I'm a final year Philosophy student at the University of Nottingham. Below are some tips from my experiences of securing interviews and assessment centres.
Broadening Your Knowledge
If you’re worried that your chosen industry seems unrelated to your degree, there are plenty of proactive steps that you can take to boost your individual capital.
Getting in the door is all about demonstrating your interest. For example, there are thousands of free (or relatively inexpensive), certified online courses provided by big firms and academic institutions. Coming from a non-finance background, I sat courses from the CFA Institute and Coursera for my finance applications. Taking part in one can be done in your spare time or holidays.
I believe it’s well worth the investment for your C.V., especially if you’ve not yet been able to secure insight weeks or relevant work experience. Completing these flexible courses will boost your commercial awareness, helping you to articulate yourself well and be comfortable using industry terminology when you’re face to face with a prospective employer.
Positions of Responsibility
When looking at skills and competencies a company might ask for, you’ll need anecdotes to back up when you’ve been a good team player or why you’re a strong communicator. The advice about getting stuck in with extracurricular activities at university is true; no matter which year you’re in.
Join a society (bring a friend if you like), run for committee or start volunteering. The more exposure you have outside of your studies the more natural these, ‘soft’, skills become. I took part in the Nottingham Advantage Award, allowing me to gain certification for the extracurricular activities I did. Many universities have similar schemes or lots of advice on how to get involved so be sure to check out your Students’ Union websites.
Any work experience, even if voluntary, short-term or informal, can be relevant and extremely helpful. Having been unsuccessful in securing spring weeks, I managed to arrange work experience in a Financial PR firm ten minutes away from my campus. Such experience can be sourced locally by politely reaching out to employers in your immediate area.
Before You Apply
For the most competitive roles, considerable research is a must. Trivial questions can be a sticking point if you’re not adequately prepared. For example, an interviewer might ask you to suggest a sector the firm should expand into or even a location in which they should open a new office. As basic as this might seem, really knowing what they do (and where they already have offices!) is crucial in these cases.
I recommend being systematic. Create a research template of key, yet often simple, information that you can use across applications. Empowering yourself with this knowledge will boost your confidence and ultimately increase your chance at success. Many firms place value on intellectual diversity; if you can couple that with a proven interest and good preparation then they do not mind the degree background you’re applying from.
Additionally, effective applications are often guided by networking. It’s easy to attend outreach or campus events, even if only once or twice a year, and doing so will get you up to date with current ideas and first-hand advice from your companies of interest. Bright Network events
A small note: in my experience, early applications are usually the most successful, especially if the deadline is rolling. I suggest you do your research to discover opportunities well in advance of their opening dates.
Suppose you don’t secure a role with your first-choice firms? As disheartening as this is, stay positive, ask for feedback, seek advice and keep trying.
A little tip I used: almost all big firms in any given industry have lists of the clients they service or related companies in their supply chain. I think it’s worth having a look and reaching out to these perhaps lesser known companies – you never know what might land.
Finally, treat every step professionally and seriously. Bright Network has a plethora of information and resources to help with interview technique and etiquette, as well as how to adequately prepare for assessment centres. The Bright Network Academy is an amazing place to learn both soft and technical skills for every stage of your applications.
Best of luck!