I first heard about the Undergraduate of the Year Awards from a weekly email sent by the placement team at my university. It sounded like an exciting opportunity supported by many great companies, so I sent my application in.

The first stage of the application involved an online assessment to test numerical and thinking abilities. I found this quite accessible. My best advice is to not panic and to take your time answering these questions. The mathematics is quite simple; it is just about applying the right methods.

After a few weeks, I was emailed to say I had been shortlisted to attend L’Oréal HQ in London for the assessment day with about 50 others. Before attending, we were tasked with creating a presentation to deliver to the staff at L’Oréal on how to make L’Oréal more sustainable. This was my favourite part of the process because we were free to approach this project creatively. I enjoyed presenting to the managers, who were all friendly and interested to see what we had produced.

The assessment day also involved a group task in which we had to come to a collective decision about how to allocate charity funding with each of us vying to get a share. This can be a difficult task as you don’t know everyone that well and you want to make your voice heard. My advice is to be confident to make your opinions heard and be respectful! Dominating the conversation will not score you highly!

After a delicious free lunch, a further shortlist were selected to attend the interview stage. Interviews can be a scary experience; however, I found it quite enjoyable. It felt more like a conversation where you explain your past achievements. The ‘humble brag’ is a good approach to demonstrate your value without coming across as arrogant.

The run-up to the final was much anticipated as we waited an extra five months, because of the pandemic, to find out the results! This was a nice chance to build stronger relationships with the other finalists as we all felt closer because of our shared wait.

The best part of the awards was meeting many other talented students across the UK. It was a fantastic opportunity to network with similarly motivated individuals. It is a valuable opportunity because we will all be facing similar challenges as we start our careers, so knowing people who have overcome adversity is helpful as you can learn from their success.

Being chosen as one of the top ten male undergraduates in the UK will hopefully show future employers my potential to be a great addition to their teams. The competition has also given me a great insight into how to approach assessment centres so that I can be competitive in them for future applications.

The best advice to someone thinking about applying is that they should go for it. The opportunity will be incredibly valuable to you regardless of how far you get in the competition. Jobs and placements are going to become even more desired so it is important to remain as competitive as you can.

To conclude, I am grateful to TARGETjobs and L’Oréal for their support throughout this experience. I will return to studying at university newly motivated about my future career goals.