Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Location, Location, Location

Once in a while I receive an email from a student than makes me wince. It usually starts with a nice sweetener along the lines of ‘I have an interview with…..’ which gives me a false illusion that this is going to be a positive interaction. The follow up sentence is what brings the pain. ‘How far away is [enter name of town]?’

There are several things about this simple question that really grate. Firstly, I’m not a walking talking atlas. If your geography isn’t all that hot, ever heard of Google Maps? When I stop being flippant, a more serious issue comes to mind. Did you not check the location of the placement before applying? If not, why the hell not?!

I spend quite a bit of time encouraging my students to explore placement opportunities outside their immediate environment. While I’m sure that most of us would appreciate a job that is literally on our doorstep, alleviating the need and cost of daily commute, the reality is that is unlikely to happen. The day I had to break it to a student that there were no Investment Banks in Peckham sticks fondly in my memory.

However, while it is positive for students to search for placements outside their usual bus route, there needs to be a dose of realism when making applications. Can I realistically commute there from where I am living? Would I be prepared to relocate for this placement? If the answer to these questions is no, why are you wasting your time, and that of the employer, by submitting an application in the first place. It is a bit of a head scratcher from my perspective.

In this instance, my student was relatively fortunate. The interview was a mere 15 miles from their house, in a neighbouring county. It could have been hours away in another part of the country. Always check the location of a placement before submitting your application. Not only will it keep your Placement Officer happy, but will mean you will avoid nasty surprises when you’ve been invited for an interview in Timbuktu.

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Thursday, 6 February 2014

I Don't Like Spam!

Spam, Eggs, Spam, Spam, Bacon and Spam. Sound appetising? If not, you probably aren't going to want to eat in the Monty Python cafe, as bit like the 'lady' in this very famous sketch.

Why do I bring this up, other than to make myself giggle and try to justify a way of publishing the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch at a later date? Well, here is some food for thought.

Despite advancement in the sophistication of email systems in recent years, spam filters are not perfect. Quite recently I found my invitation to the National Undergraduate Employability Awards tucked away in my spam folder. I'd like to think that this was purely down to a glitch in the system, rather than my employers doubting that such an invitation was genuine! However, that combined with something which happened this morning made me think about spam and how students need to be particularly vigilant in ensuring that their applications do not get lost in the ether.

I wrote some time ago about the importance of sending placement applications from a sensible sounding email address. If you're firing off your CV to the IBM's of this world from account similar to I wouldn't be optimistic about getting a response any time soon. However, what if you've used a more sensible account, slaved over your application documents which have been given a green light by your placement officer and yet still you find yourself waiting for a reply that may never come. It is regrettable that not every employer will acknowledge your application, but there could be another reason for the silence.

When sending emails with attached documents, most spam systems will scan those attachments, viewing them as a threat. A simple word document of PDF file should clear this without difficulty, but what if in the course of saving that document, you made a simple typing error. What if instead of saving your application as Susan Lab.doc it instead became Susan.Lab.Doc? This is exactly what one of my students did this morning. The additional dot instantly made an otherwise ordinary Word Document into an attachment which the spam filter identified as a malicious threat due to it believing the file was being disguised as something else. I didn't get the email or the attachment, but fortunately my Computing Support team alerted me to this email and I was able to retrieve it. Had the application been sent directly to an employer, I very much doubt the email would ever have seen the light of day again, and the student would not have been considered for that placement.

So when making your applications, always be meticulous in your attention to detail. You'll already be aware of the need for correct spelling and grammar, but always having taken the time to piece together an application, don't let your hard work go to waste on account of the name of your attachments.

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