I am Maddie, I'm 22 years old and I graduated a year ago from the University of Leeds (I can't believe it's been a year already!) with a BA in International Relations. My aim is to become a solicitor at a city law firm so in September I am starting a law conversion at BPP in London. I'm really looking forward to starting my journey into law, although it feels like a long-way off at the moment!
Q: What are your top tips for graduates who are currently job hunting?
A: My top tips would be:
1) Learn from your mistakes and rejections and keep moving forward. It can be hard to stay positive but it's a good test of your resilience and you'll only come out stronger in the end
2) Remember to have fun and look after yourself!
3) Don't feel like you have to rush into anything. Take your time, since time is on your side; go travelling, find a new hobby or start a little side hustle - you'll learn a lot along the way!
Q: What advice can you give someone who is trying to make themselves stand out against other applicants in a job interview?
A: The legal application cycle starts properly again in September, so until then I'm trying to make the most of all the online initiatives that have popped up during lockdown. InsideSherpa and Bright Network are good websites to check out if you're not sure where to start! I think by using this time productively and demonstrating that you're eager to learn will help you to have an advantage over many other applicants.
Q: What is your day to day like now? How are you going to manage it when you start the law conversion?
A: I have also used this time to set up my Instagram page @_gradutling, as I had felt pretty lost after graduating and thought others must feel the same way too. It's pushed me to be more creative and given me something to concentrate on every day, and I've really enjoyed doing it!
Currently my days are pretty chilled. I try to divide my time between exercise, law stuff, and gradulting stuff, so every day I'll try to do a few hours of each. Sometimes it can feel like I'm not really getting anywhere, as I don't really have an end goal in sight, but knowing that everything I do is helping me to make progress motivates me to keep going. When I start my law conversion I am worried that it will be a lot to juggle as I'll be commuting into London as well and will have to focus on applications and getting work experience, but I think once I have a good routine, that will keep me going. I'm also aware that some things might have to give a little bit but that's alright, I'm just going to have to play it by ear and see how it goes!
According to the Global Digital Report 2019, the number of social media users worldwide has climbed to a huge 3,484 billion, rising by 9% year-on-year. Social media is now considered a necessity for any organisation that wants to grow, with many adopting the influencer strategy to promote and review products. Scrolling through social media is the last thing many people do at night before they go to bed, and the first thing they check when they wake up in the morning. We are rarely that far away from our phones - storing them in or next to our beds, on our desks at work or in our pockets or bags on a day out, rarely switching them off entirely.
There has been a large amount of coverage around the use of social media and the effect it can have on our mental health. Social media sites such as Facebook can be used to stay in contact with old friends from your past, check in with distant relatives or find out about upcoming events near you. Instagram can now be used to make money, share interests and comment on anything from dogs to politics. Dating apps such as Tinder or Bumble and Bumble can help you to meet your new love or boost your confidence by testing out some questionable one-liners.
Is sharing caring?
In my experience, social media made me start to question how great my life really was. It's hard not to think about how unproductive you have been when you are sitting on the sofa watching your favourite fitness guru's Instagram story of them hitting the gym for their second session of the day. People can like your photos on Instagram but barely acknowledge you in real life, seeing stories of friends together making you wonder whether they really do prefer going out without you, and 'likes' can make you wonder if that quote your friend just shared really is a sly dig at you. Videos of my favourite YouTubers made me question how I had got so unlucky with my jobhunt, sat scrolling through graduate jobs 4 months on, and one bad picture can make you dislike your appearance or feel like you should lose weight.
Acknowledging and mitigating the negative effects
In an ideal world we could just switch our brain off from the negative comparisons and 'I should be' thoughts but we are now living in an age where your online presence can be used to your advantage with shows such as Love Island casting people based on their huge following. The pressures to look, dress and act a certain way can make you question all the things that make you, you. Whilst we can still enjoy the peacefulness of coming away from our phones for a day or so, it isn't realistic to get rid of it completely, so here are a number of things you can do to mitigate the negative effects of social media on your mental health:
1. Use the 'timer' setting on your iPhone to limit the amount of social media you consume
If you have the latest Apple iOS settings, you’ll see that you can now set a timer that limits how much you can use social media during the day. Once you have reached this limit, you receive a pop-up when you try to access a social media app that reminds you that you have reached your limit today. I like to set mine for 2 hours a day, and then I will allow myself to use social media more (its both part of my job and part of this blog) once I have assessed whether it is negatively affecting the way I feel today or not. This is a great way of preventing you from sitting and scrolling through Instagram and reminding you to do something else away from your phone. You can also set a limit for bedtime to prevent yourself from scrolling through your phone late at night, which can lead to restless sleep.
2. Listen to podcasts or motivating videos/people
My go to podcast choice is ‘The Daily Boost’, a daily 10-minute recording filled with unquestionable advice from Scott Smith. In this, he talks about the importance of reviewing how you feel about each area of your life on a weekly basis, maximising your goals and overcoming challenges. I also like more light-hearted podcasts like 'The Receipts' or 'The Girls Bathroom' to listen to people discuss how they cope with certain situations and take advice from it to apply to my own experiences.
3. Follow positive social media accounts that encourage self love
Review your Instagram feed often, unfollow accounts that cause you to compare yourself, spend money you don't have or make you feel like your life is boring. Follow people who inspire you to be a better version of yourself, quote accounts for daily inspiration and photography accounts that share images of nature and art that stimulate your mind.
There is nothing wrong with removing people from your social media accounts if you no longer want to see what they're up to, or if they post things just to spite you. Block your ex, remove that account that irritates you because they brag about their life and mute stories and posts from people you don't want to see every day. At the end of the day, they are your social media platforms and you are entitled to fill them with whatever you like.
I studied BSc (Hons) Equine Science and Thoroughbred Management at Oxford Brookes University, specialised I know. Upon completion of my degree in 2018 I gained a place on Eurostar's General Management graduate scheme and have been rotating around the business ever since. My top tips for graduates are:
1. Don't feel pressured by others to find a graduate scheme or perfect job post-graduation
2. Make sure that you prepare for video interviews - trust me, I'm speaking from experience
3. Don't be afraid to relocate. You learn heaps when living away from home
Q: How did you secure your current job? What was the interview process like, and what did you do to make you stood out against other participants?
A: During my final year of university, I signed up to Target Jobs and began to recieve their email alerts, which I would highly recommend. I knew that I wanted to work for a large organisation therefore I applied to a variety of companies and completed many video interviews.
I specifically remember the assessment day at Eurostar because it was daunting. Each candidate had completed a language degree, except me. Therefore, I definitely stood out from the crowd! We had to prepare a formal presentation alongside our interview, and I believe having previous international experience really enhanced my application.
Q: How did you feel when you started your job vs now? What is your day to day like?
A: I had impressed myself; I didn't think I would have gained a position for an international company with an Equine Science degree. Therefore, in the first few months I worked hard and networked around the business to understand each area and their specialities.
Each day is different, and I have the luxury of travelling between France and England on a regular basis. I even managed to secure a trip to Amsterdam to learn about railway signalling systems. Whilst this was enjoyable, I prefer working on projects that improve the customer and colleague experience alike. For instance, we recently reviewed the group's strategy to discover how we can better serve individuals travelling with friends and family. This involves spending a lot of time researching our current internal practises as well as other companies in both the rail and airline industries.
On a rotational graduate scheme, the requirements differ dependent upon the department. I remember my rotation with Fleet Planning was highly specialised and I spent most of my day on Microsoft Excel. Whereas, now I'm using Salesforce to respond to customer enquiries. If you're not sure which career path you would like to follow a rotational scheme can certainly help you to refine your interests and understand what permanent position you would like upon completion.
The main challenge for me is balancing my work alongside training requirements. Plus, I always feel low-spirited when moving on from a department. I've always made great friends and been mentored by a fantastic manager.
Q: What do you miss most about university?
A: I wish I still lived close to all of my friends. I enjoyed walking round to their house for lunch or going for a few drinks. I definitely took it for granted and now we have to plan everything in advance.
If you would like to feature on the blog and share how you beat the blues, please contact me!
For the second instalment in the graduate Q&A blog series, Alex from @brainybabescommunity kindly shared her journey after graduating and how she secured her job in research in Washington DC!
My name is Alex, I'm 22 (23 in a few days!) and I graduated last year with a bachelor's degree in Psychology. I went to the University at Buffalo in New York, my local university. I got a job doing research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the Washington DC area right out of university.
Q: How did you secure your current job? What was the interview process like and how did you make yourself stand out against other applicants?
A: While working in a research lab at my school, my advisor mentioned this great opportunity to apply for a paid position doing research at the NIH. At first, I didn't apply because I was afraid I wouldn't get accepted to such a selective position and I was afraid of failing. However, my advisor believed in me and taught me that you should never shy away from a job opportunity you're interested in, even if you're afraid you might not be qualified or be selected - it's always worth a shot! I applied in the winter of my senior year, had the interviews, and was selected for the position by January!
My video interview was well over an hour long, and it involved two of my future bosses asking me questions about my research, how I would respond to certain situations, and why I was interested in their lab and research. I wasn't sure if a long interview was a good or a bad sign, but I felt like I was true to myself and tried to be honest with all my answers. Later, when I started working with them, my interviewers told me my personality was exactly how I came across in the interview. My advice to anyone in an interview situation is try to be your genuine self as much as possible. Don't try to change yourself. If they don't like your genuine self, the job position probably isn't the right fit anyway! And most of the time, being yourself pays off and helps the interview flow more naturally.
I think the most important ways to make yourself stand out in an interview are:
1. Be yourself
2. Dress professionally - it's always better to overdress for an interview than underdress
3. Research your interviews or the company, and have questions ready to ask that show you did your research and are truly interested in the position
Q: How did you feel when you started your job vs now? What does you day to day look like?
A: When I first started my job, I was extremely nervous. Just a couple weeks after my graduation I was starting a new job in a new city hundreds of miles from home! At first, I wasn't even sure I'd like my coworker, but she's since turned out to be one of my best friends. My advice is expect the first day - or first week - of a new job to be scary and overwhelming. Don't expect first impressions of your coworkers or bosses to be accurate - give yourself time to get to know people.
A typical day at my job would involve me waking up at 6am, starting work at the NIH Clinical Center at 7am, where I would check-in with our patient volunteers (people who had signed up to stay in the hospital for 1-4 weeks to participate in clinical research on obesity/nutrition) and start any patient procedures/tests that needed to be done. Some of the procedures were simple surveys or bringing the patients to a different department for a blood draw or MRI scan, while other procedures I complete myself, such as DXA body scans or resting energy expenditure tests using a metabolic cart (if you're interested, look these up!). I would typically have 1-2 meetings per day, but the majority of my day to day was completed independently and with my co-workers, with minimal supervision. This was scary at first but I had months of training, and now I love the independence of my job and the comradery of my coworkers!
Due to the pandemic and stay at home orders in the US right now, my day to day involves working remotely, attending virtual meetings, and conducting data analysis. However, this has given me the time to develop a project with my friend, Ari, called Brainy Babes! Brainy Babes is a community of women in university or recent graduates who have come together to learn from each other and discuss a wide range of topics in a supportive, online community. We currently have members from all over the world - including the US, France, UK, and the Netherlands - and we have groups dedicated to science, psychology, self-development, business, design, and more! We are always looking to expand our community, so please check out our instagram page @brainyblossomscommunity for more information if you'd like to join!
Q: What do you miss most about university?
A: The thing I miss most about university is my friends! I have great coworkers and new friends at my job, but I miss living close to all my best friends from college and being able to go to different school events together, staying up late either studying or... not studying, and seeing each other every day. I would say I miss taking classes and learning new things, but I'm still taking night classes after work to prepare for medical school!
If you would like to feature on the blog and share how you beat the blues, please contact me!
So you've decided to take on the challenge of designing your own creative CV to stand out from the competition and showcase your skills, but where do you start and how do you ensure that the design looks professional? You don't have to have graphic design skills to create a smart, professional looking document, just follow these 7 simple steps:
Colours can be used to relay meaning, express ideas and provoke emotion, such as when text is presented in red to show that it is important or alerting you to danger. If you are designing a CV specific to the organisation you are applying to, use its brand colours. However, if you are creating a more generalised CV to send to multiple organisations, use a colour that represents your personality (you should do some research on your chosen colour to understand what meanings are conveyed).
When using headings, always make sure that they are all written in the same font and size. You can change the colour or font style to help them stand out even more, which is a great way of guiding the reader through the document, dividing sections and maintaining a consistent format.
When presenting your work experience or job history, make sure that dates are easy to follow by writing them in the same format. Avoid 'January - December 2017 - 2018' and instead go for 'January 2017 - December 2018'.
If you are leaving small spaces between paragraphs to divide sections, make sure that the amount of space between each section is the same. This makes your work look more aesthetically pleasing and coherent, meaning that people will be more likely to want to read it (typical human behaviour as we are attracted to things that look good). You should also avoid leaving a lot of blank space as it can be disengaging and make your design look unprofessional, leaving content to be desired. If you have large amounts of space on your CV once you have finished designing it, trying moving sections around or adding an image or shape to reduce the space.
If you've chosen to use text boxes, headings or shapes on your CV, make sure that they align to follow one smooth margin. All your headings and text should start at the same point on the page and there should be no indents. This helps to guide the reader down the page.
If you choose to use icons on your CV, make sure that you have removed the background if it doesn't match the rest of your CV. Pasting icons into your document with a small white square outline can look messy and unprofessional. You should also avoid using an images that are pixelated or appear with a watermark.
Adding an image of yourself on your CV isn't necessary, but sometimes using an image can compliment your design and reduce empty space. If you are going to include a picture of yourself, make sure it is one where you are dressed smartly. Similar to icons, make sure that this image hasn't got a white square around it and doesn't appear pixelated.
One more top tip: The style of CV you design should reflect the nature of the organisation or role you are applying for. For example, if you are applying to be a marketing assistant at a fun food brand, your CV should reflect that by featuring bright colours and cool fonts. If you are applying for a more corporate role, your CV should use more muted colours and a clear, plain font.
I always look at any documents that may be featured on the website of the organisation I am applying to and create a design similar to that. If they don't have anything on their website, I try to imagine the type of document they would produce based on their branding. You can get a good idea of how an organisation might design their reports and brochures by looking at the style of their social media posts too.
The key to creating an eye catching, effective CV is to make the process of reading it easy and straightforward for someone who has never met you before and only has this to understand who you are and what you want.
It can be extremely disheartening when you spend 2-3 days preparing your answers for an interview, just for your mind to go completely blank as soon as the first question is asked. It's something that most of us fear happening, and we can get so worked up that we stress ourselves out to the point where we are incapable of remembering anything other than what we are worried about. Here are 2 techniques that help me to stay calm and trust that I can remember answers and examples during an interview:
Throwing it back to school days with some good old fashioned flash cards. For me, these are a great way of forming connections and helping me to remember what I want to say and what examples I want to give. On one side of the flashcard I write a common interview question taken from sites I found online (The Muse and Forbes) and on the other side I bullet point the answer I want to give and the example to support it. Try not to overdo this technique, use it to test yourself once you have planned your questions so that you can recall examples without having prompts in front of you.
2. Spider diagram
If flashcards aren't your thing, a spider diagram is another great way of using visual aids to help you remember your answers. With this technique, I circle each question and bullet point each answer. This way, when I come to answering questions during the interview I can think back to my bullet points to help me create a structured answer.
If you don't think these will work for you but you can remember how you revised when you sat your exams at school, try using a similar technique when preparing for your interview! Once you work out what type of learner you are, you can very easily help yourself to remember things and arrive for your interview prepared to sell the best version of you.