Blogs

The end of first semester was fast approaching. I wanted to find an internship for the summer. I stumbled across the Undergraduate of the Year Awards via an email from my university careers service. What held me back from applying at first were the people whom I would be competing against – this competition was open to students at all the UK universities from all subject disciplines. But I decided to give it a go…

The process…

I remember looking at the stages, seeing the words ‘Grand Final’ and thinking, ‘Could this be me?’ The words seemed so distant; I still had a long way to go. There were some parts of the process that were challenging, for instance the psychometric tests. Thankfully, I managed to progress to the phone interview. Next, the full-of-anticipation wait for the results. Had I successfully made it to the assessment centre stage? Yes!

This was my first assessment centre so I did not know what to expect. The image I had envisaged in my brain was very different to reality. I thought it would be like the Hunger Games but in reality everyone was incredibly friendly. The team at First Names Group did a fantastic job of making us feel welcome and put us at ease straight away.

The group discussion was stimulating and it was great to hear a range of ideas. We respected each other’s ideas and worked well as a team to come up with solutions to solve the problem.

My two assessors for the business case study presentation were Kevin (Chief Commercial Officer) and Debbie (Head of HR Project Office), who were incredibly warm and lovely. Mark Pesco, CEO of First Names Group, wrote us each a card; he commented on the fact that Debbie and Kevin had mentioned the ‘great job’ I had done in the business case study and that it was ‘not an easy task’. To receive such lovely feedback makes me emotional, as presenting is not one of my strengths. However, it looks as if it is now! This process has allowed me to realise what I am capable of. I feel like my skills set has grown even in the short space of time I spent at the assessment centre.

Throughout the day I felt comfortable and happy. There were breaks where we could relax and get to know each other, and occasionally I felt as if I was in a café, catching up with my friends over a cup of coffee. I remember thinking after the assessment centre that I had had an amazing day, and had met some fabulous people from across the country.

My advice for the assessment centre: firstly, give yourself a pat on the back for getting to the assessment stage – they want you. Now they just want to see you bring your application alive and showcase the skills that you identified there. Everyone is in the same boat, nervous and not sure what to expect or what the assessors are looking for. There is no blueprint. Be yourself – don’t copy others. You are unique. Be confident about what you have achieved and what you will achieve. Never be shy to offer your ideas during the group discussion. Everyone has something to bring to the table. Most importantly, enjoy the process.

The big day!

20 April 2018. A special day to celebrate our achievements. My day started with a warm and sunny morning. First Names Group had kindly invited all the finalists to breakfast and bubbles at Tom’s Kitchen in Canary Wharf. I was so excited to meet my friends again and everyone at First Names Group. They are such a lovely bunch!

Afterwards, we walked to the awards ceremony held at East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf. Leading up to the day I had been so excited as I had seen the video of the previous year and it looked spectacular – now to be able to witness it live and be a part of it was a real honour. Everyone at the event looked wonderful. I was enthralled by the graceful string quartet’s captivating music. TARGETjobs did a phenomenal job of making the place look exquisite and ensuring we had a great time. It felt amazing to be in a room full of the UK’s brightest undergraduates and top employers. To say that I was a part of it feels surreal.

The day included a reception, followed by a delicious three-course meal, and the much anticipated awards and, after that, an after-party organised by L’Oréal. From start to finish it was a spectacular day. I didn’t want it to end! Even now I am still soaking in the afterglow and bliss as I write this.

Reflection

This experience has been enriching and enjoyable. The top three things I gained from this experience were: fabulous friendships (some of the funniest, loveliest and intelligent people I have ever met!), meeting some top inspirational graduate employers and realising my true potential. The awards ceremony was a beautiful day I shall remember forever. I feel privileged and grateful to have been given this opportunity by First Names Group and thankful to TARGETjobs for making this happen. It is a real honour to have been selected for the finals. Writing this now and reflecting on my experience I can truly say that this has been one of the best experiences of my life so far. I will always look back with fond memories and to this day I am still ecstatic. I am thrilled to have been a part of it; it’s not every day you get to mingle with some of UK’s brightest undergraduates, have lunch with top graduate employers and chat with Rachel Riley. Being named one of the eight finalists for the One to Watch Undergraduate of the Year Award 2018 has given me the confidence to apply to anything.

This competition is also a great way to show employers what a well-rounded candidate you are. Confidence is key. Believe in yourself and go for it. The sky is the limit. You’ll surprise yourself. You’ll learn so much and pick up so many skills along the way. This competition has certainly stretched me and I loved it! Arm yourself with experiences so that you are well and truly prepared when you graduate. Don’t look back after graduation and think, 'If only I had applied.’ Apply now. Save the date in your calendar. These opportunities don’t come round often.

Thank you to First Names Group and TARGETjobs for the beautiful experiences. I have made some fabulous memories that I shall always treasure.