My Student Coaching Experience – Zoe Wood

CAPOD are now offering students one-on-one coaching sessions with professional coaches. I have had my first session with my coach and am writing this piece to raise awareness of the service and to give anyone interested an insight into how it works.
The coaching service, called Know You More, was created by Tim Mart. To register you need to give an email address and create a password – the usual things. Then a code is emailed to you which will enable you to register. This is where I had issues, as I was not receiving the code. Luckily, I got an email from Tim Mart after a few failed attempts asking if I was having issues. After explaining my situation, he then sent an email immediately and I was registered. Once you have registered you need to create a profile – name, email, university, course, availability, what you’re hoping to get out of the coaching – and then you are matched with a coach.

Your assigned coach will email you and introduce themselves and you then arrange a time for a chemistry session, to see if you’ll get on. The coaching sessions are generally an hour long, done through video chat, using Zoom, and your coach will send you an invite to the Zoom meeting once you have arranged a time. If you do not already have Zoom then there is no need to worry, as it is free and easy to set up an account.

Despite feeling nervous for my chemistry session, I had a great time. My coach, also named Tim, had a background in sales and has been a trained coach for a long time and was easy to chat to. The session was mainly about outlining what I hoped to get out of coaching or improve on. I said that I’m very anxious about giving presentations and doing interviews and would like to work on my confidence. We then spent the session discussing what sort of job I would like to do (HR or organisational psychologist) and the experience and skills I need to help me get that job. Tim asked me what I had done already in terms of work experience, volunteering, jobs etc. that could be used to demonstrate my interest in HR and organisational psychology. We then discussed how to relate these to those areas in a way that any potential future employers will (hopefully) be impressed by.

At the end of the session we decided that we got on well and arranged another appointment. There is no pressure to stick with your assigned coach if you do not get on well, as they understand that there needs to be a good rapport for the coaching to work. I was also assigned the task of creating a LinkedIn profile in the meantime, covering all the relevant experience I already have for HR and organisational psychology, and have been asked to present it to him at our next meeting. Daunting, but also reassuring, as instead of floundering around panicking about getting a job, I now have someone who knows what they’re talking about and can give me advice and step-by-step instructions on how to improve my skills and employability.

I would definitely recommend the service. You receive personalised advice based on what you want to learn about or improve, without any judgement or pressure from your coach – it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake, they will help you. I think it’s great as you can practice interviewing skills or presentation skills, for example, without any consequences, so that when the time comes when it does matter, you will be as prepared as possible.

You can find more information on coaching in St Andrews here https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/capod/students/coaching/

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My PSC Experince – Zoe Wood

I started the PSC course at the start of the year as I was interested in developing skills that would prepare me for life after university. The PSC course is a programme of lectures and workshops that aim to help students develop professional skills, readying them for life after university. You can attend any of the talks just for fun or you can choose to do the PSC programme by collecting a PSC passport from the CAPOD building and collecting stamps for any events you attend. Once you have collected 8 stamps, you write a reflective essay about your experience of the PSC programme. After this you will have completed the course and it will be added to your academic transcript. It’s worth noting that you must complete the course within one academic year to obtain this qualification.

I am currently working on writing my essay and highly recommend the course to anyone. The PSC course covers a wide range of topics, so you can pick and choose what you would like to focus on. You can learn about teamwork, resilience, project management, leadership, communication, and a whole range of useful skills that you can see by looking at the PSC website. They run throughout the year so if you can’t make a talk or workshop then chances are you’ll be able to make another session later in the year. If you’re really struggling to make any of the talks then there’s also a range of lectures online. I have found all of the talks and online courses I have done to be very helpful, particularly the event during careers week which was organised by CAPOD and the careers centre to help students know how to apply what they’ve learnt during the PSC course to life beyond university.

I found doing the course rather reassuring. I personally find it hard to convey that I have used transferable skills from my experiences but having specific workshops and lectures makes it a lot easier to know how to explain you have, for example, good time management skills and how to back it up with evidence that you may not have even thought counted as using a certain skill. The event during careers week highlighted that I had already displayed many professional skills through studying at university and through various work experience placements, and gave me the skills to convey and demonstrate that to others. That is what I have found most useful about the course – it not only helps you develop skills, but it also highlights that, actually, you have more experience with professional skills than you would expect.

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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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