Hessie Coleman has recently graduated from the University of Leeds with BA German & International Relations (Joint Honours). She is currently in her first placement on Centrica’s HR graduate scheme which she was offered a place on after completing their Summer Programme.
When you think of doing a 10 week HR internship with a Top 30-FTSE 100 company over the summer, do you expect to spend your second day on the job taking the corporate card to Hamleys to organise some fun and games for the monthly office beer and pizza night? No? I didn’t either! But between that, being given the chance to take responsibility for various projects (including keeping on top of headcount/budget information, managing an office move and supporting the development of the office culture), amazing development opportunities and a whole lot of fun, I got more than I expected from my summer internship with Centrica and so far, the graduate scheme is living up to expectations.
Developing my career ideas
I didn’t always know what I wanted to do after University. I spent my 3rd year doing a marketing internship in Germany. At the time I had thought Marketing or Event Planning might be interesting as I had enjoyed working for the University’s Central Marketing/UK Student Recruitment department as a Student Ambassador. Although I realised quite early on in my internship that it wouldn’t be something I’d want to do as a career, it was still beneficial as it helped me narrow down my options and offered great experience. For instance, although the job wasn’t right for me, working for an HR consultancy piqued my interest in the HR topics I was dealing with. I learned that although not all internships are going to be directly relevant to what you end up doing, that the experience is still beneficial: In my case it helped me narrow down what I wanted to do and also gave me great experience that helped my to get my current role. This applies to part-time work and society involvement as well.
Although I was still in Germany, the Careers Centre’s eGuidance service gave me advice on how to tailor my applications and helped me utilise both my previous work experience and also my involvement in societies as examples in my application. On reflection, I was surprised how many job-relevant skills I had picked up while having fun with societies and doing part-time work. For instance, when asked about team-work I could refer to having worked as a team to run a society or to put on a stage-show, when asked about dealing with difficult customers, I could talk about my experiences with visitors to University open days and when asked about taking on responsibility I could talk about the projects I’d been in charge of on my internship and also organising a trip for the society I was secretary of.
The application process
The application process for my summer programme included a written application, a phone interview and an assessment centre (the process is identical for the graduate scheme). I was nervous as I had never done an assessment centre before but again, the Careers Centre were a great help (including introducing me to the STAR method of answering interview questions) and once there, I was impressed by the effort they went to to help us relax and the friendliness and honesty of the current grads. No matter what job you’re applying for, it’s worth looking up the company’s presence on social media and getting in touch with current grads as they’ll be able to help you get a feel for what it’s like and answer your more informal questions.