PSC Managers’ Forum

The PSC team  warmly invites you to come along to our last Managers’ Forum of the year, which will take place on Wednesday 18th April. This event provides you with a unique opportunity unlike any other in St Andrews – chat one-on-one with managers over a free lunch, while contributing towards your PSC award! Join us between 1pm and 2pm in Seminar Room 4 of the Gateway Building to meet our managers, who work in various sectors here at the University of St Andrews:

  • Carol Morris: CAPOD Director
  • Alexander Bain: Computer Science School Manager
  • Pauline Brown: IT Services Operations Manager
  • Scott Francis: Senior Events Manager
  • Lynsey Martin: Residential Services Manager

Book your place now!

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PSC Spotlight: Teach First

Teach First is one of the top graduate destinations of the University of St Andrews. Here at the PSC, we had the opportunity to interview Pete Woodward, Graduate Recruitment Officer for Teach First, about what it is like to join their Leadership Development Programme, and how you can best prepare for the application process.

 

PSC: How is working for Teach First as a graduate different from working in other industries

Pete: As a Teach First participant you are given real responsibility from day one, working as a teacher in the classroom making a difference in children’s lives. That kind of responsibility can’t be afforded by most graduate employers. And you go home each day knowing the work you do truly matters which is incredibly motivating.

You’re also studying towards a Postgraduate Diploma as a Teach First participant, so you don’t have to leave academia behind completely when entering the workplace.

PSC: Can you describe working for Teach First in 3 words?

Pete: Rewarding, Challenging, and Energetic.

 

PSC: What professional skills do you believe to be the key to success?

Pete: Resilience, evaluation, and teamwork.

Check out our Teamwork lectures, ‘Understanding Thinking Styles’ on 3rd April, and ‘Valuing Diversity’ on 20th April.

For boosting your resilience, our workshop ‘Dealing with transitions’ on 26th April will benefit your Ability to work under pressure.

Our workshops on Problem solving can help your resilience in the workplace.

PSC: What would you recommend students do in order to boost their chances of securing a graduate job?

Pete: Engage with extracurricular opportunities that will give you a diversity of examples when completing applications and attending interviews. Also get experience of assessment centres through applying for internships or activities ran at the University.

 

PSC: What do you wish you had learned earlier in your career?

Pete: To seek feedback, even if it may not be positive. You develop so much quicker if you’re getting timely and constructive feedback on a regular basis.

 

PSC: What advice would you give final year students who are unsure about their career paths?

Pete: Don’t worry. You don’t need to have it all figured out. Our two-year leadership development programme develops leaders not only in the classroom, but many other industries and sectors. Look for graduate roles that open up opportunities rather than take you down a specific route. These opportunities do exist you just need to do your research.

 

Find more about the Teach First application process here.

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Graduate Blog Post: Christopher Kyte

St Andrews graduate Christopher Kyte (pictured below) got in touch about how the PSC benefitted him and his experience applying for graduate jobs:



My name is Christopher Kyte and I am currently working as an Admissions Representative for the University of St Andrews. Last year, during my final year at university, I took part in the Professional Skills Curriculum. I believe my participation in the PSC was one of the factors that contributed towards me getting this job – a job I really consider to be my dream job! The role is quite varied, but the main responsibility is promoting the University and providing information to prospective students, parents and schools. I do this through meeting prospective students both in St Andrews and abroad (so far I have travelled frequently to the USA and Canada) and I have also been working on various marketing projects.

Throughout the course of the year I attended a variety of lectures, workshops and online workshops which all combined to significantly improve my professional skills and thus my employability, and thus earn me my PSC certificate. At the start of my final year, my initial plan was to apply for a variety of different leadership graduate schemes. In light of this, I took part in the Leadership in Practice series. This was vastly useful in providing lots of practical experience in different leadership situations and helped to improve my confidence significantly. The series was particularly helpful when it came to assessment centres, which form a part of the application process for the majority of graduate schemes. A lot of the activities that we did as part of the leadership series were very similar to the tasks you are asked to complete during assessment centres. Whilst my current role is not a leadership one, many of the skills I learned in the series remain relevant: teamwork, communication, and many more.

There were a handful of lectures that stood out as especially helpful for me personally. The first of these concerned resilience with change. I have always struggled with change and wanted to work on my weaknesses. My job is very varied and there is always the potential for quite rapid change in my responsibilities. Even starting a new job, with all the associated upheaval, constitutes a huge and potentially very tiring change! Another weakness I had identified was decision making, and I therefore attended a lecture based on this skill. This was very helpful. Employers always want to see that you can identify your own personal weaknesses and that you are willing to work hard continuously to improve. Interview questions on this topic frequently come up so it is good to have concrete evidence of how you are working to improve, and the PSC can provide this.

A couple of PSC workshops that were particularly helpful for my current job were the workshop on public speaking and the online workshop on presentation skills. The latter gave advice on presentation structure, controlling nerves, and important aspects such as body language and voice control. I have to give presentations every week; presentations of different lengths and types, and to audiences of varying sizes from all over the world. Through frequent presentations in my classes during university my confidence had come a long way already, but the public speaking workshop really helped to cement this. I still use many of the tips I learned in that workshop today!

More generally, I’d like to now give a brief account of my experience hunting for jobs in final year, and hopefully offer a bit of advice, too. As I said, I started the year off applying for a variety of leadership graduate schemes – five in total. With the numerous hoops you have to jump through for the application process for graduate schemes, it was quite a hectic time alongside studying for my degree and being President of the triathlon club. In hindsight, I probably would have been a bit more targeted with my applications; it might have been more effective to just apply to a couple and put more effort in to them. Be prepared to set aside a lot of time for all the psychometric tests, mini essays, video interviews and assessment centres (as well as the associated travel!). I got to the final stage of a couple of schemes but was ultimately unsuccessful in all of them. It was disheartening but I do believe that things will always work out if you are persistent and keep positive! There are loads of opportunities out there, and if you work hard and stay alert, then you’ll be fine. As I said, I believe that I am now doing my dream job, but it all only came together right at the end of final year – so don’t give up hope!

Make sure you utilise the Careers Centre fully – they give really great advice at each stage of the application process and are able to put you in touch with alumni who are working in various different sectors that might be of interest to you. They’ll also happily help you out with your CV and cover letters – make the most of these opportunities whilst you can!

Alongside working hard on your degree and taking part in the PSC (obviously!), it also helps in the job hunt if you have a broad variety of extra-curricular activities with which you’re involved. Employers want to see well-rounded individuals. For me, I was able to draw upon my experience from the triathlon club, political campaigning, and my year abroad in Germany as well as a variety of other things. In interviews, you will often be asked to explain how you have demonstrated a particular skill, and the more different experiences you have, the easier it will be to answer these questions. Of course, the more relevant these activities are to the job for which you’re applying, the better!

The PSC really helped me not only get my current job, but it also really improved my skillset generally and I would recommend it to anyone. The lectures and workshops are so wide-ranging that they can be applied to any kind of work.

Don’t worry if you’re finding the job hunt difficult – it will work out! Best of luck!

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Are ‘leadership’ and ‘management’ two sides of the same coin?

We came up with the following Venn diagram at our second Leadership Roundtable event in response to this question.

If you are specifically interested in Leadership, our online workshop may be of particular interest. Our next PSC Leadership: Roundtable will be from 7-8.30pm on Monday 27th November in the Hebdomadar’s Room, St Salvator’s Quad.

The rest of our workshops can be found here.

Don’t forget, it’s never too late to start your PSC journey!

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PSC Leadership: Roundtable

On the 2nd of November, some members of the PSC team held the second Leadership: Roundtable event of the academic year. The focus of this was a moving debate, an activity that encourages students’ critical thinking while developing communication skills and conflict resolution.

How does a moving debate work?

  • Two signs labelled ‘Agree’ and ‘Disagree’ are placed on opposite sides of the room.
  • Students are asked to stand in the middle of the room.
  • A statement is called out; if students agree, they move to the agree sign. If students disagree with the statement, they move towards the disagree sign. If they are unsure, they remain in the middle.
  • By explaining their opinions, students can persuade those standing at the opposite side to change their mind.
  • If others are convinced by the speaker, they may move.

Here is how students responded to our statements:

  1. A leader should be able to lead with examples.
    • Agree (75%): A good leader should be able to show examples of what is the right way to do the tasks before asking others to do them.
    • Neutral (25%): This depends on the type of leaderships that a leader is in charged of; there are some organisations whose leaders and members are very individualistic.
  2. A leader should have better verbal skills than written skills.
    • Agree (50%): Being a leader is like being the face of the public, so it is important to be able to speak.
    • Disagree (50%): Both skills should be equal. In order for someone to be a leader, there has to be a process where someone is at least at a lower position that requires them to have a written skill such as writing e-mails, and reports.
  3. A good leader has the loudest voice.
    • Disagree (100%): A member of the teams may have a stronger opinion but he/she may not be able to lead the team well.
  4. A team is only as strong as its weakest member.
    • Disagree (75%): Every person has their own strengths and weaknesses, so members of a team can combine their strengths.
    • Neutral (25%): This depends on the circumstances. If there is a stronger member who can compensate for a weaker member, the overall performance of team will be better than its weakest member.
  5. A good leader always takes responsibility for the success or failure of the team.
    • Agree (75%): The success or failure of the team depends largely on the leaders.
    • Neutral (25%): Each member of the team also needs to communicate well so the leader is not the only one responsible for the success/failure of the overall team.
  6. Passion and dedication are the top qualities to be a leader.
    • Agree (50%): Good attributes that a leader should have, such as good communication skills, stem from their passion and dedication.
    • Disagree (25%): A leader should also have a vision and innovation.
    • Neutral (25%): Passion and dedication are not the only top qualities. A leader also needs self-discipline, intelligence, and knowledge.
  7. Leadership is a talent given from born and cannot be taught
    • Agree (75%): Although character can be shaped and formed through good education, there are some skills that are innate.
    • Disagree (25%): The skills to have a good leadership can be acquired throughout your life. Past experiences are able to develop someone to be a better leader. Role models also shape the behaviour of individual to be a good leader.

 

As you can see, there is not only one opinion of what it means to be a good leader. What do you think makes a good leader?

Our next PSC Leadership: Roundtable event will take place on the 27th November from 7-8.30pm in the Hebdomadar’s Room, St Salvator’s Quad. Feel free to come along!

Further information about workshops can be found here!

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Professional Skills: STEM Careers Fair

On the 13th of October, the PSC team attended the STEM Careers Fair held by the University. Many companies attended in order to show their presence and demonstrate their desire for graduates to apply to work for them, with many offering specific graduate schemes. However, it is especially important for graduates to be able to demonstrate transferable skills which can be applied to and mentioned in their applications to these schemes, as well as when they are lucky enough to have secured their place.

Therefore, it was our intention to find out the most important graduate skill employers were looking for.

We spoke to THG in order to gain an insight into their thoughts on professional skills. A global leader in health, beauty and lifestyle, THG specialise in e-commerce and connect brands including Honda, Unilever and Nectar to their customers. As THG describe themselves as ‘the home of intensity, expectation, and achievement’, it should perhaps come as no surprise that they described their most important graduate skill to be ambition. If you are able to confidently deliver your aims and experience at interview, your ambition will be recognised. Through the Professional Skills Curriculum, workshops like ‘Confidence and Belief’ on 17th November or ‘Long-term Confidence Building’ on 23rd November will help you develop your confidence and help communicate your ambition to employers.

THG are also looking for graduates with ‘proven communication and influencing skills’ so workshops or events based on either Communication or Negotiation and Persuasion are likely to help you gain employment.

If you are looking to kickstart an exciting career in tech, a graduate job at FDM could be the one for you. As their aim is to bring people and technology together, they described their most important professional skills to be professionalism, collaboration and inclusivity. In order to develop these skills, PSC workshops focusing on Teamwork and Communcation are the most relevant, including ‘Team-working and Followership’, hosted next semester on 7 March.

In addition, a programme focused on developing professional skills is offered during the first week of the graduate scheme at FDM. It was emphasised by the professional e spoke to at the careers fair, however, that it would be beneficial for applicants to already have experience in developing and using work-transferable skills. She also said she wishes she had had the opportunity to have training on a programme like that offered by the PSC before going into the world of work!

We also spoke to CGG, a leader in cutting-edge geoscience who offer a unique range of technologies and services designed to acquire data and images of the Earth’s subsurface in order to gain a deeper understanding for optimisation of oil and gas reservoirs.

When asked about important professional skills in their field, they emphasised innovation and creativity, and told us that they are especially looking for graduates who can come up with new ideas. As an original thinker, once you have come up with your new ideas, it is important to be able to communicate these to your colleagues. Through workshops such as ‘How to Engage Others’, which will be hosted on 7 November, you can help to understand how to effectively interest others in your ideas and communicate them appropriately and enthusiastically to your co-workers.

Every employer we spoke to showed great enthusiasm towards the PSC, and emphasised the importance of developing professional skills while at university in order to prepare for the world of work. The PSC is here to support you while you develop your skills through our range of workshops, which can be explored and booked here.

 

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Hello and Welcome!

Hello and a big ‘Welcome Back’ to all students from all us here at the Professional Skills Curriculum! It was great to speak to so many of you at the Freshers’ Fayre; hopefully you are all settling in well to the new academic year.
Here at the PSC we are working hard in the hope to make this academic year your best one yet when it comes to developing your transferable work skills and increasing your employability. From online workshops to practical skills sessions and lectures focusing on a broad range of skills areas, our flexibility means you can tailor the PSC to your needs and fit our workshops around your own university schedule. On top of the benefit to your professional skills, your achievement of completing the PSC by attending 8 workshops or more will be acknowledged on your degree academic transcript!
Since the beginning in 2012 we have more than tripled the number of students who have completed the PSC, and as we go into our 6th year we have a broader range of events featuring more international guests than ever before – just stay tuned!
Our online workshops, lectures and practical skill sessions focus on the following skills:
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Commercial awareness
  • Communication
  • Confidence
  • IT Skills
  • Leadership
  • Negotiation and Persuasion
  • Organisation
  • Perseverance and Motivation
  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork
As part of over 80 separate PSC events running this year, we have a number of new workshops, including:
  • Voice coaching
  • Being persuasive in your first job
  • How to say no
  • Self-leadership
  • Your digital professional footprint
  • … and many more!
Click here to view the full list of what events and workshops we will be running during 2017/18.
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Don’t forget to…
  • Pick up your PSC passport to get started! You can pick one up at the CAPOD office (Hebdomadar’s Block,
    St Salvator’s Quad) or at any of our events.
  • Sign up for practical skills sessions on PDMS, the university’s course booking system, as there are limited spaces! (the lectures, on the other hand, are usually hosted in large enough venues to accommodate all attendees without booking).
  • Join more than 1350 people being updated via Facebook by liking our Facebook page!
  • Download our handy app here!
  • Look out for us at Careers Fayres throughout the year, where you can have the opportunity to chat to us and we will explain more about what the PSC aims to achieve.
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Event Review: Lecture on Leadership in Challenging Circumstances

This guest lecture was hosted by Cath Bishop, a former Olympic rower and former British diplomat, who now works as a leadership speaker and consultant with organizations and business schools.

Cath started the lecture by talking about her experience in sport and how she got into rowing. Her lecture focused on three main themes:

  1. High performance under pressure
  2. Constant learning
  3. Communication under pressure

Maintaining High Performance under Pressure

“This requires clarity, constant learning, and collaboration with others. Ask yourself, why do I get up in the morning? – Clarity of your goal, the purpose behind your hard work. Clarity is about defining your daily focus. Clarity highlights what you want to achieve, and why it matters to you. Eventually, you will find a way to attain it. You can’t expect to always possess the answers.”

From a leader perspective, leaders should create an environment where everyone you’re responsible for feels connected and comfortable.

Constant Learning

Cath moved on to talk about the attitudes we have toward constant learning. Most sport teams train to win, plan to win and play to win. Don’t. Instead, plan to learn whenever possible. Think of every experience as a learning opportunity. This is common practice amongst high performers, and they often share two other traits:

  1. They seek feedback
  2. They regularly review their successes and failures, asking how they can improve their performance, even if only by 1%

Q: How can you be effective in a complex, hostile environment?

“Be resilient, adaptive and flexible. It is crucial to be self-aware under immense pressure, to understand yourself in your worst circumstances – to know what your triggers and to manage your behavioral patterns. Seek authentic, collaborative relationships with people who are willing to go the extra mile for you.”

Communication under Pressure

Communicate with others and always remember that the consideration of others comes before everything else. Communication is at the heart of a high performing team, and of a true leader. “Never lie knowingly, be honest with who you are, and in what you say”. Always listen more than you speak, especially in an argument with another colleague. Talk about what really matters to them – what concerns them, because it is only effective communication when you speak on a personal and relatable level. Oftentimes, people are too focused on getting their points across which leads to a double-fail situation.

Collaboration Rather than Teamwork

Find something in common, share a common purpose, challenge perception, check reality, and be less competitive. Don’t compete at times when you’re not supposed to compete. Collaborate and understand each other’s’ strengths. At the end of every training session, it is down to how well your team members connect because everyone is already damn good (e.g. Olympics), the only factor which decides your success is ‘how well you read each other’.

Finally, ask yourself, “What is your 1% game changer?” “What can make you 1% more effective?” Improve by a tiny margin and let your passion be your driving force.

At the end of the lecture, Cath highlighted the useful messages found in the two following quotations:

  1. “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers” – Voltaire
  2. “To collaborate effectively remains a matter of personal choice” – Mark de Rond

Ultimately, the most important question is to remember is this: What does this race/challenge mean to you?

Cath Bishop –  Silver Medalist, at the Olympic Games in Athens, 2004

 

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PSC Leadership: Leadership Is A Journey

 

This is a review piece for the lecture, PSC Leadership: Leadership is a Journey, given by Lindsey Paterson, a partner at PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers). PwC is the second largest multi-national professional service network in the world, headquartered in London.

Lindsey Paterson is a politics graduate from the University of Edinburgh, then a qualified chartered accountant, and has worked for PwC for nearly 23-years. She specialises in the delivery of risk assurance services to the public sector and has particular focus upon the higher education sector. Lindsey started the lecture by sharing a little bit about her personal biography. Having advanced from state-school, to a Politics degree at the University of Edinburgh then becoming a chartered accountant, Lindsey has faced numerous challenges in the process to achieving her success today.

Lindsey failed her first chartered exam for accountancy, but attempted a second try and passed. For two years (1992-1994), she was temping and working in local government, but hoped for a more challenging job. In 1994, she applied to PwC which was a perfect fit for her as the position involved the integration of both her interests: politics and accountancy. It started with a small team of four, and grew to approximately 40-people. She was promoted to a Director position in 2003 and had her son, Rory, in 2005. Lindsey spoke about the challenges of balancing life and work, and dealing with unexpected issues. 2013 marked the start of the process to her promotion to partnership, and Lindsey explained how feedback helped her develop during this time. 1 July 2016 marked Lindsey’s first day as a partner at PwC.

Lindsey recommended a book which she holds dear: “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (2013)”, by Sheryl Sandberg. She placed particular emphasis on the following quote:

“Presenting leadership as a list of carefully defined qualities (like strategic, analytical, and performance-oriented) no longer holds. Instead, true leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed…. Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection”

(Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, 2013)

The lecture concluded with a few important take-away messages:

  1. No two leadership journeys are the same
  2. Take conscious decisions
  3. Be open to opportunities as they come
  4. What’s right for you can change over time
  5. Be the best you can be and don’t underplay your achievements
  6. Set backs make you stronger and help you to learn
  7. Don’t be a sole trader (Sharing your problems can help!)
  8. Take personal responsibility

Lindsey concluded the session by taking questions from the audience, including one about the importance of confidence. She said “looking back, I am quite a shy person and had never thought I would be standing in front of an audience talking about my leadership journey. But, my confidence grows either by pushing myself or because I just have to do it as a part of my job. So, confidence will grow but sometimes certain things can knock it down and the important bit is, don’t try solo. If something affects you, speak to someone. Get confidence from people around you and never forget how much you have achieved. Don’t focus solely on your weaknesses but more on your strengths. When you focus on strength, it is a whole different conversation.”

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The road to employment according to a PSC Graduate

We caught up with PSC Graduate Mathias Holmen Johnsen, currently an instructor at the Norwegian National Emergency Planning College. Below he tells us about his journey into the job market and how his professional skill set has developed since he took part in our course. 

“I graduated from St Andrews first in 2013. That was at the end of an M.A. in International Relations and Psychology. I then went straight on to take an M.Litt. in Terrorism Studies, graduating from that in 2014. I’m now a civil servant, teaching courses on various topics related to civil and public safety and security. My work consists partially of course preparation (gathering materials, doing research, making presentations, etc.), whilst I also hold these courses (lecturing, advising on group-work, etc.). I believe my academic credentials and oratorical experience (I was an active member in the university’s Model United Nations society) was most important in securing this position.

mathias-psc

This was all offset by my involvement with the Professional Skills Curriculum, which I saw as an opportunity to obtain skills that would be useful for professional life that I would not get explicit training in through my academic activities. The PSC provided a foundation for understanding the context of a professional work-environment. Whilst the PSC is of course limited by its size and time, I felt it provided a very good introduction that was worthwhile to have when I began my career. It is also something I feel I have been able to build upon further in my job.

For example, I have found workplace diplomacy to be crucial to success. It is useful to cultivate the ability to decline requests when you are overworked, voice concerns or raise issues regarding someone else’s project or product, whilst steering clear of general conflict. Doing this and similar things in a polite, positive and productive way is a very important skill that seems to be rather overlooked. My advice to those currently experiencing the job hunt would be this: Your skills can qualify you for unexpected professions, so keep an open mind and do some in-depth research on what sort of jobs are actually available. You might be pleasantly surprised!”

Want to see more interviews from the PSC? Visit PSC Extra: https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/students/careermatters/professionalskills/pscextra/

Find our latest events here: https://www.facebook.com/ProfessionalSkillsCurriculum/

 

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