Monday, June 25, 2012

How I won the TARGETjobs Undergraduate of the Year in Low Carbon Technology

Hello today we have a special guest, Declan Bryans, this year's winner of the Undergraduate of the Year in Low Carbon Technology, sponsored by EDF energy. He kindly has given his time to write about his experience, what he did to make sure he was ahead of the competition, how he felt on the day of the award ceremony. The first part of this guest blog talks about his determination to succeed and how he rallied the troops around him to make sure that his application and interview would stand out. (Some really useful information) 

Hello everyone, my name is Declan Bryans and I am going to write this blog explaining my motivations to why I entered and how I became the Undergraduate of the Year in Low Carbon Technology, sponsored by EDF Energy. I study an MSci in Applied Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde.  I’ve never wrote a blog before in my life, so I have asked a couple of my friends how they do it.

They said; express your feelings and type it as if you’re telling someone it for the first time. Coming from the west of Scotland this seems like a bit of a daunting task but I will do my best to keep the text informative and interesting! So, here we go!

I first heard of Undergraduate of the Year competition back in December 2011, when I received an email from my department at Strathclyde University. The email stated that the deadline was fast approaching and that it may interest some students. So with exams round the corner and being submerged in notes and textbooks this seemed like the perfect form of guilt free procrastination a student could wish for!

After looking at the twelve awards, the low carbon technology award stood out to me, it was an area I was interested in, it was related to my course and I had recently done a project on renewables. Dream come true! So after filling out the personal details section adding in my CV we got to the questions specific for this award. If memory serves me right, it was how I could tackle the energy crisis and how my course relates to it, having studied this topic already, a quick catch up and I had down, what I thought was two pretty good answers.

So exams finished and wrapped up a period of time later (can’t remember how long!) I received an email from TARGETjobs congratulating me on my success for passing the first stage and that the second stage consisted of some online tests to be completed. Win! After a few online practise tests I plucked up the courage and started the tests. I found the tests to be quick paced with the difficult part knowing that you’re against the clock and then trying to remove that fact from your head to concentrate on the questions at hand.

Eventually, it was March and I had received an email congratulating me on passing the previous stage and that I would soon be contacted by the sponsors of my award, which I was. I was invited to attend their assessment centre down in London on the 23rd of March. I was told to prepare a 5 minute presentation on a stated topic. That was when the thought occurred to me that I could win this award: I have made it this far, why not take it all the way. That was when I decided I needed to ensure I had one great presentation that would stand above the rest of the competition, as I knew that the other students through to this stage would definitely put up a good fight. So I asked for help, I met up with some lecturers in my university who specialise in this area and we threw ideas off each other. Armed with a plan I dedicated a night to prepare my slides and the dialogue to go with it. It didn’t stop there however, I took it to my Study of Advisors and another lecturer who has helped with our presentation skills in the past, asked their advice and refined my overall presentation. Once this was done I practised, practised myself, practised in front of friends and family, even practised on the train down to London.

Eventually, I was there (after a 5 hour train journey). Not being a regular visitor to London I have to admit I got lost a couple of times but through trial and error I made it to the right building: and on time too!  I met the other students who were competing for the award and they were great people with impressive backgrounds, one guy had a personalised tie of one of his achievements. The day consisted of two team work tasks and the presentation, so I decided to give it my all that day and enjoy myself (and being honest, it was a lot of fun!).

Ten days went by and I must admit; it was looking bleak. I was expecting the “there were many great applicants but unfortunately” story. Just imagine my surprise when I received the email stating I was a finalist and invited to the award ceremony on Friday the 13th of April: bad day for some but good omen for me considering it was also my 21st Birthday!

Stay tuned.. next week Declan will be back to talk about the award ceremony, his nerve-wrecking experience and the joys of finding out that he was the winner! 

And... if you think you have what it takes to be next year's Undergraduate of the year why not pre-register to be the first to know when the awards are open.