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5 Graduation Speeches Every Student Should Listen To

Life lesson for students: graduation is always closer than you think. One moment you’re hanging out with friends in Freshers Week, the next you’re capped, gowned, and thrust out into the big wide world.

Unfortunately, that world tends to be confusing, difficult, and scary. Fortunately, universities attempt to equip students with some inspirational advice before they go. Graduation speeches by illustrious alumni or celebrity speakers are designed to set students off on the right road. Listen up to the best of the best, and you’ll find this adulting malarkey a whole lot easier:

 

“No matter what path you choose, I want you to make sure it’s you choosing it, and not someone else.” – Michelle Obama (full speech)

Life is a series of choices. Which career will you pick? Where will you live? Will you take time out after uni or plunge straight into the world of work? Everyone around you will have an opinion on which choice is best, and those opinions will differ wildly from each other.

While it’s important to listen to the advice of those who care about you, every decision you make should be your own. Never feel pressured to define yourself by someone else’s idea of success. We only become the best we can be when we feel passionate about the project we’re undertaking, so without following your own dreams you’ll never realise your full potential. Yes, you’ll probably make mistakes, change your mind, reverse course… but that’s what makes life interesting. Just don’t get yourself into a position where you waste years of your life on something that you never wanted.

 

 “If we’d all stuck with our first dream, the world would be full of cowboys and princesses.” – Stephen Colbert (full speech)

It’s always okay to change direction. Maybe you studied a law degree only to realise that you don’t want to be a lawyer. Maybe you studied art and now do want to be a lawyer. Either way, don’t beat yourself up for getting it “wrong”. Instead, come up with a plan for getting what you want.

Remember that we’re always growing as people. We want dramatically different things at different points in time because we’ve become a different person. Keep listening to yourself and keep adapting. Variety is good for us.

By the same token, if you’ve been holding on to hopelessly unrealistic dreams then now is the time to let them go. Measure your expectations against your reality and if they don’t match, reassess.

 

“There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you.” – K. Rowling (full speech)

Or blaming anyone else, FYI. The whole point of being an adult is that you take on full responsibility for yourself and your actions. Holding yourself accountable motivates you to get the task done. It allows you assess failures with a clearer head. And success, when it comes, feels sweeter, because you know that you alone earned it.

Bad things happen, and they can throw everything off kilter. It’s okay to be upset, to struggle, to ask for help. But don’t ever let anything negative drag you down to the point where you give up. Every step forward, however small, is a step in the right direction. Keep trying and your effort will pay off. Good things don’t come to those who wait, but those who work.

 

“We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat.” – Tim Minchin (full speech)

The rise of the phrase “post-truth” to describe the prevalence of inaccurate statements in modern media and politics shows how important it is to never take anything at face value. Modern graduates hold a unique position of privilege: not only are they highly educated in the traditional sense, but the smartphones that most carry around in their pockets give them access to an unprecedented amount of information. Take advantage of these opportunities; keep learning.

The best way to challenge your beliefs is to expose them to opposing views. Attend debates. Discuss issues with peers. Read voraciously. All these things will make you more informed, more balanced, and more accurate in the opinions you hold.

 

“Don’t let your fears overwhelm your desire. Let the barriers you face—and there will be barriers—be external, not internal.” – Sheryl Sandberg (full speech)

There are always going to be problems in your life. There are always going to be obstacles between you and what you want. Learning to tackle and surmount them is the basis of success. But you can help yourself immensely by limiting your struggles to facing barriers that are outside your control.

Self-belief and confidence are the most important skills you can ever develop. Nobody else will see potential in you if you cannot see it in yourself. So many tasks are deemed impossible until someone comes along to try, to work, to sacrifice, and to prove the doubters wrong. You are just as good as anyone else, and you have just as much chance to succeed. Believe that, and you’ll be amazed how far you can go.

 

Beth Leslie writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency specialising in matching candidates to their dream internship. Check out their graduate jobs listings for roles. Or; if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs.

 

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Jingle Bell Slog: What Uni Students Should Be Thinking About This Holiday

You’re not in Kansas – or kindergarten – anymore. Gone are the days of festive wordsearches and early home-times. And whatever your schoolteachers proffered, you can bet that stern professor isn’t going to be loading Balto into the lecture theatre projector.

But what when the last class shudders to a halt and the mass exodus begins from City campus? Sorry folks; you’re still a full-fledged uni student, and you need to approach your holidays like one.

Here’s what the grown-ups among you should be thinking about this Christmas.

 

Work

Gosh. But it’s Christmas. Right? Nobody works at Christmas.

Tell that to the half million small-to-medium business owners who’ll be working every day this holiday – or the hospitality employees who’ll be averaging five hours sleep. Let’s get one thing straight: being a student is not hard labour, or at least not compared to those who live and work in the real world. So no martyr acts here, please.

Sure, everyone needs a break over Christmas. But if you’re planning on wasting every day on Netflix, you’re making a classic undergrad mistake. In January, the motivated people on your course will return to class with a head start, simply because they could be bothered to do something – anything – over vac. And it’s them, not you, who’ll be scoring Firsts come summer.

It doesn’t matter if it’s an hour a day or six. Over the course of this extensive uni vac, it shouldn’t be hard to save time for your academics.

 

Apply

“Oh my god! I missed the deadline for McKinsey/Lloyds/Lidl last week!” No crap, Columbo. In fact, in all the excitement of presents and trees and reindeer, you probably missed all the others too.

October through December is prime student recruitment time. All the big companies – i.e. the ones you want to work at – use this period to seek out candidates. Looking for a CV-boosting placement this summer? Leave things until January and nobody will want you anymore.

Whether you’re looking for something cool or something well-paid, you’re doing yourself no favours missing these deadlines. Apply, apply, apply – before it’s too late.

 

Self-nurture

Okay, Christmas probably isn’t the time to go on a no-carb diet. But those precious weeks at home may be your perfect chance to make use of the family cross-trainer, or get on top of that sugar addiction, or read that book you’ve been eyeing for ages.

Thinking about starting an exercise regime? Now’s the time. Improved fitness not only affects your physical health but your mental wellbeing – essential in the run-up to exams. Fit individuals also see a hike in cognitive functions and concentration. Or maybe you’d rather learn to cook – a student essential.

Whatever it is, use your Christmas holidays logically. If you can’t find time for personal pursuits now, God knows you won’t back in halls.

 

Think

No, we don’t mean academics.

The sad fact about uni is that it’s finite. In three years/two years/one measly set of six months, you’ll be cast from the warm hearth of full-time education and expected to make your way in the big, wide world. And, whatever it’s taught you, your degree won’t have prepared you for true, working independence. Just ask the 58% of graduates stuck in non-graduate jobs.

Being ready for the world of work is not about good grades. It’s about fostering resilience, developing business naus, managing expectations and understanding office politics. Most of all, it’s about deciding what you want to do with your life – something surprisingly few students have done by the time they graduate.

If you’re in your first couple of years, think about how you can maximise your employability over the next couple of years. If you’re a finalist, use this last pre-finals rest – because we all know Easter will be hairy – to seriously consider your options.

You won’t be a student forever. Plan accordingly. Through the haze of mulled wine and turkey, you can be sure that summer is coming.

 

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

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How to Make Yourself More Employable in 7 Seconds

 

Seven seconds. That, according to psychologists, is how long it takes to form a first impression. Considering creating a good first impression is only less important than work experience in clinching a job offer, getting those seven seconds right when you walk into an interview room is crucial.

Ready? Start the clock.

 

1… Unfold Your Arms

Body language is important. When we assess how someone else is feeling, over half of our analysis is derived from the way they hold themselves. So unless you want your interviewer to think you’re defensive, insecure, inflexible and closed-minded, don’t cross your arms.

We fold our arms to create a barrier between ourselves and the person we’re talking to. It’s a common way to deal with nervousness, but it’s the ultimate subconscious faux pas. So don’t do it!

 

2… Stand Up Straight

Even if you’re five-foot-nothing, always draw yourself up to your full height when greeting your interviewer. Good posture doesn’t just make you look more professional and self-assured, it makes you act more confident too. So-called ‘power postures’ are so effective that they inspire more assertiveness in an individual than giving them a powerful job title.

Creating an impression of height works in your favour too. Research shows that taller people are more successful than their diminutive counterparts. The logic is that evolutionary tics make us equate tallness with leadership and competence.

 

3… Smile

It sounds obvious, but it’s super easy to forget when you’re overcome with nerves and focused on rehearsing your CV in your head. So make a mental note to bare your pearly whites!

Smiley people are more likeable. In fact, research shows that when we have to pick someone to exclude from a group (read: reject for a job) we’re more likely to chuck out someone we think is unfriendly than someone we think is incompetent.

How many job applications ask for “positive” candidates? Ticking this box can be as simple as smiling sincerely. Smiley people are not just pleasant to be around, they make those they’re smiling at feel more positive too. And who wouldn’t want to hire the candidate that makes them feel good?

 

4… Hold Eye Contact

Not maintaining eye contact is the top body-language mistake a candidate can make, according to over two-thirds of employers. While you shouldn’t be staring someone out (think: blink) keeping good eye contact throughout an interview is essential.

Human beings tend to naturally maintain eye contact with people they like or admire, and look away when they are embarrassed or not paying attention. Because we are aware of the difference on at least a subconscious level, we look for the same cues in the people we’re talking to and judge them accordingly.

That’s why public speakers who maintain eye contact are thought to be more competent and believable, and why cereal whose cartoons are drawn to stare at shoppers are more likely to be bought.

 

5… Shake Hands Firmly

It sounds like a small thing, but a good handshake can make or break your interview. One study found that it mattered more than agreeableness, conscientiousness and emotional stability. Hold your hand out first – it is a subtle way to show confidence and take control of the interview without seeming domineering.

Always grip the interviewers’ hand as firmly as you can without crushing their fingers, and if you’re prone to sweaty hands make sure you’ve discreetly wiped it on your suit before going in for the kill. Timing is everything – drop their hand too quickly and you convey disgust; hold their hand too long and you give the impression that you like them a little too much.

 

6… Introduce Yourself

Even if they have your name written down in front of them in three-foot-high letters, always greet an interviewer with “Hi [THEIR NAME], I’m [YOUR NAME]. It’s lovely to meet you.”

Why? It’s an easy way to break the ice, and shows confidence and assertiveness. Introductions are a social cue – swapping names makes you seem more personable, while referring to how pleased you are to be there shows enthusiasm for the opportunity.

It’s important to refer to the interview by name (and doubly important that you get their name right! Take some time to memorise it beforehand). People love to be treated as individuals, and few things wrap up our identity more powerfully than our name. That’s why it’s common knowledge amongst salespeople that repeatedly addressing a client by name helps integrate yourself with them. It might sound barmy, but science shows that when we hear our name it causes different parts of our brain to activate than those that are associated with regular speech.

 

7… Stay Standing

Finding the line between confidence (good) and arrogance (very, very bad) in a job interview can be tricky. The best candidates maintain a balance between taking charge of the situation and deferring to the interviewer who is, after all, the decision maker.

Having gone in with a strong handshake and assertive introduction, wait to take a seat until either you are invited to by the interviewer or they sit down. It’s polite without being self-doubting, and it indicates that you have respect for them and their authority in this situation.

 

Beth Leslie writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency specialising in matching candidates to their dream internship. Check out their graduate jobs London listings for roles or, if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Habits That Successful People Cultivate

Wanna be a star? Don’t we all. If flying high were all about changing a few habits here and there, we’d all be at it.

But while it’s true that there are many sides to success, there are some things you can do to increase your productivity, maximise your potential and get your head in the game…

 

Plan ahead

“What’re you up to tomorrow?”

“Oh, y’know. Same old.”

We all know what we’re doing tomorrow – vaguely. It might be going to lectures, or trundling off to work, or watching old-school Justin Bieber music videos on repeat. What we don’t do is write all this stuff down the night before, because – well – that’s more effort than it’s worth, right?

The rich and famous disagree. From Ben Franklin to Obama, political superstars are famous for planning every day with meticulous care, and they’re not the only ones. Organising your day before it starts, setting daily goals and waking up with a concrete sense of doing stuff can help you get seriously productive.

So get yourself a diary and plan, every night, what you’re going to get accomplished the following day. Or use the 18-minute method. Whatever – just get organised.

 

Wake up early

So many high-fliers swear by early starts, it’s hard not to feel guilty swanning into college at midday. Believe the hype: getting up early enhances your productivity, boosts your health and benefits your overall mind-set.

In 2010, Christoph Randler conducted a survey of 367 university students. His research suggested that early risers were more productive, proactive and self-confident than their night-owl counterparts.

“When it comes to business success,” he concluded, “morning people hold the important cards. My earlier research showed that they tend to get better grades in school, which get them into better colleges, which then lead to better job opportunities. Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them.”

You don’t have to be up at 4.30 AM to make the most of your morning. Take it slow at first; go to bed 15 minutes earlier, and rise at that interval again. Repeat until you’re getting up at 8 AM latest – earlier if you can. You’ll find so much more time opens up in the day, those few bleary-eyed minutes will be worth it.

 

Exercise

Yes, you knew this was coming. A devout fitness regime seems to be a prerequisite for success – just look at the number of celebrities who boast one! If you want to join their number, you’d better hop on that treadmill fast.

Exercise is seriously good for not only your physical but your mental health. It’s motivating, inspiring and empowering. So whether it’s joining the gym round the corner, buying those tasty running shoes or unearthing that yoga book your mum bought you last Christmas, get sweaty to get ahead.

 

Eat smart

Steve Jobs’ carrots obsession. Novak Djokovic’s post-match grass-munching. Renee Zellweger and her ice cubes… Okay, maybe you don’t want to eat exactly like the stars. But eating smart does not equal eating weird; there are ways to improve your daily intake that don’t mean turning orange.

Start the day with a glass of lemon water – literally lemon juice in water, with optional salt. This morning tonic aids digestion and decreases bloating, energising you for the day ahead.

Always eat breakfast. Apart from metabolism and weight-control benefits, a 2013 study by the University of Minnesota indicated that people who eat breakfast have significantly lower risk of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes when compared to subjects who skip it.

Indulge in smaller meals at shorter intervals to keep blood sugar up, and try not to eat too close to bedtime – it could ruin your sleep. Lastly, caffeine takes eight hours to escape the system, so don’t drink it after 2 PM if you go to bed at ten.

 

Mr Popular

Did you know that the people you’re closest to may be a measure of who you are as a person? So said Jim Rohn, the businessman and motivational speaker who thought that everyone is equivalent to the average of the five people they spend the most time with.

Successful people know this. That’s why they cultivate friendships with other high-fliers – to maximise their environment. Just look at Taylor Swift, whose all-powerful ‘squad’ can be seen with her wherever she goes. Or any high-profile business couple, for that matter.

As Will Rogers once said: “A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.” We’re guessing this goes for women, too.

 

As for two habits the successful few don’t boast about…

 

Trying to please everyone

The sooner you realise the impossibility of this, the better. Nobody can go through life pleasing everyone; there is give and take whoever you are, and what delights one person will find a more critical audience elsewhere. Don’t hold yourself hostage to other people’s hang-ups – do what you believe in, for the people you value most.

 

Comparing yourself to others

People progress at different speeds throughout life. Some make it young and burn out, some smash suddenly through the ceiling at 50, and some enjoy long-term, rewarding careers that, for whatever reason, invite few accolades from those around them. Whichever you are, don’t despair; you are not your peers, and never will be. Take joy in your own success, and you will be fulfilled.

 

 

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

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7 Work Tips Nobody Tells New Graduates 

No matter how many supermarket shelves you stacked in your summer holidays, nothing quite prepares you for leaving behind your comfortable university life and being thrown into the world of work full-time.

Sure, you’ll figure it out eventually, but at first the whole thing can be scary, disorientating, and really, really confusing. To help you out, here are the seven things that all workers wish they’d known as new graduates:

 

  1. The Most Important Thing About a Company is Its Culture

You are going to spend 1/3 of your entire life at work. Consider that you’ll be asleep for another third of your time and you’ll quickly realise that unhappy workplace = unhappy life. Whether a company is a household name, offers a certain job title or pays a certain salary is ultimately not as important as finding somewhere you fit in.
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Is University Worth It?

No…

… if you don’t want to start your working life in debt

In April 2016, it was calculated that UK students now face the highest levels of student debt in the English-speaking world. Even in America, where it’s well known that you have to pay through the nose, students on average owe between $29,000 and $32,600, compared to our £44,000. Plug those numbers into a currency converter and weep.

It’s become normalised in our society to head into the world of work with thousands of pounds of student debt dragging you down. Sure, as loans go it’s relatively pleasant; you don’t have to start paying money back until you earn above a certain wage – currently £21,000 for higher fee payers – and because it’s automatically deducted from your pay cheque, you don’t have to think about it much.

Even so, watching money disappear from your account can make you feel a bit bitter. Plus there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever earn enough to pay of your debt in full – in fact, the government calculated when they put the fees up that 45% of graduates never would. This means that nearly half of all graduates will spend 30 years in debt, at which point their remaining debt will be written off.

Being in debt is never a nice place to be, and there’s nothing wrong with deciding it’s not what you want.

 

… if you’re only going because other people think you should

Everyone has that family member or friend who seems to have more ambitions for you than you do. And that’s fine – if it’s what you want, too. But just because Nancy is going to Exeter for Economics and thinks you should so come with, doesn’t mean you should up sticks and follow. We all have to follow our own path. Sometimes uni isn’t part of that, and that’s okay. Uncle Harry will forgive you if you don’t go to his old college at Durham; your self-belief and career might not.

 

…If you don’t think what you’re getting is worth £27K

A university degree should make you more employable and give you access to resources you can’t replicate at home. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Not all universities are created equal; a recent IFS study found that female graduates from the UK’s bottom-ranked institutes were earning, on average, less than non-grads. Subject also plays a role. Those who study agriculture, mass communication and veterinary science degrees earn vastly less than economics grads. So if tending God’s creatures is your passion, maybe university isn’t the best route for you.

And what about the humanities degrees? Even at a well-respected university, with minimum contact hours and none of the high-tech resources STEM students benefit from, it’s easy to feel like you’re paying £9,000 a year for a library card. Sure, independent research fosters transferable skills. But you don’t need a professor sending you angry emails to go down the library and open a book – and if you do, what are you doing studying arts anyway?

“University prepares you for the world of work,” they say. The recent CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey would disagree. 44% of Scottish businesses reported shortcomings in graduates’ levels of “business and customer awareness”, and 36% complained of a lack of relevant work experience. The grads feel the same. A similar study from Aviva shows that over a third of university graduates regret taking their courses, and almost half believe they didn’t need a degree to get where they are in life today. So why should you pay £27,000 for three years of study, when you could spend that time developing actual, relevant expertise?

Finally, we’ve all been taught that university grads earn more than their less educated counterparts. But if that’s true, half of recent grads wouldn’t be moving back in with their parents. In fact, hourly wages for graduates fell 20% between 2008 and 2013. Graduates in their late thirties may still earn 1.6x more than those who left school at sixteen, but they are part of a previous generation when a university education was rarer and more well-respected. Today, this wage gap is closing fast.

 

… if you haven’t considered your alternatives

Real talk: we’re a graduate recruitment company. We’ve helped thousands of graduates get jobs that they wouldn’t have been able to apply for without their degrees, so we see the benefits of university every day. But we also know full well that degrees aren’t the only path to success, and it’s important that school leavers know what their options are.

Everyone should have the right to go to university, but it’s not always the right choice. Apprenticeships – paid trainee positions directly within your chosen industry – are experiencing a huge comeback. The ‘earn while you learn’ approach appeals to a lot of young people who already know what they want to do. The government agrees, pledging to produce three million apprenticeships by 2020.

Similarly, school leaver schemes at companies such as Deloitte, Mercedes and Sky pick up students just after A-Levels, promising graduate-level qualifications with none of the debt. These positions are easier to secure at eighteen than at grad level, and promise real experience in your chosen industry.

And if none of that appeals to you? Take a break before uni. Have yourself a gap year. Students who take time off after sixth form often show increased motivation when re-entering education. If it’s good enough for Malia Obama, chances are it’s good enough for you!

So don’t assume uni’s the be-all and end-all. It’s just one route to success, out of many. Leaving school is a time to consider all your options. Make sure you choose the right one for you.

 

Susanna Quirke 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.

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If The Shoe Fits: Dressing For Interviews And The Workplace

Don’t know the difference between black shoes and brown? You’d fail your investment banking interview before it even started. Take our advice on interview and workplace dressing, and you’ll look sharper than Patrick Bateman on a good hair day.

 

Interviews

Perhaps you’re up for a City job, or you’re a budding graphic designer. Just as different companies impose different dress codes on their employees, every new job description requires a fresh approach. So what to wear for that all-important meeting?

Let’s start at the far end of the scale: life sciences and investment banking. If you’re up for a job in a highly corporate field like this, don’t skimp on the detail. Studies show that black shoes, well-fitting suits in blue or grey, and dark socks are a must. For boys out there a beard, whether culturally-motivated or otherwise, can reduce your chances of that job offer. Girls, I’m sorry, but wear heels. The aim here is to show that you’re a good ‘fit’ for the interviewer’s workplace. Walking in with a bright yellow tie/eyeshadow and flat, brown shoes is like taking a secondary school class dressed as Katie Price – inadvisable.

For less formal business and banking roles, similar rules apply. A job interview is not the time to drag out that novelty Bugs Bunny shirt your mum bought you for Christmas. For companies with a smart casual or more formal dress code, go for a suit. Wear a pale shirt, probably white or blue, with dark socks, black shoes and a sober tie. Ladies, don’t be whipping out that vampy dark lipstick; you want to look natural but enhanced. Play up one feature at most, and subtly at that.

For a company with a ‘casual’ dress code, they will usually warn you of this beforehand. Do not be fooled – if you turn up in a crop top and hot-pants, you will be judged. Boys, avoid hoodies and sweatpants; you’re not Mark Zuckerberg. Safe bets are trousers that aren’t jeans; girl can opt for a knee-length skirt. If you want to wear something shorter, layer it over opaque tights – your interviewer wants to see your potential, not your thigh gap. No stomachs, no cleavage, no ankles, no back-flesh. If the interviewer doesn’t specifically say to ‘dress casual’, play it safe and don a suit.

As a general rule of thumb, whatever the role you’re going for, make a little more effort than the company’s dress code demands. Recently, on the Today Show, top CEO recruiter James Citrin was asked how a graduate can best dress for an interview. His answer? “A grad should do her homework and then be 25% more formal than the prevailing dress culture.” So do your research into what they’re looking for, and surpass it – but not by too much.

 

The Workplace

Congrats! You got the job. Now to navigate the office politics, the water-cooler gossip and… workplace dress codes.

There are, roughly-speaking, four classes of workplace dress code: business formal; business casual; smart casual; and casual. Recently, more formal companies have been gravitating towards the relaxed end of the scale. Accenture and PwC have both implemented ‘Dress For Your Day’ policies, where employees dress as required from day to day, and JPMorgan Chase has switched from business formal to business casual. What’s important is that you find your employer’s policy, Google it mercilessly and work within those guidelines. Looking out-of-place at the office is a major faux pas, after all.

That said, it’s important to bring a little of yourself to the mix. You’re not a corporate clone; people want to see the real you. Whether it means wearing a patterned tie, or donning a red lip, you’re not at interview stage anymore – play with your work outfit and try to find something that is on-brand you.

On the subject of high-heels… Ever since PwC sent Nicola Thorp home for wearing flats, the heels-in-the-workplace argument has raged. We think that, in a casual or smart casual environment, flats are best for our go-getting girl grads. Comfy heels that can see you through the day are also good. However, in a more formal workplace, sometimes heels become necessary. You don’t have to wear them all the time, and please don’t lame yourself with a five-inch stiletto. But for meetings and other formal occasions, heels are often judged as appearing more ‘in-place’ than flats – and ‘in-place’ means ‘professional’.

Finally, it’s important to look and feel good – and not just because that cute gal in accounting might walk past your desk. Thanks to something social psychologists term “the halo effect”, we assume that people who look good also possess other positive qualities. I’m not saying you need to look like Tom Cruise. But if you want to seem committed, capable and intelligent at work, make an effort.

So there you go! There are some interesting studies on workplace dress codes, proving that different styles of outfit promote different styles of thinking. But, as a grad recruit, your most important job is to fit in and excel. Don’t let some fashion faux-pas stop you nabbing that tasty interview, and your dream job.

 

Susanna Quirke 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.

 

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

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 get free alcohol 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 Quirke 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.

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Case Studies: The Low-Down

What is a case interview? To quote from the MIT Careers Handbook, it’s a situation where “you are introduced to a business dilemma facing a particular company. You are asked to analyze the situation, identify key business issues, and discuss how you would address the problems involved.”

Sounds challenging. But while case interviews are designed to push you, they shouldn’t make anyone faint in fear. Here’s a step-by-step guide that will have you tackling case study questions with confidence.

 

The basics

The main qualities that case studies assess are your ability to process information, evaluate risks, solve problems and deal with unusual situations. They can be on any topic and take pretty much any form – though many involve some form of maths. What they will always do is pose a complex, sometimes even unresolvable problem.

Apart from practising some previous examples, there are a few tips you can take on board. Always think aloud. This is not an exam but an interview; you are expected to voice your estimations and decisions. Work with the interviewer, not against her – if you’re lucky, they’ll help rather than hinder you in your discussion. In fact, you might be judged negatively if you shut the interviewer out; you want to prove you’re a team player, don’t you?

Prepare well. Check the company’s site beforehand, in case it has some sample questions available. Read through some famous cases from the past and try to understand how experts reacted to them. For estimation challenges, it helps to know some basic statistics (e.g. the world population in billions) but you can’t learn it all, and they won’t expect you to.

Finally, take your time. The interviewer would rather you took a careful, considered approach to a problem than rush to give a quick answer. With these questions, it’s all about the process.

 

How to answer a classic case study question

“A supermarket chain has noticed a decline in its profitability. They have hired you to find out why this is and to recommend and implement a solution.” (example from TargetJobs)

I hope you read that carefully, because being clear on the question is your first challenge in a case study. Listen to what is being said, take notes if necessary, and make sure you have a visual reference if a number slips out your head.

Ensure that you understand any technical terms. In this case, your prior research should have taught you what ‘profitability’ and ‘cost-effective’ mean – but in this case, it would also help to know ‘gross profit’, ‘net profit’ and ‘operating margin’. If you don’t know what something means, ask. Better to admit your lack of knowledge than reveal it through a bizarre calculation or response.

In the case above, the obvious first step is to work out why the profitability of this supermarket is declining. Suggest reasons to your interviewer, compiling a list, and possibly calculate which you think is the most likely.

The second action is to determine how to resolve each of these issues. If, for instance, the supermarket’s operating margin has risen, resulting in a decline in profits, you need to find a solution that will compensate for the additional costs.

Finally, determine any possible obstacles to implementing your strategies. If possible, find a way around them! If not, this step will at least show an awareness of common business problems and avoid your looking naïve.

 

… and a market sizing one

“How many people are wearing trainers on their London commute on any given morning?”

This kind of question is called ‘market sizing’. It challenges you to reach a general number based on well-informed ‘guesstimates’. Nobody expects you to get this right, as such – the process, and the way you tackle the question, is much more important than the answer. Basically, interviewers want to see how you tackle a difficult problem, and whether you can apply logic to an unfamiliar challenge.

Start by clarifying your terms. For example, does ‘wear trainers’ mean wear trainers all the way or just for part of the commute? Does the ‘London commute’ include students and children going to school, in all zones? You need to be very clear on the parameters within which you’re working.

Then, break down groups and numbers. You might know that the London population is about 8 million. Of these, you might estimate that 4 in 5 commute to school or work every day. So our commuter number would be 6.4 million.

If necessary, sub-categorise according to MECE principles – i.e. ensure that your sub-groups are all mutually exclusive, and collectively make up the whole. For example, let’s say you wanted to sub-categorise London commuters. Your groups may be:

  • Bus commuters
  • Overground commuters
  • Tube commuters
  • Boris bike commuters
  • Drivers
  • Walkers

However, there is overlap here; somebody could use both the overground and tube to reach work every morning. So these groups are neither mutually exclusive nor does their sum total equal the total of London commuters. You’d do better to go for:

  • Those who walk more than 2 miles in total on their commute
  • Those who walk 0.5 < 2 miles in total on their commute
  • Those who walk less than 0.5 miles in total on their commute

Then apply any calculations to these two groups separately, factoring in any unique issues. For example, people are less likely to wear trainers if they are walking less than 0.5 miles, but are very likely to if they are walking more than 2 miles. Apply these rules to the entire process, and you’ll come up with something close to the truth.

Case studies are not something to be frightened of. They are an opportunity to demonstrate the tenacity and independent thinking that makes you a great candidate. If you work things through as logically as possible, according to the above principles, then you will do well in the eyes of your interviewer. So get going – and good luck!

 

Susanna Quirke 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 the graduate jobs London has to offer, visit our website.