It is no secret that our attention spans are a lot shorter than previous generations. We are so used to consuming hundreds of messages at record speed that we no longer know how to fully focus on one message at a time.
Active listening involves understanding what the other person is saying, as well as truly hearing it.
In terms of customer service, you hear their problem, but you also understand why it is a problem for them and what solution they are looking for.
2. Written, Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication
How we come across in emails, the language we use to talk to those around us, and how we use our body language are all forms of communication.
Understanding how you communicate and how you can adapt it to suit different audiences shows maturity and empathy.
It also suggests that you would be a good leader – traits all employers look for when recruiting.
Collaboration is similar to teamwork.
It is the ability to work with others to complete a task or project.
Employers assessing collaboration skills will be looking at if you can bring a team together, how you support your colleagues and if you can develop an idea by offering constructive feedback or by building on it.
Emotional intelligence indicates how well you understand people, and this comes in twofold.
The first is with your colleagues. Today’s world wants a peaceful workplace where everyone thrives. Having employees that can see when someone is struggling or having a difficult time and has the emotional tools to help them creates a workplace of trust and collaboration.
The second is with consumers or customers. Products and services are driven by consumer needs and motivations. Understanding what motivates a person or what problems they need resolving will help you develop innovative products/services that will sell.
Critical thinking is the ability to analyse data and form a judgment.
With AI technology, a lot of today’s thinking is done for us. An algorithm works through whatever information you provide and offers a selection of options to choose from.
But not all information should (or can) be analysed by a computer.
Having this skillset shows employers that you can:
Draw out common factors
Apply those factors to the market/person/situation you are working on
Make an informed decision
6.Problem-Solving and Decision Making
This deals with how well you can work with others to find a solution.
Everyone has their own opinion, but the skill lies in working with others to think the problem through and come up with a solution that benefits the company.
Again, workplace norms are changing, and behaviour that was tolerated previously no longer is.
As such, conflict resolution is sometimes needed. If someone in your team is making offensive comments or not pulling their weight, you should have the skills to gently resolve the situation before it escalates.
This skill is desired among all employees, particularly those going into HR or leadership roles.
8.Professional Attitude and Self-Motivation
As a generalisation, there is a lack of accountability among new graduates.
How many times have you blamed something on technology rather than taking responsibility? Missed appointments or been late because you didn’t get your reminder notification. Forgot to pay something because it wasn’t in your calendar?
Employers want to see that you are motivated and that they can depend on you. They want to see that you have a career plan, can manage multiple commitments, that you show up on time and have initiative.
Though image isn’t everything, employers also want to see that your clothes are clean and ironed and you are somewhat groomed.
It may sound shallow, but to employers, it shows you can look after yourself and, therefore, their company.
My name is Sophie Martin and I am a Legal Project Coordinator in the Legal Project Management team. I joined Baker McKenzie, Belfast, as a Legal Professional in September 2019, where I worked in the Contentious Support Group. This was a fantastic opportunity after university, which provided me exposure to a breadth of document review and due diligence projects, and in-turn, the opportunity to develop an array of skills, from analytical to communication skills.
One of the best aspects about working for Baker McKenzie is the endless career opportunities. During my time as a Legal Professional, I had the opportunity to apply for two secondments. The first secondment provided me with the opportunity to work with one of our key clients in their London offices. This was a great experience, providing me with the opportunity to work directly with our clients, providing insights into their working culture and develop relationships with our London colleagues.
A pivotal moment in my career, was the second secondment, where I joined the Legal Project Management team, initially for a 6 month period. Like many of my peers, prior to joining Baker McKenzie, I was unfamiliar with Legal Project Management and what a career in Legal Project Management entailed. The opportunity to combine legal and management, two of my career interests, and my curiosity to explore this niche career opportunity further encouraged me to apply for the secondment. When I joined the team in January 2020, I was instantly exposed to a variety of work and endless skill development opportunities. The variety of projects, global exposure, client-facing role and autonomy to shape my projects, provided me with the platform to catapult my professional career. This, combined with an extremely supportive and welcoming team, confirmed that this was a career that I wanted to pursue. This is where my career in Legal Project Management commenced, as shortly after starting my secondment, I successfully applied for a permanent role in the Legal Project Management team.
As a Legal Project Coordinator, no two days are ever the same, meaning the learning and development opportunities are endless. The core roles and responsibilities entail managing client matters, including liaising with the client and Firm’s matter team; supporting the legal team to track and manage projects by integrating matter management, fee management, technology and process improvement techniques; analysing complex reports, flagging key issues and designing bespoke reporting; budget monitoring; and providing support for client team collaboration sites. To ensure that the Legal Project Management team ensure our overarching objective that all projects are managed on time, in scope and within budget, this requires multijurisdictional collaboration with our Legal Project Management colleagues and legal teams across the globe to ensure that we provide the highest quality service to our clients.
In addition to the development opportunities I have received through my role, Baker McKenzie are committed to each individual’s career progression and provide various opportunities to facilitate an individual’s career progression, such as internal and external secondments, promotions and development programmes, such as the Baker Excellence Programme.
I would highly encourage any student wanting to join a global, high performing firm, to join Baker McKenzie, where you can commence and develop your career, surrounded by friendly and supportive colleagues.
Interested in working at Baker McKenzie? You can chat to the team about upcoming opportunities at our Spring Recruitment Fair.
Conor Houston, Queen’s Law graduate is Director of Houston Solutions Limited, and Chairman of several organisations including the Federation of Small Businesses Northern Ireland, One Young World 2023 Belfast, and of Fleming Fulton School. He is also the Governor and Trustee of the Irish Times Media Group.
What does Queen’s mean to you?
I’m often reminded of Seamus Heaney, his famous line when he talked about the original centre. I think, as I reflected, I’m making this video today, Queen’s University very much is for me, my original centre. It’s where I formed my passion for Law, which was the career I practised in for most 10 years. But it also gave me a number of skills, perspectives and opportunities that continue to this day, and I’m very proud that I have for almost 20 years, I’ve had an association with Queen’s University.
What was your Queen’s experience like?
I graduated in 2004, with my Law degree. I had a fantastic three years at Queen’s, made a lot of friends who are still very much friends today, and I suppose it ignited my passion and interest in in law and the rule of law. I was very fortunate through my times at Queen’s to be involved in a number of summits and conferences, but also to go and study at the European Public Law Group Academy in Greece, in 2004, which was a really fantastic opportunity. It was my first time, I suppose, with young people from right across Europe studying together, all the different languages, cultures coming together and united by European Union law.
That was a very formative and special time. And in fact, a number of the things that I’m continued to be involved in, tend to have that international perspective and lens. After I had completed my Law degree, I went on to study for my Master’s in Human Rights law, and was very fortunate that there was an opportunity to do a cross border element. So I did the first half of my Master’s in Queens, and the second half of my masters at the National University of Ireland in Galway. And again, that was a very special time and experience and a number of the friendships and relationships I enjoy to this day were because of that cross-border experience.
What was your first graduate role?
I graduated from Queen’s with my Master’s and I then went back to Queen’s to study at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, where I was finally admitted as a solicitor in 2008. I was lucky that I had a firm that I did my apprenticeship with John J. Rice and Company in Belfast, which was a criminal and human rights firm.I worked there for almost 10 years and was fortunate to be involved in many of the pioneering human rights cases of that time. I was dual qualified in that I was qualified both in Northern Ireland and also in the Republic of Ireland. So I practised a lot in Belfast and Dublin. And during my time in practice, I was very involved in the profession. Firstly, through the Young Lawyers Association, the Northern Ireland Young Solicitors Association, which I ended up becoming Chair of, and we had some fantastic conferences and events and a lot of fun with that group. I was then the first lawyer for Northern Ireland to be appointed to the board of the European Young Bar Association, which our relationship continues to this day. And 2010, we actually brought the European Young Bar Association conference to Belfast, so it was fantastic to bring all these international lawyers to our city.
What has been a career highlight?
I suppose a combination of all those roles, as well as being so very fortunate to be representing some leading human rights cases represent journalists, politicians, and many others. I suppose I became very interested in how law can affect change, I was very passionate about making a difference. And that’s what attracted me into law, the power of law to create change in a society.
I was very fortunate that the cases I got to work on, were very much about driving that change. But I suppose I became interested in how could I do even more so in 2014, I was awarded a scholarship by the United States State Department. And I spent a few months, I took a sabbatical and took a few months out to Boston College and then into Washington, and on their rule of law programme, which really started to develop my thinking more around the skills and experiences and perspective I had, and what I could do.
Whilst my mission was very much about helping people and making a difference, trying to refine what I could do with that, I became very interested then around maybe getting involved around politics and trying to create change to help complete our peace process, and to, I suppose, realise the enormous ambition and potential of Northern Ireland.
What are some of your favourite work-related projects?
I was very honoured to be appointed as the programme director at the Centre for Democracy and Peacebuilding. And I worked there for a number of years and worked on some fantastic projects around working with, for example, community organisations, youth groups, loyalists bands. And it was a great privilege to be involved in their work in trying to help to complete the peace process and build capacity within both civic and political society.
One of the amazing projects I got to work on with them was the EU debate programme, which was set up about nine months before the EU referendum. And the idea was to create a space for informed thinking and debate in Northern Ireland, on the issues that the Brexit referendum would have, particularly as it pertains to Northern Ireland.
I was involved with the board in rolling out a very ambitious programme where we engaged with community groups, youth organisations, religious organisations, every political party in Northern Ireland. And we really began a conversation, we weren’t trying to determine the outcome of the debate, we were trying to make sure that there was a debate. So we were neutral in that we weren’t trying to tell people to leave or remain, we were just trying to present all of the arguments and create that space. And that was a very humbling experience.
Queen’s University Belfast were very involved in supporting that project. In fact, we launched a new debate in the Great Hall in Queen’s and academics from the School of Politics, including Professor David Phinnemore were involved in writing a briefing paper for us. So it was very important to us that it would be underpinned by that credible academic expertise, but also the have that support of the reputation of Queen’s.
Why did you set up your own business?
I decided to set up my own consultancy, and I suppose what brings together a number of the clients and projects that I work on, is that one thing to realise the ambition of Northern Ireland. So I work with a number of leaders, all of whom may be coming from very different backgrounds and sectors, but all of whom are very passionate about realising the enormous potential of Northern Ireland, and trying to drive change here.
I suppose that’s what unites the number of projects that I’m privileged to work on now. And as I mentioned, I’m government trustee of the Irish Times Media Group. So the Irish Times is owned by a trust, and there are eight of us appointed to effectively act as the shareholders of the group. So we’re there to sort of look at the long term vision and that’s been particularly interesting, interesting in an age of post truth and thinking about the lines around freedom of speech, etc. So, and a lot of that, of course, goes back to the learnings that I had when I studied both my Law and Master’s degree around the issue of proportionality and competing rights.
What is One Young World?
I’ve been involved in leading a bid to bring One Young World to Belfast in 2023. So in 2017, I was asked to address the one Young World Youth summit in Bogota, Colombia. One Young World is the world’s largest youth summit. It brings over 3000 young people from every country in the world, to a city each year. And it’s one of the only organisations aside from the Olympics that actually gets every country in the world involved.
And this is about identifying the future leaders, both within business but also within NGO sector, just young people that are passionately driving change right across the world. So I was very fortunate to be invited to address this summit in Bogota, Colombia in 2017, and was introduced on stage by the then president of Colombia, President Santos and the late Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations. Both of those men spoke about the impact that Northern Ireland had on their journeys to peace, and this was a very humbling moment for me.
When I addressed the summit, I realised the power of our generation and the generation watching this video, to effect real change, not just within the place we will call home, but also in terms of making an impact in the world. So I then began the process of building a team to put together a bid to bring One Young World to Belfast in 2023, and we were successful in that.
How has your degree from Queen’s helped you?
Queen’s is that passport, not just for your career, but to accessing opportunities, and a fantastic network right around the world. So, you know, I’m extremely proud of the many hats and roles and things I’ve been involved in being a graduate of Queen’s University is really up there, and I look forward to continuing that role with Queen’s.
What challenges have you faced?
When I was a lawyer, and some of the projects I work on, particularly some of the Civic roles that I have, I think one of the challenges your generation is going to face is how we engage with the people we disagree with. So one of the challenges is always when you have very passionate about change, or seeing something happen, and you encountered the resistance to that.
I think that one of the big challenges that I challenge myself every day, I think that we have to all turn on is what can we do to engage with the people that we disagree with, how we, I’ve often said we don’t have to agree but being disagreeable is a choice. So we need to find more places and spaces in which we can find that ability to respectfully engage with each other and actually see that compromise is an art, it’s not a sellout.
I think this is something that I encourage your generation to really challenge I think that the future will belong to those who can build relationships that can be constructive that can respectfully disagree with each other, but can see the common good can work together for the common good, can see the bigger picture that is the challenge of your generation.
What gets your out of bed in the morning?
I don’t feel that there’s an average week. For me, I think that’s probably what I love most about my, my work. In fact, I don’t even feel like I have a job because I’m very fortunate that everything I do, whether it be in my business life or my civic life, they are projects and issues that I’m very passionate about. So I jump out of bed in the morning, passionate about making the change in the area that day, whether it be through being on the border shadows and LGBT youth organisation, whether that be in promoting the role of small businesses through the five and a half 1000 members, and I have the privilege of being Chair of the FSB, and speaking up on their behalf, whatever I can do to to advocate change, to advance those who are trying to make a real impact.
That’s what sparks me on in the morning.
What advice do you have for graduates?
I think that’s one of the most exciting things about this generation, the graduates of today is that you really do have a blank canvas to create the kind of life and career that you want for yourself. And Queen’s University, as I say, is the ideal place to give you that toolkit for you to be able to do that.
It’s for me, it’s that life journey, it’s not just about getting that degree wasn’t really that important that you do, and it’s about the relationships that you build, the skills that you have, and they will sustain you for the not just years but decades ahead. And you know, as I said, it’s 20 years this September since I started Queen’s, and I’m reminded of something my late grandfather said to me, he said 20 years is a long time looking forward, but nothing looking back.
And for the first time, I can tell you, it doesn’t feel like two decades ago I entered Queen’s University, but those two decades, I’ve had that original centre of Queens, which has, as I say, been a constant thread throughout my career both here in Northern Ireland and through the international experiences and opportunities I’ve had.
Queen’s graduate Kristen Guy, a transgender woman who specialises in the development of training solutions for Deloitte on how she gained the confidence to become her authentic self in the workplace.
How did Queen’s shape your journey?
I’m an ardent, proud trans woman, and it wasn’t always the case, I’ve only recently come out a few years ago, and I only recently found fulfilling employment in the last five years. So getting to where I am now it is, it was a challenge. But I’m glad where I’ve got. I’m proud to say that I am an alumni of Queen’s. I studied Psychology at Queens, and I graduated in 2013. My time at Queen’s was amazing. I had the time of my life, I made the most amazing friends and I’ve got nothing but good memories. But one of the main things I absolutely loved at Queen’s was I joined the Queen’s LGBTQ+ Society. And that is when my life really took off. I made friends in that society that I still have today. And that provided me with the foundation of becoming my authentic self.
What skills did you learn at Queen’s?
So, I picked up a few key skills at Queen’s, for instance, Teamwork, public speaking and research, which is a big part of Psychology, which is definitely beneficial for my job now. So I’m really thankful for the education I received at Queen’s. It was amazing.
What challenges did you face after graduation?
After graduation, I was feeling quite anxious, scared because I didn’t know what was going to come next, I had the usual anxiety about am I going to find a job, what’s it going to be like living in the working world. And for me, I just, I was feeling really anxious or really depressed because I knew I wasn’t being true to myself. And I was still identifying as male back then. And for me putting on a suit, going to interviews just felt wrong to me, I just oh used to destroy my confidence in myself, because when you don’t feel good about yourself, you’re not going to portray yourself in a positive light whenever you’re going to be interviewed by people. So I struggled my first few years, because I hadn’t taken the decision to transition at this point. But I was still looking for work. And I had no confidence in my ability. So I wasn’t putting myself forward for graduate jobs. It was call centre jobs I did here and there. I did have fulfilling times and made good friends, but I just was never happy. And then one day, I was just like, no, I need to get a job that I find fulfilling, personally. So I started to plan for more jobs, more based around admin jobs. But I found I was quite unsuccessful and it must have been because I just wasn’t portraying myself in a good light. I had such a barrier up around myself, that I wasn’t being authentic in the interviews. And I think that really comes across.
What interview tips do you have?
My advice to anyone out there not just people who maybe are in the LGBTQ+ community, but for everyone, is that when you’re going to job interviews, just be yourself. Because at the end of the day, we’re all human beings. We all have our own friends, family, personal lives. And I think that’s very important to bring with you and to be proud of. And if you’re passionate and positive about something that will shine through during your interviews and people are more likely to gravitate towards you.
How did you find your current role?
I saw an advertisement for Deloitte’s Assured Skills Academy, a training course for nine weeks that trains you on all of the main aspects of working in consulting and business consulting. I googled Deloitte and I was really excited because I saw loads of positive stories about how Deloitte puts diversity and equality on their agenda. So, regardless of your gender identity, your sexuality, your ethnicity, they don’t mind as long as you are hardworking, and you just become a member of the family.
Why do you think you were successful in the interview?
In the interview, something changed, like an epiphany, a light bulb moment. And I didn’t wear a suit to the interview, I just wore a shirt and trousers, because I wasn’t going to compromise myself any further. And in the interview, I decided to be myself. I spoke passionately about my time in Queen’s, and also my time being involved with Queen’s LGBTQ+ society. And the interviewer started, asked me about that, and they were really excited to hear more about that. And obviously, I got more passionate when I was speaking about that because it’s something that was really important to me.
And so, I got onto Academy. It was amazing, but I’ve got to say, there was tears along the way.
What was your first graduate role like?
I started Deloitte not knowing what to expect, because I won’t lie I didn’t even know what I was planning for. For the most part, I didn’t know what Deloitte did. They were an accountancy firm, but they did consulting, I didn’t really know what consultancy was.
So, basically in my job, we work for private and public sector clients. And if they’re introducing a new technology or like a new HR system, our team is involved in the transition from what the company used to use to what they use now. So there’s some members of the team who actually are the functional team who go and develop the new software. Some members of the team work in the chain side of things, which is tracking what the changes are, and mitigating all the changes for any potential sort of risks to the audience or the company that are getting it, and where I come at the very end is I create training and learning materials for the new system. So this includes demo videos, interactive learning, quick reference guides.
It’s fabulous. I’m quite a creative person and creating demo videos and the voiceovers and all it doesn’t really feel like work to me, like I get absorbed in it. And I really, really enjoy it. So my videos are viewed by thousands of staff members for some of the companies and clients I’ve made it for. So, I definitely feel like I’d make a real difference to the clients that we serve.
How did you learn to be your authentic self at work?
When I first joined and Deloitte, I decided straight away just to be open and transparent with my managers about my intent to transition because I was still presenting as a male. My manager was amazing, she’s absolutely fabulous. She was like, that’s not a problem at all, let us know what support you need and what we can do to help you. And Deloitte actually has a trans champion scheme, which means that a senior member of the business and directors and partners will partner with you to ensure that you’re being fully supported in your work.
My transition was slow. I was presenting as male in Deloitte for maybe my first two years, just because I didn’t get to the point where I wanted to be in terms of being on hormones, my hair length, different issues like that. But what was great was, Deloitte is very flexible, when it comes to your working hours. So, I actually have a condensed working pattern and Wednesday was my day to attend all my appointments I needed to go to for my transition, it was great. And then two years into my job I got promoted, which was amazing. And I decided I needed some time off to socially transition from my previous self Ben to Kristen who I am now, so I took a month off.
And that’s when I started you know, and dress and feminine full time, I legally changed my name to Kristen. It was very nerve wracking going back to life to Deloitte because obviously everyone knew me as Ben before, although my intent to transition was well known as people knew that I was transgender. And then I remember the nerves, but no one cared. There’s a few slip ups here and there with my old name but nothing was intentional, just people were so used to calling me that before, it happens with my family and friends as well.
But I am two years on from that, amazing. People just know me as Kristen. Being trans isn’t what defines me in the work anymore. And I thrive because of the effort that I put in to my clients and the work that I do. And I got some actually amazing news today, I actually got promoted, I just found out I got promoted again today. So four years on from feeling hopeless, not knowing where I was going to go in my career, I can say an area that I am really proud of myself as a Queen’s graduate, because I didn’t think that day was going to come. I thought I was going to be unemployed forever or in a job that wasn’t fulfilling that I wasn’t going to be my authentic self as a trans woman. And that’s not the case anymore at all. I live life to the full, I enjoy my career and I am looking forward to the future, it’s going to be great.
What advice do you have for graduates?
The advice I’d give you is be confident in yourself, even if you don’t feel confident in side, portray yourself as confident to the outside world, because that is a big skill that I’ve picked up in my professional and personal life. Because with my transition, there was a tendency to think, oh, people are looking at me or I feel awkward, anxiety. And I just decided, you know what, screw it. If they’re looking at me, they’re looking at me because my hair is looking good.
Francesca Morelli, International Business with French graduate on pursuing her start-up dream.
Business in the blood
I loved my degree. I was one of those people that was just so interested in what I was studying. I come from a family business background, my family owned an ice cream business on the north coast of Northern Ireland. I’ve worked in my family business most of my life, so I already I always had an interest in business. But as well as with my Italian background, I kind of loved thinking about business in a more international context. So really, this was the perfect degree.
For me, I love travelling, I love languages. But then, as well, I was really keen to enter into the business world like, like my family have done since 1911. What I really loved about the degree was the placement aspect in the third year. So that was a compulsory element to my degree, we had to go to a foreign country to a French speaking country, to undertake a placement. So in 2017-18, I find myself in Paris working in a startup studio. So a startup studio is a fairly new model. It’s essentially where there’s kind of one founder or funder, really, he partnered up with some early stage entrepreneurs, to develop their businesses from the ground up.
First taste of the start-up scene
[In the start-up studio] they pull resources, which is great. So it meant that not only did I have the chance to work in one start-up, but I had the chance to work in a few start-ups, and that we were in the one office together, we shared knowledge. We all worked together nearly as part of the one company even though we were all working on little separate companies. I just loved the whole start-up aspect I was started working on one of the start-ups when their platform had just under 2000 followers. And by the time I left at the end of that year, the platform had grown to over 10,000 followers, I was starting to generate some revenue. So for me in the very kind of traditional sense of business, I was very used to you know, you give me £1.50 for a scone, and it cost me 50p to make it and I make my profit. And this is very different model where a lot of them were building for acquisition. So I got very used to ‘Okay, we’re working every day towards an end goal, we might not make money straight away.’ But that’s kind of start-up life. And I really fell in love with the whole thing. The fact that these people around me were so passionate, they were so dedicated to a common goal, knowing that maybe years down the line, they would sell out to a big platform or a big company and make loads of money. It might have taken them years to see that. But it was in everybody’s minds. I think I just really fell in love with it, with the passion of everyone I was working with.
Entrepreneurship at Queen’s
I came back to Queens in the middle of 2018 to finish off my degree. I was contacted by a start-up founder in Belfast to come on board his team after he had seen what I’d done in France.I had been on his LinkedIn network for a while. We started working together on a tech start-up in Belfast. And my final year ended up being completely crazy. I was a director in this start-up. I was doing pitching competitions. I was going for funding. I was starting to ask business people to you know, become involved in what we were doing. And that really gave me amazing experience. And in my final year of uni, I also got involved with everything.
There are so many amazing opportunities out there that disappear once you’ve graduated. So really do try and get involved in stuff. The things that I was interested in were the likes of QUB Dragon, Innovate Her, these are run by Enterprise SU and the Students Union. If you’re interested in business, if you’re interested in start-ups, do go on to Enterprise SU’s website and see what all they’re up to where they’re on social media as well on Instagram and Twitter, and they’re always running great things. So do go and have a look. But I got involved in those programmes, which, you know, come out of it with Degree Plus as well which was fab.
Giving back to the start-up community
Enterprise SU gave me amazing support. After final year, I’d spent so much time with the Enterprise SU team that helped me so much. And I’ve done some so many of their programmes that I actually then applied for a job in their department. And I, this was really good timing for me, because while I was working on the start-up, while I was trying to build this early stage business, I was able to work with a team at Queen’s and kind of advise those students coming behind me so they can learn from my mistakes.
So two years later, I’m actually still at Enterprise SU. And I continue to support and advise students, start-ups and entrepreneurs.
Spotting a gap in the market
I now own completely my own business called VAVA Influence. We are Northern Ireland’s first dedicated influencer marketing agency. I decided that there was a great opportunity there for the event marketing agency, and I took a step back from the tech start-up. It means that it’s okay to try new things. And there was an opportunity there a gap in the market and myself and my business partner, Chloe really jumped at the chance. So I mean, it’s working okay, for me right now, our influencer marketing agency is doing really well.
It’s doing well we’ve built a client base. And we’re still growing. We’re still learning every day. But I wouldn’t had that had I not just throw myself in. I took advice and support from everybody. I got all the free advice go in. I talked to everybody that would talk to me. And it really is working out for me now. And we’re hoping that it will grow and grow into the future. So if you do want to start your own business, if it’s something you are thinking about if you want to get further support, advice, do get in touch with us at enterprise SU and we will be able to signpost you
Leveraging your network
Since graduating in 2019, I’ve had some amazing experiences. I would not have the network I have no I had it not been for LinkedIn. Some people cringe at the very idea.
But if you can at try and work up the courage to get on LinkedIn, to start posting, you don’t have to pretend to be this whole other persona. Be yourself on LinkedIn post about what interests you. Post about what you might like to explore, do some reading, connect with people that you think are relevant in the industry, you might want to go in to connect with people you admire, read and learn, LinkedIn is brilliant. And I really would encourage anyone studying at the minute or anyone who has just graduated to get on it and start building up that network. It can be a scary thing to do. But it doesn’t have to be you know, just try and take it in your stride and, and start putting yourself out there.
Don’t be scared to reach out and talk to people ask for help. Even more so now I think after COVID people are really willing to support graduates to support students and give advice, you know, you’re not being cheeky asking for it. And if there’s somebody you admire, or somebody you’d like to ask for advice, do send that message, you will find it really worth it.
Keeping the faith
There is a lot of pressure [on graduates]. It can be difficult that I’m no stranger to that. So what I would say is that if you do find yourself in that position, don’t lose heart, everybody is in the same situation right now. And what I were trying to say is, you know, look online at stuff you can do to improve your skills, there are so many free courses and things you can take online at the minute that will improve your CV at the will improve your skillset. There’s, you know, Google digital garage, there are so many courses online now that you can take for free, that are going to improve your skill set and your CV as you go out and look for opportunities.
The more you do and the more you get involved with the more appealing you’re going to look to an employer.
Maddie Warren, a Queen’s History and English graduate and a newly qualified teacher offers her advice to students and graduates.
You are supported to explore your options at University
When I started at Queens, I thought that I might want to be a teacher. And I did my first year of Queen’s and I kind of like I loved it. I loved getting involved in different things at Queen’s, I became a student ambassador, and did lots of tours for Queen’s, and kind of really, really enjoyed my first year. And towards the end of it. I had a bit of a careers crisis where I thought that maybe I didn’t want to teach. Maybe that wasn’t the right role for me.
I kind of had a bit of a freak out and really, really didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I had a chat with my university professional tutor, which was really helpful. And I also went to a few talks that were run by different businesses at Queen’s and one of them was an organisation which organised things like camp America and stuff like that, and I got in contact with them. And they ended up getting me a placement to go and work in Spain for the summer. So I went over to a lovely place near Marbella, in the south of Spain. And I spent my first university summer kind of working there looking after some children, learning Spanish and teaching English there. And that was amazing.
Education is an experience, not just a route to a career
My summer in Spain was kind of life-changing for me. I realised that I didn’t need to have a career when I finished university like straightaway. I met a lot of different people who were travelling around and I realised that there were kind of like loads of different things I could do and doing an English degree or humanities degree didn’t lump me into doing just the one career. So that was a really, really great opportunity for me. When I came back to Queen’s for my second year, I got really involved with the Widening Participation Unit, and started to do a lot of outreach stuff with the university. So I started to help to run workshops for primary school children, who might be the first in their family to go to university and kind of really work with some of the deprived communities around Northern Ireland.
And I found that so rewarding, probably the most rewarding experience that I ever had. I met some really, really interesting people from all over Queen’s and I met some people who
really kind of motivated me and helped me to think about what I actually wanted and to think of education as, or my education path and my degree as more of an experience than a direct route into a career.
Build up work experience where you can
I ended up going and spending my summer in America where I worked for a camp for young girls, and doing a lot of empowerment work with young girls in America, and sort of building them up to feel like they can, they are equals and have the same opportunities. The camp was a no-technology camp, and fully outdoors, we were living in the woods for the whole duration of it. And that was really, really great for the kids, especially some of the girls who had sort of had no confidence in society without things like makeup, or their phones or things like that. So that was really, really great.
Yeah, I loved it. And kind of ignited that passion, again, to work with young people. And yeah, to work, it was nice to get to work with them sort of outside of an educational setting, and do different kinds of workshops and things with them.
Life experience will benefit your career
The experiences that Queen’s had given me made me feel like I could become a better teacher if I had more life experience. So it was really important for me after graduation that I didn’t just kind of graduate from my degree and become a teacher straight away because I wanted to have experiences that I could bring to the classroom and bring to young people to help them become rounded people. I think that school is so much more than just your kind of academic education. I think it was really important to me that I was able to shape children as citizens. So I really wanted to get some more life experience. So I decided that I wanted to do an International Development Master’s.
Global experience is life-changing
My Master’s degree is in gender violence and conflicts. And when I went into the Master’s, I knew that I wanted to do some work in India. So when I was writing my thesis, I got the opportunity to move out to India and become a research assistant for a charitable organisation called Men against Violence and Abuse.
It was about working with men, especially in deprived communities in Bombay, to prevent abuse against women. It was really, really tricky for me to kind of set that placement up, I had to do it all myself. But luckily, whilst I had been at Queens, I was given the opportunity to kind of sort some placements out. I went to college in America for a while and had a lot of support with that at Queen’s, but had kind of been taught the skills to set things like that up. So I went out to Mumbai, and I didn’t know anybody. And going out there was probably the scariest experience of my life. But I did make some amazing friends and I got to work with this brilliant, brilliant organisation. I got to do some really great research with them, which benefited them and also write my thesis at the same time. So kind of a win-win situation really. I worked a lot with boys who were at college, so between the ages of 16 and 18 running workshops, discussing the treatment of women in their society, especially by sort of the older generation of men and how they wanted to improve it and what they already knew we did a lot of training around sexuality, and around transgender people, which is kind of still a very, can be a very frowned upon thing in some Indian societies.
There are different routes into teaching
I applied to a few different teaching courses. And there are lots and lots of routes into teaching, which I think people kind of don’t really realise. I ended up doing a route called Schools Direct where you are kind of placed with a school and you have a university link. So I worked at a school in West Sussex and had a link with Sussex University and found it so rewarding from kind of day one. It was definitely the most nerve wracking thing I’ve ever done in my life. My interview was to teach a year eight class of 13 year olds, I had never taught before, I had kind of worked with, with young people to do workshops and things like that. But there are a lot more interactive than lessons where I had never kind of led from the front like that. So that was really scary, but it obviously went okay, I got the position.
Life throws your curveballs
I went onto my teacher training in September of 2019. That’s was an absolutely exhausting year. I think a lot of people say that teacher training is one of the hardest years of your career if you become a teacher. I don’t know if I’ve been in the career long enough to confirm or deny that. But I can definitely say that it was exhausting.
Funding for teaching degrees is quite limited. It’s becoming even more limited. So I was having to work at the same time. I would go to school Monday to Thursday, University on a Friday. And then Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays, I would work at a restaurant. I was lesson planning and marking in the evening, I was still writing University assignments. I was absolutely shattered. And when the pandemic came in the March I was our placement stopped. And I was absolutely crushed.
Honestly,, at first, the pandemic was a bit of a, I was slightly grateful for it, because I don’t know if I would have been able to keep going at the rate that I was. Luckily for me, I had been offered a job just before the pandemic hit. And the job that I had been offered was to start in June. So I had a couple of months between finishing my teacher training and starting my job were kind of nothing was happening. And then I started my job in June and I started teaching online, which is not something I think any teacher had ever planned to do was a massive learning curve as elsewhere a lot of things during the pandemic. But I found it really rewarding, you know, found that I was kind of getting to know some students online, which was really nice. And, and yeah, it was great. And then I went and started in school in September, and have been at the school for just over a year now.
You’re still learning on the job
During the year, I have been involved in a couple of other things. I do some mentoring. So I do mentoring for students who are often economically deprived eor socially deprived in some way. And I also work with the woman’s voice group that we have in school. I do some mentoring there and I help run some some workshop sessions, which is kind of more like the stuff that I had been doing before.
I have found teaching so incredibly rewarding. I absolutely love it. I think that’s the skills that I learned at Queen’s, the things that I was able to do in terms of student ambassador in terms of working for the WP Unit, in terms of the trips abroad, going to college in America, working in Spain… they helped to set up for me all of that really. It gave me a huge amount of confidence. It also allowed me to be independent and kind of gave me guidance on how to do things whilst ensuring that I did them myself, which I think are things that you kind of don’t necessarily learn whilst you’re at school.
The hours are long
In terms of my career now, I think that people massively underestimate the hours that go into teaching. I leave my house by seven o’clock, most mornings, and it is not uncommon for me to get home, you know, half, five, six, I would say. The last week of term has been quite lovely, because I’ve been able to leave nice and early.
There is always extra, your job is never finished, there is always extra things you can do. There are always kind of students that you care about that you want the lesson to be tailored for them in a certain way. There are always more things you can plan. There are always more parents you can contact. It’s a job that is never finished. And it has been really, really important to be able to prioritise tasks in, otherwise I would live at school.
So that has been a thing I underestimated, kind of how never ending the to-do list is and the fact that you just can’t like it’s it is impossible to do at all. I am a person who loves to finish things and you just can’t do it. So I think I definitely underestimated that.
The rewards are huge
Working with young people is just so rewarding – seeing the difference in their progress both academically and as people is phenomenal; having kids come and tell you that they love your subject or they have a great lesson,; having kids email you over Christmas to say Happy Christmas because they have built relationships with you. Back in May, I had a group of students invite me to a birthday party in my classroom for me, where they had baked me cupcakes and decorating my classroom and hid in a cupboard.
Lots of people have said to me that they think they would enjoy teaching, but they think it would get really samey which always shocks me because I have never done anything which has been so varied in my life! I can teach the same lesson four times in a week, and it would never be the same.
And just knowing that you can shape their future. And knowing that, as well as being able to shape their future, you can really make students feel seen and feel represented.
There are no career wrong-turns
To an extent there are no wrong decisions. I think that everything can teach you something. I think the decision, the people that I have met because of the choices I’ve made… I can’t imagine my life without the people that I’ve met at university or my travels in in the different organisations that I’ve worked for. And yeah, I just think that things come around. If you’ve done something and it’s not right for you, then make another decision and find something else. I don’t think that careers these days have to be linear.
I felt a huge amount of pressure coming out of university to know what I wanted to do. I felt that from my family, I think, to kind of know what I wanted to do; to get job; to settle down; to make money for myself. And actually, it’s okay to just take a break to figure things out to try different careers. You don’t have to get it right first time.
You can re-watch Maddie’s recent live stream here:
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.