Tag Archives: employability

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: Women in Business at PwC

 

Lucy Bonnett is a final year undergraduate student at the University of Leeds studying French and Mathematics.  She participated in the Women in Business Programme, a three day paid work experience programme with PwC.    Lucy was uncertain about her future career plans but took the opportunity to get an insight into professional services.   As a result Lucy has secured a place on their Assurance Graduate Scheme.  Read more about Lucy’s story.

Why I applied

My week at PwC turned out better than I could have imagined. To be completely honest, I applied for the Women In Business placement to find out more about professional services, mainly with a view to ruling it out as an area I didn’t want to work in. I had no idea what I wanted to do after university, so I had decided to do a few placements during my second and third years at uni to see what interested me.

Application experience

The fact that the application process for the placement is identical to that of a graduate scheme was useful – at every stage of the application I thought “Even if I don’t make it to the next stage, I’m gaining valuable experience and application skills”. These skills definitely came in handy when applying to year abroad placements, and my experience allowed me to be relaxed and confident in interview situations.

Gaining an insight into PwC

The week itself was very insightful. We started with a day of training and introductions, easing us into the working atmosphere. I felt at ease in the office straight away – everyone I met went out of their way to make me feel welcome and to explain their roles to me. This itself was interesting, as I hadn’t even heard of some of the jobs and departments that exist in a company as big as PwC, and it showed me that there is plenty of opportunity for growth and change once you’ve joined.

Shadowing

After the first introductory day, I was shadowing a director in the Assurance department, following her from meetings to conferences to phone calls and looking over her shoulder when she was working alone. Karen was brilliant in explaining everything she was doing, and was happy to answer any question, however seemingly obvious. I was also paired up with a recent graduate, who talked to me about the first few years of life at PwC: the training and exams, her day-to-day routines, the atmosphere in the office. I think speaking to women at such different stages in their careers was incredibly helpful, as it helped me to understand both where a graduate would start within the company and where they may end up.

Securing a position

Everyone on the program was offered an interview at the end of the week, either for a summer internship or a place on a graduate scheme depending on how far through your degree you were.  I was successful in my interview and was offered a place on the Assurance graduate scheme. This was so far from my original goal (ruling out professional services as something I didn’t want to go into after university) that I didn’t know what to think at first, and it seemed like a big scary decision to make about my future so early on in my degree. However, after some consideration of the offer and consulting friends/family/university advisors, I decided PwC is a fantastic place to start my career and I have subsequently accepted the offer. And, although I would in no way describe myself as a relaxed care-free fourth year student, I am able to concentrate on my studies and on achieving a classification that I will be proud of, rather than jetting off to assessment days every other week at the same time as striving for a grade that will make me attractive to employers.

My advice

I would recommend the placement to anyone: whether you have no idea what kind of career you would like post-university, or if you are looking to get a head-start on the application process!

 

Read more about the three day  Women in Business programme they are still advertising opportunities (including in the Leeds office) until remaining places fill.

And don’t forget if you want to discuss a career in the professional services sector or any other, the Careers Centre can help you explore your options  and support you in your applications- learn how here.

 

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Class of 2018: Question Your Future

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This June is Class of 2018 Month, but what does that mean, exactly? Well, aside from a massive four-week programme of digital content designed to help you get to grips with your plans for the future, we’re encouraging all finalists to get in touch and question your future!

Each week we’ll be hosting a themed week of digital content, following the rough stages of finding, applying for, and landing an opportunity such as a job or research position. Your questions don’t have to be on the weekly topic, but we’d encourage it if possible! At the end of each week, we’ll answer all your questions in our Friday blog post, along with a summary of anything interesting that’s popped up during the week. We’re encouraging everyone to get involved if possible to make a great body of frequently-asked questions to help both current and future students.

As such, we’re offering some incentive for your time and effort – all students who ask a question will be automatically entered into our Class of 2018 raffle, where you could win a magnum of Moët & Chandon or a Hotel Chocolat selection. This raffle will be drawn at the end of Class of 2018 Month, and you must be able to come in to the Career Centre to collect your prize.*

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5 Ways To Show Employers You’re Ready For The World Of Work

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‘Career Clock – Flazingo

This week, Susanna from Inspiring Interns gives some useful tips for students and grads on how to prepare for the world of work, and demonstrate this to employers.

We’re in the middle of a graduate shortage. That’s right: while grads complain about how hard it is to find a job, employers are moaning about the lack of good candidates. Seems weird, right? But the problem isn’t necessarily the quality of graduates; it’s their readiness to enter the world of work.

The reality is that most students have never known real employment – a fact that many recruiters can tell from fifty paces. From STEM to arts subjects, from Russell Group to poly, graduates find the real world hard. These days, the movement from childhood to adulthood occurs not at sixteen or eighteen but with the end of university. As a result, many employers think of graduates, however much they claim otherwise, as too immature to be trusted with a job.

Here’s how you can assuage an employer’s fears and prove you’re ready to enter their world. Continue reading

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How To Make Networking as Easy as ABC

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Jeremy Brooks – “ABC

 This week, Beth from Inspiring Interns talks about a topic that has become increasingly important for job seekers today – networking.  She gives lots of useful tips on how to make networking easier, and how to be more confident at networking events.

A = Attendance

The first thing you need to do to be a networker? Show up at networking events. Just being in the room is half the battle won – people may even come talk to you!

B = Body Language

Always look someone in the eye when you’re talking to them. Don’t cross your arms – it looks standoffish. And smile!

C = Confidence

Fake it till you make it actually works – stand tall and act confident, and people will believe it. Remember the absolute worst thing that can happen is that someone will say they don’t want to talk to you. And that makes them rude.

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Getting into… the accounting industry

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This week’s blog post by the Accountancy Partnership goes into detail about the accounting industry and lists the skills, experience and specific qualifications that can facilitate getting into the industry. If you are thinking about a career in accounting, but aren’t sure where to start, this post has some useful information and relevant resources to help you out.

The accounting industry isn’t the same as it once was. We should no longer view accountants as number crunchers, because in today’s business world, they have a much larger part to play.

While many accounting roles require similar skills, employers also want accountants to be able to show versatility. This article looks to find out exactly what jobs the accounting industry has, how they’re changing and how you can apply for them.

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Your careers questions answered #UoLCareerQs

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We were at Freshers fair today and loved speaking to so many of you – at all stages of your studies! We thought it might be useful to answer some of the most common questions we were asked today on the blog, so here they are.

We will also tweet ongoing common questions and advice at #UoLCareerQs and if you’ve got a careers-related question, just tweet us using the hashtag.

Q: What does the Careers Centre do?

We are here to help ALL University of Leeds students with their careers and next steps after university. Whether you’re an undergraduate, a postgraduate or a PhD student; whether you know exactly what you want to do or if you have no idea, we are here to help you.  You can find out more about our services on our website. Continue reading

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