Monthly Archives: April 2019

Class of 2019: How is customer service experience relevant to graduate jobs?

Many students and recent graduates are fearful that they lack the experience necessary to impress graduate employers, while overlooking their part time work in areas such as customer service.

Charlotte Hamer, an Employability and Progression Assistant at the University of Leeds writes about how her experience in retail has helped her career progression.


Those of you who have worked in customer service will know. You’ll just know. The customer service environment is like no other. Yet it has given me some of the most important professional skills I possess, which I’ve been able to transfer into every workplace I’ve been in since.

Working in retail

I worked for the same high street clothing retail brand from the age of 16 to 19, both in my home town and when I moved to university. Over those three years I worked with all manner of different people, from different places, of different ages and with different career goals. My ability to work in, and communicate effectively with, a highly diverse team developed incredibly quickly. I learnt to adapt my methods of communication based on the individual. This was particularly important when taking on supervisory role, in order to motivate disengaged staff. On top of that there was the diversity of the customers. At the age of 16 I had no idea that my ability to navigate a conversation with a very angry customer, who insisted they should be able to return the £6 pair of shoes they purchased two years ago and had worn every day since, because the sole had started to come away, would translate today into the people skills I use in my everyday work life.

Developing skills

When I first started working in retail I had never known pressure like it. Seeing a queue of customers building up so long that it snaked around the store while having a pile of returns to complete and a rack of clothes to put out on the shop floor could have been enough to send me into a frenzy. It took me some time but I soon learnt to use the pressure to increase my productivity and effectiveness without becoming stressed. Being able to stay calm under pressure is so important in any position that involves conflicting deadlines and with this being a key theme in graduate recruitment you are sure to impress recruiters with this skill.

Commercial awareness is another skill recruiters are eager for their employers to possess. Being able to express sector specific commercial awareness is usually enough to get you the mark. But you can go one step further by demonstrating a time in which you possessed and acted upon commercial awareness to make a business more profitable. It doesn’t have to be anything big. For me it was noticing when an item of clothing closely resembled that of an item of clothing I had seen on reality TV the previous day and placing that item on the most visible displays to increase sales. It is something simple but really effectively demonstrates to application of commercial awareness.

Valuable experience

I share this with you because so many students have worked at some point in customer service. Yet so many don’t see it as a ‘proper job’ that will impress employers – well I am here to tell you this is not the case. I have made connections with recruiters over shared experiences of customer service and made them laugh with the hilarious stories we customer service veterans have all come across at one time or another.

My advice

So be proud of your customer service background. If it was in retail like me, the restaurant business, or any other area, you’ve already developed so many of the skills that make you incredibly attractive to employers. Whether it’s communication skills, the ability to work as part of a team or under pressure, think creatively about how you can translate these skills to the requirements of a graduate role!

Read more about what is available to you as a member of the University of Leeds Class of 2019

And don’t forget you can continue to access the Careers Centre services once you graduate.

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How I got my job: Applications Engineer at DriveWorks

Ian Prossor is an Application’s Engineer at DriveWorks Ltd, a global software company based close to Manchester. He studied Mechanical Engineering at Leeds, graduating in 2017. He completed an 18-month graduate scheme with the company and is now a full-time member of the team.

My Role

There are a variety of aspects to my role as an Application’s Engineer at DriveWorks. First and foremost, my role involves working with our resellers to support our DriveWorks customers around the world. To provide some context, DriveWorks is a Gold Certified Partner product of SOLIDWORKS and is sold and supported through the SOLIDWORKS reseller community globally. This allows DriveWorks to sell software around the world with only ~40 employees. I have regular web meetings with customers in Europe and the USA, as well as occasional meeting with customers in Australia.
Another big part of my role at DriveWorks is to create and update demos and example DriveWorks Projects to be used at trade shows, to show to prospects and to promote DriveWorks functionality. I have personally worked on the Bi-Fold Door, Enclosure, Kiosk, Cupboard, Shower, HVAC and Picture Frame demos which are all available to try out on our DriveWorks Live website

Teaching and travelling

I’ve also been given the opportunity to teach DriveWorks to students, customers and resellers. I’ve been into universities in the UK to teach the DriveWorksXpress Training and Certification Programme alongside my colleagues and I’ve had the opportunity to teach customers and resellers at our annual Technical Event: DriveWorks World. This year the event will be held in Chicago and I’ll be flying out with other members of our team to train DriveWorks users.  Since all DriveWorks software is developed onsite, I work in close partnership with the Development Team to add and test new features and functionality. With 3 software releases a year, this is a very important and rewarding part of my role!
During my Graduate Scheme, I also achieved 4 globally recognised certifications and have since gone on to achieve a 5th and now I’m working towards my 6th!

Securing the role

I first came across DriveWorks at the Leeds University STEM Careers Fair in my final year at Uni. Following a great conversation with the team, I sought some advice from the Leeds Careers Team to write my CV. I was then contacted for an interview and assessment after which I was assigned a task to complete in my own time and present back to the Technical Team Manager. This presentation was conducted through a Skype, so I used one of the bookable rooms in the Careers Centre. I dressed as if attending a face to face interview which really helped me to get in the right mindset. I would fully recommend taking this approach and using the Career’s centre resources!

My timeline: from undergraduate at the STEM Fair in 2016 to representing DriveWorks at the same fair in 2018!

My advice

  • Try to dress smartly when attending the Careers Fair as it’s important to make a good first impression, however, don’t use what you’re wearing as an excuse not to attend at all. (I was actually in shorts and a t-shirt!)
  • At the Career’s Fair, don’t just head for the big names, or the employers you have researched. Do at least one loop and check out all the stands – you never know what opportunities could be out there!
  • Make a list of where your strengths and weaknesses lie within your field and see if any of the employers exhibiting play to these strengths

Most importantly, make the most of all the resources available through the Careers Centre. I made multiple trips to the Careers Centre to get help with my CV and it was definitely worthwhile.

Take Ian’s advice! University of Leeds students and graduates you can get help from the Careers Centre, with your CVs, application forms and interview preparation so get in touch, we’re here to help.


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