Category Archives: For Candidates

Soft Skills: Key to Securing the Job?

 

According to Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) one in eight graduates  found that time invested by graduates in their personal brands as well as flexible sociability was a key factor in their first-job success.

AGR’s stat covers a wide range of characteristics when concerned with the word ‘sociability.’ The explosion of the technology industry, the obligatory online applications forms when applying for a new job and an almost constant online presence via email, phones, and social media has both complicated and expanded the definition of sociability.

Futureboard’s previous articles  have covered the importance of maintaining a persistent and professional online presence when job-hunting. However there is a growing importance in the ability of interviewees and graduates to be able to demonstrate not simply their hard-skills (i.e. skill sets and competence in managing tasks and activities in a job role) but their soft-skills in the workplace. Emotional intelligence, also known as soft skills, is the skill-set most likely involved when evaluating likability or fit. As Miriam Salpeter quotes “Soft skills relate to a person’s ability to interact effectively with co-workers and customers and are broadly applicable both in and outside the workplace.” In those key moments in an interview these skills will be tested consciously and sub-consciously and the latter requires good practice to the point that it is habitual.

I am not referring to basic social skills so what do I mean by habitual soft skills? Firm eye-contact, the ability to regulate the pace and tone of your voice, good posture and self-confidence. Self-confidence does not come to us all naturally so practice and act it, even if you don’t feel it as perceptions are very important. Meditate if you have to and consolidate your thoughts. The 2,500 personality tests around will indicate (at a basic level for some of us) that not all of us enjoy, prefer or have the best soft skills. However personality of some kind and a likeable and workable one which allows you to engage with employers, would-be employees and customers will push you ahead of the running for top job even if someone is more qualified than you.

Why? Because you may be more eloquent, likable and professional and while employers employ online personality tests and online applications processes and are adamant (as to avoid legal issues) that someone doesn’t get hired because they weren’t liked, personality and soft skills are as essential as qualifications and skill-sets whether both parties like it or not.

Have a look at some of these links and fill in the chinks in your armour while evaluating your weaknesses and above all; strengths.

Strong Work Ethic: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/five-characteristics-good-work-ethic-10382.html

Positive Attitude: http://www.careerealism.com/attitudes-workplace-get-ahead/

 Self-Confidence: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/06/10-ways-to-fake-confidence-the-1-reason-why-you-should/

Flexibility: http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghanbiro/2013/08/18/5-reasons-why-workplace-flexibility-is-smart-talent-strategy/

Proactive: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/are-you-proactive-or-reactive.html

Time Management: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifehack/20-quick-tips-for-better-time-management.html

Communication Skills: http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/11/ways-to-communicate-effectively-in-the-workplace.html

Matthew Williams

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Military Values in the Workplace

“To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
Sun Tzu

Applying military values to the workplace and career works; it is from discipline and a combination soft and hard power that spontaneity evolves. “What is this guy on?!” you may ask, you may suggest “This is the era of ‘Soft Skills’ and ‘Digital Natives’! Military-style disciplinarians at the office are history, they were the worst!” Or you may even think “not another traditionalist.”

There are numerous articles on avoiding toxic workplaces and the invaluable lessons on ‘Soft Skills’ . There is an increasing focus on the needs of the emerging graduate workforce and employers are often expected to match graduate expectations. According to the Telegraph, “graduates are struggling to wade through generic company messaging to find their way to the right job…and the result is 1 in 4 graduates quit within a year of starting work.”

Hannibal Barca marched his Carthaginian army across the Alps. He lost half his army along the way to the winter cold. Similarly Alexander the Great marched his army from ancient Greece to India in the space of eight years. What did these men and their armies achieve by pushing themselves to the extreme? They won remarkable victories and they both achieved historical fame. How did the Roman Army become the best the world had seen in its time? It was disciplined, relentless and adopted new strategies and tactics to not just survive but evolve. The reward was loot, treasures, empire, fame, and being the subject of debate for military scholars and historians hundreds of years after they had gone.

What defined Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Brian Clough? They were ruthless and defeats were guaranteed to be few and far between. They got results, whatever the cost. However more importantly they got the balance right between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills. They won piles of trophies in the footballing world. At the other end of the spectrum Paulo Di Canio had a mutiny on his hands at Sunderland in 2013 after he cracked the whip too hard whilst Arsenal F.C have been defined as a ‘friendly club’ and therefore easy to bully in the crunch games. With all the new trends emerging across the globe, the rise of the millennials and digital natives, the ever strenuous push for ‘world peace’, and the technological revolution you’d be forgiven for thinking that the past, particularly military history, has little to teach us bar substantial barbarity.

Granted, a hard-core disciplinarian without a reward system, trying to impose their views forcefully on other and the lacking ability to be flexible is not a good leader. Balance between sacrifice and reward, balance between discipline and innovation, balance between compassion and discipline and timely daring and timely caution. These are the military qualities have served the best military commanders and the best businessmen. Generals and leaders have only failed when they got this balance wrong. The digital natives don’t want to be too nice for their own good. Field Marshal Hague technically worked from home in the First World War, dishing out archaic strategies and orders miles behind the trenches. The result? This reoccurred across Europe a century ago with the deaths of millions of young men.

Dramatic? Certainly, but why does this affect the new generations pouring into the workplace? We expect employers to accommodate our needs, expect success and above all we have instant expectations.  Everything that happened yesterday is largely forgotten and we operate at break-neck speed, preparing graduates for jobs and roles that have scarcely been invented or taken off as projects. The digital world dominates in its entirety in the workplace. There were there were 4.2 million UK home workers in the first three months of 2014, amounting to 13.9% of the workforce. . This was the highest since records began and according to Futureboard’s research this looks like a trend that is set to increase with the introduction of the ‘Millennials’ and ‘Digitial Natives’ into the workplace. The latter facts are disconcerting to some extent.

“Too many bosses still don’t trust staff to work from home and instead force them to trudge into the office so they can keep an eye on them,” said Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s general secretary. “Employers’ attitudes to new working practices must change to make a much better use of modern technology in all workplaces.” Since when has an email be more effective than a face to face discussion? I have learnt more in a conversation than I will in the content of an email. I have worked from home before, yet I find it restrictive, anti-social, and a monotonous experience. There is less reward from working from home and technology for its wonders and the capability of our generation to utilise it is merely technology, it does not improve human instincts which have served us so well now and in the past.

We might be known by future generations as ‘the Softies’ and our ancestors would likely brand us as such in a heart-beat. Why lose our ruthless streak when it has served the best of us so well in the past?

Matthew Williams

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Big Things Have Small Beginnings

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

Vincent Van Gogh

 Habits cut both ways; they are either good for you or they are bad for you. At both ends of the spectrum they are difficult to change, for example when you quit exercise, you notice the loss of tone and perhaps put on weight and when you decide to break a habit of laziness and begin exercise, the first few days is one of the pain of rusty muscles clicking into gear. The same can be said of applying yourself to jobs, long-term goals, and the workplace, how do almost microscopic life choices make the difference?  Each New Year brings the same question “What are your New Year’s resolutions?” The resolutions vary from the smallest changes in lifestyle to all-encompassing changes to a lifestyle. The smaller changes ultimately make a bigger difference in life.

Mastering the mundane, enjoying process, making important daily choices and operating comfortably outside the fabled comfort zone. These are crucial to making the average person stand out from the rest. Habits are an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form because the behavioural patterns we repeat are imprinted in our neural pathways.

Success is achieved through inches, not miles, of progress. Making the small changes and consistently applying those changes whether it be eating breakfast every day, exercising daily, innovating and being creative at work every day will shine through. The Grand Canyon was not formed in a day, the Roman Empire wasn’t built in a day, love them or hate them Manchester United would not have dominated the Premier League for two decades unless they changed the small things we didn’t see behind the scenes in the late 1980s and Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t have created Facebook if he hadn’t had the cheek to create FaceMash from his room in Harvard and cultivated it overtime.

The modern-world is instantaneous and moves faster than at any previous time in human history. Instant results are expected, instant internet access, instant coffee plagues the workplace, we expect instant success, and even instant happiness. Habits distill themselves into finances, health, business, personal development, and relationships and these subtle differences often determine the difference between success and failure in an interview or the workplace and they are so subtle no one will ever notice them or see them until the crucial point. Thinking big without attention to tiny and at times seemingly insignificant details of life can undermine personal development and career. Changing habits requires conscious discipline and changing a tough habit requires discipline and strong mental strength against temptation to do something which is easy to do, but easy not to do. Patience, process, practice, repeat, balance, time; these are words that are not emphasized enough to undergraduates, graduates and postgraduates. Have a look at some of the links below and make those little changes that will benefit your performance in workplace and personal life.

Matthew Williams

http://www.wikihow.com/Form-a-Good-Habit

http://slightedge.org/

http://www.thechangeblog.com/24-daily-habits/

http://lifehacker.com/break-bad-habits-by-tricking-your-inner-caveman-1678100814

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/241532

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Exam Period: An Important Learning Process

The statement ‘enjoy your exam’ sounds crazy doesn’t it?! Exams are associated with revision, pain, nausea, headaches, stress, misery, blurry eyes, red bull, excess coffee, constraint, memes of foreboding memes such as ‘Brace yourself Exams are Coming’, last minute revision blitzes and most importantly pressure to get results.

Undoubtedly results are of paramount importance and should never be discounted, however the notion that the time of revision is regarded as some horror from the Dark Ages is misplaced. It is all a matter of perception and there are many things you can learn about how you work and learn (not simply from an educational/topical perspective) as a person. Some of us prefer to work in bite-sized chunks over an extended period of time, while others prefer to consolidate the work effectively in a short period of time. Exam period teaches you about the balance between discipline and reward. It is surprising how these habits can translate into the workplace.

A genius may pass his exam or you may even get lucky if you cram, however the ones who benefit will be those who develop (whether or not it is short-term or long-term revision) a scheduled routine, discipline themselves to work at a certain point during the day and being able have a normal life outside revision schedule.

For me pulling all-nighters, drinking energy drinks, and cramming was never a realistic option, nor was the idea of being up all day revising 8 hours straight a day. Exams are a lesson in juggling your work life and your personal life, an opportunity to find out how you work and how you shouldn’t work. Both ends of spectrum of horrifically obsessing and stressing over revision, not eating properly, socializing and not exercising or turning up hungover to the library, blagging exams, or cramming because you were procrastinating for two weeks will spill over into long-term habits, even if they are small. Can you imagine cramming work for the rest of your life, you would crash and burn!

If you have the tendency to stress, eat well and exercise well, discipline yourself to stop. If an exam revision day does not go well, don’t kick yourself for it. There are always days when things don’t always go to plan, ensure you have flexibility. My favorite quote that encapsulates how you should approach exams came from the Telegraph: ‘Exam Advice: Relax, and go with the flow’ . The article itself was aimed at students about to commence their A-Level and GCSE examinations, however when you combine with attitude with discipline, and reward (a pint at the end of the day, gym work-out, a hour of your favourite TV series, even a day off at the weekend!) exams will feel less of a chore than a great learning process.

I’ll finish up with my own personal tips for exams:

1. General Routine: Be flexible, know which hours you operate most efficiently and generally stick to that schedule (be it night-time or day), and ensure you have other things to besides work. Reward yourself with breaks frequently. Dare to have a day off if you have done enough work or revised yourself into the ground! Don’t be obsessive with schedule.

2. To take a Break?: Know your limits, if you can only do a certain amount of revision a day, stick to that. There is no point revising if you aren’t concentrating. If you procrastinate frequently discipline yourself and do revision in bite-sized chunks (i.e 1 hour revise, 10 minute break).

3. Eat Well: Don’t live on toast, cornflakes, chocolate bars, coffee, teas, crisps and biscuits. Ensure you have a well-balanced healthy diet.

4. Sleep Well: Go to bed, listen to some soothing music, have a bath or shower before bed, read a non-revision related book before you go to bed

5. Relax: Stress is an extra worry that isn’t needed during exam period and it shouldn’t be what motivates you to succeed. Relax and look forward to the sweet rewards at the end of the exam period. Matthew Williams

Enter the Millennials and Digital Natives

“Our technological powers increase, but the side effects and potential hazards also escalate.”

Alvin Toffler

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The rise of the ‘millennials’ and ‘digital natives’ will in the coming years produce a new and combustible working environment. The old-timers (so to speak) will have to accommodate the habits of the tech-savvy generation while the young (so to speak) will have to learn and retain some of the invaluable skills left behind by older generations. Naturally part of the problem is that people’s skills in the digital and technological domain will have to be honed and improved in the face of the momentum the world of technology is gathering.

Florence Broderick noted, “It’s fundamental that we understand that no social network, platform, app or technology will ever really help us with our soft skills.” These ‘soft skills’ in the age of a technological revolution are becoming an increasingly, if not an essential part of the workplace.

In Futureboard’s recent article two members of the technology community noted that while the pace of software and technology is moving fast technology; businesses require a mixture of individual’s and profiles, not simply introverts who love to code.

They need business leaders to manager technical projects, graphic designers to create memorable brands, business developers to sell their products and entrepreneurs to innovate and make bigger things happen. It is important to remember that not all millennials and digital natives will end up being cyber-robotic organisms, an extension of AI incapable of effective human communication staring at computers screens indefinitely.

By 2025 (10 years will disappear quickly!) millennials will account for 75% of the global workforce. This 75% will have a different view of how work should get done and come into the workforce with a different set of expectations from their employers.

However on the flip side employers from Gen X and the Baby Boomers generations (despite being the minority) will and should in many aspects expect Gen Y and Gen Z to be able to adapt to certain attitudes and behaviours in the workplace. According to Futureboard’s Student Survey conducted in 2014, these would range from strong work ethics, the ability to engage effectively in a face to face discussion when required, and be competent by email and telephone when necessary. There are disadvantages to Skype as there are to email.

Perceptions between different generations are of equal importance. There are workplace assumptions that millennials need to be prepared to challenge. According to a survey of 6,361 job seekers and veteran HR professional in 2013, 86% of HR professionals described Millennials as tech-savvy with 1% loyalty to their employers. The reality is that 82% of Millennials describe themselves as loyal to employers and 35% would describe themselves as tech-savvy. This is one example and illustrates that narrowing the gap between workplace perceptions and expectations of employers and employees is important for companies.

What will the outcome be if the integration of a broad set of different generational skills is successful in the workplace? Particular companies will thrive if they are able to absorb ‘digital natives’ and ‘technoholics’ and make the transition from a predominantly hierarchical organisation to one that is predominantly based on networking, fluidity and constant evolution and adaptability.  The ‘digital natives’ are career multitaskers, they will move between businesses and pursue careers without boundaries and the millennials will prefer working with organisations, rather than for them and generally lead flexible lifestyles with an increased importance on work-life balance.

However the emerging workforce must learn and understand the skills and motives that drove previous generations as strong work ethic, the ability to communicate to large and small audiences in person, respect, loyalty and input, regardless of the changing working hours, remain an absolute essential in any working environment. Old and new have to merge so that markets can accommodate Gen Y and Gen Z in a comfortable manner.

Matthew Williams

(P.S: Happy New Year!!! Bring on 2015!)

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Personality Assessment, ‘TYPE’ and working styles.

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According to the BBC there are 2,500 personality tests on the market and more than 92% of employers surveys in the UK considered psychometric testing an important tool for recruitment. It is used by 89 of the Fortune 100 companies and has been translated into 24 different languages. It shouldn’t be a surprise, it is now regularly used by employers to assess personalities and psychometric qualities of candidates. Is it important to know our ‘type’? Is it important to undergo tests such as the one created by Myers-Briggs that can help both your personal and professional life?

From a graduate perspective, tests like the Myers-Brigg shouldn’t be set in stone. As people we are constantly changing. Our objectives change, perceptions can shift, and the ideal job for some can radically change at different stages in life. For example I have shifted from an (ENTP) to an (ENFP) in the space of a year. Not a drastic change but it symbolises how personality tests should be regarded as short-term snap-shots of what our mind-set is and what we want perhaps over a period of a year to eighteen months rather than a long-term characterisation of who you are and what you want.

The simplicity of Myers-Briggs (here is a example of the test), Shapes & Colors, FIRO-B (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behaviour), DISC and many others which are beautiful for companies seeking a simpler way to filter to-be employees into certain categories.  Rachel Robinson of the consultancy firm YSC in central London notes that “Myers-Briggs is the most successful psychometric out there and deservedly so…It has been a fantastic vehicle for people to think about themselves and how others are different.”

Individuals vary within the sixteen categories of MBTI. For example a ENFP is quoted in MBTI as ‘hating routine, schedules and structure’ which isn’t true in my case I tend to become very effective when I combine organisation with the supposed ‘creativity’ that makes an ENFP. Who’s to say a spontaneous person can’t become disciplined, organised and structured in their working environment? After all some people (not all) can switch from social life to work mode easily.

Obviously the MBTI isn’t recommended as a recruitment tool to be used in isolation; assessment centres, face-to-face interviews and other techniques should be used to assess whether a person is suitable for a job or not (i.e. competency, experience, organisational fit etc.). There are other tools with which employers can assess their candidates.

Active jobseekers who are constantly applying for and looking for work should note the value of personality tests. It can tell how you may like to work, what kind of environment suits you best and whether or not your personality and strengths, values and principles meet those of the company or job entailed. It is also very useful for leaders and fellow colleagues to assess different working styles, how they present themselves to other people and how to place themselves in other people’s shoes. This can help facilitate better teamwork and minimize team conflict.

For graduates who are unsure of what they want to do or unsure of what direction to take it is particularly useful, not at deciding what you should do, but for narrowing your options in what can sometimes can seem like a marketplace of too many choices. Personality tests in some cases can provide direction. You increase your self-knowledge: how you respond to conflict, what motivates you, what causes you stress, how you like to work in a team and how you solve problems and knowing these answers can help you immensely in interviews when faced with these style of questions.

Matthew Williams

http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp (Try this model based on the Myers Briggs test and compare it with the personality below http://www.geekinheels.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/star_wars_mbti.png )

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‘Do you have any questions?’

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When this question is asked by an interviewer, do not say “No” and end the interview!

Interviews can be draining and nerve-wracking for some, but no matter how tired of talking you are at the end of their questions be ready to ask them questions. Reverse the roles and be bold enough to ask your potential employers all of the questions you need to know to be able to make the decision whether this is the right role for you.

After all, this role could potentially have big implications for your career and you want to be sure that you make the right decisions. The value of asking questions focuses on how you may like to work, what kind of environment that suits you best and whether or not your personality, strengths, values and principles are met by those of the company or job entailed. This is something regularly assessed in the Myers Briggs personality test which can aid you in discovering what job roles may suit you at a specific moment in your life.

Employers will be impressed by your confidence to ask them difficult and necessary questions and it is a good sign that you arrived at the interview with preparation. Here is a list of good questions to ask the interviewers opposite you.

  1. What are the most enjoyable and the least enjoyable aspects of the role?
  2. What does career progress look like within the organisation?
  3. You mentioned there will be a lot of presenting/researching/liaising; what do your most successful people find satisfying about this part of the role?
  4. How would you describe the work culture here?
  5. What have you enjoyed most about working here?
  6. In what way is performance measured and reviewed?
  7. What are the most important issues that you think your organisation will face?
  8. What are the short-term and long-term objectives of this particular product/service/division/project; how will this benefit the organisation?
  9. Why does this role matter to the growth of the company?
  10.  Will I receive any feedback from the interview?
  11. What is the single largest problem facing your organisation and would I be in a position to help you solve this problem?
  12. What constitutes success at this position and this firm or non-profit?
  13. Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?
  14. What is the next step in the process?
  15. Who previously held this position?

You don’t need to ask them in any particular order or all of them! Pick and choose where relevant to a role and apply them when necessary. If a conversation starts keep it going and utilise the time to illustrate your passion for the work you do and how it relates to the role. Ask them confidently (not aggressively) and with a smile and remember ask questions one by one and give the interviewers time to collect themselves. Don’t bombard them!

Matthew Williams

International Students: Do they have anything to fear studying in the UK?

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The international student body is a crucial component part of university experience in the United Kingdom. Yet for various reasons according to BBC News education correspondent Sean Coughlan, more than half of overseas students in the UK say they have felt “less welcome”. Similarly the quantitative statistics point to a fairly gloomy outlook. According to the BBC, the number of overseas students taking up places at England’s universities decreased by 4,595 in one year – the first fall in 29 years. Yet is it sensible to measure quantitative statistics against that of individual student experiences?

Immigration policy in the United Kingdom has become a hotly contested debate, particularly in the wake of UKIP’s rise to prominence in the EU Parliament elections. Subsequently, we’ve seen a shift in Conservative and Labour stances on their own views and policies on immigration. For example the Express stated that senior Tory ministers are believed to be pushing for an “emergency brake” on immigration from Europe, which could see UK borders temporarily closed to halt a flood of migrants into the country. Similarly, Ed Miliband has promised an immigration reform bill in the first few weeks of a new Labour government as he challenged the “false promises” of UKIP and the Conservatives.

Has this politicised atmosphere concerned or put-off students from other countries applying to study and find a job in the UK? Has this fear led to the concern that the United Kingdom is under threat from ‘brain-drain’ where foreign students are dissatisfied with the potential and/or lack of opportunities return whence they came to find a job and apply their set of skills in their home country?

The first thing to assess is whether the numerous downbeat statistics are reliable or contradicted by other sources. The survey of attitudes of overseas students in the UK, commissioned by Regent’s University in London as supposed to Higher Education, shows a contrasting picture

“While students feel that migration targets have made them feel less welcome, they have a positive account of their experience in the UK. About four in five of the students backed the quality of their courses and teaching and nine in 10 would recommend studying in the UK.”

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My experience as a UK student studying at the two highly diverse institutions of Nottingham University and King’s College London certainly counters the notion that the UK does not want to ‘welcome’ international students. In one of my seminars the class comprises of American, French, Venezuelan, Kenyan, German, Swiss, and Chinese students. The course encompasses students from all over the world and the amount you enjoy and learn from different perspectives, cultures, and experiences is rewarding at a personal level and career level.

Similarly my experience at Nottingham was very enriching due to the University having campuses based in Malaysia and China. Diversity is a crucial strategy to every university in attracting talent and boosting both its credentials and financial resources. On an individual and institutional level, (international students are believed to worth as much as £3bn a year to UK universities and £10 billion a year to the UK economy) international students are a crucial, if not essential, part of university life.

This is still being emphasised by top government officials. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has called for overseas students to be excluded from immigration figures stating:

“I actually agree with Michael Heseltine … I also think the student numbers should be taken out of the net immigration figures….tough where it needs to be tough, but smart where it needs to be smart….we don’t just send them packing back home when we might actually want them to find their feet and provide input into the British economy…students are really not what people perceive as immigrants”

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Nick Clegg’s speech made in India was likely a response to the drop in the numbers of Indian and Pakistani students in the United Kingdom (18,535 in 2010-11 to 13,250 in 2011-12 and further to 10,235 in 2012/13 while these numbers in Pakistan stood at 4,580, in 2010-11 and 2,825 in 2012/13.) However, once again these statistics, though troubling from the BBC, overlook the fact that these are the only two countries which have seen a decline and should not encompass the whole international student body. The application figures for this year show rising rather than falling interest in UK universities. There have been drops from individual countries, but the overall figures from the admissions service UCAS, published last month; show that applications from overseas students are higher than last year. We also forget that we can flip the situation UK students may also have the same fears of not fitting into other cultures was , which was regarded as the greatest non-academic barrier to UK students studying overseas (the preference to study abroad dropped from 65% to 41%). Again from the numerous people (particularly language students) I have known who have gone abroad, I have rarely been given the impression of a negative experience from a range of countries be it the a year out in the United States, Canada, France or even Colombia!

Immigration is an issue and certainly statistics are important but it should not impact the value that international students still (and potentially will) bring to our economy and university experience, the latter contribution of which is nothing less than enriching.

In short I send this message to any international students considering studying here or graduates getting a job. We are here, we are waiting, come to the UK!

Matthew

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The City’s Got Talent – How attractive is the City to graduates?

 

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With a General Election scheduled for May 2015 I was asked to participate in a debate about what a potential change in government could do to the graduate marketplace, particularly within financial services.  As a way of tackling this large subject, I thought it would be worth comparing the market in 2001 (peak of Labour government) with current state of affairs and then point out any emerging trends that current employers should be aware of.

From the late 90s – early naughties, external political and economic developments have meant positive and negative influences on graduates. You may remember Tony Blair’s (May 2001) pre-election pledge to invest in ‘education, education, education.’ Labour went on to win that election and cemented their goal of having ‘50% of young adults progressing to higher education by 2010′. Blair said: ‘Our top priority was, is and always will be education, education, education. We believe that this will prepare Britain for the knowledge economy.’ What is interesting to note is how the political and economic decisions of 2001 are affecting graduates in 2015 and beyond.

Since 2001, the number of graduates finishing under-graduate and/or postgraduate courses has risen by 56%, there are more degrees on offer at a wider variety of institutions.  We have experienced a boom in education in Britain and many graduate employers have noticed this as application numbers per vacancy have risen correspondingly.

The graduate job market in the City has suffered due to economic changes in the last five years.  According to data from the AGR, there was a decline in vacancies in 2009/2010 in investment banking by 14.5%.  During this time, most City graduate recruiters will tell you that they tightened or reduced hiring numbers and as a result expected fresh graduates to come into the workplace appreciative of the opportunity and that they should be “chomping at the bit”.

Research-The-Company-job-interviewDespite the economic crisis and muddied reputation, the City has remained an attractive place for graduates to work.  One of the downsides, for applicants specifically, to the decline in vacancies has been the increasing expectation of City recruiters on students.  It is not enough to be an Economics student from LSE; you need to be an Economics student that has a CV with internships, self-study, voluntary work, be heading up the Investment Society and so the list continues.

Most of the investment banks have introduced pre-internship programmes – these are taster internships aimed at students in their first year of an under-graduate degree.  JP Morgan state on their pre-internship site that for those graduating in 2017 or 2018, ‘past participants have gone on to secure internships and then full-time positions in London. These pre-internship programmes which will normally include spring programmes or weekly programmes can also reach as far down as A-Level students.  This offering is to help build a talent pipeline that starts several years prior to students graduating from university.

This puts an enormous amount of pressure on first year students to start making career choices that they are not realistically ready to make.  It also creates a huge barrier for students with an alternative degree background, e.g history, to enter certain areas of the City if they decide later on that this is a route they wish to take.

On a more positive note, the AGR Graduate Survey 2014 found that ‘banking and financial services’ predict an increase of 54.1% in graduate vacancies.   While expectations are increasing on graduates to enter the workforce with more rounded employability skills, the labour market generally is improving and the national average graduate salary has increased to £27,000 and the City average has increased to £29,250.

On to future trends what’s next and how should financial employers prepare themselves?  A change in government in 2015 is unlikely to change tuition fees, what we might see is an increasing pressure on universities to be accountability to the corporations that are starting to fund degree programmes.  In addition, we have a new generation of graduates about to hit the job market.  Many of us have spent the last ten years adjusting to managing Gen Y in the workplace, but now we need to prepare ourselves for Gen Z.  Those born in the early – mid 1990s; also being described as the ‘digital natives’ or ‘multi-generation’ (multi-family, multi-cultural, multi-media) and typified by debt, desire for security, distrust of politicians/CEOS and they will be the generation that will work the longest.

As a City graduate employer, you need to be thinking about your proposition to this group.  You shouldn’t assume what works for your current workforce will continue to be appealing for future generations.  What can you do to support this generation?  A more fundamental question is your leadership team aware of such potential trends?  What benefits can you offer that might appeal to ‘plurals’ – mortgage funds, pensions from the outset and technology that supports flexible working practices;  a career pathway that excites and engages for the long-term and a structure that allows people to pursue professional interests outside of work.

It might feel premature for employers to be thinking about Gen Z, but with increasing vacancies, increasing personal debt and expectations of graduates from a skills perspective, I think the very best students will differentiate between employers that want to genuinely ‘engage’ them very quickly.  In my mind, employers should at the very least be trying to meet this group in the middle.

Katherine Travell, CEO, Futureboard

 

Enhancing your Social Media Profile

News_45The world of technology for all its wonders invariably comes with complicated issues and dilemmas in job hunts, interviews and, even if you are the employed, the world of work.

Social media is a place to create profiles to effectively promote yourself. Futureboard looked into what employers look for and scrutinize when it comes to candidates on social media. It’s important to consider, however, what we can we do to enhance our online footprint. Not only is it a wonderful social tool but it’s an important way of promoting our personal brand.

  1. Activity:

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It is one thing to have a pristine, spotless account and quite another step up when you increase engagement online. For example when I created my personal blog I was hesitant of sharing ‘serious’ content on a platform like Facebook or Twitter. After all, most social media platforms are regarded as light-hearted places, often stereo-typically for procrastination and passing time. Interestingly though, the blog thrived when I started sharing content!

Sharing content is a great way to show your would-be employers an online trail that has nurtured your passion for a particular area of employment alongside personal content. Engaging with followers and friends (to a point) will drive your accounts into overtime which is an even better way to bolster your presence online. Don’t solely focus on your account, focus on others accounts. Go from one-dimensional to multi-dimensional.

  1. Connecting:

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  • Don’t just add friends and follow people – engage with them. At the end of the day it isn’t it about how many followers you have it is about who’s following you.
  • Ensure that you have URL that leads to your company or website.
  • Don’t just join groups – participate in them.
  • Don’t just post updates to update – ask yourself what your connections and would-be employers want to see and share (Hint: Short videos and pictures can increase audience engagement rather than simple links)
  1. Expand upon Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn:

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Utilize these other social media platforms that will enhance your online strategy and presence. Don’t be solely mainstream, go that step further than then next person.

Buffer: is a software application designed to manage social networks, by providing the means for a user to schedule relevant posts to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. It will save you a lot of time and hassle if you are busy and can’t use social media frequently.

JustUnfollow: Filter out and erase inactive and spam followers.

Twitter Analytics: Measure and boost your impact on Twitter, TA measures engagement, provides useful stats as well as graphs which indicate the level at which you are making an impression online.

Klout: is a website and mobile app that uses social media analytics to rank its users according to online social influence via the “Klout Score”, which is a numerical value between 1 and 100.

Tweetdeck: An interface consists of a series of customisable columns, which can be set up to display your Twitter timeline, mentions, direct messages, lists, trends, favourites, search results, hashtags, or all tweets by or to a single user while shortening URL length to save characters. You can filter what you do and don’t want to see on the Twitter feed.

WordPress: Create a blog, it will make you a more coherent writer which is so often overlooked. You don’t have to be Shakespeare, but you have to be professional and often succinct in the eyes of your employers. A blog can channel your passion for an area of employment. You can become more helpful to those around you and you can quickly become a good conveyor of resourceful information in a specialised area to a professional degree.

Matthew

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