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!