Director, Software Channel EMEA, Hewlett Packard
How has your Stirling degree helped you in job-seeking and career progression?
My Stirling degree got me through the door and into the interview and assessment process. Without a degree from a good university, I would not have had the opportunity to try to convince my prospective employer of my suitability. Once on the shortlist, many of the assessment activities were familiar because of my Stirling experience e.g. the need to take on a team task with a group of people I’d never met, in a limited time, under intense scrutiny of the recruiters.
What kind of contacts did you make at Stirling and how did these help you?
When I graduated there was no Facebook or LinkedIn, and the phrase “social networking” had not been coined. More than a decade later, I still keep in touch with many of the people I met at Stirling. Although we have all taken a diverse range of career directions (Advertising, Biology, Teaching and Marketing), we still share experiences and job related dilemmas. Employers seeking new talent to bring into key graduate positions will rely on social / business networks to seek out, assess, and contact candidates (perhaps before the candidate is even thinking of applying), so you should use social networks and your Stirling network to your advantage.
How did your experience at Stirling differ from that of friends and colleagues who studied elsewhere?
I think your University experience is what you choose to make of it. For me, the campus was key - studying in a beautiful, self-contained environment was a great aid to focusing my mind on work when it needed to be. The strong social element both on and off-campus, and the ease of access to larger cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh, meant that I could still enjoy a broader experience. I think Stirling offers a strong sense of involvement and belonging from the start - some of the larger city Universities with student populations spread across a larger area, perhaps lacked that central focus.
What made you choose Stirling?
Initially, it was a desire to venture out of my home city to somewhere totally new. The fact that I was undecided on a precise course of study and that Stirling offered a modular degree structure with the flexibility to mix and match, and alter direction as I learned. Both of those things were strong influencers, but I think visiting on a spring afternoon and taking a stroll around the campus got me hooked - I couldn’t imagine a better place in which to set my mind free.
How did you enhance your CV to break into your chosen sector?
I would give this advice to you: layout is important - crisp, clear, not overcrowded. Content-wise, include an opening statement with impact which describes who you are, and why your strengths are suited to the job or company. Tailor the CV to the job or company - don’t send the same generic CV to lots of employers; find something in the description of the job role, or the company, that is unique - and reflect it in your resume. And take extra time and effort over the covering letter/email, as it is important to make that vital first impression.
Is your career what you expected or has anything changed?
I still work for the company I joined upon graduation and my career has been based on navigating around the organisation building different skills within very different types of business. A broad base of skills and experience is essential to be able to drive a career track forward - it’s not all about “promotion, promotion, promotion” and not every career move needs to be forward. Think of it like chess - sometime you go sideways (or even backwards) in pursuit of your goal. My career is based upon building a solid and broad foundation of knowledge, skill and experience in order to move forward. What other activities would you recommend to build up my skill set? My time at Stirling offered a lot of opportunities to build career-relevant experience before actually graduating. For example, I was introduced to a summer programme which placed undergraduates into blue-chip companies on real business projects which paid a reasonable wage. Exchange programmes are also great experience builders. Above all, any real-life experience you can gain is incredibly useful - in some courses, there might be opportunities to do internships with companies - this is invaluable experience. In my case, we worked on “real” projects in industry during the penultimate year of my business-related qualification.
What advice can you give to current students preparing for life after graduation?
Start planning early. If I tell you that 90% of graduates hired into my company on our associate programme were previously student interns during their final undergraduate year, then you start to get the picture. Be targeted, and be creative. My wife wrote to potential employers and said she was willing to work for free for a fixed period of time over her final year summer break, as she wanted to build experience in her target industry. One company took her up on the offer. Upon graduation, they offered her a job without even an interview. She’s now a senior publisher with the same company. Think about what you can do to make yourself stand out. Remember that whilst your University career revolves around an academic subject matter, your learning at Stirling is much broader than that.
How does your time at Stirling shape you as an individual?
Are you someone who can interact with others easily, influence them positively, and take control of a situation? Someone who can lead and inspire? These are the important elements in a successful career, and more often than not, your potential employer during your interview is thinking not “Is this person qualified?” but rather “Would I be comfortable working with this person?” And that is a quality hard to define - my advice is to embrace everything Stirling has to offer, balance work and play, and strive to be the rounded candidate your employer feels they can work with. Be the best you can be, and make Stirling your springboard to success. Good luck!