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Fantastic Jobs and How to Get Them

By Marina Nikolova - Posted on 4 March 2020

Many employers look for industry experience as well as academic qualifications in applicants. Marina Nikolova who is studying the MSc in Human Resource Management at Strathclyde Business School shares her insights into gaining relevant work experience during her studies.

 Once upon a time…

When I started my journey at Strathclyde as an Honours student in Business Administration, I knew I needed to gain work experience at some point. Best case scenario – I get a different internship each year. Worst case scenario, I spend days completing applications and, well, I get nothing. But is it actually wise to see these decisions in black and white? I came to realise that the answer is no. No, you do not have to secure the same internship that Jim from your class did in order to be successful, nor do you need to think your career is over with because your application got rejected a couple of times. It is all just a learning curve. A time-consuming, often frustrating, learning curve.

So, what have I learnt?

Careers Service

Let’s start with the most obvious one – the Careers Service offers advice that is truly valuable. They hold different workshops and briefing sessions that give you the basics on employability. These cover a range of topics, from job search strategies to psychometric tests. You can easily find when these take place and book them online. There are other great services such as individual CV checks and practice interviews. But you already know that, don’t you?

Target your Applications

Something that I did not realise was that internships and graduate schemes in big organisations, such as those in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers, often have selection processes that consist of a number of steps and are therefore fairly lengthy and often intellectually demanding (rumour has it, there is no man alive that likes psychometric tests). Therefore, it would be a good idea to target your effort and apply for internships/graduate schemes you are genuinely interested in. Graduate selection is not the one-click ‘apply’ button on totaljobs, after all. This is not to say you should only apply once but rather, to be smart about it, as fifteen applications with 5 steps each would most likely be hard to navigate.

Psychometric Tests

You have decided where to apply, now what? Familiarise yourself with the format and practice where possible! Frankly, this will not make you better at maths or logical tasks but will give you the confidence and calmness to give your best shot. Besides this, depending on the employer, different types of tests could be offered and knowing what these are in advance means that you can actually revise (or learn) some of the technicalities.

Interviews

Often, the next point to consider is interviews. These can either be a part of an assessment centre (AC) or a stand-alone form of assessment. ACs are a big topic of discussion in their own right but I’d rather share my opinion on interviews, as the latter is a part of almost any job application, regardless of whether in graduate recruitment or not. Naturally, the most important thing is to prepare:

  • know your potential employer
  • why you are there in the first place (i.e. your motivation)
  • be in a position to give examples that illustrate your skills, experience and fit with the organisation

Please note that giving examples is different from stating that you possess a particular skill or experience. Further, these examples should be different from each other. No one enjoys hearing the same story twice… now imagine illustrating all your skills with that one time you consider your greatest success. Another generic but often forgotten piece of advice is: do not swing on your chair!

Last, based on my personal experience I’d urge you to be ready to get creative! Nowadays, many students memorise trivia such as annual revenues and know how to respond using the STAR model. This will not make you stand out. Be prepared to think on your feet as managers often like to ask questions that ostensibly lack, what we call in HR, ‘face validity’. Simple but unexpected questions on how you would approach a situation, outside of your own field, often help to test your analytical abilities and creativity. Don’t be mad at questions like these, they are your opportunity to shine!

Moral of the Story

If you have done everything ‘right’ but you keep getting these emails starting with ‘unfortunately’, welcome to the club! I managed to secure my internship during my Honours year after being rejected from employers, big and small, two years in a row. Job hunting with all of its stages is a skill that we keep on learning. Perhaps your unsuccessful attempts shape you into the right candidate for when your dream job comes your way. Or perhaps your applications are always successful - in which case you should have written this article!   

To find out more about the MSc in Human Resource Management click here



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