Food to get you festive: the weird and the wonderful

Christmas and food are two words that go together perfectly. Here’s a random selection of just some of the festive delights you could whip up in the kitchen this Christmas. In between cracking on with that job hunt (it doesn’t have to wait until January!), try your hand at some of these interesting creations.

Christmas pud cupcakes

Whether you’re making a mess or hoping to make something edible, this is a great excuse to eat chocolate and icing and cake all at once. This desert is more about looking like a traditional Xmas pud than tasting like one, but it’s an easy recipe and looks good enough to Instagram (and hopefully eat).

Bacon brussels

Before you turn away in horror at the thought of brussels sprouts, throw bacon and almonds into the mix and you’ve created a dish worth putting on the Christmas table. Go on, give it a try.


Blueberry Dutch baby

This is in fact, not a baby, but a famous pancake recipe that comes straight from the Netherlands and promises to be the perfect pick-me-up. Throw in some blueberries, cinamon and top with a sprinkle of flour or sugar to achieve that wintery look. It’s not pancake day, but why wait until February?

Leftover sundae

According to our mate Jamie Oliver, “if you didn’t scoff the lot on the big day, this recipe uses up leftover Christmas pud brilliantly”. Celebrity endorsement over, this sugar-tastic creation mixes Xmas pud with mulled wine, ice-cream and chocolate (yes, really) to give you an enjoyable, calorific festive treat. If the pudding’s all gone, make your own sundae delight by mixing leftover chocolate or winter fruits in with that ice-cream.


Cheese

More wonderful than weird, a cheese board is a classic. Make your own tree shape like these American party people, try a snowman design, or just eat it straight from the packet when no one else is around. It’s only going to get eaten anyway…

Katie is the marketing assistant at Inspiring. A dancer and health & fitness enthusiast, she likes to move, tweet and blog.

Where can your degree take you?

Maybe you’re halfway there, maybe you haven’t got a clue where you want to go, but this careers advice is universally applicable and (hopefully insightful for) students and graduates at every stage of the decision making process. Broken down into subjects, we discuss options you may not have considered and those you have.

STEM (Science, technology, engineering and maths graduates)
Roles in the development of business and information technology demand:

“innovative thinking, entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to relate well to colleagues.”

(BP degree matcher) Companies like BP can opt to consider a range of degree subjects and not just those directly related to the job. Degrees in STEM subjects lend themselves naturally to certain professions, with engineering grads arguably likely to become an engineer in their field of study. Outside of the more direct or traditional career trajectories, engineering grads can be great candidates for management consultancy, production, operational management or technical sales.

Scientists can look to go into law (with a conversion course and subsequent contract), environmental or other consultancy, science writing or systems development. Research, teaching and higher education are common routes into employment, with exciting options also on offer like a physicists’ option to become a meteorologist! Cool. Alternatively, the analytical skills that science degrees teach you are applicable to any role involving data. And since big data is the next big thing, that’s great news.

IT skills are red hot right now, with graduate internships and jobs in IT consultancy, technical support or web development seeking highly skilled candidates to match the demand for their services. IT skills are transferable, with industries from the creative to the technical looking to increase their digital presence and find new ways to promote and improve their services online and offline.

A maths based degree is essential for a career in finance, but also opens up doors for analytical roles in advertising, marketing, digital media or the healthcare sector.

Humanities
Generally speaking, humanity degrees don’t limit your careers options to teaching, arts and culture. The skills you acquire from this BA course can put you in good stead to take on graduate roles in the public sector, marketing & PR, charity work, media, HR, business development or consultancy to name a few!

The research, communication and writing skills attained from an essay-based social sciences course are a good match for roles such as; Research Assistant, Marketing Assistant , Information Officer, Content Creator or jobs in the third sector which can range from admin to events or fundraising.

Languages
A bilingual or multilingual candidate immediately stands out in the job application process, whether the role requires a second language to be spoken or the company is looking at a candidate’s confidence and ability to learn new things. Obviously, speaking more than one language opens up opportunities to work abroad, but there are also other vocational options to consider. Client services or account management roles (working with a variety of different clients or brands) in an international company can demand a second language. Client services provide a great chance to build business relationships and network, hit targets and experience business development. Creative industries like advertising and marketing – particularly at large or international agencies – often desire a second language in their employees. Language skills can also be an asset for a career in sales, consultancy or HR.

The moral of this story is that skills learnt in your degree are transferable to the workplace.

“A critical piece of the application process is connecting the dots between the experience you already possess and that which the position calls for.”

(mashable.com). Extra-curricular activities and additional studying or qualifications can have a positive impact on your chances of success, particularly if you have studied for one degree but are keen to get into something different. Maths doesn’t have to mean finance, and an English degree won’t always translate into a writing or content creation role. Explore career avenues and use employment agency websites and careers advice blogs to dissect industries, delve into job titles and requirements and discover what it all means!

Katie is the marketing assistant at Inspiring. A dancer and health & fitness enthusiast, she likes to move, tweet and blog.

Inspiring Interns celebrates fifth year at Bounce with festive ping pong tournament

For those of you who aren’t already aware, in January we proudly celebrated five glorious years in business! It’s been a roller coaster of success with recent accomplishments including the opening of our Manchester office and hitting the milestone of 4,000 graduates placed! We decided to rally round those that have helped us to get where we are today and throw an evening of competitive festive fun, naturally in the form of ping pong. Here’s a little insight into what went down…

The ladies warming up

Some of the merry team

Let the tournament begin! The lovely Gideon in the background illustrating the action

Always time for a selfie

Sam Bloom showing the crowd how it's done

Tensions rising in the semi-final

Mr & Mrs Rosen make it to the final!

The winners! Off to enjoy their bottles of Jose Cuervo

We’d like to say a big thanks to all those that joined us and an even bigger thank you to all that have worked with and supported us over the years – here’s to the next 5!

Video of the week: A minion merry Christmas

Banish those Monday blues with this delightfully festive tune courtesy of the minions!

Katie is the marketing assistant at Inspiring. A dancer and health & fitness enthusiast, she likes to move, tweet and blog.

Seven ways to get into the spirit of Christmas

Like it or not, Christmas is coming! The 1st of December is round the corner and that little bit of Christmas spirit inside you is dying to come out, so let it. Here are seven fittingly festive ways you can ease yourself into everybody (most peoples’) favourite winter month…

Image via flickr.com

1. Christmas markets
This is a nice, easy way to get a little bit Christmassy without making a full blown commitment (you can come and go at a market as you please) – and it’s free. If you’e in London, try the one on Southbank and you get a lovely riverside view of St Pauls and the city thrown in too. For something a little more creative, give the Shoreditch Christmas Craft Market a go. Expect food stalls, entertainment and arts and crafts.

2. Mince pies and mulled wine
Roll your sleeves up and crack out the rolling pin or just head down to the shop on the corner, but make mince pies and/or mulled wine a routine part of the evening (maybe not every evening) and you’ll feel all warm and festive in an instant. For mince pies all you need is pastry and mincemeat and you’re good to go. Try this easy recipe if you’re struggling – it doesn’t even require any rolling. Top tip for mulled wine – Tesco and Co-op both do decent bottles for around four pounds. Then there’s the option to add orange slices, cinnamon sticks and anything else you are keen to throw in the saucepan at your own risk. Cheers!

Image via imbd.com

3. A cult classic
You know, the one that you put off watching until it’s a remotely acceptable time in November or December. Maybe it’s Love Actually or The Holiday, or perhaps family favourites like Elf and Home Alone are more your thing. Either way – put those slippers/onesies/slankets on and relax.

4. Shopping (if you dare)
Today is none other than Black Friday itself, so brave those online and in-store sales and reap the massive discount rewards or ride out the storm and shop a little later in the month. You may end up falling into that classic habit of shopping for yourself when you’re supposed to be buying for someone else, but with Christmas lights lining the streets and pictures of reindeers and elves everywhere you will definitely feel at least a little bit Christmassy.

5. Decorate
Deck out your house or flat with festive decorations and it will either feel wonderfully like Christmas or it will just be annoying how many times you’ve tripped over that massive tinsel display on the stairs. Make a DIY Christmas card, decorate the tree or watch someone else do it, or sit back and relax with/dance to an old school Christmas album.

Image via wikimedia.org

6. Move it, shake it, groove it
Whether it’s the annual work party, a pint or glass of red with your mates in the local or you and your hairbrush, get in the party spirit this December and raise those spirits. It might be getting colder, but people are getting more sociable so why don’t you get out there and join ‘em. If you’re not quite in the party mood, wrap up and give ice-skating a go – there are some amazing venues in London putting up rinks this year including Somerset House and the Natural History Museum. Go and meet Santa, visit the Christmas lights… the possibilities are endless!

7. NYE
Planning an adventure with friends and/or family is all part of the fun in the run up to Christmas, so get thinking and see 2015 in with style.

Katie is the marketing assistant at Inspiring. A dancer and health & fitness enthusiast, she likes to move, tweet and blog.

Company culture: five tips for finding the right fit


Different companies in different industries have diverse cultures. A more established company compared to a young start-up, will have fundamentally different values and practices. These working environments are all subject to change whether it comes from within the business or as a result of a change in the law or economic climate for example. When it comes to a graduate entering a new working environment, it is important that both the company and graduate believe they are a good match. Company culture is subject to change and often new employees bring with them fresh ideas, but it is likely that core values and principles will remain the same. From flexible working hours to a clear career development plan – it is worth researching a company’s culture before an interview and ultimately before accepting a job offer.

Working hours

Employees who work in customer services or in positions of technical IT support for example, may work outside of the typical 9-5. A role that requires interaction with companies or individuals in other countries may warrant employees to work shifts in accordance with the time difference. More established corporations tend to be stricter with working hours, whilst start-ups or businesses in the creative industries are more likely to accommodate employees working at their maximum potential at different times of the day by offering flexible hours or the option to work remotely. (Just don’t get this confused with not wanting to wake up early in the mornings!)

Opportunities for progression

You may have a clear development plan for your graduate career laid out in your head before going forward for an interview, or you may be looking to play it by ear. It is the company’s prerogative whether they offer a set progression structure or whether opportunities for promotion are down to the efforts and achievements of an individual. It may only be your first full-time job, but it is important to think of your professional future when deciding which company is right for you.

Salary

As a graduate with limited or no relevant experience, you may not be in a position to demand a high starting salary. Inspiring Interns have placed over 4,000 graduates in internships and full-time jobs and have found the average starting salary in London to be around £18,000 per annum. If you work in sales or recruitment for example, this will be boosted by commission and bonuses. If you are taking on an internship, you may start on National Minimum Wage or you may initially be paid lunch and travel expenses. Graduate salary expectations are often higher than the reality, with salary subject to a company’s growth and success as well as the amount or complexity of the work involved. Relevant previous experience will be taken into account when a starting salary is discussed and individual performance will be assessed particularly during an employee’s probationary period (this is usually the first 3 months).

Perks

Increasingly, companies are offering perks to entice the cream of the graduate crop to apply for their internships, schemes and jobs. A well-stocked fridge or free breakfast, after work social drinks on a Thursday or Friday, or subsidised travel or gym memberships are just some of the incentives you may see advertised. However, not all companies are in a position to offer all of these exciting perks. It is worth noting that whilst a growing start-up may not buy you a coffee every morning, what you will learn from a small business and the rate at which it and your career could potential grow – may outweigh these other benefits. Finding which company best suits you and what you are looking to get from a career, is about realising your priorities and in turn, understanding what you consider to be less important.

Expectations

As a 21st century graduate, a lot of pressure can be felt by external factors such as the media as well as pressure from graduates you are competing against, and pressure that you may be putting on yourself. The first few years after graduation are about finding out what you want to do and finding that first job or internship to kick-start a career in your chosen industry. It is necessary to be realistic about your expectations – this isn’t about scaling back your ambition, but about understanding what an entry-level position will involve, from the salary you can expect to start on to personal targets your mentor may ask you to meet.

For help finding that first job or internship, head over to our vacancies page and discover our very latest roles. For student and graduate careers advice and top Inspiring tips, keep scrolling through our careers blog to ensure your knowledge is on point!

Katie is the marketing assistant at Inspiring. A dancer and health & fitness enthusiast, she likes to move, tweet and blog.

The top YouTube channels for careers advice

Video is a digital force to be reckoned with. More and more universities, employment agencies and businesses are turning to YouTube as an outlet for the careers advice, information and shareable content that they have to offer graduates. We’ve put together some of the most exciting and effective channels catering for today’s job seekers to prove that there are videos worth watching that don’t involve cats.



London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) has an awesome YouTube channel packed full of series including ‘education and entrepreneurship’ which features interviews with big names in business from Deborah Meaden to Richard Branson.

LSBF’s channel also features taster sessions, 30 minute video lectures, Q&As and advice on the benefits of studying and how you can achieve more from your education and opportunities on offer.



This top American university’s secret to YouTube success lies in its sheer number of videos. It aims to provide something for every university student or graduate including; networking advice from LinkedIn to face-to-face conversation starters, interview and CV advice from Phoenix Careers Corner and mini documentaries featuring inspiring examples of student experiences and success. It may be an American institution, but this careers advice is universal so explore the channel!

This is just one example of the kind of content you can expect from this channel. This particular video tackles the awkwardness of networking head on, as the founder and CEO of The Muse spills her secrets in a how-to guide to networking.



This London based institution is one of the top ranked universities in the world, specialising in science, medicine, engineering and business, Imperial has a YouTube channel that offers a wealth of advice to prospective and current students and graduates. This particular video features a 30 minute lecture tackling the current graduate employment market and looking at supporting data, what it is employers look for when recruiting graduates, how you as a graduate or student need to consider that information and what you need to think about in order to make the best career choices.



This is just a selection of the kind of careers-based material you can find on YouTube. And of course there are plenty of those hilarious/cute/random videos for your viewing pleasure too…

Katie is the marketing assistant at Inspiring. A dancer and health & fitness enthusiast, she likes to move, tweet: @KatesApps and blog.

Five reasons to choose a university with a great careers service

“Choosing a university that has strong careers services will increase your chances of landing that dream job”

Cheryl De Las Heras Oliver, LSBF Manchester Careers and Student Welfare Manager

Few decisions are as significant as your choice of university. You’re likely to consider lots of criteria before settling on your first choice – the quality of the course, the calibre of the academics, the lifestyle and cost of living in that area. You might not put careers guidance at the top of that list, but it’s a key element to consider if you want to make the most of your studies and find your dream job. Here are a few of the benefits of choosing to study at a university with a top-class careers service.

1. Direct support
The best careers website, such as the careers department, have the right people on hand to offer you individual, face-to-face guidance that can go a long way to helping you whittle down your career options and sell your skills effectively. That may mean CV workshops, or it could mean drop-in hours when you can speak to experienced staff and explore your possibilities. Whatever you need, speaking to someone in person can make it easier to ask questions and find what you’re looking for. The national careers service offers industry and degree-specific advice as well as an insight into job profiles – what a title means, what qualifications you will need and resources you should look into.

2. Better library resources
A university is nothing without a library; everyone knows that. But that doesn’t just apply to academic departments – library resources can also help you explore myriad job opportunities and establish a career plan. A careers service should have well stocked, regularly updated library resources so you can do your research and refine your knowledge through face-to-face and online support. Check out the 20 most spellbinding university libraries in the world for inspiration!

3. Alumni networks
If the best careers services help you to achieve your career aspirations, it stands to reason that the universities with the best careers guidance must have already produced some success stories. That means you can benefit from extensive alumni networks, allowing you to speak to ex-students who are now working in the field you want to explore. They can give you an honest view of what it’s like to work in that sector, advise you on how to get there and provide valuable networking opportunities. All of that contributes to helping you get on the career ladder. After graduation, you can sign up to receive email updates, or join the LinkedIn group associated with your university to stay connected.

4. Better application advice
University is all about developing the knowledge, skills and experience to succeed in the world of work. But even if you’re the perfect candidate, you can easily miss out if you can’t demonstrate that in the application process. Getting high-quality advice on everything from your applications to CV formatting and of course, the thorny issue of interview technique, is vital. If you opt for a university with a great careers service, they will be able to offer more detailed guidance through services such as mock interviews and CV workshops, ensuring you have the right tools to sell your skills to employers.

5. Employer partnerships
Top universities are always interesting for top employers. The best careers services are proactive in forming relationships with businesses that will have benefits for their students. These might range from careers fairs and presentations on getting into a specific industry, all the way to full-blown internship programmes, depending on the provider. However these partnerships play out, the reality will be greater access to employers for students, helping them develop the skills and experience that businesses are seeking.

There are a number of things to consider when applying for university, but the strength of a university’s careers service should be a high priority when thinking ahead. For graduates, these services are still available and can still prove useful in opening your eyes to new opportunities, potential contacts and relevant industry goings on.

Sonia Mazzotta, the author, works at the London School of Business and Finance.

A day in the life of… a marketing manager

Alex started graduate life as an intern in the marketing department at Inspiring Interns. Four years later and he’s worked his way up that ladder to become top dog aka marketing manager. We asked him a few interesting questions to give you an idea of what it takes and how you could get there.

What route did you take to get to where you are now?

went to university and studied French and Spanish at the University of Nottingham and landed a job with a medical recruitment agency before I graduated, so it was great to have something lined up. It became clear that working as a recruitment consultant wasn’t for me, so I left to begin a marketing internship with none other than Inspiring Interns at the beginning of December in 2010. Three months later and I stayed on full-time, starting as a marketing executive and a couple of years later I took over as the marketing manager here. I lead a team of three and we work closely with our IT & web manager, Cam, and graphic designer, Lucas.

You’ll notice that I have no formal marketing qualifications which hasn’t presented a problem – I’m constantly learning and reading around the topic to expand my knowledge. That said, I’m coming to the end of the Squared Online digital marketing course, which I’ve really enjoyed and has helped consolidate my digital knowledge.

On a day-to-day basis, what does your job involve?

I look after Inspiring Interns’ candidate attraction piece. We’re always working on multiple projects to improve our profile across the country amongst student and graduate communities. Without giving the game away too much, this includes SEO and PPC activities, making sense of all the data we have access to and constantly tweaking the website, our digital shop window to make sure our visitors have the best online experience possible.

What attracted you to want to work for a start-up?

To be honest, I fell into this job. Like the majority of graduates I’ve met over the years in this industry, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do when I left university and focussed my energy on graduate scheme applications. When I left my recruitment consultant position and applied for the marketing internship at Inspiring Interns, I hadn’t considered the start-up aspect, but I’ve since learned to love it and firmly believe that thousands of graduates miss out on the brilliant opportunities with start-ups and SMEs: more responsibility, measurable outcome from your work and the possibility to work closely alongside much more experienced colleagues…what’s not to love?!

How relevant is technology and keeping up-to-date with the latest industry news to you?

Extremely relevant. It’s my team’s job to ensure that our company is kept abreast of the latest relevant technologies and always knows what’s going on in the industry. We pride ourselves on being where graduates hang out, and this doesn’t often translate to careers fairs and the traditional methods, so technology is key to this strategy.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Focus and enjoy yourself. Remove all distractions and be that ‘anything it takes’ guy, but make sure you’re enjoying yourself in the process or life would be pretty boring.

If Alex’s words of wisdom have inspired you, head to our vacancies page and apply for one our exciting graduate internships or full-time job opportunities today!

Katie is a recent addition to our marketing team. A dancer/health & fitness enthusiast, she tweets: @KatesApps, and blogs here.

Five big mistakes: cover letters

A cover letter doesn’t have to be the bane of your job searching life! Here are a few pointers to get you heading in the right direction.

1. Consider your audience

Know your audience and structure the cover letter accordingly. Whether you have a direct contact at the company or your email is likely to head straight in the HR team’s inbox, your application should be targeted appropriately. Before you start, ask yourself these questions:

Who do I address it to?
If you don’t have the name of a contact, avoid guessing – an email addressed “Dear Sir” landing in the inbox of a woman is not a great start. Addressing your cover letter to the HR department or to whom it may concern is fine.

How long should a cover letter be?
Check whether the application is asking for a cover letter or just a brief outline of your education and work experience. Nobody likes a ten thousand word email, so avoid recalling your life story and just draw attention to the important information that they need to know.

Do I have to send one?
If the application requests it – you should probably send one. An employer needs to know that you can follow basic instructions. A two second “here’s my CV” email doesn’t quite cut it. If there’s no mention of a cover letter, it’s up to you to decide!

2. Typos!

We’ve all sent an email and then suddenly had that “*&@$%^!” moment when you spot an embarrassing typo or incorrect spelling or grammar, so how do you avoid it? Check, double check, and triple check your email before sending! Ask someone else to have a look – a fresh pair of eyes can help. A spelling mistake or grammatical error will instantly ring alarm bells in the head of whoever is reading your application, so avoid this classic mistake and you’re already winning.

3. Unsupported claims

A cover letter is a prime opportunity to highlight your skills, education and experience and demonstrate how they are relevant to the job you are applying for. However, if you claim to be a whizz at all things graphic design related or to have an in-depth knowledge of banking and finance – and you don’t – you might run into trouble. If you talk the talk, you will undoubtedly have to walk the walk at some point. Focus on what you can do and what you are looking to learn to do. Selling yourself as someone who is keen to learn is attractive to a potential employer and arguably less risky than trying to wing it.

4. Highlighting a lack of experience

You may be surprised at how you can make hospitality or retail experience or a society position you held at university relevant to a job application. Showing how this position of responsibility provided you with key skills like leadership and communication is an example of focusing on your positive attributes (not what you don’t have) and backing up a statement with evidence. Try to make your cover letter as positive and dazzling as possible! Avoid focusing on the negatives and big up what you can bring to the table.

5. Recycling

Sending a generic “Dear Sir/Madam, I am really interested in applying for this job” is not really what a potential employer or recruiter wants to see. Ideally, you should tailor your CV to each application for a greater chance of success. Read the job spec and pick out key words and phrases, but be careful not to just regurgitate it. Think outside the box and do some research on the company. It’s more appealing for a sociable company to hear: “I really enjoy working as part of a team and I’m keen to be part of a vibrant company culture” than “I really want to succeed in marketing”. You want to make them think that you would be a great fit for their workplace – before they’ve even met you. Taking time when applying to jobs is crucial and it all comes back to quality over quantity! Churning out applications may feel satisfying, but a job search isn’t something you can tick off your to do list overnight. It takes time, but it’s worth it once your career is catapulted into action.

Katie is a recent addition to our marketing team. A dancer/health & fitness enthusiast, she tweets: @KatesApps, and blogs here.



Image 1 via ianmack.
Image 2 via plainhelvetica.
Image 3 via flixster.
Image 4 via Pixabay.
Image 5 via Wikimedia Commons.