Blogs – My Undergrad experience

The Undergraduate of the Year Awards has meant the world to me and will hands down go into my history books. I am overwhelmingly proud and excited to tell the story to my children in the future, because the Awards have been one of the highlights of my University career that I would relive any day!

The Undergraduate of the Year Awards screamed everything I was looking for to get involved with, and to have the opportunity to leave a legacy for my university is unparalleled. They give you the chance to significantly increase your employability, improve your business acumen and expand and build on impactful relationships with key industry leaders and business professionals from prestigious companies across the country. You also have the opportunity to network, not only with the directors, managers and HR representatives from your sponsored category company – in my case First Names Group in ‘The One to Watch’ category – but to form meaningful bonds with the other inspirational and talented students that will surely last a life-time, is just a dream come true.

If that doesn’t persuade you to apply next year, I know exactly what will! The winner of the Undergraduate of the Year Awards wins a paid year-long/summer internship with their chosen sponsored company, along with additional prizes that vary from company to company. This is an aspiration for most university undergraduates. There is absolutely everything to gain from the Undergraduate of the Year Awards, and hence I strongly encourage everyone at university to go for it. As Rachel Riley, the host at the Finalists Awards Ceremony, said (Yes, Channel 4 Countdown’s Rachel Riley!), ‘You have to be in it, to win it!’

This brings me to my five top tips for applying:

Tip #1: Commitment.

Yes, this is exactly what Rachel Riley said. It speaks about everything we are and what we want to accomplish, and that if we put our heart, mind and soul on it, there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain. We all have dreams and ambitions, but few of us ever get what we intended. Being ambitious isn't enough. Far more important than ambition is commitment.

The process of the Undergraduate of the Year Awards for ‘The One to Watch’ started off with an in-depth application to First Names Group that required us to complete three essays style questions. This was followed by several online tests, such as the situational judgement test, numerical reasoning test and a personality test. It’s always good to familiarise yourself with these type of tests and get well acquainted with the procedures of applying for graduate jobs, post university.

Tip #2: Any practice is good practice.

At some point in most of our lives, we will be interviewed, and made to undergo an assessment in order to reach our goals, dreams and aspirations. Take every opportunity you get to practice and every opportunity you get to improve and get better, I say take it and shine!

I was absolutely thrilled to have received an email stating that I had been shortlisted for a telephone interview with the Head of Talent Management at First Names Group, Helen Baxter who I would just like to thank so very much for this amazing experience.

I began researching diligently prior to the telephone interview and focused on where I could place myself with my current skills and professional expertise as a valuable team player for the company. I considered how my values matched up to the company’s ethos, vision and mission.

Tip #3: Never stop learning and improving.

Learning is continuous; it is very important to continue to learn new things, to continue to improve our knowledge and to continue to expand our horizons. Innovation is how businesses and companies grow and how the world progresses. The Awards process definitely offers a learning opportunity; it’s your job to find out all about a particular company.

The next communication was a congratulations, in the form of an email stating that I had been selected as one of the Top 20 and was invited to attend an assessment center in London. I was completely ecstatic about the opportunity to meet and network with the MDs and the HR team of First Names Group. I knew this was an opportunity I would remember forever.

It had been an extremely competitive and fulfilling past few months, going through the application, online tests and telephone interview. But now, having been invited to the highly competitive assessment centre in London, I knew the standard was at its highest. The day included time-pressured case studies, live group-table discussions/assessments and one-to-one personal competency interviews. The assessment centre was absolutely phenomenal. I had the immense honour of not only networking with the Managing Directors, Chief Officers and HR managers at First Names Group, but also to bond with the other shortlisted applicants over lunch. They were all incredibly talented and inspirational applicants from prestigious universities across the UK.

Tip #4: Be yourself, because only you in this entire world is the best version of yourself.

We all understand and are well aware that it is an assessment centre – it is expected to be competitive, grueling and draining. It is more natural and easy when you feel secure about who you are and what you can offer to the table, instead of being someone else. This is also the best way to know if you are really suited to the company. If you’re not, that’s okay, because making it to the assessment centre is an incredible achievement on its own. It means that the company already likes you and sees every bit of your potential! So be yourself, and enjoy the assessment.

After a grueling, competitive process, I am incredibly honoured to say that I was selected as a finalist for the Undergraduate of the Year Awards ceremony, held at the impressive East Wintergarden, in London’s Canary Wharf. I would never have expected to get that far, from a single application out of a total of 3,336 undergraduates who had applied across the country. I now hope to formally use my experiences and to motivate others in doing the same.

Tip #5: Take a note of the opening and closing application dates for the next annual Undergraduate of the Year Awards, ‘The One to Watch’

This will ensure you apply and take this great opportunity and prove that you truly are “The One to Watch”

The Grand Final on 20 April 2018 was beyond amazing. Walking through the doors we were greeted with Prosecco and a string quartet, and had the pleasure of coming together to network with the other finalists and celebrating all of the work that had gone into the Awards. The dining room was beautiful and the food was utterly mesmerising. Our breakfast, graciously organised by First Names Group, the dinner, organised by TARGETjobs, and the afterparty held by L’Oréal were all wonderful, and a perfect way to celebrate everyone’s achievements.

I would love to thank First Names Group, TARGETjobs, and the Undergraduate of the Year Awards team for the successful Grand Finals. I feel so extremely blessed to have been a part of it, and to have formed friendships and memories that will stand the test of time.