Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Being a top ten finalist for the Arts and Humanities Undergraduate of the Year Award.

This journey began more than a month before that, when I applied for this Award. I am a second year politics, philosophy and economics student at Manchester University and was looking at the time for a competition that would somehow relate to social sciences.

I have to admit the Undergraduate of the Year was advertised extensively in my online searches, as it is organized by TARGETjobs. The competition is open to many fields of study, from IT and computer science to management. Each field of study has a sponsor, usually the biggest firms with the most potential for attracting future graduates. Also, the usual award for the winner is an internship with the respective sponsor company, or a one-year placement for those with placement years, among other incentives like a free iPad with the award.

When I applied I imagined that the competition would be rough, but only later I would find out how amazingly devoted the other finalists were to their fields of study and future plans for graduation. For the Arts and Humanities Award, the process consisted of a number of tests, numerical and so on, just like for a normal application for an internship, followed by a phone interview if you were successful.

The next stage, where only the 10 finalists would go to was the assessment centre at Barclays in Canary Wharf, London. Of course, by the time of the assessment, the remaining candidates would be the most skilled and the most knowledgeable about the sponsor, Barclays.

If you do decide to apply for this competition, you must keep in mind that you may be a very capable individual, but you must also do extensive research on your sponsor and seriously consider an internship or future job with them. In the actual assessment centre, you will again be tested on your numerical skills, your commercial awareness skills, you might do a role-play exercise where your knowledge of the company is tested, a presentation in a team, but these vary from sponsor to sponsor. It is a combination between what you excel in as an individual, your past achievements and your dedication towards obtaining an internship with the company. It’s not enough, sadly, to be an over-achiever, you must also present commercial awareness.

When I think about the whole experience and the competition, I feel that I have a lot more to learn and to dedicate my free time to. The people I met were from very diverse degree backgrounds, someone was studying english, another was studying war studies and so on, yet they all achieved so much in their two years in university and all presented exceptional commercial awareness. The employees from Barclays were great as well, really friendly and talented individuals, willing to help and give advice at any stage of the programme.

I strongly urge you to be the best at what you do and to test yourself against others in competitions like Undergraduate of the Year. Ultimately this not only looks good on your CV, but it makes you want more, it gives you a chance to talk to the best students out there, the best employers and to build a network of friends and potential co-workers after university. Just writing about this made me think I should stop procrastinating writing articles about why we should try to be the best and just start doing it.

In the end, I want to thank Barclays for all the support and advice, I want to congratulate all the winners and finalists this year, you guys were amazing and also a big shout out to the only other finalist from Manchester University, for the Law Undergraduate Award, Phillip Ebsworth.

If this post has inspired you - why not pre-register for next year's Undergraduate of the Year awards.