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Could you be Crowned Undergraduate of the Year?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the awards:

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

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

Register for the webinar

Check criteria and apply

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Degree Plus Festival DegreePlus Employers Prizes Skills

What is the Degree Plus Employability Festival?

Lunch and learn all about Queen’s employability award on 11 November from 12.30pm- 1.30pm.

What is Degree Plus?

Degree Plus is Queen’s employability award. It allows you to earn an extra certificate at graduation in recognition of the extra-curricular activities you take part in during your time at Queen’s. Volunteering, exchange programmes, peer mentoring and language courses all count towards the award.

How do you earn Degree Plus?

There are two ways of earning your Degree Plus Award. The first is called Provider Verified – where you complete one big activity and the activity provider automatically applies for the award on your behalf. The second route is called Combined Experience – this is where you complete two or more smaller extra-curricular activities and you apply for the award yourself, stating on the application form which of the 12 Degree Plus Employability Skills you enhanced during your chosen activities.

Provider Verified is the most straightforward way to get the award. Once you have completed the activity, you will automatically be recommended for the award. You don’t need to do anything else except collect your certificate at graduation (it will list the activities you completed on the certificate).

What happens at the Degree Plus Employability Festival?

During the Degree Plus Employability Festival, you will have a chance to meet providers who are offering programmes, activities and courses that are pre-approved for Degree Plus accreditation.

These are people who have the power to make you more employable in a number of ways. Firstly, the programmes they offer are designed to enhance your employability skills, making you instantly more attractive to prospective employers. Secondly, just by completing their activity, you will be provided with an award that you can talk about in future interviews as proof positive of your skills. Lastly, the fact that you took part in an activity and earned the award is in itself a testament of your initiative and automatically sets you apart from the crowd.

What types of providers are attending the festival?

From exchange and placement programmes to volunteering, research, mentoring and language courses, there will be a number of providers there offering a range of fun and rewarding activities that can help you achieve an extra certificate at graduation in recognition of the skills you have developed. All the providers attending the festival have confirmed that they are still running their programmes and activities this year.

Who else will be at the Festival?

You can also chat with the Degree Plus team and hear what employers like EY and NICVA have to say about the award.

Where is it being held?

The Festival is being held virtually in MyFuture, our online careers portal. You might previously have used MyFuture to search for jobs and events, or even to access CV help and support. But the portal has added a host of new features, including a virtual event hosting function, so we are excited to show you around.

Where does the lunch bit come in?

All attending students will be entered into a draw to win one of six £20 Just Eat vouchers – now who said there is no such thing as a free lunch?

The DEGREE PLUS EMPLOYABILITY FESTIVAL is being held virtually on 11 November between 12.30-1.30pm.

Register via MyFuture

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Why are there two types of Degree Plus and what are they?

At Queen’s, we refer to the two types of Degree Plus award using the terms ‘Provider Verified’ (formerly Route A) and ‘Combined Experience’ (formerly Route B) – but what do these terms mean and what is the difference? Eimear Gallagher, who leads the Degree Plus team at Queen’s, is here with this quick explainer. 

Eimear Gallagher, Business Operations Manager and head of Degree Plus at Queen’s

A Provider Verified activity means a third party automatically recommends you for the award

The most straightforward route to gaining your Degree Plus award is through the Provider Verified route. This is where you complete a significant extracurricular activity from the approved list, for example, a Careers service development programme, SU Handy Helpers, an inspiring leaders programme or certain Language Centre programmes.

See the full Provider verified list here

You don’t need to apply for Degree Plus via the Provider Verified route

The activities listed on the Provider Verified menu offer the opportunity to gain significant experience over several days, or months. In this case, the approved provider advertises organises and assesses the activity. The provider then submits a pass list to the Degree Plus team so we can update your QSIS record and arrange your Degree Plus certificate ahead of graduation. You do not need to do anything else once you have successfully completed the programme.

Why do you not need to apply for Provider Verified Degree Plus?

The activities on the Provider Verified menu have already been vetted by our Degree Plus team as being significantly challenging, so they are ‘pre-approved’ as being eligible for the award

A key part of Degree Plus is reflecting on the skills you have developed during a programme or activity. When you complete a Provider Verified activity, that reflection is embedded in the activity.

“Degree Plus is about developing your skills, experiential development and networking. If completed in full, a Provided Verified activity will include some form of articulating back to the provider what you have gained,” explains Eimear Gallagher who heads up the Degree Plus programme at Queen’s. 

This means as part of the programme or activity, you will be asked to evaluate what you have gained through an assessment exercise. This might be a presentation, interview or application form set by the provider asking you to reflect on which of the Degree Plus skills you have developed and how.

Once you complete and pass the provider’s assessment exercise, your name will be added to a pass list and sent to the Degree Plus team to update your student record. You can complete as many Degree Plus Provider verified activities as you like. You will receive one certificate at graduation with the activities listed.

See the full list of Degree Plus skills

Combined Experience means you have to self-nominate yourself for the award

The Combined Activity route offers the opportunity to complete two or more small activities and complete an application form. The two activities should be from the approved menu and must demonstrate different Degree Plus skills. For example, you might complete the form using your part-time job and your volunteering experience as your two activities, but in your application form, you must demonstrate that you gained different skills during each experience.

Combined Experience menu activities include membership of a club or society, employer challenges and insight programmes and volunteering opportunities. “It could be a part-time job in Tesco or your local supermarket and a six-week language course,” says Eimear. “Work experience doesn’t have to be a placement with a graduate employer. It could be volunteering in the community in your home town, participating in a sport or Red Cross volunteering.”

You only need to apply for Degree Plus Combined Experience once. You will receive one certificate at graduation with ‘Combined Experience’ detailed on the parchment.

See the Combined Experience Menu

What should I write on the application form?

“The application form gives you the opportunity to practice articulating your experience on a form,” says Eimear. This practice will come in handy when you come to apply for jobs. 

You will also need to evidence the activities. 

“Evidence could be a payslip, an email from a voluntary group saying you have engaged in a certain amount of volunteering over a set number of weeks, or an email from an SU clubs or society confirming your involvement,” says Eimear. 

Degree Plus is about actively engaging in activities, not passively turning up. In your application form, you need to demonstrate to the Degree Plus panel what you contributed and what you got out of it – keeping theDegree Plus skills at the forefront of your mind.  

When do I need to apply for Combined Activity?

There are two chances to apply each year: the winter deadline is midnight on November 1 and the summer deadline is midnight on April 1.

While these deadlines are set to enable those graduating in winter and summer to achieve the award in time for their graduation ceremony, students in pre-final year can apply by these deadlines in order to bank the award early. In that case, it will remain on your student record and you will receive your Degree Plus certificate at graduation. 

“If you are first or second year, you could use either of those windows to upload your application now and we will assess it,” says Eimear. “If you don’t meet it the first time, we will give you feedback, and you will have a second opportunity to re submit.”

If you missed our recent Degree Plus intro session, you can rewatch it here:

https://www.qub.ac.uk/directorates/sgc/careers/careers-events/pastevents/

Eimear Gallagher is the Business Operations Manager at Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills To contact the Degree Plus team, email degreeplus@qub.ac.uk

To find out more about Degree Plus, visit GO.QUB.AC.UK/DEGREEPLUS

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advice AGCAS Awards consultants employability Graduate success Guardian University Guide League Tables Russell Group

Queen’s Careers Service Recognised for Excellence as they Support Graduates through Covid-19

The Careers Service at Queen’s has been awarded an AGCAS Membership Quality Standard for their service to students and graduates, as the university climbs the Guardian League table to 11th in the UK for student employability.

The Careers, Employability and Skills Team at Queen’s has been awarded Membership Quality Standard by AGCAS,the expert membership organisation for higher education student career development and graduate employment professionals.

The award comes as it’s revealed that the University is now ranked 11th in the UK for career prospects after 15 months by the Guardian University Guide 2021

Trevor Johnston, Head of the Careers Service at Queen’s said: “Our AGCAS membership is testament to our ongoing commitment to supporting the best possible career outcomes for our students. This prestigious award is a result of the incredible hard work of staff across the Careers Service who have worked tirelessly to build online provision for career support and guidance amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

 “We recognise that the pandemic is having a huge impact on students and graduates. We remain committed to supporting our students and graduates to access the tools they need to maximise the career opportunities available to them.” 

As a result of government-imposed restrictions in the wake of Covid-19, the Careers, Employability and Skills team at Queen’s moved their entire programme of activity online overnight.

“From offering virtual one-to-one consultations to the increased use of live chats and virtual events and masterclasses, we’ve been able to offer our students and graduates access to the guidance and support they need to develop their employability,” said Mr Johnston. 

Recent Law graduate Norma Taggart said: “The Careers Service is a tailored, student-friendly accessible service. The staff genuinely care about your career path and work tirelessly to help you with practical advice on CV checks, interview skills and techniques to ensure you enjoy great success at Queen’s and beyond.” 

The Careers Service was quick to respond to lockdown, offering targeted support to graduates with the delivery of Gradfest2020, an online careers fair swiftly organised in June, in lieu of the cancelled Northern Ireland Graduate Recruitment Fair. 

“Gradfest2020 comprised bespoke workshops designed to help graduates navigate job uncertainty while developing key employability skills during the crisis. We have also played a key role in linking our students and graduates with our partner organisations, facilitating student-employer networking opportunities in the digital space, such as the upcoming virtual Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair,” said Mr Johnston. 

He added, “We are proud of our staff and students, particularly our graduating cohort, who have successfully navigated a challenging end to their university experience. With our continued support, we hope they’ll build the tools and resilience they need to enjoy a positive start to their careers.”  

The Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair is taking place on 21 and 22 October 2020 between 2-m and 6pm. Go.qub.ac.uk/Careersevents