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Do I Really Need To Do An Internship? (The answer is yes!)

Thanks to Inspiring Interns for this guest post.

Every university student with an eye on their post-graduation employment has considered the internship question. To intern or not to intern?

Bad press means many students associate internships with exploitation. Unfortunately, a competitive graduate job market means they’re also increasing necessary: without an internship, only 11% of final year students secure a job offer before they graduate. For students with an internship under their belts, that figure jumps to 36%.

So yes, you kind of do need to do an internship to get ahead. Luckily, internships can be a fantastic experience, allowing you to develop new skills, earn money, and land your dream job!

Still not convinced? Read on:

“I Can’t Afford To Work For Free”

Nor should you! While the non-payment of interns is notorious, it is also illegal – if a company expects you to act like a worker then they must pay you minimum wage. Of course there will always be some rotten apples out there, but 4 out of 5 of internships do comply with this law.

Even if you are willing to work for free to get ahead, you may be doing yourself a disservice by doing so. Evidence suggests that while paid internships boost your career prospect, unpaid internships don’t increase your chances of employment at all.

“I Don’t Want To Be A Glorified Teaboy”

Fair enough – guess we’ll rule out that placement at PG Tips then! In all seriousness, most internships these days are much more than following a harassed HR manager around and photocopying endless pages of a report. A recent survey showed that 7 in 10 interns receive formal training, and two-thirds are given a structured work plan.

In the same study, 86% of interns claim to have gained career-enhancing skills on their placement, and 92% called their internship challenging and said it met their expectations.

“Employers Are Just Looking For Cheap Labour”

Actually, three-quarters of companies who employ interns do so on the assumption they’ll end up hiring them permanently. Internships are a way to prove yourself and show a business that you have what they’re looking for in an employee.

Remember that, no matter how good your grades are, when you first enter the world of work you probably will not have the experience or commercial awareness companies want from their staff. An internship is a way for them to train you up with the specific skills they need – making you a highly desirable hire at the end of it. That is why a whopping 98% of employers think internships provide candidates with highly desirable career skills.

“I’m Not Sure What I Want To Do”

Wouldn’t it be great, in that case, if you could try out an industry (or several!) for a short, fixed period of time, with no obligations to continue working there if you didn’t like it, and the opportunity to learn a lot about what working in that field would entail and whether it would suit you?

Sort of like an internship, in fact.

“I’ve Got A Degree; Getting A Job Will Be Easy!”

Sorry maestro, but no matter how awesome your dissertation on Venetian maritime history was most employers are still going to want you to have some, well, actual work experience. Unfortunately for you, they can afford to be picky – the average graduate job received 39 applications. Add on the fact that half of jobs are never advertised (they’re filled through the sort of networking you’d be exposed to as an intern) and the need to stand out from the crowd becomes pretty obvious.

The fact is that employers love internships as a route to filling their permanent jobs. They like hiring their own interns because it gives them a chance to judge how they work and how they fit in with the company culture. And they love hiring other people’s interns because they believe they’re equipped with the sort of skill set and commercial awareness that will make them successful.

All in all, your concern shouldn’t be about whether you do an internship but whether you do the right kind of internship. Pick one which pays, which develops new skills, and which allows you to make great industry connections and you’ll be one rung higher up your dream career ladder.

Beth Leslie writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment firm which specialises in matching candidates to their dream internship. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs London, visit our website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Study Yourself Employable: Five Ways to Attack the New Academic Year

Thanks to Inspiring Interns for this guest blog post.

 Maybe you’re a fresher, taking your first steps into the brave new world of tertiary education. Maybe you’re a finalist, peering over the barricade into the maw of full-time employment. Whichever it is, you need to start thinking about your employability – however unsexy that may sound.

Make your time at university count with our five-step essential guide.

  1. FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU WANT TO DO

It sounds obvious, but few students actually know what they want to do with their lives. Work it out, and fast. Students who know what career path they’re aiming for after university are more motivated, focussed and ultimately successful in their job applications.

University is a wonderful time to feel lost, make mistakes and discover yourself. Make sure that, in amongst this chaos, you’re also thinking about your future.

  1. WERK UR MEDIA

 Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linked-In… There are better uses for your newsfeed than resuscitating that hilarious Sean Bean meme from years back.

Market yourself. Start at uni, and you’ll avoid a painful re-branding process later along the line. Get a grip on your privacy settings. Half of employers Google their candidates before interview, and they don’t want to see those embarrassing fresher pics of you, half-naked, swigging Jack Daniels from a shoe. Keep your profile pictures innocuous, and your Insta cute rather than sexy. Check out Kanye’s Twitter, do the opposite, and you’ll be fine.

Once your online presence is nicely censored, it’s time to start building your online brand. Not on LinkedIn? Fix that. Want to be a writer of any kind? Get on WordPress. Link your articles back to your social media, and your clicks will rocket. Find conversations on Twitter relevant to your career path and engage.

Channel Destiny’s Child. Make sure people in your future industry are familiar with your name, however distantly. That way, when you walk into their interview room months along the line, you’ll have already laid the groundwork for a stunning application.

  1. NOW DO ACTUAL WORK

 We don’t mean the academic kind – though that might help too. Eight out of ten students currently work part-time to help fund their studies, but that job is doing a lot more for them than bringing in the cash. A part-time job at uni shows you can juggle commitments, develop your skillset and – crucially – get on in a daily workplace.

And employers aren’t fussy. Work experience, vacation internships and volunteering all count. People who spend their holidays in employment, whether paid or not, are perceived as more dependable candidates than their less enterprising counterparts. Proving that you already have work experience counters regular complaints of a lack of commercial awareness, time management and initiative in graduate applicants.

Some students even choose to set up their own business. This is the ultimate symbol of a self-starter and looks highly impressive on any CV, whether the enterprise tanks or not. If you can run your own company while in full-time education, what can you do as a permanent employee?

  1. BOOST YOUR EXTRA-CURRICULAR

 That’s right. According to a study of 500 UK SMEs, 70% believed that extra-curricular activities – that includes sports, music, volunteering and travel – are a vital part of a grad’s job application. In fact, two in three employers placed as much or more emphasis on an applicant’s extra-curricular than their academic achievements.

People who partake in extra-curricular fields such as expeditions, societies and artistic pursuits regularly demonstrate improved creativity and self-motivation. They are perceived as self-starters, able to advance themselves within a company more easily and quickly than those with narrower skillsets.

So get out there and get moving. If you want to be in politics, get involved with your student union. If you want to be in music production, set up a club night. It doesn’t even matter if it’s unrelated to your future career – just do something.

  1. NETWORK

I know, I know. It’s every student’s worst nightmare: the ‘schmooze social’. But be there or be square; often, the biggest regret graduates have re:university is not making the most of networking opportunities.

There are plenty of ways to do it. Go to the events advertised by your university. Prepare well and work the room. Email people you’ve met, or even haven’t met – a feedback email sent to a visiting speaker or academic you’ve seen, along with a suggestion to get coffee or link in, can work wonders. You can even keep a spreadsheet tracking who you’ve met and where.

“Follow the three-D rule,” advises Georgina Kilner, head of Henley Business School’s postgraduate programmes. “Do it now, do it every day and don’t worry about punching above your weight.”

Meeting people in the flesh should always be your end-game aim. This is how you make a good impression, practise your people skills and boost contacts. So embrace the awkward convos – you’ll may get free food and drink out of it, if nothing else.

And there you have it. Five ways to turn your time at uni into an employer’s dream. This is one of the most important periods of your life – don’t waste it on booze and parties.

Susanna writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment firm which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs London, visit our website.

As always, you can book an appointment with a Careers Consultant in City’s Careers Service to discuss your plans to gain experience.  If you’re looking for ways to get involved around City, check out Experience City.

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How to smash a video interview

Thanks to Inspiring Interns for this guest blog post.

In recent years, technology has revolutionised the interview process of many companies. There are video game challenges, complex online application forms, interviews via Skype and FaceTime, and, perhaps the most disconcerting of these, video interviews.

Although sometimes the term video interview is sometimes used in reference to a Skype interview, this article is about the kind of interview where you film yourself answering pre-recorded questions, rather than talking to an interviewer directly.

This makes it a very different experience; you’re not in conversation with anybody, and so can’t read their body language or tone to get a sense of how you’re doing. Given that a lot of us also feel uncomfortable filming ourselves, video interviews can feel like a real challenge.

However, they’re increasingly used as part of the graduate recruitment process, particularly for popular and competitive grad schemes like that of the Wellcome Trust. As of 2013, 6% of hiring managers had used pre-recorded interviews, and numbers have been on the rise since then.

Pre-recorded video interviews appeal to those who want to use an interview as an early part of the screening process but don’t have the resources to conduct normal interviews with everyone.

It might well be that you have to do a video interview or two while applying for graduate jobs and internships. Check out our tips on how to boost your chances of interview success.

Research!

 Start off by doing what you would for any interview; research the job, the company, and the industry thoroughly. There can be a temptation to view a video interview as less important or less in depth than an interactive interview, but employers see them treated as a central part of the application process. If you’re come across as unknowledgeable about the company, you won’t advance any further.

Start off by familiarising yourself with the company website, including their products and services, mission and values, brand, annual report, and any press releases. Then cast your net wider, and have a look at their social media feeds to get a better sense of the company culture and how they choose to present themselves online.

Next, turn to sources where the information isn’t controlled by the company: customer and employee review websites like Feefo and Glassdoor, news stories, and rival company websites. Knowing a bit about their competitors is important, as you might well be asked about these.

Finally, come back to the job itself. Make sure you’re familiar with the job specification, the duties you’ll be asked to take on, and the skills you’ll need to do so successfully. Think about examples from your experience that will help you prove that you fit the bill.

Prepare answers to standard questions

One of the oddities of this kind of interview is that every candidate will be asked the same questions. In most interviews the interviewer will have planned some of their questions, but they will typically respond to what you say and follow the thread of the discussion. So if you mention an interesting experience briefly, they might ask you to expand on it, or if you haven’t quite answered their question, they’ll prompt you.

Here there’s no such give and take. However, there’s an upside – it meas the questions that you’re asked will generally be fairly standard interview questions. It’s impossible to predict with absolute certainty, but some common ones that are likely to crop up are:

  • Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
  • What do you know about the company?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Relevant competency questions, like describing a time you worked in a team, came up with an innovative answer to a problem, or worked under pressure.
  • Do you have any questions to ask us? This might feel odd as you won’t get a response, but it does still get asked.

Make sure you prepare answers to these in advance. You don’t need to memorise word-perfect answers (in fact, this can often backfire by making you come across as robotic), but having answers and examples at your fingertips will help you feel more confident and talk more eloquently.

As a final stage in your preparation, try using video recording software to get used to talking to yourself, and to stopping the recording – it’s easy to panic doing this, and stop it too early or pull a weird face while you search for the stop button.

Set the scene

 You’ll generally be given a deadline by which you need to have submitted your answers, rather than a specific interview time. This means it’s up to you to set aside time, and organise the setting.

Choose somewhere quiet, with a reliable internet connection, where you know you won’t be disturbed by family, friends, or rogue pets. Preferably, this will be a room with a door you can shut, and where you can set up the camera in front of a plain background.

Channel the spirit of a film director, and make sure your star – also you – is well lit, arranging lamps accordingly; production values aren’t the be-all and end-all of video interviews, but they can certainly help.

Finally, dress as you would for a normal interview, head to toe. You may have heard the horror stories of candidates asked to stand up during an interview, only for it to be revealed that their impeccable shirt and tie was paired with boxers or pyjama bottoms. It’s unlikely, but certainly not out of the question that this might happen, so why take the risk?

There’s also the psychological aspect; studies show that wearing formal clothing makes you feel more confident and powerful.

 Read the instructions

Most employers will use an external service’s video interview software, and each one is slightly different, so read the instructions really well before you start. You’ll probably be guided through a sound and video check, and might be given some instructions or tips by the employer. Note whether you’ll have the chance to re-record your answers; in most cases, the answer will be no.

Once you click go, you’ll be on a constant roll, so staying calm and focussing on each question as it comes, rather than worrying about your last answer, is imperative. Be aware of how long you have to answer each question, and in particular note down if there are multiple questions you have to answer in one segment. It’s incredibly frustrating to click stop only to realise you missed a major point.

For the most part, you want to focus directly on the camera, as if you were speaking to an interviewer. Just like a normal interview, smiling and presenting yourself well can have a big impact on your chances of success.

Contact the Careers Service for mock interviews – we can provide specific advice about video interviews.

Claire Kilroy is a content writer for graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. Check out their website if you’re looking to hire an intern, or on the hunt for internships and graduate jobs London. You can also find more graduate careers advice on their blog!

 

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Guest Blog: 7 mistakes to avoid in interviews

Thanks to Inspiring Interns for this guest contribution.

It’s never easy being interviewed, but when you’re just starting out it can be a bit terrifying. After all, practice makes perfect, so how can students and graduates with very little interview practice make a go of it?

There are plenty of ways to get things right when you’re applying for internships and graduate jobs, but there are also a few pitfalls that are easy to fall into, even for experienced professionals. While some of the biggest mistakes in job interviews are pretty obvious nonstarters – like crashing your car into the building, or setting fire to the interviewer’s newspaper, which both actually happened – some are less so.

So check out our list of 7 easily avoidable interview mistakes, and make sure you give yourself the best chance possible to get that job.

 Falling at the first hurdle

 Turning up late to an interview should be something everyone considers out of the question, but it’s amazing how many people do it – or fail to turn up altogether. Even a couple of minutes delay can really damage the impression you make.

Take precautions like calculating your route in advance, and even doing a dry run if you can. No one can prepare for everything, so if you do find yourself delayed, make sure you contact the employer straight away and let them know.

What’s more of a surprise is that doing the opposite and turning up too early can also count against you. It’s great to turn up in the area early, but don’t actually head into the office until around 10 minutes before. Arriving very early can put pressure on your interviewer to come down and meet you before they’re ready; starting out your interview as an inconvenience can damage your changes of impressing them.

 Projecting the wrong image

There’s something basic that can put you straight to the bottom of the candidate pile, no matter how skilled you are: not taking care of your personal hygiene. Job offers have been lost because of bad breath or a sad lack of deodorant. No one wants to hire an intern or employee who appears not to wash.

What you wear also matters. Match your outfit to the company; check out any pictures of their offices and staff online, or make an educated guess based on the type of company it is. A bank probably wants you to turn up in a suit, while a tech start-up might have a more relaxed dress code. Still, it’s generally better to err on the side of formal, and fairly bland, in your outfit choice.

Finally, pay attention to your body language. You might be wearing the sharpest suit in the world, but if you slouch, fidget, and mumble your words, you’re unlikely to make a good impression. According to one survey, 67% of hiring managers think failure to make eye contact is the biggest body language mistake to make. You don’t need to lock eyes with them constantly, but make sure you do a reasonable amount.

 Criticise your last employer

No matter how unhappy you were in your last job, or how much of a problem you had with an ex-colleague, you should never badmouth them in an interview. Your interviewer will be making a judgement about what you’d be like to work with as well as what your skills are. Rather then making you look like the good guy, it makes you come across as having a bad attitude.

This can get difficult if you’re asked to talk about a conflict at work, or about a time when you disagreed with your boss. Just make sure you don’t let any negative emotions show through, and don’t talk about something you’re still angry about. Instead, focus on talking about how the problem was brought to a successful conclusion.

Brag without backing

 A very common mistake made in job interviews is claiming to have a skill, but offering little to no evidence that demonstrates it’s more than an empty brag. Whenever you say something like “I’m a great team-player” or “I have strong problem-solving abilities”, draw on your past experience and give an example of times you have used these skills.

 Asking the wrong questions

 There are some questions that you shouldn’t ask in the first interview, and others that you shouldn’t ask at all. In the first category is anything to do with your salary and benefits. This is a conversation that you will do have before accepting an offer, but bringing it up too early can reflect badly on you, and make it seem you only care about the money.

Meanwhile in the second category you have questions like “Will you perform a background check”, which suggests that you might have something to hide. Of course, asking about the next steps in the application or the on-boarding process is fine, and they might well tell you then if there is a check.

Equally bad, however, is asking no questions at all. If you have nothing to ask your interviewer, you’ll not only miss your chance to find out more, but you’ll risk coming across as uninterested in the role.

 Getting distracted by technology

 If there are two places your phone should never be heard, they’re the theatre and an interview. You definitely shouldn’t pick up your phone to answer a call or check Facebook – which, extraordinarily, does happen. Even if you have your phone on silent, buzzing every time you receive a text message does you no favours either; it’s distracting, and can make you appear disengaged.

This point goes both ways. If your interviewer is distracted by their emails in the middle of your conversation, you should certainly make note of the fact. It suggests that they don’t value your time, which, especially if they’re your future manager, is a warning sign.

 Doing the robot

Not the dance-move (although throwing some shapes during an interview is also a bad idea), but rather the monotonous recital of your perfectly drafted answers. Preparing for an interview is good, as is researching about what makes a good or bad answer. But if you take this too far, and over-prepare, you might find that it backfires.

For one thing, if you recite pre-prepared answers word for word, you’ll frustrate interviewers who are looking for an insight into your personality. Again, they want to know whether you’re the right fit on that level, as well as having the technical skills required.

For another, although there are some common questions that will come up in most interviews, you can’t predict everything you’ll get asked, or asked to expand on. If your prepared answers and off-the-cuff ones are markedly different in quality, this could damage how you’re perceived.

It’s hard to strike a perfect balance, but try preparing for questions without actually drafting out a complete answer, and memorising some general points you want to bring up, rather than a word-for-word response.

If you’ve got an interview coming up, make an appointment with a Careers Consultant at City to have a mock interview!

Claire Kilroy is a content writer for graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. Check out their listings of internships and graduate jobs London, or head to their blog for more graduate careers advice.

 

 

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Guest Blog: What to do with the rest of your summer

Thanks to Inspiring Interns for this guest contribution.

The grey and rainy British summer is ticking by, and it’s not too long now students will be heading back to university. It’s a time where many of you will find yourselves wondering where the time has gone, and what on earth you’ve been doing for the past few weeks.

Relaxing and enjoying your break is important, and there’s nothing like a few days spent sleeping and lazing around in front of the TV. However, as time goes on, the initial bliss can turn to boredom, and you might start feeling a bit stir crazy. At that point, it’s time to start thinking about how you can best use the rest of your summer.

Even late in the day, there are loads of things you can get up to that will benefit you, relieving the boredom, giving you a sense of purpose, and even boosting your career prospects. So take a look at our list of recommendations, and see if there’s anything that can tempt you off the sofa.

Get a last minute internship

 Missed the boat on getting an internship early in the summer? All is not lost; many companies continue to offer internships and work experience to eager students right up until till the start of term. On the whole, those that do will be small businesses and start-ups, which have a smaller number of applicants and a shorter hiring process.

So instead of resigning yourself to spending the last few weeks of summer on the sofa, start scouring job boards and social media for roles. You can also take matters into your own hands and send off speculative applications to companies where you’d love to work. Sometimes companies that hadn’t been planning to hire an intern will offer you a role if you ask.

It’s really worth giving up a bit of your holiday to get some experience under your belt; after graduation, employers are keen for candidates to already have some proof that they’re professional and capable. Plus you’ll find out whether the industry is for you; you’ll get contacts if you want to use them, and will have saved yourself time down the road if you realise you don’t like it.

 Volunteer

 If you’re not sold on an internship, volunteering is another great way to boost your future career prospects. You’ll hone many of the same skills that you’ll need in the workplace and which employers will be looking for, like communication, working with people from a variety of backgrounds, and emotional intelligence.

It’s a very wide field, so whatever your interests there’ll be something for you. Opportunities could range from a job in your local charity shop, doing some marketing or sales work for a charity helping humans, animals, or the environment, and working with a community radio station.

Volunteering is also very rewarding, as you can make a big difference to those you work alongside. Essentially, it’s a win-win; you can do your bit for a good cause, and it will benefit you in the long run.

 Get a new hobby

 Is your hobby watching Netflix? Or gaming? Or seeing how many marshmallows you can fit in your mouth? These are all worthy uses of your time, but aren’t ones you’re generally going to want to put on your CV or talk about at interview.

So why not seize the moment and take up a new hobby? Something arts and crafts based could fuel your creativity and end up seeing you make things you can sell; learning to cook could save you another year at university surviving on toast and noodles; becoming an expert chess player could teach you a lot about strategy and problem solving.

All of these are more likely to convince employers that you have a good work-life balance, and get on with something productive in your spare time. And if you choose something you think you’ll genuinely enjoy, you might find that you cheer yourself up at the same time.

 Take an online course

 It’s easier than ever to learn a new skill online, so take full advantage and spend your summer taking an internet course. There are hundreds of websites that offer courses on a huge variety of topics, either for free or for a fee.

What you choose is up to you, but here are a few ideas: brushing up your language skills or learning a new one is always worthwhile, both for general life and for making you a more attractive, and you can do this with a free app like Duolingo. You could also consider learning to code with Codecademy’s free online training programme; as the world becomes ever more digital, programming skills will be increasingly valuable.

Finally, if you’re missing studying (but not essays and endless hours in the library), check out sites like Coursera, where you’ll find modules in all sorts of subjects, from technology to history to existentialism, many of which are free unless you want to receive a certificate.

 Go somewhere on a whim

 Travelling is a great way to spend your summer, especially given the fact that after university you’ll probably not get nearly as much free time until you retire. Even if you think it’s a bit late (and pricey) to squeeze in a holiday backpacking around Thailand, there’s still time to plan a getaway.

Interrailing is a popular choice for students for good reason – apart from the initial cost of your rail pass, you can travel and stay in places across Europe relatively cheaply. As budget flights tend to be full or more expensive if you book last minute, when it comes to getting across the channel there’s always the option of getting a bus overseas. It takes time and isn’t exactly comfortable, but it’s cheap.

Being well travelled isn’t likely to bag you a job, but proving that you have an understanding and experience of different cultures can certainly count in your favour. Employers are increasingly on the lookout for global graduates, and they value the ability to work collaboratively with people from diverse and multicultural backgrounds very highly.

But most importantly, travelling is great fuel for personal development. So if you’re tempted just to drop everything and head abroad, and you can scrape the funds together, now’s your chance.

 Get fit

Ignore this one if you’re already super sporty, but for the less fit among us, now might be the time to start lacing up your trainers. The benefits of regular exercise are undeniable and extensive, and not just for your health; it can improve your concentration by 21% and your motivation to work by 41%. Plus if you join a sports team, you can add proof of being a team player to your CV.

When you get back to university, late nights studying (or enjoying the night-life) and a poor diet can take their toll. Starting off fit and healthy will help you, and if you get into an exercise routine before term starts, you’re more likely to keep it up.

Claire Kilroy is a content writer for graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. Check out their listings of internships and graduate jobs London, or head to their blog for more graduate careers advice.

… and a note from the Careers team:

The Careers Service at City is open for appointments all summer.  Now is a great time to get an appointment before the autumn term rush starts.  If you need help thinking about how to maximise your time during the summer or want to prepare for internship or graduate job applications in the autumn term, book an appointment with one of our Careers Consultants now.

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The benefits of crafting a career in the NHS

This is a guest blog post from GoToJobBoard.

When people talk about a career in the NHS, many can’t help but think about stethoscopes, scrubs and x-rays. Contrary to this image, over 49% of NHS workers have a non-medical role. There are so many brilliant opportunities outside the role of doctor or nurse, yet the NHS is often overlooked by students and recent graduates as a career option.

What types of careers are available in the NHS?

Over 1.7 million people work for the NHS, and it’s the 5th biggest employer in the world.

There are so many different paths available in the organisation, including:

  • Administrators
  • Clinical coders
  • IT Contractors
  • Caterers
  • HR Advisers
  • Accountants
  • Medical secretaries

These are just a few of the options graduates have open to them in the NHS.

Each day, the NHS is faced with 835,000 people visiting their GP practice, 94,000 people being admitted to hospital as an emergency decision and 50,000 people being admitted to A&E, as well as the thousands of people in hospital for pre-planned treatments and out of hospital consultations.

There are over 300 different roles available throughout the NHS, and each one is paramount in ensuring the thousands of people who are seen to each day are looked after in the correct way, from accountants who ensure funding is spent wisely, to medical secretaries who support doctors, nurses and patients day to day.

Such a large organisation that does such an important job needs the best people working for them, and the NHS can be a brilliant career path for graduates with a wide variety of different skills.

Benefits offered

When a person begins working for the NHS, they will become part of a committed and passionate team who are dedicated to providing the best possible care to patients. Even though each non-medical job is different with it’s own set of challenges, all teams will be filled with people who are devoted to providing the best patient care.

Passionate team members are not the only benefits that graduates will receive when they start their career in the NHS. The pay system for the organisation, Agenda for Change, applies to all NHS staff who are not doctors or senior managers, and offer benefits including:

  • A 37.5 hour working week
  • 27 days holiday, excluding bank holidays, which rises to 33 days after 10 years service
  • Pay enhancements that reward overtime, out of hours and shift work
  • Great career progression and support

The NHS is great for supporting graduates with training and development opportunities. As they are such a large employer, there will always be areas for employees to advance, and employees will have annual personnel reviews and developments to support them.

Improving Working Lives initiative

Introduced in 2000, the Improving Working Lives initiative was created to help NHS employees strike a good work/life balance. The initiative introduced a number of of changes, including:

  • Employee access to occupational services such as counselling
  • Assistance with combining work and studying for a qualification or raising a family
  • Help with childcare, including nursery care, after school clubs and emergency care

Excellent pension scheme

The NHS has one of the best pension schemes in the UK. Every new employee automatically becomes a member and it comes with an excellent range of pension benefits, fully protected against inflation and guaranteed by the government.

So, if you are graduating soon, why not consider a career in the NHS? You will have a wide variety of benefits, lots of room for growth and would be safe in the knowledge that what you are doing is really making a difference to people’s lives.

Mark Cherry is the Operations Manager at GoToJobBoard, which specialises in non-medical roles within the National Health Service.

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Guest Blog: How to Ace Your Graduate Telephone Interview

This is a guest blog post from Inspiring Interns

Many graduate recruiters are now choosing to do a first round of interviews over the telephone. Why? Well, particularly for businesses that might have received 100s of applications for a small number of graduate roles or internships, phone interviews are the quickest and most effective way to shortlist candidates.

By and large, this means that phone interviews are partly about ticking some boxes and partly showing that you can communicate effectively and have a spark.

The key is to make sure that you’re prepared; if the call is unscheduled and they catch you off guard, let the phone go to answerphone and prepare yourself before calling back. If you do happen to get caught out, explain that you’re unable to talk freely and tell them when you can call them back. That way you can make sure you’re physically and mentally ready to go into the phone interview and present the best case for yourself. Don’t just wing it!

Now, about those preparations…

The Prep

The most important thing for acing your phone interview is the strength of your preparation. As we’ve said, the interviews tend to be a bit lighter and so, aside from some more logistical questions, normally the interview will focus on the same key areas:

  • Your CV
  • Your thoughts on the company and sector
  • Some competency questions
  • One or two off-the-wall questions

Your CV

Ordinarily, the interview will start with some discussion about your CV. They may ask you to explain what parts of your CV make you right for the role, or more specific questions explaining gaps, what you learnt in your course or asking you to provide some experience to back up your stated qualities.

In essence it’s all about knowing your CV back to front and considering what they might ask you about it; do you have examples ready for why you’re a team player, or how you’ve been an innovative thinker in the past?

Give your CV to someone and get them to ask you random questions about it. Practice always makes perfect!

The company & sector

Another big focus of the interview will be to test how much you know about the company and area they work in. Before any interview make sure that, if asked, you could explain the company and role to anyone. The reason companies do this is they want to test your understanding, but also your commitment by seeing how much research you’ve done.

Start off with their website, particularly ‘about us’ sections and their blog. Try and find some news stories about the company too as this may give a slightly more impartial insight into how they operate. Try to get hold of a sector magazine, or take a look at leading websites and blogs so that you’ll have an understanding of what’s going on in the industry at the moment. Have a glossary of keywords ready to check too, it could save your interview!

Competency questions

Competency questions are all about finding out about how you might deal with certain situations at work and whether your personal attributes are in line with what the company expect when looking to hire a graduate. Glassdoor recently released the country’s top 50 interview questions, and many of them are competency based. Think about how you’d answer questions like, ‘What’s your biggest weakness’, ’How have you dealt with a challenging situation’, or ‘Tell me about your biggest failure’.

Try to be honest, and consider what the company are looking for in their employees. If you’ve done your research properly, you should know!

Off-the-wall?

Occasionally interviewers will use the phone interview as a chance to flex their creative muscles and ask you a strange question. What type of biscuit would you be and why? What would you do if you found a penguin in a freezer? How many golf balls could you fit in a bus?

Generally, these questions are intended to put you on the back foot and see how you respond. Questions like the first two are essentially trying to find out about your personality and how you respond to a challenge, but in a roundabout way so that they get a more genuine answer. The final question is more about your ability to work under pressure and work out mathematical problems.

The Interview

Now that you’re all set, it’s time to go. Make sure that you’re in a comfortable environment where you’ll be free from interruptions. Try to get a working headphone set– you want to be able to hear them clearly and be able to have your hands free to write notes. Double check on a call with someone first that this works!

It’s not just what you say…

It’s how you say it too! When you’re sat at home in a comfortable situation it can be easy to forget the effect of your body language on how you sound. You want to sound calm, but enthusiastic and the key to sounding energetic is to sit up straight, or even stand up, and make sure you’re smiling. It’s really difficult to sound bored when you’re smiling, try it!

Another good tip is to make sure that you take your time before each question. This not only allows you some thinking time, but will make you appear as though you’re giving each question careful consideration. It will also help to relax your tone of voice as you feel more prepared.

Listen & react

The most important skill you need to utilise in phone interviews is your ability to listen, and respond. Make sure you pay really close attention to everything that’s being said, and try to work out what the interviewer is really getting at with their questions. Practice picking up on cues from friends and family, and make sure you’ve got a catalogue of answers to react to what’s asked of you.

This is where having a cheat sheet of terms and answers to standard questions comes in handy. If you panic, then you’ll have something to refer to that might just jog your memory. Of course, make sure you’re not fitting square pegs into round holes; sometimes you might just have to think on your feet!

Questions & Follow Up

You’ll usually be asked if you have any questions at the end of the interview. Like any interview situation, you want to have something ready; saying that you have no questions can make you come across as disinterested.

Avoid things like pay and more personal topics at this point and instead focus on the company. Ask them how the company is planning on growing over the next 5 years, or maybe enquire about the work environment. You’ll get relevant, interesting answers and will come across as attentive.

Finally make sure you give them a few hours and drop them a quick email note explaining that it was great to talk over the phone and that you’re looking forward to hearing back. Don’t be afraid to follow-up your follow-up a week or so later in case you’ve just slipped through the net. It may be that extra follow up that jogs their memory and highlights you as the right candidate for the role!

You can practice your telephone interviews with the Careers Service.  Book an appointment on CareersHub.

Matt Arnerich works as a content writer over at graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. If you’re looking for graduate jobs in London, or graduate jobs in Manchester, apply today! For more graduate careers advice, check out our blog.

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Guest Blog: How your internship can help get you a full time job

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Guest post from Matt Arnerich, Inspiring Interns

Once you’ve secured an internship or work placement after university or during the summer, it’s important to consider your next move. Of course, you get to gain all important experience, both in terms of the skills you learn and the opportunity to supplement your CV when you go on to apply for other graduate jobs

But it doesn’t end there. A survey on the top 100 graduate employers in the country revealed that almost a third of graduate positions will be filled with people who have already worked there. On top of that, more than 60% wouldn’t consider a candidate with no work experience whatsoever.

So what do you need to do to impress and make sure they keep you on?

Set targets and smash them!

If you’re working with a company who have a well-established internship or summer placement scheme, the chances are this will be done for you. They’ll sit down at the start and tell you what they expect of you, what you should have learnt and what you should have achieved by the end of the internship period.

Make sure that you get these goals in writing and ensure that you do everything you can to meet them. There’s not a lot better than having concrete evidence that you’ve exceeded the goals that the company themselves set.

If your placement is at an SME, or a company with a newly established internship scheme, it could be that this won’t happen organically. If it doesn’t, ask for a meeting with your line manager or mentor and see if there are some specifics that need to be achieved. This way you have targets to work to and will also demonstrate that you’re proactive about meeting them.

Make yourself vital to the company

A key way to secure the all-important full-time position is to make yourself indispensable while you’re there. Ask to pick up ad-hoc duties so that you can learn as many of the systems as possible, and they’ll know that they can hire you across a range of departments without needing to spend the time training you up as they would with a completely new recruit.

Even more important would be to see if certain hard skills that you have could be advantageous to the company. For example, you could be well versed in social media, or be able to code in some languages. Perhaps you’re fluent in a foreign language and could pick up accounts with foreign clients. By undertaking these sorts of duties, you might get to the end of your internship and find that the company can’t afford to let you go.

Add worth to the business

Understandably, internships and work experience are about getting as much out as you can. They’re a fantastic opportunity to become adept on certain systems or programs, as well as learning certain soft skills crucial to working life.

If you want to be retained by the company though, it’s important to show that you’re not just learning, but adding value to the business. This is about taking to everything that’s asked of you with eagerness and focus but also trying to be as proactive as possible.

Once your tasks are completed, ask what else you can do, and don’t be afraid to propose the kind of fresh, innovative suggestions that are probably the reason why they chose to hire a graduate in the first place. It’ll also show that you’ve taken the time to really understand the business and think about how you think certain things might be improved.

Network, Network, Network

At any level, it’s important to try and ingratiate yourself within the company as much as possible, particularly if you’re a new to the business. Take every opportunity to meet and chat to people from different departments both in the office and at networking events.

When it comes to the end of your internship, these kind of ties can be invaluable. When the people higher up the company are making the decision on whether or not to offer you a job, or ask you back, positives voices and opinions from elsewhere in the company can be invaluable.

Go the extra mile

After all, the best advice is the most obvious; the real key to being kept on is being an all-round impressive employee. Punctuality is important and understand that some days you might need to stay late. It’s not ideal, but it’s just the way it is sometimes and by accepting and going the extra mile, you’ll show you’re not averse to putting the hard work in.

Try to take even the most simple tasks as enthusiastically as possible, and as we’ve already covered, take every opportunity to show that you’ve taken the time to understand the business and come up with innovative solutions to problem. When push comes to shove, it will be your ideas and your attitude that count as much as anything else.

Keep in touch

Things don’t always work out in internships. Sometimes they’re factors beyond your control, and sometimes they’re factors even beyond your managers control such as budget cuts or that they’re not sure they’ll have enough work for you in quieter periods of the year.

Either way, make sure you keep their contact details and get in touch when you’re next looking for a job. Try to keep contact with them in the interim time, and, if something does come up, you’ll be the first person they think of.

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Guest Blog: The 7 most important soft skills for graduates

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Guest blog from Inspiring Interns

When you first embark on the hunt for graduate jobs, it can be a familiar story that everyone wants more experience than is physically possible. Do they really think a fresh university graduate with 5 years’ experience in advanced aerospace engineering exists?

However, don’t fear, not all employers are so unrealistic, and many will focus on attracting candidates with certain key soft skills instead. What are soft skills? Well, simply, they’re skills that don’t require any technical knowledge, but instead chart certain behavioural or personality traits that are advantageous to employers.

A 2014 study found that employers valued soft skills such as strong communication and the ability to work in a team as even more important than technical knowledge. Similarly, in 2015 Hay Group research discovered that 93% of employers consider soft skills in the workplace as vital to success.

They allow employers to hire on the instinct that you have the ability to grow into a good worker, despite not having specific technical experience in the field. By ensuring you know how to cultivate and provide evidence of certain key soft skills, you’ll become incredibly attractive to a broad range of employers, even if you haven’t worked specifically in the industry before.

Lateral Thinking

An important trait that many hiring managers will be looking for from graduate is the ability to bring fresh thinking into the workplace environment. Having potentially grown up in a different generation to many of your new colleagues, the chances are you’ll have a different perspective on certain problems and may be able to come up with a creative solution that they wouldn’t have considered. This kind of thinking can be invaluable to a growing business.

How do you show it? Try and come up with a time that you’ve found a creative solution to a problem either during your studies, as part of a society or club, or even during your part time job. If you the job specification specifically asks for this kind of creative thinking then don’t be afraid to outline the example in your cover letter, or at the very least be prepared to work the case into your interview.

Self-Management

Do you keep coming across jobs asking for a ‘real self-starter’? What they’re asking for is someone who is able to quickly work independently and work to targets without an extended period of hand-holding.

This is particularly relevant to SMEs who may not have the resources to provide you with an extended training period and expect you to pick up things much more independently. On top of this, self-management is also about the more traditional skills of effectively managing your time and tasks as well as simply making sure you rock up at the office on time.

A good way of providing evidence of your ability to self-manage is to show times when you’ve started something off your own back. This could be an initiative you began as part of a society, a campaign you run for student media or even starting a blog about something that interests you. And of course make sure that you turn up to the interview on time!

Communication

Strong communication is regularly valued as the most important soft skill for employers, and it’s easy to see why. You might not think that your career path revolves around talking to people or writing, but in the connected world we now live in it’s incredibly important to be able to effectively communicate with people over email, the phone, or in meetings. Being able to talk clearly and concisely is essential to any workplace.

Of course, the best way to make this clear is to ensure that your early communications with the employer are as strong as possible. Ensure that your cover letter and CV are all killer no filler. In an interview situation do your best to come across as confident and polite. If you need time to think of an answer, pause, breath and think; this will come across as far more impressive than filling the time with ‘umms’ and ‘likes’ while you work out what you want to say.

Working in a team

One of the buzzwords of recruitment nowadays is ‘cultural fit’ and in essence it’s all about how well you can fit in with your new team. Your ability to slot into your new work environment, effectively communicate and get on with everyone is essential to the success of any company. Hiring managers aren’t interested in people who can’t knuckle down and consider the success of the team, and therefore the success of the company, over and above their own goals.

Again, forming a relationship with whoever is interviewing you here is key as a marker of how well you’ll work with your future colleagues, but don’t forget to come prepared with an example of your teamwork in action. Perhaps you worked on a project as part of a team or worked together with a group of your friends to establish an event.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is all about your ability to understand and control both your own emotions, and the emotions of others. It can greatly affect your ability to communicate internally, as well as indicate how you might get on working with clients to understand their needs and what makes them tick. It’s these kind of factors that are key to negotiation and selling and will gain the trust of your employers to let you get more involved in top level parts of the business.

Highlighting collaborative work you’ve done in the past is key here too, but it’s also important to display your passion. Employers generally want to hire someone who cares about what they’re doing (perhaps if they don’t then they’re not worth working for) and by showing them you have a genuine interest in the sector you’re displaying that you understand what’s important to them too.

Adaptability

In a junior role at a company, you may be expected to be reactive in your working day, and so displaying how easily you can adapt to new tasks is important to many employers looking to hire a graduate. They want to hire candidates who are willing to go the extra mile, and this can be as much about showing you’ve got something new or different to bring to the role as much as it is about taking on ad-hoc duties.

Consider if you have something different to bring to the role that can benefit the company without being explicitly asked for. Do you speak a second language? Can you code? Are you skilled in the adobe suite? These will separate you from the crowd and show you’ve got something new to bring to the company.

Leadership

While it is unlikely that you’ll be put in charge of a team straight out of university, it will still be important to employers that you at least have the potential to take charge. The chances of employers being willing to employ someone who they see as unable to progress within the company are small.

Simply think of times you’ve led. Perhaps you took charge during a group project or decided to take a committee role at your society or sports team. As always it’s about providing proof of your skills, rather than simply stating them.

 

Matt Arnerich is a content writer for the Inspiring Interns, the UK’s leading provider of graduate roles and internships. He writes graduate careers advice across everything from application and interview tips, to information on the state of the graduate market. Inspiring Interns works with companies all across the capital, but if you’re looking for opportunities further north, check out their graduate jobs in Manchester.

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Guest Blog: 8 Mistakes to Avoid on Your Graduate Cover Letter

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Guest Blog by Matt Arnerich, Inspiring Interns

8 Mistakes to Avoid on Your Graduate Cover Letter

When it’s time to start looking at graduate jobs fresh out of university, there might not be much to differentiate your CV from the people you’re competing with. One great way to stand out from the crowd is to pen a top cover letter.

However, it can be quite easy to make basic mistakes on these cover letters. If you don’t have any professional work experience, your ability to communicate effectively can be one the main things that potential employers are looking out for, so it’s important that these cover letters are written effectively.

Avoid these mistakes and you’ll be snapped up in no time.

 

  1. Too Many Pages

The standard answer to how long you should keep your cover letter is to keep it to no more than a page. But it turns out even this may be too long; a survey from 2011 discovered that over 70% of employers would much rather a half page letter.

The point here is that you shouldn’t be afraid to go shorter than a full page. If you find yourself adding unnecessary filler just to get it up to a page in length, then you’ll be doing more harm than good.

The perfect cover letter is full to the brim with relevant, engaging, concise information. Include everything that you need to help you land the job, and no more.

  1. All filler no killer

‘I’m an enthusiastic, passionate, hard-working graduate’ or ‘I work brilliantly individually, as well as part of a team’ are huge repellents. If you find yourself simply writing a list of certain desirable attributes with no relation to experience or proof, it won’t come across as very impressive.

Ensure you provide proof for every claim you make. Give them an example of a time you succeeded as part of a team, or really worked hard and pulled a long shift at work. If you are engaging and honest in your letter, your passion should come across naturally.

  1. Not doing your research

The first thing to do is to avoid ‘templating’ at all costs. Never include ‘I really want to work for _____’; if anything it demonstrates that you’d be willing to work for anyone.

As much as possible, try to keep the content of your letters original, even if you are applying to lots of different companies. Doing some quick research will allow you to discuss something you love about the way they work, or something they’ve produced that you think is great.

The fact that you’ve taken the time to look into their company will always come off better than random declarations of love.

  1. It’s all about you

Of course your cover letter is an opportunity to get yourself across, but the focus should always be on how you’ll be an asset to the business.

If the employer can’t attach your experience, skills or education detailed on your cover letter to real benefits for the company, then don’t write them down. The entire point of a cover letter is to take what you have and show why it’s the right fit for what they want.

Really consider what the business needs in their new recruit, and ensure that everything your write is with this in mind. If your cover letter is just a repeat of everything on your CV, then what was the point of writing one?

  1. Oversharing

Increasingly, employers looking to hire a graduate are placing a focus on ensuring that their new recruits fit into the ‘company culture’. This isn’t all about your active social life, or ability on the office table-football table though.

Again, research here is key, use their social media and online presence to find their values, and demonstrate how you share them. It’ll show you’ve done your research on the company, and that you care about the same things they do.

  1. Using too many negatives

When you’re fresh out of university and you are yet to get any relevant work experience, it’s very easy to feel like you’re lacking something, or like you aren’t going to succeed. Especially when we all have that mate Dave who has somehow managed to squeeze 74 internships into his three year university course.

Just remember that you’ve always got something to offer, and it’s never a good idea begin a sentence with ‘While I may lack….’ or ‘Even though I’m not the best…’. Think back on your time at university and find a way to make the experience you had or the skills you learnt applicable to how you’re going to benefit the company.

  1. It’s Too formal

Now that you’re out in the big wide world acting like a grown-up it’s attractive to use overly formal language. Honestly, referring to yourself as a ‘scholastic, fustian alumnus’ is unlikely to go down well. Regardless of the area you’re working in, most graduate jobs involve customer contact of some kind and it’s important that you have clear communication skills.

Being succinct is incredibly important when writing your cover letter, and unnecessary formal language is likely to confuse what you’re trying to get across. Of course you want to avoid slang and colloquialisms, make sure you read your cover letter out loud and strike off the parts that don’t sound natural. Think, polite, conversational language.

Consider using a tool like the Hemingway App, where you plug in a section of text, and it’ll give you the best way to simplify it.

  1. Using the same old format

Consider using bullet points, so long as it’s just once. Employ subheadings to make it simpler for someone who is scan reading it to spot what they’re looking for.

If you’ve got any adobe suite experience, don’t be afraid to use it. If you’re applying for a creative role, the design of your cover letter could often be just as important as the content.

If you’re interested in starting your career, take a look at Inspiring Interns’ job listings for graduate jobs in London, or graduate jobs in Manchester.

And don’t forget, get your cover letters reviewed by the Career Consultants at City!  Book your appointment on CareersHub.