If you want to get a top graduate job take more holidays

Why travelling increases your job prospects

Most graduates underestimate how much their choice of holiday destination can influence their ability to get a top job in London. Yet bagging mileage is a bonus if you are looking for a career in an elite profession like accountancy, law or banking as recruiters at these types of firms need graduates with some awareness of global culture. One of the easiest ways to find out if you’ve got that awareness to look for evidence of travel on your CV.

Graduate recruiters at top companies are not looking for just any old holiday soaking up the sun on some tropical beach in the Caribbean (though that can be a part of it) but where you have travelled, why you travelled and what you did while there. Ideally recruiters will be looking at whether you have worked abroad or taken part in some other adventure, challenge or life experience.

Gap year travel and getting a top graduate job

Lots of young people choose to travel by taking a gap year, an experience once preserved for the privately educated and affluent but becoming increasingly more popular with graduates from a range of backgrounds. Although most simply see gap year travelling as an opportunity to take a break from their studies your forward-thinking graduate will see the benefits to their career prospects. The skills and experience gained while travelling or working abroad are often those employers say most graduates lack – life skills, cultural awareness; resilience, adaptability and confidence.

Why travelling makes you more desirable to employers

Graduates who have travelled or worked abroad often say it developed them as a person, exposed them to new ways of thinking and working and made them more confident. They say working abroad enabled them to learn a new language or strengthen existing foreign language skills.

Gap-year.com lists opportunities like building a school in Nicaragua, learning Portuguese in Lisbon, working with elephants South Africa and taking work experience in Australia. Imagine having these types of experiences listed on your CV!

In our recent article on how to pass the posh test to get a top graduate job in accountancy, law or banking we mentioned travel and exposure to different cultures as one of the desirables these types of firms look for. One interviewer at a top law firm said he looks at where candidates go on holiday as a gauge to what type of personality they have.

The experience you gain through travelling is wide and varied but will show employers how adventurous you are, whether you are the type of person who likes to take risks and is confident to try new things.

Graduates who’ve worked abroad are better prepared to compete

Being placed in a foreign environment with people who have a different culture, language and life outlook from your own requires you to adapt and develop a sense of awareness and respect for differences. Working in another country exposes you to that culture and its people in a way that holidaying in a hotel does not: you will widen your knowledge of the people, the language and the local and surrounding regions. Placing such information on your CV could be attractive especially if the prospective employer has business interests in the country you’ve travelled to and worked in.

Besides the benefits of travelling and widening your cultural and geographical awareness you will of course also gain from the opportunity to work. Jobs such as teaching English language skills to children or adults, working as an au pair or nanny, fruit-picking or interpreting can all help you to gain the experience you need to get the job you want.

These days, with competition for top jobs so fierce, graduates need to think outside of the box and find ways to gain the experience they need to stand out and get a top graduate job. Travelling is one way you can do this even if you didn’t go to a top university or school.

If you think you could do with some support to get a top job in accountancy, law or banking speak to us at Graduate Coach.

How to pass the posh test to get a top job

Here’s why all the top jobs go to ‘posh people’ – and what you can do about it!

You may have the aptitude, you may have the skill, but if you don’t fit in at the UK’s top law, finance or accountancy firms they won’t employ you. To get a top job at one of these companies you need more than merit; you need to make them they like you.

The government dubs this the ‘posh test’ and says it hinders social mobility by barring entry to the elite professions.

If you’re looking for a lucrative career in accountancy, law or banking this is crucial because taken together this sector of industry is responsible for the employment of 45,000 graduates each year.

Most news reports covering the research simply parrot the government’s key recommendations to tackling the problem, which is to adopt the positive discrimination practices seen in other parts of industry. This includes purposely targeting graduates from working class backgrounds, supporting them through the application process, and broadening the definition of talent to recognise a wider range of aptitude and skill.

However, what most fail to realise is that these top firms demand a certain type of brightness that they are not going compromise.

Graduates must understand the culture of top firms to get a top job

All of these companies have very distinct and powerful set cultures that make them what they are and they are going to work hard to maintain that. A graduate with his or her sight on a top job in this industry must know what the culture is: you cannot expect the organisation to bend to your personality, instead you must bend to match theirs.

So should bright working class graduates miss out on jobs at top law or accountancy firms?               

Certainly not. Most of these companies agree that a young person with a 2:2 from a less affluent part of town deserves a chance but they still need to fit in. Companies like PWc and Ernston Young are frantic for people from a rainbow of cultures. You can’t all be Anglo Saxon white anymore when you’re presenting proposals to clients across the globe.

But the problem is rather more nuanced than all the press articles suggest. Firstly, you have to have the very highest level of academic intelligence to make it in the elite professions because these professions are by their nature very academically inclined. Graduates with the very highest grades in A levels and a Russell Group university education have through this process been academically challenged and so are a natural fit. However, if you are prepared to work into that culture they will take you – but your personality must blend to match theirs and not the other way around.

Secondly, you must understand that all organisations are tribal and you have to have the personality that matches that tribe. One interviewer from a top firm said it was a case that candidates ‘get me’ and understand ‘my jokes’. There is less risk one will become offended by witticisms and, most importantly, it’s less work than having to filter through a lot of non-Russell Group candidates to find that one diamond.

What to do to pass the posh test and get a top job

It’s not that easy but all is not lost. Take it from me as a Geordie with a broad accent who was told to go to elocution lessons but nevertheless was hired. And that was during the 1970’s at time when discrimination was rife. It is much more meritocratic now than then but there are also many more people applying for each of those jobs than before.

So what is this posh test and how can you increase your chances of passing it to get a top job? According to responses from interviewers at top firms the more of the following you have the more you will increase your chances of landing a top job in law, accountancy or banking:

  • Good grades from a Russell Group university
  • Good A levels from a selective state or fee-paying school
  • Bag loads of self-awareness and self-confidence
  • You’ve travelled extensively or worked abroad
  • Exposure to different cultures around the world
  • Excellent communication skills – accent plays a crucial role
  • A demonstrable understanding of the company, its culture and its industry

If you think you could do with some support to get a top job in accountancy, law or banking speak to us at Graduate Coach.

The emotional side to every interview

And how working on your emotional intelligence can help you succeed in it

There is an emotional side to every interview – after all, if the interviewer doesn’t warm to you it is highly unlikely you’ll get the job even if you have all the right grades and experience. This is because part of the criteria for getting a job is whether or not you fit into a workplace: an employer will reject you at the first hint that your actions and behaviour will create a toxic work environment, so you need to click with the interviewer from the start.

Given the significance of the emotions in influencing the outcome of an interview a graduate looking for their first job could really improve their chances if they invested a little effort into developing their emotional intelligence. Working on your emotional intelligence can help you win the job.

Your emotional intelligence is one way for the interviewer to demonstrate that you have what it takes to get along with others. It will show whether you possess the ability to find solutions to day to day workplace woes when you join the company.

EQ vs IQ in the workplace

We all know the term “IQ” – Intelligence Quotient, the rubric used to measure someone’s ability to reason, but some scientists and psychologists are positing that a person’s “EQ” – Emotional Quotient – is just as important to your job success.

Your EQ is important in three main ways:

  1. It affects your ability to be aware of your own emotions – and to manage them when they threaten to burst forth in inappropriate ways.
  2. Your EQ helps you to recognise and understand the emotions of others.
  3. Further to this, your EQ allows you to relate to others’ emotions (not necessarily agree or condone them, but understand why they are occurring) and choose your own actions accordingly.

By its very nature the workplace is a scene of ranging (and sometimes raging) emotional activity. With daily challenges like deadlines to be met, contracts to be won and customers to pacify, emotions will always come into play. Your Emotional Intelligence Quotient will allow you to relate to others in a vast array of contexts and scenarios and could mean the difference between success and failure.

What are the benefits of a high EQ in the workplace?

A person with a high level of emotional intelligence is able to assess the situation that they are in and make a calm, level headed decision about what to do next. If they are angry with a colleague, they may be more likely to ask to speak to that person in private and clearly communicate their issue – rather than retaliating in a passive aggressive way later down the line (“Oh, I didn’t realise you needed that paper from me yesterday. Here it is – I guess you’ll have to stay late and miss the office drinks night.”)

An individual with a high level of emotional intelligence can diffuse conflict. Colleagues will know where they stand with you; your boss will feel confident you can be trusted with clients and customers, and you will be more likely to be considered when the opportunity to progress arises in the workplace.

Ways to increase your emotional intelligence in the workplace

Even if you’re someone who easily flies off the handle or who often says the wrong thing at the wrong time, you can still make subtle changes to increase your emotional intelligence.

  • Practise empathy. Remember, everyone is fighting their own battles. Do not jump to the worst case conclusion when someone disappoints you or lets you down.
  • Listen to people. Remember to look others in the eye and listen to them when they speak. Really think about what they are saying to you.
  • Seek the opinions of others. This is particularly helpful in team situations or when brainstorming. Don’t hog the limelight. Ask other people what they think, too.
  • Seek win-win. Always seek to end conflicts by seeking the best outcome for both sides.
  • Keep a journal. Journaling can help you get stuff off your chest and to evaluate how you are feeling.
  • Meditate or pray. The simple act of meditating or praying for ten minutes each morning can help you to increase your EQ, remain calm throughout the day and pause before you react negatively to a situation.
  • Speak to someone. If you have nagging emotional issues leftover from childhood or a traumatic event, consider speaking with a counselor or therapist to get to the bottom of the issue and heal old wounds.

While some people may be naturally more empathetic than others emotional intelligence is a social skill everyone can develop and improve, so keep working at it.