Beth MacDougall from EY delivered a session on Resilience. Here are the top takeaways.
Its normal to be nervous
“The one thing that terrified me literally more than anything was what am I gonna do for work. How am I gonna go into the workplace with this really strange title, this really long list of symptoms? And a degree that I don’t know how to be of use anymore and no experience. I was completely shook. I was absolutely terrified because all I wanted to do was work.”
But Beth goes on to say…
“I wish that I could go back to myself six years ago and say it’s going to be okay. It’s gonna be fine.”
Challenge = Change
“I learned that it is absolutely OK to challenge things in a process or on an application form, or in a procedure that you feel like you’re going to make you feel disadvantaged or unfair. There were plenty of times in an application form that actually will ask you to disclose a disability way before the ‘do you have a disability question’…that was my first lesson that it’s okay to challenge things. And that it’s the only way that we’re going to change things, by challenging and by asking the questions.”
People’s opinions are not your reality
“I remember the first time that I spoke with someone about my disability in a workplace, they actually told me that I was a health and safety risk, and it was selfish of me to be wanting to work in a workplace environment, after speaking to me for all of 2/3 minutes. I just wanted to have a conversation and explain, you know, but I can do this! But then why do I have to explain something? Why am I defined by this label that I have attached to me?”
Beth then speaks about how working as a recruiter allows her to speak to a range of people from all works of life
“We can learn from so many different people by having those conversations and again as recruiters we are in that position where we can constantly speak to a diverse group of people and learn from every single one of them. Giving someone a voice, really means that person is going to be able to bring their true authentic best self to the workplace.”
Play to your strengths (and find out how to play to your strengths!)
“Strength-based recruitment was definitely my friend…We might not have as much experience as persons who don’t have disabilities because it’s been harder for us to get that 0r maybe we’ve needed to take a break at times”
“So strength-based recruitment for me was so powerful in terms of I knew I didn’t have the experience that probably everyone else applying for this job did. I actually had no recruitment experience. I had plenty of student experience, plenty of mental health, well-being, events, development – but it was all dotted around different areas. I could only get small different bits of experience in different ways. I didn’t really know how to combine that. Until, I spoke to someone who help me do that”
Be proud and honest of who you are
“My interview at EY was actually the first time I ever disclosed my disability in an interview, outright. First question, “what are your motivations for EY” – well I have a disability. Straight up there. I’ve heard about this and this is why I did it because EY’s brand was all about a culture of belonging – our world your way. And I really truly believe that. I could see the images I could see the stories and I could see the things EY were doing to support people like me.”
“70% of people with a disability actually have an invisible disability which brings its own challenges. You can hide that until you get into your workplace, but if without disclosing a disability it’s very hard to get the support that you might need to be able to thrive and employ yourself the way that you want to.”
Who you are will show in what you do
Beth speaks about how people with different disabilities are often overlooked for employment and workplace stigma towards those disabilities
“People with disabilities are the largest pool of untapped talent. And that is because we do have, again those natural barriers, and sometimes that natural stigma of – traditionally disabled has meant something that someone cannot do.Whereas I would challenge that… people with disabilities are nature’s greatest problem solvers. We have to learn to live in a world that isn’t actually built always for us. We have to find different ways to do things. Which kind of brings me to my final point in terms of people with disabilities are some of the most valuable workforce that you can bring into an organisation. Those qualities of resilience communication, because you’re constantly having to communicate things, and ask for things and explain. Problem solving, creativity innovation, you name it, a person with a disability has to show that every single day in their life.”
John Maguire, North West Talent Partner at FinTrU gives his top tips on navigating the graduate recruitment and application process.
I am still job searching what skills should I brush up on to make me more employable?
John: So, there’s all manner of things you could be brushing up on to make yourself more employable. I think one of the key things is really to go and look at the companies you’re interested in joining, go and look at the sectors you’re interested in getting involved in your research like, there’s so much stuff now online, and you’ve no excuses to really not be not be completely filled up with all the information you need to know if you’re interested in somewhere, and you can find out so, so many things about employers and about sectors online at the moment. I suppose the other thing is just you know, don’t be afraid to ask questions you can reach out to employers, you can reach out to companies on LinkedIn, through different websites and things like that. So I would just practice kind of be in the habit of reaching I find that information, because that’s a bit of a bit of a skill in itself, I suppose, an organisational skills that everyone’s looking for kind of be a self starter if you can use your initiative, and do all that kind of thing. That’s a good place to start.
How can I make a good impression in a video interview?
John: Good question. Things are very different these days being on screen rather than in person. You can’t shake someone’s hand and you can’t get comfortable with them in the same room and sit across the desk from each other. I think it’s just doing the basics really well – having your research done. Doing everything you would do for a normal job interview really and just getting comfortable with the fact that you’re on screen with someone. We’ve been doing it for so long and it’s almost become second nature it’s becoming the new normal. It’s normal for us they kind of just do everything on video and all of our recruitment on video.
But it’s obviously a lot of people’s first names coming on, even though we’ve done dozens and hundreds of interviews with video. It’s always someone you know, first time doing a video interview. I suppose just be comfortable with it, be kind of aware that it’s just a little bit different than to be worried about things like, you know, technical difficulties happening – think people are really scared to about their internet cutting out… be aware that people are going to make room for that kind of thing that don’t happen in person like technical issues and all that kind of thing. But look, just be yourself, still be professional, you know do exactly what you would do in any other interview. Just don’t be afraid to go in and sell yourself even though it’s, it’s online and not in person.
How can I apply some of the skills I have developed in the last year when I start my job?
John: So. I think in the last year we’ve all developed some new skills in terms of working online, being based on our own and checking in with people in and the virtual environments. I think that’d be one of the positives of kind of what’s happened over the last year or two, is that some of that’s going to remain I think going forward in the future I think there’s gonna be a lot more virtual conferences and maybe people travelling to go to training sessions and things mightn’t happen as much so I don’t want people to feel like, all this virtual etiquette that everyone’s learned is gonna go out the window and no one’s gonna ever use it again. I think it’s a good thing to have under your belt, I think, like I said last kind of travelling between offices, the virtual options for doing training and team tasks are fantastic at the minute and they’re only going to get better. So I would lean heavily on that and really use that and it’s something that a lot of people haven’t had the opportunity to go to, it’s been a totally different work for the last year so I would say don’t feel like your, your experience of maybe being in university from, from home, and all that kind of thing is going to go waste because it’s not you’re going to get some use out of it and you’re gonna have all the skills there for the future.
So what does onboarding look like starting work in 2021?
John: So like I said look, the recruitment, the onboarding process everything like that, is totally up in the air at the moment. We’re thankfully coming to a time where we’re thinking about actually being in an office together how exciting is that? Everyone’s looking forward to human interaction, human contact.
Say for example, you know you’re being onboarded by the minute and everything’s still totally, totally remote, any company will have put in a lot of work to make sure that they still get introduced to all the colleagues that you need to be introduced to and you don’t feel to siloed and you don’t feel too alone. FinTru puts a lot of effort into making sure that everyone that comes in, feels like part of the FinTru team and really embraces the culture and getting involved in everything that could be getting involved in the office. So the moment that’s what it looks like every company will be putting a lot of effort into making sure everyone feels included and not left out in the remote environment.
But hopefully over the next few months, things continue to go reasonably well we’ll be able to get some in-person interaction and then we’ll all have to figure out how to do that all over again so that’ll be a whole new challenge.
How can I make a good first impression?
John: So good first impression – if this is an interview or if this is your first day, whatever it might be, I think, you know, we want people to be themselves I think sometimes people get lost in trying to be someone else either on an interview on the first day of work and they have this dream picture of what the dream employee should look like and to try and be someone else but we want people, and every other company will only want to be themselves. The best version of themselves to be professional, but still just totally themselves…That’s what, that’s what you’ve been hired by that company so I would just totally focus on being yourself and uploading the best best version of yourself across really.
What is the worst thing you’ve ever seen on a CV?
John: So I would do a lot of looking at CVs in my position, I think, it’s the basics. For example, if someone says that one of their skills is attention to detail and they’ve spelt the word attention wrong, that kind of thing – just the irony of it. There’s so much online in terms of, you know, If you go to YouTube or google – how to write a good CV, a modern, clean contemporary CV that it’s just one of those things you need to get right, so there’s plenty of resources out there, plenty of people that will be able to help you online. But yeah, just basic kind of basic errors are kind of the glaring things that people should be checking.
So, if I was going to do one thing today to make me stand out in the recruitment process, what would that be?
John: I think it comes down again to research, I think look at the company you’re applying for, look at the role you’re applying for and know absolutely, absolutely everything there is to know I think it’s something that impresses employers and companies when you’ve done that, and I think, on the other hand, it’s something that can let you down if you’re not armed with all the information that’s because it’s all out there at the moment it’s not as if you have to go in anywhere and find it. It’s literally at your fingertips, it’s on your phone. So I would say number one thing is, research, research, research just get everything you can about the company you’re applying for the role you’re applying for. And like I said earlier, I think we mentioned this earlier, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions in advance, you know, maybe people on LinkedIn or different organisations, whatever it might be, I would say just have all the information and show how keen you are to really, really go for a role, as you’ve done that, you’re going to be moving on to the next step.
I think as well like even if you look at companies’ social media profiles… like everyone has Instagrams and Twitters and Linkedin profiles and you can see a lot of the stuff the the company does culturally as well – maybe some of the charity partners they work with and maybe some of the things they get involved in outside of the 9-5 which will give you another flavour of the company you’re applying for.
How can I embed myself in a virtual team?
John: Yeah, we’ve kind of touched on this already I suppose. The thing I say to people when they’re starting off – I picked up so much even just bumping into people when I was getting coffee or going up the elevator or whatever, whatever it is.. and you stumble into people and stumble upon things you didn’t know before, so I think you have to work harder to get those opportunities. I think you need to be the one to send the Teams message, or Skype message like “how’s it going?” even or just just speak to someone just catch up on someone’s weekend and maybe you discover you’ve got things in common and who knows where it goes from there… there’s so many things kind of happen accidentally in an office just jumping in and chatting to people, and we don’t get opportunities I like when I go for coffee, it’s just me and the dog like there’s no one else. It’s not as if I have any any colleagues to bump into, or just catch up on the weekends or think everything at the moment can be really transactional and it can be all to do with someone when they need something or you need something for a piece of work. I think setting time aside, literally just call someone and say, how was your football match at the weekend or did you go for that hike you were talking about going and just really making a conscious effort to do that. Otherwise we don’t get those kinds of casual opportunities.
I still don’t know what I want to do, can you give me any advice?
John: So, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I think that’s okay – we’ve always had to choose really early in our lives about A-Levels and degrees and everything like that so I would stop thinking about a a job title, without thinking about maybe, what do you want to your days to look like, what do you want your career to look like in terms of, do you want to work with people. Do you want to be travelling, do you want to be based somewhere, do you want to work with technology, I would, I would start trying to come up with a career like rather than going straight to the kind of name of the career and name of the job that you’re dreaming of I would start dreaming up the skills you have, what you want you to ask who you want to work with all that kind of thing because I know one of the best things about my role is working with people, getting to do things like this. And that’s why I’ve kind of steered myself this this direction so if that’s something you’re interested in, like I would start thinking that way rather than thinking about the ultimate job title at the end I suppose because that’s really, really difficult. So start thinking about skills start thinking about things you want to do on a daily basis, a clearer picture of the industries and stuff you can go and start looking at.
If I don’t like my job how long should I stick at it?
John: I think it’s going to take you a while to figure out what your role actually is and figure out the feel of the company you join. You’ve done your research, there’s been something that led you to apply for this company and join the company wherever we end up. I think you have to give it time. I think a lot of things can you know when they’re feeling new and you’re not totally, you know, getting to grips with the rule, yet. I think you can start thinking oh maybe I don’t like this, maybe I’m not capable, like, maybe this is something I shouldn’t be involved in but I think it takes a number of months for anyone to get settled into any kind of new role or even a role within your own business. Don’t be too hasty and give them give them, you know, I think we can confuse, not knowing everything about a role and not being totally comfortable with a role with maybe not liking it, but you owe it to yourself that, to give you a little while to settle in.
What support will I get starting a new job working from home?
John: Yep. So, I know from our perspective, we will have a lot of support in place, so things like your dedicated line manager – someone like me looking after the graduate programmes, new start programmes. And look, everyone’s so conscious of nobody getting left behind in this online world, so we’ll be reaching out, checking in with as much as we want. We want it to feel like you’re in the office and you’re still sitting beside people and having that support that you have naturally in an office. The other thing I would say is don’t be afraid to reach out, the same way you would stop someone in the office maybe ask them a question that’s on your mind. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or go on teams. I think people who are new to a company is almost feel like they’re annoying people when they send them a Teams message, but like that’s what everyone’s for everyone’s there to help and no one’s going to be annoyed at you sending them a Teams message to ask them, ask them a question in your first few weeks so don’t be afraid to reach out.
How should I prepare before my first day?
John: So your first day in a company, the company will make sure that you have everything you need to get started, any necessary kind of information that you’re already going to have from the company. It comes down to research and just do everything you can with the company know what’s going on in the company at any given moment. Just be really up to speed with like Graham said earlier, any news and anything that’s really happening and just get a feel for the company. Again, I think it comes down to if you’re not sure or you feel like you’re missing something you should have, don’t be afraid to reach out to your new employer. Especially these days with with the online thing and virtual nature of things, you know, sometimes you just have to reach out to people. Don’t be afraid to lift the phone and just ring that number online to contact the company or whatever. I think people are doing that sometimes. So don’t be. Don’t worry. That’s something that people actually have a lot of respect towards kind of like what Graham was saying about, you know, he started February, Dorsey new members of the team and things like that, that’s really really well respected, but, you know, a company should have everything they need with you for day one, like, on top of your research and don’t be afraid to reach out just like I said.
What training do you provide graduates?
John: So, we at FinTru have a dedicated learning and development team, that kind of the way we view it is the Learning never really stops so you kind of come in to our financial services Academy, there’s loads of training provided in the graduate Academy. When you come into the business and join one of our various projects or project specific training and things like that. And really, all the way through your career depending on what role you’re in and where you go in the business we will have dedicated training available that will be specific to your role, maybe at any given time, for example, in my role dealing with people all the time and I’ve recently gone through like mental health first aid training session, kind of training side of things so it’s not just traditional examinations it’s you know, maybe some leadership modules maybe some management modules, things like that. So there’s lots of training and it never really stops. I’ve been with FinTru, many years now and I’ve never stopped learning, I’m always picking up things. Yeah, it’s one of the, one of the things we really focus on is developing our people and, and investing back in our people, we have our four key values or four Ps and one of the Ps is people. It’s something that’s really important to us, investing in our people to develop and grow them through the business really.
What is the most common mistake you see in interviews?
John: Yeah so I think we talked about it and I think we talked about it earlier – it’s trying to be someone else, I think, I think it’s that, that can come across as really kind of stilted and rehearsed. And I think your research can be brilliant, and you can have done everything right but if you try and stand up and convey it as if you try to be someone else like this version of someone that you think you should be, that’s not that’s not the way to do it I think you just have to be yourself like everyone’s different. We know we want to see you be you, and bring the best version of yourself really to the, to the table. So I think once you’ve got your research done. And once you’ve kind of you’re armed with everything you need for the interview. I would say look just be yourself you can be professional, you can still be personable at the same time and you can still have a wee bit of, you know, a bit of your own personality shine through in the interview so I think people try and really, you know, bleach all the personality, sometimes in interviews and try and be really, you know robotic and stuff. We want to see that personality, we want to see you be you really. I think interviews are a snapshot as well like they’re not- they don’t take all day and you can’t spend all day interviewing someone again. So it’s that five minutes of waffle that will be better used on another question where you can really shine. Don’t think if you’ve got a really tricky question and I’m gonna have to think of my feet here and just come up with something. You’re better using that time just moving on just saying I’m not really too sure about that.
I don’t have a graduate job, where can I find opportunities?
John: Yeah. So short answer again is online, like, I think, these days we have absolutely no excuse to not be not be kind of totally up to date with everything that’s out there. I think, a pretty general search online for graduate roles, fantastic place to start. And then every single business that you are interested in will have a website, will have social media, will have everything you need to kind of go and get, go and get an initial look anyway, and then follow up with questions. And don’t be afraid to reach out to potential employers or, or even have worked in that industry or work with that company before so don’t be afraid to ask a question, you learn so much just by speaking with people that are asking questions. So I would say that, but look online is a great place to start. You don’t have to wait for the weekend newspaper anymore and see the opportunities or anything like that so it’s all there, it’s all out there. If you want that, you can just go and then if you really want to get involved in a company, you need to get started so just go for a really just start looking, I would absolutely like are all the different ones out there.
What could I ask at the end of the interview?
John: I think one of the things we will say is at that section of the interview, don’t have no questions, even if you think you know everything and you’re happy with everything and your content was everything, just have a few questions lined up – it’s a really deflating end to an interview when you say do you have any questions for us, but anything to do with the company? And people say “no I’m fine” it’s just really kind of slow finish.
Jack McKeown, a Senior associate in Assurance in EY, says confidence is key in his graduate tips.
What has been the most challenging part of your career?
Probably the transition from student life to working life. Time management would have been a big part. Your time is structured at uni, whereas now people aren’t driving you towards a certain goal, it’s all up to you. You have to take the attitude where you are the one who is going to decide whatever path you’re going to go down. Of course, you’ll get help, but you have to be the ultimate driver.
What advice would you give to students graduating who haven’t yet secured a job?
I would just say ‘be confident’ would be the main thing. Ask questions every day; you’ll never be done learning. No one’s ever finished learning, even those right up to the management are learning from someone. And so always ask questions, and always try and understand why you’re performing the task. Once you understand the why, then the rest will follow afterwards.
What skills does your organisation expect of graduates and how can University leavers develop these while job searching?
EY has three core values. Ultimately, they are looking for people who demonstrate integrity, respect and teamwork. People with energy, enthusiasm, and the courage to lead. People who build relationships based on doing the right thing. People with a strong work ethic, who can both work together as a team, but are not afraid to lead that team, either by example, or direction. I really encourage students to throw themselves into anything they can. So internships, opportunities through queens and activities within the university. Develop all these skills: working in a team, leadership and even improving your own confidence.
What does this year look like for a graduate starting a job? Will people be office based or working from home or a blend of both.
While the guidance is ‘if possible work from home’, you will mostly be working from home, although the offices for EY are open for people who want to go in. A blended approach will probably be adopted, certainly in my line of work where we work with our clients, not just from the office. So, I think you will see many people mixing in and about, but definitely will be back in the office come whenever we’re allowed.
Why does positive attitude in the workplace matter?
I think positive attitude is so important in the workplace, and probably the most important thing that you’ll need in terms of work that you’re being asked to complete and with interactions with the client. It will allow you to keep the spirits up of yourself and your team members, and then also to help your team members by taking on work and alleviating pressure on the rest of the team. So, I do believe it is vital. And certainly in our feedback from those above, the positive attitude is always something that was mentioned.
How important is confidence? What advice would you give to increase your confidence at work?
I’d say confidence is probably one of the most important things in work. You definitely need to be confident in your own ability. To increase your confidence, I suggest increasing your own knowledge, because with knowledge comes power. And with that power comes confidence. Listen to feedback from those above you, so you know what you’re doing well, because once you know what you’re doing well at, that will also increase your confidence.
To what extent is it okay to admit that you don’t know something when starting out in a job?
It’s absolutely okay to admit you don’t know something starting out in the job. There will be no expectation of you for prior knowledge. Certainly, even in EY, we hire graduates from all degrees, because they all have a different perspective on the challenges we face in our line of work, so there’s no requirement to know anything. And you’ll be coached by your superiors. At EY we’ve a great coaching culture, and we look forward to any questions that you’ll have. So, honestly, it’s fine to admit you don’t know something.
How important is it for employers to foster workspaces where employees can be themselves?
Everyone’s going to bring a different attitude and perspective to different problems that are going to arise. I’m from an accounting degree and there’s loads of people that come from other degrees, which will give you different lines of thought that you would never have considered. But there’s other things as well that that identify us, not just the degree that we’ve come from. In EY, it’s fostered through different networks, like the Mental Health Network and Disability Network, Women’s Network, and it goes on and on. So, it’s wonderful just to be able to be yourself; you know you have that support. It makes you comfortable, and ultimately, where you’re comfortable, you’re going to perform your best.
What advice would you give to our graduating cohort?
Throw yourself into tasks and be confident in completing them. Look to challenge yourself and make sure you are engaged. Know what you expect from your career and manage those expectations but, ultimately, enjoy it. It’ll be a great journey and you’ll look back on it so definitely make sure you’re enjoying it.
Interested in working for EY? They will also be talking all things Workplace Culture live on @QUBCareers Instagram during the week commencing 5 July. Visit the Gradfest2021 site to find out more.
Chloe McKee, a COVID-19 laboratory manager at Randox, shares her advice for graduates.
What advice would you give to students graduating who haven’t yet secured a job?
My advice would be just keep searching. If you want something hard enough, it will come to you in the end, so don’t give up hope. You may go for the first job interview and it may not work out. Even the second or maybe the third might not. But if the first, second or third hasn’t worked, there is still going to be one down the line that is going to be right for you. So, just don’t give up hope and keep going.
How could a new graduate without a graduate role gain valuable work or other experience in the current environment?
The current environment is obviously a lot more difficult than previous years due to the pandemic. But my advice for new students graduating would be to look out everywhere for new experiences; there are going to be some out there for you. Any experience is better than no experience. Even if it’s a few hours volunteering. That’s going to make you stand apart from other students that don’t have the experience. Any experience is better than no experience.
What skills does your organisation expect of graduates and how can University leavers develop these while job searching?
Randox Laboratories has a strong emphasis on practical best skills, and especially within our COVID testing labs at the minute, because we are getting a lot of new graduates. So, in university just make the most of your practical classes by asking questions and learning new techniques. Don’t just go along with the flow, make sure you actually know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Randox is looking for someone who is really keen, willing to learn and wants to actually go far and wants to develop their career.
What is the best bit of advice you would give a graduate starting a new role?
The best bit of advice I could give is just to give your all. As a new graduate you have the advantage of being young and eager and ready for work. And this is really your time to shine. So, just really throw yourself into any job or any task you’re given. This will mean you will get the best experience possible out of the job.
What skills may students have developed in the past year? And how can they apply these in a work environment?
The past year has been challenging for us all, obviously, because of the pandemic. But that doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Having to work from home as a student has given people real adaptability to their work and we see that they’re coping better with change. This has given them a real resilience and eagerness to work, because they’re excited to get out into the environment, to come out and meet new people and learn new skills.
Why does the positive attitude in the workplace matter?
A positive attitude in the workplace is half the battle – if you have a positive attitude and are ready to learn, you’re going to go far. You’re not going to have all the skills that they are looking for initially, but those skills can be built up If you have a positive attitude and are ready and eager to learn.
How important is confidence? And what advice would you give to increase your confidence of work?
Confidence is key. Ultimately, you have finished your degree so you know that you specialise in your subject, trust the knowledge you have. Don’t forget that once you enter a job, and there’s always room for more learning. Take training courses, ask questions, ask your manager what you can do. There’s never room to stop learning.
To what extent is it okay to admit you don’t know something when starting a job?
My advice would be to always be honest: if you don’t know something, that’s okay. Ask your colleagues for help. It’s better to ask for help and then do a great job and not ask for help and struggle. All your colleagues have had a first day as well, so, everyone in that job has been in the same position as you. So don’t be worried about asking for help. It’s better to ask for help than not.
In a recent poll of our students, 80% said job satisfaction is more important than financial security. How can our graduates find job satisfaction, and what is the secret to a happy working life?
I would agree that job satisfaction is more important than the money. For me, job satisfaction comes from doing something that you’re interested in, that’s going to satisfy you and to do what you love each day. And secondly, working with a good team in a good company. If you enjoy going to work and seeing your colleagues every day, it makes your job so much easier. The secret to me for a happy working life is just say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. Don’t shut yourself off to anything, you never know what one training course or what one trip away with your work can do. It’s all about who you meet and who you know in that sector.
What do you love about your job?
I love a lot of things about my job and my colleagues would definitely be a big part of that. I’m lucky to work in a great team who’ve all come from different academic backgrounds so I’ve learned so much from each of them. Another thing I love about my job is the fact that every single one of us here is playing a massive fight against COVID-19 and the pandemic and this will be something to look back on in years to come and be proud of.
What advice would you give to someone who isn’t sure they are on the right career path?
Just experiment! You don’t know until you try. You have to go into a job and give it your all before you know it’s not the one for you. Having said that, when you’re in that job and it’s not the one for you, that’s okay. You’re getting experience and you know what you want out of your career – it’s almost like fine tuning your career. Ultimately, you’ll find out what job you really want.
Interested in Randox? Randox will feature on our @QUBCareers Instagram during the week commencing 28 June talking about commercial awareness. Visit the Gradfest2021 site to find out more.
Declan Lupari, Former KTP Associate at Queen’s is a VR/AR Developer within the Digital Construction Team at Graham. Here is his top advice for graduates.
What has been the most challenging part of your career?
The most challenging part was having no construction background whatsoever, I came from a computer science background. So getting in trying to learn everything as I went. Getting a bit overwhelmed with all the jargon and acronyms can be a bit daunting at the start. But people are there to help you identify, develop you and your abilities further. But I think the greatest milestone was just completing the KTP project and seeing the effect of my products and projects on the company.
What advice would you give to students graduating who haven’t yet secured a job?
Yeah, just be patient. Your dream job’s not going to be the first thing that appears on Indeed or Glassdoor or anything. Like I worked for O2 straight out of uni for a couple of months selling phones in a touring van so it’s definitely not the same route I’m in now. But keep tabs on the likes of indeed or Glassdoor and see what’s popping up your your interests and what’s relevant to your degree and to your also your interest as well. And don’t doubt your, your abilities you just graduated. So you definitely get the skill set to do well, and be confident whenever you do apply for that job.
What is the best bit of advice you would give a graduate starting a new role?
Just take it as it comes. Like I was saying, I had no idea what the construction sector I had a basic history in virtual reality. I did that for my dissertation. So I had the passion for and I had a bit of that, that no heart at the start. But take every day as it comes. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your team members, they’re there to support you and help you make sure you’re producing the best work. But you’re also enjoying your work as well, making sure everything’s going all right for you. I would like I wouldn’t know the knowledge I do know, if I didn’t reach out to my team members and ask them what certain acronyms meant or how to write an email to a director or just little bits and pieces that you’ll pick up on the way. Don’t expect to know everything. On the first day you’ll pick it up as you go.
What does this year look like for a graduate starting a job? will people be office based or working from home or a blend of both?
I think it’ll be a blend of both. I’ve recently just been to the office, which is a big Rarity this year. It must be about three times have been in the office since August. But we just had two graduates actually starting today in our team, and they were on boarded and inducted and everything online. But as things start to become more open, people become more comfortable being in confined spaces or offices, I think that’ll start to open up a bit. And we’ll start to see people eye to eye in offices. And yeah, it’ll be a blend of both up until then. And then hopefully going forward. It’ll be more office space. But adapting to online has been a big thing this year. So it could be that way for a bit.
Why does the positive attitude in the workplace matter?
I think it’s a an integral part of the work the working life, it’s essential for developing strong relationships with your team members on also clientele. And I think it’s a big a big factor in getting returning customers as well, a positive attitude. You can see it a mile away. And it shows ambition shows eagerness to learn. And it cements those relationships in that collaboration and teamworking just a bit further.
To what extent is it okay to admit you don’t know something when starting out in a job?
Well, that was me the first month or two months with jargon and acronyms, everything. I think it was the first week, I didn’t really want to come off as I didn’t know completely what I was doing. So, when I took it upon myself to do that research, that also helped as well. But I think reaching out to your colleagues, they’re not gonna think less of you, they were all in the same position that you were initially as well. So they’re there to help you. And again, you’ll just pick that up as you go along. Don’t feel too much pressure to know everything on the first day – you’re not going to.
How important is it to find a job that excites and challenges you?
I think it’s very important to have a job that excites you and challenges you. If you go in doing the same mundane tasks that you don’t like, it’s the days are gonna drag, you’re not going to care how much money you’re making. There’s more important things to life than money, you need that, that spark and that challenge. And achievement may be small challenges, or big challenges, they’ll spur you on to do better. And if you have a passion for that job as well, it’ll only spur you on further. So the sky’s the limit for that. And then eventually, in that field, you’ll earn that money. But that’s not that shouldn’t be the driving factor. It should be what you want to do every day.
What was the driving force behind your major career decisions?
I knew I always wanted to go into something to do with computers. I’ve been passionate about it since no age, I’ve always been brought up a random technology, my dad coded whenever I was young. So there’s always computers, devices, soldering irons sitting everywhere. So it was always something I was passionate about. And that led me to go into computer science and management at Loughborough University. Absolutely loved it. It was challenging. But I think the fact that I had the passion towards computers, and technology drove me on to do well and then reach out and look for a job that had that ticked all those boxes. It wasn’t like thing I wasn’t looking for was money – it was the hands on approach and having a lot of contribution to a project on getting to do what I love each day. And I’ve just progressed from that.
What do you love about your job?
I’m fortunate enough to see projects the whole way from ideation to deployment and use and feedback etc. But I love seeing progress – whether it be through my own ability through projects that I’ve cocreated and seen their impact and as Jack was saying the feedback from your work whether its solo or teamwork – it’s a different feeling and it spurs you on to do better in your own work and to encourage others to do their best as well.
If you could go back and give yourself some advice on your first day what would it be?
Like I was saying before, no one expects you to know everything on your first day – everyone’s been in that position, everyone’s had their own first day with fears and doubts. Just take every day as it comes. Keep asking questions and don’t be afraid to reach out.
What advice would you give to our graduating cohort?
Don’t stress yourself out if you don’t get your dream job straight away. You may be rejected by a few interviews, it doesn’t mean that job isn’t there for the taking. Take every day as it comes but give it your all.
Interested in KTP at Queen’s? KTP will feature on our @QUBCareers Instagram during the week commencing 19 July talking about creativity and lateral thinking. Visit the Gradfest2021 site to find out more.
Here, your step by step guide on getting the most from Vmock
Start by logging on to the CV checker and download the guidance notes and CV templates.
Write or tailor your CV
2. Once you are happy click the upload button and select the PDF version of your CV
3. CV checker will assess your CV against a range of measures and provide you with a score
4. Try not to focus on score. Look at the detailed feedback Stronger points are shown in green and weaker points in red.
5. CV checker provides feedback on three different elements
Impact – this section ensures your CV is action orientated and avoids overused or ineffective words
Presentation – this section will give tips on how to improve the visual aspect of your CV like length font, structure and grammar
Content – thissection will give feedback on how well you have demonstrated in demand competencies like communication, teamwork and leadership.
6. The feedback is colour coded by three zones: green, amber and red.
Red – Further work needed. You need to spend some more time on all 3 areas within your CV. Read through the targeted feedback for each of the 3 areas. Make amendments to improve your score and upload once again. If you are still in the red zone, book an appointment to see a Careers Consultant or Placement Officer to help you get on track (and bring the feedback with you)
Amber – You are on track to presenting your skills and experiences to good/best effect. If your score is in the high amber zone (70+), you have done a good job in presenting your CV.
Note this is an automated system, so you should still exercise good judgement in deciding what to accept and what to consult on with Careers/Placement staff. You may still need to make some further/final refinements to really showcase your skills and experiences to best effect.
Green – Great job. Your CV is meeting the main expectations in terms of presentation, how you are showcasing impact and your personal capabilities/competence. You may wish to ask a Careers Consultant or Placement officer to give you final feedback before sending on to an employer.
A colour coded score system using green, amber and red lets you know which areas you need to work on.
UPDATE: You have the option of choosing what you are using your CV for- applying for a graduate job or a placement, internship or work experience opportunity.
If you are signing in to VMock for the first time you will be given the option to choose what type of CV you want to upload and if you are an existing user and want to change CV type go to your account settings by clicking on the matrix in the top right of your screen.
7. Once you digested your feedback, make the appropriate changes and upload it again to CV checker.
8. It may also be beneficial to ask a Placement Officer or Careers Consultant to make a final review before sending out to employers.
What they mean: Talk me through your CV and tell me how your experiences relate to this particular job.
They don’t mean: Tell me your life history, hobbies and interests and take 20 minutes to do so.
What they ask: What do you know about the company?
What they mean: Are you up to date with what our company is currently doing, our main successes and where we plan to go in the future. Prove you want to work here.
They don’t mean: Please recite the first page of our website like everyone else and show you have done no original research.
What they ask: What skills do you have for this job?
What they mean: Give me a summary of your top three skills and make sure you’ve taken them from the Essential Criteria. Prove you know the job.
They don’t mean: List me over 20 skills and make sure 90% will not relate directly to the job.
What they ask: What is your main strength?
What they mean: Pick something from the Essential Criteria that you believe to be most relevant to the position and give me an example of how you have used it. Prove you can match your skill to the job.
They don’t mean: Tell me something totally unrelated to the job and don’t explain it. Or
tell me the heaviest weight you can lift in the gym.
What they ask: What is your main weakness?
What they mean: Tell me about something work related you struggle with and how you have been taking steps to overcome this. Show me you are proactive and looking
to progress. Prove you have self-awareness
They don’t mean: Tell me something critical to the job that you can’t do or that you have no weaknesses. Or tell me about a health condition you have.
What they ask: Can you give me an example of a time when….
What they mean: Talk me through a practical, relevant example that will show me you have experience in this area. Tell me the Situation and set the scene, explain the Task, detail Action and what YOU did then tell me the Result (STAR). Prove you can transfer your previous
experience to this job.
They don’t mean: Please spend 20 minutes rambling about a story and with as much excess and unnecessary information as possible so that I forget the question.
What they ask: Why should we hire you?
What they mean: Give me a summary of your key skills and how they fit this position.
Prove your suitability and your passion
They don’t mean: Give me an arrogant answer that will negate anything good you have previously said.
What they ask: Do you have any questions?
What they mean: Ask me something original and relevant that shows you are serious
about wanting to work here. Prove you can use your initiative.
They don’t mean: Tell me I answered them all in the interview without saying what you had planned to ask.
More than……………years extensive and diverse experience in
Expertise and demonstrated skills in
Extensive academic/practical background in
Experienced in all facets/phases/aspects of Knowledge of/experienced as/in
Extensive training/involvement in
I like to….
I’ve been told….
ALWAYS use numbers and measure to quantify and prove your work.
Proficient/competent at Initially employed to/joined organisation to specialise in Provided technical assistance to Worked closely with Constant interaction with Promoted to Succeeded in Proven track record in Experience involved/included Successful/Proficient in/at Reported to In charge of Now involved in Familiar with Employed to Assigned to Edited Established/ Initiated Formulated Implemented Managed Instrumental in Coordinated/Organised Designed and developed Updated/upgraded Attained/awarded
Best of breed Go-getter Think outside of the box Synergy Go-to person Thought leadership Value add Results-driven Team player Bottom-line Hard worker Strategic thinker Dynamic Self-motivate Detail-oriented Track record
Daniel McGibbon, a blogger from our MEDIA programme, shares the top tips he has learned about breaking into the media and communications sector.
There is no one route into the industry.
The beauty of entering the media and communications sector lies in its lack of a standardised process. There is no established set of hurdles to clear to get a job. In the points below, I’ll explore some of the vast array of opportunities, methods and avenues to enter the sector. The door is open to anyone with the drive to succeed!
2. Writing experience is invaluable
Having experience in writing is crucial when beginning a career in media and communications – the clue is in the name! Make sure to jump at any opportunity to gain writing experience. Whether it’s proofreading or article-writing as a university or school commitment, these are invaluable experiences to boast about when developing a professional CV.
3. Build a portfolio
Employers seek people who are accustomed to writing and purveying concise, engaging information. Practicing your skills through something as minimal as a regular blog post shows not only an ability to write, but a commitment to your passion. Find inspiration through reading industry professionals’ work or using resources like The Associated Press Stylebook and develop a portfolio of writing to showcase your ability to potential employers!
4. Find an internship
It’s not a simple task to land a permanent job in media and communications without having some prior, relevant experience. This is an initially daunting thought but it’s a lot more achievable than you might think.
Everyone must start somewhere, and local work experience, summer internships and similar temporary positions offer an invaluable introduction to the sector! Whether it is assisting at a local radio station or getting accepted to a short-term internship with a media organisation, all relevant experience will make you an attractive candidate for a permanent job. It’s as simple as reaching out and asking if they’ll take you on board for some work experience.
It is important to remember that these experiences are largely unpaid. Whilst big corporations are attractive, they typically exist in cities with huge living expenses that make unpaid positions untenable for someone starting out. Make sure to focus your energy on sustainable experience.
5. Look for an apprenticeship
Another entry point to media and communications exists in the shape of apprenticeships or long-term internships. This avenue offers fantastic experience of how a career in this sector operates daily. This can consist of positions anywhere from television production to online content creation. Check out sites like Idealist for some inspiration.
6. Put yourself out there
Ultimately, there are any number of valid and legitimate ways to enter media and communications, you just have to take the first step and look for openings! Write and read about your interests, ask around for work experience, and most importantly APPLY FOR THE JOB! There are vacancies out there waiting to be filled, it’s up to you to make yourself noticed and prove you want the job.
Mark Gallagher, Careers and Work Placement Consultant in Queen’s School of Biological Sciences offers an insight into graduate opportunities the Life Sciences Sector offers.
What is the Life Sciences sector?
The Life Sciences in the broadest sense can encompass study and work related to all living organisms and so can have a very broad definition which can range from agriculture to zoology (A-Z). The Life Sciences sector spans a huge variety of career areas, including, but not limited to, pharmaceuticals, biomedical engineering, environmental management, food and nutrition and scientific research. Companies may be involved in areas including research and development, drug discovery, diagnostics, analytical testing and can range from small research intensive companies, with a small number of employees, right through to large multinationals employing thousands of people.
What kinds of careers options do Life Sciences students have?
Career areas are very broad in the life sciences – and at various levels, straight from a BSc qualification to roles that may require additional levels of qualification and up to PhD. Here are a few of the main areas of employment:
Research & development – The focus of research and development (R&D) is mainly on creating products, processes or commercial applications using innovative multidisciplinary approaches. R and D takes place in Universities but also in industry within smaller medical biotech companies or parts of companies tasked with process and product improvements. To work in R and D typically you are encouraged to further your level of qualification to at least MSc if not PhD level.
Quality assurance and product Manufacturing – Quality Assurance (QA) or Quality Control (QC) involves ensuring that products are manufactured in accordance with recommended standards, and requires analysing raw materials used initially through to finished products. Companies in the sector are highly regulated so Quality is key at all stages of production with a variety of repeat analytical tests being undertaken to ensure products are safe to use. Careers can also involve monitoring environmental factors like water and air quality for contaminants which could potentially impact on process or product quality.
Science Business roles – Opportunities for regulatory affairs officers are commonplace in the sector as are roles to develop new markets and business for products, or providing expertise and consultancy to support products – roles which don’t involve lab work but the understanding you gain from a science degree is essential to carry out the role effectively. Regulatory affairs officers ensure the appropriate licensing, marketing and legal compliance of products, and work with documentation and medicine approval authorities throughout the world. Products developed as a result of research and development will need to find markets in which to be sold – and that creates opportunities for science graduates to help develop those markets, by approaching health authorities and companies to explain the features and benefits of products developed – so if you are a science graduate who is keen to use your communication and persuasion skills this could be the route for you.
Clinical trials – All medicines must undergo clinical trials before they are granted licences. Scientists are involved in setting up trials to ensure that new products are safe for use. You could be involved in a variety of roles ranging from lab-based research, through to using data analysis programmes to analyse and interpret results, or managing and monitoring trials by visiting hospital sites and liaising with nurses and physicians to ensure the trials are running appropriately.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in building a career in this sector:
Be open to new things – at University your Careers Service will offer a host of opportunities which present an opportunity to try something new. This could be applying for periods of experience abroad, events that seek to attract students from all disciplines, career development programmes and classes that are optional to attend but specific to your degree. Get involved and set time aside outside your studies to develop skills and knowledge of options and the labour market – it’s never time wasted.
Focus on what you can control – you can’t control the unexpected such as COVID and the wider economic impacts. You can though control how you present yourself to employers and ensuring that your applications are at a high standard – giving yourself every opportunity to gain an entry level position. Use the expertise that exists in your Careers service to help with this.
Be smart and organised in your job search – you now have access to thousands of vacancies at your fingertips, but making online job applications can be tough. It’s better to make a small number of high quality applications rather than make multiple applications. Start to analyse job specifications thoroughly, look at the essential and desirable criteria for jobs of interest. For more experienced roles that grab your attention work out how you can address any skill and experience shortfalls. Speaking to people is also something I really encourage (don’t just email!) – whether that is people working in similar roles to those you are interested in, making enquiries directly to companies or attending career and networking events, these types of interactions can all help boost your confidence and also gain insights into what employers actually value in prospective employees – this in turn can help inform future job applications.
Attitude and approach are key – focus on developing your reputation for high quality work, reliability, integrity and being a good colleague to work and collaborate with. The skills and knowledge you take with you from University will be invaluable in understanding the areas you work in – but always continue to develop your skill set, the way we work is changing quickly – many employers value your attitude and willingness to learn equally as they do your knowledge and skills.
About the blogger:
I’m Mark Gallagher from Queen’s School of Biological Sciences. I work with three key groups of people – students, employers and academics. The key focus of my own role is the development of student employability from first year right through to Master’s level students. If you are a student looking to explore a career in the Life Sciences sector, don’t miss my blog featuring a Q&A of everything you have ever wanted to know about the sector.
I encourage students to develop themselves by undertaking work experience placements which form part of a degree programme, to get involved in some of the programmes that the Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills service run throughout the year as well as encouraging involvement in extra-curricular activities that help develop confidence and transferable skills (which are key for employers we work with).
I also work with a large number of employers throughout the year, these are typically employers who are interested in recruiting placement and graduating students from the School.
We run a very successful work placement programme within the School of Biological Sciences where each year our undergraduate students undertake a one-year placement as part their degree programme. Many of our students work in the Life Science sector locally and throughout the UK joining established employers big and small, as well as gaining experience with Biopharmaceutical manufacturing companies in ROI. In a typical year, 20% of students will move outside NI to gain experience, with many travelling internationally. All placements are quality assured to meet our course learning requirements and students and employers are visited during the course of a placement to ensure everything is progressing as anticipated.
We have 8 undergraduate programmes in the School which are quite different so it’s important to ensure our labour market information is current and conveyed to students ensuring they know what their options are. Students can also book one to one appointments throughout the year, and in recent months these appointments have moved online.