Applying for the TARGETjobs Undergraduate of the Year Awards was definitely one of the best decisions I ever made! The whole process was an absolutely amazing experience and I’ve been incredibly lucky to get as much out of it as I have done. I would really encourage anyone who’s not sure whether they should apply to do so – you never know where it might take you.

I’d just gotten home for Christmas following my first term studying Maths at Durham University, when my Mum mentioned an award she’d come across online and which she thought I should apply for. It was the Male Undergraduate of the Year Award and, when I had a look into it, it did look like a great opportunity. I hadn’t really applied to much else at that point, so I thought it might be good experience if nothing else. Plus, the prize for winning included a trip to Paris, where I’d never been!

The first thing I had to do was register and do a short online application, part of which involved three longer-answer questions set by L’Oreal, the award’s partner. The website said it was looking for someone ‘ambitious, entrepreneurial, and commercially minded’, and I wasn’t sure to what extent I was these things, but nevertheless I answered the questions as best as I could, making sure that I mentioned my past experiences and qualities I’ve shown at various points. We also had to do three online tests, which I remember finding quite daunting, but they didn’t take too long and soon enough all that was left was to wait and see.

A month or so later I received an email telling me I had made the top 50 and inviting me to an assessment centre on 22 February at the L’Oréal headquarters in Hammersmith, London. A few days before the assessment centre, we were given a case study to prepare. It was about the brand Kiehl’s, owned by L’Oréal, and involved coming up with a strategy for launching a new Kiehl’s product in 2019. Now, I knew little about marketing and even less about the beauty and skincare industry, but I think it’s important to remember that everyone’s in pretty much the same boat as far as all that’s concerned. A couple of nights of research and preparation and I had a presentation together which I was happy with.

The day at the L’Oréal headquarters was actually a really enjoyable one! Right from the start the people running it were very friendly and welcoming, and they helped make the whole experience fun and not too stressful. There were another two tests, followed by one-to-one meetings where we presented our case studies and then a group project which we found out about on the day. After a very nice lunch (fish and chips!) in the cafeteria, where I got the chance to chat with some of the other applicants, we found out who had made it through to the afternoon, and then those of us who were successful had our interviews. My interview lasted over an hour, but once I was in there it wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be. I actually really enjoyed it, which I wasn’t expecting.

A couple of weeks later I got another email telling me that I was one of the ten finalists, and inviting me to an awards lunch at East Wintergarden, Canary Wharf on the 26 April. This was an incredible day in a beautiful building, hosted by Rachel Riley off Countdown! It was fascinating to hear a talk from Rachel about her experiences and career so far, before the awards got underway. The lunch was fantastic as well – I had no clue what half of the items on the menu were, which I suppose is always a good sign – and the whole thing became even more surreal when I found out I’d won!

I have recently finished my ten-week internship at L’Oreal, and I can’t really say anything else apart from WOW! It’s been an absolutely incredible summer, during which I have learnt a huge amount about what it’s like to work in a commercial role in a big, industry-leading company. It’s also shown me a little more about what I might like to do in the future. I would like to thank L’Oreal and TARGETjobs for giving me this wonderful opportunity!