Employability Week 2016

This last week the business school at Anglia Ruskin (ARU) held its employability week for the first and second years, with third years having a reading week. Activities were held over two days for each year. Monday for first years, Tuesday for second years, with both on Thursday.

Despite the low number of attendees, at least on the Tuesday and Thursday, there were some interesting parts.

On the Thursday, during the ‘Ace Your Interview’ one thing stands to mind. We had to choose one strength based question to answer, however I didn’t answer at the time as I had written a long response to a previous question which was to choose one competency based question to answer. When the advisor asked if I would like to give my answer to the room I just said no…. On reflection thou I should have just blagged it!

So rather than choose one, I’m going to answer all four of the questions.

1. Why did you choose your degree course and what influenced your choice?

Out of the four questions, this is probably the hardest for me to answer, for the simple reason is that I choose to attend university on the basis of I just decided to. I woke up one Friday morning and decided to apply to university during clearing, went onto ARU’s website (I didn’t look at any other universities, for a number of reasons with the main one being its location, and that I rely on public transport) and looked at the courses available through clearing. Of the courses I was interested in I narrowed the list down to two; Business and Human Resource Management, and International Business Management.

The main reasons for these two courses were due to the modules available on the courses. Both had modules that interested me the most compared to say Business Management (there is overlap between the majorities of business courses, but in this case the module difference between International and normal Business Management swung towards International).

When I called through to the hotline, I spoke to the operator who then put me through to the head of the Economics and International Business department and that was that. I wrote a 2,000 word statement (1,000 on why I wanted to apply to the course, and 1,000 on my work experience) over the weekend and sent it off on Monday. A week later I was accepted and here I am now.

In short, I choose my degree course based on what was available through clearing, and the modules on the course. I also hope that no one asks me about my reasons in an interview, as the honest answer may not be the one they were hoping for!

2. What do you consider your greatest achievement and why?

Next hardest question to answer, mostly because I’ve worked on and done many different things. It would be easier to answer if I broke it down into two: what do I consider my greatest achievement in my personal life, and my greatest achievement in my professional life.

For my personal life, I would say that it was achieving my black belt. Five years of training, blood, sweat, injuries (broken bones, fractured bones, burst blood vessels – there’s nothing like the entire top of your foot going black!), late nights, early mornings, out in weather that’s either boiling or freezing, and above all; meeting new people that help you push on, who’ll be there for you every step of the way, and friends all around the world.

Professional life, there are a number to choose from, but the greatest? One that stands to mind is when I took on, and made my own, the development of training packs at one organisation I worked for.

Bear with me, it’s more interesting than it sounds!

When I first started there, the training packs were loose sheets of paper in plastic wallets. We may also have been lucky to need more than 20 a month (the training service at the time was only a minor part of the company, and had only one member of staff in the organisation; the business development manager who also oversaw the development of services in the organisation, which at the time made up the majority of their work).

I should also point out that the organisation is a charity, so available resources were limited, and consisted of:

  • A copier that was old, only printed in mono and had no extra functions, and I mean none. The copier had been donated to the organisation years before.
  • A inkjet printer, that printed only one sided, this limited colour printing.
  • A desktop scanner for scanning documents.
  • All master copies of the handouts were paper based,
  • Plastic wallets to hold the packs together, although shortly after I started we moved to clip files to “upscale” the packs.

I should also note, the documents in the packs were loose, with no page numbers, a contents page, or a cover page. These were one of the first things that were solved, even if it did involve prick sticking page numbers to the master copies before copying them!

The ‘upgrading’ of the training packs fell into three stages:

  1. Binding of the packs; this involved creating a case plan for why the organisation should invest into a binding machine. The costs of the current binding (clip files), how much the bindings would cost (in this case a plastic comb, cover sheet and back sheet), and the cost of the machine itself. Most importantly, how much money we would save over the long run (we ended up making back the cost in 3 months, partly thanks due to a sudden increase in interest in mental health training within organisations).
  2. Upgrading the copier. Upgrading the copier was the most involving of the three as it involved arranging meetings with, and negotiating with, suppliers. As the copier would be for the entire organisation and not only for the training packs I had to look at how the copier would benefit the organisation as a whole. Fortunately because of this I was also able to gain sufficient support among staff for an upgrade that getting the idea past senior management was more of a formality (more so because senior management also supported the idea!). Despite this, I still had to put together a cost/benefit analysis and write a case on why we should upgrade.
  3. Creating electronic documents of all training packs, this allowed for easy editing and most importantly for crisp printing.

When I left the organisation, the training service had gone from delivering training to maybe 20 delegates a month to that many, and usually more, a week. It was common during busy periods to be delivering training to 80 delegates per week, and in one case had a contract for a local college to deliver training to 300 staff over a week. We had gone from one staff member delivering the training to a bank of associate trainers, with the in-house staff from a single individual to four.

While not originally part of my role, I took on the office side of the training service and helped to develop the training packs with the trainers, the marketing and communications, and developing a system to analysis the evaluations of the training.

3.What motivates you?

Easy question! What motives me is when coming across a challenge that requires me to actually think and engage with the task I’m attempting. If I find something too easy I lose interest and have to force myself to complete. If the challenge is also in area that interests me than that’s a plus, however this does not always have to be the case as long as it’s an area that I can find value in.

3. Do you prefer to start tasks or to finish them? Give a reason for your answer.

I usually prefer to start tasks, and can struggle to finish them at times (especially if they’re not interesting, see above). The longer the task takes is also a factor, with time consuming tasks being put on hold or dropped all together when other things come up.

I’d say that I’m more likely to finish longer tasks if they’re interesting, while non-interesting tasks if I can complete quickly.

That’s the four questions, I hope that you enjoyed reading them. Comments/criticisms are welcome.