group Work – Despite Social Distancing

Tips for the first meeting 

✔️ Make a positive start: Smile, ask questions, offer suggestions, make notes, talk predominantly about your group project 

✔️ Introduce each other: Some people might not know each other 

✔️ Take time: Don’t rush into the first meeting, first impressions are important 

✔️ Identify the task: Make sure everyone understands the assignment and what is needed to successfully complete the group work i.e., read the assignment instructions together


✔️Agree on rules: Everyone should be clear on what to expect, how to contribute and what happens if he/she does not participate appropriately


✔️ Identify areas of expertise: Who is good in what? Look up Belbin’s Team Role Inventories to help you with that process 

✔️  Identify common practice: Who will be taking notes, who are you going to decide on things? 

✔️ Make a plan: In one of the earlier meetings agree on a schedule e.g., when is what finished by whom? 

✔️  Have a set agenda: Agree at the beginning of the meeting what issues need to be addressed 

✔️  Be organised: Leave the meeting knowing what each of the group members has to do 

✔️  Evaluate: Start off the meeting with a summary of what has been achieved so far 

✔️  Be democratic: Let all people have a say and be polite to each other 

✔️  Keep records: Keep clear records of meetings and attendance and make sure there is a record of who has done what 

Things to consider 

✔️ Before you submit or give the presentation make sure
you’ve met all the demands set out by your lecturer or school 

✔️ In case you are asked to work on a written assignment be aware that in should be a coherent piece of work i.e., allocate who will proofread, who edits the paper, how are you referencing, what kind of abbreviations etc. you will use 

✔️ Email communication can be a challenge. Be aware of
your tone of voice as written words can often sound harsher than intended 

Group work will be successful if you… 

✔️ Have clear objectives, agreed goals and allocated roles 
✔️ Reach agreements at most meetings
✔️ Complete tasks as agreed
✔️ Are all participating 
✔️ Are listening to each other
✔️ Generate an open and trusting atmosphere 
✔️ Allow opinions to be questioned
✔️ Respect each other
✔️ Use your time effectively
✔️ Have a systematic approach to discussion 
✔️ Regularly review the process
✔️ Share information
✔️ Can keep up a good communication 

Group work will go wrong if you… 

✔️  Are wasting time 

✔️  Are not taking the task serious 

✔️  Have no clearly articulated roles and tasks 

✔️  Have a weak leadership 

✔️  Lack planning 

✔️  Have no clear agendas 

✔️  Lack support 

✔️  Isolate certain group members 

✔️  Are going into too much procedural detail 

✔️  Shot down ideas of each other 

✔️  Lack innovation and communication 

Learn more about Teamwork and other vital personal attributes to develop at university

Categories
Advent Calendar advice Employers Interviews personal skills Skills

Careers Advent Calendar: Personal Skills Audit

Personal skills

Organisation

Time keeping 

Time management

Planning 

Self-motivation

Work quickly/ accurately

Using initiative

Coping with stress 

Self-awareness

Working to deadlines 

Multi-tasking

Prioritising

Working under pressure 

Assess and evaluate my own and others work 

People skills

Team work

Customer service skills Leadership

Interpersonal skills Communication (oral and written)

Presenting/ Making speeches

Networking Negotiating

Handling Complaints

Management/Supervisory experience

Persuasiveness and influencing

Technical Skills

Collecting and analysing data

Foreign languages

Technical skills/ Knowledge specific to industry

Use sign language

Write reports 

Occupational area specific knowledge/ information

General skills

Problem solving

Decision making

Numeracy

Arrange events and activities 

Business/Commercial awareness

I.T.Skills

Identifying/evaluating options 

Editing/summarising information

Identifying problems (troubleshooting)

Qualities Sought By Employers

Enthusiastic/willing to learn 

Honest Reliable/dependable 

Resilient

Creativity

Can accept criticism 

Hardworking 

Conscientious 

Sensitive to others

 Assertive 

Friendly/likeable 

Outgoing 

Driven/ambitious 

Independent

Proactive

Cooperative

Trustworthy

Fair 

Patient/Calm 

Energetic 

Socially confident 

Optimistic 

Respectful

Polite

Original

Detail orientated

Adaptable/flexible

Able to take responsibility

REMEMBER – when saying you have certain skills you need to be prepared and be able to demonstrate HOW you have EFFECTIVELY used this skill

Some sources of examples:

Placements/internships

Part time Jobs/ holiday work Voluntary work

DegreePlus

Practical/Technical knowledge Project/ research work Student representation

Clubs and societies Enterprise programmes Courses and Seminars

Sports

Music

Drama

Travel Languages Charity Interests

Anything that involves teamwork or skill will be highly desirable

Find out more about how you can develop your personal skills on our website. 

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Advent Calendar advice Body Language interview interview tips

Careers Advent Calendar: Body Language

First impressions are crucial. From what you wear to what gestures you make, be assured, that people will take note. In fact, studies have found that non-verbal cues have over four times the impact on impression you make than anything you say. Here are some common non-verbal cues: 

Arched Eyebrows – When we raise our eyebrows it means we are contemplating what we’re listening to and that we’re mildly intrigued.

Direct Eye Contact – Means we’re interested, we’re listening, and that we’re focused on you

Feet Facing Forward – It shows that your focused on the other person.

Positive/ Open Body Language

Akimbo Arms – Planting your hands with your thumbs backward on your hips and elbows out in a ‘V’ shape displays dominance and authority.

Mirroring – Mirroring someone’s body language means they’re interested in you and trying to build rapport.

Negative/ Closed Body Language

Shaking Your Legs – Means you’re anxious, scared or impatient.

Lowered Head – Means you’re ashamed of something, shy or have something to hide.

Squinting – When people see what they don’t like, feel threatened, or are unhappy, they squint their eyes.

Blinking Too Much – Means we are nervous or anxious.

Arms Crossed – presents a barrier and suggests an image of defensive, reserved and uncomfortable.

Common Non-Verbal Mistakes Made During an Interview

26% Have a weak handshake

21% Close their arms over their chest

33% Fidget too much

21% Play with their hair or touch their face

67% Fail to make eye contact

38% Don’t Smile

33% Have bad posture

Quick stats of first impressions

First impressions are formed within 7 SECONDS of meeting someone

In a survey of 2000 managers, 33% claimed to know whether or not they would HIRE someone within 90 seconds

80% of information people remember is Oral & Visual

In a study, researchers identified 5000 DISTINCT HAND GESTURES in humans

55% of first impressions are formed by your dress, act and walk through the door

38% of a person’s first impression is determined by TONE OF VOICE and just 7% The words you choose to say

65% Of hiring managers say that clothes can be a deciding factor between two similar candidates

Don’t let your clothes talk for you. Choose something neutral avoiding distractingly bright or coloured heavily patterned clothing 

For more top interview prep tips, visit our website

Categories
interview interview tips Interviews Mock Interviews Virtual interviews

Five Interview Questions to Practise on the MyFuture Mock Interview Tool

Question 1: Tell me a little about yourself?

This is a very open question but it is important to be succinct in your answer. Focus on the key points you want to make about yourself.

 A starting point might be ‘I am currently a level two History student, I chose History because I really enjoyed the subject and knew that the course would further develop my communication and analytical skills and I believe these skills are useful for lots of different jobs roles.’ When interviewing for a specific job, you would cite skills that you feel you have/can evidence and are relevant to the job role

 You might then go on to talk about what you do in your spare time/extracurricular activity (if interesting or appropriate) or elaborate a bit more on your degree. If you have a part time job or have undertaken any voluntary work then again this is a good opportunity to mention them briefly.

 In many ways this questions allow you to provide a brief summary of your CV. The important point though is to draw out the skills you have gained from experiences and relate them to the job role. You might want to end by expressing your interest in the position you have applied for, having already showcased the skills you have that relate to the role.

Question 2: What skills and abilities do you have which you believe make you a good candidate for the position you are interested in? 

In answering this question it is vital to show a good understanding of the position you have applied for (your pre-interview preparations in reviewing the job and person specification will be important in helping you to answer this type of question). 

 Demonstrate that you meet the criteria set out on the Person Specification: So for example if team work is mentioned on the Person Specification you might want to begin to answer this question by stating ‘I believe I have the right skills and abilities for this position because I work really well in a team environment and I know this is a key aspect of the job role.’ 

 Expand on this introduction by specifying what you understand those skills and abilities to be and give examples from both your degree and extra-curricular experience of how you have utilised these effectively in the past. 

 Example: If team work is an important skill in job role: detail your team work experience and how you acquired it – perhaps you have experience from your part time job, DegreePlus and/or degree. It is advisable to touch upon all the main skills and abilities associated with the role. 

Question 3: Can you give an example of a project that you did at University, what problems you encountered and how you overcame these? 

This is a competency-based question and most interviews will feature at least one of these. They are usually recognisable as they tend to begin with ‘Can you give an example of a time when…….’, ‘Can you tell me about a time when…….’ or ‘Describe an occasion when……….’ Competency based questions are used by employers to establish if you have the skills they are looking for. 

 They therefore use these questions to get an indication of a time when you have used a skill in the past – employers believe this is a good indicator of future performance. So for example in the question above they will be trying to establish if you are good at overcoming obstacles and problem solving to reach an end goal. 

 The key to answering these questions is to provide a specific example of a time when you have demonstrated a particular skill. Do not generalise. Avoid speaking generally about your skill by using the S.T.A.R. acronym to answer this question – 

S. – Situation. Briefly describe a situation that you have been involved in that demonstrates the required competency 

T. – Task. Describe the task you had to complete
A. – Action. Describe the action you took and keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project, describe what you did, not the efforts of the team R. – Result. What was the outcome? What did you accomplish? What did you learn? 

For all interviews it is advisable to prepare answers using the STAR acronym for each of the skills or competencies listed on the Person Specification. The experiences you draw on to provide your examples can come from a wide variety of sources – academic work, part time jobs, voluntary roles, sports or any extra-curricular activities. 

Question 4 : Can you tell me why you are interested in this role or sector and what experiences you have that are relevant to it?

This is a great opportunity to demonstrate enthusiasm for the position you are interested in. Employers love to see passion and enthusiasm so endeavour to get this across. This question is also an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the job role as laid out in the Job Specification and your understanding and knowledge of the wider sector. 

 It is therefore advisable to research the sector thoroughly and have a clear idea of what the job role actually involves as part of your interview preparation. So for a role in the care sector you might want to begin to answer this question by saying ‘I am really interested in this position because I love working with people and I want to work in a role where I can have a practical, positive input every day. I can see this happening in this job because……’ You might then go on to demonstrate your knowledge of the job role as laid out in the Job Specification and your understanding and knowledge of the sector in general. 

 You should conclude your answer by mentioning previous relevant experience you have. Where you do not feel you have relevant experience instead draw on the skills you have that demonstrate that you are well equipped to carry out the requirements of the role. 

Question 5: Lastly, can you tell me why we should hire you, rather than another candidate? 

Again this question is a great opportunity to show the employer how much you want the job and to once again demonstrate that key attribute – enthusiasm! 

This question provides you with an opportunity to summarise the skills and experience you have allowing you to demonstrate to the employer that you are the right person for the job. 

 It is also a fairly open question so if you feel you haven’t been able to mention other experiences or skills that might make you stand out then this is the opportunity to do it. Make it clear to the employer that you are a very good fit for the Person Specification that they have set out. 

 This is your chance to really sell your skills so make sure you do and finally remember to tell them how much you want the job and how much you want to work for this particular employer. 

Access the virtual interview tool in MyFuture