A reminder of the importance of resilience, of learning from adversity and experience as you navigate your career.
Find out what’s going on in the marketplace for graduates jobs and the latest news about employment prospects. We also use this page to share our ideas about what graduates can be doing now to improve their prospects of landing the job they’re looking for, either now or whilst they are still at university.
Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet, was born on January 25th 1759. A farmer, a man of the people, he was known for his empathy and his ability to understand the human condition, often writing in Scots dialect. He gets to the heart of the matter.
O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion
Why is this relevant to career coaching? Amongst other things, having a coach gives you the chance to get immediate feedback on how you come across, how you look, how you answer questions, your body language (‘to see oursels as ithers see us’) as you prepare for interviews. Are you happy that you are presenting yourself to a potential employer to best advantage? Is there anything you should change to make the impact you want? (it wad frae mony a blunder free us). You have the opportunity to refine your answers to questions and make sure you say what you really want to, and how you really want to in a supportive environment. It greatly increases your confidence as you plan for interviews – and your chances of getting the job you want.
There’s plenty to get stressed about in work and life these days, and yet contrary to popular belief, the ability to multi task only makes things worse. Although employers might identify it as a skill they’re looking for, research has proved that it is neither efficient or effective. In his business bestseller The One Thing, Gary Keller tells us that ‘in a world of results it will fail you everytime.’
And yet many of us multi task to some extent. After all, don’t we get more done when we do more than one thing at a time? How many of us are on the phone/ sending emails/ responding to instant messaging at the same time? However, studies have found that multi tasking can actually waste around 20-40 percent of our time for the simple reason that we can’t focus effectively on more than one important task at a time. When we do, our attention gets divided.
There are two big problems with multi tasking.
It can lower the quality of our work – we try to do two things or more things at once, and the result is that we do everything less well than if we focused on each task in turn. When we switch tasks, our minds must reorient to cope with the new information. When we do this quickly, we can’t devote our full concentration to every switch. So the quality of our work suffers and the more complex or technical the tasks we’re switching between, the bigger the drop in quality is likely to be.
It has a negative effect on our stress levels. Dealing with multiple things at once makes us feel overwhelmed, drained and exhausted.
Daniel J. Levitin explains the neuroscience in his book ‘The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload.’
‘Multi tasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking. Multi tasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation. To make matters worse, the prefrontal cortex has a novelty bias, meaning that its attention can be easily hijacked by something new – the proverbial shiny objects we use to entice infants, puppies, and kittens. The irony here for those of us who are trying to focus amid competing activities is clear: the very brain region we need to rely on for staying on task is easily distracted. We answer the phone, look up something on the internet, check our email, send an SMS, and each of these things tweaks the novelty- seeking, reward-seeking centres of the brain, causing a burst of endogenous opioids (no wonder it feels so good!), all to the detriment of our staying on task. It is the ultimate empty-caloried brain candy. Instead of reaping the big rewards that come from sustained, focused effort, we instead reap empty rewards from completing a thousand little sugar-coated tasks.’
“People can’t do [multi tasking] very well, and when they say they can, they’re deluding themselves, says Earl Miller, neuroscientist at MIT”
What to do? Find a new groove. Mindtools provide some useful suggestions to help you cut back on multi tasking:
• Plan your day in blocks. Set specific times for returning calls, answering emails, and doing research.
• Manage your interruptions . Keep a log showing who interrupts you the most, and how urgent the requests are. Once you’ve compiled a week’s worth of interruptions, politely but assertively approach your colleagues with a view to managing and reducing their interruptions.
• Learn how to improve your concentration so you can focus properly on one task at a time. Doing this may feel awkward at first if you frequently multi task. But you’ll be surprised at how much you get done just by concentrating on one thing at a time.
• Every time you go to check your email or take a call when you’re actually supposed to be doing something else, take a deep breath and resist the urge. Focus your attention back to what you’re supposed to be doing.
• Whenever you find yourself multi tasking, stop. Take a minute to sit quietly at your desk with your eyes closed. Even short breaks like this can refocus your mind, lower your stress levels, and improve your concentration. Plus it can give your brain a welcome break during a hectic day.
• There will be times when something urgent comes up and you can’t avoid interruptions. But instead of trying to multi task through these, stop and make a note of where you left your current task. Record any thoughts you had about how to move forward. Then deal with the immediate problem, before going back to what you were doing. This way you’ll be able to handle both tasks well, and you’ll leave yourself with some clues to help you restart the original task more quickly.
• If you find your mind wandering when you should be focusing on something else, you need to guide your thoughts back to what you are doing by putting yourself in the moment. For example, you might be sitting in an important team meeting, but thinking about a speech you’ll be giving soon. Tell yourself, “I am in this meeting, and need to focus on what I’m learning here.” Often, acknowledging the moment can help keep you focused.
This all might sound like common sense, but like any new habit, it will take practice. Once you’ve mastered this, you’ll experience a real sense of satisfaction, of completing a job well, and to a standard you’re proud of.
If a recruiter asks whether you’re a multi tasker, you might want to reply that it depends on the task at hand – important work needs focused attention.
The likelihood is that at some point in your job search as a graduate, you’ll be asked to complete an aptitude test. Virtually all large graduate recruitment schemes use psychometric testing at some stage, and although it can be anxiety provoking, this can be greatly reduced by PRACTISING. There are plenty of practice verbal and numerical tests available online, and they will help you familiarise yourself with the style of questions used by employers.
Applicants tend to be most apprehensive about numerical reasoning tests, which assess your aptitude for interpreting graphical and tabular data, and performing numerical operations with the data. Numerical reasoning tests are measuring your innate numerical potential and not your learned mathematical knowledge. They are also designed to be used for a broad cross-section of candidates. According to online assessment experts Assessment Day, the level of the maths involved in a numerical reasoning test is about GCSE level. The tricky part is interpreting the numerical data and figuring out what calculation is required, under the pressure of the count-down timer. The most common calculations you can expect in your numerical test are: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages and ratios.
So check out these other useful sites and get practising!
Practice Reasoning Tests offer a wide range (and free resource) of practice tests, test training and useful articles. Alternatively, you can brush up on maths at BBC Skillswise, try out tests on Numerical Reasoning Tests and Practice Aptitude Tests.
Graduates often tell me they find it difficult to keep their CVs short (no more than 2 pages) and to the point. Hiring managers have limited time to review CVs – and applicants have got to make it easy for them to choose the ‘yes’ pile, and not the ‘bin’ pile.
So here are some tips to help your cv land in the ‘yes’ pile:
- Consolidate your contact information. No need to include your address – if anything, just the city you live in.
Also, instead of separating your phone number, email address, and social media accounts by line, use vertical bars to divide the information and include everything on one line
- Don’t take style/ layout shortcuts You might be tempted to trim margins, shorten line spacing, or shrink the font, but those shortcuts stand out to recruiters.You need to maintain the readability of the document and not overwhelm the hiring manager with too much text.
- What font is the best for CVs? Industry experts recommend using Cambria, with up to 14-point font for section headers and no smaller than 10-point for content.
- Write concisely and use industry recognised abbreviations
To tighten up the language on your CV —and save space—avoid using personal pronouns (I, me, or we). Also, use industry-standard or acronyms where appropriate, for example, in most industries it’s known that R&D stands for research and development.
- Erase ‘references available upon request’, that’s a given.
- Think carefully about the section on interests as it’s unlikely that this information is going to get you hired. There are exceptions, such as an unusual hobby that makes you stand out, or one that directly relates to the job. If you’re applying for a position at The Lawn Tennis Association and you’re a lifelong tennis player, then include it.
- Mirror the skills the employer is looking for. Mirroring the language used in the job posting will also help your CV get past applicant-tracking software used by employers to scan CVs for keywords.
- Eliminate unnecessary section headers. The summary—the three- to four-sentence profile where you highlight what makes you uniquely qualified for the job—should appear at the top of your CV, but you don’t need to label it “summary.”
Also, instead of creating separate sections for professional and volunteer experience, combine them under one “experience” section. If you’re entry-level, volunteer work can help boost your CV. If you’re more experienced, that volunteer work, like a hobby, could give you an edge over a similarly qualified candidate, if it’s highly relevant.
A recent survey by Microsoft found that 70% of students are most worried about landing their dream job or having financial stability after graduating. And of those millennials in work, two-thirds want to leave their organizations by 2020 according to a 2016 Deloitte survey.
It makes sense to put some effort into working out what you’re looking for in a career before you start applying for jobs.
Start thinking about what you want. This is more complicated than simply ‘following your passion’ (and not many people are clear about what that looks like). It’s a combination of several things: our values, work we enjoy, work that challenges us and how work fits into the lifestyle we want.
So start brainstorming
- What are your values? What values are important to you in a job or in an employer?
- What do you definitely want in a job?
- What do you definitely NOT want in a job?
- Note all of these down – a list, a mindmap, a spreadsheet, a graphic – whatever works for you
- If you’re not sure what type of role or industry you’re interested in, search this wide list of possible career choices. Work through them, discard the ones you’re not interested in and find out more about the ones you might be interested in.
- If you do know the career or industry you want to work in, then identify the companies in that sector that you are interested in (e.g. a global organisation? SME?)
- Set up a simple matrix to map possible careers/ companies (top line) against the list of attributes/ values that are important to you in a job (down the left hand side)
- Use a scoring system to help prioritise the careers that you want to investigate in more detail and apply for
Don’t ignore your gut instinct! The matrix is a useful tool to help focus your planning and next steps. If something feels right/ wrong for you, listen to that and feed it into your planning.
A recent survey of 150 employers identified the top 10 verbs they want to see on your CV – and if you can show that you’ve done the things employers most value, you’ve increased your chances of taking your CV to the next step – interview.
1 Managed – This can include managing people, projects or even time management. It shows employers you have control over your responsibilities, see the bigger picture and drive results.
2 Delivered – Whatever you deliver (a project, some group work?), show recruiters the end product of your work by explaining what you have delivered.
3 Improved – If you can be brought on board to drive positive change within an organisation, you will be invaluable to an employer. Did you have an opportunity to make an improvement (perhaps a process) at a job you had during your time at uni?
4 Planned – Planning is the backbone of success, so it’s vital to show employers that you are capable of methodical and effective planning. Show examples.
5 Supported – Showing that you can support others is another way of proving that you can be relied upon and a strong team member.
6 Influenced – The ability to influence others is a necessary talent for getting others on side and getting things done, no matter what industry you work in. in any industry.
7 Trained – The ability to train others it shows that you have expertise in your field along with communication skills.
8 Resolved – Businesses face problems every day, so if you can show you have resolved issues, you will impress employers.
9 Presented – Presenting can be daunting but it’s a hugely valuable skill for any employee to have and most students will have had the opportunity to practise this at university.
10 Analysed – Data is a vital currency in any organisation, but it’s worthless without staff who can analyse it and understand its implications.
Employers are most impressed by those who can manage, deliver, improve and plan. Think about the experience you’ve had so far – can you include any of these verbs in your CV?
I’ve recently been running CV surgeries for young professionals in the City and I was struck by some key themes across most of them. Whether you’re creating your CV to find your first job, or updating your CV for your next role, you’ll have a much better chance of getting your CV read if you have a strong personal profile, or summary. It should be around 4-6 lines and no more than 3 or 4 sentences.
Your personal profile is a snapshot that gives recruiters a sense of who you are, what drives you, what you’ve done and what you’re looking for.
Here are two examples:
A highly motivated and driven insurance broker who thrives on challenge. I enjoy the energy of being part of a diverse team and in my five years experience as a marine broker I have gained a huge amount of satisfaction by delivering solutions that meet the needs of my clients. I was delighted to be awarded Young Broker of the Year at XX’s 2016 sales conference. I am now looking to consolidate my broking and client management skills with a role as an account manager in a global insurance company.
A mathematics graduate with a 2:1 degree from the University of X, looking to secure a Graduate Research Analyst position to develop my analytical skills and knowledge in a dynamic and fast-paced environment. One of the experiences I enjoyed most in my course was the opportunity to explain the output of my analysis to others in a practical way. My career goal is to have a role in a market leading company which will enable me to take responsibility for the analysis and interpretation of commercial data and present this to clients.
Great news – you’ve been asked to come along to an interview! So how do you make sure you stand the best chance of landing the role?
Preparation is key.
Firstly, take time to research the company you are applying for – think about the type of information that will show the interviewers you have spent time really getting to know them. This will also give you confidence on the day of the interview.
So find out about:
– services/products/solutions the company offers
– their customers/clients
– their competitors
– which industry sectors/areas/countries they operate in
– recent news or awards
– the company culture and values
– key people in the business, and if possible, the person who will be interviewing you
Where do you get this information?
Start with the company website. This will give you key information about the organisation – what they do, where they operate, who the key people are. And look beyond the specific area you are being interviewed for – get a sense of the bigger picture. Check out their press release. The website also gives you a good sense of the company’s culture.
Then do some research using the available industry publications, and use the ‘news’ search on Google to find out what’s happening in the industry generally and the company specifically.
Use social media for more information, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
If the vacancy is being managed by a recruiter then pick up the phone and ask them about the company you are interviewing at – you may acquire some insider knowledge that you aren’t able to find on the internet and it also shows you’re interested.
And finally, search for the interviewer on LinkedIn and see if you can find out about their role and background – the more information you have at your finger tips, the better prepared you’ll be.
Thinking about how to plan your career after university can be overwhelming – read this School’s Out article to help get you started!
As a coach, I often ask graduates to think about someone they admire, as we consider the values that are important to them when they are about to enter the world of work. Making sure our values are aligned with the organisation we work for is fundamental – all too often I deal with clients who are stressed by the tension between their values and those of their organisation.
So let me share someone I admire – he is David Nott, a specialist vascular and trauma surgeon who works mainly in London hospitals, but also volunteers to work in disaster and war zones and now organises training for others in this emergency work. I’ve been inspired by his sense of humanity and his humility since I first heard a radio interview with him in 2014. His recent appearance on Desert Island Discs was nothing short of amazing – I urge you to listen to his story.
Follow these tips and take out some of the stress in the run up to end of year exams – they’ll help you approach your revision in a steady, balanced way.
When you are feeling overly stressed or panicky, your body changes. Your ability to think rationally, make considered decisions and allow facts, figures and information to sink in is significantly reduced. You breathe differently and this in turn changes the blood flow to the brain. The fight or flight response kicks in – awfully useful if you’re being chased by a wild animal, less so if you’re trying to focus on revision or solve a complex problem!
When you’re putting together your perfectly colour coded revision timetable, add in time to make sure you sleep well, eat well, exercise and allow for some fun.
So how do you regain a sense of balance?
When you are feeling calm, your revision will be so much more effective.
If you’re unsure about the range of possible careers open to you, Careers Gateway has a great list to start from: http://www.careers-gateway.co.uk/Careers/
Start by quickly reading through it, score out what you’re definitely NOT interested in, then make two lists – (a) definitely interested and (b) need to know more. Match the careers on (a) against your strengths, skills and interests and prioritise. You now have the beginning of a plan!
Employers are impressed (if sometimes a little daunted) by the current crop of new entrants (Generation Z, i.e. those born around 1995 and beyond) to the workplace and their ease with all things technology. They’re helping to push the boundaries in this area.
But it’s a different matter when it comes to understanding business protocol.
What employers want: clear boundaries around communication, especially as they are seeing a blurring of the line between professional and private networks. This can make for an uncomfortable working relationship. Managers don’t want to be friends on Facebook with their junior colleagues.
What Gen Z employees want: instant feedback on their performance that is open and honest and that they can act on. They also expect their manager to be interested in their career development – not just an annual appraisal that is a ‘tick box’ exercise. This group also expects to challenge the business more, often from an ethical standpoint and they expect their opinions to be heard. Personal values are important to them and they want to make sure the organisation’s values are aligned with their own. How do their employers behave as corporate citizens?
What graduates need to think about.
When you start a new role – don’t assume. Ask your manager and colleagues what the culture’s like. What are the unwritten rules of the company? How formal/ informal are you expected to be? How are you expected to communicate? How do you raise issues? How does the company engage with you regarding your personal development? And spend time with your manager to agree how you will work together, for example, how feedback will be given.