Moving on Up

Exciting news from readingandwrighting HQ…I have a new job! Well, actually its more of a new role added onto my current position, but beggars can’t be choosers I guess.

My employment is by far and large the biggest issue that gets to me day-in-day-out. I haven’t really covered my current circumstances much before in any posts but to sum it up; I graduated from Keele University (in Staffordshire…it’s a good uni though few have heard of it!) a couple of years ago, with a decent 2:1 in Marketing and American Studies. I know that might sound like a bit of an odd mixture, but I have always had a fascination about the States and hoped that my degree would allow me the opportunity to visit (something that fell through, though I don’t regret not going really). Marketing…well I really do fancy a career in the industry; I am creative and passionate about products, and not necessarily just cars or technology, I could easily rave on for hours about the Menswear line at M&S but I fear nobody would read it! Building on this I have a strong customer focus and am able to work with a mixture of good instincts and careful attention to detail/feedback.

Considering my enthusiasm and desire to succeed, I originally attempted to get onto a graduate scheme. A grad scheme is basically the holy grail for anyone finishing university; for another 1/2/3 years you are trained in a company usually in a specific function, usally very handsomely paid, and by the end you are nearly always given the offer of permanent employment. Building relationships and being encouraged to progress by yourself, I feel I would flourish in such an environment, and indeed the schemes I have applied for have always seemed amazing when the overview is read out. The application process is quite long (usually an online form with essay questions, online testing, a phone interview and then an assessment day in a far flung corner of the country), and the stages can often be seperated by months because of deadlines and the time needed to sift through applications.

I am evidently quite adept at jumping through all these hoops, as I have been to a considerable number of assessment centres and have been in the last 6-12 candidates for a position! I’ve tended to stick to my strengths and interests in terms of industry; Sky Broadcasting, Ford, Marks and Spencer, Tesco, O2 and most recently Nationwide (along with a few others that escape me at the moment) are the ones where I have been sat in a room knowing that my future could depend on the events of the next few hours! Evidently I have not gotten on any scheme yet 😦 and the way that assessment centres work means that even if I make loads of applications when they open in September, it will not be until the following September (2014) that I’d start any job. Not all companies run grad schemes, and neither have I progressed as far as I would like to with some (for example if I could merely get a phone interview with Jaguar Land Rover I am sure they would spot how deep my love for the brand runs….but over 16,000 applied last year and I am merely a small fish with a mildly interesting degree). I won’t hold my breath that I will get on one of these schemes, but given the fact that the only negative feedback I get is tiny criticisms about my group work – something that I have worked on alot, next year could be the one.

So what about other marketing jobs? Well my preoccupation with getting onto a grad scheme has meant that in a way I’ve neglected the regular job market, but recently I have been striving to be on the look out (and apply) for jobs in the marketing/advertising/PR industry. Problems? Well it seems that evidently the regular job market is equally as competitive, and with new waves of graduates being pumped out every year, the situation seems to be getting worse and worse. Most of these jobs are advertised via recruiters, and to be honest it can be very hard to stand out when the only thing you can do is write a cover letter for a role that has not been fully explained (often expectations are mentioned, but not the company itself which means no research can be done). Annoyingly it also means that it is extremely rare that any feedback is given from these applications, even after the hours spent writing fresh cover letters and adapting my CV to best exemplify how I am a good fit for the role. Alot of these jobs narrow down applicants by asking for specific skills, and although my GCSE results are exemplary, family circumstances mean that my A Level grades (BBD) are not as polished as they could be. Also I lack the ability to speak another language, or any specialist IT skills such as HTML coding. I always worry that I don’t stand out enough based purely on my CV, and it seems that the character that I interject into my cover letters does not appear to be doing me much good either 😦

Next steps? Well I will continue making applications to marketing agencies online, but a recent conversation with one of my bosses (at my teaching job) has left me thinking that a recruitment agency may well help me with finding something more career orientated, after all one of my previous co-workers got a decent job with an insurance company…an entry level position yes, but she has the talent to rise quickly :). Me? Well I am going to redraft my CV and book an appointment with an agency, the only thing that I don’t want is to be limited to jobs in the local area – I’d much rather work in the city or maybe abit further out, but Enfield itself does not really have many businesses (though I may be mistaken of course). I did actually attempt to join an online one last week under the advice of my brother; they specialise in placing the best graduates with SME’s, and because they are selective it means that companies often go to them knowing that they have the best candidates. My brother was lucky enough to get chosen (presumably because he goes to a top uni and has great A Level grades), but in the course of writing this blog entry I’ve been turned down from being accepted onto their books. It’s quite annoying because whilst I may not have existing ‘professional experience’, I do have 2 years in the job market on him (and other recent grads) and am extremely capable of performing to a high standard in any employment.

I also investigated advancing in my current job and seeing where that could take me medium term. Frustrated is the emotion that best sums up how I feel regarding Marks and Spencer; the first year I applied for their graduate scheme, I was unable to do so because of my A Level grades (ridiculous considering I still got a 2:1 from a Top 40 Uni). The following year I was able to get to the assessment centre for the Commercial Management Scheme. After doing research and collecting knowledge from those in store who had already done the scheme, I felt well prepared and confident I would do well. But in a move that was admittedly my fault, I wrote down the wrong date and as such I missed the assessment centre I had booked. Despite my apologies and offers to drive to Scotland or Manchester to go to a different one I was refused, and last year again I did not get passed the online stage (though that was for a head office role). But when I tried to apply internally for the Section Management Scheme, I was told by the company that I was over qualified and should try my hat at the grad scheme. Equally my bosses told me that I needed more experience, despite the fact that I could quite easily have been a signed off commercial manager had I not written the date down wrongly for that assessment centre. When I had been in my job for 3 months I was encouraged to apply for a section co-ordinator role (more money and responsibility), yet I was subsequently told that I had not been there long enough…strange considering that somebody who has been there just 7 weeks has just been given a section co role for late night. The role I’ve just been given seems to have all the responsibilities of a section co, but without any of the authority, respect or improved pay, however I am happy to take the opportunity simply to prove myself and give me better examples for grad scheme questions. Essentially I have to devise and implement the logisitics for an entirely new system that the company is trying out. Basically if clothes stock has been in the store longer than 7 days, then it should be sent back to the warehouse to improve availability between stores; it sounds relatively simple but I will have to implement a system which allows easy access to stock, satisfies shop floor staff and also means that we don’t lose too much money (ie don’t send much stock back). It’s going to be a complete nightmare but as I’ve said, it’s an opportunity to prove myself.

If anybody looking for a bright young graduate stumbles across this post/blog (or indeed if you’ve got my CV and saw my questionable decision to highlight my blog address) then I hope that you can recognise that I am an asset full of potential for a company to develop (or exploit if you want to put it that way). I may be a bit overly concerned with cars, but we all have interests and it merely shows my dedication.

If anyone is interested I can recap any of the assessment centre’s I’ve attended…to give people an idea of what to expect and what not to do 🙂

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