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I stumbled across the Undergraduate of the Year Awards while looking online for various internship opportunities for the summer. Researching into the program, its organisers (TARGETjobs) and the participating sponsors, I realised that it was a very prestigious event, taken seriously by employers and universities alike and so I decided to apply.
Six months later and even though the odds are stacked against each and every one of us applicants, I found myself in the final ten, with an internship from L’Oréal and an awards ceremony at Canary Wharf, hosted by Rachel Riley… Really, it doesn’t get any better than this! So I would encourage everyone to give it a try. Even if you don’t reach the finals, the road trip and experiences you gain along the way are definitely worth it and you will not regret it. The initial steps consisted of submitting my personal information alongside my first-year grades, completing three psychometric tests online and then answering three required questions from the sponsor of my category, L’Oréal. The questions were basically aimed to analyse how you think and how you react in real world situations. A small tip: in my answers I felt it was useful to use personal experiences that shaped me into who I am today despite not being 100% business related! Incorporating that personal touch to my answers made them unique, and uniqueness I feel is always more interesting! Following that part of the exercise, university life continued as normal until it was suddenly disrupted early in March when I was notified that I was shortlisted to the final 50 and would need to decide whether to attend a full day assessment at the L’Oréal headquarters in London! Oh boy, what was I to do… it took me five seconds to accept! Along with that email we were informed that five days prior to the assessment day we would receive a case study on a real-life L’Oréal brand on which to prepare a PowerPoint presentation to present to the panel on the day. As it turned out, the case study required a lot of research, good time management and of course excellent presentation skills! Arriving at L’Oréal’s headquarters we had an introductory talk and met some senior members of the team who instantly made us feel welcome! The assessment process was split into two parts: a morning session, following which successful candidates only would progress to the afternoon final interview stage. The first part consisted of two psychometric tests (a numerical test and an attention-to-detail test) followed by our case study presentation. Next came a group monitored assessment, was one of my favourite challenges. Randomly placed in teams of six under an assessor, we were given 45 minutes to come up with a solution to a project/problem with constraints and present it to the panel! It was really interesting to see how the relationships unfolded in that short 45-minute period and how we were able to actually meet all of the goals at a fairly good standard! I believe that being able to communicate with your clients, partners and peers is really important in the business world and it felt really good that I was able to challenge myself and see that I could actually perform in a real business environment under all of that pressure (while being monitored!). After lunch, the talent acquisition team announced the names of the candidates and… (drum roll) I did meet the benchmark and progressed to the interview stage along with some 33 of the initial 50 applicants. The interview stage had its challenges (as expected given the level of competition) but as always, the selection is a two-way process: for the company to meet you and for you to meet the company! Ending the assessment centre, we had the opportunity to get our hands onto the latest VR (virtual reality) technology and see how it can change the business world as we know it! After a couple of days, I was informed that I was one of the ten finalists followed by the offer of an internship with L’Oréal! It was (and still is) unbelievable… and to think that it all started with a simple ‘give it a shot’ application! Then came the day of the Awards itself. Being invited to the awards ceremony at Canary Wharf was an unforgettable day! Listening to past winners and finalists talking about their experiences, getting to know CEOs from multinational companies and having the chance to network with such talented and diverse people was so valuable! I really look forward to joining L’Oréal in London in a few days and can’t wait to find out what lies ahead!