Interview with an Employer: Tom Freeman, MD at Sanctuary Graduates









Please introduce yourself.

Tom Freeman. MD of Sanctuary Graduates.

Do many graduates go into recruitment?

More than you would think. There are dozens of firms who actively take on graduates as their main source of staff.

How is working in recruitment as a graduate different from other industries?

The rewards are greater and more immediate. The work is quite repetitive, and the hours long.

What professional skills are necessary to secure a job in recruitment?

Confidence, communication, interpersonal skills. Desire and hunger to succeed. Resilience.

Through what experience on campus can students develop these skills?

Any experiences which involve relationships and influence. Eg. Sports, Society Committee, SU involvement, entrepreneurial ventures.

Do you think Professional Skills Curriculum is a good idea? Why yes/no?

It can only be. Anything that gets students thinking about and honing skills that might be relevant to their preferred career paths.

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PSC @ Science Fair

Professional Skills Curriculum team went to Science Fair and asked employers what professional skill was their key to success. Here is what they told us:

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What professional skill is key to your success?

PSC team attended Management and Finance Careers Fair on Friday 16th of October.

We asked employers the question that is the most feared at interviews – what professional skills is key to your success? Continue reading

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Interview with Charissa Taylor, PSC alumna

Charissa TaylorCharissa Taylor, a Professional Skills Curriculum alumna, met with the PSC team to tell us how the course made a major impact on her future career.

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Charissa Taylor, I am a fourth year student doing Economics and German. I did an internship with JP Morgan over the summer, and they just offered me a job for next year.

How did you get involved in Professional Skills Curriculum course?

I saw a poster for the Practical Skills ‘Leadership in Practice’ sessions and I decided to attend. I was aware of the PSC workshops, but learning through practise has always been more efficient for me. I found the sessions very helpful, and later on I completed eight workshops to get recognition for doing the course.

Has the PSC had an impact on your life, and how?

What I learnt at the Practical Skills sessions helped me a lot throughout my internship. After the session I became more aware of how other people see me, how to create a good impression and how to conduct myself. I also improved my leadership and team-work skills. During the Practical Skills session you get to work with such a vast amount of different people that you would never have to as part of your university life. When I went to JP Morgan, I could straight away work with others without much difficulty. Practical Skills sessions also taught me how to come across as keen, and even when I had nothing to do during my internship, I never looked bored, which helped as well.

What part of the course did you find to be particularly helpful?

Definitely the ‘Leadership in Practice’ Practical Skills sessions. The way it is structured ensures that everything you learn from the presentation at the start, you later put into practice. The peer assessment in the end is very helpful as well, because people are usually very honest and give good advice on what was good and what needs improvement.

Would you recommend PSC to other students?

Yes, especially to first and second years students, because they have more free time. I did mine in my third year, and it was quite challenging to do it alongside the deadlines in Honours. PSC also gives good preparation for internships applications, so by the time they get to that point, they already have some skills to their benefit.

NB: The Leadership in Practice sessions are delivered in collaboration with Tayforth Universities Officers Training Corps and are running throughout semester 1.

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PSC graduate, Jennifer Peake

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Jennifer Peake completed the PSC in academic year 2011/12. She reflects back on how her PSC experience helped her subsequently, during her year’s placement in industry.

Why did you take part?

I saw an entry in Wednesday memos for undergraduates one week and when I read about the content of the course it sounded really interesting, so I thought I would go along one week and give it a try! After meeting Cat and learning more about how it worked, I knew I had made the right decision.

How did the PSC sessions help you?

The content covered in the sessions filled some of the blanks that I had with regards to the workplace, such as what is it like in a meeting? As a chemistry student, I was able to do a 12 month placement as part of my degree and I think the PSC helped me to prepare for that. There were moments when it might have been a bit daunting but I really think the PSC gave me the confidence I needed.

What advice would you give to people considering taking part in the PSC?

Go for it! There really isn’t a huge time demand to do this course and the knowledge you can gain from it is fantastic. There are lots of things doing a degree can prepare you for, but day to day life in the workplace is very different to student life – surely any advice you can have to maximise your opportunities and smooth the transition is worthwhile?

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Interview with our guest speaker, Pawel Urbanski



Meet Pawel Urbanski, who will be speaking at PSC Leadership: Getting Started and Getting done workshop on the 29th of April. PSC approached him with a few questions in anticipation of his lecture.

What does it mean to you to be a leader?

Before we start talking about leadership we need to set the stage. The stage is our current reality, together with the past and possible future ahead of us. The past is our background, previous experience or significant life events. Presence is our current place in life with all its constraints and potential consequences of our activities and decisions for the future. And last, but not least, the future is everything we plan, work to achieve or experience. Any of those examples can be spread on the scale from very negative, across neutral, up to very positive and rewarding.

We don’t live in the vacume and interact with other people who have their own objectives and understanding of the world. Therefore, we must be ready to listen, educate, convince, give up power or accept that leadership brings as much opportunities as responsibility.

Being a leader, in my opinion and understanding, means to be able to take decisions that will bring positive outcomes, bring other people on board, make them do something with energy and commitment. Being a leader may also mean becoming very unpopular when we stand up for a cause or course of action that may hurt someone’s interest. We must also remember that every leader is also a follower or at least equal to the other people in the university society or business organization.

Leaders bring about change, energy or give a push to launch avalanches or earthquakes.

Why is it important to start developing leadership skills while still at university?

When you are at the university, you are very much in the learning mode. You expect to gain skills, knowledge with all the ups and downs. University environment gives lots of opportunities to have a test drive with different professional areas, you consider for the future. There are many student societies with very much wanted hands to do something. Your classmates come from different walks of life.

All of the above lets you practice in a safe lab without major consequences. If you realized that you don’t feel your best when public speaking in front of a small audience, you simply go on with working on a newsletter or doing the event logistics. If managing people is not your thing, there will be some research going on and you may help a fellow student or professors with collecting feedback. And if it sounds boring you may run for the student body.

All of those experiences and skills are more or less present in the same shapes and variations in our mature / professional lives. The only difference is that accountability and impact are usually greater. When you test your swimming abilities, and improve them at the university, it is easier to jump into deep waters later on.

What do you think students will learn from your workshop?

How to get started with their projects and ideas. Finding their drive and sense behind the things they want to start doing or want to join as a participant. And finally, how to cross the finish line by keeping engagement and energy level high enough after the initial fascination and energy outburst fades a little for whatever reason.

I managed to do it when climbing the Seven Summits, starting and failing a few ventures, doing my Ph.D. in computer science or last, but not least – learning to play golf.


Are you intrigued? Come to the event itself! April 29th, Lecture Room 4 in The Gateway. Further details on the event Facebook page.

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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!

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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!



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Interview with a PSC alumna

Playfair Profile

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.

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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.

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