Neil Laurenson, Student Employability Activities Co-ordinator
I am constantly impressed and humbled by the work ethic and achievements of students completing the Worcester Award. For those not familiar with the award, it is recognition of activities that students do alongside their degree and an opportunity to reflect upon how these activities can help to improve their future employability. The determination of students to achieve the Worcester Award, help other people and seek new experiences is inspirational. I have met hundreds of students through the award, including:
- A Physiotherapy student who was involved in car crash and now wants to repay his debt to the NHS
- A professional cricketer who came to Worcester from India and intends to set up his own performance management company
- A self-employed plumber re-training as a teacher, who had not been interviewed in almost 20 years until his Worcester Gold Award interview
- A student who attended the University’s Criminal Justice Fair, began volunteering and achieved an NVQ in Mentoring
I think it’s worth also highlighting other students who travel from overseas to study at the University of Worcester. It is truly incredible that they have achieved the Worcester Award in addition to studying and working in an unfamiliar country and language.
Putting aside language barriers, one trait that appears to be almost universal is students’ unwillingness to articulate their strengths and achievements in detail. In the Worcester Silver Award workshop students practise the STAR technique:
Situation – set the scene
Task – what did you need to achieve?
Action – what did you do?
Result – what was the outcome of your actions?
However, not enough students use this technique during their Gold Award interview, or they only use it for some of their answers. In a real job interview, each competency-based answer will carry a certain amount of marks. To achieve high marks, you need to provide evidence that you have the skills and experience the employer is looking. This will also make you more memorable to an employer who has to interview several candidates.
Have a look again at the list of students above: they are all determined, skilful people, but they all have different stories. If you think of each interview answer you give as a short story in which you are the main character, you will be more successful than if you simply state your skills. Also, modesty is an excuse to hide key facts about yourself that could decide whether you get a job – it’s possible to be proud of your skills and achievements without being overbearing. Arrogance is claiming to be able to do a task without the track record to prove it, whereas confidence is claiming to be able to do a task but actually having the track record to provide it.
The Worcester Award is a fantastic way of collecting your skills and experiences into a tangible track record that will impress potential employers…But only if you then verbally articulate why you are so impressive and should be the one that is hired!
When you go to interview, you will be asked competency-based questions…Using an example is so much more powerful than just saying it. You’ve all got those perfect examples ready. You’ve done so much and that really will help you stand out…One thing I did notice when I was interviewing students at the university was how humble a lot of you are, which is a wonderful quality, but you must remember to sell how much you’ve done.
Katy Rees, Managing Director and owner of Smile Education & Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Worcester