1. How to understand an organisation and how it creates value
When researching an organisation, you shouldn’t just look at what an organisation does, but how it does it; explore the activities and processes within an organisation. From the outside, two organisations may appear to be delivering equivalent services or products in the same way. They may have broadly similar suppliers and workforce sizes, their location and other large-scale features may even be comparable. Yet the costs incurred by processes inside these two apparently similar ‘black boxes’ may be vastly different. So, although what goes into each organisation and what comes out may seem pretty much the same, the ways in which they create value could be radically distinct.
2. How to understand an organisation’s value
An organisation is a machine for adding value. In its simplest form this means it takes an input at one value and, if successful, converts it to an output at a higher value.
The concept is seen most clearly in manufacturing, where raw materials are worked on to produce finished goods that customers value and are prepared to pay a premium for. Whilst the raw materials or components already had worth, the process of manufacturing added more value.
Commercial awareness means being aware of how change to one aspect of an organisation’s system can have disproportionate, far- and wide-ranging impacts on many other components.
3. Where you fit in in the value chain
The course mentions three components in the value chain:
creativity: coming up with a new product or process
manufacturing: churning out the product (this is the tangible part of the chain but it adds less value than you might think)
marketing, branding and advertising.
When it comes to applying for a position within an organisation, ask yourself
Does your role fit neatly and exclusively into one of these three stages?
In terms of a value chain are you closest to the ‘inputs’ or the ‘outputs’ of your organisation? (Roles close to the input end might be procurement, enquiries, goods received, etc., those nearer to the output end might be invoicing, delivery, after-sales services, etc.).
We talk of a value ‘chain’ – but to what extent does a linear chain (receiving work and passing it on, with added value) represent your work situation?
Reflecting on the above will help you demonstrate your commercial awareness to a potential employer.
Comparing yourself to others can leave you flat, when it comes to self-motivation, it’s much better to set your own benchmark. Set yourself daily or weekly targets that move you closer to where you want to be.
2. Back yourself
Imagine someone asked you to describe what was so great about your best friend. Now imagine they asked you the same question about yourself. Would you be as kind about yourself as you are about others? Whether it’s through daily affirmations or just by talking to yourself more kindly, positive self-talk can super charge your motivation.
3. Show the haters
There is nothing like the promise of proving the haters wrong to speed you along the path towards your goals. Next time you are lacking motivation, think about that person who said you couldn’t and aim to prove them wrong.
For more top tips on interpersonal skills, visit the skills section of our site
Prepare – think about the audience, what you want to achieve, and create a rough outline of what you need to include and what visual aids you will use. Presentations vary in formality so try to get a sense of what your tutor expects in advance.
2. Organise – a presentation, like an essay, needs an introduction/overview, main body with clear sections and a conclusion to reinforce important points. A good presentation needs interesting content. Think about how much information you can adequately cover in the time that you have.
3. Deliver – use notes, cues and prompts (rather than reading word-for-word from a page) and speak to the audience (not to your page!) Look around the room, make eye-contact with the audience, if you can, and speak slowly and clearly. Think about your posture and voice.
4. Visual aids and handouts – spend some time working on a complementary and informative way to present your information and highlight the main points. This often includes PowerPoint’s: use a large font size, avoid more than six points on a slide and use colour, pictures or graphs to keep your slides interesting. If you are using handouts, avoid large lumps of text; keep these brief and informative too. Be sure to refer to specific slides or sections of the handout in your presentation.
5. Deal with nerves – A presentation is a performance. To control your nerves, be well-prepared: keep practising and then practice some more! Make a one-to- one appointment to practice in front of a tutor or ask a friend to watch you practice. Make sure that the presentation runs to the right time. Use confident and friendly body language to convey that you are relaxed. Use a clear voice and speak loudly enough. Slow down – it is natural to speed up if you are feeling nervous but breathe and take pauses.
Want more communication tips? Visit the skills section of our website.
Lunch and learn all about Queen’s employability award on 11 November from 12.30pm- 1.30pm.
What is Degree Plus?
Degree Plus is Queen’s employability award. It allows you to earn an extra certificate at graduation in recognition of the extra-curricular activities you take part in during your time at Queen’s. Volunteering, exchange programmes, peer mentoring and language courses all count towards the award.
How do you earn Degree Plus?
There are two ways of earning your Degree Plus Award. The first is called Provider Verified – where you complete one big activity and the activity provider automatically applies for the award on your behalf. The second route is called Combined Experience – this is where you complete two or more smaller extra-curricular activities and you apply for the award yourself, stating on the application form which of the 12 Degree Plus Employability Skills you enhanced during your chosen activities.
Provider Verified is the most straightforward way to get the award. Once you have completed the activity, you will automatically be recommended for the award. You don’t need to do anything else except collect your certificate at graduation (it will list the activities you completed on the certificate).
What happens at the Degree Plus Employability Festival?
During the Degree Plus Employability Festival, you will have a chance to meet providers who are offering programmes, activities and courses that are pre-approved for Degree Plus accreditation.
These are people who have the power to make you more employable in a number of ways. Firstly, the programmes they offer are designed to enhance your employability skills, making you instantly more attractive to prospective employers. Secondly, just by completing their activity, you will be provided with an award that you can talk about in future interviews as proof positive of your skills. Lastly, the fact that you took part in an activity and earned the award is in itself a testament of your initiative and automatically sets you apart from the crowd.
What types of providers are attending the festival?
From exchange and placement programmes to volunteering, research, mentoring and language courses, there will be a number of providers there offering a range of fun and rewarding activities that can help you achieve an extra certificate at graduation in recognition of the skills you have developed. All the providers attending the festival have confirmed that they are still running their programmes and activities this year.
Who else will be at the Festival?
You can also chat with the Degree Plus team and hear what employers like EY and NICVA have to say about the award.
Where is it being held?
The Festival is being held virtually in MyFuture, our online careers portal. You might previously have used MyFuture to search for jobs and events, or even to access CV help and support. But the portal has added a host of new features, including a virtual event hosting function, so we are excited to show you around.
Where does the lunch bit come in?
All attending students will be entered into a draw to win one of six £20 Just Eat vouchers – now who said there is no such thing as a free lunch?
The DEGREE PLUS EMPLOYABILITY FESTIVAL is being held virtually on 11 November between 12.30-1.30pm.
Degree Plus recognises the skills and experience you have built up during your extracurricular activities at Queen’s. The two important elements being that you have to take part in the activity while you are at Queen’s and that the activity must not be part of your course.
Here is more on the types of activities that count towards the award.
Eimear Gallagher, Business Operations Manager and Degree Plus lead says: “A lot of people try things for the first time at Queen’s. For any hobby, sport or activity you are interested in, there is a wealth of activities available. You might also be involved in full or part time work, volunteering or networking with employers. It is all available during your time at Queen’s and Degree Plus helps you make the most of that.”
Challenge and stretch yourself
As well as having fun, you can gain valuable skills and experience to impress employers through your extracurricular activities at Queen’s. A future employer might ask you what else did you do at Queen’s outside your degree. They will want to know how challenging and stretching those experiences were.
“Activities that genuinely stretch and challenge you are the ones that you enjoy the most,” says Eimear. “Those are the ones for which you will get accreditation.
She adds: “We also want you to learn and gain practice in articulating the skills that you are gaining from Degree Plus and the extracurricular activities you have been involved in so you can convey those with impact in an interview situation.”
Types of activities
Typically Degree Plus activities run the gamut from management and commercial awareness programmes such as Innovation Bootcamp, the Stock Market Challenge, Dragon’s Den, Free Student Membership of the Institute of Directors (100 free places) as well as Leadership Development programmes such as Queen’s Global Leadership programme, Inspiring Leaders, and Leadership in Practice (UOTC). Other activities include Students’ Union enterprise and volunteering programmes and Language Centre extracurricular courses. Extracurricular placement and internships also count towards Degree Plus. However, if a placement is embedded on your degree course then it cannot be used as part of your Degree Plus application.
Please note for 2020/21 some Provider Verified activities are not running while some are being offered remotely. To find out more, check our menu lists on the Degree Plus website for updates.
If you are applying for Degree Plus yourself via the Combined Experience route, then the two activities cannot be the same type of experience. You should combine two activities that developed different skills. For example, a part -time job in the supermarket and a language course, or volunteering in the community and participating in a sport.
How much time do I have to spend doing the activity?
The amount of time it takes to complete an activity depends on the intensity of the activity. At the minimal end it might be 12-15 hours right up to 200 hours over a year or two. The time invested depends on the activity and the nature of the activity.
If you are including participation in a sport as one of your two Combined Experience, for example, we want to know that you di more than passively turn up. It’s all about how much you engaged and what you got out of the experience as a result – this should all be reflected in your application form.
To find out more about Provider Verified activities for the year ahead, don’t miss our Degree Plus Festival on 11 November
At Queen’s, we refer to the two types of Degree Plus award using the terms ‘Provider Verified’ (formerly Route A) and ‘Combined Experience’ (formerly Route B) – but what do these terms mean and what is the difference? Eimear Gallagher, who leads the Degree Plus team at Queen’s, is here with this quick explainer.
A Provider Verified activity means a third party automatically recommends you for the award
The most straightforward route to gaining your Degree Plus award is through the Provider Verified route. This is where you complete a significant extracurricular activity from the approved list, for example, a Careers service development programme, SU Handy Helpers, an inspiring leaders programme or certain Language Centre programmes.
You don’t need to apply for Degree Plus via the Provider Verified route
The activities listed on the Provider Verified menu offer the opportunity to gain significant experience over several days, or months. In this case, the approved provider advertises organises and assesses the activity. The provider then submits a pass list to the Degree Plus team so we can update your QSIS record and arrange your Degree Plus certificate ahead of graduation. You do not need to do anything else once you have successfully completed the programme.
Why do you not need to apply for Provider Verified Degree Plus?
The activities on the Provider Verified menu have already been vetted by our Degree Plus team as being significantly challenging, so they are ‘pre-approved’ as being eligible for the award
A key part of Degree Plus is reflecting on the skills you have developed during a programme or activity. When you complete a Provider Verified activity, that reflection is embedded in the activity.
“Degree Plus is about developing your skills, experiential development and networking. If completed in full, a Provided Verified activity will include some form of articulating back to the provider what you have gained,” explains Eimear Gallagher who heads up the Degree Plus programme at Queen’s.
This means as part of the programme or activity, you will be asked to evaluate what you have gained through an assessment exercise. This might be a presentation, interview or application form set by the provider asking you to reflect on which of the Degree Plus skills you have developed and how.
Once you complete and pass the provider’s assessment exercise, your name will be added to a pass list and sent to the Degree Plus team to update your student record. You can complete as many Degree Plus Provider verified activities as you like. You will receive one certificate at graduation with the activities listed.
Combined Experience means you have to self-nominate yourself for the award
The Combined Activity route offers the opportunity to complete two or more small activities and complete an application form. The two activities should be from the approved menu and must demonstrate different Degree Plus skills. For example, you might complete the form using your part-time job and your volunteering experience as your two activities, but in your application form, you must demonstrate that you gained different skills during each experience.
Combined Experience menu activities include membership of a club or society, employer challenges and insight programmes and volunteering opportunities. “It could be a part-time job in Tesco or your local supermarket and a six-week language course,” says Eimear. “Work experience doesn’t have to be a placement with a graduate employer. It could be volunteering in the community in your home town, participating in a sport or Red Cross volunteering.”
You only need to apply for Degree Plus Combined Experience once. You will receive one certificate at graduation with ‘Combined Experience’ detailed on the parchment.
“The application formgives you the opportunity to practice articulating your experience on a form,” says Eimear. This practice will come in handy when you come to apply for jobs.
You will also need to evidence the activities.
“Evidence could be a payslip, an email from a voluntary group saying you have engaged in a certain amount of volunteering over a set number of weeks, or an email from an SU clubs or society confirming your involvement,” says Eimear.
Degree Plus is about actively engaging in activities, not passively turning up. In your application form, you need to demonstrate to the Degree Plus panel what you contributed and what you got out of it – keeping theDegree Plus skills at the forefront of your mind.
When do I need to apply for Combined Activity?
There are two chances to apply each year: the winter deadline is midnight on November 1 and the summer deadline is midnight on April 1.
While these deadlines are set to enable those graduating in winter and summer to achieve the award in time for their graduation ceremony, students in pre-final year can apply by these deadlines in order to bank the award early. In that case, it will remain on your student record and you will receive your Degree Plus certificate at graduation.
“If you are first or second year, you could use either of those windows to upload your application now and we will assess it,” says Eimear. “If you don’t meet it the first time, we will give you feedback, and you will have a second opportunity to re submit.”
If you missed our recent Degree Plus intro session, you can rewatch it here:
When it comes to articulating the skills you have developed during your time at Queen’s, Degree Plus is a great tool to have in your armour. Here is why.
Degree Plus is supported by employers
“Employers like EY and Nicva are putting their name to the award – that is an indication of the level of interest and support employers have in students who complete this award,” says Eimear Gallagher, Business Operations Manager at Careers, Employability and Skills, who heads up Degree Plus.
It quantifies your soft skills
“Degree Plus develops your employability. Even if an employer has never heard of the Degree Plus award, they will definitely be interested to see that you have completed a significant amount of extracurricular activity. It shows you have stepped up above and beyond your degree programme, and that you’ve managed your time effectively and balanced it with your studies,” says Eimear.
She adds: “The fact that you can present the validation of those activities in the form of a certificate helps to give employers security that everything you are saying you can back up and evidence through both your degree and your Degree Plus certificate.
It shows initiative
“Degree Plus is an indicator of initiative.,” says Eimear. “Degree Plus is not compulsory – it shows you chose to set up and accept the challenge of exploring a new interest.”
It allows you to practice articulating your skills
Both routes to Degree Plus involve an element of self-reflection during which you will be asked to analyse which of the Degree Plus skills you have developed and how.
With the Provider Verified route, this might involve a presentation or form at the end of the programme. For Combined Experience, you will be asked to complete an application form to evidence the skills you have gained during two extracurricular activities.
Either way, this self-reflective element forms a key part of the award.
“We want you to learn and gain practice in articulating the skills that you are gaining from Degree Plus and the extracurricular activities you have been involved in so you can convey those with impact in an interview situation,” says Eimear. “To be able to articulate these things and how they’ve helped you; how your employability has developed through them – that’s an important skill in itself.”
Whether you are graduating this year or just want to bank the award early, Eimear Gallagher, who heads up Queen’ s employability programme, is here to answer all your burning questions.
What is Degree Plus?
“Degree Plus is about encouraging you to get involved in extracurricular activities in and around Queen’s, but also to give you the opportunity to get a reward for that; to get an accreditation from the University and have it recorded on your Queen’s QSIS record,” says Eimear.
She adds: “At graduation, in addition to your Queen’s parchment confirming your degree, you also get a Degree Plus certificate. That is confirmation from the University that you completed an activity or activities and it will name the specific activities you have undertaken as well.”
What counts towards Degree Plus?
“There are a large number of activities to choose from, the last count was over 180. There are two different routes – Provider Verified and Combined Experience,” says Eimear.
“There is no compulsion to do it,” says Eimear. “It’s for people who want to differentiate themselves and to stand out from the crowd; stand out from others with whom you’d be competing in graduate labour markets.”
Eimear Gallagher is the Business Operations Manager at Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills. To contact the Degree Plus team, email firstname.lastname@example.org