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(3) Understand The Job For You – Explore Your Options

My first graduate offer since graduating! But I rejected it…

Not many people know this, but prior to even obtaining a job at Trendence, I had received an offer elsewhere as an Accounts Trainee, with support to complete any professional qualification I desired. This was what I had worked towards for the past 8 months but I rejected it! Why?

Three reasons; first impressions of the building, working environment and career progression within the firm.

Although the offer seemed appealing on paper, there was a huge difference between what I had researched and what I had physically experienced. Personally I believed that there was something else in the near future that was waiting for me. I had to write out the advantages of accepting this offer compared to the risks involved if I was to reject it. It was more of a gut feeling…but I went with it!

I was now in a situation where I had rejected the offer, whilst still working at ASDA on weekends, with only ‘potential’ job interviews ahead of me.

PROGRESSION POINTER 6: Do not be afraid to reject an offer if you believe it is not for you. Go with your gut feeling! However it is incredibly difficult to make a decision based on your guts, therefore it is important to also back this up with other reasons (e.g mine was to work within a comfortable working environment). Always remember that your opinion of the company now compared to when you first applied may have drastically changed. Put yourself first in these situations and don’t waste time.

 

Time to leave ASDA- One hell of an experience!

Handing in my resignation notice on the same day as being named one of ten ‘employees of the month’ was definitely the most awkward way to resign (completely coincidental). However once the deed was done, the store manager was fully supportive of my next steps with plenty of advice provided.

The sheer support from the senior members I have received to date has truly been something unexpected and a real eye opener. What I learnt at this point was that movement is normal. I understand now that you should never be afraid to leave a firm. I realized that if I work for someone who was a true leader,  who commits to my development, they will keep committing to me even after departing my role.

[Random personal opinion: This is why I 100% support these zero hour contracts at companies such as ASDA as it provides both employees and these managers with the flexibility to move around and maintain relationships].

 

Trendence: Another Exploration

My next step was a firm called Trendence as Junior Data Analyst to explore the practical side of the operational research aspect of my course at university. The interview for this role was extremely relaxed and made me feel as though I belonged there.

PROGRESSION POINTER 7: In any interview that you attend, always make sure that the interviewer/future manager suits your needs and what you are looking for in a leader. Remember that even if you do get the job, you are wasting your own time if you’re working for a manager you despise. Make sure you work for a leader. Do not just try to impress, be yourself!

I knew this manager was an individual I would love to work under when I was provided with the opportunity to learn a (required) software called SPSS, prior to making a decision about the job offer. Without necessarily knowing that I would stay, she showed me her willingness to invest in my development, even if I did not have the required technical skill-set for the job.

 

Operational Research….definitely was not for me

Coming towards the end of 3 months at Trendence, I realized that the industry and career path was did not suit my interests (it just felt a bit too robotic to be honest).

What I did  think at this point, like anyone else would was, ‘would I have been better of accepting the other job opportunity as an Accounts Trainee?’. My answer was, No. At this point I realized that following my gut whilst having no regrets was how I planned to evaluate similar opportunities in the future.

PROGRESSION POINTER 8: Do not settle for a job just for the sake of earning money and being employed. Money will always come one way or another, whatever job you do. Do not turn yourself into a machine whilst seeking the right role. If it is not for you, man up, get out and keep and open mind!

Although I was provided the opportunity to continue working at Trendence, I had decided to pursue another opportunity that arose a few months earlier…

Which leads me to my current job….at PwC!

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(2) Post-University .. The Dreaded First Year as a Graduate

University is over, I have a 2.2 – What do I do?!

Since I graduated with a 2.2 degree, I wanted to be sure that all those skills I picked up during my final years (see first blog) did not go to waste. My aim was to get a job as soon as possible and show employers in future years to come that I was determined and ready to enter the real world.

I applied for many internship and graduate positions, the first post-graduation job I obtained was through an agency called Inspiring Interns. In order to be recommended to different industries, I was invited to attend a video interview at their office in London. Although it took me ‘two takes’ to get my video CV correct, I had received a call 2 weeks later from a company called UKActive inviting me for an interview.

UKActive

During my interview at ukActive, I realized immediately how relaxed the interviewing manager was and how much I would love to work with him as my mentor. After a great interview, I was told that there were 7 candidates to interview (which pretty much gave my hopes up of obtaining an offer). Although to my surprise I actually received the offer in a few days time! I was absolutely excited to receive this offer, although it paid minimum wage, it was a sign that I personally do hold something valuable that these other candidates may have not.

PROGRESSION POINTER 3: Grades only account for so much, personality is key!

I had been with this company for 5 months, whilst at the same time trying to work out my next steps on my career path via other interviews. During these 5 months, me and the manager mentioned above had grown close. He had mentioned to me that he hired me because I reminded me of his best friend when looking at personality. This really showed me how important other’s perception of you are rather than one’s paper profile via a CV. Another note to remember is, these connections are and will always be vital! I had learnt years later from leaving the firm that this manager is now the Director of the firm!

PROGRESSION POINTER 4: Maintain all connections wherever you work; each and every network matter!

Coming to the end of 2013, I realized that it was time for me to move on. I had learnt a range of things; from office culture in a medium sized firm, socials within a closely knit firm, to being responsible for my own work. What really made me appreciate this company was the support they gave me for my personal development. One of my other managers (Sarah) noticed me completing an application just before working hours commenced, early on a Monday morning. Surprisingly she did not react in the way I expected, but was very encouraging and showed interest towards the next step on my next career path. Sarah – I will always appreciate that moment. It may have seemed like a small matter to her, but I still hold it close to realizing what really makes a relationship strong in a working environment.

ASDA

Although I had not secured a new job once entering 2014, I had made it my New Year’s resolution to be in a position where I had gained enough experience to understand where I wanted to be in the next 5 years. However, as I was still job hunting….I was still broke! Therefore I decided to get a weekend job at my local ASDA supermarket. Although this may not seem like a lot, this was probably my favourite job to date!

I decided to get a ‘weekend only’ job such that I was able to focus on my applications every day of the weekdays; almost as though I was doing a 9-5 job completing applications!

My job was mainly on the tills however what I learnt from this job was that just because I was working in a supermarket after graduating didn’t mean that this was a ‘time pass role’.I had noticed that the colleagues I worked with enjoyed what they did, whilst being themselves. At ASDA, I have seen much more smiles, laughs, banter and a friendlier environment compared to any working environment that I have worked within to date. Working in such an environment, where I see everyone genuinely happy during my 3 months there, definitely had me thinking about the type of people I wanted to be surrounded by in 5-10 year times.

My 2014 New Year’s resolution was to understand and have a clearer image of my future – however this would have to be built up step by step. This was definitely the start!

PROGRESSION POINTER 5: It is important to understand your personal priorities!

Personally, my number one priority is to work somewhere where I can physically see that people are appreciated for the work they do via their daily smiles and charisma shown.

On my next blogs I will talk about life after ASDA as I began to climb my official career ladder; via both an operational research role at Trendence and finally to my present day role at PwC! In addition I will talk about how I went about actually applying for different companies which did not follow the standard route.

 

 

(1) My journey through university

‘Fresher’ than a guy off a boat

My journey began back in 2010 at the University of Warwick where I was absolutely thrilled to go to university to study a course called MORSE (not Morse code!) but Mathematics, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics. I chose this course to really understand the potential career paths available for me to sculpt and utilise my strength in mathematics. Outside of my academic life I absolutely loved the range of societies, football and …..kabaddi (an Indian sport that is the Indian equivalent of rugby – limited to a few square feet!).

Throughout my years at university I have always doubted whether the modules I was learning was a right fit for strengths and interests. There were certain areas covered such as Economics and Operational Research which I thoroughly enjoyed at university and prepared me for the real world. However other aspects including pure mathematics and statistics that I found to be absolutely horrendous to study.

Where did it go wrong?

It was during my second year of university in which I took the advice from those in the years above me to ensure I succeeded like them. I chose my module choices according to other people’s opinions, in the end choosing modules which suited their strengths and not mine!

PROGRESSION POINTER 1 – Only you know your own strengths! A vital life skill is to make calculated decisions yourself, but that does not mean that you should rule out other people’s opinions completely.

I also began to realize after my second year at university that certain people have their own method of studying. Just because you see one individual studying in the library from midday until midnight does not mean that method is the right one for all!

PROGRESSION POINTER 2 – Find the times and routines in the day where you are most awake and most able to concentrate. Do not study straight hours if nothing is going in, take those 15 minute breaks to have a chat…trust me as they will make a significant difference!

Where it started going right!

Don’t get me wrong, the summer holidays after my second year of university was one of the hardest period of my entire life. I received my results that showed that I was being put on a ‘Pass Course’, which essentially meant that the highest grade I could get was a 3rd at university no matter how much hard work I put in.

However, should I be willing to turn things around then I was able to get back on to the ‘Normal Course’. And that is exactly what I did and this was how…

During my 2nd year summer holidays, I managed to write down every module available in my final year at university and enabled me to think about my possible combinations, ruling out those that did not meet my strengths. I remember opening approximately 30 tabs on my Google Chrome (one for each module being researched). A few weeks later, I was in a confident position to submit my module choices for my final year.

Actions to be taken from day 1 of 3rd year – I decided to write down who to see, what actions needed to be taken within the first 2 weeks of university, and every little detail you can think of. I had never been so organised in my entire life and I could not believe how much it had paid off. I don’t just mean towards my final university grade, but I mean towards the continuous organisational skills being applied day to day, something I would have never  have thought of back then!

Actions throughout my 3rd year – I made sure to know what I was doing every week throughout all 3 years of university.Although I was still going out and enjoying myself, I made sure that this was all planned into my schedule as I could not afford one little slip up!

 

End of University

Finally reaching a point after my exams where I thought, “I’ve done all that I can!” was one of the most satisfying feelings I had ever experienced; even prior to receiving my results. Therefore once I did receive my final grade from my personal tutor, I can honestly say, I could not be more proud of myself and my achievement of a 2.2 BSc degree with honours!

So my advice is, remember what you did and not what you didn’t do, there is so much more to you graduating from university than just this grade!!!