Thursday, May 31, 2012

Aim high and you might surprise yourself - Tips from a first-class graduate and published author

Today we have a really inspiring blog from Michael Tefula, successful author with his first published book 'How to get a first' 

I started my accounting and finance degree at the University of Birmingham with a wild goal: to graduate with a first-class degree. Some of my friends sneered at the thought - “a first? Impossible!”. After all, I had the memory of a fish, went out a lot, and rarely came across as someone who could spend up to 12 hours in a library revising. But after three years of hard work, I surprised some of my friends and myself by graduating with not only a first, but also with the highest marks in some modules.

It is intimidating and perhaps even somewhat embarrassing to aim high, but if you aim for something average and common, that is exactly what you will get - average and common.

If, on the other hand, you aim for something grander, then you could end up working harder and doing much better than anyone ever expected.

Here is another example that reiterates this lesson. In my second year at university, I applied to lots of internships so I could get work experience. I had a few interviews with a number of large and highly competitive firms but failed to land a job with any of them.

Luckily, my application to a particular mid-tier firm was much more successful and I happily took on the role for a summer placement. While I found the experience immensely valuable, I soon discovered that I was better suited to a different career. One I had read of, and spoken to other interns about. So at the end of my internship I took a big risk and turned down a guaranteed job in pursuit of a more lucrative but even more competitive position within the same organisation.

Unfortunately, my pursuit ended with a failed final interview. It was then that I decided to aim even higher by applying at a larger, more prestigious and competitive firm. Having been through numerous application processes and interviews, I was much better prepared for this round of assessment. With a bit of luck and competence, I landed an even better job, surprising friends who thought me mad for having turned down a previously guaranteed job offer while the UK was in a recession.

Kanye West once remarked, “reach for the stars so if you fall you land on a cloud”. In my journey from a student to a graduate, then to a young professional, and most recently to a published author, I have learnt that living by such a statement can propel you to achieve a number of highly sought after aspirations.

What I’m I driving at? Here are some practical scenarios for you to ponder:

Found a dream job but afraid to apply because of the competition? Apply anyway and worst comes to worst, you will get experience from it to use in your next attempts.

Want to take a year out to travel around the world but can’t afford it? Make it a goal. Find temporary employment. Start saving and you will eventually earn your way to it.

Do you have dreams and aspirations which you are too embarrassed to declare? Share them with a mate and consider ways you could achieve them before writing them off.

Ps. Feel free to share your dreams in the comments below.
Find Michael on twitter @getafirst and his book on Amazon here.

Hope you find this blog inspiration. If however, you haven't got a clear idea of what you want as a career. Don't panic, here is something that will help you answer the dreaded question: I have a degree, now what? 
and if your marks have unfortunately not been the highest, again don't worry, We can advice you on how to job hunt if you get a 2.2 

Best luck to you all soon to be graduates from the TARGETjobs team.

Friday, May 25, 2012

TARGETjobs news roundup

Hello, good afternoon and welcome to the TARGETjobs news roundup. It’s a glorious day today and the sun is very tempting. Nevertheless, we’ve got a job to do and damn it, we’re going to do it.

Once again it has been a fairly quiet week at TJ HQ, with little in the way of change in the world of graduate recruitment. That said, a lot of finalists are now coming to the end of their exams and competition for graduate jobs is heating up. Now is the time to take stock of some solid graduate careers advice and give yourself an edge.
But, as usual, there is also a bit of general advice for those of you who aren’t interested in those sectors:
  • For starters, we’re giving you the lowdown on how gap years can mess your graduate job hunt up, and how to turn them to your advantage.
  • And finally, there’s the list of next week’s deadlines. It’s a particularly busy week if you’re looking for IT or engineering vacancies, and there are treats for other sectors too. Check out the latest jobs here.
To get graduate careers news as it happens, check out the TARGETjobs news feed. Alternatively, check out the roundup this time next week!
TARGETjobs offers the largest choice of graduate jobsinternships and placements. Independent reviews on top graduate employers and career planning tools and expert guidance. Become a TARGETjobs blogger by getting in touch with

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Zen your mind before your final year

Emma Williams is back with yet another great blog. If you will be a finalist next year make sure you read this before you jet off for your summer holidays. 

I’m sure prospective third year students reading this either in the manic stress of revision or  ignorant bliss of summer holidays will agree that the looming inevitability of third year is something that brings on thoughts of immense pressure, incessant hours of work and a load of grey hairs and eye bags.

And on top of the prescribed stresses that our degree brings, the dreaded idea of work experience and internships just adds to the worry of what we should be doing or achieving by a certain time in our ‘university career’. The main thing to be remembering is that measuring your accomplishments against others is the worst thing to do, and unlike school where competition is normal and comparison is how you determine how much effort you put into homework or modular test, life in university has to be all about yourself—which is most definitely scary if you do not have a CLUE what you want to do. At all.

As naff and spiritual as this may sound, this panic has to be refuted so that you can clarify what it is you want to do, and have to do in the last few months of your degree. So in order to do this the most important thing to do is clear your mind and basically, calm yourself  from any stress that’s looming.

Taking one step at a time in planning is crucial to de-stressing. Thinking about your dissertation topic in the midst of revising for second year exams is not the healthiest thing to do, and obviously will bring on the anticipation of internship deadlines, dissertation research, and you’ll even start stressing over organizing your summer, which is supposed to be fun!

Another thing that is important to do is really take into account the length of a year: you have plenty of time to either get your act together in terms of grades if that’s what’s worrying you, you have months of musing over what to write 7,000 words on before summer and what exactly you want to do with your life. It’s comforting to know that some graduates leave university trying to explore what their ‘calling’ is: and in this climate you have nothing to lose in exploring what you want to do before leaping into a job.

Remembering that you have a lot of time before the end of your degree is a relief when everything feels as if it’s on top of you, and the best thing to make use of too is your course or house mates during this time. You have more in common than the types of nights out you like and how you all love a lie in; its this confusion and frustration of not knowing what to do that unites us all as students, and is something that’s worth discussing and talking through with people going through the same thing.

All in all, calming your mind and de-stressing is the easiest way to clarify what you want to do, or at least what you don’t, and the best way to go into your final year where you want to be pro-active and efficient. But by logically thinking about how much time you have, your options, and the support networks of university mates, your family and career support, you will be able to offload and zen your mind of any anticipations and stress before your final year—where everything falls into place.

And finally a tip from us, TARGETjobs: If you really want to make your final year count make the most of your resources near you, such as your career services. 

Hope you find this post useful. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

TARGETjobs news roundup

Hello and welcome to this weeks’ news roundup. After the relative calm of last week there are quite a few interesting things going on. If you want to have the best chance of getting a graduate job, this is where to look.

It’s accountancy that is hitting the headlines this week, with a couple of interesting stories. Put both of them together and you could get a big boost for your career chances.

Accountancy isn’t the only sector with interesting developments right now. There’s also plenty going on in management consulting, law and IT.

It isn’t all about the sectors either; there are other things going on in the world of graduate recruitment. Last week we dropped some pretty heavy hints that there was stuff going on behind the scenes. This is what we’ve got to show you:

  • We’re bringing you a brand new series looking at common mistakes made by graduate job hunters. First up: work experience. Get some schadenfreude and protect yourself from making the same mistakes at the same time. Neat.
  • We’ve also put together our weekly roundup of all the job vacancies with deadlines in the next week. It’s a big week for engineers, but whatever background you’re from, there is potential for you. Check out the latest jobs here.
To get graduate careers news as it happens, check out the TARGETjobs news feed. Alternatively, check out the roundup this time next week!

TARGETjobs offers the largest choice of graduate jobsinternships and placements. Independent reviews on top graduate employers and career planning tools and expert guidance. Become a TARGETjobs blogger by getting in touch with

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Graduate Schemes: beware of the Buyers Exercise!

Nichola Chapman is back and this time with a big warning of what to expect when your assessors give you a buyers exercise. Really great post! 

Before the real pressure of final year at university had kicked in, I found the time to apply for a graduate scheme. If you have applied for one yourself then you’ll know just how long filling in application forms can take - admittedly, it doesn’t help if you over-write the work you had done so far on the application form, as I not-so-cleverly did – but without taking that mishap into account it took me a solid two days to complete it to the best of my ability.

The scheme I applied for was a graduate buyer’s job at an exclusive London department store. The two days spent filling in the application form paid off as I got through to the next stage of the application process; a half-day interview. A week before the day of the interview I was sent an information pack explaining what would be happening on the day. This included: creating and presenting a ten minute presentation on one of four topics provided, a one-hour group interview and a forty-five minute buyers exercise.

By the day of the interview and despite the usual ‘this is an important day’ nerves, I was feeling quietly confident with the presentation I had prepared, not exactly dreading the group interview as I’m a pretty good talker (so I’ve been told!) and a little unsure what to expect from the ‘buyers exercise’. With it being a department store I had envisaged some sort of ‘best sellers’ identifying tasks or a discussion of the company’s product ranges.

The presentation went well and I felt I had given my best during the group interview. Then came the buyers exercise. This was not a ‘spot the best-sellers’ task as I had hoped. It was a maths test. A heavily percentage-based maths test. We were each given a booklet and asked to independently complete the task in 45 minutes – panic quickly set in! I was NOT prepared for this – all knowledge of GCSE maths on percentages was absent from my mind, stored somewhere in the ‘I’m 15, when am I ever going to need to know this?’ part of my brain. Even with the calculator provided, vague guesswork was the best I could offer.

As expected, I did not get through to the final stage of the application process. It’s just as well because the dealing with numbers aspect of a buyer’s job had sunk in since the interview and I was pretty sure that this was not my dream job after all. Still, I think going through the application process was massively worthwhile and beneficial - it taught me that things aren’t always what you expect them to be, even if you think you’re prepared.

Regardless of the type graduate scheme or job you are applying for, this would be my advice when applying…

1) Background Research – know as much as you can about the company you are applying to work at, specifically for retail. They will expect you to know who their target audience is, what products and brands they sell, which products or brands are selling well at the moment and who are their major competitors.

2) Revise your weakness – this is what caught me out! Most business related scheme will require some mathematical knowledge, so if you know your no good with numbers spend a few hours going over some of the basics you think the job might involve. That extra effort might make the difference between getting through to the next stage or not.

3) Don’t be over-confident – if there is a group-interview involved in the application, make sure you contribute but don’t be over-bearing. Almost all businesses require you to work as a team at some stage. Employees want to see that you have both the qualities of a leader and the ability to work with a team. Group interviews are naturally competitive because you are all up against each other so the balance can be difficult, be aware of how long you are talking for and allow others to say their piece without interrupting.

4) Go Local – international and national graduate schemes are naturally the most popular, meaning your chances of getting onto one are limited. The scheme that I applied for received 120 applications and 84 got through to the next stage, the competition was obviously still tough but not as tough as facing 1,000 other applicants! Speak to a careers advisor at you university and ask for advice about smaller, local companies that run graduate schemes. You’ll also have the advantage of knowing the local area better than some of the competition.

5) Leave ‘The Big One’ till last – if you have your sights set on a dream graduate scheme I would advise you apply for a similar scheme that’s less popular first. It’s likely that their application process will be similar and it’s great practice towards getting the one you really want.

If you enjoyed this article find out more about how to get a career in the retail here.  

Friday, May 11, 2012

TARGETjobs news roundup

Hello, good afternoon and welcome to the TARGETjobs news roundup. It’s sunny here at TJ HQ and we’re in a good mood. On the surface of things it has been a very quiet week on TARGETjobs, with only a handful of stories for your viewing pleasure.

Don’t worry though, beneath this cool, calm exterior are a whole host of treats which are waiting to see the light of day. Take deep breaths it’s ok. All will be revealed in time. For now we have articles on the built environment, accountancy, the skills you need and jobs with deadlines in the next week.

  • In a similar vein our series on the top ten skills and competencies you need to get a graduate job was so popular that we have decided to give five more skills to check out. And then maybe another little extra one on top. Just to keep you happy.
  • And of course we are finishing up with our roundup of jobs that are closing in the following week. Those looking to move into IT will be particularly interested, as there are a range of different positions closing. Check out the latest jobs here.
To get graduate careers news as it happens, check out the TARGETjobs news feed. Alternatively, check out the roundup this time next week!

TARGETjobs offers the largest choice of graduate jobsinternships and placements. Independent reviews on top graduate employers and career planning tools and expert guidance. Become a TARGETjobs blogger by getting in touch with

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Life in the fast lane - the world of marketing

Our very own marketing assistant, Louisa Smith is back. Find out what she has been up to in the last couple of months since joining us. 

My last blog entry detailed my transition from university to working life. Having worked in my new role at TARGETjobs for four months now, I feel I have some claim to the world of marketing, and some knowledge to share with other aspiring marketeers. Therefore, this blog is for anyone who is considering a future career in marketing and would like to find out what it can involve!

Truth is, I love my job. (And I’m not just saying this because this is being posted all over the TARGETjobs Bloggers site.) Obviously, I can only speak from the perspective of one marketing assistant in one marketing department and at one company. It may or may not be the case that other companies work in a similar way – this is something you’ll have to share with us yourselves! All I can tell you is how life runs in the marketing department here at TARGETjobs.

Since I joined the marketing department back in January, I have worked on numerous projects. I find it hard to believe I have only been here four months, because I feel like I have already learnt so much, and developed so many new skills. One aspect of marketing that has really struck me is how great it is to work “behind-the-scenes” on a project, and then see your ideas and hard work go live, and be seen by the public eye. The sense of pride when you think, “I did that” is an extremely satisfying feeling.

When I first joined the team, the company was in full-swing, preparing for the annual TARGETcourses Postgraduate Study and Funding Fairs, which took place in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Birmingham. I had only worked here about five minutes before my boss explained that it was down to me and him alone to organise the marketing campaigns for all three fairs. To put this into context, we had to promote the fairs to students at universities all across Scotland, all across Wales, and all across the Midlands. We designed posters, flyers, plasma screens, leaflets…you name it, we had it. I then attended each of the events to coordinate promotional work on the day of the event. Throughout the whole process, we worked closely with the TARGETcourses team and the TARGETevents teams, so I gained great insight into the work of numerous departments!

My next main project was to re-vamp the TARGETjobs Campus Reps scheme. TARGETjobs Campus Reps are a team of students who represent our brand at their university, carrying out promotional work for us and registering students to TARGETjobs. Recently, I have focussed on making the Campus Rep Scheme more of a community, so that reps can share ideas with each other and work together to earn the largest amount of registrations they possibly can. (If you’re interested in working as a Campus Rep, you can apply here.) This has involved a lot of work with our Design team, to create new and modern logos for reps to use, and has also involved the creation of an exciting Campus Reps Facebook group, to really create a sense of community. (Plus it’s always fun when you get to go on Facebook as part of your job!)

Yet my most recent project is by far the most exciting – preparation for the Autumn Season! This is our busiest time of the year here at TARGETjobs, as it’s not only when the majority of applications open for graduate jobs, but it’s also when we hire a team of Events staff to tour the UK for three months exhibiting at hundreds of Freshers’ and Careers Fairs, raising brand awareness and registering students to! If you read my previous blog, you may remember that I joined the company back in 2011 as a member of this team, so I am very excited to be getting involved in the season from a completely different perspective!

So as you can see, for me, a marketing role has involved such a variety of projects. Occasionally I still take a trip down memory lane and work at a Careers Fair, promoting the brand and gaining student registrations. It’s amazing that what used to be everyday life for me during the events season is now what I consider a day off from work! But that’s marketing for you – very hard work, but extremely rewarding!

If you think a career in marketing could be the right choice for you why not explore your marketing options. Find areas of work that may interest you and search for marketing graduate jobs. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

TARGETjobs news roundup

Hello, good afternoon and welcome. You’ve reached the TARGETjobs news roundup, and you’re about to get schooled. We have heaps of news, including stories on everything from girls in IT to the skills you’ll need to get a graduate job. Sit down, pay attention and learn.

It’s IT that is dominating the news this week. There are two stories that will put a smile on any IT graduate job hunter’s face. There are more jobs available, and more girls are being encouraged to get into the profession.

But that isn’t all that’s happening in the sectors. We also have news from the worlds of automotive and property services engineering, and professional services.
And outside the sectors there are a couple of interesting things going on as well.
  • If you’ve been following Abi_TARGETjobs’ series on recruiting TARGETjobs interns you’ll know it has been a bit hit-and-miss. This week she’s telling us all about what worked for her and why it went down well.
  • We have also run down the list of the top 10 skills and competencies you need to get a graduate job. This roundup of our popular series should give you plenty of ideas for ways to impress employers.
  • Finally, we’ve got the list of next week’s deadlines. It’s a comparatively quiet week next week, but there are still deadlines closing every single day. Meet them or miss out. Check out the latest jobs here.
To get graduate careers news as it happens, check out the TARGETjobs news feed. Alternatively, check out the roundup this time next week!

TARGETjobs offers the largest choice of graduate jobsinternships and placements. Independent reviews on top graduate employers and career planning tools and expert guidance. Become a TARGETjobs blogger by getting in touch with

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

From English Literature to Online Marketing

If you are a soon to be English graduate and are not sure what to do next we bring you Anna. Anna works in the Online Marketing department for Propertyads, a property portal search engine, and here she shares her story about her journey from English Lit. graduate to employee.

After graduating from a degree in English Literature at Bath, I thought the world was my oyster. I could do anything! Well, except apply for those graduates schemes for those big firms like Ernst & Young. Or anything engineering related. Or accounting. IT jobs were also out of the question, and banking was definitely a no-go zone. Suddenly I felt like I was very limited with my options, and with my only experience working in part-time retail jobs, I was beginning to panic. Who would hire me, a humanities graduate with great grades but little else? I was suddenly wondering why all those years ago I had even chosen to study English Literature when 3 years later my options were feeling so limited.

I decided to start applying for jobs in media and marketing, even though I knew it would be competitive, being inexperienced in both industries. I had a few positive responses, but due to my lack of experience, it was mainly internships with little to no pay. Although beggars can’t be choosers, I felt disappointed with the results. Without trying to sound too cocky, I felt that I deserved more. I had so many skills to show to a potential employer, if only they would let me.

After a few months on the job hunt, I luckily managed to land an interview for the online marketing department of a property website. I felt really nervous before the interview, but after a few minutes on the phone I felt totally relaxed and I felt like I could really show off who I was and what I had to offer. I heard back a few days later that I had got the job, and for the first time since starting university, I felt truly excited to start something new.

I really took to the job like a fish to water. Although I had no previous experience in online marketing, learning about it all was so interesting and I managed to learn a lot very quickly. What I had learnt from my degree could be applied to my job and at the same time I was acquiring lots of new skills. From day one I was given some big tasks like proofreading editorial content, which really felt like my employer trusted me and were letting me reach my full potential. It’s really opened up my eyes to an industry that I had no idea about and I think I would like to progress further into this area of career.

My advice for graduating students is not to give up. It might take a few months, but there is a job out there for you which you will enjoy! There were many times I just wanted to stop applying for jobs and give up, but the moment you stop may be the moment that an interesting job comes up and you might miss a great opportunity.

Hope this post has inspired you to explore your options. If you need an extra helping hand why not visit our Degree Matcher advice page, here you are able to see what qualifications are needed or preferred for specific job roles. Alternatively why not try our Careers Report, here you can practise psychometrics test, answer behavioural questions and much more to give you an idea what career options you are best suited to. 

As always good luck with your job hunts :)