Assessment Centres: Civil Service Fast Steam

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Following on from a recent post about preparing for assessment centres, here’s an insight into the assessment centre for the Fast Stream (the graduate scheme for the civil service) from one of the Careers Group’s own Careers Consultants who was invited along to observe.

Our ‘spy’ watched three of the activities for the day: the group exercise, leadership exercise and interview. As part of the day, there was also a policy recommendation exercise which each candidate wrote individually.

Group Exercise

What it is: the candidates were given a fictitious scenario where they had to negotiate the best outcome for ‘their’ department and for the group as a whole. The candidates had some time to prepare and then discussed the scenario as a group.

The exercise is designed to test whether the candidates can make effective decisions, work collaboratively with others, lead and communicate and deliver value for money.

What the good candidates did well: Didn’t take charge, but helped keep the group on track both in terms of task and time. Stuck closely to the instructions given beforehand. Listened to the points of views of others and actively encouraged involvement from the whole group.

Leadership exercise

What it is: Each candidate had to brief a manager on how they would take on the role of team leader in a fictitious team which is facing a number of issues.

The exercise is designed to test whether the candidates can see the bigger picture, change & improve, lead & communicate, collaborate & partner, build capability for all, manage a quality service and deliver at pace.

What the good candidates did well: Gave their briefing a clear structure. Included consideration of risks. Included details of their plan, not just a general outline. Kept calm when asked some really tricky follow up questions from the manager.

Interview

What it is: one to one competency based interview

The interview is designed to test whether the candidates can manage a quality service, deliver at pace, collaborate and partner and build capability for all.

What the good candidates did well: Answered using the STAR format (giving details of the Situation, Task, Action and Result). Focused their answer on what they did in each situation. Gave a range of examples from all areas of their life: study, work, personal interests. Didn’t assume the assessor had read their application form (they hadn’t!)

Policy Recommendation exercise

What it is: the candidates had to analyse a file of papers and decide which of two solutions to an issue to recommend to ministers.

The exercise is designed to test whether the candidates can see the bigger picture, change and improve, make effective decisions, lead and communicate, deliver value for money and achieve commercial outcomes.

What the good candidates did well: Thoroughly reviewed all the evidence presented (including the stats!). Recognise the merits of each path of action. Made decisions based on the evidence presented on the day rather than their personal experience.

Awards Season and Diversity

Hollywood sign by Florian Klauer - public domain

Awards season is upon us with all its glitz and glamour.

But amongst the sequins, plunging necklines and star studded selfies, has emerged a more serious issue; that of the lack of diversity in British filmmaking.

In an article for the Independent, Chris Bryant, shadow minister for the arts described the almost complete absence of black actors and directors at the top of the industry as an ‘insulting throwback to a bygone era’.

Worryingly, according to the Taking Part survey, there is a 10% gap between white, and black and ethnic minority participation in the arts , which shows an under-representation in this industry more widely.

Does this impact you as students or recent graduates looking to break into the creative fields?

Be sure to take a look at our events calendar available via the Reach website as we often advertise schemes, internships and events that can help you with your initial steps. http://reach.thecareersgroup.co.uk/

 

Space: It’s open for business.

Think Space. You thought of rockets launching amidst explosions and astronauts floating about in zero gravity right? Now, scrap that and let’s start again, because the Space industry is so much more than that and has a lot to offer to students and graduates.

Room to grow

According to the UK government’s Space Growth Action plan (2013 – 2030), the UK Space industry will grow to have a £19 billion turnover by 2020. Year on year, the industry grows by 9% and it is estimated that up to 100,000 skilled jobs will be developed by 2030. It’s hoped that by 2030 the UK will hold 10% of the global space economy.

This sounds promising, but what does the industry look like and what type of career paths might be available to graduates to be?

Space calling Earth: applications of Space technology on Earth

Traditionally, the industry is split in two main sector categories: upstream and downstream. The upstream sector is about the building and launching of satellites and sensors to space whereas the downstream sector is all about the applications and services using the data generated by the upstream activities. The growth of the industry and an increase in the application of space technology to everyday life (e.g. knowing when your next over ground train is going to arrive) means that there has been an ever-growing number of businesses (global and local, small and large) that are now catering for these needs.

Again, in the Space Growth Action plan, it’s reported that some of the fastest growing markets are:

Security & Safety

  • disaster & emergency response
  • secure satellite communications (e.g. miliatry; remote locations)
  • maritime (e.g. pollution monitoring; illegal fishing)
  • geospatial services
  • space weather

Game changing services

  • low-cost access to space
  • space planes & tourism

Climate & environmental services

  • agriculture and food security (e.g. crop monitoring)
  • weather forecasting
  • environmental services (e.g. monitoring deforestation; monitoring climate change)

Public Sector

  • transport management
  • smart cities (using data to change the way cities operate, can affect decisions on urban planning)
  • energy infrastructure

E-connectivity

  • satellite broadband (for remote areas; broadband to ships and aircraft)
  • location based services (gaming)
Mapping forest structure from space

Mapping forest structure from space

Mapping forest structure from space: taken from European Space Agency http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/Mapping_forest_structure_from_space

 

With the growth of downstream services, which are more user focused, there are sub-sectors such as a Support Services. In this sub-sector you can find roles involving: data interpretation; sensor calibration; development of products using software and algorithms, data interpretation and visualisation. Finally, some more specialist sectors include space insurance; space journalism and space law.


Getting a job in the Space industry

I recently visited the 2nd Space Industry Careers Fair where I’ve seen presentations from 11 industry leaders. Some of the skills they mentioned and are looking for in a recent graduate include:

  • sales skills
  • bid writing
  • data analytics/science
  • problem solving
  • innovation
  • collaborative spirit
  • flexibility
  • Mathematical/logical skills
  • software skills (Java, C++, IDL (Interactive Data Language))


Where to look

Sector information

UKSpace – http://www.ukspace.org/

BARSC – http://www.barsc.org.uk/

EARSC – http://earsc.org/

UK Space Agency – https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-space-agency

Catapult – https://www.catapult.org.uk/

G-Step – http://www2.le.ac.uk/projects/g-step/info

 

Jobsites

SpaceJobs – http://www.space-jobs.co.uk/

SpaceCareers – http://www.space-careers.com/

Space Job Centre – http://spacejobcenter.com/

European Space Agency, Graduate Trainee programme – http://www.esa.int/About_Us/Careers_at_ESA/Young_Graduate_Trainees

 

Contributed by Melanie Christou, Internships Coordinator for Science at Queen Mary University of London.

Get into Teaching

Teach by Flickr user liquidnight used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0Do you know your Premier Plus, GTTR, SCITT and QTS? Those who do, teach. With so many changes to graduate routes into teaching, it can be difficult to know which route is best for you, what other options exist and what support you may get. Thankfully there is support even before you begin to apply.

On 7 March 2015 there is a teaching road show taking place in QEII Conference Centre. The event, run by the Teaching Agency, will give you an insight into the different types of teachers, the qualification routes and how to apply. According to the event website, you will benefit by:

  • speaking to our teaching experts at the National College for Teaching and Leadership stand; they can give you one-to-one advice on your training options
  • attending our application form clinic for personalised advice from one of our experts; ensure you register for a time slot when you arrive
  • meeting initial teacher training (ITT) providers from your region, who can tell you about the courses they offer and their entry requirements
  • meeting School Direct schools within your region, who can tell you more about the places they have on the School Direct Training Programme
  • meeting with professional associations to hear how they support subject teaching in schools and to get more information about the scholarships on offer
  • talking to current teachers in the ‘Meet the Teachers’ area

This is a great opportunity to explore what is an exciting career path for many graduates . One route,  Teach First, is now the UK’s largest graduate employer. There is also the new Premier Plus route for students expecting a 2:2 or higher and interested in teaching secondary maths, physics, chemistry, languages, computing or design and technology. And there are still some generous bursaries out there:

  • Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Computing – up to £25,000
  • Biology – up to £15,000
  • Modern Languages – up to £25,000
  • Geography, Design and Technology, Primary Maths Specialist – up to £12,000
  • Other priority subjects – up to £9,000

Experience is important when applying for teaching qualifications. It can be hard to get because of the CRB checks required by schools but you should make use of the work experience programmes available through the Teaching Agency.

For more information about careers in teaching visit Careers Tagged.

Teach by Flickr user liquidnight used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Reviewing visas for International students…..

This week I was fortunate enough to go to the Houses of Parliament, to attend the launch of a government report on international student post study work opportunities.  The Shadow Immigration Minister, UUK, the British Chambers of Commerce, Labour MP Paul Blomfield and Conservative MP Richard Bacon spoke at the launch, backing the findings of the report.

The report argued for a need to review the current visa routes for international students once they graduate.  It stated that the current system (since post study work was abolished) is damaging the reputation of the UK, reducing the numbers of international students studying here and failing to allow enough international students to stay on and work after graduation.

The report recommended a new visa route, whereby students would be able to stay in the UK for a year after graduation to build their skills and experience, in order to be stronger competitors for jobs which would sponsor them under the Tier 2 licence after the 12 months are up.  It also recommended a review of the Graduate Entrepreneur route, the Doctoral Extension and the Tier 5 temporary worker.

Read more here in the Times Higher Education article 

Contributed by Abi Sharma of the International Futures group.

Blogging for Creatives

emily benet

Blogging can be a great way to establish yourself in your field, whatever your creative pursuit. It can help you to develop your brand and can gain you an audience for your product/s.

Last Thursday, I attended ‘Blogging for Creatives’, a workshop organised by Southwark Arts Forum and led by blogger and published author, Emily Benet. Blogs have been crucial to Benet’s success as a professional writer. Her first blog was published in book form in 2009 as Shop Girl Diaries. Benet is now the author of three books. The Temp (her third book) is due out this year.

Below are some gems I gleaned from the event on how to write a successful blog:

Choose a niche subject, something that you are an ‘expert’ on and that will be of interest to other people (besides your Mum). This does not need to be something complicated or fancy. A cooking blog with a large readership, Joy the Baker, was started out of Joy’s obsession with cookies and cakes. Benet started her first blog because she was working full-time in her mother’s chandelier shop and therefore was an ‘expert’ on what it was like to talk to people who come into an unusual shop. As a writer, Benet used her niche subject to both entertain a readership and showcase her writing skills.

Be passionate about your subject. Take some time before embarking on the project to think about whether you really are interested enough in your subject to maintain your blog. Building a readership takes time and commitment, so make sure you are in it for the long haul!

Take blogging seriously. Blog regularly (at least once a week) and make sure that the quality of your blog posts is consistent. Do not write blog posts apologising for not having blogged for a while or for not having anything to blog about. You should blog well or not at all. While writing her first blog, Benet approached each blog post as though they were going to be published – and, while the internet is a form of publishing in itself, her posts were eventually collected in book form, so her hard work paid off.

Engage with your readers. One of the main benefits of having a blog is that you can interact with your audience. Make sure that you have an About page stating who you are, what your blog is about and how you can be contacted. Enable your Comments box and respond to your readers’ comments. Add social media widgets/gadgets to your blog posts (even if you are not a part of them), so that your readers can share your posts. Use social media channels yourself to continue to build your brand, engage with readers and other people in your field. Benet advises joining two social media channels and using them regularly and consistently. Facebook and Twitter are two of the most popular social media channels (and remember to set up a separate Facebook page for professional use), but if your work is more visual, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr can be used to great effect.

Engage with your community. Be part of an online community of creative people in your field. Interact with other bloggers by commenting on their blog posts and adding their blog to your blog roll – they may well return the favour. Similarly, follow bloggers and successful people in your field on Twitter and engage with them through tweets. Their readers/followers may spot you on their blog roll or Twitter feed and be interested enough to check out your blog and/or follow you on Twitter. 

A word of warning about social media: Do not exclusively use them to sell your product/s. People will soon get bored of those ‘Check out my blog/book/painting/exhibition’ messages. Intersperse these messages with more interesting information, such as comments about the work of other people in your field.

And finally, here are five top tips for writing a good blog post:

  1. A good title – to capture your readers’ interest.
  2. Clarity – Make sure that your blog post is easy to read both in terms of content (well-structured, well-edited) and lay-out (no complicated fonts and always remember to leave lots of space around your text).
  3. Consistency – Keep the quality of your blog posts consistent. And blog consistently!
  4. Concision – It’s a good idea to keep your blog post between 300 – 500 words, even less if you are including visual material.
  5. Visually appealing – It’s always great if you can include good quality images in your blog posts. If they are not your own images, always remember to credit the source.

So what are you waiting for? Get blogging!

Pick of the teaching vacancies

Teaching Agency logo

You might already be aware of the University of London Temp Agency as they provide a wide variety of vacancies relevant to students across the University of London colleges.

Recently they’ve added permanent recruitment to their services including a specialist agency for teaching roles which is really handy for anyone studying for their PGCE as there are lots of vacancies for newly qualified teachers.

Here is this week’s pick of the Teaching Agency vacancies:

For updates on teaching careers and the latest vacancies follow Careers in Education on Twitter and Like the Teaching Agency’s Facebook Page.

 

 

 

Social media jobs in the third sector

If you’re reading this blog post there’s a strong chance that you’re a child of the social media generation, with the likes of Facebook and Twitter a daily presence in your life. But while it’s clear that a career in marketing is one of the more popular desired career paths for students, many still don’t realise that there are an ever-increasing amount of roles focusing on social media available to recent graduates. Where once responsibility for managing social media accounts would fall to a Marketing Officer, companies are increasingly recognising the importance of social media and creating specialist positions to co-ordinate this, such as Social Media Officer and Digital Campaigns Officer.

This is particularly true for the charity sector, which shouldn’t really come as a surprise. After all, some of the most successful campaigns dominating people’s timelines and newsfeeds over the last twelve months have either been instigated or co-opted by charities. Whether it’s the ice bucket challenge or the no make-up selfie, the advent of social media has as Laura Phillips points out “allowed a portal of mammoth proportions to open for charities….allowing them a level of reach and engagement never seen before.” This level of reach and engagement hasn’t been cultivated by accident overnight; the largest 25 charities in the world have more Twitter followers than either the largest 25 retailers in the UK or companies in the FTSE 100.socialmedia And while levels of social media engagement aren’t everything for a charity (as this UNICEF Sweden campaign adeptly points out) the numbers do translate to where it ultimately counts for charities – donations. A Mashable survey last year found that 51.1% of respondents first found out about new social good initiatives through social media.

Here are a couple of ways you can start to improve your chances of getting employed in this area:

Gain experience

In this respect, getting your first job using social media is no different to getting your first job in any sector. Competition is likely to be fierce, and any evidence you can provide that you’ve already used social media in a professional context will be looked upon favourably by employers. You could look specifically for internships in a social media context, or volunteer to assist with posting to an organisation’s accounts when on any non-related placements. Alternatively, volunteering opportunities posted on sites such as Do-It often ask for someone to help out with social media postings. This will be particularly useful if you’re looking for a social media position in a Not-for-profit organisation, as it will show a genuine commitment to helping others.

Build your online brand

Hopefully you’re already aware of what your digital footprint is and the importance of ensuring that it won’t provoke a negative reaction from employers (take a look at this useful guide if you’re not.) But if you’re looking for a job in social media then you need to ensure that you’re going further than this, and also actively making a positive impression with your online presence. After all, employers don’t want to see someone with seemingly little engagement on social media applying for roles in this exact area! Find out more about how you can improve your online brand by reading this interview with a social media executive at ASOS.

Image courtesy of Alex Smith at Deviantart.com

Discover more about being a Senior Editor

Martin Eden, Senior Editor at Titan Publishing shares his story and gives us his top tips.

1930159_26901287246_111_nHow did you get your job?
That’s a very long story!
I graduated in the early 1990s with a degree in English & Latin, and then I travelled around a bit on the ‘Work America’ scheme, which I’d recommend to anyone (if it’s still going). When I got back, I was determined to get a job in publishing (my ultimate ambitions were to be Editor of Empire Magazine or The X-Files Magazine!), but it was really hard as I was based in Birmingham and there are very few publishing jobs there.

I spent a year in Birmingham living with my parents, applying for dozens of jobs (mostly in London) and temping as an admin assistant on a very low salary. After about a year, I was about to do a teacher training degree and then I was offered 2 jobs in London on the same day. I turned down the PGCE and I took an Editorial Assistant job at a very small publishing company in London (they had no computers!). After a year, an Editorial Assistant job came up at Titan Publishing, who I really wanted to work for, and so I went for it and I got it! I became Editor of the official X-Files Magazine within about 3 years.

Why did you want to do this type of work?
I’ve always enjoyed reading magazines and comics, and I thought this kind of job was really suitable to my capabilities. It’s creative, requires a good level of proof-reading and accuracy, and it also has perks that I enjoy (free movie showings, free comics, free magazines, etc). I’ve always worked on magazines related to TV shows/movies that I enjoy – I’ve worked on mags/comics for Buffy, X-Files, Heroes, Star Wars, DreamWorks, Simpsons and loads more.

How relevant is your degree to your job?
More than you’d think! Things have changed now. Back when I was 18, most people my age were going to university, and the fact that you got a degree showed commitment and set you up for joining the employment world. Now, I think a vocational degree is a lot more important, and there are student fees involved, so you need to be really focused on what you actually want to do in life.

I think the English part of my degree helped a lot, and English on your CV does definitely get your foot in the door for publishing jobs. Obviously the Latin part would seem trickier – but the latter actually caught the attention of my first boss – he was a huge fan of Latin and people who learned Latin – and it pretty much sealed the job for me. After a year of job-hunting, it was the Latin that began my career. Really, when it comes to job-hunting, there are no rules. Anything could work in your favour!

Describe a typical day at work.
It’s such a cliché, but there is no typical day at work. Most days are spent dealing with loads of emails from everyone and anyone – you really have to learn how to prioritise and learn how to say no (or ‘not just yet’). The rest of the time is spent proof-reading, sub-editing, planning, checking things for print, going to meetings, etc, etc. I work with a lot of people in America, so I often need to wait until about 5pm before I can ask them urgent questions (LA is 8 hours behind us).

On Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, we have Production meetings (one for our licensed magazines/comics, and one for our graphic novels and originated comics), so they often produce a lot of things to sort out. Tuesday at 3 is our print deadline for our UK mags/comics (Wednesday morning is the deadline for US magazines), so they are usually very busy – especially if you spot a bunch of last minute mistakes (which does happen).

What are the best/worst bits about your job?
Worst bits – mistakes getting printed are always rough. Minor mistakes will bug you, and big mistakes might cost your company money – but there is a team involved, so these should be avoidable (I did say ‘should’…). But if a mistake happens, you just have to move on – there is nothing you can do (unless it’s the printer’s mistake – it’s printed, that’s that). You can either beat yourself up about it, or you can move on.

The best parts are – giving paid work to artists or writers, or being able to successfully recommend them for work. And of course, it’s always exciting to see your magazine back from the printers. Even now – and I’ve been responsible for hundreds of publications – I always still get a thrill when a new issue arrives in the office.

Have you any advice for students and graduates wanting to get into this type of work?
For a start, don’t be nervous at the interview. Just relax and be yourself. The interview lets the company see if you’re the right person for them – but it’s also an opportunity for you to see if the company is right for you. As an interviewer, I know pretty quickly if the person is right for the role or not. Don’t be upset if you don’t get the job – things happen for a reason, and it wasn’t meant to be. Another company will benefit from having you!

Do try and get some publishing experience if you can – a lot of companies run internships these days. Experience will get your foot in the door, definitely, but proof-reading skills are more important to me (we’ll often give candidates a short test).
In general – listen to criticism and be open to it – it’s a very good way to learn. Always learn from mistakes. Mistakes will happen – it’s the nature of the publishing game – and you just have to try your best not to let it happen again.

I think also in publishing, it’s good to speak up. Anyone can spot a mistake. I think the old me, who started working at Titan 20 years ago, would probably have been too meek to speak up sometimes, but anyone can spot a costly mistake – never assume that someone else has spotted it.

Finally, enjoy it. You work many hours out of your week in a job, and you should be able to enjoy it.

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How to prepare for assessment centres

Student at interview. Copyright The Careers Group

Assessment centres are a very widely used selection method, principally because they provide a robust and all-round view of the candidate. The employers see the candidate in realistic work situations and examine what the candidate can do, rather than what they say they can do. There’s no room for bluff.

This strong ‘predictive validity’ (ie the clear link between performance in the assessment and performance in role) is precisely what makes them a bit scary. You can feel a lot of pressure when it comes to having to make a presentation, or participate in a group exercise, knowing you are being judged against everyone else who is taking part.

What are competencies?

Assessment centres typically include a number of exercises designed to assess specific competencies. It is worth spending time familiarising yourself with both the common types of exercises and the key competencies they test.

Competencies are the skills, behaviours or knowledge identified as necessary for success in role; things like team working or communication skills. To really shine at an assessment centre, you need to be achieving the highest-order elements of each competency. That means demonstrating a flexibility in their approach, to think strategically and critically, and apply the competence in a sophisticated manner.

Key areas to prepare to improve performance

Strong preparation is key for success at assessment centres. Let’s take a look at some useful preparation activities:

Make sure you know the priorities and strategic direction of the company you are applying to work for. If you know that they are in a growth position, then you can talk about expansion opportunities. On the other hand, if they are in a period of downsizing, think carefully about the cost implications of any ideas you may have. This can be particularly useful if you need to prioritise anything during a task, such as in an intray exercise.

Understand the organisation’s core business. If you are applying to work for a marketing agency, for example, you need to understand what the business does, even if the role is in finance or IT. If you want to work in telecoms, ensure you have at least a basic understanding of the sector and how they make their money. It may be hard for you to participate fully in tasks if you don’t know this.

Follow this up with an understanding of what is going on in that market. What are the pressures and trends? Who are the key players? If you can weave this information into any of the exercises – for example, by critically evaluating the fictional data using real-life examples – this can really set you apart from other candidates.

Think about current trends in the economy (e.g. globalisation, social networks, ageing demographics in Europe) and their implications for the sector. If you can incorporate these elements into your arguments, it shows breadth of thinking and strategic perspective. You may find it useful to use models like SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) and PESTLE (Political, Economic, Socio-demographic, Technological, Legal and Environmental) to organise your thinking.

Practise structuring information. You want to make it as easy as possible for the assessor to give you top marks; one way of doing this is to present your findings clearly and concisely – much as you would in a business context. Use headings, bullet points and numbered lists to display information, and remember to include an introduction and conclusion. Practise this and get some critical feedback.

Give some thought to the personal impact you would like to have at the assessment centre: what would you like the assessors (and the other candidates) to say about you at the end of the day? What can you do to create this impact? Assessors are often trained to observe and record non-verbal cues (body language) and everything, from the way you walk into the room, to the way you speak to other candidates, helps create the image that the assessors will form of you.

Don’t forget to brush up on your influencing skills. These are useful in group/report exercises and presentations. Some techniques to consider include using logic or reason to make a case, negotiation, building relationships or appealing to values. Avoid negative approaches like manipulation or intimidation.

Finally, practise managing your time and working under pressure. Assessment centre exercises are designed to be demanding – to perform at your best, you need to be able to focus and deliver, and practice can help with this. Don’t forget to take a watch and broadly plan out how you’re going to approach a task, as this can help you stay on track.

Current students will find that their university careers services will have lots of material that can help them to prepare for assessment centres, including links to online practice sites or even mock assessment centres with employers.

Today’s guest post, on how best to prepare for assessment centres, is brought to you by the graduate jobs board and forum WikiJob.