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Guest blog: Working at a tech startup with an economics degree

Many UK university graduates struggle to find their first job after getting their degree. The competitive landscape makes it hard to stand out, especially if you aren’t from a target university. In many ways I think the system is flawed, but this post is not the place to talk about it. I will rather explain how widening my job search scope brought unexpected results.

As an economics student I was constantly pressured by my peers to do consulting or investment banking. However, I realised that it’s not all about these two choices, one never has to confine himself to such boundaries. There are a bunch of amazing opportunities out there which have nothing to do with consulting or investment banking. I would even argue that trying out something which is not “in your field” teaches you a lot about life.

After I got my economics degree in July I decided to apply for a program which supports startups in Hungary: Bridge Budapest. I was given a chance to learn how to build a business from Samebug, a tech startup which aims to change the way programmers solve errors in their code. In October I was put in charge of Customer Relations. Notice that this is very different from what I studied before. I had some sales experience from volunteering at AIESEC, a not for profit youth-driven leadership platform but nothing else. Speaking with programmers and building a product for them was completely new to me.

My first week was quite difficult as I had to get used to the terminology. On my very first day I was given a task to go through a list of speakers at an upcoming conference. As the founders of the company planned to attend the event, I was left with the task to choose the people worth talking to. I honestly had no idea what I was doing but asking questions from colleagues was very useful to get started. The week went by fast and my knowledge about the industry kept growing at a really high rate. Last week the conference ran its course and I managed to arrange meetings with a couple of speakers.

After a month I can still say that there’s a lot more to learn. However, I learnt as much to be able to devise strategies for going forward. I picked up ownership of a number of tasks and contributed to a lot more. This has made me appreciate how much responsibility I can take up since now I see how much impact certain actions can have.

Samebug is a startup, which has its pros and cons. There’s not much hierarchy so we have a friendly atmosphere where employers and employees work together at the same table. Whenever I have a question or need some input, I can ask anyone (including my boss) in my vicinity. This brings together the people at the organisation because we can see everyone working hard for the same goal and that’s very inspiring. We have regular meetings to plan ahead and talk through processes, everyone’s input matters. We usually have lunch together and there are teambuilding sessions as well (last time we went to an escape room and got out in time).

The downside is that there is a lot of uncertainty. To demonstrate this, let me give an example: on the second week we conducted a series of interviews, both with individuals and teams at companies, to understand behaviours and how we could build the right product. At the end of the week we sat down to talk through our learnings and the immediate learning was that the problem does exist, but the solution we are presenting does not apply yet. Developers are solving this issue somehow and it takes a lot more to “convince” them to change the behaviour. The meeting had a very negative tone and I went home with a really bad feeling. However, on Monday we came back, everyone had new ideas on how to proceed and address the learnings and we once again knew how to proceed.

At Samebug we always knew we will win if we are able to present a solution which is worthy for developers to change their behaviours. We continue to work on that harder than ever. The whole past month was like this: a roller coaster ride of emotions.

At the beginning I wrote that an experience like this teaches you a lot about life. I still uphold this statement. Life is sometimes unfair and difficult, but you alone are responsible for how you react to it. You can have a negative conversation after some talks about how what you are doing is useless but ultimately, it’s up to you to choose whether you’ll be reactive or proactive. We chose to be proactive and changed our assumptions of our product. Was it a good idea? No one knows for sure, however, at least we did something about it.

Written by Istvan Erdo, BSc Economics Graduate

 

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Guest Blog: Top 5 Reasons Why You Should See An Application Adviser, by Carolina Are

Carolina, one of our Application Advisers, has written this fantastic post on why you should come and see one of the team!

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should See An Application Adviser – by Carolina Are

As a former City University BA Journalism student, I was aware of the existence of the Careers Service but never really used it. For two years, I became one of those people who sent the same CV and the same cover letter to every company and then wondered why I wasn’t getting a job. Luckily things changed once I joined a society and started working part-time in recruitment, but I could have used my time here way better and fixed my CV much earlier, and for free. How? By going to see an Application Adviser. Here are five reasons why you should too. Continue Reading

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Extra Activities Outside the Law Lecture Hall

In an era of intense competition to get into the top law firms, you need to prove yourself as an all-rounder with a wealth of experience. Recruiters look for students who have practical experience in the real world, not just academic merit alone. Here are a few activities law students should get involved to boost their prospects.

Marshalling: this is a great way to learn about the inner workings of a court. Magistrate courts and Crown courts normally offer marshalling and you should approach them by sending an email to enquire about any availability. The experience allows you to see the court in action and if you are lucky enough to shadow a judge you can ask them questions about how they reach their judgments or what cases are the most memorable?

Open Days and First-year Springboard Scheme: many firms will offer first-year law students a chance to visit their firms. It allows you to learn about the firm, their environment and atmosphere. However, it works both ways, firstly it allows you to see if the firm appeals to you, and the firms can assess whether you are the candidate they want. If you are lucky and impress them enough you may secure a vacation scheme or a training contract. Attending these open days is beneficial when you want to later apply for a job at these firms as it shows them you have already taken the initiative to learn about their firm and is a good talking point in an interview.

Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB): volunteering at the CAB is a great way of learning how to deal with clients. You learn the techniques of interviewing them and extracting the relevant information. You confront the realities of the clients’ hardships and there is a deep sense of satisfaction when you are able to support them. The CAB thrives on the help of volunteers and there is a great sense of giving back to your community.

University Societies: joining your university society is a great way to interact and meet new people. You learn to network by attending various events hosted by the society. In addition, you can apply to be a president, vice president or various other roles to gain experience in taking on projects and show law firms your proven record of being responsible and having leadership qualities.

Local Law Firms: working at local firms are a great starting point for law students, although far from the glitz and glamour of city firms, they have the ability to give you great experience and skills that city firms are looking for. The local firms are normally focused on niche areas of law such as immigration and personal injury but their lawyers spend a lot of time training you. These lawyers have years of expertise and they really nurture you to bring out the best of your skills.

These are some of the many opportunities law students needs to take advantage of. Starting early is always beneficial and gives you more time to develop and hone your skills. So, expand your horizon and look for as many opportunities as you can!

Written By: RABIYA KHAWAJA

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Volunteering with the Citizen Advice Epping Forest District

After spending my first year at university studying law, learning all the theoretical elements and digging my head into the textbooks, I decided to volunteer at the citizen advice bureau to get an understanding of how the law impacts people on a day to day basis. Walking through the corridor on my first day at Citizen Advice, formerly known as the Citizen Advice Bureau. I was greeted with smiling faces. I was introduced to a friendly and caring environment in which all my colleagues were an instrumental factor in helping me settle in.

Citizens Advice thrives on the help of volunteers and the generosity of strangers. Clients come with a whole array of problems including homelessness, mental health issues, benefits and debts. This opportunity has allowed me to see at a practical level how to deal face to face with some very vulnerable clients. Additionally, I have seen how Citizens Advice helps clients on a personal level through the way my supervisor goes to all lengths possible to find the best solutions for her clients. The dedication posed by the volunteers is unmatched and is in many ways very moving.

My main role involves administration work, filing, writing and drafting letters and helping the advisors with anything they may need. Within my fair share of time, I have witnessed many unexpected situations, clients that seem frazzled and confused about the course of action to take as well as annoyed and agitated. I have learned the way to proceed with such clients and trying to calm them down. When such situations arise being able to listen is a key skill while allowing them to explain their problems. However, the most satisfying element of being a volunteer is when you see a client that is joyful and happy after their problems are sorted.

I decided to volunteer as a co-editor of the Bureau Buzz for the Epping district. I was lucky enough to be accepted and worked on my first newsletter in June. My role involves editing the format and layout of the buzz before sending them out to the staff members.

Although our roles individually seem minuscule, when looking at the bigger picture, you realise that all efforts are helping someone else’s life. I may be a volunteer for a short amount of time, but I would love to stay for longer and see many more smiles.

Written By: Rabiya Khawaja

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Why should women’s employment matter this International Women’s Day?

Not to blow my own trumpet, but I’ve posed a good question here. Why should we be talking about women’s employment? More specifically, why should we be concentrating on women’s employment within the UK? There are arguably many other important causes and challenges that women face across the globe. We still live in an age where many women live in poverty, where the sex trafficking of women continues and where domestic violence against women does not appear to be ceasing any time soon. In and amongst all of these breaches of basic human rights, it can seem that women’s employment within a western country should take a back seat.

Contrary to the intuition that our focus should only lie with these more pressing issues, I would argue we should concern ourselves with women’s employment on the 8th March. Firstly, let’s make one thing clear: this does not to take away from the seriousness of the travesties highlighted above that regularly take place across the world, nor is it in an attempt to hold back or slow down the efforts being made against these problems. International Women’s Day (IWD) is an event that aims to bring together women who are supporting a range of causes. So, we can and should support multiple campaigns that aim to help women across the globe. We should be campaigning to better the serious issues I’ve mentioned and we should also be striving to continually improve upon the positive changes already made.

Aside from realising that IWD is a day to celebrate a variety of causes, we must also realise the important role that a job and career takes in a person’s life. In a full-time role, we are usually contracted to work a minimum of 35 hours a week. If we are asleep for 8 hours a night, then we spend 31% of our waking hours at work. If we include the time people spend commuting and the extra hours people often spend at work, the average person’s job takes up well over a third of their life. This is a huge portion of our time! With this statistic in mind, to spend time actively talking about and improving women’s life in the workplace seems to be of tantamount importance.

I can imagine a response to this thought might be something a little like this:

“So we spend a huge portion of our life working, but equality in the workplace has arrived in most countries now. Shouldn’t we be talking about women and men’s role in the office?”

Unfortunately, this is a misinformed answer. We should indeed be talking about both men and women in the workplace with the aim of improving it for all people. However, the workplace and the opportunities available are certainly not yet equal. According to The Economist, the work place is by no means equal and the glass ceiling is yet to be broken. Business in the Community have collated a fact sheet with a variety of facts about women in the workplace; some of the more shocking statistics from this article include facts such as:

  • Male graduates can expect to earn 20% more than female graduates
  • In the financial sector, women working full-time earn 55% less annual average gross salary than their male colleagues
  • Sexual discrimination continued to be the most frequent type of discrimination claim received by tribunals during 2011/2012.

In fact, if you search “women in the workplace” on any search engine you’ll be greeted by a barrage of studies that suggest we are yet to find equality in the workplace. The more you research, the more you realise that inequality in the workplace still exists. Fortunately, there are ways to counter and improve this situation, we’ve witnessed throughout the years how effective petitions, peaceful protests and social media has proved to be for good causes. Ultimately, two of the most fundamental tools one can employ when trying to change something is communication and knowledge. The more we know and the better we communicate, the easier it becomes to get things done.

Off the basis that IWD aims to celebrate a variety of causes that improve women’s lives, then we should feel free to use this day to engage in debate around women’s employment. It continues to be shown that there is still inequality in the workplace, leaving countless women disadvantaged. By continuing to engage, promote and talk about women’s role in the workplace we stand a far better chance of attaining equality.

At City University we have various different events going on for both IWD and women’s employability in general. Students and alumni can join us for our panel “Successful women in the workplace: What does success look like?” on 8th March. This event will help participants learn more and communicate with women striving in the workplace. We hope to see you there!

#BeBoldForChange

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Using recruitment agents

Recruitment agencies are an important tool for job seekers and most people will use an agency at some point in their lives. This blog will address how to find an agency and what to expect.

How do recruitment agencies work?

Agencies work on behalf of organisations to find the most suitable person for a job vacancy. Many employers choose to recruit through agencies to save time as they can outsource the initial sifting of CVs and associated administration.

Usually employers will send a job description to their chosen agency and the agency will send them a shortlist of candidates sourced from their pool of candidates. The employer will choose its preferred candidates to interview and ask the agency to arrange this. The employer pays the agency a fee for this service. This is usually a percentage fee based on the starting salary of the candidate or an upfront fee.  There is no fee for the job seeker.

Some agencies will specialise in a particular sector or geographical region while others such as Reed and Hays will cover lots of different sectors and regions.

Why use a recruitment agency?

Using an agency can give you access to roles that are not advertised elsewhere. A good agency should have inside information on an employer and the market that they can pass to you before an interview to help you prepare.

How to find a recruitment agency

  • Use the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s (the professional body for recruitment) members list
  • Through agency central’s directory
  • Look at a jobs board (e.g. Totaljobs) specialising in your sector and the names of agencies advertising jobs there
  • Word of mouth

Continue Reading

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First steps: Your career starts now!

CityCareers wants to give a warm welcome to all new students!reception_sgost-8

Induction week is coming to an end and you have probably attended a large number of inductions and welcome sessions. You will have lots of information in your head, and some bits might not have clicked into place just yet.

As you go into your first week of the course itself, why not start thinking of where you want your career to take you? Continue Reading