January 2014 saw St Andrews’ first Career Launch Conference lift off. The three-day event was a mixture of employability workshops, inspirational speakers and networking opportunities, plus mock interviews and assessment centre exercises. Run by CAPOD, the Careers Centre and the Students’ Association, with support from TeachFirst and Accenture, the event pulled in some fifty delegates, several of whom have since met with career success. Kim Stehling is one of them:
“By the time I saw the Career Launch employability conference poster for the first time, I was already worrying about interviews and assessment centres I might soon be asked to attend. I signed up, realising that I could not miss out on the opportunity to increase my chances of success in the selection process by getting professional advice and learning about the experiences of others.
Initially I felt a little shy as I had signed up by myself, but the atmosphere soon made me feel like I was back in Freshers’ week of my first year, where it was perfectly acceptable to turn to a stranger and introduce yourself.
I found that extending my network by meeting new people and speaking to them about their career-related experiences was the best part of the conference. Especially when given the chance to speak to graduates who have had very promising starts to their careers. Although hearing about their impressive success stories might have seemed a little intimidating at first, they did a fantastic job in encouraging all delegates to be confident in your own abilities and to seek out career and networking opportunities.
The most valuable component of the conference agenda to me was the assessment centre challenges. In small groups we were set problems that could be part of a real assessment day. I was surprised at how enjoyable it was to tackle and solve the set problems in a group of people I had not previously known. The detailed feedback provided also made me realise how important supposedly small things such as eye-contact and nodding are to the assessor when judging your ability to work as a team player.
Apart from the insight into parts of the selection process, the main thing I took away from the conference was the confidence that I can achieve my career aspirations. I learned that especially when dealing with career set-backs, it is worth getting back up on your feet and seeking out the next development opportunity. I realised that with extensive preparation, I had a real chance of being offered a job at one of my dream employers.
This newly-gained confidence allowed me to fully enjoy the two assessment centres I was invited to a short while after. Benefiting from the pleasant atmosphere created by the companies, I was able to present myself as a strong candidate for the internships I had applied to. Exceeding my expectations, I was offered both positions and after a tough decision on which offer to accept, I can’t wait to start the summer internship I had barely even dared to dream about getting only two months ago.”