Volunteering and the Cardiff Award. The Perfect Match! Post by Rebecca Dabill

imageAs an enthusiastic, motivated undergraduate from the School of Social Sciences (Eductation) I thought I was the bee’s knees. I was in my final year of my degree at a prestigious university with plenty of voluntary and paid work experience under my belt.Then I joined the Cardiff Award in September of third year and I felt like my eyes were opened to the world of employability.  I learnt how to make myself employable and realised that stating all the different hours work experience you had completed doesn’t necessarily make employers want you. I began to recognise all the skills I had gained and how they had developed and still were developing through my voluntary and paid work.
The Cardiff Award was brought up in every interview I had after I graduated and employers were all very impressed by it. I felt it definitely helped me to prepare for my interviews and taught me how to show off my skills and answer situational questions. Due to the skills gained from completing the Cardiff Award I was able to secure a graduate job in August working for a charity, Student Volunteering Cardiff (SVC), based in Cardiff University’s Students’ Union

 

 

imageSVC is a student led organisation that relies on students giving their time to help others in the community. It is run by students who make up a board of trustees, they generally put in 200-400 hours in a year. Volunteer coordinators run the day to day running of the projects and usually put in 100-200 hours per year. Volunteers who attend our projects each week usually put in around 30 hours a year. All of these hours will be recognised through the Cardiff Award programme.
SVC volunteers not only help disadvantaged people but also develop a large skill set which is developed over time; the Cardiff Award gives you the skills to recognise this. Self-reflection is one of the hardest skills to grasp but the Award will guide you through this. Through self-reflection you will be able to see how you are developing and in which areas. This will also aid you to see which skills need more development. It’s all well and good telling employers what you have done but it’s no use to them if you can’t explain the skills that you’ve developed through these activities, even if it is a long list.
Volunteering for SVC and the Cardiff Award go hand in hand; you will be recognised for all your commitment to SVC and you will learn valuable employability skills that are vital in today’s graduate job market.

 

For more information on SVC visit www.svcardiff.org.

The Cardiff Award is Changing…

You’ve probably seen that the Cardiff Award is recruiting for its new programme.  We have 500 spaces, meaning this will be our biggest intake ever.  This is hugely exciting, but it has meant we have needed to make some changes to ensure we maintain the quality.  We pride ourselves on our students’ ability to gain employment after completing the Award and this is something we want to keep, even with larger numbers!

The Award is also student-led so some of the changes are a result of student feedback.  These changes will make the Award easier to fit in around some degree schemes, so more inclusive.

So what has actually changed?

Firstly, we’ve reviewed our assessment processes.  In previous programmes, students had to complete a presentation.  Although we recognise the value of this, we are also aware that it puts off a huge number of students.  Therefore, we have taken the decision to remove this as an option.  For those students who want to compete a presentation, they will be encouraged to undertake the Skills Development Services’ Communications Certificate.  To gain this they must complete a presentation and can use the Award as their topic.  The bonus here is Award participants will gain an additional industry-recognised certificate and the activity also counts towards the Award!  To replace the presentation, Award students will be expected to produce a reflective account that considers the skills developed and where that will take them in the future. Gaining a bit if career focus so early in your uni life can only be good thing surely?!

Secondly we have changed the compulsory workshop structure. As a result of feedback we realised the current requirements are confusing (students must attend 6 Award specific sessions during term time) and students with lots of contact time often struggle to make them. So in its place will be an employability seminar. This day event (duration to be confirmed) is backed by industry (EY and Enterprise Rent a Car are developing content as I type!). All students attending will receive an additional industry-backed certificate and it means the compulsory sessions will be over and done with in a day. Bonus! It makes the process easier to follow and to engage with. They will take place throughout the year on evenings and weekends. Even better, they will be delivered to large groups so you’ll get to know others on the Award. Who knows we may even follow the event with a social!

The new process is explained below. We are excited and we hope you are too. The Award truly is a valuable programme, proven to build skills, confidence and help those involved get the jobs they actually want.

Get your application in soon. Deadline is December 12th. Visit www.cardiff,ac.uk/cardiffaward for details on how to apply.

Award Process

EY: Professionalism and Branding: Post by Alexander Franklin

 

New LogoWhat is a brand? Is it just a logo? A name? What connotations does a brand have? For example, what comes to mind when you think of Ferrari compared to Ford? What does this have to do with professionalism? Quite a lot actually.

 
I attended a session through the Cardiff Award ran by EY about professionalism and branding. Similar questions were asked, regarding brands and their connotations. Until then, I’d never really thought about it. What was my brand? How did people view me as a brand compared to how I saw myself? The session with EY has helped create some solid answers to these questions.

As a graduate applying for schemes, one of the more important aspects I place on
deciding where to apply is the brand of the company. Seeing just the name alone of the
companies I have researched can make the prospect of working for these firms genuinely
exciting. There is a reason that these brands are so worldwide and global, it is their
inherent success and the thought of getting involved in it that is something that interests
me greatly. It was not until the session with EY that I realised that this works both ways.
Whilst we often have only a CV and covering letter to communicate who we are, as
individuals we are all the more employable when we are able to portray a consistent brand
both within our actual application and face to face interaction.

Alex Franklin‘Alex Franklin PLC’ (okay, no PLC yet…) needs to become a brand associated with the blend of creativity and professionalism that I pride myself on. It’s all well and good claiming you have all manner of skills, but without being able to back that up and prove it’s part of your brand then you’re going to get nowhere fast. ‘Alex Franklin Inc.’ also needs to be able to demonstrate effective leadership skills and man-management. Once again, it’s not just all about talk and having a record of this is a vital part of creating your brand. Being able to back up your claimed skills and attributes with experience is something that will go a long way to further enhancing your brand.

I hope that throughout my final year at university, through my studies, extracurricular work and of course the Cardiff Award, I will be able to develop, fine tune and sell the brand that is Alex Franklin ltd. As my Cardiff Award experience goes on, I’m beginning to understand more and more that employment is not just about having a nice CV with big numbers on it. I’ve got a bit of a way to go but I’m getting there. Many thanks to EY for running a great session and I look forward to the next one!

EY
Follow me on Twitter: @afranklin27

A Night with KPMG: Post by Lauren Evetts

1497472_10153765295550074_1423407054_nEarlier this semester I was invited to attend a KPMG Smart Session. As one of the leading providers of audit, tax and advisory services and ranked at number 23 in The Guardian UK 300, naturally I wanted to find out more about the company. The fact that they were offering a networking skills session to benefit students further appealed to me – it showed they care about us and our careers. I signed up straight away.

As I approached Barocco, the smart, stylish bar in which the event was to be held, I was pretty nervous. I’d never really been good at networking and worried I wouldn’t be able to think of anything to say. However, as soon as I entered the room my worries dissolved. I was the first to arrive – which could have been rather awkward – but the people from KPMG made me feel relaxed and at ease, offered me a drink, showed me to a table and chatted with me until more students showed up. The students at my table were a diverse bunch, from varied backgrounds and studying a range of subjects. We got on really well from the start – our similar career aims, nervousness and excitement united us!

We could tell from the paraphernalia on our table that the night was going to be a fun one, and we were not disappointed. At first we watched a video which gave us a feel for the company – its aims and what a career with KPMG involves. It answered a few of my questions and set the tone for the activities. We then took part in an icebreaker activity. We wrote our names, two truths and lie about ourselves on a sticker and attached it to ourselves. We then walked around the room, mingling with the other students and seeing how many lies we could discover. I wrote: ‘I have two cats. I have met Simon Cowell. I have a blue belt in Taekwondo.’ (Guess which is the lie!). This icebreaker was brilliant. I had a great time going up to people I’d never spoken to before and debating whether their dog was really called Timmy and asking how to play the Sitar. We only had a few minutes so unfortunately I didn’t get to speak to everyone but I could see the point of the activity – I had just successfully networked with about fifteen people without breaking a sweat.

Next up was the ‘Elevator Pitch’. In pairs, we practised how to effectively advertise ourselves and network with a person if we were in an elevator with them for 60 seconds. Some people were great at this – I wasn’t one of them! I decided to tell my partner about a project I’d run while working in pharmacy, not entirely coherently, and punctuated with lots of ‘ummmm’s and repeated words. It struck me how important it is to have a few words prepared for an occasion like this, and as soon as I got home I drafted a more effective Elevator Pitch. I must admit I had never heard of this term before and so I am grateful that KPMG brought it to my attention – hopefully it will come in useful one day!

The purpose of the group activity was to create a persuasive argument on a topic in eight minutes and to pitch it in two minutes to a member of staff. Our group had to convince Chloe to give out free breakfast to employees if they arrived to work before 8am. Everyone in my group felt strongly that this was a good idea and we worked well together to come up with incentives for providing this. We also decided to introduce a counter-argument into our pitch and thought of a few points to say to maintain our argument in spite of it. The pitch itself went smoothly, finishing exactly as the two minutes were up. We each had an opportunity to speak and made our points well. Chloe was impressed and we won some Smarties. Result!

The evening drew to a close with the opportunity to network for real. I spoke to everyone I wanted to, made some new friends and was able to introduce myself confidently and maintain interesting conversations. I am really impressed with the care and thought that went into the Smart Skills session. It was a fun and enjoyable evening which gave me a real flavour for KPMG and its values. This evening taught me some valuable skills and I now feel confident that I can successfully take on any networking event which comes my way. Thanks, KPMG!

kpmgFor more information about a career with KPMG visit http://www.kpmgcareers.co.uk/graduates

 

How the Cardiff Award helped me whilst on my industrial placement year. Post by Laura Pollock.

Note from Award Manager, Kathryn Foot: Laura completed the Award in 2012-2013.  She blogged about her Award experience following successful completion in May 2013.  Discover now how Laura felt the Award benefited her on her actual placement year:

The following is a reflective discussion of how the skills learnt during the Cardiff Award helped me to a) get my placement and b) on placement.

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In my second year at Cardiff University (2012-2013) I completed the Cardiff Award; an employability award that encourages students to undertake work experience or get involved in extra-curricular activities, then recognises and rewards students for their efforts.  In August 2013, as part of my 4 year psychology with professional placement degree, I went on to complete an industrial placement at Quest Partnership Ltd, a small occupational psychology firm in Gloucestershire.  quest

Quest Partnership is made up of a team of Occupational Psychologists who apply psychological principles to the world of business by working with organisations to optimise employee potential. This is achieved by designing innovative solutions to help in staff selection, employee development and talent management that incorporate psychometric testing and behavioral exercises to assess and develop performance.

The Cardiff Award encouraged me to develop my skill set through the 6 workshops we were required to attend as part of the scheme. These included problem solving, becoming a global leader and mock assessment centres. These workshops proved particularly useful whilst on placement as I experienced a number of occasions and situations whereby initiative and effective team working was imperative to solving real commercial problems. For example, it proved particularly useful when designing a new company website for Quest called testandassess.co.uk with the help of an external website designer. I needed to produce 5 key messages for the cover page and to do so had to use problem solving to evoke the Unique Selling Points of the website, from a customer’s perspective.  I did this by putting myself in their shoes and brainstorming ideas before categorising these into key themes and determining the right wording for the key statements.


“The Cardiff Award had given me a practice run as such for what to expect in a real life assessment centre.”


Similarly, the one on assessment centres, run by Enterprise-Rent-A-Car was useful as it gave me an insight into what to expect.   Prior to securing my placement I was involved in a real life assessment centre whereby the consultants at Quest measured a number of different skills they required from the placement student. Unlike other graduates who have never had any experience of this form of assessment and recruitment selection process I felt confident on the day because I knew what to expect from the assessment centre and also had an awareness of some of skills, aside of academia, they are looking for from University students. As part of the Cardiff Award we also had to complete a numerical reasoning psychometric assessment. The format of the ability test was similar to what I had to do on my assessment centre so having had this experience and passed previously made me a little less nervous. The Cardiff Award had given me a practice run as such for what to expect in a real life assessment centre.

I also perceive that, had it not been for the Cardiff Award and the Careers and Employablity department, my CV and application would never have even made through to getting me to an assessment centre in the first place. The talk from Aimee Bateman about what employers are looking for on a CV and how best to sell yourself was inspiring, whilst the support and feedback from the Cardiff Award team was invaluable in helping me to create a concise, yet comprehensive, skills-focused CV that I could send out to potential placement organisations.


“Students should fully embrace the opportunity …as the skills you learn during the year are relevant to any organisation.  Personally I perceive that the Cardiff Award was an important contributor to helping me secure my placement and also helping me to be the best I could whilst on placement. “


Whilst on placement, other transferable skills such as leadership, commercial awareness, self-engagement and drive that I had developed during the Cardiff Award were also advantageous. The Cardiff Award had prepared me with the foundation work skills making it far easier for me to develop and expand these further.

I strongly believe that the Cardiff Award has helped me to achieve my main aim of becoming well rounded, knowledgeable individual, with the skills to be a top performer for future employers and feel I have shown this through my year at Quest Partnership. It is endorsed by many industry organisations whom have helped to design its content, to ensure it has a real commercial context. Therefore students should fully embrace the opportunity if it arises as the skills you learn during the year are relevant to any organisation and personally I perceive that the Cardiff Award was an important contributor to helping me secure my placement and also helping me to be the best I could whilst on placement.

Thanks for reading!

Laura Pollock, 4th year Psychology student

Networking Top Tips: Post by Meaghan Crancher

Hello everyone!

New LogoI recently attended The Cardiff Award’s networking event. I was nervous to say the least! I had never been to an event similar to this where I had to sell my skills and experience to businesses. Everyone was so helpful and patient as for many of us this was our first networking event. IMG_1628

I believe it was one of my best Cardiff University experiences. It prepared me for future networking events and interviews; something that I will be forever grateful for!

I just wanted to share a few tips:

1. Attire

First impressions are very important. At a networking event you should look presentable and confident. Coming in something that makes you feel good can make those nerves slip away! Make sure it is business attire as this allows people to picture you in their business environment.

2. Come with an open mind – Speak to everyone

When I attended The Cardiff Award’s networking event, I initially thought that some of the businesses at the event were not suitable for me. I decided that I would go to everyone, with the intention of the more practice networking the better. However, when I spoke to them every single stand had something to offer for me. Something that I couldn’t be happier about!

3.Know the businesses

IMG_1623One thing I found extremely helpful was researching each business that was attending the event. I figured out which companies I really wanted to speak to and what they offered. I then decided to prepare a small list of questions that I would ask. This research before the event prevented any awkward pauses or business mix ups!

4. Know Yourself

This may sound like a obvious tip, how could you not know what you have experience in? However, this I believe is where people struggle. Forgetting the official names of events or associations you are involved in, can leave a bad impression. You need to read through your CV, familiarising yourself with what you have to offer!

 

5. What can you offer me?

This I believe, is  an essential question. A lot of businesses are looking for specific criteria and experience.  However they are also seeking people with ambition and confidence.  Asking this question also gives you the platform to say why what they offer is suited to you!    oppertunity

I hope these few tips help you prepare for your next up and coming networking event!

Thank you for reading,

Meaghan x

 

Follow me on Twitter: @Cranchermeg

The Cardiff Award so far. Post by Charlotte Eales

charlotte ealesHaving been a participant of the Award for 8 or so months, I’m going to give you a whistle stop tour of my experiences so far!

I’ve already attended a variety of the talks and workshops on offer, including a maths support session (a session which proved very useful as I’m probably about as numerically challenged as humanly possible), Commercial Awareness, Speaking and Presenting by SDS, and Networking by Enterprise Rent-A-Car.  I’m currently signed up to attend CVs by CareerCake TV, Applications for the Third Sector delivered by innovate Trust and Job Hunting (something which seems to have become a personal reality very quickly!) by CareerCake TV.

Personally, I’ve found it really interesting to see how well the talks and workshops compliment each other. For example, attending the networking talk brought home the realisation of the necessity to gain the ability to sell myself to potential employers, whilst the Speaking and Presenting workshop helped me to develop the confidence to make this more of a reality.

New LogoFor me, one of the most daunting tasks on the pathway to the completion of the Award was the psychometric tests, and in particular the maths one: having done a minimal amount of maths since GCSE, I was convinced that I was destined for failure. I’d love to say that the practice tests made the task less scary but this really wasn’t the case for me. However, I was surprised to find that in my feedback I scored in the 70-something percentile for both of the psychometric tests (I even had to forward the email to my dad so that he could double check!). So even though practice questions didn’t make me any less nervous for the test, I’d definitely like to stress the importance of doing them; the practice tests provided don’t take long to complete at all and it’s well worth avoiding the hassle of having to retake!

Another concern  (as you can probably tell, I have a tendency to panic) was how I’d fill up my hours, as initially, it seemed like an awful lot of time. However, the fantastic thing about the Award is the recognition and reward it gives for time spent on activities that many students already complete. With two months left until I complete the Award I’ve already surpassed the mandatory 70 hours, with the help of a part-time job, work experience at Save the Children and becoming a committee member (something which the Award encouraged me to do).

In the coming months, I’m particularly looking forward to attending the applications for the third sector talk, as it’ll be interesting to contrast the desirable skill-sets that employers from different sectors are looking for as applications and interviews are definitely looming!

 

Facing Your Fears!

1497472_10153765295550074_1423407054_nI’m a 27 year old trained pharmacy technician with over five years of full-time work experience. I’ve served customers, used tills, phoned suppliers, worked with a variety of professionals, supervised teams and managed my own project. You’re probably wondering why I would bother taking part in the Cardiff Award when I already have this level of experience.

Well, to tell the truth, I could really benefit from it. I constantly struggled with my job. My duties may look impressive written on paper but in reality I had a hard time keeping up with my workload. On top of that I wasn’t particularly great at communicating with either my clients or my colleagues. I preferred to be left to my own devices in the back room where I could dispense without interruption. I grudgingly accepted the role of supervisor because no one else could do it and leading team meetings incited fear into my heart. I always got my work done on time and was regularly praised for my pharmaceutical knowledge but my extreme lack of confidence, especially in front of customers, was harming not only my professional image but that of my team.

gradI’ll tell you a secret: I did not leave my job and come to university to retrain in a better career. I did not leave my job and come to university in order to fulfil a burning desire to study literature. I did not even leave my job and come to university to experience the joys of studentdom which I’d missed out on when I was younger. I left my job and came to university because it was the easy option. I really did.

After five years of pharmacy it had got to a point where I was so overwhelmed with my confidence issues that coming into work every day felt like torture. I didn’t have a close relationship with my colleagues and I felt like they didn’t understand me. I felt like I was constantly struggling to keep up with everyone else and I dreaded the day my manager would pull me up for not making more of an effort. I hated making weekly phone calls to my patients and on the days where I had to make those calls it felt like a knife was twisting in my stomach. The day on which I considered not contacting one of my patients – which could have potentially had a profound negative effect on their health – I knew I had gone too far. It was ok for my lack of confidence to affect me but to risk the health of a patient was selfish and dangerous. I gave in my notice and applied to come to Cardiff University.

So I took the easy way out. I was now a student! Brilliant! Time to focus on what I wanted to do and, if I kept my head down and didn’t speak too much in seminars, I could probably get through it without drawing attention to myself. Fabulous. For the first few weeks of term I was walking around with a smile on my face. I loved my course and I’d made a few good friends who had the same interests as me. My family kept commenting that I appeared happier and healthier.

However, running away to university was a bit like applying a dressing to a wound. It provided temporary relief but more had to be done to heal it. I started thinking about the future. Yes, I was having a great time right now, but inevitably I would have to start thinking about a career, which meant I would have to confront my problem.

Surabhi Bhandari Picture3This is where the Cardiff Award comes in. During Fresher’s Week I’d picked up some information about the award. I was instantly drawn in by the skills workshops, which help with issues such as speaking, presenting and leadership, all of which I struggled with at work. As well as this, I knew that once I finished my degree I would have to fight for a graduate job in a highly competitive market. You’re probably well aware that there are often thousands of graduates, all with good degrees from good universities, applying for one position. I figured that the Cardiff Award was a good way to make my CV stand out from the rest.

The first thing I did for my award was the Self Assessment Exercise, which involved answering questions about the way I worked and motivated myself. It was such a simple exercise, taking no more than half an hour, but it was a massive turning point for me. After completing it I realised that I am actually quite a confident person, but I lack confidence in my own ability. This explained why, although I find it easy to socialise with people, I find it difficult to sell someone cough medicine. I did not believe I knew enough to make the best choice and was worried about appearing stupid if that happened.

However, while reflecting on my previous experience, I realised that I was actually quite capable and had only had good experiences. I just needed to let my confidence grow. Now I finally knew what the problem was, I could go about fixing it.

Throughout my time on the award I have tried to take on as many new experiences as I can in order to gain self-confidence. I volunteered for Blackout Wales, which meant working with a large group of people I didn’t know, but I loved it and made some good friends. I took part in Cardiff University Enterprise’s Concept, which involved working closely with my team and making leadership decisions. I had a fun time, learned a lot about marketing and also practised my teamwork and leadership skills in a ‘safe’ environment.

I worked in City Hall for a week as a graduation assistant, actually greeting every graduate who came through the doors. I made a couple of mistakes and got my words muddled up now and again, but no one cared. I soon got over my fear of looking foolish in front of people. The hardest experience for me was working on reception in a busy university department. I’d never worked on a reception desk before and was really scared of messing up. And I did mess up. And although I was very tempted to flee from the building, I sat it out. And everything was ok.

New LogoThe experiences I’ve had so far with the Cardiff Award are the most beneficial I’ve had in my entire adult life. A year ago it was beyond my comprehension that I would ever achieve the things I have since taking part in the award. I’ve learned an incredible amount which I wished I’d known while I was working. I’ve gained new skills, had experience working in graduate roles and my confidence in myself has grown and grown. So although I ran away from my problems I’m glad I ran to the right place. Doing my degree has changed my life. Doing the Cardiff Award is a way for me to put this change into effect and ensure that I have the best future I can have.

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Commercial Awareness – NOT JUST FOR BUSINESS STUDENTS!

The Cardiff Award has just entered its 4th year; if you are a follower of our posts you will know that its aim is to develop employability skills that are transferable across industries, including COMMERCIAL AWARENESS.

We seek feedback every year and in the main it is positive; some students however feel the heavy focus on commercial awareness pitches the Award at business students.  But this is such a misconception.  This year I am making it my mission to demystify this term and make Cardiff students understand it is an essential attribute regardless of career choice.

Firstly, why does the Award focus on commercial awareness?  A CBI survey in 2009 found that 35% of employers were dissatisfied with the business and customer awareness of graduates, and anecdotal feedback from Award sponsors and key recruiters is consistent with these findings.  If the Awards aims to make its students more employable, then developing participants commercial awareness is a priority.

Commercial Awareness Blog
Commercial Awareness: the key to successful applications.

 

What is it?

Put simply, it is having an understanding of what makes any business or organisation successful and understanding the factors that influence this success.  It is being able to demonstrate that you that you have an understanding of the market place in which a business or service operates.  Understanding what makes an organisation or business successful is a key requirement in most occupations and is extremely important when applying for a graduate job

So, when applying for a role in an ANY organisation or business it is understanding:

  • The sector and market place they operate in.
  • Who their key stakeholders are (customers, suppliers, competitors).
  • How they remain profitable/successful (all commercial businesses,schools, hospitals and charities have to perform to exist)

It is also understanding why you are applying to them, what motivates you, how much do you know about their values, their culture, the staff and the role you are applying for.  Where might the position take you within the organisation/the industry.

It sounds complicated but it’s not!  All it means is using the critical thinking skills you develop in your academic study to help gain an understanding of the career/sector/organisation/business you want to work in. Importantly, doing this will help you develop a better understanding of your career motivations too – is this organisation/sector right for you?   Knowing about the organisation and why you want to work there is powerful in the application process.

This should apply to all roles, for example:

  • Teachers need to be aware of current trends in education and political influences that may impact on what and how they teach.
  • Journalists need to know who their customers are and how to keep them engaged, they should know who their competitors are and how to stay ahead of them; they need to understand and keep up-to-date with emerging technologies that may impact on their readership etc.
  • Aspiring publishers need to know how the industry makes a profit, (it’s not enough to enjoy literature).
  • Fundraisers for charity/voluntary organisations need to think about how they make their organisation stand out from the 1000s of others out there.
  • Scientists need to understand the potential impact of their research

I could go on but hopefully I have made you think?

Developing Commercial Awareness

 You don’t have to be working  in a business to develop business/commercial acumen.

  • You may work part time in retail or hospitality.  Think about them in a business context instead of purely a financial means.  Who are their customers, how do they make a profit (e.g. promotional activity) and how do you help with this? Who are the competitors, how do they differentiate themselves from them? What impact have you had on your department’s success (have you won awards for good customer service or have you been given extra responsibilities)?  Are you aware of how your department combats losses? How have you helped with this? This can be easily articulated on a CV, or in an interview!
  • Involved in a Society? – How does your society ensure sustainability?  How does it generate income?  How do you attract new members over other societies?  What is your unique selling point?  What activities have you been involved in that have impacted on the society’s success?
  • As a volunteer what is your role?  What do you do that impacts on the organisation’s success and how do you represent them?
  • If you’re an academic rep then why is your work important to the University?  In a wider context why is it important that the University satisfies its student’s needs?  How are you impacting on this?

On a basic level make sure you keep up-to-date with current affairs. For example read the Financial Times or trade press for your industry (mention this in your CV by the way!) If you don’t keep abreast of issues in the industry you wish to work in then you should!

Prior to an interview or an application, research the company and role you are applying to and go deeper than looking at their ‘about us’ page.  Use LinkedIn to follow companies; have they got a Facebook page that provides a discussion forum about the company and the role you are applying for?  Is there a particular project that you have read about that impresses you? You should also be aware of societal or economic events / trends / news stories that have happened in recent years and affected the company or sector.

I could go on but this post is already too long!  I hope this has made you think about how you are developing your commercial awareness through your everyday activities and now realise that it actually applies to students across all degree disciplines and for all roles.

Remember every organisation/business in all sectors needs to operate successfully to exist.

My Cardiff Award Story – Amy Pay

Amy Pay pictureI stumbled across the Cardiff Award at the end of my second year at university. I had taken part in a handful of courses with the Skills Development Service and found them really useful. While browsing the annual graduate careers fair, I met Kath Foot, manager of the Cardiff Award, and casually chatted to her about my career goals and what work experience I had undertaken so far. When she learnt of my eagerness to succeed and pursue my interests, she recommended the Cardiff Award to me and invited me to apply. The next day, that is exactly what I did, and, as cliché as it sounds, I certainly don’t regret it.

Balancing the Cardiff Award with the rest of my commitments was difficult. Editing Quench Magazine, working occasional shifts with the Jobshop, writing things as a freelance journalist, spending time with my friends and loved ones, and not to forget the reading and writing for my degree, I already had a lot of things going on; with the Cardiff Award added onto that, I had to learn to manage my time and keep on top of things. This was tough, I won’t pretend otherwise, but I learnt a lot about myself and my ability to juggle things in order to reach multiple goals.

I ended up having a brilliant final year at university, despite how manic it was at times. I came out with three student media awards, a first class English Literature degree, no overdraft, friends for life and the Cardiff Award. The things that I learnt on the Cardiff Award mainly fell into two categories. Some of them were taught (such as presentation skills and how to use social media to job hunt) while others were self-taught and experienced (such as commitment, perseverance, confidence and self belief). There was nothing, though, that I did for my Cardiff Award that I thought was a waste of my time.

When I started job searching after my course finished at the end of May, I felt equipped to face the harsh reality of post-uni life. Within a month of finishing uni, I had secured an internship in a creative agency within my ideal industry. I wholeheartedly believe that participating in the Cardiff Award got me that internship, which has now turned into a full time permanent job. The certificate itself is one thing, but all of the little tips, tricks, insights and challenges I encountered along the way proved to be invaluable lessons I will hold on to for life.