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Tips to Prepare Yourself for Jobs & Internship Opportunities in the UK

Guest post by Amarjeet S. Mutneja

I was delighted to deliver a workshop on 'Preparing your CV for jobs/internships in the UK' at The Doon School during my recent visit to India. My conversations with Indian students always reinforce my belief that work-related opportunities are extremely important to them. Indian students are very fixated on work placement opportunities & generally have a massive bank of questions to ask!

Not surprisingly, I face waves of high expectations on work opportunities from Indian students. As I excavate their keenness further I find their understanding on job and internships is heavily shaped by how internships and jobs are allocated within India. Most of the students expect to be placed by the University, in the so called 'campus placements'. 

On the other side of the planet, the UK job and internship industry operates in a slightly different climate. Many companies in the UK expect students to approach them with relevant online application. There are no campus placements, but there are careers fairs and various networking opportunities that are generally the first part of the process. The companies expect students to learn about their core competencies first and then see if they are a suitable match. If they deem fit, then students should submit online application with examples connected to the core competencies emphasised by the company.

This process is a little bit like match-making!

So, how do you make sure you take the right step forward? Here are some practical tips to consider when preparing yourself to make the most of the opportunities in the UK. 

1.    Prepare a CV that caters to British employers

Many students from India can sometimes become fixated on highlighting their technical skills only. However, for employers in the UK, it is also important to include ‘soft skills’. For example, you may choose to talk about how working in a coffee shop may have helped you in building confidence and developed your understanding of customer service. 

2. Maintain a good digital hygiene & build your LinkedIn profile

Be more selective in what you ‘like’, ‘subscribe’ or ‘follow'. Some employers might visit your social media profile when pre-screening applications. Further, some companies may recommend filling application forms using details on your LinkedIn profile. For example, Unilever's Future Leaders Programme which is open to undergraduate students suggest using LinkedIn profile to make the process quicker and easier for their candidates.

3.   Start looking at entry requirements for various graduate internships

Many companies articulate very clearly the core competencies they look for. Below are some that you may find frequently on career pages of various companies. Making yourself aware of some of the ones mentioned on their website can really strengthen your understanding of what is expected. 

It is therefore a sensible exercise to browse through web pages of various organisations you would like to work for and identify skill sets that are mentioned or highlighted. Some organisations will have comprehensive guidance on tips for student application processes. For example, Deloitte UK has compiled an excellent material which encapsulates everything about the assessment process including general advice on what to expect. This can be found here:

4.    Go through the careers web pages of the University

Many UK universities will provide you with good amount of information on what services and support you can expect. Information available on the website of various universities can tell you a lot about how committed they are. Some institutes will have careers fairs every year, some will have frequent guest speakers from various sectors visiting the campus. All this can help you prepare in advance about what to expect. How to keep up with opportunities when you are studying in Warwick summarises what to expect when you arrive in Warwick.

5. Meet career counselors at your UK university and be prompt

If possible, meet the career counselling team once you settle into the University. Often you will find their office corridors full of employers’ directories and other relevant materials which you can use.

6.    Ask for a mock interview

Most of the universities will do their best to support you as much as possible. Some universities will provide you free counselling session, and some may also provide you with a mock interview session. When I was a student, I was delighted to learn about the STAR method when responding to a behavioural-based interview question. This entails breaking down your answer into Situation, Task, Action and Result. This made me feel confident as I could organise my thoughts into various compartments. I was introduced to this method during my mock interview session with the careers team.

7. Undertake online practice tests

Many counselling offices in universities will also have in-house psychometric tests which are designed to allow students to understand their strengths and personality types. You can use the results from these tests to your advantage by identifying your strengths and areas of improvements.

8. Be prepared for a digital interview

Many companies have switched to digital interviews (from more traditional telephone interviews) as they allow you to demonstrate your capability in a much more thorough way. Although much easier than telephone interview, digital interviews involve some challenges of their own. From making sure you have good internet bandwidth to presenting yourself as you would for a face to face interview, these interviews may also require you supplying written responses. This means you will have to ensure your answers do not contain silly grammatical or spelling errors (something you may have heard of when you were preparing your personal statement or SOP!). You should read the instructions before your participate in this round. Capgemini UK, for example has brilliantly compiled a list of things to consider before you appear for their digital interview.

9.    Read emails, regularly!

If your university holds careers fairs, then it is highly likely that you will receive notifications via email or through your university online system. It is very important that you check your emails and read them so that you don’t miss any important event-registration to a closed event.

10.    Attend job fairs and work on your questions

Students can often find job fairs intimidating. The prospect of talking to employers can be sometimes daunting. I remember when I was a student I had no clue what to do at a job fair! I was not sure what questions to ask.

It is always a good practice to prepare a few sensible questions before you walk into that busy room, but make sure you are being yourself. For example, you can start your conversation with the employer by asking them to elaborate on their internship schemes. You can also express your interest in their organisation because you may find their competencies aligned with your strengths, and you want to know a little more about the assessment process.

11.    Ask for feedback where possible

Some companies will make effort in providing you with feedback if you made it to the assessment center, Capgemini UK is one good example. Sometimes you may also receive personalised feedback report highlighting some of your top strengths.

12. Last but not least, be yourself

You may have read this on multiple career-guiding sources, however it is never too late to stress this point. There is no need to be someone else. Many recruiters have a wealth of experience in detecting filters or anything that does't fit well. Job interviews can be daunting but remember holding back who you are or being dishonest won't do you any favours. Just relax and enjoy the process as much as you can.

Therefore, instead of focusing on the number of months available after your studies in the UK, I would suggest you focus on counting every day you spend in the UK right from the beginning of your course. Use everyday to develop your employability skills.

I know many University representatives stress this point to prospective students all the time!

By Amarjeet S. Mutenja