These three candidates will give you a detailed insight into what type of employer they are after, in hopes to land a top graduate job. Being part of our Rising Stars scheme means that you are the top candidates in our pool, so hear what Niralee, Marjana, and Epseeta have to say about their expectations.
Please introduce yourselves!
Niralee: I am a final year student at the University of Warwick and I’m planning on doing a master’s in International Development at King’s College London next year. I am on the executive board of a student-led journalism society and write various articles on various political issues.
Marjana: I am currently doing a master’s in Management at Imperial, before that I graduated with a BSc in Biochemistry at King’s College London. Aside from my studies, I am a career support volunteer for the Social Impact and Responsible Business Club at Imperial.
Epseeta: I’m in the fourth year of my MSc Physics degree at King’s College London, currently working on my master’s project which looks into the effectiveness of quantum dot-based particle detectors by measuring cosmic rays. Outside of my studies, I enjoy playing the guitar and I’m currently teaching myself to code in visual basic.
Q1. How have you been through the last year as we come out of the pandemic? How have you been coping with university?
Niralee: I was in my first year of university when the pandemic struck, so having the sudden movement to online learning made me quite sceptical. I think a lot of students found it beneficial to have lectures online to watch at your own pace. During my second year, it was really hard not to have any social interaction, but also within lectures, as students tended not to speak or put their cameras on, so interaction was minimal, but I think the universities handled it well, and have now introduced a blended approach, which has been very useful.
Marjana: When the pandemic hit I was starting my third year. I had a whole year of academic learning online which was not fun. Since starting my master’s at Imperial, I’ve also had a blended learning approach which I’ve really enjoyed. You get the best of both, in-person and online teaching. I’ve also had to adjust to the social aspect, like meeting people in person again and introducing yourself, especially for teamwork. It is so much easier to just do it in person rather than online, but it has definitely been a learning curve.
Epseeta: Similar thoughts really, having blended learning of in-person and online lectures. I’ve really preferred that to having only online lectures, which I think has been mentioned briefly before, it has led to some awkward moments where no one speaks because they don’t feel like it. When you’re behind a computer, you lose that sense of human interaction, so I’m glad to get back into the lecture halls.
Q2. What would you be looking for in an employer? What are your expectations of your next role?
Niralee: One of the main things that I look for is an employer that really values its graduates, we don’t have as much experience compared to those who’ve worked on the team for longer, but we’re in a really unique position considering we’ve just finished our degree and we’re being taught by individuals who are making breakthroughs in research. I think we can really be valuable to contribute to the practical front by providing new insights on a theoretical basis. It's important that a company focuses on producing new innovative approaches, some employers can stick to their old ways because they trust the process, I think it’s important to push the boundaries. It is a big transition from university to the workplace, and for a lot of us, this is our first job. It would be great to have a mentor scheme to help get you embedded within the organisation, it's important to initially have that support. Lastly, I would say a good work-life balance is important, especially during the pandemic, as it’s been hard to separate work life from home life. It's important for our own mental health to keep that balance. We're not going to be producing our best if we are working long hours, so it’s important that employers encourage a healthy lifestyle as well.
Marjana: The main thing for me is fostering an inclusive environment as the workforce is becoming even more varied with international people from different backgrounds, so it’s important for companies to be aware of this. Particularly for me, I've been involved in a lot of programs and events around social mobility, like the 93% club and I think a lot of employers now are opening up to the many different facets of diversity and inclusion. Emphasis on coaching and continuous development is also very important for me, as a graduate I want clear progression. Having a buddy system or a coach that you can rely on to help you grow as an individual is also important.
Epseeta: I’m particularly interested in having an employer with a strong support system, it’s not the best feeling when you are left to your own devices in a new job, so adequate training is important. Clear career progression is also important, I particularly like when companies give you the chance to work towards formal qualifications, along with a yearly or perhaps quarterly review of your work and the chance to move on to more challenging stuff.
Q3. Let’s talk about red flags! What would stop you from going forward with a company? What would put you off?
Niralee: When a company is unclear on its final goal, having a goal helps motivate me and helps me understand what I’m working towards, so if there’s no goal, that would put me off. A lack of transparency would put me off as well, in terms of not only the type of work but the progression as well. As an individual, you're there to contribute to the company but I think it's really important that you get something out of it and knowing that you're going to be on track to progress to different levels and improve your career is really important.
Marjana: A red flag for me would be if I felt like an employer doesn’t really respect the time that I’ve invested in an application process; whether that be rescheduling things last minute, or interviewers turning up late, or not at all, which I’ve had in the past. Considering the amount of time graduates invest in the entire application process is significant and balancing that on top of our studies. I’m sure other students will agree, that it comes across within interactions with employers if they are genuinely interested to have us on board. Another red flag is not being able to meet or interact with other graduates or junior members of the team, I’ve decided not to go forward with companies before where I was only meeting executive or director’s level staff. I want to network and get the inside scoop from other graduates to see what the company is actually like.
Epseeta: Respecting my time is important. It’s a good way of telling which employees you really don't want to work for, if they don't have respect for your time prior to the application what can you expect should you join. Another point, there is also a big difference in being given guidance and help in your new role, and then having someone breathing down your neck because they don't trust you to work on your own. That level of supervision can be patronizing and highly unattractive. I would like to be able to show my independence even as a new recruit. Also if a company shows no signs of work-life balance, I don't think I'd like to work for them. I value my time outside of work, but if they incorporate social events with work, that is fine!
Q4. How would you research companies to find out as much as possible about them? e.g. before interviews.
Niralee: Networking through LinkedIn is a great opportunity to meet people from various backgrounds. It’s also useful to find someone who’s on a similar educational background asking them to share their thought in the company. Company websites are great but they’re only going to present one side and they will obviously be some negative aspects to them. You’re much more likely to get a real sense of personal interaction. Careers fairs are good too, talking to specific individuals that work for the company to get that personal interaction again. I think career appointment through universities as well, as they have a lot of great knowledge about different companies to suit your needs. I think as a graduate you don't really know the true value of opportunities that are out there and how many different jobs there are.
Marjana: I definitely use LinkedIn a lot when I’m researching a company and if I know who the interviewers will be beforehand. It can be insightful to look up their profile and will help to come into the interview as you will have specific questions about their role and will show your interest in the company. Also using the university's alumni networks can be helpful because they already have something in common with you and if they're approached by the university they may be more likely to get back to you. I've taken part in company-specific events that the university runs, which are geared to give you an insight into the company.
Epseeta: My university's career team is very on the ball with these sorts of things, they're constantly giving us information, so I do take on board what they provide. When I’m researching a company I have a tendency to simply google and see what results come up, coming across websites like Glassdoor, where people give anonymous reviews. You do have to take those reviews with a pinch of salt because you don't know exactly what sort of experiences they've had, but some of them can be insightful. Virtual careers fairs are also good ways to find out about information.
Q5. What is the final deciding factor that makes you want to apply for the job?
Niralee: I’d say whether the role inspires me, I think obviously there are a lot of aspects when you're deciding what jobs to apply for, but I think the main thing is ‘do you actually want to get up every day and go to that job?’, and ‘will you enjoy your time there?’. if you're not willing to put in the work for what the aim of the company is then you know what's the point.
Marjana: I would say the purpose, activities, and personalities that you think the company would really want. For myself, for example, I'm very big on authenticity and integrity, so that would definitely be the most deciding factor aside from everything else that I've consulted. In my research process, I would ask ‘does the purpose of the company align with what I want to do?’ and ‘how do they go about their business?’. If that is a match then I know that I'm going to be motivated to work in the company.
Epseeta: I always ask myself the question ‘do I see myself there in the future?’ or ‘am I just using them as a stepping stone for something else?’. I'd rather be somewhere where I feel like ‘yes, I can actually see myself there in the future!’. I'd rather start working somewhere where I actually feel like I have good career prospects and progression in this same company.
This has been a great insight into what their expectations are in their first employer, and I want to encourage you to take a look at their Rising Stars profiles via our Rising Stars portal. You can access their profiles by clicking ‘Request Account’, or contact me directly at [email protected]. To access the interview in video form, please visit our YouTube channel.
I’d like to thank Niralee, Marjana, and Epseeta for joining me in this interview, and I hope that you have learnt a lot about them and their ambitions! Our next webinar will be on the 18th May and I’d be delighted for you all to join!