Archive | January, 2015

Career Ladder or Career Jigsaw?

Contributed by Vicki Jordan, Placements Advisor, Southampton Business Schooljigsaw

Make the most of every opportunity” is something commonly said to students embarking on a placement or a graduate career. I can remember careers advisors and parents telling me this many years ago but no-one really explained what this meant. I thought it was obvious, help colleagues, exceed customer expectations and your good work will be recognised and rewarded by a promotion within your team.

What I didn’t realise was that the career ladder metaphor is no longer relevant in 21st century careers. In my experience, a career at its worst is more like a messy spider’s web and at best a large and vibrant ever increasing jigsaw.

I started my career teaching Modern Languages, I wanted a career that had a clear progression route to a leadership position. Early on in my career, I was trusted with a number of school wide projects. When I returned part time following the birth of my first child, I was told I would be delivering some Year 9 Careers classes as well . I felt I was being punished for returning part time and although I liked delivering the lessons, I felt completely unprepared and unqualified. The following academic year I was asked to continue with careers <groan>  and start delivering GCSE Business Studies <are you kidding me?>  . I was ready for the challenge of setting up my own department and writing schemes of work from scratch but again I wasn’t terribly confident in my subject knowledge so it was a sharp learning curve. As it was an Applied GCSE course I was responsible for building links with local companies to bring the content to life.  I enjoyed developing these links but often it took up too much of my time when I should have been marking books and planning my lessons.

More recently I joined the University in an Outreach role; I had decided that I needed to find a different career ladder!  My new ‘career’ was to create opportunities for children aged 10-18 to explore the possibility of going on to Higher Education. This built on my skills and experiences of introducing the Primary Languages curriculum, teaching careers, arranging residential school trips whilst also giving me new experiences. One project involved working with sixth formers in Hackney and significant alumni of the University who worked in places like Whitehall and Canary Wharf. I’d never been to Canary Wharf and didn’t know what a CFO was in those days! It was hard work keeping the project on track with senior execs who were extremely enthusiastic yet  short of time. There always seemed to be a change of PA, diary conflicts or a new company policy that I had to negotiate. Again I enjoyed developing these relationships but I was a bit jealous of my colleagues who only had to deal with academics down the corridor or across campus! Continue Reading →


Fake it ’til you make it

The following blog post was submitted by 3rd year BSc Marketing student, Kaya Stefferud.

At the very beginning of the placement ‘hunt’ I was told how difficult it is getting noticed and getting an interview with employers. I spent loads and loads of time making my CV, applications and covering letters to perfection (well, at least I tried…). I spent time on social media increasing my online visibility; I made searches for myself and tried to get an image of what the employers would see if they made a Google search for my name. Luckily for me I have quite a unique name so I rank highly on search engines (#EveryMarketersDream). I passed the first steps of the process with many companies, small, medium and larger sized organizations, including Microsoft and L’Oreal. I found that for me, the challenge wasn’t getting an interview or passing the first step, but actually landing the job when I went to interviews (Numerical tests were also part of my struggles…)

I went to interview after interview, and not getting the job really crushed me. Rejection. Rejection doesn’t help you gain any confidence; which was one of my main struggles in my interviews. Not getting the job won’t make you feel any better, but the key is to not let it crush you; ask the interviewer what you could have done differently, where you could improve, or why you didn’t get the job. Reflect on what you think you could have done better, and make sure you prepare more for your future interviews.

I did get a job in the end. I got the job after the second interview I had for that position. Earlier that day I attended a mock interview with one of the placement officers at the University of Southampton Placement Office, and it prepared me for other questions than I would have thought of myself as well as giving me a confidence boost because I felt more confident about the interview. This mock interview was actually the first one I ever had, I preferred preparing for the interviews on my own or just go through stuff for the interviews in a more relaxed, informal way when I all along really should have had ‘real’ mock interviews.

I hated doing interviews (I still don’t love them), so I didn’t like the idea of mock interviews either, I thought to myself; why make a fool of myself twice for that one interview. I was wrong. If you in fact do mock interviews, you get prepared for questions you might not have thought of yourself, you get to practice, you can get friendly advice, and when you feel more prepared you will be more confidence. And confident people perform better at interviews (from my experience at least). And if you’re like me; shy or insecure when it comes to interviews or presentations; fake it till you make it.

A few tips in the end whatever the area you struggle in:

  • There are many reasons for why you might not have gotten the job; remember how many applicants the employer has, and how many other applicants feel the exact same way as you when they also got rejected for the very same position.
  • Learn from your mistakes and improve your flaws.
  • Never give up.
  • Stay positive, no matter how many rejections you have faced.
  • Fake it till you make it.
  • Compare notes, feedback etc. with other students that are going through the exact same progress and learn from each others’ mistakes as well as your own.

Good luck to you all on finding your placement!