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One of the most important lessons that the Undergraduate of the Year Award competition has taught me is to truly believe in myself: my capabilities, my potential and my aspirations.

I first heard about the awards after my brother won the Future CFO of the Year in 2015! After seeing all the opportunities and doors it opened for him, I pre-registered for the awards and decided it couldn’t do any harm to give it a shot. Don’t get me wrong, I never dreamed of getting past the initial application process. However I realised I had nothing to lose by trying. I carefully read through each award category, all offering fantastic prizes in the form of internships. The Management Undergraduate of the Year award, sponsored by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, offered the opportunity of a 10-week summer placement and a visit to the Enterprise headquarters in the US. It sounded brilliant and I decided this was the award that would best suit me.

The competition application form was a little different to the standard process that most people are used to. This application consisted of questions based around our own experiences that related to leadership and management. I would advise anyone that applies, ALWAYS do your research because these questions are the best way to show the assessors who you are and why you deserve this. Make your personality shine through, it matters a lot more than you think.

The next step was fairly standard: a series of psychometric tests to evaluate how each individual would best suit the character profile for the award. If you are quite new to these tests, practise practise practise! There are a huge number of resources available on the net and these are incredibly helpful, firstly in familiarising you with the structure of the tests, and secondly, in encouraging you to think about the questions that could potentially come up. This was always a step that made me very nervous. However I did feel prepared for the tests as I’d already taken many in the search for a placement. Practice always makes perfect! After I had completed the tests, the initial application process was done. It was all out of my hands now! I truly thought that the application was where my journey for the Management Undergraduate of the Year Award would come to an end. Little did I know it was only just the beginning! I received an email within a couple of weeks informing me that I was through to the next stage and that was the first time I thought, wow, maybe I’m capable of a lot more than I think?

The next step was a phone interview. I was really and truly dreading this, but knew it was crucial to conveying who I was. Ashley Hever (Talents Acquisition Director for UK & Ireland) contacted me to organise a date and informed me that it would be a 20 minute phone call to find out a little more about me. For this stage, always prepare beforehand. Read blogs that other finalists and winners have written and also, Ash himself has a great blog on the Enterprise website, www.enterprisealive.co.uk/connect-with-us/how-to-be-great-at-interviews-a-guide/, where he is essentially giving you a checklist of what he wants from this interview. Do your research and show that you’ve really looked into the company and you understand who they are. Enterprise has many important values which you see in the people you meet from there. On the day of the interview, I sat myself in a quiet room and made sure I was ready for the phone to ring ten minutes beforehand. Once Ash rang and began to ask his questions, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was for the answers to flow. Before I knew it, the interview was complete. Ash really is incredibly easy to speak to.

After a few days I was absolutely ecstatic to find out I’d got through to the next stage: the assessment centre! I truly didn’t think I would get to this point and each step increased my confidence in myself, but what I didn’t realise until later was that every step was shaping me in my journey to becoming a young professional. The assessment centre was a fantastic experience and as daunting as it may seem when you walk in, the team are incredibly welcoming and personable. You’ll find yourself enjoying conversations with the other contenders and the Enterprise assessors alike! The assessors themselves come down for the assessment centre from different cities so for some of them, they are also meeting new faces and are in the same position as you, albeit maybe under a little less pressure!

The day consisted of an opportunity to network with everyone involved in the day and from there, we dived straight in to the first task: a group discussion. My top tip for this would be, don’t just think of yourself. Look around you and listen to each person carefully. It isn’t just about showcasing what YOU can do, it is about how you work within a team. It is about including those who may not come forward to speak as naturally as others. And it is about making a unanimous decision together, as one unit. The other contenders were highly talented and it was wonderful to be surrounded by like-minded individuals with a thirst for success and the same look of determination in their eyes as I had. The next task consisted of each of us hosting a morning meeting. This can be a really nerve-racking step but muster up that courage and believe in yourself! It doesn’t matter if you aren’t perfect, they are not looking for perfect, they are looking for potential.

The final task was a final interview. This is the part most people stress about the most but should stress about the least. You are the best expert in all things regarding YOU. The interviewers are not trying to trip you up. They ask questions that help them gauge your character and it is the easiest way to show them the motivated and aspiring individual that lies within. I wouldn’t spend too much time revising perfectly scripted answers. It is obvious if you are speaking from memory. Instead, think about your experiences, how you could relate them to the potential questions and take a deep breath before you answer. There isn’t any rush! The end of the day came to a close very quickly and we were treated to a wonderful lunch which also gave us the chance to network further and meet the next group of contenders that had just arrived.

I waited eagerly for the week following the assessment to hear back. Ash decided to ring each of us to give us feedback, which was really kind of him. When Ash rang he really didn’t give anything away and I thought it would be bad news. To my surprise, I had made it through and I think I may have burst poor Ash’s eardrums! It was such a turning point in my life and I couldn’t believe I would actually be attending the final in London!

Over the coming weeks, all of the fantastic finalists were welcomed into a group chat by the Management Undergraduate of the Year winner: Holly Hetherington, who was incredibly welcoming and one of the main reasons we all got to know each other. We all agreed to meet just before the final for a coffee and then head into the East Wintergarden together. And what a stunning event it was! The hard part was all over now. This was the day we got to relax and meet new members of the Enterprise team as well as those who had played a crucial part in getting 10 very lucky people to where we were sat at that moment.

The afternoon was filled with laughter, great conversations and brilliant food. I may not have won but witnessing Holly’s win was such a special moment for us all there, we were truly friends rooting for one another and there isn’t one part of my experience that I would want to be different! We had the absolute pleasure of having the awards hosted by the amazing Rachel Riley. Her speech was incredibly empowering, especially for the young women in the room. She really is an advocate for success, and an example to us all that when we put our minds to something, we truly can achieve greatness.

This leads me to my last tip: don’t hold yourself back. We are all capable of a lot more than our minds allow us to believe. It isn’t just about winning, the win is a bonus on top of all the wonderful experiences you get to be a part of and all the skills and values you gain along the way. The competition has truly helped me to believe in myself and being in the top ten for the Management Undergraduate of the Year 2018 is such an honour.

There were over 3,000 applicants this year. Next year it would be amazing to see double that! There is a lot of undiscovered talent out there and this is why I would encourage every undergraduate to take a risk and apply. There really isn’t anything to lose as you learn and grow right from the start.