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Employer Engagement Employer events Employer feedback Employer Insight Employers international students student success Student success stories

What impresses employers about Queen’s students?

 This blog celebrates some of the encouraging employer feedback we have received about Queen’s students during our employer events and activities over the last year. 

“Fantastic students”

Beth MacDougall, Student Recruitment Associate at EY welcomed a group of Queen’s students for our recent #QUBWorkShadowingWeek. She told us:
“What a brilliant day meeting these fantastic Queen’s students! We couldn’t have been more delighted with our first event back in person! The students developed an understanding of the different roles we offer, and were keen to know what it’s actually like working here day to day. Biggest thank you to all those in the group for signing up and being fantastic participants – we can’t wait to see what all your futures hold!”

“Delighted to see classroom learning translated into a professional environment”

Louise Dooley, In-House Recruitment Specialist at Andor Technology welcomed a group of Queen’s students for our recent #QUBWorkShadowingWeek. She told us:
“Andor Technology were delighted to be one of the partner organisations participating in #QUBWorkShadowingWeek. We welcomed students from Mechanical and Electronic Engineering and Physics disciplines. Thank you for helping us provide opportunities for students to gain valuable insights into the world of work and how classroom learning translates into a professional environment.”

“Eyes opened to the future potential”

The Interior Fit-Out Team at Graham welcomed a group of Queen’s students for our recent #QUBWorkShadowingWeek. They told us:
“We opened the doors to 7 students from Queens University Belfast to see and learn about the works being carried out, whilst giving them an understanding of how a live project runs.

Project Manager, Eóin King MCIOB along with Contracts Director Neill Gillespie MCIOB took the students on a tour of the project and shared their own experiences of working and studying whilst building their career within GRAHAM. We were pleased to hear from student participants that their eyes had been opened to a potential future in the construction industry as a result of the visit.”

“Important real-life insights”

The Bloc team welcomed a group of Queen’s students for our recent #QUBWorkShadowingWeek. They told us:
“Recently we had the pleasure of welcoming students from Queen’s University Belfast onsite. The main objective of the day was for students to gain very important real life organisation insights. The students got an insight into Bloc, the sector and got the opportunity to observe professionals in practice.”

“Learning from graduate engineers”

The team at Dawson-Wam welcomed a group of Queen’s students for our recent #QUBWorkShadowingWeek. They told us:
“DAWSON-WAM were pleased to support #QUBWorkShadowingWeek offering students work shadowing opportunities with NI employers. Our students Kieran and Alice got the opportunity to visit our Shimna Flood Alleviation Scheme in Newcastle, Co. Down. Their site experience included a mini survey camp hosted by our Graduate Engineers, James Carinduff and Conor Magorrian.”

“Great to meet students interested in grad opportunities”

Leah Tohill, Recruiting Graduate Talent, First Derivatives took part in the #QUBStockMarketChallenge. She told us:
“It was great to meet so many students that were interested in the graduate opportunities First Derivative have to offer.
Congratulations to Charles and Toby who won the Stock Market Challenge. We’re delighted that you picked First Derivative as your first choice for an Insights Day.”

“Quickly grasped the flavour of the work we do”

Niall Elliott, Legal Professional at Baker McKenzie welcomed a group of #QUBStudents for our #QUBCareersinLaw Insight Programme. He told us:
“It was great to meet some of the #QUBStudents in the Baker McKenzie Belfast Centre as part of the Careers in Law Insight Programme 2022.

The group quickly became familiar with the various teams that operate from within the Belfast Centre. This was followed by a negotiation task to give the students a flavour of the kind of work we do.”

“First-hand experience of legal expertise”

The team at Carson McDowell welcomed a group of #QUBStudents for our #QUBCareersinLaw Insight Programme. They told us:
“Senior Partner Neasa Quigley and Partner Gerard Armstrong hosted students from Queen’s University Belfast as part of their #QUBCareersinLaw Insight Programme 2022. Having enjoyed some ice cream on arrival, a team from Carson McDowell took participants around the legal world, giving them first-hand experience of a range of legal expertise.”

“Will welcome students back as colleagues”

The team at Herbert Smith Freehills welcomed a group of #QUBStudents for our #QUBCareersinLaw Insight Programme. They told us:
“We were delighted to host a number of Law students from Queen’s University Belfast as part of the #QUBCareersinLaw Insight Programme 2022.

The students met some of the Belfast team and gained an insight into our Alternative Legal Services practice group.  

Belfast colleagues and Queen’s University alumni Linet Kurian and Luke Osborne shared their experiences since joining HSF and how their careers have progressed from starting as a Legal Analyst.

The Belfast team really enjoyed meeting with the students and hope to be able to welcome some of them back as colleagues in the near future.”

“Delighted to network informally”

The team at MKB Law welcomed a group of #QUBStudents for our #QUBCareersinLaw Insight Programme. They told us:
“Lynsey Henderson and Ruairi Maguire were delighted to speak at the final session of the #QUBCareersinLaw Insight Programme 2022, giving students an overview of their legal career, answering questions in a panel discussion, plus chatting informally with attendees afterwards at the networking buffet.

Thank you for a fantastic event.”

“Incredible ideas and presentations”

Beth MacDougall, Student Recruitment Associate at EY met a group of #QUBStudents on our #QUBInsightIntoManagement Programme. She told us:
“EY were absolutely delighted to participate in #QUBInsightIntoManagement Programme with Ruby Hopkins and John McMorrow acting as group facilitators over the course of the programme.

A truly fantastic event. We completely in awe of the incredible ideas and presentations all of the students gave and were thrilled to attend as judges.”

“Amazing applications”

Francesca Morelli, Co-Founder of VAVA Influence took on #QUBStudents as part of #QUBImpactProject. She told us:
“We are delighted to be taking part in the #QUBImpactProject for the second year in a row as employers. In partnership with #QUBImpactProject, we’re hiring two Part-Time Marketing & Events Interns to work with us at VAVA Influence | Influencer Marketing this summer. We had some amazing applications; looking forward to welcoming the talent from QUB!”

“Hugely impressive”

Peter McCleery, CEO at Get Sociable took on #QUBStudents as part of #QUBImpactProject. He told us:

“We’re very grateful at GetSociable for all the help from @QUBCareers. The calibre of students has been hugely impressive, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with Queen’s University Belfast as we grow.”

Read what else employers say about Queen’s students here

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Adaptability Employer Engagement Employer events Employer Insight Employer Panels Employer Q&A Employers flexibility Non Linear careers

Four top tips from employers on breaking into tech

Did you know Belfast was recently ranked as one of the best places in Europe for tech firms by fDi Intelligence, a specialist division of the Financial Times?

The tech sector in Northern Ireland is booming but how can you break into the industry if you come from a non-computing academic background?

The IT sector is constantly changing with developments and advancements in technology. Employers in the sector need graduates with technical know-how to solve problems, but they also need graduates to work across their business, marketing, human resources and finance functions.

We talked to key players from the tech industry and here is their advice:

Tech is about more than computing

“You start to ask yourself, ‘there’s a heck of a lot more [to tech] than just computing?’ and you’d be absolutely right.” – Columb Duffy, Senior Manager, Allstate

You don’t need an IT degree

“People studying non-IT degrees, you can definitely have a career in the Tech sector.” – Marguerite Clarke, Business Development Manager, Version 1

You can learn on the job

“We’ll talk to anybody; if you’re smart, we want to hear from you, regardless of your background.” – David McGarry, Senior Director, Riskonnect

Problem-solvers should apply

“The number one thing that we want you to be able to do is be a problem-solver.” – Dr Aidan McGowan, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, Queen’s

Discover more about non-linear career paths on our Graduate Support site.

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communication skills Employer Engagement personal skills Skills transferrable skills

Eight Soft Skills You Need to Develop

Stay ahead in the competitive graduate job market by developing your core skill set. Here are some of the top skills employers will look for in 2022.

1.Active Listening

It is no secret that our attention spans are a lot shorter than previous generations. We are so used to consuming hundreds of messages at record speed that we no longer know how to fully focus on one message at a time.

Active listening involves understanding what the other person is saying, as well as truly hearing it.

In terms of customer service, you hear their problem, but you also understand why it is a problem for them and what solution they are looking for.

2. Written, Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication

How we come across in emails, the language we use to talk to those around us, and how we use our body language are all forms of communication.

Understanding how you communicate and how you can adapt it to suit different audiences shows maturity and empathy.

It also suggests that you would be a good leader – traits all employers look for when recruiting.

3.Collaboration

Collaboration is similar to teamwork.

It is the ability to work with others to complete a task or project. 

Employers assessing collaboration skills will be looking at if you can bring a team together, how you support your colleagues and if you can develop an idea by offering constructive feedback or by building on it.

4.Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence indicates how well you understand people, and this comes in twofold.

The first is with your colleagues. Today’s world wants a peaceful workplace where everyone thrives. Having employees that can see when someone is struggling or having a difficult time and has the emotional tools to help them creates a workplace of trust and collaboration. 

The second is with consumers or customers. Products and services are driven by consumer needs and motivations. Understanding what motivates a person or what problems they need resolving will help you develop innovative products/services that will sell.

5.Critical Thinking 

Critical thinking is the ability to analyse data and form a judgment. 

With AI technology, a lot of today’s thinking is done for us. An algorithm works through whatever information you provide and offers a selection of options to choose from.

But not all information should (or can) be analysed by a computer. 

Having this skillset shows employers that you can:

  • Understand data 
  • Draw out common factors 
  • Apply those factors to the market/person/situation you are working on
  • Make an informed decision

6.Problem-Solving and Decision Making

This deals with how well you can work with others to find a solution. 

Everyone has their own opinion, but the skill lies in working with others to think the problem through and come up with a solution that benefits the company.

7.Conflict Resolution

Again, workplace norms are changing, and behaviour that was tolerated previously no longer is. 

As such, conflict resolution is sometimes needed. If someone in your team is making offensive comments or not pulling their weight, you should have the skills to gently resolve the situation before it escalates. 

This skill is desired among all employees, particularly those going into HR or leadership roles.

8.Professional Attitude and Self-Motivation

As a generalisation, there is a lack of accountability among new graduates. 

How many times have you blamed something on technology rather than taking responsibility? Missed appointments or been late because you didn’t get your reminder notification. Forgot to pay something because it wasn’t in your calendar?

Employers want to see that you are motivated and that they can depend on you. They want to see that you have a career plan, can manage multiple commitments, that you show up on time and have initiative.

Though image isn’t everything, employers also want to see that your clothes are clean and ironed and you are somewhat groomed.

It may sound shallow, but to employers, it shows you can look after yourself and, therefore, their company.

Our programme of Careers events and activities is designed to help you develop your soft skills. View and book upcoming events here

Read: Top Skills Employers Will Look for in 2022

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Baker McKenzie Employer Engagement Employer events Employer Insight Employer Panels Employer Q&A Employers Spring Careers Festival Spring Recruitment Fair student success Student success stories

Jump-Starting My Career With Baker McKenzie

Sophie Martin, Baker McKenzie

My name is Sophie Martin and I am a Legal Project Coordinator in the Legal Project Management team.  I joined Baker McKenzie, Belfast, as a Legal Professional in September 2019, where I worked in the Contentious Support Group. This was a fantastic opportunity after university, which provided me exposure to a breadth of document review and due diligence projects, and in-turn, the opportunity to develop an array of skills, from analytical to communication skills. 

One of the best aspects about working for Baker McKenzie is the endless career opportunities. During my time as a Legal Professional, I had the opportunity to apply for two secondments. The first secondment provided me with the opportunity to work with one of our key clients in their London offices. This was a great experience, providing me with the opportunity to work directly with our clients, providing insights into their working culture and develop relationships with our London colleagues. 

A pivotal moment in my career, was the second secondment, where I joined the Legal Project Management team, initially for a 6 month period. Like many of my peers, prior to joining Baker McKenzie, I was unfamiliar with Legal Project Management and what a career in Legal Project Management entailed. The opportunity to combine legal and management, two of my career interests, and my curiosity to explore this niche career opportunity further encouraged me to apply for the secondment. When I joined the team in January 2020, I was instantly exposed to a variety of work and endless skill development opportunities. The variety of projects, global exposure, client-facing role and autonomy to shape my projects, provided me with the platform to catapult my professional career. This, combined with an extremely supportive and welcoming team, confirmed that this was a career that I wanted to pursue. This is where my career in Legal Project Management commenced, as shortly after starting my secondment, I successfully applied for a permanent role in the Legal Project Management team.

As a Legal Project Coordinator, no two days are ever the same, meaning the learning and development opportunities are endless. The core roles and responsibilities entail managing client matters, including liaising with the client and Firm’s matter team; supporting the legal team to track and manage projects by integrating matter management, fee management, technology and process improvement techniques; analysing complex reports, flagging key issues and designing bespoke reporting; budget monitoring; and providing support for client team collaboration sites.  To ensure that the Legal Project Management team ensure our overarching objective that all projects are managed on time, in scope and within budget, this requires multijurisdictional collaboration with our Legal Project Management colleagues and legal teams across the globe to ensure that we provide the highest quality service to our clients. 

In addition to the development opportunities I have received through my role, Baker McKenzie are committed to each individual’s career progression and provide various opportunities to facilitate an individual’s career progression, such as internal and external secondments, promotions and development programmes, such as the Baker Excellence Programme. 

I would highly encourage any student wanting to join a global, high performing firm, to join Baker McKenzie, where you can commence and develop your career, surrounded by friendly and supportive colleagues.

Interested in working at Baker McKenzie? You can chat to the team about upcoming opportunities at our Spring Recruitment Fair.

Register here: https://virtualcareersfairs.qub.ac.uk/event/5725

Date: 9 Feb, 2-6pm

Baker McKenzie are proud sponsors of the Spring Careers Festival 

Categories
Employer Engagement Employers transferrable skills

Why Queen’s Produces The Best Graduates: Transferable Skills

COMMERCIAL AWARENESS AND IMPROVING BUSINESS PRACTICES

 “We actively encourage our students to research their target industry to develop a commercial understanding and a big-picture focus of the challenges an employer is facing – so they are better placed to communicate how they can actively contribute to improving business performance,” says Sandra Scannell, Head of Employer Engagement at Queen’s.

Courtney Ward, a Quality Team Leader at Randox adds: “Commercial awareness means having a real understanding of all the key companies operating in a specific industry or sector, a knowledge of the different products that those different companies sell, what services they offer. We demand graduates who have done their market research, and know who the key players are in their area.”

EMBRACING WORKPLACE SYSTEMS & TECH

“Even outside the tech sector, employers are demanding graduates who can embrace innovation to maximise performance,” says Sandra. “Queen’s students not only understand, but they ‘live’ technology.”

Dermot Murray, Senior QA Engineer at Version 1 says: “In terms of innovation and bringing a fresh perspective to companies, Queen’s graduates are at the forefront of theoretical thinking. We demand graduates who can apply this knowledge into the real world and be the catalysts for leading change.”

THINKING LATERALLY: PROBLEM SOLVING & CREATIVITY

“Problem-solving abilities are essential in virtually any graduate role,” says Sandra. “Employers want to know graduates can think strategically to tackle challenges and that they can use creative thinking to develop innovative solutions.”

Leona McGirr, a Team Leader at Fusion Antibodies says: “We want graduates who can think ahead and see the bigger picture; see how one little thing can impact another. It’s about having a different viewpoint and a different perspective on a problem. That’s key.”

WORKPLACE CULTURE: EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE AND RESILIENCE

“In the global graduate job market, employers value cross-cultural sensitivity and emotional intelligence,” says Sandra.

“Employers want to know that graduates can respond well to change, and that they have the ability to identify and deal with their own emotions and to recognise and understand the feelings of others.”

Rebecca Sinclair, a Student Talent Advisor at EY’s London office says: “Emotional intelligence is particularly valued in professional services, in the roles that you’re working with clients, and you’re building those relationships with clients. We value graduates with that emotional intelligence skill, who are able to collaborate really well with colleagues or with clients and build positive relationships.”

FUTURE LEADERS: INFLUENCING, PERSUADING AND TEAMWORK

“The mark of a leader is getting true buy-in from colleagues, clients and bosses.  It involves good communication, persuasion and negotiation – but ultimately, it’s about graduates with the ability to sell their vision for the future,” says Sandra.

Viktorija Mikalauskaite, a Senior Associate in the Legal Department at FinTrU says: “Influencing is a combination of communication and persuasion and negotiation, but it also involves confidence, which is an extremely important factor. We value graduates who can flex their communication style, according to their audience.”

 Read next: Why Queen’s produces the best graduates

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Adaptability advice Alumni Employer Engagement Employer events Employer Panels Employer Q&A Employers Gradfest2021 Software With Digital Technology student success Student success stories Technical skills Technology

‘We build tech for human beings – real users that have problems to solve.’

Mark McCormack Aflac
Mark McCormack, Aflac

Mark McCormack, Head of Tech at Aflac Northern Ireland on his journey to tech leader.

‘We build tech for human beings – real users that have problems to solve.’ 

Mark McCormack, Head of Tech at Aflac Northern Ireland on his journey to tech leader

How did you get into tech?

I graduated in 1998 with a degree in Zoology. I always had an interest in science at school. I studied the sciences at A-level. Took that on through to university and kind of built on that learning and knowledge as I graduated and got to the end of my degree, I faced that question that many people face is basically, ‘what’s next?’. 

If you haven’t gotten a degree that has a very direct career path in front of you that can be a challenge sometimes, and so maybe the romantic part of me at one point thought I might study lions in the Serengeti or something… But unfortunately, David Attenborough wasn’t calling and so I had to think about what I might do next. And I’d always had an interest in computing … in computers, and I could see the advances of technology and where that was going. 

There was a conversion course running that was taking non-IT graduates and teaching them how to be software developers. I got enrolled into the very first pilot program of that initiative program called the Rapid Advancement Program or RAP. That was fantastic that that took graduates from a whole range of different disciplines and give them some skills in terms of how to be a coder, how to program and languages that maybe aren’t used so often today. 

As I moved into some of my first jobs and careers, I’ve been over 20 years in the tech sector here in Northern Ireland, based almost entirely in Belfast. Throughout that whole time, I worked with smaller companies, local companies and the tech sector of work for very large corporate organisations. 

Before joining Aflac two years ago, I worked at Citigroup. I led the Chief Technology Office at Citi and worked there for 11 years. 

What’s been your most valuable career lesson?

It’s not just about the technical side of things, not just about the engineering and the coding and all of that sort of thing. It’s about the people that you work with, it’s about working in teams, and you know, collaborating, sharing information, and solving problems which are too similar to how we work in many different industries as well, and so there are loads of parallels regardless of the background that you that you’ve come from.

I mean, going back to my early career and kind of coming from the university, I was kind of thrown in there into a course to teach computing skills with people from the whole range of different backgrounds – with law degrees, with engineering degrees, with marketing degrees, with English degree … like a whole broad spectrum …. I think that has been a really interesting part of the success of those programmes because what you bring together is a very broad range and a diversity of thought. And you have people that can represent a whole range of different ways of thinking, and they’ve come from different backgrounds with different knowledge, and they come together to work on, you know, problems. I think that’s incredibly valuable, and I think that today when we think about IT and tech, there’s so much more to it than just the ones and zeros and the data. 

There are so many fantastic opportunities in the sector because, at the end of the day, we build these systems, and we build these platforms and we build this technology. But we’re doing it for human beings at the end, right? We’re doing it for real users that have real problems that you know, we want to try and solve. So that kind of breadth of understanding is just incredibly valuable. 

What skills are important in the workplace?

Adaptability – because it’s all about how you can adapt to what the world needs. And if you look even at this small country here, that’s kind of what we’ve done. You know, once we were the linen capital of the world, once we were the rope making capital of the world, once we were the shipbuilding capital of the world and we don’t do any of those things anymore so much now. Now, it’s about world-class studios and being one of the cybersecurity hubs of Europe and one of the tech centres in Europe as well. And this is a place that can adapt and change what we do to whatever the word means. So, it’s all about as if you come to Northern Ireland, you see us now, and you want to see us in a year or five years, we’ll probably be doing something different, and we’re better to build a Centre for advanced technology here in Belfast. So, we’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved.

And those other two words around resilience and reinvention. You know, we want our people to be able to grow, adapt, change, and reinvent themselves. And I suppose I don’t need to tell anyone that lives here and often about resilience. You know, we’ve had our fair share of some tough times, but I think as we grow, develop, and go through that, we look forward to an incredible amount of positivity and optimism about what we can do and can achieve from here. So, I love working here, I love being part of the community here in Northern Ireland, I’m very proud of what we can do from this place. I think it all comes down to the fantastic education system that we have and the wonderful people that we have from here because, for me, all the way work with computers, it’s really about the people that I work with – That’s what motivates me, and that’s what I enjoy doing. You know, we solve problems together, we collaborate on things, and we work together as a team.

Those qualities, those skills that you can build, regardless of what your educational background is, regardless of what your degree is, it’s those abilities to communicate to work hard to you know, demonstrate empathy, to bring problem-solving skills. Those things are universal, so whether you work in IT, in business, in engineering or a medical setting, these are the qualities that kind of separate us from the computers in a sense and bring you to know that uniqueness to the things that we can do.

What advice do you have for graduates?

I’d say build your network. This is because they’ll help you grow your understanding of the world of work. They’ll give you advice, they’ll give you some support. You can even do something as simple as building a good profile on LinkedIn and connect them with a few people that you know and getting introductions to some other people who maybe work in some companies that you’re interested in. You’ll find that people who do work in the industry are open to sharing their knowledge and their experience tells you about what it is like to do work in an office or to work remotely, or to work for a big company or to work for a small company? The culture of that organization and what you can expect? You know, those are the things that you’ll learn, and you’ll find that you know people from here are open.

And also, the other thing I would say is always be learning. You know, for me, if you’re not learning, you’re not enjoying yourself because it’s the ability to learn and adapt and to pick up new skills is that makes work exciting. And I’m working alongside great people as you do that is really what it’s all about.

What advice would you give your my 21-year-old self?

I suppose if I go back and ask myself that, I will say try and be as fearless as you can be. There’s a lot of things in life we hold ourselves back because we’re worried about what people might think of us, or how we might come across, or we don’t know anything. And because we don’t know it and don’t know anything we might not try. And I think in this part of the world where maybe not be on the front foot as much as we could be, and I can tell you all like we are as good as anyone in the world. We’re as good as anywhere in the world to do the things that we can do. I’ve worked with teams in eight or nine different countries across the globe, and I can tell you that pound for pound, we’re probably the best place in the world, particularly for technology, particularly for problem-solving, but for doing so many things, so I would encourage us all to be myself about that age to be more fearless and to get out there and get involved in things. Because we are as good as else and we’re just as capable. So that will be my advice to a young Mark McCormick younger, better looking, more McCormick. I’ll tell him to try and stay good looking, but I don’t know if we can.

Read next: Five tips for building a career around your passion

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Employer Engagement Employer events Employer Insight Employers Gradfest2021 student success Student success stories

Five Tips for Building a Career Around Your Passion

Natasha Sayee, Head of External Communications at SONI Ltd,  the electricity system operator for Northern Ireland on how she harnessed her passion to drive her career.

Natasha Sayee, Queen’s Law graduate and Communications lead at SONI LTd.
  1. Don’t rule anything out

When I was at Queen’s, if you told me I’d end up as a senior manager at a utility company, I really don’t think I would have believed you. I have a love of geography and environment and of nature. And I was a young Greenpeace activist. But I also had a love of debating, of the stage and of public speaking and was involved in local radio from I was about 16. . I wanted to be on TV. And I wanted to move in to reporting using my investigative nature, my passion for public speaking and my love of current affairs to become a reporter. And that’s what I did. I completed a Law degree. Then I moved to England where I did a post grad in Broadcast Journalism, worked my way through the BBC, until I was the most senior general reporter in the Belfast newsroom, and acting Ireland correspondent. And I worked on every story imaginable from the MTV Europe awards coming to Belfast to the unfortunate economic downturn and from elections to crime. I was at the top of my game, but it wasn’t exciting anymore. It wasn’t a challenge. And so I stepped into business, I haven’t looked back, I lead a team of amazing PR, Media Communications and engagement specialists doing the most challenging work I’ve ever done. What’s amazing about this role is that it’s a complete blend of everything I’m good at and interested in, so people, current affairs, and with that focus that we have on climate change. Well, I just come full circle in terms of my love for the environment and sustainability, which I really care about. 

2. Challenge yourself

I am really passionate about what I do. And if it’s challenging, then I bring my best every day. If ever it forces me to drive hard, then it is something I will stick with. And if you’re like me with a fire in you, with that drive, harness that passion, hook it into your career, and keep moving until it feels right and you will succeed. A Law degree from Queens has provided me with a really solid platform to allow me to make all of these jumps and leaps. It says to an employer that you’re informed, you’re considerate, you’re investigative, you’re confident and analytical. You could be a judge, it could be a barrister or a solicitor, an in-house solicitor, or you could become a reporter, or you can become a business leader… with a Law degree from Queen’s, really the world is at your feet.

3. Don’t be blinded by passion

I think at times my passion has blinded me, particularly perhaps when I was at the BBC, where I would have gone through walls to succeed without perhaps taking on board others or their feelings or collateral damage, really. And you can really only get so far on the steam of your own passion. To be truly successful, you need to take that passion, use it to motivate others, collaborate with them, understand what makes them tick. And then think about how you can combine all that fire together to achieve. All that’s possible. Passion is a great thing to have. It’s a warrior’s traits, but create your battalion. Don’t do it on your own, network and make those friends for life. I mean, my best friends are my family. I met them at Law school at Queen’s, they’re my units; they’re my power source. I just couldn’t imagine life without them.

4. Be a team player

You know, people with passion are warriors, we’re fierce, we’re strong. But I’ve learned that that can be intimidating. And that can lead to isolation. So don’t do a solo run, find your squad, find your network, your Battalion, you’ll achieve so much more together. And it will be a much better experience for you. You need to be empathetic as well. What issues are your colleagues dealing with at home? How can you support them? You know, really, relationships are the absolute cornerstone of good business, taking time to get to know those you’re working with. If someone doesn’t sound right in the phone, you’ll know that they there’s something wrong or if someone is on a video call, but maybe isn’t making as much of a contribution as they would normally. Well what’s going on, you know, you need to find that out and try to help that’s really important.

5. Give your passion context in an interview

If you’re interviewing for a role, display your passion proudly, and it will shine through, but make sure you back it up. And that means giving examples of how you’ve put your passion into play, to go the extra mile, whether that’s being top of your class in your subject, whether that’s volunteering, coaching others or taking on extra training. And try to keep a lid on your passion during an interview. What I find throughout my whole career, and it continues to this day, is that nerves and passion can be a really dangerous combination. So it can go one of two ways. You can appear arrogant and overconfident, , or you can get jittery, and you can end up waffling. So breathe, prepare, prepare again. And when you get into that room, whether you’re presenting or you’re sat in front of an interview panel, plant yourself, like a big oak tree, you know, really sink your feet into the floor, like you’re growing roots, and take some time to blossom. Channel that passion that you have to keep focused on what’s important and look after yourself and others. Passion is an exceptional standout quality. But it is like magic. And you have to challenge it and control it and make it work for you. 

You can stream Natasha’s recent talk on the Gradfest2-21 site here:

https://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/graduate-support/UpcomingLiveStreams/

Categories
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Problem solving and creativity in a graduate role

Leona McGirr, a former KTP associate at Queen’s and a Team Leader at Fusion Antibodies on how to hone your lateral thinking skills to land that graduate role.

Leona McGirr, former KTP Associate at Queen’s

Why are problem solving abilities essential in virtually in any graduate rule?

Yeah, in any job, you’ll always have to solve problems…There’s always an opportunity to solve a problem. Anything from small like fixing the printer to something bigger, like what we’re working on and trying to find a treatment for COVID. And so there’s always an opportunity to learn and develop these problem solving skills.

How can you develop this problem solving skills and demonstrate them to the employers to the recruiters?

Look at the root cause of the problem and ask the question, why. Start tweaking things, and see, we’ll see what you get, essentially, instead of just spending and buying a new something, and so can always ask the question, why and if you give these examples to the employer, that they will say that these skills are transferable. 

How will interviewers assess how you approach the problems? And how can you demonstrate your logic and implementation to the recruiters?

Give loads of examples and those different examples both in your personal life and in work because as I said, all these skills are transferable. And it kind of gives the people who are interviewing you an opportunity to see what type of person you are and how you solve the problems and how you go about doing this. 

How can you answer a problem solving competency based question? How can you answer them?

We would always use the STAR method, which is you say the situation, the task, the action and the result. And so just make sure to include each one of them within any example that you give, that’s usually the most common way of doing it.

To what extent can games such as Sudoku, or Chess, can help strengthen your ability to swing strategy early and creativity?

I actually think all scientists love chess as well. It essentially lets you kind of plan ahead and see the bigger picture and see how one little thing that you do can impact and essentially either win the game or lose the game for you. Again, it’s very transferable into science trying to fix a wee problem on a stage every time.

Are there any problem solving techniques you can develop or refer to our students?

So for us in R&D, our standard way would be root cause analysis. So essentially, you ask the five why’s. So for example, an experiment didn’t work? Well, why it didn’t work? Because the two proteins didn’t bind? Well, why didn’t they bind? Because maybe one wasn’t stored correctly? Well, why wasn’t it stored correctly, and then bring it down to well, actually, there wasn’t enough space in the fridge. So even though you thought it might have been one thing, by the time that you break it down and ask why every stage, you realise that it’s actually something else, and it ensures that it won’t happen again.

What is creative thinking? And how can you demonstrate it?

It’s really having a different viewpoint and a different perspective on a problem. And I think that’s essentially key. For example, in my current company, I was the first chemist in an essentially biological company. So I was able to offer a different perspective on things. And it’s usually quite creative in comparison to what everybody else might think. And it’s just drawn on my existing skills and experience.

Why it is so important to show a recruiter that you come up with an innovative solutions to a problem, or an improved way of doing things? Why it is so important?

Because it shows that the candidate is willing to learn, and they’re innovative, and they’re creative. And essentially, in a workplace, everything can be improved. The worst thing, what we want to hear would be somebody who says, this is how it’s always done, instead of asking, why has it been done? And just don’t accept the first answer. Always keep asking why, and how can you improve? Both in your personal life and in work.

Why do recruiters like to see a creative thinking in a graduate hires? 

Well, it really shows the potential and shows that somebody can take initiative to try and solve a problem where more sided escalating, and having that under control, and that there is a lot of potential that you can develop that particular skill. So we’re always keen to see that.

So how to demonstrate your creativity in graduate applications, or let’s say in interviews?

Yeah, give loads of different examples, and be it something you’ve done, maybe a hobby even. It’s really nice to hear all these different examples, instead of always referring to one example, maybe your degree, always ask or always talk about personal life, part time, jobs, everything, because it allows us to see what type of person you are, as well and a lot of times, the stories are actually really interesting.

Okay, how do you develop or improve this, so, you know, creativity skills, how to improve it?

I would say just take every opportunity and go take a few risks, and don’t be afraid to try and do something outside of your comfort zone. With every stage of my career, I have challenged myself, and have always had a very steep learning curve. And I think that is actually quite a lot of fun. And again, it allows me to be creative in different ways and drawn different strengths.

So can you give us some examples of lateral thinking to draw on in an application process?

Yes. So essentially, think outside the box, and don’t take the most obvious answer as being the root cause. And if you can disprove something, well, it then in theory can be a possible solution. Ideally, what we would do is we will get a post-it note and we’d all sit around and be like, well, what happens if this was the case? Or I wonder, could this be the case? And you just go crazy with this and don’t rule anything out.

What are the links between problem solving and entrepreneurism and a good leadership? 

I think being an entrepreneur and a true leader, you need to be innovative. You need to challenge yourself and not be scared to take a few risks. And the most important thing is to learn – the road to being an entrepreneur and your own career is bumpy. You can go on a few circles, but as long as you learned, that’s the most important thing I think.

So how can you problem solve in a workplace? 

Anything from something minor like fixing the Wi Fi, fixing a computer, fixing kettle, they are all problem solving. So initially asked me, well, what’s the problem? or how can I make this current situation better? You can always improve just incrementally try something, try different lead and maybe see what the result is and just document what that result is, and see, can you improve?

So how can you bring this creativity in your graduate roles?

I would learn around the subject and draw on your own past experiences. I don’t think there’s, no such thing as a stupid suggestion. All ideas are good ideas. A lot of the time, you need to ask other people for advice as well and see how they would approach something.

Don’t be afraid to take a challenge. Take all the opportunities you can. I still don’t have my own career figured out, I don’t know where I’ll be in 10 years, 20 years time, but I know it’s going to be loads of fun. I would advise anybody to take any opportunity and just have fun along the way.

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‘University graduates can be the catalysts for organisational change’

Dermot Murray, Senior QA Engineer at Version 1 gives his top tips on embracing workplace systems and tech.

Dermot Murray, Version 1

Why would you say enthusiasm to embrace tech is important in graduate roles?

It’s very important. Just in terms of the kind of innovation and bringing a fresh perspective to companies. So, like graduates are at the forefront of theoretical thinking. And what we’re looking to do is actually apply this knowledge into the real life and into the work industry. So, like if you take for example, a lot of kind of, you know, hardware and software, you know, the iPod Touch, for example, let’s say you know, it’s quite redundant nowadays because things change very quickly. And what we’re looking at is innovation and more efficient ways of working in industries, so, you know, one thing that companies can fall in the trap of is, you know, being reluctant to change. And actually graduates can be the catalyst for leading change. An example I can give would be, you know, the pandemic, for example, working from home. This is the kind of new normal that everyone’s really in, but you know, your university experience user being at the forefront of this, and how did you adapt and overcome these challenges? You know, the initiatives you use brought in terms of communication, engagement, socialising? These are all the things that need to be transferred into the industry. And these are things that we’re looking for. So it’s extremely important for enthusiasm and embracing change.

In what ways does your business rely on tech to maximise performance?

So it’s no surprise that for Version 1, it’s absolutely essential. So, we are consultancy, and we do specialise in supporting the digital transformation for clients. So we bring people through a journey using various technologies, what we try to do is use the cutting edge to deliver for our clients. But internally, so that’s the probably technical side. But you know, what we actually do ourselves is we use it to communicate and standardise. I’ll give a few examples of, you know, some of the kind of tech initiatives that we do, we have a podcast, you know, once a year one in which we have conversations within the industry. On our website, we’ve got webinars, blogs, white papers, news articles, and these are things you know, to engage with the industry and engage with many different people, social media platforms, that Instagram that I’m on right now, we’ve also got Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. You name it for contact. And internally, as much as maybe you know, us, us and university, we’re using teams to communicate with clients. And finally, then, you know, we’ve got like a SharePoint with a widevariety of tools, for using timesheets, you name it, so absolutely essential, yes indeed.

How would you go about proving ability to use common programmes and apps in an interview?

That’s a good question. It’s hard to kind of slide that into the question, how you’re phrasing that. I think the star approach is quite interesting. So, you know, kind of being concise and what that really is – situation, task, action and result. And maybe within the action, you could incorporate these kind of common tools and what you’ve done. So maybe an example that I could give would be that, say, one of your modules, and you’re required to do presentation, will, the action in which you can provide could be, you know, using PowerPoint efficiently and effectively, to relay the information to your peers, to you know, everyone, like the ultimate result being you know, like you achieve top marks. And also, there’s definitely ways of fitting into the question tools in which you know, you can, you know, provide results for if that makes sense.

What examples can you use of innovating to maximise technology?

One example could be for a solution, there could be an alternative tool or technology that could be used, or maybe you could extend in a technology. So for example, that’s you know, we’re on a Teams meeting, Microsoft Teams, and we’re trying to kind of collaborate together, you know, some project, there’s a tool – Slack, which can actually be used for sketching. And that’s quite useful for like, you know, drawn with feedback, kind of in sketching, going through walk walkthroughs so you know, instead of using teams, maybe you could migrate your kind of communication to Slack. The point on expanding then is, you know, using it in additional scope as well, slack also has like a kind of app directory as well. So you can add in polls, you know, chatbots news feeds. And there’s different ways of just, you know, not kind of following what is set in front of you, but actually using your initiative and, you know, embracing the tech really, and, you know, leading on further so I suppose.

How would you advise a student to show their passion for tech when they don’t have a tech background? 

So, I suppose from my perspective, I have to put myself out of the mindset of being in tech. But that’s, I think, a good way of kind of, you know, showing your enthusiasm can really be through hobbies and interest, really. So that’s dependent on the person, but I’ll give you an example, maybe of a few kind of hobbies and interests that I have, you know, if I’m reading a book, for example, you know, I’m interested in reading, specifically, one of the books I’m reading right now is on the stock markets, flash boys are called, and it’s on high frequency trading, and the kind of idea of being closer to the stock market servers. Think sports, you know, we’ll play a bit of football. And I’m kind of using, you know, stat sports. So it’s kind of integrate and, you know, heart monitor, kind of initiatives and all that stuff. And then Sports Science again that podcast I’m interested in, there’s one, dark net diaries, but just kind of cybersecurity focus. So even though I’ve kind of got my technical job, if you picked up the side, there’s a whole wide range of kind of, you know, industry within tech and these tech tools in which you can like, kind of, take your hobby, and maybe think of, you know, some kind of innovation in tech tools that you can use to, you know, showcase that. So, just a few points of my interest might not be to impress everyone here.

How can you show that you have the ability to adopt and use technology in an interesting way?

Yeah, so I think you could maybe think about how you can use it an interesting way, think about, like, what you’re currently using stuff for the think of like, you know, your smartphone, for example. It’s got so many applications in which you can download, as I mentioned, with your hobbies, you know, Strava, being able to, like, you know, detect your matrix of roaming, for example, everything, these are kind of, you know, common applications that you don’t really think that you’re using, but you’re actually using, think of maybe, you know, smart appliances, for example, around the house, you might have kind of smart TV, or smart lamp, and how you can actually then, you know, showcase that and help people. So I’ve got family that always asked me ‘Dermot, how do you do this, do that.’ And I’m always kind of demonstrating to them, but also by kind of, you know, using this tech, you understand it more, and you can actually demonstrate it to other people. And that really helps with your show of skills with kind of, you know, leadership, it helps for what the industry is really looking, you know, you’re looking a community of practice people who share, collaborate and transfer knowledge together. And just by getting cool, and getting stuck in really kind of corny, it’s not.

How can you embrace technology and help others to do so?

I’ve really touched on that and for example, of maybe helping, you know, that’s, you know, like, update the latest software on his phone or laptops, for example, some security plan says, and my mom dad’s face, you know, helping them kind of just stuff yet. And that’s kind of you know, one of the things really just by getting involved and getting stuck in even necessarily you don’t quite understand that at the time but by getting involved in that tool, and helping other people you know, you’re helping yourself as well. And I think it’s just kind of a stage of getting involved really is the best way to do that.

How important what would you say, is practical experience of workplace technology.

So, I do think it’s kind of very important, you know, you’ve got the theory behind it, and you want to kind of, you know, put it practical. So that’s the kind of stuff you know, with uni, you’d want to take into the industry and kind of get stuck in. And that really is the word kind of get stuck in. I never imagined myself kind of growing up to be a software tester. But getting involved in the IT industry, you see kind of what opportunities arise. And not even just within the kind of tech sector, think about the other different industries, in which you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting involved in, but by you know, utilising tech tools and, you know, embracing innovation, think of that as the bigger picture rather than, you know, specifically just tech related, but innovation. Going back to kind of, you know, tech, there’s a lot of open source tools that you can use, and they will be free to use in terms of, you know, try and find the right things, there’s a lot of free trials of stuff. So for example, maybe like Photoshop or video editing skills, if you need some experience, but then in industry, or within a kind of, you know, hobby that say, I don’t know what but you can maybe use that for like 30 days or seven days, and that might be sufficient to kind of pick up your skills. Finally, as well, like, there’s, if you’re going technical, there’s, you know, Azure has free courses for students, and it also has a free account where you can get, you know, up to 200 pounds, etc, you know, that kind of sandbox and play with kind of technical tools. And, yeah, I think as well, one important thing is even like the practicalness of social media is so important, and a lot of kind of students and people forget, you know, how important it is for companies. So even just, you know, you’re you’re getting full freight and with kind of social media, and that practical way of applying your skills. 

How can you demonstrate that you have developed key workplace skills, and technology?

Yeah, so the demonstration then is kind of, by providing and showing examples of how you’ve kind of came up with that, I think, like, by demonstrating as well, you need to kind of understand, firstly, that it depends on the role. Or at least, like, there’s a lot of opportunities in which you can actually, you know, enhance your skills, I would give examples of, you know, on LinkedIn, if anyone’s involved aon LindkedIn, there’s a lot of webinars in which you can kind of do get involved within tools and tech and understand kind of components. As well as that specifically within your industry. I think like one or two personal references, which I used to be Udemy. And it’s good for kind of, you know, harnessing and developing skills, and then being able to present them and relay them back into work back into my CV and back into kind of, you know, day to day skills as well. So there’s a lot of opportunities out there. And there’s a lot of kind of free things that you can view online and just taking upon each of the applications as well, such as meetups really, like might be a bit hard during the pandemic, but embracing the change, maybe you know, Slack or, you know, Teams might be a good solution for that. So webinars. Yeah.

What soft skills would you say go hand in hand with tech skills?

There’s, there’s a lot really like, one thing to think is, is well, that, you know, technology skills are just tools of making your soft skills more efficient than effective. So like numeracy skills, for example. I mean, that that’s really given within the IT industry, you know, you could talk about coding performance or all aspects, but not just specifically with the IT industry, like you can think about, you know, your communication skills with putting this many times but social media, using teams, you know, creativity skills as well. creativity to complex solutions, like my job is doing quality assurance, and it kind of plays into analytical thinking and problem solving. And by problem solving, you have to be very creative on you know, there’s a lot of constraints to the problem and how you fix that. So there’s there’s definitely ways to express willingness to learn as well. So embracing the technology which is the key point of everything, being able to, you know, go into new skills and new tools and test new systems up correctly. And even gone non technical within the IT industry, you know, there’s a lot of project masters and kind of, you know, Scrum masters etc project manager sorry that, you know, we really focus on organisation and there’s a lot of kind of tools that are available to you know help kind of do that, calendars, JIRA for, you know, management. So, they’re inextricably linked, really in my opinion.

What would you say you should include in the IT skills section on your CV?

Yeah, that’s a good question. I suppose it’s dependent on the possession and the industry, I mean, you should really do your research on kind of, you know, what type of roles you’re applying for, and kind of think about that, I think, but whenever you were talking about the common applications in the office 365 suite, you know, there’s always, you know, opportunity ability to kind of show that, and that’s, you know, applicable across any industry. Think about the bespoke software on which you can use, might go back to, you know, if you’re doing some design with somebody with a website in Photoshop could be useful, you know, five years from now, that could be a tool your skill to be included. But going back, then definitely have a look at the industry standards in which you’re applying for. So if I go back to my kind of key position, I’d be looking for kind of buzzwords with selenium, kotlin, cucumber, postman, Java, just you know, as an interfere. And if I just see that within an application, that would pique my interest, and you know, like, that would be the same thing that you need to think then is going to position like, take up the industry standard tools, and learn a wee bit about that. So whenever you go into, you know, an opportunity or an interview, you’re able to kind of, you know, demonstrate ‘Yes, I know what that is certainly’. Also, it’s always nice to kind of add in any certifications that you’ve got within your university – Udemy courses, as well as other mentions. And definitely, as well, like, you can also maybe use going back to the kind of soft skills that you’re mentioning, you can maybe then use IT skills to support your soft skills. So I’m good at communication. Here’s a reason. So evidence based as well so it’s ready and can be used really.

Interested in Version 1? Version 1 are currently recruiting. You can find details of their current vacancies on the Gradfest2021 site

Version 1 are proud sponsors of GradFest2021

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“The Google news tab can tell you the most recent company info, so you are not caught out in an interview”

Graham Ryan, Strategic Resourcing Manager at Version 1 gives his top tips on navigating the graduate recruitment and application process.

Graham Ryan, Version 1

How can I use my LinkedIn profile to stand out?

Okay, so first, depending on what you’re interested in from a business point of view, you know, follow the companies or [graduate] programmes…writing blogs, as we know, for the last couple years is a huge thing, you know to comment back on people you are following that are in your area that you either want to get into, or you’re in at the moment. But also don’t forget the personal side, your own interests, things like that don’t feel that LinkedIn is purely just from a business point of view. If you write a blog on something you’re interested in, that’s not necessarily in the area, you know people, you know, people like that and people are open minded, but definitely get involved, certainly from a blog point of view and liking and sharing material.

How do I build valuable work relationships in a virtual environment?

Okay so, when you’re coming onboard and starting in a new role you have to make a good first impression – that’s key. Regular catch up sessions with the business, don’t be scared to have chats with different people across the business. Gain trust from others by keeping up communication.

So, if I was going to do one thing today to make me stand out in the recruitment process, what would that be?

Just one of the key things here as far as research, you’ll find a lot of people do this but when you’re Googling a company just go in news tab, find out the recent stories so you don’t get caught in interview if a company has had a recent win they ask you about. Have a look at the news tab of Google when you are going for an interview in a company, it’ll give you the recent news just in case it’s brought up and you never know it might not be brought up, or the candidate could bring it up, which would be obviously very impressive, if someone did that.

What is the etiquette for virtual meetings? Should I keep my camera on, should put my hand up to contribute and when should I use the chat feature?

So obviously always camera on, unless you’re told otherwise. Certainly, camera on in interviews settings and meetings. The chat is used throughout, some people raise their hand on Microsoft Teams for example or else just write a comment if it’s a question or something like that. Don’t be afraid of what the right thing to do is, all the tools that are there, so put up your hand or write in the comment section… don’t overthink it. Don’t overthink it, don’t be worried about it. There’s no right or wrong way.

If I don’t like my job how long should I stick at it?

You might get better opportunities to move into different roles in the company. The opportunities are not going to be handed to you then, and you know if you get in, put your head down. Mightn’t be an area where you want to end up or stay, but just work hard on it and all of a sudden you’ll see the opportunities come at you, without a shadow of a doubt.

What are the top skills you’re looking for in graduates?

So in terms of technical skills first anyway in terms of that so like software engineers, it’s a big thing at the minute, data analytics, business analysis, DevOps engineers their level of skills and soft skills, well maybe we can upskill on themselves, you know, depending on the company, certainly development is a key area that we’re looking at. 

What support will I get starting a new job working from home?

You’ll get senior leaders in the business who are really impressed when graduates reach out to them. People are easily accessible nowadays – I know it’s not face to face but everyone’s online – a quick catchup for a 5-10 minute chat – you know it’s there. It’s seen as a really positive thing for senior leaders. 

What do you love to see in a new recruit?

Attitude, someone who’s very driven, open-minded. If you come with all the knowledge but a bad attitude a wrong attitude. Certainly, someone who comes in fresh and ready … It’s just a good idea to try different things and to get involved in different things based on the different projects and different teams and to hit the ground running.

What can I do to make myself more employable?

Okay so, so, upskilling. Use the time to upskill if you’re out of employment. We’ve seen in the last year people taking up banana bread and people have done stuff with their career as well – just explain what you’ve been up to as well.

What is the most common mistake you see in interviews?

Like at the end of the day an interview – it’s, it’s a conversation with a stranger. When you’re having a conversation with a stranger on the street you don’t just shut up shop. Treat it as a conversation that the interviewer’s trying to get more information out of you. So if you don’t know something or you’re unsure – get them to reword the question, what I would say certainly if you don’t know you don’t know. Be aware of the waffle – it’s natural because of nerves. But in terms of an engineer because it happens it’s actually taken for nerves as well as the press that every given question, but just think about it from that aspect. First impressions are key you will get some hiring managers that will listen to what their thoughts are, you know – have a smile like we do on a face to face smile and a strong handshake. Be yourself. Because if you come in with a shop. You know it’s just hard to come back from that.

Where can I find opportunities?

Ask your mates who’ve been through it recently or their siblings – you’ll be amazed at the different companies, you’ll get by reaching out to your friends and things.

If you Google news on a company how can you drop it into an interview without it sounding rehearsed?

You just say for example, there’s always a situation, when you get an opportunity to ask questions. Just say I noticed you won that or you’ve acquired this company – can you tell me a bit more about that? Bring it forward in the interview and wait until the end. 

What could I ask at the end of the interview?

Keep away from the question to ask for salary and things like that. Another thing you could say is, how would ideally a person succeed in this role? How could I shape this role? Rather than “what are the benefits?” Another thing to say is just, just not to curse. I know it sounds easy, but just to be conscious of that.

Interested in Version 1? Version 1 are currently recruiting. You can find details of their current vacancies on the Gradfest2021 site

Version 1 are proud sponsors of GradFest2021