To mark the publication of part 2 of the Student Employability Index, Director of University of Surrey Careers Service John Watkins offers advice to students and graduates by sharing 10 of his top anecdotes.

  1. The student who struggled onto campus from 15 miles away as forecasted snow blizzards arrived, because she valued a mock interview so highly. She got the job after the real interview, her employers recruiting a talented engineer with a first rate attitude.
  2. The graduate that wrote me a letter. Post is a relative rarity in this technological world, so it stood out and got him noticed.
  3. The graduate(s) who make a special effort to come into the Careers Service  and say ‘thank you’ for the support, especially on the back of securing a job. Humility, recognising others and just plain good manners count for a great deal.
  4. The response by a student when asked why they had decided to attend a particular careers event ‘My mother told me to.’ Honesty is good and maternal advice is amongst the most reliable.
  5. The nervous student who finally looked at ease when asked about his weaknesses, confidently responding ‘There are lots of things I’m not good at’. Self-awareness is important and nobody should declare that they have nothing they could improve, but the job rarely goes to the candidate whose best answers are around their deficiencies.
  6. The last minute stand-in who delivered an employer workshop on presentation skills, which should have been (but wasn’t) entitled ‘How not to do it’. It is admirable to step into the breach but beware the impact of a lack of preparation, particularly if you volunteer to do something that is not a particular strength.
  7. The unemployed graduate who peppered his answers to questions in a mock interview with textbook management speak: ‘To me, feedback is the breakfast of champions’, he said, and ‘I see colleagues as allies and leaders as equals’. This individual re-worked his interview style to show off these sentiments in a more effective manner and secured an excellent role shortly afterwards.
  8. The graduate looking for advice, who had clearly studied my LinkedIn profile  as if preparing for an exam, probing for information to expand his knowledge of a field where I had significant experience. I admired his thoroughness but it was a little unnerving!
  9. The student who attended a workshop and fed back afterwards that she now realised she should be looking for a career not a job. This may seem like a relatively insignificant distinction but my experience suggests she has put herself in an advantageous position compared to those just focussing on finding a job.
  10. The student who read the University of Surrey Careers Service blog  and lamented about not having been aware of it before – she is now signed up and never misses out on the occasional word of wisdom!

John has been Director of Careers Service at the University of Surrey since June 2012.

The Student Employability Index 2014, from NCUB and Compass Group, surveyed students for their views on careers services, work experience, employability and future employment. Part Two is published on the 26th June. Read Part One now.
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