Monday, 5 October 2015

Be Your Future!

If you've just started looking for placement opportunities, you may find yourself a little bit lost right now. You'll have had an introductory lecture or two where people like me at your university are spouting the virtues of doing a placement, and sign-posting you to a directory of opportunities for you to plough your way through. Perhaps you've met my friends at RateMyPlacement during their campus campaigns, and found yourself armed with the Top Undergraduate Employers Guide. It is a fantastic little resource, but on first inspection you'll stare at a page of 100 different companies. How are you supposed to know where to start?

In the years I have been doing my job, it has been noticeable that employers are spending more time and resources on talent attraction than when I first started out. Last week I received a job poster through the post, with no additional online material to access. Once upon a time this would have been the norm. In 2015 this not only felt retro but rather inadequate for the digital age where young people hold expectations of having information at their fingertips.

With so many recruiters fighting to attract the same students to their placement and graduate schemes, employers have upped their game on talent acquisition and recognised that they need to distinguish themselves from the competition. Once organisation that I think has done this particularly well is Microsoft, who aside from their corporate careers pages have enlisted their current interns to produce engaging content for the standalone Be Your Future website. It is a great resource for interested candidates to find out straight from the horses mouth what it is like to be an Intern at Microsoft, gain insights into the different roles and opportunities, pick up application advice and provide a platform for engagement between the company and the student market.

Who better than you to promote your business to future undergraduate employees than the incumbents?

Applications for student and graduate opportunities at Microsoft are now open. Apply here

Do not apply until you have checked out the excellent advice and insights on the Be Your Future blog, and be sure to save it down in your favourites.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Periscope - A Guide for Placements and Careers

Over the past few months, I've been very enthusiastically talking up Periscope and how it could be used by Placements and Careers services to engage with our students.

I've now put together a little presentation on this which you can view below or click on this link if your browser does not support the iframe format.

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Monday, 27 July 2015

My day with #CentricaGrads

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a Careers Services Open Day at the UK Headquarters of Centrica. If you're not too familiar with the name, you most certainly will be aware of at least one of their subsidiaries, British Gas, which is a major player in the utilities market.

The focus of the event was to showcase the range of student and graduate opportunities that are offered by Centrica, and providing the opportunity to network with a range of employees including recruiters, managers and current interns. On a quick headcount, I estimate there were about 50 careers/placement staff from different universities in attendance.

During the course of the day, we were given an insight into how Centrica recruit and the sort of profile they are looking for in successful candidates. The slide below highlights Centrica's Leadership behaviours, and if anybody is looking to apply for one of their streams, I would recommend tailoring applications in such a way that you demonstrate these qualities.

Aside from making some great contacts from the Centrica Year in Industry scheme, the biggest thing I took home from the event was the passion exhibited for the company by some of the graduates I met during the networking lunch. I'm quite a cynic by nature, and while I would expect there to be a certain amount of positive spin exhibited at an event like this, I was actually blown away by their enthusiasm for the company and their roles within it. It was self-evident that they love what they do, and are being supported to become future leaders within the organisation.

Centrica will be launching a new on-campus campaign in the autumn. My lips are sealed with regard to the content having been sworn to secrecy, but it looks like it will be a lot of fun and should deliver a new level of brand awareness to undergraduates looking for future opportunities.

I love my Centrica pigs
Details of graduate and summer internships at Centrica for a Summer 2016 start should go live in September. In the meantime, you can find out more about the company and the employment streams their offer at Centrica Grads. You can also engage with the recruitment team via Twitter and Facebook

Thanks very much for inviting me to the event, and I look forward to promoting Centrica opportunities to my students in the coming year.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

From Student to Prudent - The 12 Month Transformation

This is a guest article written by Sawsan Hamawandy, who has spent the past year working as Channel Communications Intern for NetApp, as part of her sandwich placement course. I think there is some really fantastic advice here for students about to embark on their placement year, to ensure they maximise the experience. The article was originally posted on LinkedIn and republished here with permission of the author.

With my amazingly fabulous time at NetApp drawing its final week, I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on my experience. Twelve months ago, I walked into my internship with a smile on my face and an open mind. Though I had been told, I would be doing “real-work”, I had no idea what that would entail and what would lie ahead. How can someone distinguish what is real-work and what isn’t? A year on I completely understand!
I have learnt that an internship is not just about achieving your personal or business targets. In fact, that is only the bare minimum, a student should seek to accomplish. A placement has so many untapped opportunities which I see students overlook time and time again and to me this is ludicrous. How many opportunities do we get throughout our careers to experiment, practice what we love, discover our weaknesses, develop our strengths and challenge our limits?
Currently, second year university students are about to start their placement years, some may have already started while others are still searching; whether you are in sales or marketing, HR or finance take the time to consider the following to maximize your potential.
1.      Sixty second summary - you should be able to communicate the organisation's purpose, offerings and values in a short elevator style pitch. If you don’t understand a week into your role, then you should really question how you can support the organisation to reach their goals.

2.      Ask before the task, don’t just bask - you’re not expected to know everything. You were hired because they saw the potential in you which they didn’t see in other applicants. You are there to learn and so it is really key you absorb as much knowledge as you can.

3.      Mingle like a Pringle- there is no better way to build your network, than with those around you. You do not need to limit yourself to those in your team. I found that you learn just as much from those who aren’t in your department to those that are.

4.      Don’t fright to take a bite – although your utmost priority should be completing your assigned duties, it is really good if you can get involved with things out side of your role. Not only will this get you exposure into different parts of the organisation, you gain experience in additional tasks. In other words, don’t be afraid to create doors to open. You will find most companies will actually benefit from the additional support.

5.      Sometimes backwards is forwards- when being trained to do things in the early days, it is easy to complete tasks in the way shown and expected. Whether you are writing a report for your manager, communicating to a partner or targeting a customer, sometimes step back and put yourself in their shoes. To take a step back allows you to see the bigger picture and if what you are doing is actually the most effective. The methods of yesterday won’t always achieve tomorrow's goals.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say a HUGE thank you too NetApp (particularly my managers and brilliant team) who have supported me form the moment I skipped through the front doors of our lovely office. It truly is a great place to work and a brilliant company! 

Monday, 15 June 2015

Up Periscope!

Regular readers of this blog will have become accustomed to me getting excited by technology and how it relates to employability issues. I've championed the use of Twitter for student/employer engagement through #PlacementChat, tried my hand at a 6 second CV on Vine, and proved there is more to Pinterest than cats and crochet. However, in this technological age, nothing lasts forever and it is important to keep a close eye on what may be the next big thing.

The new kid on the block which is giving me goosebumps is Periscope, a live streaming app which allow users to broadcast from their mobile/tablet to a worldwide audience. Built by Twitter, Periscope is user friendly and ties in with your existing network of followers. Quite simply, press record and whatever you see on your camera goes live to whoever wants to watch. This includes turning the camera on yourself and speaking about whatever topic comes to mind. Viewers can ask questions to the presenter, making the broadcast interactive.

Given the recent rise of video interviewing technology like Sonru, Periscope seems like a logical extension for how students can put themselves in the eye of employers, or vice versa. For example, rather than utilise expensive webinar software, a recruiter could use Periscope to talk about placement opportunities at their company to interested candidates, with the viewers able to type questions about the scheme live as it happens.

I'm personally excited about using Periscope for my placement activities. This week there is a #PlacementChat scheduled from 4-5pm on Thursday (18 June) and I plan to use Periscope throughout to answer questions that are posed, breaking the shackles of the 140 character limit to provide insightful responses. I hope that my face for radio won't scare people off!

Find me on Periscope and Twitter using @PlacementBlog and we'll see how it works on Thursday!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Moving Without Shaking - Book Review

I must admit I was a little intrigued when I was asked if I wanted to review Yelena Parker’s excellent book, Moving Without Shaking: TheGuide to Expat Life Success (from women to women). It wasn’t that I have no interest in the area (I do!), or didn’t think that it would be of interest to readers of this blog (it most certainly should be), but as a 34 year old man who is well rooted in the UK and no realistic aspirations of taking my family overseas, I couldn’t feel any further from the target audience of the author.

To ensure I was reading Parker’s book with an open mind, I decided to take it with me on short trip abroad over the Easter period, so that I would approach it without the shackles of the daily routine and with that little bit of overseas adventure in my blood. While my kids napped between morning and afternoon sessions at Disneyland Paris, I tucked into the pages of Moving Without Shaking to see what I could learn.  I needn't have worried though, as it became abundantly clear from the early pages that this book is accessible for all and while its goal is to provide peer support from women to women, I didn’t at any point feel detached on the basis of my y chromosome.

What Parker provides in a little over 250 pages is pearls of wisdom based on her own experiences, and those of other women who have been successful in working overseas. In 10 concise chapters, we learn about the factors that have gone into helping the author and her friends in their journey across the globe. A lot of this isn’t rocket science. If you want to work at a high level, a strong educational background is vital. If you want to live in another country, you may get by with speaking English in the workplace, but becoming proficient to conversational level in the local language is going to be important when you need to speak to local tradesman or have to ask for directions in a strange city. There are chapters dedicated to Networking, Attitude and even Relationships. Whatever your reasons for wanting to work abroad, or whichever factors are holding you back from taking that leap right now, they more than likely have been covered by Parker and her associates, and documented in the pages of Moving Without Shaking.

Of particular interest to students for whom working internationally may seem a long way off, are the pages dedicated to studying abroad. If it is an option for part of an existing course or something that you may wish to consider for future study, there is some really useful information contained within the pages of this book which you can adapt from the idea of working overseas. 

As somebody who works with a lot of female students, I will be encouraging them to put this book on their reading list. In recent years I have seen a surge in events aimed at encouraging women into business, from the likes of the ITs Not Just For The Boys, to the PWC Aspire to Lead series. While I have been keen to promote these opportunities, I have often been taken aback at the relatively small uptake of the students on my courses who want to get involved. I can’t quite put my finger on why that may be the case. There could be cultural factors at play, or maybe a lack in confidence to attend such an event. Whatever the reason may be, Moving Without Shaking provides the reader with strong role models to see what can be achieved by women who wish to pursue an international career.  If a young Yelena Parker can make her way from a small town in Soviet era Ukraine to work in over 20 countries, why can’t a Sonya from Slough or Hamila from Hemel Hempstead follow a similar career path?

Moving Without Shaking is available to buy from Amazon and other online retailers.

Yelena Parker is on Twitter @yelenaparker and @movingwtshaking

Thursday, 5 March 2015

6 Seconds To Secure A Placement

As regular readers of this blog will know, I'm a big fan of social media and an even bigger advocate of using it to support job searches. A few years ago, I was very excited to see a student securing a placement with RateMyPlacement, having gained a spot at their assessment centre through a single tweet. This week, I couldn't help but notice an opportunity for students to gain a summer internship, through submitting a #6SecondCV.

The role in question is a 10 week joint internship programme between Nestle and Twitter. Any budding marketing students or social media whizz should check it out, as the focus 'is to understand how Twitter and social listening can be used within Nestlé to help support and drive key business priorities. You'll also work with Twitter to develop a better understanding of user behaviours and other audience metrics.'

That all sounds pretty cool to me, but not only is the role catching my eye, the application process is something very different from your typical online form. Interested candidates are being asked to pitch themselves for the role using Vine, a social media platform that has grown in popularity in recent times, which allows users to upload short video content and share with friends via Twitter and Facebook.

So rather than spend hours slaving over a CV, checking cover letters for grammatical errors or tapping away at endless competency based questions, one lucky applicant will find themselves at an assessment centre next month, on the strength of a single 6 second video clip. The big question is, how does one go about scaling back all the words and detail from a traditional CV, and manage to sell themselves in a such a limited timeframe?

I'd love to be able to answer that, but as my feeble attempt at a #6SecondCV below demonstrates, I'm clearly not going to be the creative marketing guru that Nestle will be looking for!

So my future does not lie in creative marketing, but perhaps yours does. If you want to find out more about the role, check out the job description. You need to apply by 24 March and when posting your Vine on Twitter make sure to include the hashtag #6SecondCV

Here is a little bit more info

Applicants have the opportunity to impress and demonstrate their digital skills by creating a six second video through the Twitter platform Vine outlining why they are the best person for the position. The Vine entries, which will be judged on their level of creativity, will be considered when the applicants tweet their creations using the hashtag #6secondCV. The best Vine entry will secure a spot at the assessment centre, which will take place on 14th April.

Time to get creative and who knows, this could be the most productive 6 seconds of your life.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

God bless the BRIT Awards. Something memorable always seems to happen at them and usually not for which artists have won. Last night we had Kanye West putting in a potty-mouthed performance entirely at odds with the TV audience for the event, which was then almost entirely overshadowed by what can be politely described as a costume change fail for Madonna. If you've missed it, see here for yourself.

Even with all the best preparation in the world, things can go wrong. Here we have a global superstar who has been performing for over 30 years and in the midst of a high profile gig experienced what it is like when things go wrong. Being the pro that she is, Madge picked herself up, dusted herself down and the show went on. Full credit to her for doing so, but this performance will only be remembered for the cape and tumble.

There is something to be learned here for students in their approach for interviews and assessment centres. Even with the most meticulous planning and attention to detail, things may happen which can throw you off course. It could be a broken down train on the journey, a sickness bug, an overbearing candidate determined to have the last word during a group exercise. To share a personal anecdote, once upon a time in the days before my involvement with placements, I was on my way to a conference to deliver a presentation to a group of science teachers. Getting into a taxi my trousers split in a pretty catastrophic manner. A quick diversion to Marks and Spencer and finding a pair that vaguely matched my suit jacket later, I delivered my presentation, albeit slightly red faced from the shame of walking into a shop with my underwear on display for all to see.

Clearly I'm not AC Slater from Saved by the Bell but this is a pretty good representation of the wardrobe malfunction
The point is careful planning is all well and good, but adaptability in the face of the adversity is a valuable skill to hone. If you can regain composure and show to an employer that you will not be tripped up by a stumbling block, that can work to your advantage. And if things don't result in a happy ending, there is a lesson to be learned for the next time. I very much doubt Madonna will opt for the stairs/cape combo in the live performances any time soon. I learned that in a 50/50 decision, the wiser choice is to opt for the looser pair of trousers! Learn from negative experience to minimize risk for the future.

The next time you go for an interview, all the pieces could fall into place and you nail it. However, with so many variables, many of which are outside your control, things don't always go according to plan. Take things in your stride and you can still achieve the positive outcome you are looking for.

In the immortal words of the band Chumbawamba, who caused another infamous BRIT Awards moment, I get knocked down but I get up again, you're never going to keep me down. Motivational words that students would do well to keep in mind when encountering hard knocks in their search for a placement.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Three is the magic number

This week marks the third anniversary of Tales from the Placement Office and the creation of 'The Placement Officer'. What started out as an idle thought on a train journey home from the National Placement & Internship Awards has spawned the best part of 100 blog articles, built a Twitter following that many graduate recruitment teams would envy, and launched the #PlacementChat platform which has helped a huge number of students to engage with employers during their search for work experience.

I'd like to think that the time I've put into my activities over the past three years have been useful for others, whether they be students looking for some impartial advice or another university service on the hunt for good practice. Along the way I've had the pleasure of meeting some really great people who in all likelihood I would never have known without donning the mask of The Placement Officer.

Personally speaking it has been a pretty rewarding experience too. I've found social media to be the perfect tool to display my passion for placements and share that energy with a wider audience. The blog had drawn the attention of my peers working in Higher Education, and I received recognition from the broader industry in being awarded Outstanding Contribution to Work Experience at the National Undergraduate Employability Awards. As professional development projects go, I'm not sure it'll be topped any time soon.

J'ai trois ans
However, while things blossomed via an online persona, my career trajectory has failed to reach new heights. Three years down the line and I find myself in more or less the same role as I did when I penned that first article and typed the first tweet. I'll be honest and admit from the outset I had hoped the blog and all that went with it could open up opportunities for progression. Alas, two days after I unmasked to reveal the author behind the blog, at the precise moment I was hoping to seize upon my momentum and look to cash-in any credit I had acquired, personal events kicked ambition into touch. One minute I was riding high on the crest of a wave, the next I was confronted by a life altering moment courtesy of two short Latin words that were translated for me by a sonographer.

Life is too short for regret. I certainly wouldn't change what happened that day and every morning I wake up to a little miracle who brings unimaginable joy that eclipses any shiny new job title. I could talk what ifs until I was blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is my priority since then has not been to push onwards and upwards. That said it has been a little frustrating at times and there have been the occasional moment where I've contemplated the nuclear option by publishing an 'I'm The Placement Officer, Get Me Out Of Here' article or something to that effect. Much as I like a good rant, it probably would not have been the wisest professional move.

So what happens now in 2015? Well, first and foremost the blog continues and The Placement Officer will keep doing his thing on Twitter for as long as there is an audience that wants to engage. Three years is a lifetime on social media but I still think there is some mileage to travel yet, not to mention placement opportunities to promote. What happens offline is perhaps a more interesting discussion point.

I am looking to be challenged. In a couple of weeks time I'll be starting a short online course I have enrolled in via Future Learn with a view to increasing my own personal knowledge which I hope will aid in my ability to help students with their search for employment. My blogging provided a creative avenue for skills development; I'm optimistic that this proactive approach to learning will generate new opportunities to do the same. Exploration can bring fresh impetus to the cyclical nature of placements.

I've spent a lot of time over the last three years channelling energy into helping others. That is engrained into my DNA and unlikely to change any time soon. But over the coming months, I think it is time to redirect some resource into where I want to be in three years time. This starts with my course. Where it ends we will have to see.

Bon anniversaire le placement blog