Be realistic

You’ve found your dream job, the one you’ve always wanted – it is just perfect. Are you sure about that, or are you overlooking some important detail? How do you respond when a few potential problems emerge?

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Photo credit: TotalWomensCycling.com

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Elements of a great placement

I have often been asked what makes a great placement, and although I’ve not published this before, the list below is a combination of the best practice I have witnessed and recommendations I propose.WorkPlacementsDoneWell Continue reading

It’s not what you know…

I recently ran an employability session at a secondary school. One of the themes of the day was about what students can do to make themselves more attractive to prospective employers.

Many of the students saw themselves as a trainee Superman or Superwoman – eventually capable of everything, knowing everything. They saw their time now at school and their future time at college or university as being a time for learning everything they needed – forever. And that somehow if they didn’t learn it now, they’d never do so.

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Breaking the cycle

It’s still only mid-September but I’ve already started to see signs up outside restaurants and hotels urging us to Book now for Christmas“. Heck, just three weeks ago I was still enjoying my (late) summer holiday, and Christmas is nowhere near the top of my To Do List.

But this has reminded me of the cyclical nature of our calendar. As day follows night, and summer follows spring, so many of our schedules repeat annually if not more frequently.

header-image-christmas[Image courtesy of LancasterLondon]

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Be different – stand out

One of the questions I am most frequently asked when I’m speaking to students, is “How do I stand out from all the other students? We’re all applying for the same jobs, and we all have the same qualifications“. It is a fair question to ask – with supply exceeding demand employers tend to be picky. Very picky.

Be-Different-3 What practical steps can a student take? Actually, it is surprisingly easy. Continue reading

A radical alternative

I recently met a young graduate who had submitted 850 job applications – yes, eight hundred and fifty – over a period of three months. That is quite an impressive submission rate.

Graduates and recruiters appear to be stuck in a vicious circle.

The odds appear to be loaded against graduates, with too many chasing too few positions. Recognising this, they play the numbers game, applying for far more roles than they can possibly care about.

The recruiters, seeing ever more applications hitting their inboxes, retaliate by applying more (automated) filters to reduce the numbers to more manageable proportions. As a consequence graduates pedal even faster, pushing out ever more applications in the hope that one will breach the recruiters’ defences and result in a job offer. Or at least an interview.

From my experience of talking to graduates, 850 applications is unusual; 200 to 250 applications is more “normal”, but even that represents a lot of time spent applying. Or does it? Is the process too simple? Is it just too easy to Copy/ Paste “standard” text before hitting the Submit button? Continue reading

Graduate CVs – actions to improve

Some things just never seem to change. After a recent “drop-in” session for graduates, I sat down to prepare my own summary of the session – the key issues, some newly emerging themes, and a rough guide to the statistics. I find this helps me keep things in perspective, and helps me track any shifts over time. Whilst there are always some new issues, the overwhelming volume of questions relate the the same old things.

What follows is a generalisation and certainly doesn’t apply to everyone, but it represents the bulk of the issues I come across. I conclude with my Top Ten actions. Continue reading

A reminder that there is hope

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of making generalisations – we’ve all done that at some point.   But it’s sloppy thinking; often the result of seeing repeated evidence which reinforces a particular view.

Students are lazy, lucky, selfish, broke, wasters, inexperienced and insular.  Those are some of the characteristics of today’s typical students if we believe what we read repeatedly in the press.  Only rarely are we reminded that students don’t always conform to this stereotype.  I recently had the privilege of attending a presentation given by six students from the University of Southampton who gave me a collective poke in the eye when they delivered an inspiring presentation on their SIFE work.  Actually it was more of a punch in the face… a real hard-hitting reminder of what students are like, and what they can do.  Everyone in the audience was already 100% behind students, and none believed the stereotype to be representative.  But everyone in the room was affected in the same way by this inspiring group of young people.

Undergraduates these days face the double challenge of not only completing their studies, but often also earning a part-time wage to offset their living costs, so to see students taking on additional commitments voluntarily is particularly encouraging.
  The group from SIFE Southampton won the UK National Championships and the presentation they delivered so professionally was what they will take to the SIFE World Cup in Washington DC in September.  Even at their young age, they are making a positive difference to the lives of others around the world – voluntarily. They are absolutely not showing any evidence of being lazy, selfish or any of the other characteristics listed in the second paragraph above.  Each of them has massively increased their employability, and prospective employers will be lucky to have them on board.

Some of the Wisemind members

In a brief chat with Jim Ineson (Exceutive Director of SIFE UK) after the event, I suggested to him that he’s got the best job in the world, and he gladly confirmed that to be the case. These students demonstrated what can be done with enthusiasm, motivation, drive and commitment.  They are a credit to the entire student community and a reminder to the rest of us that there is hope.

It’s not fair. Let’s just accept that, and determine to make it fairer.

Young people looking for work are regularly faced with the problem of needing experience in order to get a job, but they can’t get a job without experience – the “chicken and egg” situation which we all recognise.

Employers regularly talk of graduates and school-leavers who are looking for work but don’t have any real-world experience.  Again, this is something we recognise.  It’s not unnatural for employers to expect some experience, after all, there are inevitably some young people who have managed to acquire experience “somehow”, albeit probably unrelated to their chosen field.

It’s absolutely not fair, and it can’t be right.  The problem is that we’re so used to the idea that “life isn’t fair”, that we justify this situation to ourselves and take no action to improve it.  The result is that we continue the stand-off, and nobody wins.

Here’s a radical thought…  Let’s accept that it’s not fair.  But at the same time, why not do something to make it fairer?

  • Employers who seek experience in young recruits should also be prepared to offer places where experience can be acquired
  • Employers should offer places on a “no experience needed” basis

This is a little like the idea of “for every tree we chop down, we plant at least one to replace it”Because we value experience, we help create it.

Employers should take a share of the responsibility for creating the experience.

  • It needn’t be costly
  • It needn’t be time-consuming
  • It needn’t be a major commitment

It will never be completely fair, but employers can (and should) make it fairer.