Author Archives: Lorraine Lucas

About Lorraine Lucas

 Lorraine has over 15 years' experience in the retail sector, working for organisations such as Selfridges, Burton Group, GUS and Storehouse. For the last 15 years Lorraine has been involved in Career Coaching in the private and public sector. She was an associate career coach for Penna, a leading HR Consultancy and before joining Bradford she also worked with undergraduates and postgraduates at the Universities of Bristol and Huddersfield. She has been associated with the School of Management for the last ten years and in 2006 took up a full time post managing Career Development and Alumni Relations. She has a degree in Geography from the London School of Economics, an MBA from Bradford University School of Management and a Diploma in Careers Guidance from the University of Reading.

10 top tips to win an internship/placement

Lorraine Lucas

Lorraine Lucas

Lorraine is business engagement manager for Bradford University School of Management and helps students and alumni develop their skills for getting a job as well as looking at the right career opportunities for them.  Here she talks about the importance of preparing yourself for the job market and how to secure an internship/placement. An internship is usually a few weeks over a summer, maybe unpaid; placements are typically a year in industry, a real job and paid.

It would seem that things are finally looking up for graduates. It’s been a tough few years for graduate employment with many failing to find jobs once they leave university – extremely disheartening after three or four years of study.

But latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that the tide is now turning, with 90.8% of full time first degree university leavers either in employment or further study within six months of leaving university.

Image courtesy of depositphotos.com

Image courtesy of depositphotos.com

Yes, it’s good news that graduate employment is on the up, but requirements from employers have changed – now more than ever before have students really got to demonstrate they have more to offer than academic brilliance.  As a result of the recession, competition for internships, placements and full time jobs has become even more competitive.

At Bradford University School of Management, one of the world’s top business schools, our teams in careers and effective learning work with  students to develop a variety of skills for the work place, including how to manage time, balance their workload and put their points of view across.

But we know this is not enough and we encourage all our students to try and gain an internship/placement before graduating because this will give them a better chance of getting the job they want.

After polling 18,000 graduates who have had internships, the UK Graduate Careers Survey by High Fliers revealed that students who had had internships were three times more likely to get a job after graduation – and 61% of graduates ended up working for the organisation they interned for.

Here, I share with you my top tips for winning that internship/placement and taking the first step onto the career ladder.

1. How do you make yourself employable?

Even though graduate recruitment is at its highest for five years for those leaving this year, you really need to look at how you can boost your chances of getting a job. Things you should be asking yourself are

  • Can you work in a team?
  • Do you show initiative and original thought?
  • Are you self-disciplined?
  • Can you meet deadlines?

And with all these, where is your evidence to demonstrate these skills?

2. Year 1 results are very important

Employers want students who have done well in their first year exams and have averaged a 2:1 or above. Gone are the days of just spending your first year having a good time – you have really got to put the work in or you could end up paying for it later!

In fact, you really need to get as high a classification as you can each year. In 2012, some employers were only considering applicants with first-class degrees.

However, a further study carried out by High Fliers Research showed that in 70 per cent of cases, graduate employers were taking on graduates who had achieved a 2:1. As for those with a 2:2, their chances were greatly reduced.

3. What do you need to do to secure an internship/ placement?

Many students at university business school make the mistake of applying  for lots of opportunities regardless of whether they know the company, understand the role or meet the requirements (read also student Mahmoona Begum’s blog).

Image courtesy of BandonSigma FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of BandonSigma FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Competition is tough, with at least 100 applicants per internship – Westminster School came under fire recently after auctioning work placements to the highest bidder!

So to win that internship/placement, here are my top tips

  • Start applying at least a year before you want to start the internship/placement
  • Research the companies you are applying to and tailor your application accordingly – show what relevant experience you have had and what you gained from it
  • On your application form, demonstrate you understand their business, culture and values
  • Realise that applying for an internship or placement is a lengthy process involving application forms and tests, interviews and assessment centres
  • Follow the companies you are interested in on Twitter and LinkedIn
  • Be persistent
  • Keep positive – it may take quite a few applications before you secure the right position
  • Remember that applying for an internship/placement is just as competitive as applying for a permanent job

4. How do you make the most of your internship/ placement?

Image courtesy of keele.ac.uk

Image courtesy of keele.ac.uk

Starting your internship/placement gives you not only the perfect opportunity to apply and develop your skills but also the chance to find out if this really is the right career path for you. Would it give you job satisfaction if it was permanent (see Dr David Spicer’s blog on 10 factors creating job satisfaction)? Is it a chance to make an impact?

To make the most of your internship/placement, you need to

  • Demonstrate a positive attitude with an eagerness to learn and develop
  • Get involved in everything
  • Use it as an opportunity to find out your strengths and weaknesses
  • Get to know your colleagues well – remember it’s not what you know but who you know
  • Try and make your mark by thinking of a project to benefit the organisation
  • If you like the company, position yourself with people who could offer you a permanent job

5. Don’t give up – be persistent

And remember, it takes time to gain an internship/placement like it takes time to find a permanent job. You may face rejection after rejection, but the key is not to give up. All experience is good experience and you will learn so much from the whole process.

If you have done an internship/placement, please share your stories and leave comments below.  What has been the benefit ? Did it live up to your expectations? Did you win that dream job after graduation?  And any tips that we haven’t covered?

5 steps to successful career planning for MBA students

Lorraine-LucasLorraine Lucas is Business Engagement Manager – Careers, Alumni & External Relations at Bradford University School of Management. She supports MBA students in career planning before, during and after their studies.

Step 1: Start your career planning before starting your MBA

It is never too early to start planning your post-MBA career. Many MBA students make the mistake of concentrating exclusively on their studies and not on thinking ahead about their long term goals. This means that when they graduate, they have no strategy in place to inform their next career move – which delays the benefits of doing an MBA.

Before starting your MBA, fully assess your current skills, expertise and personal qualities. Ask yourself where you want to be in three, five and ten years’ time. What does the job/employer look like? What contacts do you already have that will help get you there? What gaps are there in your expertise and professional network? What barriers are there to you achieving your goals?

Julian Bartholet, Strategic Business Development Sales Manager at Bunzl Greenham Ltd, graduated from Bradford’s Executive part-time MBA in 2010. He says: “I had a clear plan from the beginning of my MBA that I wanted to use my sales expertise to make the journey from middle management into the boardroom. This meant both getting an understanding of wider business functions through my studies and developing the personal and professional skills to talk confidently at board level and influence the strategy of an organisation. By the end of the first year, I had already dramatically changed as a professional in my existing role and by the time I graduated I had the confidence to go out and target senior roles at the companies I wanted to work for.”

Step 2: Make the most of the careers advice, resources and events on offer at your business school

Once you have defined your goals, work with the careers service at your business school to set out a clear strategy for achieving them in the short, medium and long term. Also use your PDP (personal development) modules to focus on the specific skills you need to achieve your career goals in your discipline/sector taking into account your personal circumstances. It is up to you to shape your MBA experience to deliver the best results for you.

Your business school careers service will also give you regular ‘extra curricular’ opportunities to interact with practitioners. Whenever you can, make sure you attend guest lectures, panel discussions, careers fairs and networking events – and use them as an opportunity to make contacts and gain new insights.

Step 3: Use your business school’s alumni network

Your business school’s alumni network isn’t just relevant to you when you graduate. It is an invaluable resource to tap into before and whilst you are studying. Find and connect with alumni on LinkedIn, look at their career paths, ask them for help and advice. They will be able to give you unique insights into common mistakes to watch out for, how to sell yourself and when to time career moves. Learning from the experiences of those who have gone before is very useful and will save you a lot of time and energy.

Simon Kingsnorth, former first direct and HSBC director now managing director of Optimal HR, did his Executive part-time MBA at Bradford. He says: “I remain an active supporter of The Bradford School of Management and member of Bradford’s international alumni network. The diversity of people and opinions was invaluable during my study and I have maintained contact with senior business professionals across the world as our careers and businesses have developed. This kind of network is invaluable in so many ways and a major benefit of studying an MBA at Bradford.”

Step 4: Get yourself a mentor/role model

Once you have settled in to your studies and have a clear career plan, look for a mentor or role model who you aspire to be like. Your business school may be able to help put you in touch with someone from the alumni network or a business partner and set up a formal mentoring arrangement. Or you may want to choose someone with a high profile that advises up and coming business people who you can follow and learn from.

Use your mentor as a sound board and take them on your career planning journey with you. Remember that both parties should get something out of mentoring – make sure that it is a two-way relationship.

Step 5: Get social

Employers look for candidates with the right social skills to gel with their teams – and their customers. This is particularly important if you are in a leadership role. The theory that the best ideas in the workplace are born around the water cooler is the same in a business school.

It is important to socialise with your classmates when you get chance – chat to them over lunch, arrange to go for a meal or throw a party, especially if you are an international student. By sharing ideas and immersing yourself in different cultures, you will gain insights into what it is to be a business leader above and beyond those you learn in the classroom. These relationships will also enhance the classroom experience and make it more interactive and productive.

Social media is also now an important part of your career planning journey. Victoria Tomlinson, chief executive of Northern Lights PR and author of award winning e-book ‘Why you can’t ignore social media in business’ says: “Get used to reading and commenting on blogs to keep up with the latest business thinking. Use LinkedIn to connect with people you come across during your MBA studies and get introduced to potential employers through your contacts. Set up a Twitter account and use it strategically to make a name for yourself as an expert on a particular subject. Stick to that subject in your tweets and share interesting articles and research – which others will then re-tweet. Find employers that you aspire to work for and follow them to keep up to date with what they’re doing and things they’re interested in.”

So, if you’re thinking of starting an MBA in January 2012, come with a career plan in mind and talk to the careers team as soon as possible to help shape it and put it into action from the very start. If you have any questions before hand, post them here – along with ideas and suggestions for other prospective students.