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7 things first year students can do to boost their employability

Our student blogger Maeve McDermott read the TARGETjobs Careers Survival Pack and here are her key takeaways. Number 4, get to know us better!

Your first year of university can be overwhelming. Moving to a new city and navigating a newfound independence, whilst mastering the art of referencing and attending lectures can mean that thinking about your future career is pushed to the bottom of your list of priorities. However, it is never too early to think about ways to boost your employability while still enjoying everything else that comes along with university life, and TARGETjobs Careers Survival Pack is full of tips on how to just that. Act now and thank yourself later and you can save yourself from that final year rush.

  1. Plan your path 

Thinking about your career early on can be daunting, so it’s useful to chart your direction and decide which route you are going to take so you have a structure to follow. Will you choose a sector/industry to work and look for employers in that sector? Or will you be more flexible about the role and sector, and instead focus on the employers you like and seek out their opportunities? Either way is perfectly fine, but it’s good to choose one path so you can effectively plan your career as early as possible. 

2. Clubs and societies 

Joining clubs and societies is not only a great way to meet people and have fun, but to gain those vital transferrable skills. Teamwork and problem-solving skills are part and parcel of being a member of any club or society, be it Brazilian Jujitsu or the Vegetarian Society, and it shows that you’re committed and have interests outside of your studies and your social life! Plus, having a role of responsibility through running events in any clubs or societies can demonstrate communication and organisational skills, which are sure to impress future employers – and can enjoyable too!

3. Part-time jobs and volunteering 

Part-time jobs and volunteering opportunities also give you the chance to build on those transferrable skills. Whilst stacking shelves or picking up litter mightn’t be what you want to do long-term, the ability to juggle work and study can demonstrate a strong work ethic to employers and really help you to stand out. There are plenty of rewarding and interesting volunteering opportunities available through Volunteer SU who are always looking for people to offer their time, and part-time work both on and off campus are advertised on MyFuture.

4. Get to know your university’s careers service

Explore what your careers service has to offer. From consultations to employer events to international study tours, your careers service is bursting with resources to help you boost your employability alongside your studies. Visit the QUB Careers website often and follow their social media to keep up to date with opportunities and events. Careers fairs and employer events are a great way to meet and network with employers directly – something that you can never do too early.

5. Develop a good study routine 

Establishing an effective study routine from the get-go can really work in your favour. Even if your first year counts for very little, having impressive first year grades will come in handy if applying for internships/work experience in 2nd year, as employers will only have these grades to base their decisions on. Plus, it’s good to develop those study skills early on in your university career to avoid the final year panic.

6.Look at work experience/internships

Be sure to check springtime deadlines/exam dates as some employers offer insight days, work experience, or internships for first year students. More and more large companies are offering these types of opportunities and having these names on your CV can look really impressive to future employers and can be a great way to decide whether an employer is right for you. After finishing your exams and assignments, what better way to start your long summer break than gaining valuable experience and building up your CV early on in your university career? 

7. Register with TARGETjobs 

Registering with the TARGETjobs website means you’ll get sent details of careers events, work experience and tips to improve your employability. They also run the Undergraduate of the Year Awards with an award exclusively for first year students, so what are you waiting for? TARGETjobs also run events to introduce students to employers, with some exclusively for first year students and some open to all year groups, such as webinars that can help with your employability. Have a look and see what’s on offer at targetjobs.co.uk/events

Doing just a few things per semester to boost your employability doesn’t have to be overly time-consuming. It’s really as simple as joining a club, volunteering for a few hours or attending an employer event and it can really pay off in the long run. Any effort you put in now will really help you in the future, and your final year self will be forever thankful!

Read more advice from TargetJobs here. 

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Advent Calendar advice Applications consultants CVs

Careers Advent Calendar: CV Buzz Word Bingo

Useful Phrases/Verbs 

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 

Experience in….

Responsible for….

I like to….

I’ve been told….

I feel…. 

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 

Useful Words 

Ability – Capable-  Prominent-  Substantial – Abundant – Thorough-  Achieve-  Courtesy-  Lasting – Definite-  Loyalty – Resilient- Useful-  Advance –  Guarantee –  Agreement –  Helpful  – Notable  – Reputable –  Ambition –  Determined – Opportunity –  Appreciate – Effective –  Perseverance –  Approval  – Efficient  – Improvement –  Practical  – Aspire Enhance –  Service  – Attain –  Enthusiasm  – Integrity –  Excellence  – Progress 

Word to avoid

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 

(Sources: www.forbes.com and www.prospects.ac.uk)

For more CV help, check out our CV checklist

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DegreePlus Interviews MEDIA Programme Skills

Five Ways To Enhance Your Employability At Uni

Pick up a hobby

Find something you’re interested in! Blogging is a great way to improve your employability, as regular articles will show off your content-writing skills to employers. On the other hand, playing a team sport will demonstrate that you understand how to work in a team. You could even try a hobby that is a bit more ‘out there’ – pushing the limits of what is considered the norm will give employers a reason to look twice at your CV!

Write, write, write

Queen’s has its own newspaper and other platforms which provide plenty of writing opportunities – get involved with these to hone your content and copywriting skills to stand you in good stead for graduate jobs. There is always a reason to improve your written communication, and journalism also contains elements of research. Ask around and find out what you can contribute, and don’t forget to keep a record of what you do to show employers later on!

Learn a language

Having a second (or third) language under your belt can help you to stand out in a competitive jobs market. Business in all forms is increasingly international so mastering a well-used language such as Spanish or French will often give you an edge. What’s more, the hard work and dedication that learning a new language entails is bound to impress employers. There are plenty of online resources and apps available to help you to become bilingual!

 Take a short course

There’s no better way to improve your graduate employability than by embarking on a short course to improve your skills. Short, online courses from providers such as FutureLearn and Coursera are available in a range of subjects, so if you want to discover what’s involved in a particular role or brush up on soft skills there will be a course for you. It doesn’t have to be related to your career – any course taken demonstrates to employers your initiative and organisational skills!

 Become an ambassador

Being a student ambassador is the perfect chance to demonstrate your drive and commitment, all without doing too much strenuous work. MyFuture often advertises opportunities for student assistants in the university and students’ union in a range of areas. Often these jobs will pay, so it can be doubly worth your while applying. Lots of companies also have university ambassador schemes, which you can apply to as well!

For more on developing your employability at Queen’s visit our Degree Plus site and find out how you can get an award at graduation on recognition of the skills you have built up.

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Applications CVs Employers Graduate recruitment Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair Graduate success graduate training schemes internship Interviews

Ask the employer: What sets a winning job applicant apart?

Many graduate recruiters see piles of CVs and interview hundreds of applicants to fill jobs and placement roles. So, what sets a good candidate apart? We cornered some of NI’s top recruiters at the Graduate Recruiter and Placement Fair last week to find out. Here is what they had to say…

Include skills developed through extracurricular activities

“It is important to appreciate that on paper, all graduates from the same degree programme look the same. However candidates who succinctly articulate how their skills and experience meet the essential and desirable criteria outlined on the Job Description will stand out, as this shows they have considered the requirements of the role and thought about how they will bring value to the organisation. I would encourage students to really think about what they have achieved outside of their academic qualification.  Reflection upon the skills developed through involvement in extracurricular activities such as clubs, societies, sports, volunteering and work experience, and setting this in the context of the competencies employers seek, will set your application apart from others.”

Kim McAllister, Talent Acquisition Manager, Almac Group

EDITOR’S NOTE: Queen’s Degree Plus programme provides an opportunity to articulate the skills you have built up through extracurricular activities to employers. Find out more at GO.QUB.AC.UK/DEGREEPLUS

Show that you are keen

“If we get the feeling that you are super keen and can’t wait to get started sometime that is worth even more than a high score in the technical test. “

Elisa Herbig. Talent Acquisition Specialist at AquaQ Analytics

Make sure your CV hits the mark

“Your CV doesn’t need to be elaborate or fancy. A lot of the time what really helps people is having something presentable that is easy to read. For the recruiter who is going to be reviewing it. Making sure the formatting is correct. Making sure there are no typos. Making sure the application is as easy to read as possible. Highlight any relevant experience for the role. Voluntary experience is good to include. Even if you have been working part-time show you have been doing something alongside your academic studies.” 

Adrian McCarthy is the manager of For Purpose

Relax in the interview

“Top interview tip – relax! We are just as nervous as you are. We want to sell you the job as much as you want to sell your skills to us. We want to make sure this is somewhere you want to work.” 

Joelene Ridgill , Purchasing Manager at Seacoya Group Ltd

Include work experience in your CV

“It sounds obvious but, in terms of a winning CV, good grades go a long way. It shows that the applicant knows how to put the work in to achieve their goals. It’s also very important to have some work experience or extracurricular activities since a candidate will have gained invaluable skills and experiences that they can bring into their new role. It also shows their adaptability and an appreciation for hard work. 

For an interview, it’s easy to say but just try to relax and be yourself. Your CV already shows many of your skills and this is a chance to show your personality. Remember that interviewers are just people, and someday it will be you in the interviewer’s seat!”

Sarah Fleming, Senior Manager, Muldoon & Co

Read assessment centre instructions

“At Liberty IT, we don’t ask for your CV when you apply. We only ask for your basic details such as what you’re studying and what year you’re in. If you meet the criteria you will then be invited to complete an online coding test through Codility and if you’re successful in that you get to attend our recruitment centres. 

The recruitment centre is broken up into four sections to make sure we get the best idea of your skills, experience and potential. To do well, make sure you read the advice we’ll send you, be yourself and try to enjoy the experience.”

Birgitta Swanberg, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, Liberty IT

Tailor your CV for the role

Information within a CV needs to be clear and concise. No long paragraphs.  Ensure your skills and experience are easily identifiable throughout. Remember the recruiter looking at your CV doesn’t know you so highlight your relevant experience using the job description. To help you refine your CV to the role and make it stand out from the pile. Finally don’t forget to include personal achievements. Competing in team sports is a good indicator that you work well within a team and have competitive nature. 

Clodagh Mckeefry, Corporate Recruiter, MRP 

Show who you are as a person

I want to see what you do in your free time. An academic record is fantastic but I want to know about your volunteer experience, part time jobs, clubs you’re a part of, etc. It’s all about showing people that you are capable of doing more and pushing yourself.

Jared Kearney, Senior Campus Recruiter, Citi UK and Citi Irelan

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Applications CVs Graduate recruitment Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair Graduate success graduate training schemes graduateland Job Hunting job search Online profile postgraduate

Virtual Recruitment Fairs: Build a Stand-Out Online Profile

At the Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair on Oct 21 and 22, employers will use your online profile to find you. How do you build a profile that stands out from the crowd? Read on and find out.

You can upload your CV to your profile, so that will let an employer know what you’ve done. The key is to articulate what you have learned and the skills you have collected along the way. Employers want to know what skills and experience you can bring to the role. Below you will find a list of top skills employers told us they are looking for in student and graduate recruits, along with a brief explainer. Tag as many of these as you can to your online profile ahead of the event.

Cognitive/intellectual skills, such as:

  • Problem solving:  Ability to analyse issues, identify barriers and offer/implement potential solutions. This may involve prioritising tasks, coping with complexity, setting achievable goals and taking action.  It may also involve innovation at relevant points.

(Other terms might include – Thinking creatively/Decision making)

  • Applying subject knowledge and understanding: potentially from the degree pathway.

(This might also include researching the types of industry/roles that the subject knowledge could lead to and mechanisms for doing this.)

Professional attributes/attitudes such as:

  • Communication skills: the ability to communicate effectively in a range of professional contexts (both orally and in writing).

(Could also include body language, presentation skills, listening skills, communication styles)

  • Teamwork: the ability to work with others in a team, to communicate, influence, negotiate, demonstrating adaptability/flexibility, creativity, initiative, leadership and decision-making.

(Might include knowledge of their teamworking style, types of teams, working with remote teams, leading teams, running meetings)

  • Interpersonal skills:  includes ability to engage with and motivate others, sensitivity, global and cultural awareness, moral and ethical awareness and the ability to adjust behaviour accordingly.

(Other terms might include – Emotional intelligence, self-awareness, building on strengths, self-management)

  • Leadership skills: leading other individuals or groups through a set of complex decisions as part of goal achievement within projects or significant and challenging activities.   

(Leadership styles, leadership theories, performance, motivation)

Technical skills such as:

  • Utilise modern technology: associated with work place or work-related activity.  
  • Information technology skills: includes ability to learn, apply and exploit relevant IT programmes.

Business and organisational skills such as:

  • Business operational skills/ Commercial awareness: understanding of relevant commercial, marketing, management and/or financial processes/principles. Awareness of differences in organisational cultures and practices.
  • Business communication skills:  Written, verbal and/or online.

(Could also include – Business etiquette, coaching, collaboration, influencing others)

Language Skills and Cultural Awareness 

  • Proficiency in foreign languages: developed through courses or overseas experiences. 
  • Cultural awareness/intelligence: and the ability to implement this in a variety of multicultural contexts.

If you haven’t registered for the Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair yet, make sure you do it today. Use your QUB email to enjoy uninterrupted access to our virtual platforms and register for both days so you can experience everything on offer.

Register now

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Actober Career planning CVs DegreePlus Events Fairs Global Opportunities Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair my future

Five Things to do in October for your future career

October is a big deal in the careers calendar: many graduate schemes and placements open, and the diary is packed with flagship events, such as the Graduate Placement and Recruitment Fair and Go Global

In fact, it’s so important to act now if you want to give yourself the best possible chance to propel your career forward that we’ve renamed this month ACTober. 

Here are five things you need to do this month:

  1. Register for the Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair and Create your Graduateland profile

Our Graduate Recruitment and Placement Fair is going virtual this year. Graduateland, our event platform has loads of cool features we are sure you’ll love. Once registered, you can browse employers virtual stalls, watch company videos and find out what it might be like to work at a particular company. A bit like a Tinder bio, your Graduateland profile will help you stand out to employers. The more detail you fill in the better. 

Register now and start filling in your profile

2. Discover DegreePlus

DegreePlus is an employability award that allows you to gain recognition for extra-curricular activities you take part in outside your lectures. This could be leading clubs and societies, taking part in leadership programmes or volunteering in the community. You’ll get a certificate and will have something concrete to talk about in future interviews. 

Register for our DegreePlus Information session via MyFuture

3. Find opportunities around the world

The Go Global Fair is your chance to explore the wealth of global opportunities available to you during your time at Queen’s, including study, work and volunteer abroad programmes. Start planning your epic summer 2021 now!

Register for Go Global

4. Find a job through MyFuture

MyFuture is an essential careers portal you’ll use throughout your time at Queen’s to search and find jobs. Whether you are looking for a part time job to fit around your studies or a graduate scheme or placement, you can filter by your degree and skills to find the right job for you.

Access MyFuture

5. Get your CV in order with Vmock

With many graduate jobs and schemes opening this month, you’ll need to get your CV in order. Similarly, if you are looking to gain work experience or even get a part-time job during your time at Queen’s. VMock is a virtual CV checker that gives you feedback on your CV in seconds! If you need extra help getting your CV in order, book a consultation with one of our careers consultants.

Watch: How to use Vmock

Unsure where to start with career planning? Visit our website

Get in touch with us at careers@qub.ac.uk

Categories
CVs Interviews Job Hunting

8 Common interview questions decoded

Queen’s Careers experts explain what an employer really wants to know when the ask these common interview questions.

Q: Tell me about yourself 

What they mean:

Talk me through your CV and tell me how your experiences relate to this particular job. 

What they don’t mean:

Tell me your life history, hobbies and interests and take 20 minutes to do so.

Q: 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.

What they don’t mean:
Please recite the first page of our website like everyone else and show you have done no original research.


Q: What skills do you have for this job? 

Funny Man GIF - Funny Man Interview GIFs

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. 

What they don’t mean:
List me over 20 skills and make sure 90% will not relate directly to the job. 

Q: 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.

What 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.

Q: What is your main weakness? 

tumblr_neu8mzif8w1qeby93o1_250

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 

What 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. 

Q: 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.

What they don’t mean:

Please spend 20 minuthteesmrawmobrlikngto find it. about a story and with as much

excess and unnecessary information as possible so that I forget the question.

Q: Why should we hire you? 

MRW I am updating my resume

What they mean:

Give me a summary of your key skills and how they fit this position. Prove your suitability and your passion.

What they don’t mean:

Give me an arrogant answer that will negate anything good you have previously said. 

Q: Do you have any questions?

What they mean:

Ask me something original and Do you have any questions? relevant that shows you are serious

about wanting to work here. Prove you can use your initiative.

What they don’t mean:

Tell me I answered them all in the interview without saying what you had planned to ask.

For more top tips on interviews and graduate job hunting, download GradGuide2020 via the GradFest2020 site.