Over the years, the project team has kept in touch with former pupils and found that some of the young people are facing a fresh set of challenges when it comes to making the leap between university and employment within their chosen profession.  In this article we speak to Jamie about applying for jobs, volunteering and networking with mentors from IMN.

We first met Jamie Fraser as a research participant in our initial research study focusing on the social networks of high attaining pupils at Springburn Academy in 2011. Jamie was part of a group of friends who all went on to successfully study at university, some in highly competitive courses such as engineering, dentistry and law. Jamie achieved a 2:1 in his accountancy degree and is near completion of an MSc in Accounting and Finance at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Following an induction IMN event in June 2016 where new S5 pupils are introduced to mentors and former pupils, Jamie volunteered to tutor. Over the last year he has supported S5 and S6 pupils with maths and has also offered advice to pupils who are thinking about accountancy as a career path.  Whilst at University, Jamie has taken on a variety of similar roles:

I have worked with the Caledonian Club, SCOT (Schools Connect Outreach Team) and Routes for All as a mentor. This has involved working with primary and secondary pupils and introducing them to university. I have worked on a number of projects that have focused on what university is and what you can study. Others have been about the social side to university – clubs and societies. Additionally, I have been involved in our Shadowing project which involved 6th year pupils coming to the university for the day and experiencing the day in the life of a university student. I have also worked with students to aid them in career choices and helping them to write a personal statement that clearly emphasises their passion for the subject they are choosing to study. I have worked at GCU’s campus in London which involved working with Year 6 pupils.”

This year Jamie began his job search using his university careers service and ICAS website. When we initially spoke to Jamie in March, he was applying for graduate recruitment opportunities where he could train towards his Chartered Accountancy exams.

In interviews you are asked, for example, to explain a time when you worked in a group or gave a presentation but I only have a limited amount of university related examples I can use. However, when speaking to graduates from non-accounting degree backgrounds they have a whole host of examples they can use. This is one of the reasons why I have been doing a lot of part-time and volunteering work as it gives me a way to develop the skills that employers are looking for.”

Jamie feels that his degree and Masters programme has prepared him for a career in accounting and finance but that learning how to prepare for the recruitment process has largely been down to him:

I would not necessarily say that university has prepared me for the questions they ask. I mean it does give you examples of situations you can use but there is no real emphasis within my accounting course on what interviews are actually like. To prepare for assessment centres I normally research the company’s website and look for anything that may likely be asked of me in the interview, for example, the kind of work involved in audit or how do you relate to the values of the company. I also think of possible questions that I may be asked and come up with possible answers that I could use. Some assessment centres have involved numerical and diagrammatical testing so I have practiced for them. Also, any feedback I have received from previous assessment centres I have taken on board and thought of ways I could use that to improve.”

SUPPORT FROM INTERGENERATIONAL MENTORING NETWORK

Following unsuccessful interviews, Jamie began to discuss with the Project Team about pursuing options outside of accountancy, playing around with the idea of teacher training. He also helped in his Dad’s business and was considering taking on a more of a formal role.

The project team suggested Jamie talk to mentor Aileen Watson, a former lecturer from the Business School at the University of Strathclyde, who had a working knowledge of graduate recruitment and experience in supporting graduate transitions.  Jamie and Aileen discussed the feedback he had received and Aileen suggested some interview techniques.

“At that point I thought things maybe weren’t going to happen, but speaking to Aileen gave me some encouragement.  She gave me some more tips, obviously reading up on the firm beforehand, but not just reading their website –maybe looking at current news. If there’s a certain accountant in the firm, look and see if they’ve been in the news and then you can maybe bring that into the interview.”

Reflecting on his experience at the assessment centres, Jamie recognised that other candidates, some of whom had already undertaken work experience within the company, had a more competitive edge. The Project Team suggested a more proactive approach to reaching out to lecturers with contacts in the profession as well as putting together a short bio that could be circulated among the Intergenerational Mentoring Network. Mentor Michelle Wylie, a chartered accountant contacted to ask if Jamie would like to undertake some paid work for a small charity.

“I think at the beginning it was only meant to be a small project, but the more I delved into it, we realised it was a full-time person that really should be in the office. I think originally Michelle said it would only be for a few weeks, but it’s been four months now. I’ve just worked when I can, some days once a week, and other weeks, three or four days around my studies.”

In this role, Jamie was working alongside members of the finance and payroll teams, investigating aspects of housing benefit for the charity’s clients. He’s enjoyed this work and the office environment, and importantly he has gained a great deal of experience in public sector work to draw on at interview- an area of accountancy that he also specialised in at University.

With support from broader range of contacts, Jamie began to narrow his job search looking for roles that played to his knowledge and skill set. He has successfully been accepted onto a graduate placement scheme in public sector work, with a lead accounting firm where he will study for his ICAS qualifications to become a chartered accountant.

If you would like to become a mentor or you could offer professional work experience to our mentees and upcoming graduates then please contact us.