Posts Tagged 'Students'

MOOC Update

blog 3Well, here we are, one month on from my original MOOC post (which you can read here) and I know you’re all just DYING to hear how I’m getting on! It’s been a mixed bag so far, for a variety of reasons, so here’s a quick update to let you know where I’m currently at:

At present I am signed up for three MOOCs (I added a third on becoming a more confident trainer, also from Open 2 Study, which seemed manageable at the time…) and have commenced work on all of them.

One of my biggest challenge at present is time. Time is something I just don’t seem to have enough of when it comes to MOOCs! Alongside my MOOCs I am also doing another Level 4 qualification which, because it has a deadline and I’m paying for it, takes precedent every time. I’m also working funny hours and have had a slew of other commitments to attend to. So, honestly, it’s been harder than I thought to keep up with them all. Three was definitely too many! I’m not concerned about the Microeconomics one – it’s nice and flexible so I can pick it up at my leisure, but I already missed the week 2 assessment deadline on the other two. I honestly don’t get the deadlines – they are pesky and completely pointless! The Open 2 Study two are both reasonably low maintenance – though they’re supposed to be four hours a week they’re probably nearer two if you have half a brain. But the time constraints are really irritating as a week is no time at all if you’re busy. And, though it’s not much time, it’s not helped by the fact that they are…

Boring! Oh. My. God. The Open 2 Study ones are so incredibly boring that I literally dread watching them. Where Saylor really go for a variety of teaching styles and materials, Open 2 Study go for nothing but video with some optional reading (why not make it mandatory?) Saylor are also very factual and to the point with their information; they explain things thoroughly and then back up the information with anecdotes and real world examples. Open 2 Study on the other hand just have someone talking at you. There’s some use of anecdotes on the Trainer course, but pretty much just lists of information on the Project Management one. And everything is delivered very slowly and precisely and in an incredibly dull manner. I take nothing away from the content (which is solid in all cases), but the structure is completely disengaging to me personally.

I have a multi-modal learning style (you can find out what yours is here) with a slight preference for reading/writing and kinaesthetics. It’s no surprise really – I’m a person who loves variety in all areas of their life so why should learning be different? It’s disappointing though that the organisations providing some of these courses are not utilising a wider range of teaching styles – particularly considering Open 2 Study is backed by Open Universities Australia (like the OU in the UK). Though I’m not a qualified teacher/trainer (something I’m working at changing), I regularly deliver courses myself and even I, with my fairly basic and self-taught knowledge, understand that you have to use variety in teaching methods if you want to engage your students.

So how am I feeling about it all a month on? A little disillusioned if I’m honest. I had heard prior to starting that they are a mixed bag, and that’s to be expected when you consider the different levels they’re working at, the different audiences they’re targeting, and the huge range of topics they are covering, but I still feel a little let down. If you’re going to do something then you ought to do it properly or not at all in my opinion. My feelings for the two providers are incredibly polarised – I am actively missing my Microeconomics course and can’t wait to get back to it once my paid course is complete, but I honestly doubt whether I’m going to be able to sit through another six-plus hours a piece of the Open 2 Study ones. I suspect I will become a drop-out statistic of the Trainer course but will just about hang on in there with Project Management. Doing so, however, will not be pleasant.

As it stands with Microeconomics, I have a bigger and more complex goal at present. Presuming I can see the course through to completion, my aim is to go on to complete the complementary Macroeconomics course and also one on maths or stats. Then, if I’m feeling particularly ambitious and that way inclined, what I would really love to do is to undertake a paid-for economics diploma for graduates. This would not only provide some proper recognition for my (not insubstantial) learning, but it would also be incredibly interesting to see how the two courses compare in terms of content, teaching, and so on. But that’s all pie in the sky for now – there’s a long way to go before I reach that point and for now it’s just a dream!

In the meantime, watch this space! I’ll write another update in a month or so to let you know how it all turned out. Maybe I’ll be in a better mood about MOOCs by then… 🙂

#TRULondon and the World of Graduate Recruitment

So I know I’ve written mostly about my students recently – apologies if that’s not what you come here for! Indulge me once more though if you will…

Next week (17th Feb to be precise) some of the Middlesex University Bright Futures committee and I will be attending #TRULondon.  Sadly our attendance wll be a bit limited due to the raft of presentations and work due to be completed that week, however we’re incredibly excited to be coming and will be running a track on Thursday afternoon about what it’s like to be a student tackling the graduate recruitment processes these days. Well. Not me. I have almost finished my BA in Recruitment Practice but, you know, I’m not wholly sure I’ll be done in time for graduation this year… :s

Final year students face some huge challenges at the best of times: Slogging through the toughest year of their studies in addition to job hunting (though not as you and I know it) and often juggling part-time work and family commitments as well.

To you and I, job hunting probably means tweaking your CV a bit and labouring over a nice covering letter. Now this is work enough, but students have it even harder: The application forms for a lot of graduate schemes are projects unto themselves! Highly reflective, essay-style questions that take time and work to complete. If (IF!) you make it through the first round screening then there’s a good chance you’ll have to sit a raft of skills tests – literacy, numeracy and sometimes logic too. Now I’ve never sat any of these for real myself, but I’ve done plenty of practice ones and let me tell you now that all common sense goes out the window when you see a little clock ticking in the corner of the screen and a raft of numbers in front of you! I can only imagine how much more stressful they are when you’re trying to do your best to get onto a scheme with a company you really want to be a part of! Then there’s the interviews, the assessment centres and, if the stars align, maybe a job at the end of it all! I can’t begin to tell you how many hours work go into each and every graduate scheme application.

But obviously there’s not just the big schemes, and that’s often what a lot of students fail to realise and where universities, friends and family can really add some value. All those wonderful SME’s out there who could benefit from a bright, enthusiastic grad and vice versa!

The single biggest hurdle I’ve come across when working with students has been getting them to realise that, no matter what company a person works for, they are just that: A person. We get employees to come in and talk to the students wherever possible and I also like to drag them along to networking events and so on when I can. The feedback is always resounding: They are just normal, nice people! Who knew, eh!? 😉

Aside from taking the fear away a little, the networking is fantastic. It’s so great to be able to talk to and get advice from someone who’s shoes you might like to be in a few years from now. It’s nice to hear real stories and to know you’re not the only person out there who’s found it tough. It’s also great when they identify that, actually, they have friends and family already in the industry who might be able to help them too!

The other big challenge I often face is getting students to see the value of what they do. One girl I spoke to the other week had been running her own dance business for years but it wasn’t even on her CV! Despite marketing it herself, sorting out the finances, taking lessons, working with schools, choreographing and hosting events… She’d mentioned it in passing under Hobbies & Interests on her CV and that was it. All that amazing business experience not mentioned anywhere because she didn’t consider it to be a “real job”, just something she enjoyed doing and that she happened to make a bit of money out of!

We all need to do more to help the next generation of business men and women. Many big companies won’t even come to our university because we’re not Russell Group or one of their target uni’s, and many of the students don’t have the billion UCAS points required to even apply to some of the big schemes due to personal circumstances. I understand why things are as they are, but as one person said in one of the higher ed employability forums this week: How is that not discrimination?!

I hate the term “employability” though. The meaning gets so warped that I don’t even know what people mean when they say it half the time! Judgements are made on so much more than skills and sometimes I think that being employable just means being able to distinguish yourself from everyone else! But these are all the things we will be discussing at #TRULondon this week and we really hope you’ll join us for the debate! 🙂

In addition to myself, you can meet six wonderful young men and women from Middlesex University, all of whom have done me incredibly proud this year:

Top 100

So 100 was a good number. Not an exact number, but a pretty close estimate. It was the number of attendees the Middlesex Bright Futures Society had at their first event the other week and it’s a number I’m very proud of!

I try not to get overly involved in the day to day running of the society – I have plenty of experience organising events and working in the corporate world. The idea is for the committee to get as hands-on as possible and just use me to bounce ideas off and steer things back on track if needs be (not that this ever seems to happen!) so, while I was involved in the event, I was hardly a key player. From room booking to catering to marketing to inviting corporate sponsors, I was really impressed with the way the committee pulled together to organise such an awesome event! Everyone played a part and played to their strengths!

The format for the first event was kept as simple as possible. As it’s the first year of having a Bright Futures Society on campus at Middlesex University, we needed to hammer home what the society was about and what the students can get out of it, rather than being too creative early on. So the format was simple: Three corporate speakers, talking about their company, their experiences and what they look for in graduates when they’re recruiting.

Thanks to Julius Kessy and Kenneth Izevbigie, we ultimately had a rep from Centrica, one from the ACCA and two from IBM. I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed all three presentations! I suppose that was a little presumptuous of me, but it’s true…

Both Centrica and IBM sent employees who were former students at Middlesex, which was an excellent move. The students identified instantly with the speakers and it was great to see such success stories taking the time to come back and spread the word to current students! It was also lovely to see Joakim Feltborg again, having worked with him the previous year – oh how the tables have turned! 🙂

Centrica surprised me with the versatility of their scheme. They only require a 2:2 (fairly unheard of) and have no hang-ups about UCAS points – something which I am quite passionate about for a variety of reasons! They judge applicants almost entirely on the calibre of their application and where they are at in their lives now. I thought this was an incredibly refreshing approach and, as the presenter was clearly passionate about the company and the graduate scheme, this only made them all the more appealing!

ACCA surprised me because I’m not an accounting/finance person and, while the information wasn’t particularly relevant to me, they still managed to keep it interesting and informative!

IBM, frankly, left me very much wanting to work for the company! They had sent two reps – one on the graduate scheme and another on her placement year there. They did an energetic tag team presentation, covering all areas of the company, schemes and company culture.

We had over 75 student attendees in the end (I say over because, although 75 signed in, there were quite a few who sneaked in through the back and side doors of the lecture theatre without registering), plus a range of lecturers and careers/placement staff, plus myself and the committee, which totally to something in the region of 100 attendees in the end. I don’t know how this compares to other societies, but I thought it was an excellent number!

We are planning our next event to be a more hands-on affair with some business games and the like. There is lots to do between now and March but I have no doubt the committee will do a sterling job! 🙂

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If you would like to meet the Middlesex Bright Futures Committee, we will be leading a track on graduate recruitment at #TRULondon on Thursday 17th March. Come along and say hello!

The Future’s Bright…

So it was @thesourceress who first introduced me to Bright Futures some 6+ months ago. I have to say, I fell in love with the idea straight away. It’s a simple but clever concept which is totally symbiotic. Graduate recruiters get to meet, eye up and potentially headhunt the up-and-coming talent, while keeping their finger on the pulse of generation Y. At the same time, students get to network with corporates, get noticed, build their employability skills, gain experience and have fun. CLEVER!

Basically throughout the year the Bright Futures committee for each university organises a range of activities and workshops which are attended and sponsored by the Bright Futures corporate partners. And there are some big names involved, including all of the Big Four, BT, Tui, Nestle, and so on. Bright Futures themselves also have regional events where committee members can learn valuable skills (it was networking at the one I went to the other week, and very good it was too!) from corporates and external trainers to really help build confidence and make their society a success. They also run competitions throughout the year for all society members to take part in, with some excellent, employability-focussed prizes. From my side of the fence if nothing else, it is a very professionally run set-up which really achieves what it sets out to do.

Anyway. I umm-ed and ahhh-ed for ages about setting up a society. It’s a student-led thing (which technically I am) but my issue is that, as a non-full timer (and some *cough* 10+ years older than the majority of students) I don’t really have many student friends, as such. What I do have, however, is a core of bright, proactive final years who I advise on employability two days a week, so it was to them I turned.

I ought to have known better really. I invited all those proactive enough to have taken up my invite of coaching/support/whatever-you-want-to-call-it over the summer holidays to meet with me and discuss the society and how they might like to get involved. I knew they wouldn’t all turn up (it was technically still holiday time, after all) but, as it was, eight did. I thought that I was going to have to harangue them all in to joining or at least playing a part, and that I would end up doing the lions share of the work. As it was, every last one of them wanted to join the committee and roles were actively (though thankfully not physically…) fought over. I even bowed out as President so that one of them could take the helm!

I have been humbled by all eight of my fellow committee members over the last couple of months. They are resourceful, commercial young men and women, full of ideas and all working their butts off to get good degrees, apply for graduate schemes, work part-time jobs (in some instances), be good parents (in other instances) AND run our busy little society. They have helped one another out with all sorts of things and worked so well as a team, focussing on strengths and positives rather than weaknesses and negatives. We have nearly 100 fully paid up members so far and nearly 300 further students have registered their interest with us. Our first event will run before Christmas and I’m really looking forward to it! 🙂

Some of my blog posts are a bit hard on the students. Some of them are ranty, I know. This one is not.

The following Middlesex University Business School students are on our Bright Futures committee. If you are looking to recruit a graduate next year, I strongly recommend you start here…

President – Kenneth Izevbigie (also on Twitter as @Kenny_I)
Vice President
Julius Kessy
Treasurer
Kevin Izevbigie (also on Twitter as @KevinIze)
Secretary – Mansah Gbesemete
Events Co-ordinatorMartina Stromkova (though you’ll have to wait an extra year for her as she’s only a second year)
Public Relations Dominika Bzdyra
Corporate Liaison OfficerJaspal Jassal (also on Twitter as @JaspalJassal)
Corporate Liaison OfficerNatasha Tsoka

Disappointment: A Dish Best Served Cold

So I guess some of you who know me know I have a complicated employment set up at the moment. Regardless, one of my jobs involves working with university students, some of whom I have written about before. I don’t work for one of the redbrick / Russell Group uni’s; I work for a London-based one with a lot of international students, and it’s a great place, IMO. There are a lot of hard working and dedicated students who have fought tooth and nail to get there and who will go far.

Now I’m not that old (though I concede I’m getting on a bit now), but I do sometimes feel that there is a huge dividing chasm looming between the students and myself when it comes to attitude. Maybe it’s because I didn’t go to university. Maybe it’s cos I’m Gen X (just!) and they’re Gen Y. Maybe it’s our backgrounds. Maybe it’s nothing as complex and it’s just the way we are.

I always try and offer more help than I am asked for when it comes to the students. If someone comes to me asking for help with their CV then they will get that and more. I can’t make them act on my LinkedIn, networking, work experience, whatever tips, but I can give them the chance to see that there’s more they can do to make themselves stand out and be as ready as they can when it comes to job hunting. Some work closely with me throughout the year and use me for all I’m worth. Others see me once and I never hear from them again (though I always follow up with emails).

This year was the first year any of my students had graduated though and, honestly, I was a little disappointed! Now it’s not true of all of them, by any stretch of the imagination, but the number who simply vanished off the face of the earth post-graduation was astonishing! Though the big employers may know roughly how many graduates they’ll be looking to recruit from year to year, SME’s often have no idea until maybe a few months before. The decision to hire anyone, graduate or not, is not taken lightly. Lots of people came to me looking for graduates – more than I had hoped or anticipated. And the biggest disappointment to me was that some of (what I’d thought were) the best, most inspired students, who I had worked with for most of the year, were too busy travelling/holidaying/chilling out to bother applying for these jobs! Jobs where, in some instances, I could genuinely put in a good word for them if it were appropriate!

The whole concept still astounds me! To go through three years of studies in order to get a good job and then, when jobs are perhaps at their ripest for picking on the graduate scene, to have a break… Well. I don’t get it, frankly! And it makes me a bit sad, because when did attitudes get so lax?!

But much respect to those who do still keep in touch with me and who are committed to their job hunt. Those who, day in and day out, apply for jobs, stay motivated, and do all they can to put themselves out there. It is those who will succeed, and it is those who make my job so very worthwhile! 🙂

A Bit About Students

Oops! Bit behind with my blog posts in 2010, sorry! I’ve lots of great excuses for this of course, but I won’t bore you with them!

So my main day job is recruiting quantity surveyors, but at the moment I’m also working with some final year business school students at a university on the outskirts of London. It’s a pilot scheme on employability which I’ll tell you about it in more detail some other time, but over the last couple of months I’ve been spending two days a week meeting students, staff and so on.

Now the public sector is a bit of a change of pace for me and, I won’t lie, I find it highly frustrating at times! But the first time I met some of the students it really clicked for me and I totally get it now. They make it all worthwhile! The kids (I call them kids but, of course, they’re 20/21 so hardly kids! In fact, it’s just occurred to me how patronising that is so I’m going to stop calling them that starting from now!) The students are great – they are polite, articulate young adults who are passionate about their subjects and are working their butts off to get the best degrees they can. They know the job market isn’t great and they are worried about what’s going to happen to them after they graduate, but they’ve got so much work to do before graduation that it’s just not that high on their radar.

It’s been really interesting to see the different stages they’re all at. The common feeling amongst university staff is that most of the students have part-time jobs already but, while some do, I haven’t found this to be true on the whole. In fact, I’ve met some students who have never held any kind of employment, ever; some who don’t have CVs; and some who don’t even know what covering letters are! And this has really got me thinking – there is just so much pressure on the younger generation these days!

When I was young (after the days of black and white television, but before the days of the iPods) you got a job as soon as you could. Whether it was a paper round, a waitressing job, or working in a shop, everyone was at it, so by the time you entered the world of full-time work it wasn’t really that much of a shock to the system. At 15 I was (possibly illegally, with hindsight…) working weekends in a cafe and, with the exception of some periods while I was backpacking, I have always held a job since. In fact, it was really only five years ago when I moved in with Mr J that I stopped having a full-time job and a part-time job on top of that too. These days it doesn’t seem to work like that though and the more students I meet, the more I understand this. Because it’s not just about how good your degree is these days, for some graduate schemes you also have to have the right number of UCAS points to even be considered. So really, once your GCSEs are out the way, you’d better knuckle down if you want to get the right kind of graduate job when you’re 21/22!

What pressure! When did we start being so tough on our kids? When did we stop valuing work/life experience and start focusing so heavily on academia? And how can we possibly expect 15/16 year olds to know what they want to do five or six years down the line, particularly when they don’t know anything about the working world?! I met one girl who’s wanted to be a family law solicitor since she was 13. What amazing focus and passion she has! How amazing that she has always known what she wanted to do! But law is highly competitive and for her dream to become a reality she’s had to work non-stop since her GCSEs. With the exception of the odd week of work experience, she’s never had a job – she’s never had time. Because there are those of us who are able to get a first class honours degree with relative ease, and there are those of us who have to bury our heads in our books solidly for three years in the hope of even getting a 2:1.

On one hand, meeting the students has been a scary business: The starting point for helping them to find jobs is way before where I expected it would be. But on the other hand I totally understand their quandary and I feel as though there’s so much more we need to do for them. “We” the educational establishments, “we” the potential employers, “we” the parents.

Now. Where to start…?


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About Me

Over ten years’ recruitment, employability, HR and sales experience in both the private and public sectors. I've worked in construction recruitment, FMCG headhunting, and in higher education on the employability agenda.

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