Monthly Archives: February 2015

Interview with ScotGrad Programme Manager Kelly Barbour

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Please introduce yourself and say a little about your role.

Hello! My name is Kelly Barbour and I work as a Programme Manager at ScotGrad.

ScotGrad offers paid graduate placements, which last 3 -12 months, within small to medium sized companies across Scotland. We also have a summer placement programme for students returning to their studies after the break: these placements are 8 – 12 weeks long, also paid, and are based in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland.

I joined the ScotGrad team in June 2013, working on our social media presence and marketing activities. After being with the team for 18 months, I was delighted to move into a management role in January 2015. My day to day job involves of a number of different tasks, which means no two days are the same! I’m also out of the office regularly, attending careers fairs and hosting presentations, spreading the word about ScotGrad. The best part about my job is speaking to loads of fascinating people, and helping others get involved with new and exciting projects through our programme.

What do you think of Professional Skills Curriculum?

I think the Professional Skills Curriculum is a fantastic initiative. The fact that it’s open to all years at St Andrews means that there will be a great range of students attending these workshops, all gaining valuable experience and seeing things from a different perspective. Having this sort of programme on your CV – before you even graduate – is an excellent way to showcase your motivation to employers, and will give you a better understanding of the skills needed to succeed in your future career.

What professional skills you think are essential for students applying for internships and graduate jobs?

When applying for graduate placements through ScotGrad, our employers are looking beyond your degree discipline to find out more about your ‘softer’ skills. For example, our employers look for evidence of self-management, team working, excellent communication skills, and someone with a motivated and enthusiastic approach. What we tend to see is most students aren’t aware that they have these skills already. You don’t necessarily need to have months of work experience under your belt – these skills are being developed throughout your time at university. The trick is to look beyond the daily tasks and projects you are doing, and be more reflective – analyse which skills you are using, learn how to explain them to employers, and ‘sell’ your experience!

What professional skills do graduates often lack?

I believe some graduates lack the understanding of how to articulate their experience to employers, and, therefore, how to submit a winning application. When applying for roles, it is vital that you are tailoring your application and CV to each job specification and company. Companies want evidence that you are engaged and proactive, and if they see a generic CV or application, they won’t be impressed… and you won’t stand out. I would strongly encourage all students and graduates to speak to their careers service for advice, then take the extra time and send in a few excellent, tailored applications. I promise you will see the results!

PwC for PSC – Interview with Student Recruitment Officer for Scotland in PwC

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Claire Burhouse, PwC Student Recruitment Officer in Scotland, gave a short interview for Professional Skills Curriculum Employers’ Blog.

Claire, could you introduce yourself and say a few words about your role in PwC?

I’m a part of the Student Recruitment Team, and my job is to manage the recruitment of undergraduates and graduates in to our offices in Scotland. I’ve been at PwC for 12 years, first as an employee in Tax and now in Student Recruitment. I’m based in our office in Edinburgh, but we also have offices in Glasgow and Aberdeen.

Why did you decide to come to the University of St Andrews to do a ‘PwC café takeover’ event?

The University of St Andrews is one of our target Universities in Scotland. It’s one of the best Universities in Scotland, and we welcome applications from its bright students. Many students who attend the University will look to work in our offices in Scotland, as well as in the rest of the United Kingdom.

What do you think of the idea of Professional Skills Curriculum?

First and foremost, it’s a really good example of extra-curricular activity. If you’re part of the programme, you’re able to demonstrate your skills to a potential employer.

Secondly, having knowledge about professional skills is very important for undergraduates and graduates searching for jobs. It will help you complete the application form and also, skills you gained during the programme will give you some confidence during the application process itself. It will help you feel confident when attending an interview, or assessment day.

What professional skill do graduates and interns often lack when they start working?

When a student joins the business, they have met the benchmarks required to do their job as they have been successful in the recruitment process. The selection process at PwC is designed to equip the students with the skills to start a career.

The students will all have to adjust to being in a professional environment and getting into a routine. I would say that early starts are always challenging!



Interview with a PSC alumna

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There are already two generations of Professional Skills Curriculum graduates.           Lonie Sebagh, a fourth year Management student, was enrolled in the PSC course in the 2012-2013 academic year. She met with the PSC team to tell us the impact the Professional Skills Curriculum has had on her employability.

Why did you decide to take part in the Professional Skills Curriculum?

I met Catriona Wilson at the Freshers Fayre, and she told me about the content and benefits of the PSC course, which I thought sounded very interesting. I also started working towards the St Andrews Award at the time, which encourages participants to get involved in different activities during their time at University. It therefore seemed like a good idea to combine both programmes. This allowed me to apply the theoretical knowledge I gained in the PSC course to the activities I got involved in as part of the St Andrews Award.

Which lectures and online workshops did you take part in?

I attended the lectures on Understanding Thinking Styles, Assertiveness and Confidence and Public Speaking and completed the online workshops on Communication Skills, Managing a Team, Presentation Skills, Chairing Meetings and Taking Minutes and Professional Conduct.

How did the skills you gained through the PSC help you?

I found the Understanding Thinking Styles lecture very interesting. It helped me understand how my personality and work preferences could be utilised in conjunction with other people’s styles to increase efficiency. The Presentation Skills, Chairing Meetings and Professional Conduct workshops were also very useful before getting involved on University committees or starting professional internships.

Would you recommend taking part in the PSC? If so, why?

Of course! The PSC course has helped me become more confident and prepared about the experiences ahead, and it has allowed me to discover topics I never would have come across otherwise, such as the thinking styles for instance. Additionally, as a Management student, I study employee behaviour in organisations and the PSC has given me a new perspective on this topic and enhanced my understanding of it.

Daniel O’Hara – FS Assurance Associate at EY and a University of St Andrews graduate

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Daniel graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2014. When he was still an undergraduate, he completed a CAPOD internship.

Daniel was happy to give an interview for PSC Employers’ blog and share his experience of applying his knowledge to the professional environment.

Could you introduce yourself and say a little about your role?

I’m an Assurance Graduate at Ernst & Young based mostly between Edinburgh, Glasgow and London. Specialising in banking & capital markets it is my job to provide reasonable assurance to the public that the banks central to our economy are operating legally and that the statements they produce to the public are indeed a true and fair representation of their financial position in that period.

Is the world of work what you expected?

I like to think that my first year at EY so far has gone much better than expected having previously heard many horror stories about the dreaded “busy season”. In a three year training scheme it is perhaps no surprise that the majority of our time is spent on professional development. We are given a huge amount of time off in the year to study towards the accounting qualification as well as occasional week long residential training to cover specific changes to our industry. I’ve been here for six months now and still feel as if there is so much to learn.

My first engagement happened to be with one of Scotland’s largest retail banks as it was going through its “busy season” and was almost taken by surprise at the hours and complexity of the work involved. Although it was a relatively stressed environment, my team were very supportive and spared a lot of time coaching me through a lot of work I was very unfamiliar with.

The Professional Skills Curriculum aims to promote students attending workshops to develop skills like leadership, time management, professional conduct, confidence, and resilience. Do you think development programmes like this are helpful to make graduates ‘employment ready?’

While I do think being employment ready is very personal and may come quicker to some than others, taking part in the professionals skills curriculum is almost certainly a benefit. Most graduate roles expect no prior experience in the field and will instead judge candidates almost purely on their character. Every interview will implicitly examine you on your professionalism, confidence and may even ask you outright about your time management and leadership abilities.

That being said, attending workshops is not enough.  It is crucially important that further to attending these workshops you must apply these skills learned to your other activities, whether that be in a part-time job, managing a society event or even coping coursework deadlines and staying on top of your studies.

What professional skills do you use in your current role?

Effective time management is a crucial part of my role. With client work, exams and graduate recruitment making up a large portion of my responsibilities it is vital that I stay on top of deadlines and manage my workload effectively. Understanding how to prioritise tasks based on importance, deadline and length is vital to communicating your workload to managers. When presented with a new task it is very difficult to say “No, I don’t have the time”, but by effectively communicating your current workload makes helps her decide how to manage resources so she may either push the deadlines on other jobs back or offer the task to someone else.

If a student in St Andrews was thinking about taking part in the Professional Skills Curriculum, what would you say to them?

I would absolutely encourage any student to attend. It only takes up an hour each week and there is guaranteed to be at least one class you’re interested in. It’s a great opportunity to learn new skills and a way to meet similarly minded people in a relaxed atmosphere. The quality and diversity of the workshops on offer is excellent and at the very least its something else to talk about in an interview.

What would you recommend about a career at EY?

The two biggest perks of EY in my opinion is the investment in your professional development and the international opportunities. In my first year I’m given 5 months paid study leave towards the Chartered Accountancy qualification, on top of that we have roughly another month of in house training specialising in skills directly relating to our profession. In total that’s half the year spent out of the office and in the class room making for an excellent transition between university and the world of work.

As a firm that prides itself on its global reputation there are many opportunities for international work. Our hugely popular New Horizons programme helps qualified staff arrange work placements in our other offices around the world for anything between 3 months and 2 years.  In my team right now we have people on rotation from South Africa, USA, Australia and Albania who are all loving their experiences so far and I look forward to taking advantage of the scheme soon.