We were notified of an opportunity as an International Development / Business Administration graduate with WYG International – the international development consultancy arm of the WYG Group. I took a chance to talk to them about their work and the role they have on offer.
Firstly I just couldn’t help asking why they were based in Nottingham. Ján Michalko, one of WYG International’s Business Development Executives told me, “The location isn’t that meaningful for us because our operations here are just part of a global network. We have offices in several countries and regions including South Africa, Turkey, the Balkans – and, yes, Nottingham”
Having cleared that up I asked Ján about what lay behind the creation of the advertised post. “We already operate in a wide range of sectors – education, public finance, governance, and many more – but we are consciously expanding and diversifying our pool of donors. We have recently successfully become a supplier to DfID in various frameworks. So we really need a good applicant to help support our work in developing bids. We are bidding for work with donors such as the European Union, the World Bank as well as government departments”.
I asked about some of the ‘Job details’. Particularly about the element involving ‘strategic decision making on which projects (WYG International) should bid for’. I asked about what kinds of things are considered in this decision making. Ján was keen to reassure me that the successful graduate would be part of a team making these kinds of strategic decisions and that their contribution would be very much in a support capacity. “We would expect them,” he said, “to be conducting research about other likely bidders, for example. Or to review what resources, in terms of expertise and staff, we have available to help us deliver the work. Their contribution will be significant but it will be in conjunction with, and guided by, our experienced team.”
In a similar vein I touched on the element, ‘drafting of text and diagrams for bids’. Again Ján was clear that this did not mean the recruit would be writing entire bids but, rather, they could be asked to be draft or write sections or to source diagrams and pictures. “This could include using Excel to produce charts, for example,” he said, “but we have designers to make the documents conform to our standards. It could mean, for example, providing data that analyses a previous project. Items such as where money has been spent, what is the gender balance in the people impacted by our projects, recording measurements of success – a whole range of data, including numerical data.”
I asked Ján what he would be looking for when he reviews applications. “Confidence and some experience around dealing with data and solid analytical skills. This needn’t have been through previous consultancy work but would probably be more than just academic experience. Our bids don’t just involve researching material externally but we have an archive of material from previous bids. Having, in other words, the ability to review and retrieve pertinent information and integrate with other material. Other qualities we are looking for include ‘independence’, flexibility (especially when we are trying to meet tender deadlines) and research skills.”
I also asked Ján whether developing country experience was necessary. “We are an international development consultancy but the role has a dual aspect – business administration as well as international development. Developing country could be helpful but it isn’t a requirement. We are much more focused on the analytical and research skills. The role isn’t an international one – though we have a global network of offices and you may be called on to work overseas and meet clients when you have more experience. Mainly, though you will be office based. Having said that you will definitely need people skills – our bids are developed in teams of consultants and experts and in conjunction with other partners. So being able to get along with others is an important element.
Applicants are encouraged to submit applications as soon as possible although the nominal closing date is May 17th. Details from http://bit.ly/17eYqxK
Africa Governance Initiative – a Graduate Scheme February 22, 2013Posted by Jeff Riley in : Government, Graduate recruitment, development consultancies, international development, politics , add a comment
I was delighted to hear from Jo Evans. I first met Jo when she was involved with putting on the Oxford Forum for International Development (OxFID) while she was a student at Oxford University. She is now the second graduate to take part in AGI’s graduate development programme, and part of her role is to help recruit her replacement. I spoke to her about AGI, about the scheme and, along the way, picked up some useful tips for those considering the sector.
Firstly, Jo, what is the AGI? AGI was established in 2008 by Tony Blair and is one of the three charitable foundations that he set up after leaving office. Essentially it’s a not-for-profit concerned with improving governance in Africa through providing practical support to African leaders and their governments to help them deliver on their own priorities. We work at the centre of government, with Presidents and their priority ministries and all of our teams are embedded in the offices of our counterparts. We support them by giving practical advice on how to get things done and to deliver policies effectively for their people, which as you can imagine is hard in any government, let alone in developing countries where capacity can be low and the challenges are so great. Because AGI works with the leadership of countries, we have an explicitly ‘top down’ approach to bringing about change, which makes AGI different from a lot of other organisations in the sector that may be more focused on the grass roots, or on a combination of approaches.
How do you measure success? When the governments we work with plan and implement a programme that increases the productivity of small farms, creates new jobs, or connects two cities for the first time with a paved highway, the credit is all theirs; but if we can identify in that our contribution to the development of the skills and systems that enabled it to happen, then we know we’re making a difference. A more basic measure of our success is the growing number of countries that we work with; starting with Rwanda back in 2008, we now work with seven African governments, with more likely to follow in the future. Another great measure is the ongoing endorsement we receive from our partner governments for the work we are doing – a number of the Presidents we support have publicly complemented the support that AGI gives them and their teams, and some have even recommended our work to the leaders of other African countries. A typical example of how we have tangible impact can be seen in our work to support the government of Sierra Leone to launch free maternal and infant healthcare. This has immediate, real-world results – the number of children in hospital dying of malaria has fallen by 80%– but through the process we have also helped to put in place the long-term systems that will enable the government to deliver large healthcare reforms in the future.
What inspired you to work in this sector? Well, I have been engaged with development for about 5 years, ever since attending the student organised OxFID (Oxford Forum for International Development) conference. In fact I came along to one of The Careers Group days on ‘Getting Into International Development’. I had previously worked for about 4 years in the arts sector but decided that I wanted to dedicate myself to working on poverty reduction. I undertook an undergraduate degree as a mature student at Oxford, and while I was there I got involved in running OxFID 2010. Throughout my degree, I also interned and worked in the sector. I became interested in this ‘top down’ approach after spending some time in Pakistan where I observed the efforts of aid organisations in helping the country deal with the terrible floods that occurred in 2010 and 2011. They were doing great work – and saving lives – but it was clear that they were substituting for the proper role that the government of the country should have been taking in protecting its people and preparing them for disasters. So I found myself wanting to work to help governments deliver for their people. So when I saw the AGI graduate development scheme being advertised I was very keen to get recruited, and of course, the chance to spend time in Africa working on one of our projects was very exciting.
How does AGI’s Graduate Development Scheme fit in? Well the scheme aims to provide professional experience and personal development to someone who can become a leader in the international sector. At the same time the graduate Programmes Officer will make a practical and important contribution to our work in a number of ways. They will get exposure to many of the different functions involved in running a small dynamic NGO and will get involved in a whole range of our activities. Broadly speaking, the scheme is split into 3 sections.
During the first year of the scheme, the focus is mainly on operations. We are a fast paced and ever-changing organisation, so the new graduate may work on different areas to me, but to give a sense of my experience, I’ve been working on:
• Supporting our Recruitment: The organisation depends on recruiting high calibre people and running this not only links the graduate up with many different parts of the organisation, but also offers them a great chance to understand how organisations think about recruiting people. I’ve found this invaluable for thinking about my future approach to applying for jobs, and about the kinds of skills I want to build.
• People management: In addition AGI regularly recruits interns and I am responsible for line managing them. Again we think this is a key skill that the graduate will need to be able to develop their career in the longer term.
• Event Management: Every 6 months we hold big internal events which bring all of our staff together for cross organisation learning and training. I work closely with the Senior Mangement Team to design, plan and deliver these events which have built on my event and project management skills. At the same time it’s a great chance to meet and spend time with all of the people across our organisation who I think are extraordinarily talented and interesting. You can learn a lot from being around people who are dynamic and full of ideas.
• Research: During my time here I have had to deliver research in lots of different areas. The topics change all the time but examples could include researching for a briefing paper on the background of a leader who has expressed an interest in working with us, or researching an issue around agriculture that a partner government wants to focus on.
In the 2nd phase, the graduate will spend time working on a distinct project in one of our Africa programmes. This is a great opportunity to understand first-hand the challenges that our governments face and to develop the competencies set out in the job advert around influencing, coaching and delivering change through others, and building and maintaining strong relationships.
In the final year of the programme, the graduate’s work will be much more focused on supporting the projects, working alongside the Director of Projects and Performance. This work will also include working on our monitoring and evaluation processes. This will be invaluable for anyone who wants to work in international development in the future as effective reporting to donors and constant self evaluation to ensure that you have positive impact is a hugely important part of any development work.
What are you looking for in candidates? Well the job specification sets out the key skills and competencies we’ll be looking for, but in addition to this I can say the following.
The work focuses on international development, governance and public policy. Applicants will need to have a track record and an interest in at least one of these – or even all of them! Realistically we would expect these interests to have been demonstrated in a practical way. In my case I was interested in development and could point to my experience with OXFID as well as my work experience and internships with Christian Aid and Oxfam. One thing my recruitment experience with AGI has given me is an awareness of how often people claim a passion for something like international development without having any tangible evidence of engagement with it.
We hope candidates aren’t put off by the list of competencies we look for. For example we look for ‘Strategic Planning’ and ‘Leadership’, which it isn’t really fair to expect a graduate to have. What we are looking for is the potential to develop these – we don’t expect people to have already done it at a professional level. Even having run a student society or delivered an event could provide exactly the right evidence we need for a particular competency.
We are really looking for the scheme to develop potential, so people who have already had significant training or previous professional experience in the sector might find the programme wouldn’t be able to benefit them. On the other hand we want to encourage people that might not fit the ‘standard’ graduate profile to apply – mature students (like me!) can apply, non-traditional students can apply and both recent undergraduate and masters students can apply. As long as you have the capacity to benefit from the programme and the potential to become a future leader, then we’re interested in hearing from you.
Full details of the scheme, as well as occasional internships, are available on AGI’s careers page – http://www.africagovernance.org/africa/pages/careers
The deadline for receiving initial applications is March 15th 2013
Africa Governance Initiative
Political Risk – by the numbers May 28, 2012Posted by Jeff Riley in : Graduate recruitment, Political risk, networking , add a comment
While Seán Doyle was studying his Masters in International Peace and Security at King’s College London he admits he would have had to be dragged forcibly into professional accountancy. Yet two years later he is a graduate trainee with KPMG in London and studying for professional exams with the ICAEW. He has surprised himself by how interesting he finds it and his mother is delighted! We talked to Seán about how this change came about.
Seán, what made you consider accountancy? After leaving King’s I went into a more typical role from the War Studies cohort and became an armed forces analyst with IHS Jane’s. I was especially focused on corruption in Eastern and Central Europe and while I enjoyed it and was able to be effective I started to get lost when I reached the numbers. I think I realised in the long term not being at ease around the numbers was going to be a significant limitation on my professional skills.
What does your work involve? Technically I’m a ‘graduate trainee’ – in other words I’m on the graduate training programme. I was able to do this because they consider all graduates regardless of how long they have been out of university. I am based in the ‘Investigations and Compliance’ section which is part of KPMG Risk Consulting’s Forensic Accountancy Practice. A major part of our work involves ensuring that fraud is prevented or detected. London is really a good place to be for this work, not so much because the place is full of criminals but because it’s a big financial centre which means money moved from one country often passes through London before reaching its final destination – money laundering is always a danger. The court system is also safe and predictable. This means that firms with interests in developing countries will often prefer to take commercial disputes (and the investigations arising from them) to London rather than keeping them in their home country. All this means we deal with some big cases. I really think that if I’d stayed in Dublin I would have had to work for 40 years and have a lot of luck to get involved with the level of cases I’m dealing with here as a trainee. I have to look at lots of material to detect unusual processes and patterns that would alert us to problems or provide evidence of wrong doing. This could mean anything from ploughing through 2 million emails to reviewing thousands of mortgage agreements. I have to make assessments about this information and, where necessary, create an understandable narrative about what it is telling us about companies or individuals. This has to be understood by non-specialists. Most especially by judges, but also by the victim so that they can take measures to prevent the fraud from re-occuring. You have to stay alert and use your knowledge and analytical skills to pick up on things that could be easily missed. Of course we are often up against people who are very motivated themselves. In one recent case our investigations seemed to hit a brick wall because the person whose assets we were investigating had them all tied up in a divorce case. On further investigation it turned out that he had been conveniently divorcing the same woman several times over the years – and it always seemed to coincide with a financial investigation. We do come across the occasional ‘cartoon criminal’ like this.
It would be very unusual find a classic ‘smoking gun’, much more typical would be building a full picture over a time and connecting apparently disparate things together.
How did your academic background prepare you for this? In a general way by developing my writing and research skills but more specifically by providing me with language skills (I studied Russian and my work focuses on Eastern Europe); and modules on things like Law and governance. For example I wrote essays and articles on the UN Security Council which indirectly helped me understand how people construct legal arguments around decisions that aren’t that clear cut in reality. My modules on governance really helped with the compliance aspect of my job which has a focus on rules and attitudes around compliance issues and the training needed. Other subjects I studied included wartime journalism which has a clear relevance in terms of the writing I have to do.
In a more general sense there is a real parallel between the motivation I had for researching in the academic arena and research in the practical way I conduct it for KPMG. In both domains I see that I am motivated to get through material to understand what is really going on.
Where there is a gap is the whole area around numbers. It’s not something that is covered on the masters course especially.
Why KPMG? Well they do consider people from a wide range of backgrounds and they support you in training around ‘the numbers’ from scratch. So, amazingly, I am now studying for the ICAEW exams (Chartered Accountancy) – and finding it more interesting than I had ever imagined. It was also important for me that I was able to access the support they are able to offer. They really want you to get through the professional exams and they know that if you fail one of the exams more than once then it’s game over. So far I’ve been okay. Even with the tax module – which I find hard to be positive about – I was able to get through. So the fact they give you practice exams and revision time meant a lot to me.
What tips for those considering this kind of career? Well if you are applying for KPMG make sure you are motivated to do the job. By the time you get to final interview they will have worked out if you are intelligent enough and have the right experience. The final interview really tests whether you are motivated to do the job and involves presenting a case study. It isn’t that difficult for them to tell whether you have prepared this thoroughly and are able to demonstrate a genuine interest. The interviewers will really grill you on this because they do want to see if you can think on your feet. They also want to see whether you will fit in with the culture of the firm. So do have a look at the company values and have an honest look to see if they really resonate with you.
A few more tips I found useful
- Do consider this as a career. I rejected it flat out before I knew about it but there is a real connection between my subject and this work.
- Do less applications but do them better. Tired people put in tired applications.
- CVs – customise them. It’s usually obvious when you haven’t. Consider for example is your language skill relevant? Often it will be. So give it more prominence in your skills section. I also tend to recommend a profile early on in the CV to highlight your key selling points
- Use your careers service. I was lucky in my department, they really got on our case about using careers and I did I found it very helpful both for CV checking and the practice interview they gave me. Typically in the careers library you come across material by accident as well which really reinforces my message about being open minded.
- Network. Again we had lots of events which enabled us to meet people but you can use things like LinkedIn to network. People like me aren’t in a position to give out jobs but we do have useful things to tell you. I think people avoid it through a fear of rejection. The best way to make sure you get a positive response is really reading the profile of the person you are communicating with and finding a legitimate point of connection. I wouldn’t be very motivated just to help people I don’t know who just want a job.
- Check your online profile. Even if recruiters don’t check your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts (though they sometimes do) your colleagues most likely will and you want to make sure you present a professional profile.
- Don’t take it personally. Sometimes recruiters make mistakes and sometimes in a rejection there are things for you to learn. In either case you mustn’t get discouraged.
THESE COMMENTS ARE NOT THE OPINION OF KPMG UK LLP
How to get rejected in 7 easy steps* May 18, 2012Posted by Jeff Riley in : Careers Advice, Graduate recruitment, Uncategorized, career information, careers help, interviews , 2comments
With more applications than ever from graduates being considered every year you would think the last thing the accountancy profession needs is more brilliant applications but recent figures from High Fliers points out that marketing and teaching remain more popular than accountancy – but the accountancy profession has more jobs to fill
Consequently the title of the talk ‘How to get rejected in 7 easy steps’ by Angus Farr (www.employabilityskills.co.uk) was strictly ironic. Angus was talking as part of an event for careers and academic staff by the ICAEW, one of the professional accountancy bodies.
Incidentally Angus disproves a couple of myths about accountancy. Firstly you don’t have to study accountancy to be an accountant (he studied medieval history) and secondly he was really funny and interesting. I hasten to add I never bought into these myths in the first place – accountants rock as far as I’m concerned.
1 “Don’t bother trying to understand recruitment from an employers’ point of view”. Oh dear, says Angus and points out that employers don’t intend things like assessment centres and application forms to be intimidating and tedious. Essentially they are trying to find out three things about you
Can you do the job?
Will you do the job?
Will you fit in?
Application forms can appear awkward to applicants but employers like them because they know where the information they need is on their own forms. In addition forms aid objectivity in a way cvs can’t. For those of you complaining about the stress on A level grades he pointed out that this form of assessment – sitting in a room on a wooden chair with a wobbly desk exactly mirrors the ICAEW exams in a way that the continuous assessment style of degrees simply doesn’t. Interestingly later on he also pointed out that there may not be an easy correlation between passing the ICAEW exams and being a good accountant. At an ICAEW event this was like letting off a small hand grenade
2. “Don’t try and play the game – its not fair on other candidates”. Rubbish, says Angus. He says DO play the game and make sure you try to beat the other COMPETITORS
He pointed out that candidates don’t make it for distinct reasons
1 Applicants are sometimes not good enough. This doesn’t mean they can’t make themselves good enough but candidates may need to improve or find something they are more suited to. Getting more commercial awareness or buffing up your team work are areas easily improved on. Why so glum?
2 Employers can make mistakes. A tumbleweed moment from those of us to whom this had never occurred before. Angus pointed out though that employers are human and accountants are often human too. Consequently they do things like choosing the wrong selection criteria or often giving a role in graduate recruitment interviews to inexperienced managers as a way of getting practice.
* Show you are good enough. In other words make it obvious. He drew a comparison to taking a driving test – don’t just look in the rear view mirror but make it obvious to the examiner that you are looking in the rear view mirror. The equivalent in assessment centres would be not just being a good time manager but take your watch off as a pointed gesture that you are looking after the time. Admittedly, Angus said, the other candidates will think you’re a ‘git’ but the assessors won’t have missed it either.
* Show your good enough by being ruthless in excavating your experience. Angus cited someone who had worked in a petrol station but had mainly flagged up its customer service element rather than the accountancy skill involved in till reconciliation – auditors like both these skills but the latter gets them really excited.
3 “Don’t waste time proof reading your applications employers will just look at qualifications . . . .won’t they?” Er, no, Angus says. Don’t make it easy to get rejected by following this foolish advice. Chartered accountants use more words than numbers and this is true from the moment you first apply. Numbers of applications for accountancy jobs are going up but fewer people are employed to filter them. Spelling mistakes in this situation are a quick and objective way of filtering. Angus pointed out that as a selector the second spelling mistake in an application meant he could stop reading it – game over.
A great metaphor for this level of carelessness. Consider that candidates haven’t been properly taking instructions from their internal risk departments – if you can’t be trusted to follow simple instructions and count the number of words in an application would you be trusted, for example, to not pile into the Bolivian cocoa butter market when instructed by a risk department not to do so? Angus was able to point to one recruitment round in which one third of applicants broke the word limit.
4 “Don’t bother with mirror checking you look fabulous all the time” On the contrary, says Angus the ‘non verbal’ is important. Many applicants can say the right things these days but how they say things and their body language often betrays them.
* Web to web handshake. This is an uber handshake that goes beyond palm to palm. Get a grip says Angus. And get to the assessment 30 minutes early so when others arrive you are already installed, as it were. Then go greet them with your uber web to web handshake . Unsettle them because they are your competitors! I boldly put it to Angus that you could equally be authentically friendly and see them as future colleagues rather than competition. He wasn’t buying that and in fact went further – make sure you read their names, he said, so you can strategically ‘name check’ them in the group discussion. Angus carries his alpha maleness very lightly.
5 “It’s only the interview that’s important - forget the before and after”. No and a thousand times no, says Angus. Employers inflict heaps of different recruitment tools on applicants because it helps them get a more rounded picture so ….
* Practice numerical and critical reasoning tests. There is a really high failure rate with those whose first attempt at these is at the actual assessment. Work through the practice booklets. There aren’t that many organisations designing these and you may even remember the questions and or even the answers. Incidentally Angus feels students who ‘talk’ well sometimes confuse ‘Verbal reasoning’ with speaking English. They aren’t the same and you need to practice verbal reasoning.
* Having said all that second interviews are VERY important. Often they are conducted by senior people and human resource staff are less likely to contradict them when candidates are being discussed and scored. So don’t blow the second interview folks.
6 “Don’t ask for feedback it’s never useful”. Students says Angus , are aware of the importance of asking for feedback but they don’t actually do it. It is also true that it’s a pain for employers to give and they are nervous about doing it because of potential legal complications. So instead Angus suggests asking a different question – not ‘why didn’t I get the job?’ but ‘what did the successful candidates do or say that helped them get selected?’
7 “Don’t waste time researching sites like ICAEW or talk to careers or tutors – you’re busy applying for jobs”. Oops, says Angus. Another big mistake. It is an expectation that you will know the company. Not just the web site but go beyond the minimum by checking out profiles on LinkedIn for example. Sign up for company emails as well. Companies use these to reach out to clients and this would provide helpful insights and might even make you aware of senior people who might interview you. This isn’t about blagging but brings us back to making sure you can convince employees that you can do the job, will do the job and that you will fit in.
In the same spirit you might also like to read ’5 sure-fire ways to blow your internship’ ‘ at http://www.youtern.com/thesavvyintern/index.php/2012/04/17/5-sure-fire-ways-to-blow-your-internship/
A visit to Lloyd’s Banking Group April 24, 2012Posted by Jeff Riley in : Graduate recruitment, Industry Information, Uncategorized, finance, internships , 1 comment so far
*** This post has been checked 3 April 2013. Most graduate scheme places in Lloyds closed by December but ad hoc posts still available. Worth checking the site for useful blogs for those considering applying in future ***
I’ve changed roles recently and have been finding my way at my new postings at Queen Mary (including their excellent politics and history departments) and UCL. I intend to keep on posting here about getting into international development as well as international relations and related careers. Occasionally I post on other things and I have just uncovered this report I wrote on a visit to the Lloyds banking group towards the end of last year. I normally ask the companies to double check my visit reports but on this occasion it got a little lost. Rather than just chuck it I thought I’d post it here and hope it gives readers an idea of the kinds of roles and internships a bank offers – this was for the 2012 programme but the 2013 programme will no doubt be unveiled later this year…
Jeff Riley, The Careers Group, University of London
10.30am I’m on my last corporate visit of the summer. Graduate recruiters use these group visits to brief careers advisers about their forthcoming recruitment campaigns. I push the boat out by bringing a suit to change into as I cycled here. Top facilities to get changed in and I emerge looking all presentable and normal and head like an arrow for the tea and hob knob biscuits.
11.10am Michael Nathan from Lloyds graduate recruitment team does the housekeeping, you know the usual cautionary note to prevent death by burning. Even more ominous to me is the phrase ‘buffet lunch’. Perhaps I misheard?
11.20am Lloyds 2012 campaign has started with the launch of the website yesterday. I’m feeling autumn term has arrived early this year and this kind of keeness isn’t helping. I see a tidal wave coming at me with data projectors, roving mikes, students and recruiters all bearing down on me with no higher ground available. Apparently Lloyds have already received 600 applications from pre-registered students. These statistics are going to take pride of place in my tough love campaign I’m planning for students in the new academic year. “Hello welcome to College ….you are already behind in the race.”
A corporate video to start…that’s technologically brave but it works a treat. These guys go back to the 17th century. Since then they have amalgamated with Scottish Widows, TSB, Halifax, Bank of Scotland, Clerical Medical, Cheltenham and Gloucester (and most recently, of course, with the UK government). Now the largest retail bank in the UK with 30 million customers (including it turns out half of the careers people in the room) and a £1 trillion balance sheet. All this to a Carmina Burana style sound track.
11.30am Graduate leadership group. 360 degrees of opportunity This strap line really rooted in the breadth of organizations that now make up the group. One of the key themes of the day is that this breadth means retail banking is only one option for graduates. They can become involved in insurance, wholesale and corporate banking, foreign exchange, risk and more. Trainees can opt for many different streams and, during their training (typically two years) rotational placements give a varied foundation for future careers.
Michael then asked us why Lloyds had been in the news lately . Hang on I know this….No it’s gone. Was it something about separating retail from investment banking? No one could remember but we all then remembered it was about a big redundancy programme the Group had announced. Michael assured us though that these would be phased redundancies and in the coming campaign they still want 200 graduates and 60 summer interns.
Trainees take a series of placements, usually between 3 and 4 across divisions such as insurance and banking all underpinned by a different theme eg customer service, leadership and different aspects of risk, for example risk focusing on HR issues. Most likely these rotational training programmes will involve working in different parts of the UK
Lloyds see the graduate training programmes as a chance for trainees to see which discipline and area would suit them in the longer term. All trainees are supported by a central team and a personal and a professional development programme which includes including a formal qualification in such things as accountancy, human resources and IT.
- General management – This stream takes 50% of trainees and includes community banks, wholesale, operations and wealth. All programmes include leadership skills and the IFS School of Finance professional qualification
- Corporate banking – includes 8 weeks technical training
- Treasury and Trading –
- Wholesale Markets
- Finance – CIMA or ACA professional qualification option. A 3 year programme
- Business technology – a challenging area to recruit for but Lloyds stress it’s not about programming’ and is really about leading and managing. However an interest in technology is essential. The professional qualification is the ADMP – Association of Project Management - in other words a management rather than a technical qualification
- HR – Includes support for CIPD
Benefits package. £28k-£38k plus £3k joining bonus. Laptop and mobile phone and, where appropriate, London weighting.
Entry qualifications. Need 2.1 and between 260 and 320 UCAS points.
In addition the application process looks for
‘Leadership’. If the only evidence of leadership is as part of an academic module then it is not going to be considered sufficient.
A Numerical test is included but the good news is that most people pass this.
Telephone interview covering communication skills and the other competencies
The Internship Programe. - A 10 week summer internship programme with the same recruitment process as graduate entry. The good news though this can convert into a job offer (called ‘referral’) after a successful internship. Consequently around 80 % of interns get referred. Finalists who are going on to a masters programme can apply to the internship programmme after their degree but more typically internships go to penultimate year students.
Hints and tips
* Research Lloyds banking group
* Attend university events where Lloyds are taking part
* Catch the webinars on the graduate web site
* Keep abreast of finance and industry news eg independent commission on banking report – going beyond tabloid front page news.
This section introduced us to some current trainees on different programmes
# Corporate markets trainee – a computer science grad from university of Manchester from 2009. Range of work includes
- Restructuring debt deal
- Currently a forex dealer – from 100k to 100 million – first deal was for £40 billion yen. Now enjoys looking at profit at the end of the day.
- Not about being weeded out or long hours. They ‘chuck money around’ for professional qualifications. Good social network amongst the recruits
# Amy Walter – HR from University of Bath. Relevant degree is unusual. Had done a bank of England internship. Now executive resourcing A new chief executive means lots of changes at the top
- Business placement – product manager in payments team looking at profit level on debit card and some fraud. Great front office experience. With a general HR placement to come
- Social side like being a student but with money.Able to organise own work shadowing – 100 per cent yes because of buy-in from management
- CIPD is useful but a challenge to balance it with work.
- Scope for charity work eg encouraging HR staff to work in schools or local hero mentoring scheme – young athletes sponsored by Lloyds
# Alex fogg a business studies graduate from University of Cardiff
Currently insurance manager in risk. Negotiating with brokers
Why Lloyds? A colleague points out that all the trainees comments sounded like they could be equally applied to other graduate schemes. All the trainees acknowledged that they had applied to other schemes but found Lloyds recruitment process less ‘gruelling’ and gave a chance to meet other recent trainees which gave them a sense of the culture. At Lloyds it felt like looking for reasons to recruit you rather than weed you out.
1 pm Okay it’s lunchtime now so why is James Weaver asking a question? It’s my fault I should have briefed him more precisely about my lunch needs. Having said that the dread phrase ‘buffet lunch’ was heard earlier so I am braced for disappointment
The legendary lunches at Deloitte and Accenture are hard acts to follow but I can’t be doing with fancy little sandwiches with fruit to follow. In fact I stopped providing buffet sandwiches at my careers events because I disapprove of them in principle. There is a little cafe right in the atrium where our lunch is served and I toy with the idea of making a raid on it but hold off because I realise my food preferences might seem like borderline phobias. I plough through a third slice of melon.
After lunch a very thorough outline of Lloyds diversity programmes. Suffice to say the length of the session did underline how seriously the issue is being taken.
4pm – Cycling home. Weather good but wonder if I have eaten enough melon to get me home.
Social science in the oil and gas industry November 21, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Graduate recruitment, Industry Information , 2comments
Piers Moffatt graduated with a BA from the War Studies department in 2007. He came back to meet some of our students to talk about his subsequent career in the oil and gas industry.
Piers, how did you get started in the sector? I hadn’t considered what I was going to do that much while I was studying but in 2007 it became pretty clear that the job market was going to get very tight. I basically got on the phone and chased down everyone in my network – I’d been to an international school so I had a fairly wide reach. Eventually I got into what I thought was a conversation with an oil and gas startup company who one of my friend’s family had a connection with. It turned out it was more of a job interview than a conversation. The job offer though was dependent on me preparing an executive briefing situation report on the Angolan Oil industry. Having said that I have to admit I had misheard them and they were expecting a piece on the Algerian oil industry but I guess they were convinced I had something to offer. At the same time I was also preparing my dissertation and choose to focus my paper on something relevant to the potential job. In the end I decided to look at the geopolitical and social implications of oil and gas exploration and production activities within the Kurdistan region of Iraq. At the end of the day, the fact that the company was a startup worked very much in my favour as the most important part of my role was to be flexible and hard working as well as demonstrating a good fit into the company’s organisational chemistry.
That was a very strategic approach to your dissertation. Well it was a good way to demonstrate an ability to conduct research and analysis relevant to the type of work I wanted to pursue. I think I’d recommend not just using a dissertation to write about what you just happen to be interested in but think of a way it can align you with the job market.
What else did you bring to help you land the job? I think it is worth stressing that getting a real grounding in some of the practical skills that we take for granted can go a long way. In my case I had to become pretty good with things like Access and Excel in my spare time. These are fairly standard things that lots of students know a little about but I was able to demonstrate that I was fairly fluent – for example knowing about VBA Macros in Excel. Very early on I was concerned to get across my capacity to work. Someone asked me what my distinctive quality was and I told them that I simply worked my a** off! Actually though, I do. I love my work. Another important thing to stress is always be curious. When you hear something go off and do some independent research so that you can contribute at a later stage.
You then moved to Wood Mackenzie your current employer? Yes, the first company was a startup during a very difficult time. The massive rise in oil and gas prices in 2007 followed by the subsequent collapse in the financial industry put a lot of strain on the industry. It become increasingly difficult to access financing and the markets became very uneasy around oil and gas companies because it’s a highly capital intensive industry with long lead times. At the same time, it is also extremely risky with huge capital outlays and no guarantee of financial pay-off, particularly around exploration. Typical drilling success rates are around 30% and it you assume that most offshore wells will cost upwards of $20 million dollars smaller companies can run out of money very quickly.
Was that a formal recruitment process? Absolutely, I knew the company and they knew me through my work in the industry but given the difficulties in the job market everyone needs to go through the same type of process to ensure that you have the fundamentals. I had to make sure I prepared myself for the recruitment and assessment centre. They conducted a numerical and psychological reasoning test early on followed by a case study interview and a final discussion with the head of the unit. While the maths wasn’t particularly difficult, GCSE level, it was necessary to brush up because the questions are designed to test your numerical reasoning. Two or three days of locking yourself away with a calculator is what is needed and you have to be prepared to put in the effort.
What do you do for Wood Mackenzie? I’m a consultant. The kinds of work I do varies. For example one oil company wanted to know how quickly they could move from discovery to extraction in Kazakhstan and how they could then monetise their resources. Now they thought about 5 to 6 years but we were able to provide a more realistic estimate 11-15 years and this was evaluated in terms of new transit routes that could likely be developed in that timeframe. I was also recently in Singapore advising an oil company about how they can benchmark themselves against other oil companies in terms of their exploration processes. Our role was to do an internal diagnostics of the company that hired us, find where their process were weak and then use our networks in the industry and previous experience to provide best practice solutions from some of the world’s most successful companies. Outside the skills and experience of our team, we also rely heavily on the company’s proprietary database. This is one of the most comprehensive data sources in the industry and captures everything from licensing awards to wells drilled as well as different industries that allow us to forecast energy pricing and demand. We are then able to leverage this knowledge and provide holistic interpretations about what is happening in the industry and how it could possibly develop.
We don’t find many of our students going into this sector. Well, if history is anything to go by you typically need to be an engineer, geologist or geoscientist to get into it. Once you have the grounding, you are then trained up in commercial aspects and can either follow a more technical or managerial position. However my belief is that the industry has so much to offer and I aim to make sure we don’t exclude people just because they come with a social science background. I have to say I think it’s a great sector to work in. So many people have opinions and make judgements on the industry, but once you get exposure you can truly appreciate it for what it is.
So Wood Mackenzie has a graduate programme? Yes, and an internship programme as well. The graduate programme goes on year round. While it doesn’t pay as well as, say investment banking, you can earn pretty good money. On top of this you can earn up to 30% of your salary as a bonus. As well as consultants we recruit researchers. No matter what role you have you will need good personal interaction skills. If you are a data genius but can’t get along with people it’s not going to work. This is something that has become increasingly important during the hiring process. Finding the right people is key.
http://www.woodmacresearch.com Wood Mackenzie is the most comprehensive source of knowledge about the world’s energy and metals industries. They analyse and advise on every stage along the value chain – from discovery to delivery, and beyond – to provide clients with the commercial insight that makes them stronger.
Accenture Open Day for Careers Services July 1, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Graduate recruitment, consulting, development consultancies, international development, recruiters , add a comment
*** Update March 2013. Applications for summer 2014 internships open on September 1st 2013 ***
Every year Accenture have an open day for Careers staff to update them on their recruitment situation. This year it’s at the National Theatre. A trip to the NT usually involves me paying £12 and leaving at the interval but Accenture have promised us an exciting day –so I’m sure I’m going to be here for the duration
The host for the day introduces us to Royce – a Senior Executive. Royce gets me on board by saying he cycled from London to Paris in 24 hours to mark his 50th birthday. His career has taken him all over the world but started at Norbury. It also included developing Accenture’s relationship with the National Theatre. Because it’s Accenture, Royce says, they focus on ‘innovation’. So no ‘Noel Coward’ and lots of ‘Warhorse’. And the National Theatre will soon be coming to the iPhone. A shiver passes through the audience. Anyway, a lovely urbane introduction.The Recruitment Process The morning session gave us some insights into Accenture’s recruitment process. Beginning with
First round telephone interviews – staff making these initial calls follow a consistent method. Almost a script really. Members of the recruitment team role played a call for us. Calls cover three areas.
- Career focus – eg why consulting and why Accenture?
- Case study
Here are some tips flowing from the role play starting with my tip about the tips. Don’t just copy the phrasing you read here but take on board the principles being outlined.
Why Accenture? Looking for specifics – less ‘you are a big company’ and more ‘you work with such and such a client and offer this and this’.
What does an analyst do? Less ‘using PowerPoint and doing research, probably’ and more ‘Well, I’ve seen the video on your website and see there are a range of things. For example…..’
Competencies – The facilitator stated that they explicitly ask for answers structured on the STAR system and the role-playing interviewer reiterated this to the candidate.
Case study – “How might you help a call centre reduce staff churn?” Do provide specific suggestions. Don’t say “er…look at what the competition is doing?”. Be ready to be pressed for more detail on your suggestions. Heaps of case studies online on their website which Accenture feels gives you everything you need to get through the process.
Second Round – The second round consists of an assessment centre comprising an in-tray exercise, a case study, a one to one interview and a group exercise. Concluding with another individual interview.
The group work exercise involved 4 analysts hamming it up as stereotypical
Candidates creating a plan for a school in Africa on behalf of Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP being Accenture’s international development arm). This was all instructive and fun. In this exercise recruiters are looking for key competencies
Drive and Motivation
A key distinction was drawn here from other consultancies that place an emphasis on ‘Leadership’. Underlining the importance Accenture place on team work. In brief – Don’t talk over people, ensure everyone is included, be proactive and make sure you keep to time and keep to the brief.
I managed to ask a question that included a reference to ‘The Apprentice’. I contrasted the ethos of that programme (one person left standing on top of a pile of bodies who’ve been stabbed in the back) with this exercise that could see all candidates come through. The host said it was a really interesting point, so there. Encouraged, I start working out how I can get in references to ‘Gladiator’ and ‘The Godfather’. They’re going to love ‘em.
Lunch – the thunderstorm held off long enough for the balcony barbecue to go ahead. Top lunch as well – kebabs followed by an excellent chocolate pastry and ice cream. After lunch the rain came….spectacularly. We are in a glass sided building high up above the river like an aviary of nervous canaries.
Post Lunch – Some key figures setting the context for the 2011-12 campaign
500 graduate analysts needed
Summer Interns up to 250 annually by 2013 and 120 in 2011-12
Accenture considered as a top 10 employer at 14 universities
Is at number 9 in The Times Top 100
Current Share price at an all time high
The Analyst Consulting Group (ACG) – Emma Cooper, a Senior Executive, talked about ACG group that hs been created for all new graduate entrants. Whether they are recruited for Technology or Management Consultancy. ACG is designed to provide a chance for new entrants to get broad experience before choosing a specialism. It is the home for new entrants typically for two years. Accenture is a big organisation – 223,000 worldwide and ACG is a smaller family within that. Within ACG new entrants join one of 15 sub groups. These form the main conduit for social and training events.
Support. The support and training package includes Career Counsellors who act as mentors for new entrants during their time at ACG. Counsellers have ‘non-corporate’, supportive conversations that help junior analysts find their feet and direction.
Training – While Accenture do not offer a professional qualification they do provide a comprehensive training package (4 to 5 weeks in total). Elements of this include a 2 day induction covering Accenture structure, housekeeping and a discussion on the founding Accenture values. The training includes an international element. This is to one of their international delivery centres, possibly Chicago or India.
The second year of the support programme covers more generic skills. Encouraging analysts to consider what they are known for and what they stand for as individuals. Encouraging reflection on their personal brand. The ACG also provides a focus on Performance management and scheduling into their first projects.
Project experience during the ACG period covers the full range of analyst activities everything from training to analysis or developing training materials and providing impact assessments.
Question and Answer Session As we were a little slow off the mark Accenture recruiters leapt in with some questions of their own to the panel. This was helpful and they were excellent questions. But, correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t they know this stuff already? Anyway some of the things that came out included.
Postgrads enter at the same level as those with undergraduates degrees if they don’t already have consulting experience. Accenture is a meritocratic organization so they are able to progress faster if they are high performers.
International Students Tier 1 post study can apply but this is going from April 2012 (closed by the UK Government). Tier 2 is remaining and applicants are considered on a case-by-case basis
Technology roles are not for geeks, nor do they involve coding. Some of the exciting technology that is creating work for analysts include mobile phones, sustainability, iris and facial recognition (facial technology is being deployed now that can tell identical twins apart).
Internships are being expanded. Because they both improve performance across a range of indicators and help Accenture establish relationships with potential applicants.
Careers and internships in European Institutions May 10, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : European Union Careers, Government, Graduate recruitment, internships, politics, work abroad , add a comment
Careers Colleagues of mine from SOAS and Queen Mary’s College went on a recent ‘EU’ Careers day organised by the European Personnel Selection Office. University careers advisers are being targeted in this way to help increase the number of British graduates consider careers in the European institutions. Here are a few key points from the day covering: work experience with MEPS; working in the European Parliament; The role of the ECs UK representation office; internships in the European Institutions and the launching of the new European Banking Authority based in London.
- Socialist & Democrats in Europe (SDE). A representative from this organisation was at the event. The SDE represents Labour parties across Europe. He talked about how MEPs offer great work experience. MEPs are heavily involved in reviewing legislation generated by the European Commission and, consequently, their interns spend a high proportion of their time drafting and researching legislation. More so than interns with UK MPs On the down side parliament closes during the summer months which makes it difficult to get work experience. The rest of the year offers more interesting possibilities. The SDE themselves also offer internships – and w4mp.org was cited – as ever – as the web site to check.
- European Parliament, Administrator Route
Work for the European Parliament as an ‘Administrator’ (this is the catch all phrase for people working for the EP who are not MEPs), you need Mother Tongue in English, French or German and a second EU language
For 1st promotion in 2/3 years, also need a 3rd working language. This poses challenges for UK recruits and UK nationals are vastly underrepresented in EU.
Many British personnel are retiring and more British nationals are needed to replace them.
Since the enlargement process, English is succeeding French as the Lingua Franca, and there is a demand for native speakers who can write high standards of English (this point was reiterated throughout the day for both European Parliament and the European Commission).
They welcome applications from immediate graduates, but having some post-study work experience is much preferred. A typical profile of an applicant to the graduate route would be a good degree, possibly a Masters in European Studies, 2 to 3 years working in civil service/law firm/management consultant or other.
As a Desk Officer (typical entry level role for a graduate) may spend time working with the nominated MEP responsible for reviewing legislation (called a Rapporteur) by sitting on Committee and liaising with the MEP on drafts, or content. Typically a British Desk Officer would be nominated if the Rapporteur is a British MEP.
*European Commission: Representation in the United Kingdom (and some tips for applying to the EU institutions)
The EC Representation in the UK is a little like an Embassy representing the EC in the UK. It’s about explaining the EU to UK audiences such as the Press, Trade organisations, Chambers of Commerce, Civil Servants and the general public. A Political section of the Representation deal with different parties and groups. It’s also about explaining the UK to the EU.
More good news for Law and Economics students – these backgrounds are very popular amongst EC staff. There is always a need for lawyers, and if someone trained as a barrister/solicitor in the UK and then came into Brussels it would be very highly regarded. Equally some law firms like people who’ve had experience working in the EU before applying for lawyer jobs.
More autonomy in the EC civil service than in the UK. You’re encouraged and expected to move on, and around.
In your application, demonstrate that you strong extra curricular activities and participated in clubs/societies as a leader. Get an internship if you can. Or get involved in European Politics, or meet your MEP.
- European Union Interns/Traineeships
- Each EU institution has its own traineeship recruitment and selection process. Two entry deadlines each year in March and July
- Applications on line – includes questions about academics, work experience, languages and a motivation section
- Traineeship/stage office do an initial sift, and candidates are put onto the “blue book”. Institutions then select which candidate they would like to take on. Some will do a telephone interview .
- In the motivation section, candidates often forget to sell the skills they would offer the Institution and instead focus on talking about what they know about the institution.
- During the five month learning experience ensure you sit with manager and establish with them what you want out of this time.
- At each deadline there are between 6500 and 7500 applicants. And they take on 650.
- A good idea to have some work experience before applying to the traineeships. Make sure this stands out in your application.
- Have to have finished degree before applying.
- EC internships are available to people from outside the EU, but follow-on jobs are not.
- It’s good to have languages to apply, but English is needed more and more.
- European Banking Authority, City of London
A new office (started Jan 1st 2011) with a current staff of 35 that looks set to expand to over 150 in a year’s time.
Double remit of writing banking legislation and oversight with three core parts: Bank Regulation, Oversight Authority, and Operations.
They are currently growing organically and offering opportunities as and when the need arises. They are currently recruiting at all levels – opportunities on their website and EPSO.
Standard need to be EU citizen and speak two languages, with English as the clear working language.
As the organisation is in the City of London and newly-emerging, this organisation offers strong developmental opportunities in an important area.
The low down on United Nations Careers March 11, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Government, Graduate recruitment, UN, international development, internships, politics , add a comment
Rebecca Hunter, a student at King’s College London attended a UN careers event which the college model UN organisation put together. She has written up a piece for the student paper ‘Roar’ and has kindly given permission for us to post it here as well.
“The week of February 28th was all about exploring media-related careers. After a long week submersed in how to’s on journalism, film, TV, and media law, though, I needed a break. To mix it up, I attended a surprisingly insightful, panel-style career planning event hosted by the KCL Model United Nations society. Here are the panelists’ credentials as provided on the Model United Nations event page:
Dr. Leila Simona Talani worked as an Associate Expert on immigration issues at the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention in Cairo.
Ms. Gabriella Trudi worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross and shared her considerable experience about careers in NGO’s.
Mark Bassett worked at the World Bank and is now a consultant, with Bupa International Markets Division as one of his clients.
Tim Kellow is a Peace and Security Programme Officer at the United Nations Association of the UK.
Now, I am not your typical UN applicant. I don’t dream of working off grid in Bosnia, like panelist Gabrielle Trudi; my career aspirations were not shaped by one film on the Rwandan genocide, like panelist Tim Kellow; and leaving a good role in the public/private sector to work for the UN, like panelist Mark Bassett did, leaves me dumbfounded. However, I did find this presentation highly insightful and chalked with wisdom for people who are passionate about pursuing UN-related careers ranging from working with the General Assembly or a UN field mission to less directly related careers, like working for a UN-related think tank or NGO. (But trust me, the word ‘pursuing’ was not placed there haphazardly. You need to be prepared to put in some serious work to procure one of these highly competitive positions.). The panel was most insightful, though, because it gave potential UN employees a glimpse of the UN as an employer—not just a purveyor of global diplomacy. The panelists successfully discussed the difficulties of securing and maintaining a desirable post within the UN, as well as what they each had learned after years of experience on the UN-related careers path. My only criticism of the event is that they ran out of time for questions at the end. A longer Q & A period would have definitely enhanced the impact of this event.
Without further ado, here are the top 3 insights I gleaned from this event:
1. What is the toughest thing about having a UN-related career? ‘Starting it’ – Trudi ‘Landing your first job in the industry’ – Kellow
2. What does it take to join up? ‘Knowledge, skills, and character.’ – Bassett, ‘Internships are the way in.’ – Kellow, ‘Resilience and adaptability’ – Trudi (on skills essential to field work)
3. What should I do if I want to pursue a UN-related career? ‘Apply to the UN’s Junior Professional Officer Program or the Associate Experts Program.’ – Talani ; ‘Become an expert in your field of interest and the UN will seek you out and make room for your skill set.’ – Bassett; ‘Prove yourself in the field and you may be recruited by the UN for your knowledge of the region’ –Trudi ; ‘Get into the industry with a job/internship then use the connections you gain to get to where you want to be’ — Kellow
For more information about the KCL Model UN society, head to KCLMUN.org
For more information about careers with the United Nations, check out: www.un.org/esa/socdev/unyin/internships.htm”
Thanks to Rebecca for letting us publish this. I’d just add one more link careerstagged.co.uk search on United Nations for heaps of useful links
Working as a defence analyst September 15, 2010Posted by Jeff Riley in : Graduate recruitment, Intelligence and security , add a comment
Nick de Larrinaga graduated with a BA Hons in War Studies from the War Studies department at King’s College London in the summer of 2010. He has started work as a market analyst focusing on the defence sector. We talked to him about his job.
Jeff Riley, King’s College Careers Service – August 2010
What does Visiongain do? Visiongain are a business intelligence company. We provide specialist business information and organise conferences across a range of sectors such as Telecoms and Pharmaceuticals. I work for the defence sector of the business. Typically my clients are defence contractors and companies or organisations who want to be involved, or who are already involved, in the defence industry.
What do you do? Essentially my job is to write detailed and analytical market sector reports. You could accurately describe me as a journalist/defence writer, a market/defence analyst or an economic forecaster. My first report for example was on the military simulation and virtual training market, from 2010 to 2020. It assessed the market value of military simulation – ways of using computer technology to train soldiers. The customers could be businesses considering entering the market or even companies already involved who want to know where they are in the industry. Occasionally we provide specialist consultancy solutions for a single client but primarily our reports are aimed at the wider market. The reports are not just economic forecasts. We have to predict future trends; where spending is likely to be; how the national market is structured and what are the sub-sectors within it. They are substantial documents – 30,000-50,000 words, 200 plus pages of text.
It sounds a daunting project. How do you begin with something like that? Generally you start from scratch but sometimes you are updating previous reports and you can use those as a starting point. Research happens in two ways, firstly by using primary sources such as company statements and press releases. We look at quantitative material such as financial statements from companies in the sector such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing or Raytheon. Other media sources include publications and journals. The other research method we use are interviews with key people in the sector such CEOs or other senior individuals such as marketing directors. The interviews may be face to face in company offices, at industry events such as the Farnborough Airshow, or may take the form of telephone or email interviews.
Isn’t that hard to arrange? Actually sometimes impossible. I abandoned some research on counter-terrorism because people wouldn’t or couldn’t go on record to discuss the sector. For other projects though it has been straightforward; in established markets the large companies, who possess dedicated industry relations teams, will dominate. In contrast, emerging markets are typically populated by small-medium sized companies, who are eager to get their names out there and conduct interviews.
Was the degree helpful? Yes it was some parts have been directly relevant. Defence spending is driven by current and perceived future operational and strategic demands. Throughout my degree, current conflicts such as in Afghanistan have been at the forefront of much discussion and analysis. Understanding these conflicts and how they might evolve over time is key in enabling one to forecast how nations will be spending on defence in the future. Though this level of sector knowledge isn’t absolutely necessary having an interest in it is obviously useful and having studied it is an advantage. More generally the skills of research and analysis learnt from my degree are key and have been transferred into this role. Giving the length and depth of the reports we produce it can feel like being at a university, except that I’m writing the equivalent of half a PhD in six weeks; so the tempo of work is very different. In this respect you could see my role as a combination of the academic and the journalistic. However stylistically and in terms of content the writing differs extensively from either academic or journalistic writing in that it is market focused and is exclusively business to business orientated. Furthermore, the whole process of research, analysing, writing, editing and responding to editorial comments is quite unlike college work.
Did you get much training? I received some initial training from a lengthy presentation and considerable reading materials, however in many respects you’re training on the job. The first report title one receives after starting at Visiongain is always an update to a previous report, which provides you with an initial framework to utilise. Whilst reports are normally written to a six week timeline ones first report is normally written to an extended timeline of seven to eight weeks. This allows you the flexibility to learn from your own mistakes, whilstthe immediate responsibility and independence of work is refreshing compared to many graduate jobs.
Tell me about the recruitment process. Unlike many graduate jobs with lengthy and tedious application processes, Visiongain’s was clear and simple; they just wanted a CV. With my work experience – I’d interned for an MP during a summer vacation -,my academic track record (I got a first class degree and straight ‘A’s at A level) and my knowledge of the industry from my degree I thought I was pretty qualified for the job and I was pleased to be asked to sit an exam and interview. I’d noticed how few people on my degree were making it their business to get internships. We weren’t like law students who seemed pretty clued up about the necessity to do this.
The exam was a 1 hour exercise. It included a numeracy test, a case study analytical test and a proofreading exercise. For the analytical exercise I was given seven sources on defence spending and had to use them to assess the current market value for government spending on military helicopters. It really paralleled the work the job involves. Assessing a current market value, highlighting the key issues and forecasting calculated compound growth rates for next 10 years. Numeracy is important because we are known as a quantitative oriented company, and our reports feature extensive use of numbers, graphs and tables.
After this I proceeded to a one hour interview. This was with my line manager/editor plus the company manager. Questions covered included typical HR questions – ‘how do you cope with deadlines?’ type questions and more sector specific questions such as how I have done research and made analytical assessments.
What about your career progression? Well in the short term my next project is quantifying the military avionics market. In the longer term Visiongain has a fairly flat structure – you are either an analyst or an editor, although Visiongain also has extensive sales and e-marketing divisions. It’s also a fairly niche industry, although we do have several competitors. On the other hand my experience here would be useful not just for other companies in the sector but other commercial organisations concerned with economic forecasting and market analysis. There’s a strong parallel there for example with investment banking. The sector is also expanding. For example Visiongain’s defence sector has now expanded to double its previous size; and two of us here are King’s War Studies graduates.