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Lauren Dwyer looks back on her Undergraduate of the Year journey

Hello! My name is Lauren Dwyer, I studied business management at Queen’s University Belfast and I reached the finals of the Management Undergraduate of the Year Award in 2015. Unfortunately, I did not win; however, as this award is sponsored by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, I was then offered the opportunity to complete a year-long placement with them. My university course does not require this and taking a placement year is non-compulsory, so I faced a tough decision in contemplating separating myself from my friends and classmates and also a daunting move to London from Belfast to work in the largest branch in Europe – Heathrow Airport. This is a clear example of how I can’t seem to do things halfway! Go hard or go home! Herein I took control of my career, accepted the placement and worked at 100% the entire year, culminating in a promotion after eight months and the accrual of skills I couldn’t have imagined.

I accessed qualities in myself I didn’t know I had and developed vital skills essential to the workplace. I fulfilled roles both on a team level and a leadership platform and found that I excelled in areas I had previously thought were situation-dependent. This heightened my self-confidence and increased my drive to take on challenges as well as seek out opportunities including inserting myself into other aspects of the business in order to learn as much as possible and getting involved in programmes such as the ‘Women In Business’ scheme within ERAC. This fire did not burn out when I returned to university. In fact, it raged even fiercer as I took on the role of president of the management society. Spanning across multiple degree programmes, it is one of the largest societies at QUB in terms of membership. I knew this was a huge challenge but also an immense opportunity in regards to networking and enhancing my CV even further. While it was a lot of work to undertake in addition to final year, this position of leadership allowed me to hone my skills in: marketing and branding, as we created a new image for our society; events planning, as we created the biggest events to date for our members; and my networking skills, as I involved myself in negotiations and partnerships with multiple large companies and potential graduate employers. This included KPMG, EY, PwC and Citi.

After careful consideration, I decided not to return to Enterprise Rent-A-Car, preferring to pursue a career in accountancy. After applying for many jobs, I secured a graduate role with KPMG. I have just achieved a first class honours in business management and I will begin my graduate job in the autumn. While I have always sought out new, exciting and different opportunities and have thus had a varied and full university experience, I can confidently say that the Undergraduate of the Year process was a valuable insight into the recruitment process of large companies and it exposed me to a steep learning curve on how I present myself to prospective employers and what I need to improve in order to be the best, which I am still striving towards!

Where are they now?

I've gone down the accountancy path and secured a graduate scheme with KPMG.