My Undergraduate of the Year experience was a fortunate one of many firsts. It was one of my first applications, my first online psychometric test experience, my first ever assessment centre, my first in-person interview at L’Oréal and my first time getting an internship offer in the UK.

While looking for different opportunities online, I came across the TARGETjobs Undergraduate of the Year Awards. I did not know about anything about the awards, but I learned more after visiting the website – such as the fact that university students are recognised and that the awards partner with many prestigious and multinational firms. I decided to apply for the Male Undergraduate of the Year Award, despite the slim chance of being shortlisted from the large number of applications.

The procedure for the award was much the same as any other job application. I submitted personal information alongside my first-year grades, completed two psychometric tests and answered three required questions. I included mention of some of my previous experiences, which allowed me to show my academic and extracurricular background. Reflecting on my answers, I think it is key to portray yourself as not one of many applicants, but as a unique individual.

In mid-February, I was informed that I was successful, along with 49 other worthy applicants for L’Oréal’s assessment centre to determine the top ten finalists for the Male award. We were given a case study to prepare five days in advance, which involved plenty of research, out-of-the box thinking and the creation of a presentation. In addition, the assessment centre included two psychometric tests (a numerical and an attention-to-detail test) and a group monitored assessment. After lunch, the talent acquisition team announced the names of the candidates meeting the benchmark and I had made the interview stage, which I found a remarkable feat considering the level of competition. The interview was challenging but exciting (as weird as that sounds). It felt more like a conversation, without a huge amount of pressure, as the manager hosting the interview made me feel comfortable in the first five minutes.

My initial goal was to reach the assessment centre stage, but I realised that goals should not be limited and anything is possible when you make an effort. After a couple of days, I was informed that I was one of the top ten finalists, followed by the offer of an internship with L’Oréal! I was extremely surprised, nervous and thrilled at the same time. My whole plan for the summer immediately changed, but it was definitely worth it for this once-in-a-lifetime (as cliché as it sounds) opportunity.

Being invited to the awards ceremony at Canary Wharf and listening to Rachel Riley correctly pronounce my Cypriot name , meeting current L’Oréal employees who shared their professional experiences and meeting the fellow finalists from all the different categories, was surreal.

Despite not hearing my name get called, it didn’t feel like I was in competition. I was genuinely happy for William Jolley winning the award, as I would have been for myself and the others that we got to know throughout the process.

Above and beyond, the whole networking experience and the amount of diverse talent and backgrounds I was exposed to was a huge eye-opener and made me realise how many talented individuals deserve to be recognised by the awards scheme (and more).