Third year, or in my case my ‘Year in Industry’ year, seemed like a lifetime away when first starting web computing in 2014. I was also very sure of what my plan was; working in California for a huge well known company at the cutting edge of technology, Cisco or Google to name a few. But, what happens when you don’t actually get accepted, or the offer isn’t exactly what you had in mind, or you find yourself having to choose between two very attractive offers? Here are the do’s and don’ts I learned during my application process:
- Your summer job CV won’t make the cut!
This is the fun part! If, like the School of Computing, you have exceptional placement officers putting up company links on Moodle and having 1-to-1s with students to help improve their CV and cover letter, my advice to you is visit them as much as you can. My CV & cover letters changed so much from the very first placement I applied for up to the very last one. Make sure only relevant information and skills for the position you’re applying for is on the CV and make sure you research that company well enough so you can show off in your cover letter.
- ‘I like making websites but um I don’t have one…’
It always helps your chances in securing that job or placement if you have proof of what you say you can do in your CV. Mine was way overdue which meant I had to explain to some employers that I was working on an online portfolio, but it wasn’t published yet. This doesn’t just apply to tech savvy students, nor does it mean everyone needs a website to show off their work – I’m sure an employer will love a presentation with photos of your charity work (for example). Whatever it is, make sure it can be backed up by you at an interview.
Be open-minded and prepared for any question! Straight after one of my second interviews, I was asked to stay behind and take a technical test (I had to recreate the website example in front of me from scratch). ‘Sorry my lift is waiting outside…’ or ‘the thing is, I wasn’t expecting this’ won’t go down very well with them. If you are travelling a long way for this interview, give yourself enough time to get there relatively early (even if you sit down at the nearest café going over your info) and understand that these can sometimes go on for longer than expected. I always found it helpful to write down a list of potential questions they could ask me and I would study their answers, so there were no surprises.
It still stings a little.. that interview you are absolutely sure you nailed but it turns out you weren’t the right candidate. In fact that doesn’t mean you didn’t nail it, you probably did, but as more and more employers value experience over grades now-a-days, the pool of placement applicants becomes bigger. So don’t give yourself a hard time if you keep getting rejected at first, interviews are always good practice whatever the outcome, and rejection will only make you wiser for the next set of interviews
- ‘Time is running out, I’ll just take anything.’
Not necessarily! Remember you will spend an entire year in this position, wherever it is based in, so make sure you do your homework on what the job entails and visit the area you are relocating to (if any at all) before accepting. Students from previous years have started applying close to the beginning of term and haven’t found one they were completely happy with until summer after that year ended. So don’t give up!
- Don’t sell yourself short!
Something I found I always did during assessment centres was to compare my skills and experiences along with those of the other applicants. Now, whilst this can be good as you get an idea of who you are competing against, it is also bad if you don’t realise that everyone has different experiences and skills that can get them the job. The person sitting next to you may sound very confident, but are they more interested in your energy and willingness to learn? You just don’t know. So as you’re sitting there thinking ‘what have I gotten myself into’ just remember, you were also given a shot at an interview, and for a reason.
- I’ve got an offer!!!
..hang on; I’ve got two offers and the interview I wanted?!
Most companies will have a time frame for you to reply back to them with your yes or no answer, but remember that whilst you haven’t accepted any offers, you are still free to attend any interviews you want. Don’t reject any interviews for any uncertain offers, unless you are absolutely sure you want that offer of course.
Being three weeks away from starting my year in industry, I can honestly say it has been a journey I would have welcomed even if I hadn’t been given an offer by the end of it. I feel a lot more confident about interviews and what employers look for in a candidate. So take the plunge and go for it!