I stumbled across the Undergraduate of the Year competition by a happy accident. I was encouraged to apply after being approached by an ambassador from TARGETjobs during my freshers fair as I took refuge from the rain by their stand. Studying business as a discipline for the first time and having taken a year out before university, to say I felt underqualified for the title of Management Undergraduate of the Year is a big understatement. However, with my freshers say-yes-to-everything attitude in tow, and a very persuasive pitch from TARGETjobs listing all the exciting application exposure and generous networking benefits, I made my application with nothing to lose and all to gain.
The first step of the application process included two questions set by Enterprise Rent-A-Car and SHL psychometric and aptitude testing. This gave me great insight and first-hand experience into both methods of assessment for industry applications. My only other previous experience of this had been the testing for my supermarket assistant application at Waitrose and Partners! In reality, I think it worked to my advantage that I was relatively new to the SHL testing as overthinking it can often hinder your initial judgement. Moreover, there were practise questions before the real assessment which helped to demonstrate the form of assessment. I awaited the outcome of my initial application for a short while as I’d entered relatively early on. To my surprise and delight I’d made it to the next stage of the competition…

The telephone interview came next. In preparation for the call, I’d tried my best to read up on all the potential questions Ashley Hever (talent acquisition specialist) might have thrown my way. I looked to the Enterprise website to gain all the information I might need which would give me really good commercial awareness of the company, its brand and values and core competencies, which I could apply to my own experiences. The biggest key to success in this competition I found to be utilising the resources the company provided. I used web articles, podcasts and even people – I contacted my local regional talent acquisition specialist for Enterprise. It’s all at your fingertips, so use it! In doing so, I was able to confidently answer the questions and show off my knowledge, which was satisfying in itself.

Although I felt the telephone interview had been successful, I was yet again surprised to find out I had made it to the assessment centre at Enterprise’s head office in Egham, Surrey. To me this was most exciting because I’d get to meet some of the other candidates and network with Ash and his colleagues at Enterprise. Still, it was daunting and I was definitely nervous but I undertook the mindset that getting to this stage had surpassed my expectations already so anything I could gain from the experience was an extra bonus.

The most important advice I received before attending the assessment centre was from one of my lecturers from whom I’d sought advice, “be yourself!”. The different assessment activities encompassed some curve-balls that I wasn’t expecting; nonetheless, I approached them in my own individual way and tried not to be intimidated by the competition. I can’t deny a slight feeling of imposter syndrome crept in as I sat and listened to everyone else’s CVs, but I was adamant I wouldn’t let it overwhelm me and ruin the experience. In hindsight it should’ve been a boost to my confidence as I was able to have the opportunity to network with all this amazing talent! It’s really important to remind yourself of the incredible opportunity and experience this competition provides, being among such a high calibre of candidates instead of making comparisons between you and the other competitors.

As the world became undeniably changed and disrupted by a global pandemic, the natural course of competition took a slight pause. During lockdown, I had returned back to my home county, Nottinghamshire, and my old supermarket job. It was actually in the car park, after I’d just finished my shift, when Ashley rang me to tell me I’d made it to the top ten. The delivery was as if I’d made it through to the X-Factor live shows – he’s definitely got a talent for announcing good news!

Normally, the finals would have taken place at Canary Wharf in London, but in Covid-19 times, this was facilitated virtually. Still, it was pretty cool having Rachel Riley pop up on a Zoom call with the other management finalists and the Enterprise team! After a catch-up and networking session with representatives from Enterprise and the other nine category finalists, I sat alongside my parents awaiting the results…

To win was a total surprise. It was a massive confidence boost to think that Enterprise had been able to see management qualities in me. The whole experience has given me a wealth of knowledge and experience in the job assessment and application process which I’ve been able to gain in the first year of my studies! It was great to engage in the application process and gain exposure to an international business, formulating business relationships and networks with people in industry.

If you’re considering applying, go for it! There’s no blueprint for the Management Undergraduate of the Year, and that’s what makes it more exciting and worth giving it your best shot. I’ve learned an invaluable amount through the process, which I know you will too! Whatever stage you reach, there’s a benefit in undergoing the process.