PSAB Students have their say on the pressing issues of life on campus. From fees to failing, internships to relationships, nights out to eating in, we hope these blogs will offer students some advice and guidance on the perils of university life.
University is a time to develop key skills and attributes that will increase your chances of securing a job when you graduate. Learn to step outside of your comfort zone and push yourself to try new things. There are so many opportunities available, so rather than having the mind-set of 'why should I do this?', develop the attitude of 'why not?'. It is likely that anything you do will be contributing positively towards your personal or professional development. Be independent, and the faster you learn, the better.
Volunteering is not only a great form of work experience, but it shows initiative. It demonstrates that you are motivated to participate in something that doesn’t involve financial reward. Therefore, displays different attributes to just having a part time job. Whilst in my first year at University, I got involved in a scheme partnering with Age UK, where students acted as mentors to elderly citizens. We taught them how to use different technology such as computers, iPads and tablets and helped them to develop knowledge and safety awareness when being online. It was an extremely rewarding experience, and allowed me to further skills such as patience and communication. It is also possible to stretch further than just your local area, by choosing to volunteer abroad. There are many companies such as Bunac or GVI that run different programs across the globe. It is a great way to experience new places and cultures, as well as enabling your CV to stand out.
From giving just a small proportion of your time each week, you gain a lot. It is also well known that candidates who have had volunteer experience are more likely to be chosen over those who haven’t. It ranges at each University, but to find out what is available to you, I advise checking your student portal or attending any volunteer roadshows.
In terms of roles and positions of responsibility you can get involved with at University, becoming a course rep or part of the committee for a society are great ways to add to your skill set. Becoming a committee member will better your ability of working as part of a team and also shows you have commitment to other members of the society. Furthermore, it will highlight your ability to multitask, since you will carry out these roles alongside your academic work. There are also a number of smaller opportunities that you can seize throughout your time at University. Some of your modules may be assessed through a group project, which provides you the chance to volunteer to be group leader. By doing so will help develop your skills in coordinating groups of people, communication and team work.
Networking events at University are another means to take advantage. I highly encourage going along to different events to find out from prospective employers what they are looking for from potential candidates, as this can help you get an idea of what you might need to do.
All the little things you do add up, and by getting involved means you will have concrete examples to talk about in interviews and makes you more interesting to employers.
Settling in at university - the best years of your life
The first few weeks of University can be a nightmare. You can easily feel homesick, tired, and already stressed after the first week of lectures. Settling in requires a bit of time and dedication but that’s why I’m writing this article. I just started second year this September so I know how it feels to ask yourself questions such as: 'I’ve been waiting for this for months - why am I not enjoying university?', 'why haven’t I made any friends yet?', 'was it worth moving away from my family and friends?'. I can assure you, it is 100% worth it. This guide is made for the people that are still doubtful that university is the right path for them. I hope this helps!
First of all, make your new city your home. Explore, go shopping in the city centre, find places you’d want to visit again and also register to facilities you had back home: library, doctor, dentist, sexual health clinic, therapy or counselling. Get club cards for all your favourite shops and cafes even though your mum might have them already: as a student, you’ll get even better discounts. You will want to go to those places, and it will make you feel great because they have a certain connection with home. If you’re studying abroad, try and find new places that remind you of your home country. Get out, go for a walk, familiarise yourself with where you now live. Find little cafés or shops that you want to visit and bring a flatmate or new friend!
Once you arrive at university you may feel overwhelmed with the experience and what the university has to offer. Make sure you start doing the things you like straight away. Are you a gym bunny? Keep it up and maybe join a sports society. Are you a party animal? Maybe slow it down a tiny bit, but you’re definitely not going to enjoy staying in all the time so you might as well treat yourself to some fun. Do you love reading or doing theatre? Join a society related to that. Whatever your thing is, do it now and don’t expect to focus only on lectures and work, because university is also about having fun and enjoying your new independent life. It’s easier to keep up with the work if you’re spending your free time doing things that you truly enjoy. Also, staying active will make you feel less stressed and more motivated. The thing is, you don’t want to keep postponing it to the point where you realise it’s February and you haven’t been involved in much yet. SO TAKE PART! JOIN A SOCIETY!
You could be living at home, in halls or in a flat with other students. Either way, talk to your flatmates and course mates. Even more, talk and socialise no matter what. It could be just small talk with someone you might never speak to again, but it is still good to experience talking to different kinds of people. Even if the first impression doesn’t inspire a friendship with someone, try and get to know them and their point of view and then decide if they really are or are not your kind of people. And who knows, you might just make a life-long friendship that started off with some random conversation. Remember, everyone is in the same boat, it might even make their day that you came up to say ‘hello’. Nothing bad could happen and it will increase your chance of finding lovely friends.
At the same time, don’t stress out if at the third week of university everyone seems settled in their own huge groups of friends. They probably have met during fresher’s week and clicked straight away, but who knows if they’ll still be like that in a few months. Anyway, you’ll find your own crowd at some point. They could be sitting at the chess society, in the student union committee, in the library working on a project that you have as well or in the club that you’ll start going to at the end of October. Last advice on this: don’t stick with people that come from you hometown or home country because it gives you some sort of comfort. It will limit your chances of making true friends who don’t have origin as the only thing in common with you.
Take care of yourself. By this, I mean that you should try and cook most of your meals. What I did in first year was relying heavily on meal deals and frozen food and I have to say that even though it was very easy and quick it didn’t make me feel that healthy. If you think you can’t cook, just do it anyway. As you get more and more into your cooking, your ability to cook will increase. Obviously this doesn’t imply making quiche lorraine avec pate feuilleté, even a simple pasta pesto can do the trick. It can seem like a lot of effort at the time, but it could make a big difference to your health and happiness especially because life at University is not known for being particularly healthy (lack of sleep and erratic eating habits). Also important, keep yourself and your stuff clean. Neglecting this can make you feel overall unmotivated and lazy. There’s no need to tidy everyday but don’t allow clutter to become the main character in your room. Remember: clean space, clean mind.
Go to your lectures as much as you can, but go only if you know you’re actually going to pay attention and try to understand and learn. There is no point in trekking to a lecture if you’re going to sit there and potentially sleep. At the same time, don’t think skipping lectures is cool. You’ll have to catch up with them at some point if you don’t want to fail your exams so it’s completely ok to have days off but it’s not when they turn into months off. In the end the main reason you’re at university is to learn.
Onto more social topics, don’t ignore all events that don’t involve going out/drinking. Maybe your union is doing a movie night for Halloween or the café next door has a poetry reading afternoon with free biscuits…why not go? You could have fun even if you think you couldn’t and don’t know anyone there.
Last but not least, remind yourself of the reasons why you decided to go to University. Maybe you wanted to learn everything about your subject, maybe you wanted to go more for the social part of it, maybe you hoped to find people similar to you or maybe you just went because other people pushed you to. Whatever the reason is, tell yourself it is worth it. If you find yourself in a very difficult position or mind set, seek help. Around campus there will be facilities and services that will be happy to offer you their help and advice.
Finally, enjoy yourself! Sometimes you will have bad days or do things you regret and think it’s the end of the world – but it’s not. Everything you do and experience will only build your character, and ultimately you will feel proud of the person you have become.
HAVE A GOOD YEAR!
Getting a summer internship while at university
Most university students are clueless about the strange world of summer internships. Applying to them can be overwhelming, especially if you are already struggling with pressing deadlines, assignments, coursework, university commitments and so on. Is applying really worth the effort? Short answer: yes.
Many firms, whether they are multinationals, banks or consulting firms, tend to hire the majority of their graduate intake (i.e. after graduation full-time positions) from their summer interns. Why is that? Why do they offer internships in the first place? After all, internships are short and expensive programmes. As someone said, these opportunities are “long-term interviews”, given by employers with the purpose to thoroughly evaluate a candidate who could be a potential full-time hire and therefore have an impact on the organisation.
The key is preparation, but what is the average recruitment process leading to an offer? Usually it depends on the firm, but most of the times it follows a standard timeline:
- Online application: it can vary but usually companies ask for some contact information, a CV, Cover Letter and/or competency questions (e.g. why this company?). Make sure to check and proofread your application more than once.
- Psychometric tests: usually these tests are not hard, however they require a lot of practice. Don’t be tempted to cheat since most of the companies require to retake the tests during the Assessment Centre phase. The list below comprises the most common types of tests, however bear in mind that some companies may only want you to take a single test while others require more than one test:
A: Situational Judgement Test: this test will put you into a scenario and you will be asked to describe your reaction to different situations. Not timed.
B: Numerical: this involves basic math, ratios and statistics. Usually this test is timed, without enough time to complete it.
C: Verbal: you will be required to say if a statement is true or false based on a short passage. Once again, the test is timed.
D: Logical: you will have to find particular visual patterns from a series of images. Timed.
- First-round interviews which comprise (either one):
A: Face-to-face interviews: usually they last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Most of the times is conducted by Human Resources managers or junior-level employees. Make sure to research the company you are interviewing for, read the Financial Times or a similar newspaper, and be aware of what is going in that specific industry (e.g. publishing industry for Pearson).
B: Phone interviews: usually shorter than a normal face-to-face interview. Most of the times is conducted by an HR manager who has a strict time schedule, so do not be offended if you get interrupted you during your answer. It does not get longer than an hour and the aim of it is to evaluate your match with the position you applied to. Do not expect technical questions, in fact, the majority of the questions at this stage are competency based.
C: Video interviews: this is a pretty recent addition to the recruitment process. It can be live or pre-recorded. The format will be similar to a phone interview but make sure to practice beforehand since it takes a little bit of practice to smoothly articulate your answers while talking in front of a webcam.
- Assessment Centre: if you make it to this stage, congratulations, you are almost there. Once again, different firms have different names for it and different processes. In general, an Assessment Centre lasts one day (from 9 to 17) or half-day (morning or afternoon). There will usually be many interviews with HR, junior and senior staff, make sure to be prepared since the interviews at this stage will be in-depth and will require extensive research on the company, recent events, industry and market knowledge. The second part is a variety of exercises. The company may want to recheck your psychometric tests (prepare, once again, for these). There will also be group discussion with or without a given topic where you may or may not have a teammate and last but not least, in-tray exercises, which will put you into a scenario and ask you to do different things, such as writing a report or sorting a list of emails; group discussions with or without a given topic where you may or may not have a teammate. Most firms will let you know the outcome of the assessment centre within a few days.
This pretty much sums it up. Make sure to stay on the top of the game. Try to keep track of the different deadlines, be timely and professional. You will have to be proactive and depending on the industry, the recruitment window goes from Early august to late February. Most employers recruit on a rolling basis so make sure to send your application as soon as possible (preferably within one month from the position opening).
If you do well, you will have the chance to get an offer even before graduation so will be able to lay back and enjoy your final year of university.