Placements – your route to a top graduate job!

As a Careers Team we work with graduate recruiters, thousands of them, they all advertise their opportunities with us, hundreds come to our events to meet students face to face, and we’ve got to know lots of them really well.

We talk to them about their recruitment plans, what they look for in graduates, what helps make successful candidates stand out, and what could make applicants end up in the bin.

Over a number of years one of the things which has increasingly began to stand out is that all graduate recruiters really value work experience.  It may not be a big surprise to you to find out that as well as having the right skills, they also like to see evidence of when you’ve used them. But did you know that lots of employers use their work placements as their main method of graduate recruitment?

I visited PwC this week to find out how their 2016 recruitment went and their plans for pwc2017, including their exciting growth in Tech which I’ll talk about another day!  The most interesting thing I took away was that for their 2016 graduate intake around 35% were recruited from one of their placement schemes.  Similar to other big employers PwC offer year out placements, summer placements and other short work experience programmes.

PwC aren’t the only employer to make graduate job offers at the end of a  successful placement or summer placement, this is exactly why companies offer placements.  In fact for many other employers this percentage can be higher and there are some employers who only offer placement schemes!

The most interesting thing I took away was that for their 2016 graduate intake around 35% were recruited from one of their placement schemes.

There’s more information on the Placements section of the Careers site about the benefits of placements and the kind of opportunities students can access.

You can meet PwC this Friday between 11am and 1pm in the Library Student Centre in Treforest, or at the Opportunities Fair in November.

Matthew Evans
Central Careers Team Manager

The first year doesn’t count, right?

I’ll never forget my three years of University, especially the first. My hopeless navigation skills, overhaul of books, sudden sense of freedom & overly spaced out campus were all part of the journey, but its questionable whether I actually remember much of what I was taught. When you first arrive, you’re faced with so many new ‘life lessons’ that it’s hard to even consider that you’ll be squeezing in the essay work as you’re burning a salad. My fond memories perhaps are centered more towards Freshers’ week and the many friends that I made, not to mention the student hall bar that I spent many a night at.

monsteruniYou see upon enrolling, I was made aware that my first days of studying would not be counted towards my overall mark. A pass, regardless of the grade would be sufficient to qualify me for my next round of hurdles so needless to say I was less inclined to put my studies at the top of my to do list (not that I like to admit this!)  Today, this way of learning is the same for many courses, degrees, and universities all over the UK, with thousands of students knowing full well that the ‘hard work’ will most probably start in their second year.

The question is, is this the correct way to approach it? It’s obvious that it works, I graduated with a good grade and so did many that I studied with, but it doesn’t mean that it’s effective. Whilst we all love the idea of a little lenience, we are still paying the full whack. With this in mind, surely it would be in our best interests to make the most out of what we’re given, regardless of whether it doesn’t always count. Finding your voice and your own style of writing is essential, especially in certain subject areas. It’s understandable that many of us struggle when completing our first few assignments, referencing is suddenly thrust upon us and we’re thrown in at the deep end. Receiving a few low grades to begin with is fine,  that’s what the first term is there for. But ask yourself whether you really need to continue on a path that suggests it doesn’t really matter? Or should we aim to improve ready for when the big boys are set?

There are plenty of qualified graduates out there, but if you put the extra effort in earlier on, you’ll most likely put yourself in a much better position to stand out from the crowd. This said, if our first marks counted, it may ease the load in those last months before graduation and help to create a less stressful environment (I never particularly liked the no sleep, full of caffeine, square boxed computer screen look). The actions and habits you develop in first year can potentially follow you into your second, third or even fourth years, so it would be in your best interests to get ahead around the way of the essay world as early on as possible. It’s easy enough to put a failed mock or exam to the back of your mind when you feel that you’ve got a few years to correct it, but the bitter truth is that if you get enough marks of that nature, they will be your final grade.

In my own experiences, I do understand that your first months of the new life should be about finding your feet. If you make a small amount of mistakes along the way then you’re hardly damaging the prospects of your dream career in three years time, so learn from them. Although your degree mark is extremely important, maturing and adjusting into adult life will help you succeed just as much in the long run. University isn’t just about academia; personal development plays an important and integral part, so balance your academic and social life. I’m sure I speak for many when I say if I could go back and change a few things about the way in which I worked in my uni days, I would. In adult life there aren’t many situations where you’re granted the option of a second chance, and by god I wish I’d respected this. It goes without saying that all of us should enjoy letting the seminar notes gather a little dust, but keep in mind that a bit of extra hard work when the start gun blows will go a long, long way.

Written by Hannah Tuck, Staffroom Education

Make the most of your time at university


The Graduate Job Game

We’ve all been there. I’ve been there. You hand the dissertation in, spend the summer loving life & then cross your fingers, thumbs, eyes & legs that you’ll word-work-on-the-dicesland the job of your dreams as September approaches. Some of us will achieve this, high five to you all, some of you however will have to accept that your dreams may be a little further off than you’d hoped. Taking any job, doing anything you’re offered or facing unemployment is sometimes what comes after university life, BUT it’s not all doom and gloom. Ensuring that you’re constantly adapting yourself for when your big opportunity comes, being constantly prepared and most importantly NEVER giving up is the way forward. Finding a job and establishing yourself in a good career after your degree is no picnic, but we believe by following a number of steps, you’ll be on to a winner…

A Helping Hand

Before we start, we’d like to remind you all that unpaid internships are actually illegal. Under employment law, people who work set hours, do set tasks and contribute value to an organisation are “workers” and are entitled to the minimum wage, so please don’t work for free (unless it’s for a short period of time). Industries where unpaid interns were most common included design, media & PR, the competition is high and many feel under pressure to work for nothing, please don’t, I secured my chosen career path without having to do this so continue to tell yourself it’s completely possible! It is however, a good idea to offer a helping hand. Call businesses or companies and ask if there’s anything you can do for a few hours a week, on a Saturday or even in the evening. Offer your services at events they may host or even blog or share their news on social media platforms. Anything that adds that little bit extra ‘UMPH!’ to you as an individual will not hurt anyone.

Social Media

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, the way you conduct yourself on these types of platforms is significantly important. We can all hold our hands up and say we’ve had a cheeky search on Facebook or Twitter for someone we know (or want to know more about) and employers on many occasions will do the same. Your name, job title, your photo albums & your status’ should be kept professional or completely private, no one employer wants to see your Saturday night antics or the photographs from the hen do you went on a month ago.

Take A Job, Any Job

It might not be exactly what you want, but take it. Any job is better than no job and at the end of the day money pays the bills. It’s very unlikely that in your early 20′s you’re going to be landing a job that you’re in for the rest of your life, so don’t sweat it, enjoy. A job offers you the chance to meet new people. Meeting new people means networking, and networking can essentially land you a job that pops you in the right direction. Your degree is significant and you’ve done a fantastic job of getting it, but sometimes in today’s industries it’s all about who you know as well as what you know. It’s also good to remind yourself that small – medium size companies are where the bulk of graduate jobs lie so please don’t let them be over shadowed by the big dogs. Remember to search high and low for jobs on the internet, the smaller businesses may not use the biggest advertisement spaces but this could potentially mean that there’s less applicants, bingo!

Face To Face

It’s never too soon to start looking and contacting companies. If you know what you want to do or the areas you’re interested in, then do some research and find out what types of jobs are out there. Talk to everyone around you and learn from their experiences. Many of us sit on laptops, ipads and computers and apply for jobs like robots, but if you REALLY want that job then perhaps it’s time you paid them a visit. Go in to the business and hand them the CV yourself, give them a call and ask what they have available, making yourself known gives the employers no choice but to remember you, don’t let yourself be hidden under a pile of paper.

Think Outside The Box

Graduates obsess about crafting the perfect CV, but instead, use the extra time to check your online footprint. Google yourself. What comes up and what does it say about you?! Could you set up a blog to support your case? Are you showing your wonderful creative flair? Going that little extra mile could make you stand out from the crowd and gives you the chance to say ‘Hey, look at me, look how I could help your company!’. It’s all fine and dandy on paper, but having evidence to support your claims could differentiate you from another candidate that’s after the same job.

You’ll need to work hard and never give up to get a good job after graduation. There are no guarantees, but most graduates ultimately make a fantastic career, and there’s no reason you can’t be one of them. I know it’s difficult to pick yourself up when you’re knocked down a few (too many) times, but hang in there, the finish line is in sight…

By Hannah Tuck, Staffroom Education

How to ace a Skype interview


Viking employs over 1,300 people and operates in over 11 countries worldwide, so using our experience of internationally reaching recruitment and with the help of our HR departments, we’ve put together a guide to the formalities of the Skype interview and the tips on how to ace it!

  • Make sure your profile name is professional
  • Who’s calling who? Avoid confusion and decide beforehand
  • Keep your Application Documents and Post-it Notes in front of you for prompts!


Insight Interview: Moving into a career in fashion and commerce

Susan Leaver is the Commercial Director at Turtle Mat with a focus on sales, marketing and product development. Initially training in fashion design, Susan spent her formative years in a commercial design environment supplying lingerie and nightwear products to M&S. In 1999 she formed part of the New Product Development team at Sara Lee Courtaulds where she worked on future technologies such as fragranced and therapeutic fabrics, and investigated ultra-sonic technology for seam replacement.

Susan Leaver - Commercial Director

In 2000, Susan left Sara Lee and spent a year designing and developing products for Cerie International (Hong Kong) and for Heathcoat Fabrics in the UK. In addition to her freelance work, Susan enrolled on a Master’s Degree course at Central St Martins where she gained an MA in Design Studies.

In 2002 she joined Turtle Mat where she developed their mail-order and e-commerce business alongside expanding their collection to include design. Susan was appointed Commercial Director in July 2009 and is responsible for all sales, marketing and NPD across both the Direct and Retail channels of the business.

Which subject did you study at university (and where did you study)?

I studied Fashion Design at Epsom School of Art & Design in the 1980’s (Now merged into UCA University for the Creative Arts). I also did a Post-Graduate (MA) degree in Design Studies at Central St Martins (now UAL- University of the Arts London).

What was the most important thing you learned in education/university?

Good design isn’t just about creativity or being able to put pen to paper and make something look good.  As with other industries, there is still a ‘commercial’ process sitting behind the design activity. This is often neglected and people aren’t always aware that being able to dissect (and question) a brief requires a level of understanding of the end use or end user that cannot simply be imagined. Research is key to this understanding as well as being creatively inspired.

Why did you decide to work in this industry?

Having worked in the fashion industry for some years, I was keen to explore other design fields, particularly those with a textile connection, Home interiors was a natural choice and closely linked to fashion. I really enjoyed the combination of design and business in my previous role and the position at Turtle Mat gave further opportunity to expand on this experience.  In addition, Turtle Mat were at an exciting point in their growth with new (design) technologies opening up to them, I felt I had the skillset to turn what was quite a mundane product into something more beautiful.

What was the turning point in your career?

Having developed product collections for some years for a major high-street retailer, I moved internally to work on research-led projects within a NPD team. This really opened my mind to all manner of possibilities within the current field I was working in, plus those beyond it.  It was from here that I went back to college part-time and did an MA.

What does a typical day at Turtle Mat look like for you?

Working in a small business doesn’t bring many typical days! Supplying both to trade and direct to consumers means that we have to often be responsive to their needs. We are a small niche team and my day can be anything from coming up with new mat designs to planning product launches and liaising with both clients and suppliers.

Do you have any motivational words for students aspiring to make it in this very competitive industry?

As with anything, it’s about hard work and determination.  By all means have some fun but make sure you have a clear goal and get as much as you can from every one and every available source- in a nutshell, make every day count. A firm grounding sets you up for the future, fashion courses are renowned for pushing you to the limit in terms of creativity and stamina, this training has served me well throughout my career. Also, don’t underestimate your transferable skills; I went from designing underwear to designing mats- think outside the box. And lastly, write every idea down, physically or digitally, keep a note of it you never know when it might be relevant.


Kick-start your digital career with Acorn’s IT Bootcamps!

So, how could you kick-start your digital career?

IT ScreenAcorn, one of the UK’s leading multi-specialist recruitment and training agencies has a solution: IT Bootcamps. Acorn’s IT Bootcamps is a new initiative to provide graduates with the opportunity to land employment with some of the UK’s leading technology firms, becoming a Junior Software Developer in just six short weeks. Aimed at learners from a range of STEM disciplines, the training Bootcamps have been designed exclusively to meet the demands of the IT industry.

If you’re weighing up whether or not this fast-track course may potentially be for you, we’ve put together some reasons why you should pay attention:

  • There is a skill shortage – in the UK, there is a well-publicised skills gap. Research suggests that by 2020, the UK will require almost 1.3 million STEM professionals and technicians*.
  • We are listening – Acorn has been listening to graduates and businesses, conducting research and hosting focus groups. We are specialists and are here to address candidate and client frustrations now.
  • Bespoke training – we have specially designed multiple courses with the sole aim of ensuring you are an employable, market-ready Junior Software Developer within a six-week period.
  • Permanent job opportunity – if selected by an employer (see below), not only will you be guaranteed a place on the training programme but you will also be employed from day 1 of the course.
  • It’s fully-funded – so you won’t have to pay a thing.

How does it work?

Once we’ve received your application for an IT Bootcamp training and developer role you will be assessed by Acorn and our Course Director, John Holvey.  If shortlisted, you will progress to interview stage where you’ll meet IT companies looking to employ Junior Software Developers.

Following successful selection by an employer, you will be guaranteed a place on our six week training programme, and will be required to complete the course and a final assessment, before starting your permanent job as a Junior Software Developer with your new employer.  Please note, you will be employed from day one of the IT Bootcamp, with a salary in potential excess of £20,000 per annum.

Do you want a career within the IT & Digital arena?

The start date for our next course is 20th June, 2016 – get in touch today via e-mail or give us a call on 01633 760191 to find out more.

For more information on Acorn’s IT Bootcamps >>

*Solving the STEM conundrum: how to bridge the skills shortage | Information Age | February 2016

Benefits of attending Acorn’s IT Bootcamps >> 

it bootcamp


5 Tips To Ace An Interview

You’ve got your degree. You’ve written a killer CV and covering letter. Now just one final hurdle between you and your dream job: the interview. Graduate job interviews can be tough, but at Spotlight Recruitment we help graduates into their first jobs every day, so here’s out quick guide on how to shine.

1.    Prepare Answers To Generic Questions

Although every interview is different, there are some questions that will crop up time and time again, so don’t let them catch you out. Before you go to any interview, sit down and come up with a good answer to the following:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • What’s your main strength?
  • What’s your biggest weakness?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

Find guides online on how to answer those questions plus other common ones well, as they are bound to come up a good answer will help you stand out from the crowd.

2.    Research The Company And The Job Role

If you manage to secure an interview, it’s important to come across as well-informed to your potential future employer. So make sure to research the company thoroughly, as they may ask questions such as “Which of our clients would you most like to work with?” to try and catch you out. It’s also a good idea to have a strong understanding of what the role involves. So read the job description carefully and get a good idea of what exactly the job on offer is, rather than going along with what you think a job in that industry will involve, as roles can vary massively between companies.

3.    Learn How To Answer Competency Questions

Another type of question that often comes up in graduate job interviews are competency questions (“Describe a time where…”). The way to answer these is to use the STAR format – describe the situation, the task, the actions you took, and the end result. The best way to go about these is to have a few good examples and twist them to fit different situations, and use guides online to help you get the hang of the format. While still at university, it’s good to get involved with as much as possible so you have some good experiences to draw ideas from.

4.    Present Yourself Well

A lot of jobs involve some form of client communication, so in addition to being qualified, many employers will be looking to hire someone who is well presented. So make sure to dress smartly for the interview, arrive in good time to avoid appearing flustered, and make sure to show your personality and ask questions to appear friendly and personable.

5.    Be Specific

The way to set yourself apart from other candidates in the interview is to be specific. When the interviewer asks why you want the job, don’t just say why you want to work in the industry, say what it is about that particular role that appeals to you. Likewise, when they ask why you want to work for their company, say something specific about the company, whether it be a client they are working with, the company culture, or charity work they have done. And when they ask for your strengths, don’t just say you’re “creative”, give them an example of a great idea you have had.

Things to do while you wait for your results

You have done all you can; you’ve sat your exams, handed in your assignments and great thingscompleted your projects.  You have been so focused on your studies, its time to think about other things you can do.

Here’s a few ideas from USW Careers of things to do while you wait for your results:

Set yourself up

Develop your Linkedin profile

  • If you haven’t already, set up a Linkedin account and link with the University’s, Alumni’s and Careers’ Linkedin.
  • Link with your work experience provider, project leader, part time work/volunteering manager… and ask them for a recommendation
  • Build your network by linking with uni friends and colleagues.

Establish a list of referees

  • Choose two or three individuals to serve as your referee
  • Ask them first if they can be listed then list their information on a separate sheet to be provided on request
  • Consider requesting a letter of reference for your portfolio

Capitalise on the careers resources

Other things you can do while you wait

If things don’t turn out as expected or you want to re-think your career plans, speaking to a Careers Adviser can help put things into perspective.

More on what USW Careers can offer you:


What to do this Summer – Working Holidays

Dreaming of a nice holiday this Summer but money’s tight? Then combining a job with a holiday could be the answer. Ok, so you may miss out on a few hours on the beach or Smiley face and sandsightseeing, but the benefits can more than make up of that. Apart from the money, think about the people you will meet and the new experiences you will have and it will definitely make it onto your CV.

Even though a lot of working holidays feature sport and/or young people, you can find other types of work if this isn’t what you would like to do. You need to start looking now though to ensure you get the best possible choice as deadlines can be early. Don’t wait until June before applying!

There are a number of great opportunities already posted on Unilife Connect – see below – and more will appear over the next few weeks.

Working holidays in the UK

Summer School Counselor, ISSO, Scotland and Cambridge, also Connecticut.

Easter & Summer Holiday Camp Staff, Barrachdas Activity Day Camps
Like this one? Then you may also like Rockley, Camp Beaumont, PGL

Working holidays around the world

Summer Hospitality Placement at a USA Resort

USA Summer Camp Jobs: Summer 2016 or USA Summer Camp Jobs
Like these? Then you may also like BUNAC, Camp Leaders, Camp America

Summer School Counselor, Connecticut, USA, also Scotland and Cambridge.

Camp Counsellor in European Sports, Adventure & Language Camps for kids & youth, Camp Europe, Germany

Seasonal Work Opportunities, Mark Warner, Greece, Sardinia, Corsica, Turkey
Like this one? Then you may also like Thomson and First Choice Summer Jobs, Kings Recruit

Learning a new skill more important than money?

5 week funded TEFL/TESOL course in Witney & Hungary £250.00 Spring, Summer and Autumn 2016 – £250.00 covers all tuition, certification, return flights and accommodation.

Canal Restoration Working Holidays £63 learn skills such as bricklaying, stone walling, machine operation and restoration techniques – £63 covers food, accommodation, transport.

Check these sites out as well

Small Earth
Season Workers
USW Careers Working Abroad

Our top tips

  • Start researching opportunities now
  • Read the small print. Some organisations require an upfront fee to cover costs, such as visa, travel and insurance. Worth noting what you get for your money too so that you can compare similar organisations.
  • Know exactly what’s expected of you in the role you’re interested in. It will also give you an advantage when applying if the job is competitive.
  • Beware of any company offering work that is paid as commission, the achievement of ‘targets’, or on stepped incentives. Ask yourself why they aren’t paying a sensible wage – it might be because it’s cheaper for them not to.
  • If you are organising your own working holiday, some countries do issue temporary working visas and some don’t, others you may be able to work without one. The number of working visas that are allocated each year can vary and change year on year. Check out the country’s UK embassy website for details.
  • Check your travel insurance covers everything you need it to and the country you are going to!

Need help with your application? Book an appointment with the Careers Service.

Ho ho ho, tis the season to apply for graduate jobs and placements!

It’s nearly the end of the Autumn Term which means that Christmas is just around the corner, and this year Father Christmas’ sack is full to the brim with graduate jobs, summer placements, year out placements and lots of other opportunities!

Right now on Unilife Connect there are 268 live opportunities advertised, with most of these having multiple positions available – some have thousands!

Add it all up and there are tens of thousands of graduate jobs and placements available for students to apply for right now, but some have closing dates coming up over the next few weeks so now is the time to get applying.

There are even more opportunities available on other sites and the Job Searching page on the Careers Site links to the best ones.

The Careers Site and Unilife Connect are packed full of cracking resources to help you present yourself well and stand out. The Advice on getting a job section is the first place to go to help you sort out your CV, complete good applications and prepare for interviews and assessment centres. The Interactive Employability Tools on Unilife Connect are fantastic and include things like a CV Builder, Practice Aptitude Tests (Psychometrics), an Interview Simulator and lots, lots more.

Don’t forget there are lots of closing dates coming up soon so don’t miss out!