My experiences of participating in the Westminster Employability Award by Jon Woodburn

Welcome to another Student Employability Guest Blog! Read below about Jon’s amazing experiences with participating in the Westminster Employability Award and his top tips. If you, like Jon, want to share your employability experiences in a blog, drop us an email on careers@westminster.ac.uk with your idea and you could shine on the official careers blog, too. But for now, sit back, relax and enjoy reading the piece below.

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Hello! My name is Jon Woodburn, and I am a soon to be History & Politics Graduate; which sounded so far away but is so close in reality. The idea of my student pass expiry date being only one week away seems a long cry from when I first had it printed out at Great Portland Street during freshers. Throughout my degree, I have tried to develop my employability skills, whether it being an Employability Champion or a FAN (Friend of Arriving New Students). Yet, the most rewarding experience has been participating in the newly created Westminster Employability Award, which encourages volunteering, internships and improving your CV and interview techniques. Through completing this award and obtaining Gold, I feel the Employability Award has successfully prepared me for my desired career in research and analytics. This is proven with my successful application and interview for a Policy and Public Affairs internship at the Royal Statistical Society (RSS). In fact, I am writing this as I am on the train for my first day!

What made me join the Westminster Employability Award?

The reason I chose to be a part of the Westminster Employability Award (WEA) can be identified in three parts. Firstly, my experience as an Employability Champion highlighted that many soon to be graduates lacked the foundation heading out into the workplace; secondly, I needed my CV and LinkedIn to be thoroughly checked and lastly, have the relevant experience which my CV lacked. The WEA solved all these issues by making me go to a 45-minute consultation with a careers consultant who drastically improved my CV and the relevance of its content for my sector of employment. Furthermore, it encouraged me to volunteer as I became a FAN and took the Politics Internship module, which both gave me 10 points to my overall total [award points].

What are some key tasks (highlights) I completed as part of the Award?

As mentioned, I noticed many students had the desire but lacked the ability in interviews to succeed and understand their own career path. The WEA solves this, as one vital task allows students to participate in mock interviews with AI, simulating real questions and putting you in the same time constraints as would be similar to real life. This improved my ability to think quickly and get the RSS Internship I will speak about later as I could think of examples which met the competency-based questions being asked. Another critical task that I completed on my way to WEA Gold is finding your own sector of employment. It doesn’t take long, but it made a lasting impact because most students struggle post-university about what career path we want. Personally, with the help of the first section of the award, I got my CV up to scratch, while finding the area of jobs (research and analytics) I needed to apply for. I realised I was applying for jobs beforehand that didn’t make use of my skills and that when it comes to looking for a career don’t always associate it to your degree. It wasn’t just History or Politics jobs, but even PR, Recruitment and Research, in sectors I hadn’t also considered which were available to me. As a result, I have had several interviews with several wanting me to come for a follow-up meeting.

Why did I apply for the Santander Internship at the Royal Statistical Society?

While completing the WEA, I learned through emails from the Talent Bank that applications for Santander Internships were being accepted. 💡 One top tip is always to check your emails from the employability team and scroll all the way down, as you’ll be amazed at the opportunities available. The best part of the Santander internships is that they are paid London Living Wage and give you great experience to add to your CV for future applications. I decided to choose this internship owing to the fact the Royal Statistical Society is world renowned for being there to provide facts in an era of fake news and that is aligned with the area of research which I wanted to get into post-university.

When applying for the role, I used one career 45-minute consultation to refine my CV further but more importantly, create a new cover letter as that is where you can sell yourself. 💡 IF you’re looking at this and was as clueless at how to do a cover letter then either book a consultation or go to resources on Engage and download cover letter templates (from law to generic examples). After using these resources on top of the extensive foundation laid by completing most of the WEA, I successfully applied. The interview practice really helped as I already learned how to answer some tricky questions (Biggest failure? Or Biggest personality flaw?). Think about what you would answer now as these questions are common in most interviews I have taken also! They seem hard, but if you have a prepared answer, then you will look calm and collected.

Now I am starting my internship at the Royal Statistical Society and looking forward to 10 weeks of intensive policy and public affairs work. Understanding if I can commute to London from my home town of Wokingham and if this sector of work is appropriate for me will be my main takeaways over the next 10 weeks. Luckily Santander and the Royal Statistical Society have provided me with this fantastic opportunity in such a prestigious company. For any second year or third year students, who are going to be postgraduates at Westminster, these internships open their applications around late March and specialise in six different categories to provide everyone with an opportunity to improve their employability.

Any further advice?

For anyone looking to improve their employability, my first tip is always to check your emails from the employability team and see what opportunities are on offer. 💡 The Talent Bank is a perfect way to increase the experience on your CV while earning money at the same time. All jobs are well paid and usually are designed to slot into your studies. 💡 Also, apply to go on a Westminster Working Cultures trip. I went to Mumbai and learnt how to develop my skills in an international setting. Considering how interconnected and transnational most companies are, this makes you stand out from the crowd. I also made friends from other campuses, and we still meet up till this day (Picture below)! 💡 Another tip is to take an internship module and volunteering opportunities through open days and FANs. Both of these proved to prospective employers I have a high work ethic and that I want to work.

Furthermore, these opportunities give you something to talk about when interviewers ask competency-based questions, as this is an experience you can use when answering their questions. Finally, complete the Westminster Employability Award!! It gives you a perfect foundation for applying to any opportunity and can focus your approach to work when you leave post-degree. Speaking at the Vice Chancellors Employability Awards evening, all Gold recipients agreed that it has made them more confident, prepared and assured going into the workplace.

💡 Remember to always say ‘Yes’ at Westminster as the opportunities this university provides are endless, but only to those who have the desire to take them. If it is getting a Gold award or volunteering several hours each week, set yourself a goal for the new term or for post-graduation and thrive. Your hard work will always pay off and, you shall be rewarded for it in the near future. Thanks for reading my blog post and good luck in your future endeavours!

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A big THANK YOU to Jon for sharing his inspirational experiences with us! If you’re feeling motivated to sign up to the Westminster Employability Award yourself, just click here.

And remember that the Careers Team is here to help you with succeeding in your employability journey! You can find our contact details below:

DL: 0207 911 5184  | E: careers@westminster.ac.ukWebsite | Facebook | Careers Blog 

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