Should your first role be with a start-up?

Different graduates are looking for different things from their first role.

For some, the chance to get some hands-on work experience in a stable environment will be just the thing. Landing a role with a big corporation, or a small family-run business where they can be supported and nurtured as they gain experience will tick all their boxes. For others, the idea of being part of something new is more appealing.

If you’re one of the latter, then you may be thinking about working in a start-up. If you haven’t come across the term before, that’s a business that is in its early stages of setting up. Still small, but with its sights set on becoming the next big thing.

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5 things to consider before applying to Teach First

So you’re thinking of applying to Teach First? That’s great! You’ll join over ten thousand bright young graduates on a noble mission to improve UK schools.

There are many reasons why Teach First’s Leadership Development Programme is currently ranked no.3 in the Times’ top 100 employers. It’s a fulfilling and amazing way to start out your post-uni life, whether you plan on staying in teaching indefinitely or using it as a jumping off point into another career.

However, Teach First is also a significant commitment and there are several things you should really consider before applying. Here are five of them:

  1. Are you willing to relocate?

When you apply to Teach First you are asked to choose five different locations where you would like to be placed. As with anything, it’s best to get in there early to increase the chances of being allocated your top choice – especially if you desperately want to be in London!

Before applying, it’s worth thinking about whether you’d be happy moving to a completely new area away from all your friends and family. On the other hand, some people embrace a flexible attitude and look forward to the chance to live and work somewhere completely new and exciting.

  1. You may have to compromise your social life…

The first year of Teach First is extremely tough. Once term begins, you are expected to go at 100mph right off the bat! You are learning the systems and ethos of the school, finding your way around, learning names as you would in any other job – only you also have to get up there and teach.

You may feel too tired by the end of a long day of being a teacher to meet your friends in the pub. However, teaching is also a bit like working on an oil rig: during term-time you are fully absorbed in your work, but during your long holidays (up to thirteen weeks per year!) you’re free to relax and binge on Netflix to your heart’s content.

Think carefully about whether or not this is a trade-off you are willing to make!

  1. Other routes into teaching…

One of the most daunting aspects of Teach First is that you are more or less thrown in at the deep end, following the six-week Summer Institute. If this sounds too intense then you could look at several other routes into teaching which involve a slower curve.

Consider doing a traditional PGCE course, or a School Direct programme. Or if you have itchy feet you may want to look into a TEFL qualification and travel the world while teaching English as a Foreign Language. Weigh up the pros and cons of each option before making your decision.

  1. Pay…

Getting paid to train as a teacher is one of the more attractive elements of the Teach First scheme. However, for the first few years you may well be earning much less than some of your uni mates who opt for careers in management consultancy, finance or the law.

This can be disheartening, but you can always remind yourself that you’re not in this for the money and that improving the lives of some of most disadvantaged kids in the UK has a much higher worth than a big salary.

  1. Your health…

Your mental, physical and emotional health are all likely to be challenged during your first year of teaching. You have to be extremely resilient, with the stamina and commitment to keep up your enthusiasm through the long hours of teaching, planning, departmental meetings and stacks of marking.

One in five new teachers leave the profession within five years. Lots of teachers rely on mindfulness, exercise and other self-care techniques to stay physically and mentally healthy.

Teaching is one of the most rewarding professions there is. When you take on a challenge like Teach First you are joining a network of fantastic people working to end the education gap. Go for it and good luck!

Alannah Jones writes for Inspiring Interns, which help career starters and interns succeed in the workplace. To browse their graduate jobs, including mobile jobs, visit their website.

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Hiding yourself – should you change your appearance for a job interview?

Colourful hair, tattoos and piercings are some of the most common forms of self-expression that people use these days. Go back a few decades and it was only the most avant-garde who had hair in anything other than natural tones. Tattoos were for sailors, and piercings for punk rockers.

Of course, times have changed a great deal. As our society has become more liberal and inclusive, and greater understanding of the need to show who we truly are has been gained, all these forms of body art are now common sights.

And tattooing is only increasing in popularity. With as many as 1 in 3 of young people having some sort of ink to display, it looks like the trend made popular by celebrities like David Beckham and the late, great, Amy Winehouse won’t reach ‘peak’ until 2025.

The old advice was always to cover up tattoos, remove piercings and keep your hair natural for a job interview, but is that still the case? With more of us proudly sharing our individuality – and so many people with tattoos – surely that’s changed?

A definite maybe

A recent study showed that as many as 70% of people with tattoos covered their ink when they went for an interview. Now we all know that you have to look professional when you go to an interview, but that statistic says that more than two thirds of people think the only way to do that is to hide their individuality. Are they right?

It seems that for the older generation, who are often the ones with the final say on hiring decisions, the association between tattoos and prisoners or gang members can still hold true. Think of it as a generational thing (like Brexit) with the older generation seeing tattoos as a negative thing, but the younger generation understanding them as a way to express themselves and proudly display meaningful artwork. There’s nothing wrong with the message, it’s just it’s being interpreted wrongly.

The same things hold true for piercings and vivid hair dye, which are well accepted by younger people but still caused raised eyebrows amongst the older generation.

So should you cover yourself up for an interview? The answer is, it depends.

Things to consider

  • Start with the company – when you’re doing your pre-interview research into them, try and get a feel for what sort of company you think they are. If they seem to encourage individuality, then you’re probably fine to go as yourself. If it’s more conservative role? Perhaps not. Working behind the bar at the local indie rock venue will need a different approach to an interview for a major bank.
  • Thinks about the role – Is it customer facing? Who are your colleagues or your customers? If you’re going to be a carer for the elderly, your unique look may make them uncomfortable in a way it wouldn’t if you were the receptionist at a local arts centre.
  • Will it make you worry? If you think that showing your true self at that early stage might give you less confidence, then don’t. Cover up, take out piercings and put a wash-in-wash-out colour on your hair so that you can concentrate on nailing the job interview itself.
  • Can you hide yourself long term? At the end of the day, you are who you are, and your personal style is a big part of that. How comfortable would you be if you had to hide your light under a bushel every day? If you need to do that, is it a job you want?
  • Be yourself! You could always opt to go to the interview and see what happens. It might be that the people interviewing you are pleased to see your individuality, and it could give you a great opportunity to tackle the subject head on and tell them more about the real you.

Times are changing, and as society becomes more and more understanding of difference, attitudes to things like body art are likely to change. For now, though, there are no hard and fast rules; it’s just a judgement call that you will have to make.

Of course hair dye can be grown out, and piercings removed but tattoos are a permanent reminder of who you were. The really good news is that studies have shown that contrary to popular belief, most people don’t regret having one when they get older. So while you may be concerned about them in the immediate, when you’re one of the senior people make hiring choices? You’ll still be proudly showing your ink.

Sarah Dixon writes for Inspiring Interns, which help career starters and interns succeed in the workplace. To browse their graduate jobs, including mobile jobs, visit their website.

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Assessment centres: everything you need to know

Dear [insert name], we have reviewed your application for our vacancy and would like to invite you to attend our assessment centre…

Does that sentence fill you with excitement, fear, uncertainty, or a bit of all three? Most of us will have been to at least one interview by the time we leave uni, but assessment centres are a whole new kettle of fish for a lot of graduates.

Since they’re becoming quite a popular recruitment method – especially for graduate jobs with larger businesses – knowing how to handle them can bump you to the top of the pile in your search for a great grad job. To help you on your way, here’s our definitive guide to assessment centres.


Workplace, Team, Business Meeting

What to expect

First, the basics: assessment centres are anything from a half day to two days in length, there will be other candidates at the centre with you, and there will be several different tasks for you to complete. You’ll also have to travel to the assessment centre (no Skype interview option here, folks), which is usually held at the recruiters’ workplace.

Some common assessment centre tasks are:

  • Psychometric/aptitude tests: quick-fire problem-solving and comprehension questions, or personality quizzes
  • Written assessment: often used to get a measure of candidates applying to communication-heavy roles
  • In-tray exercises: designed to showcase your ability to cope with time constraints and juggle priorities
  • Presentations: you could have been asked to prep beforehand or put it together on the day
  • One-to-one interview: some recruiters like to get it all over with on one day, rather than asking you back later
  • Group exercises: role play, group discussions, group presentations, case studies, team building exercises – the possibilities are endless
  • Social assessments: if the recruiters don’t leave you alone with the other candidates during “breaks” and lunch, assume that you’re still being assessed.

How to prepare

It’s normal to feel daunted in the run up to an assessment day – especially if you’ve never been to one before. Never fear: there’s plenty of prep work you can do help your day go smoothly.

You can practice psychometric and aptitude tests online for free, to get yourself used to the format. We’ve found some good places to start here, here and here, but a quick Google search pulls loads of results too.

Just like a normal interview, knowing plenty of background about the company, the work they do, and the role is also a good place to start. Always revisit the job description and triple-check the instructions you’ve been given by the recruiter too; you don’t want to miss something you’ve been asked to prep and bring along on the day. If the info they’ve given is unclear, call or email them to check.

It’s also worth asking if the recruiter is covering travel expenses – many of them do, and we all know job-hunting ain’t cheap!

The day before, decide what you’re wearing (if in doubt, over-dress) and check your route, including making sure you’ve got train or bus tickets booked. Finally, get a contact number for the recruiter in case you hit traffic or have trouble finding the centre.

On the day

You probably don’t need us to tell you this but we will anyway: eat breakfast and leave for the centre at least 20 minutes earlier than you need to. You should have been given instructions about what to do and where to go when you arrive already, so make sure you have those to hand.

When everyone has arrived, there’s usually a short intro from the recruiter and maybe an ice-breaker to help the candidates settle into the day – they won’t usually sit you down for a 2-hour written assessment as soon as you walk in the door.

However, you’ll probably be expected to be “switched on” pretty much the whole time; in fact, the lunch break could be considered a task of its own at some centres. If you’re sitting down to eat with the recruiters, don’t just kick back with a sandwich and scroll through Twitter.

Break times are a great chance get to know the people you might be working with. If you can come across as polite, knowledgeable and enthusiastic, you’ll be into a winner as far as communication skills go. Remember: the recruiter wants to like you.It’s worth remembering that assessment centres will reflect what the company is all about, and the kind of day they set up is a good indication of what they’ll be like to work for. If you want an in-road to the demanding world of big business, for example, a challenging and intense assessment centre might leave you hungry for more (or put other candidates off completely).

The other advantage of assessment centres, from a candidate’s POV, is that flunking an exercise won’t necessarily put you out of the running. Unlike interviews, assessment centres give you the chance to make up for a questionable performance in one task by knocking out of the park in another.

At the end of the day

This is the part where the recruiter tells you when you can expect to hear from them, and then you can go home and chill out – you’ve earned it!

If you missed out on the job this time round, it’s always a good idea to ask for feedback. Employers are usually happy to give it after an assessment day (after all, they’ve put as much time into you as you have into them) and you’ll know what to work on for next time. If you got the job, or got invited back for the next stage, congrats and good luck!!

Jen Anderson writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice.

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Mind Games: How to Take Control of Your Job Interview

You may have heard that interviewers make their mind up about you as a candidate very quickly; in fact, it takes under 7 minutes for them to decide whether they think you are right for the job. With interviews lasting around an hour, you have 53 minutes to make sure that you reinforce that impression or change it. So how can you take control of your interview?

Address the Interviewer’s Subconscious

It’s often said that 80% of all communication is non-verbal. While that’s not strictly true, it is a fact that you don’t just have to consider what to say to an interviewer. It’s equally important to arrive at the interview on time, to get the handshake right, and to take as little as possible into the interview with you to avoid looking disorganised.

Be Prepared

Preparation is the key to a great interview, so spend some time looking at the company’s website or any materials you have been sent. Know the values of the company and look for ways that you can demonstrate that you share them. Familiarise yourself with the current issues in the industry, and use its buzzwords. Think ahead to how you can adapt or echo important phrases from the company’s literature in your interview answers.

Consider ways you can address any negatives that might come to the interviewer’s mind. Be aware that although legislation now stops companies from discriminating when they make a hiring decision, they may still have personal prejudices which they will not voice. If you can think of a way to spin a possible negative into a virtue, you should do so, for example talking about the advantages of a female perspective in a male dominated environment.

Fake it ‘til you make it

Interviewers are, of course, looking to hire the right person for the job. They are looking for someone successful, so how can you show them you’re successful? They will have read your CV, and seen a list of your achievements but more important than that is that you bring an attitude of success, confidence and competence with you to the interview. Act like the person who would ace the role, and you have a better chance of securing it.

Sleight of Mouth

The power of the subconscious thought is, well, powerful!

You can use this to your advantage by, for example, using the phrase, ‘One of the things…’ at the beginning of your sentence. Why? Because as soon as you do that, the listener’s brain accepts, without consciously thinking, that there must be other things.

So, you could say, ‘One of the things that makes me a good fit for this role is…’ and the listener automatically assumes there are others. If you’re not convinced, ask yourself how you responded to the opening sentence of this paragraph.

A similar device is to use ‘I don’t know if you’ve noticed…’ as a sentence starter, because that alerts the listener’s brain to pay attention. They’re more engaged with your next sentence because they’re trying to work out if they have noticed, and preparing to learn something new. Use this to highlight something you want the interviewer to pay attention to – and of course avoid it if you want to downplay your answer!

In his book, 59 Seconds, Professor Richard Wiseman talks about the importance of getting people to agree with you before you ask them something. You might have come across this approach when charity workers stop you in the street with questions no one would say no to, like, ‘Do you think animal abuse should be stopped?’ It’s based on the findings that if someone has agreed with you in the past, they are more likely to agree with you again.

You can harness this in a job interview by making several statements that the panel will agree with, and then follow it with something you want them to agree with. It would work like this, ‘Your company is really great at delivering their service. You’ve obviously hired some great talent here, and you’re looking to add more.’ Your interviewer is mentally agreeing with all of that, which makes them more inclined to agree when you go on with, ‘I will make a great addition to your team.’

If you invest the time to rehearse your responses, so that using these techniques become second nature, you will come across as an extremely persuasive candidate. Then, even if those first vital seven minutes went against you, you have a shot at changing the interviewers mind and leaving them with the second most influential moment – a lasting impression.

Sarah Dixon writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency specialising in matching career starters with graduate jobs. For everything from marketing internships to graduate jobs Manchester, click here.




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Advice for uni students looking to start a business

Are you a uni student or recent graduate? Do you have an idea for a business, but you’re not sure how to get started? If the answer to both questions is yes then this video is for you! Watch below to find out more.

A Uni Students’ Guide To Starting A Business

I’m Matt, the founder of Matt Barber Interactive Ltd. I’m a web designer, developer and digital expert. I provide the advice and the know-how to really progress your business online. Source:



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Optimising your CV for Greater Visibility Online

Up to date, correct contact details.  – Make sure you include up to date, working contact details. Look to include your email address, contact number and area of residence as a pure minimum. Additional contact numbers, portfolios (where applicable), Skype, additional email addresses are always a bonus.

  1. Chronological Order – This may seem obvious, but it’s critical. Recruiters, on average will spend circa 10 seconds reviewing each CV, meaning you’ll have to ensure that your most current, up to date experience is listed right at the forefront of the page. This’ll act as the ‘hook’ for Recruiters to ensure they continue to read through your list of skills and experience.
  2. Referees – It’s important to include information about where the potential employer can find Referees for your previous work. This not only shows organisation from you, but shows that you have left previous employment/education on good terms, and have people to vouch for your success to date.
  3. Explain Gaps in Employment – It’s a well known fact that Recruiters may discard a CV based on a lack of detail surrounding a gap in a CV. A simple explanation that offers detail into why you were unable to work over a certain period shows the Recruiter that you’re understanding of the process the Recruiter/Employer goes through, and offers an answer to an outstanding question. Recruiters love it when you make their job easier!
  4. Avoid Buzzwords! – If you were to ask a Recruiter what the most commonly used phrases and words are on most CV’s, the answers will be ‘Able to work both independently and part of a team’or ‘hard working’ or ‘dedicated’. In truth, no-one will openly admit that they’re lazy, disloyal and unable to be flexible! Rather than including these terms, try to offer examples of certain skills you’ve exercised within your previous role; this’ll help you to be more visible when Recruiters are searching for candidates. In a nutshell, write your CV in chronological order, stay away from generic, vague buzzwords and include relevant contact details so that Recruiters are able to easily reach you with relevant opportunities!  If you’ve covered the above, congratulations! Here’s some insight into how to totally optimise your CV for online job searching for maximum exposure to the key Recruiters in your selected industry.
  5. Keywords, Keywords, Keywords.  – For a Recruiter, running a CV Search is just like running a Google search. If you’re not including many relevant keywords on your CV, you’ll struggle for visibility. How can you counter this? List all of the job titles that match your current/expected role. List all of the skills that you’ve exercised to date, in recent education, or employment.

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8 Sources of funding for starting your business

When it comes to starting a business, most first-time entrepreneurs need money to get off the ground, yet many are unaware of the many types of funding available to them.

This article seeks to change this by taking you through the various types of funding available, who they’re applicable to and the relative advantages and disadvantages of each option. Continue reading

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Everything you need to know about ‘tax reliefs for start-ups’

If you already own your own business or are thinking of starting a business then you need to know the advice given in this article.

By understanding your tax situation you can significantly reduce your tax bills and being tax efficient could make the difference at being profitable or not.

These schemes are there to support your business, so make the most of them.  With this in mind, take a look below at a breakdown of some of the most relevant tax reliefs you could claim for.  Continue reading

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7 Common Grammar Mistakes to Avoid on Applications

We’ve all heard the stories: a single typo on your CV or cover letter could make the difference between being called for an interview and being tossed in the reject pile.

While most hiring managers aren’t quite that harsh, it’s undoubtedly true that correct spelling and grammar is a crucial component of an applicant’s success.

Making multiple written mistakes in job applications gives recruiters two impressions of you:  (1) that you do not have highly developed writing skills,  (2) that you don’t take the time to check your work thoroughly. Neither are desirable traits in a candidate!

Unfortunately, some grammar and spelling mistakes are so confusing and
counter-intuitive that even the most diligent of candidates frequently get them wrong.

So keep a close eye out for the following:

1.  American vs. British Spelling

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