Interview: What its really like working at a Top 5 Tech Company

Interview: What its really like working at a Top 5 Tech Company

thomsons-online-benefits-office
Thomsons London Office

 

If you like the sound of what Will and Malaika are doing, good news! Thomsons Online Benefits is looking for more graduates to join its talented team! Check out the role here.

“My graduation was on the Thursday, I went into inspiring interns on the Monday, the Tuesday I got put on the assessment day for Thomsons, and then on the Thursday I got the job!” ‘Malaika Olayiwola

Sounds good huh? We popped into the Thomsons Online Benefits office  to meet up with two of Inspiring’s big success stories, Malaika Olayiwola and Will Patterson-Fox to find out more about how their last 6 months have been with top tech company Thomsons.

What do they do?

Thomsons people and values
Thomsons Values Map

Thomsons use technology to revolutionise benefits systems for business and both Will and Malaika work on the business development team. It’s not quite your traditional sales role though. “People think you’re literally going to be pitching the whole product over the phone, but it’s not like that at all” says Malaika.

“People forget that selling is a social thing” adds Will, “it’s about talking and interacting with people”. Their day to day involves phone calls, social selling, social media and emails, and they’re both keen to emphasise how much of the role is about building relationships, far from the stack ‘em high sell ‘em cheap attitude many people think of traditionally with sales.

More importantly, there’s an important balance between quality and quantity, according to Malaika who says “there’s no expectations of ‘you must make this many calls a day’, it’s not like that, productivity is important of course, but it’s not so strict”. Thomsons don’t impose any daily targets on their team, and monthly targets are introduced gently and only increased with experience and training.

There’s fantastic growth opportunities too, the pair say. “It’s a stepping stone to other areas of the business” Malaika points out, “in fact a lot of the people who work in different departments started off in the same role as us”.

Why Thomsons?

Thomsons break out area
Thomsons Break Out Area

 

“I think the thing that is really important and different about this company is that there is genuinely an open environment” explains Will, “the Chief Exec knows everybody, and he’ll walk around and talk to you.” It doesn’t get more open than that!

It’s easy for companies to claim they have an ‘open environment’ and a ‘work hard play hard attitude’. At Thomsons though it seems genuinely true, Malaika adding that, “Obviously everyone in the business puts a lot of pressure on themselves to overachieve, but everyone parties hard too so it’s a really fun culture to be in”.

It’s not just the environment that works at Thomsons, but the support and respect that they give their entry level employees. “You’re given respect and responsibilities straight away” according to Malaika, “people were so excited to meet us when we first joined and you feel important straight away, even though it’s your first grad job.”

The training too, is fantastic at Thomsons. Not only do you start with a week’s trip to Cluj in Romania for the company’s new hire academy, but the training program is consistent and thorough for the first 6 months, including 1-to-1 help and external training sessions.

“You can schedule time with really senior people in the company and say ‘look I’ve got this but I don’t understand it’” says Will, “and they will happily give half an hour of their time”. There’s genuine support, he points out, and it’s very much a team game, with everyone encouraged to ask each other if they have any problems or need advice.

Who Should Apply?

Thomsons London Office
Thomsons London Office

 

Convinced? We asked the pair their ideal candidate for the role. “I think that the thing about the role is that if you don’t necessarily visualise yourself in a sales position you could still be great” says Will. Malaika agrees saying “the person who I’d expect to be good in the position is someone who hasn’t necessarily thought about sales but has a lot of confidence and drive, maybe a bit competitive as well, but they are open-minded to it.”

“I didn’t necessarily have sales as my goal” Malaika finishes, “I thought, why not though, and for someone who’s not necessarily been thinking about sales for a while, it’s a great sales environment.”

If all this is starting to sound familiar, and you think you’d be a great fit for Thomsons, check out the role and apply today. If it’s piqued your interest in sales, check out our job listings for live graduate jobs in sales.

 

How to Build Professional Relationships in a New City

How to Build Professional Relationships in a New City

the best

A new city can be tough, and making new professional relationships even tougher. You’re all alone, the streets keep changing direction, names are unfamiliar, and you’re not even entirely sure what time zone you’re in. But before you decide to repack your bags without even introducing yourself at the new internship, keep in mind that this is part of what you signed up for- and it’s good. New friends are on the way to help you out. So take a deep breath and learn to play to your advantages.

You’ve already found the perfect internship, but here’s how to build extensive professional networks in your new international city.

First, identify your motivators.
You chose your current internship program for a reason: likely to gain knowledge in the field, to have something to put on your CV, to make work connections. Interrogate yourself using these basic questions to fully define your networking motives:

Do I want to work at this company in the future?
Do I want to work at a different company in this country in the future?
Do I simply want to work on building professional networking skills?
Am I open to making connections that can help me find jobs in any country?
Do I want to simply work abroad, don’t care where?

Once identified, these will influence your strategy for building a professional network in a new city. For instance, if you know you don’t care about working at your current internship company in the future, you can focus less efforts on building internal relationships and put more effort into seeking connections through public networking events, online websites, scheduling informational interviews, etc. Or maybe you want to get hired by your current internship provider – this will influence your end game, too.

And always be prepared: have a firm grasp on your goal and your own person. Have an elevator pitch ready (a brief summary of who you are and what you do); be ready to whip it out when opportunity puts you in front of the right person at the right time. This not only applies to your current company, but also to surrounding businesses and strangers working in the field.

Redefine yourself.
The beauty of starting from scratch in a new place is that nobody knows you. You can paint any picture you want of yourself and no one will contradict you. It’s a Start Over, but without any of the cons. If you had always wanted tell more jokes, or become a leader, or be recognized as the group counselor, or be seen as someone outgoing and confident, this is your chance to shed old skins and shine with a new light.

Step out of your comfort zone; redefine your boundaries and adapt a new persona. Overcoming these limits is easier in a neutral environment and will leave you feeling pretty proud of your efforts. Create an identity and flaunt it like the whole world is looking.

Once there, make personal connections.
Rather than focusing on professional relationships, think of personal relationships first. When warming up to someone, remember the basics of every kindergarten rules list: be nice, be respectful, treat others the way you wish to be treated. Before being coworkers or potentially advantageous career connections, they are people, and it’s no surprise that personal friendships last longer than work relationships.

Keep your priorities straight. Offer something intriguing before asking for help. Use networking to create your own opportunities. Find people you can relate to and talk to them. Even if they are not the CEO, they might one day end up in a higher or influential position; it’s much more likely that they will think kindly of you if the friendship started before they became king of the hill. Be an irreplaceable rockstar, but play it cool.

Also, be aware that the world is a big and, at times, strange place. It is important to adapt to potential cultural differences and new work styles, and appreciate them for what they are. Be conscious of local business culture best practices; don’t dive into a conversation about job op’s if standard-practice calls for three cups of tea.

Be bilingual.
This is especially important if you find yourself in a country where English is not the main language, but still relevant in countries with new slang or speaking conventions. Don’t just hang out with the expats or use charades as your main form of communication. Take a few classes, whip out the schooll textbooks, and try to strike up conversations. People will appreciate you trying and applaud the efforts. And once you hop over the language hurdle, just think of all the new connections you can make.

Not only does speaking more than one language improve and stimulate various parts of your brain, but it opens up the door for a variety of opportunities that might not be there otherwise. It can your raise your position internally with the company and offer opportunities to delve into a whole new country of businesses.

Research local networking events.
Start networking before you go. Brainstorm if you personally know anyone living there, no matter how distantly-related they are. Check alumni directories from university, and ask friends if they know anybody. Between friends of friends of friends and bizarre aunts, someone is bound to know someone that can be of use to you.

Once there, integrate yourself with the new city. Glance at your home country’s nearest Chamber of Commerce website to get familiar with local organizations and reach out to individuals that seem interesting. Professional networking events are not rare. Another great option is to research meet-up groups or local expat websites, both of which regularly host events that appeal to all sorts of interests. (Warning: do not just hang out with expats though! You still do want to learn a new language and meet locals).

Keep up contacts.
Keep in mind that internships aren’t over with the end date of the post. If you made strong, positive connections, don’t just disappear off the face of the earth once you move out of the office. Stay in touch and maintain your presence. Even if employment at the current place isn’t an option, it is more than likely that people in that field will hear of other openings that they can refer you to. Make relationships and impressions that last long after the echoes of your footsteps leave the building.

While starting a new life in a new place may seem daunting at first, it is important to view the experience as an opportunity, not just a challenge. Use the occasion as a chance to change, improve, and make a new set of work relationships that will take you to the new level.

 

Article contributed by Julia Zaremba, GoAbroad.com

Julia is an avid traveler, lifelong artist, theater geek, interior designer, future author, and occasional teacher. Originally from Germany, she was raised and started her university studies in Texas, before moving to Italy for her first formal teaching experience. Since then, she has traveled throughout Europe and the Americas, constantly on the look-out for the next adventure.

She is currently working as an editorial assistant at GoAbroad, hoping to encourage people to study abroad and experience the world beyond a textbook.

Workers admit the best (and worst) part of working with graduates

Workers admit the best (and worst) part of working with graduates

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Over 30% of UK businesses offer a formal graduate programme and many of those that don’t are still turning to graduates to fill their vacancies. As a result, more employees are finding themselves working alongside recent graduates, so we wanted to explore how UK workers felt towards graduates in the workplace – here’s what they told us:

The Good

  1. They’re Innovative: Starting out in the business world, graduates are full of enthusiasm and eager to contribute. In fact, workers reveal this to be their favourite thing about working with graduates as 56.6% admit they enjoy grads fresh ways of thinking and original ideas. Just out of university graduates aren’t constrained by the standard industry practices or business models that more mature professionals might be, 12.7% of workers said this means they offer their own unique opinions. So when you’re starting a new job don’t be afraid to speak up if you have any ideas, existing workers are excited by your new ways of thinking.
  2. They’re tech-savvy: When it comes to being tech-savvy, today’s graduates grew up in an era of computers and the internet. As a result they’re experienced in using a range of different technologies; and we found that 11.3% of workers viewed this to be a huge asset to the workplace as they are able to help with, and adapt to new office technologies. So if you see a colleague struggling at work and you know you have prior experience with that particular technology or platform, don’t shy away from helping them.
  3. They’re essential to progression: Though some workers admit it can be challenging to train a graduate, they accept that it is necessary. Of those asked, 13% said that graduates are essential to evolving the workplace and many believe that graduates become very valuable members of the team. So don’t feel like a nuisance during your training, workers understand they are producing the next generation of workers – be sure to ask any questions you have along the way!

The Bad

It’s clear that professionals and businesses reap the rewards of working with graduates, but they also admit to a few drawbacks. To help you tackle any worries you may have about the workplace, we uncovered what employees find most challenging about working with graduates. Here are some tips on how to overcome these issues:

  1. They lack experience: When asked what they find most challenging about working with graduates 56.3% said it was their lack of work experience. Workers found that graduates without experience didn’t understand the fundamentals of business, making them harder to work with. If you don’t have any previous work experience in your field, try to secure yourself a placement or internship before you leave university, or whilst job hunting. This will not only boost your CV but give you a deeper understanding of a working environment.
  2. They take time to train: A much smaller proportion of workers (10.2%) cited the time is takes to train a graduate as their least favourite thing about working with them. It is inevitable that this training process will have to take place, so while it’s going on, be sure to remain alert and interested. No one expects you to remember everything on your first day, but show you are paying attention and excited to learn.
  1. They won’t use the phone: A further 2.9% of workers found it frustrating when graduates didn’t want to use the phone. If these tasks are part of your job, then you can’t shy away from the responsibilities. Even if you are nervous at first, you should undertake all tasks to the best of your ability and over time you will become more confident in your role.

Graduates are the future and though workers admit they face the occasional challenge when working with a graduate, the results are hugely beneficial to a business and its professionals. So if you are starting your career at a graduate level remember our tips and don’t be afraid to offer your ideas and opinions!

 

About CV-Library

CV-Library is the UK’s fastest-growing online job site and attracts over 3.8 million unique job seekers every month. Founded by Lee Biggins in 2000, CV-Library boasts the UK’s largest CV database, containing more candidates than any other job board.

www.cv-library.co.uk

8 Ways to Boost Your CV at University

8 Ways to Boost Your CV at University

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It can be a daunting prospect thinking about life after University. In amongst all the other pressures of university life, particularly the hard study of third year, focusing on graduate jobs tends to drop quite far down the pecking order

But it needn’t be so stressful. There’s plenty of small and medium commitments you can integrate into your university life to prepare yourself for the big wide world. You may even find that you’re doing plenty already!

What’s important is that you know how to position your activities to put yourself in the most favourable light. Let’s get under way with…

Get a part time job

It may be that you have more pressing financial concerns for starting the job search early. While you may feel like a coffee shop job or spending weekends pulling pints isn’t embellishing your CV at all, it can actually be a huge boost provided you know how to spin it.

Companies looking to hire a graduate love talking about communication skills. They expect entry level candidates to have the ability to communicate both within the company and to clients with professional ease and the experience of dealing with customers every day will prepare you for this brilliantly. You’ve also proven you can effectively manage your time between work, a social life and study, as well as the development of problem solving and team work skills.

Don’t just get involved, lead!

Of course getting involved in a society, student newspaper or sports team can boost your CV. But what will really impress employers is if you’ve managed to juggle a leadership role with your studies.

Think about taking on an editorial role at the newspaper, or an officer role within your society. Even if you only feel like you can commit to a mid-level role, employers will know you’ve had valuable leadership experience and professional organisational skills. If you’ve worked with developing charity or sponsorship deals for your society, you’ve also developed key B2B skills.

More importantly, it’ll give you more professional examples to use in an interview situation to answer questions like ‘Tell me of a time you dealt with a conflict…’ as opposed to the latest argument with your housemate over the dishes.

Sell, Sell, Sell

Graduate jobs in Sales are in high demand at the moment, and while it might seem incidental, selling tickets or flyering on the streets is a great boost to your CV. If you’re looking for a Sales role, chances are your grad job won’t be as hard as trying to convince a passing student to take your unwanted flyer. It’ll give you good examples of when you had to get innovative, and will teach you tricks of the trade way before you even have to start.

Even if you don’t think a Sales job is for you, all sorts of applications will benefit from a Sales background. Any client facing role will need an element of persuasion to it, and if you want to become a freelancer or start your own business, you’ll be selling yourself every day.

Make connections with your tutors

Don’t be afraid to connect with your tutors, especially in art and design fields as the chances are that they were in the industry for a time before they took up teaching. This will have left them with plenty of contacts, and advice for how to get started. If you get on with them, they’re much more likely to open up their address book for you.

Use your careers service

Students tend to view careers services as daunting and outdated, but they often have amazing untapped resources that you only realise existed once you left, and wish you’d used. Once you’re out in the real world, you’ll realise the amount of professionals willing to give you free CV reviews and mock interviews drops to zero very quickly.

If you’re interested in starting a fledgling business at university, they can often help you with that too. The reality is that many careers services are under-used and resource rich, so no matter what your requirements are it’s always worth asking.

Talk to your older friends

If you have any friends who’ve recently entered the graduate jobs world, they are an invaluable resource. Being out in the big wide world gives you a perspective on all of the things you wished they’d done while at university to supplement your degree.

Even more importantly, if they’ve secured a graduate job, they’ll be able to chart how they got there and give you some strong guidelines on how to succeed.

Start Blogging

This is particularly relevant if you’re looking to go into PR, communications, marketing or journalism. In an ideal world it would be good to start blogging about the career you want to get into, but if you’re unsure, just start writing. Think about building a following and you’ll show you’re able to write to your audience.

If you want to take it a step up, download Google Analytics. You will learn how to use an incredibly important tool and hopefully have some successful figures to show to potential employers when you start looking for a job.

Volunteering your way to a job

Volunteering isn’t just a feel good way to spend your time at university, it can be a really important boost to your graduate prospects. Whether you want to work abroad or closer to home, many charities will be more than happy to accept your help in an area you want to move into. It’s a great way to cut your teeth in marketing, admin, PR, Sales and all sort of other sectors.

Lots of charities will offer free training schemes too, which can lead to accredited awards that will look really impressive on your CV, and give you something really fulfilling to talk about in an interview.

Interested in applying for graduate jobs when you leave university? Take a look at our graduate jobs page to see the kind of entry level roles on offer!

7 Ways to Turn Your Internship into a Full-Time Job

7 Ways to Turn Your Internship into a Full-Time Job

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One of the questions we get asked a lot in the Inspiring Interns office is how to make sure that once you secure that all important internship, you convert it into a permanent job offer.

Many of the companies we recruit for start candidates on a 3 month internship before deciding whether to take them on full time or not, with the vast majority choosing to.

So what’s the trick? Well, for starters….

Be Impressive

The best tips are often the simplest ones. At the end of the day, the best way to make sure your new boss takes you on long term is to be the best recruit you can be.

It sounds obvious, but you have to make sure you’re always punctual. For the first week or two, always try to get to work at least ten minutes early, and make sure you stay a bit later than you need to each day. Make sure that you’re eager to learn and happy to work hard. If you’re asked to do slightly menial tasks, complete them with as much enthusiasm as possible. It will often be as much of a test as with the more complex tasks, to find out more about your attitude.

Establish goals and meet them!

If this doesn’t come up organically, ask for a meeting and ask whether there are any specific goals you should aim for during your time at the company. This doesn’t just offer a clear direction for yourself, but shows the employer that you’re keen to work hard towards adding value to the company.

Remember that an internship is an opportunity to learn as much as possible, not just to convert to a full-time job. You should establish personal goals at the start of the internship about what you want to learn from the internship, whether this be mastering technical skills, refining personal soft skills or establishing a list of contacts. Learn from your supervisor, ask how you’re performing, and ask if you can take any more specific responsibilities that you want to learn about.

Add Value to the company

While you want to focus as much as possible on these personal goals during your internship remember that what you’ll be doing on a day to day basis won’t always directly line up with your goals.

The company will want you to learn, but you also need to be adding value to their business (provided you’re being paid).

This doesn’t just mean that you need to take to everything you’re asked with enthusiasm and focus, but that you should take the initiative too; when appropriate, pitch ideas to your supervisor, ask if there’s anything more you can take on the minute you’ve completed your tasks, and be prepared to have an answer when you’re asked your opinion on business decisions. The last point is crucial, as it will illustrate that you’ve really thought and understand your new business, declaring your dedication to the company.

Become Indispensable

By taking the initiative as above and taking on ad-hoc duties, you can easily become indispensable to your potential employer. If they know that taking on someone else will require training them in areas that you’re already well versed in, then it doesn’t make sense financially or for efficiency to take someone else on. Try to select ad-hoc tasks that are specific to your company, that even someone with experience in a similar area would still require training on.

Even better would be to take advantage of any specialist skills you have. If you’re fluent in a second language, think about areas of foreign client management or foreign marketing that you could become a crucial part of. If you have an understanding of social media strategy, design skills within the adobe suite, or have experience running a blog, let your supervisor know and you could become a critical cog in the day to day running of the company.

Essentially, it’s a simple mantra: what can I do to make sure I’ll be missed?

Be a Social Butterfly

While you’re at the company, try as hard as you can to get involved in as much of the social aspect as you can. Try to make as many company networking events as possible. Use your lunchtimes to talk to employees you haven’t spoken to yet and get them on side.

If it comes to the last few weeks of your internship and a number of voices within the company are telling the management team how much of an impact you’ve made on company culture, it can’t be a bad thing. Always be willing to go the extra yard outside of work as well as inside of it.

Tell Them How You Feel

When it’s coming towards the end of your internship, It never hurts to tell people that you’ve enjoyed your time at the company. Flattery always helps and it shows you truly care about succeeding there.

I have a friend who was becoming convinced it wasn’t going to work out as his internship at a huge advertising agency was coming to an end. After a few too many drinks at a networking even, he stumbled into one of the executive team and told her that he really didn’t want to leave and how much he’d enjoyed his time there. The next day, she made some calls and made sure there was a job for him to start the next week.

Stay in Touch

Sometimes things don’t work out for factors beyond your control. It could be that the budget isn’t there for a full time member of staff, or that they don’t think they’ll have enough workload to bring someone new in.

If you’re told at the end of the internship that it’s not going to work out for now, make sure you keep in touch. Use the contacts you’ve built up to ask for updates by telephone or email every now and again and when a position comes up, you’ll be the first person on their minds.

If you’re looking for a foot in the workplace door, check out our job listings for graduate jobs in London and graduate jobs in Manchester.

‘Big Four’ Don’t Care About Your Grades

‘Big Four’ Don’t Care About Your Grades

1416 (1)There’s a big change happening in the graduate jobs sector right now. Four of the biggest UK graduate employers, PwC, EY, Deloitte and KPMG, are all starting to look beyond academics, with a shift to a system that primarily focuses only on candidate’s potential.

The message is clear from these top professional services firms; there’s a need to modernise the system they use to find the top graduate talent in the UK. It’s becoming increasingly imperative for these companies to increase their appeal to millennials, as well as improving diversity and promoting an increase in social mobility.

With the number of graduate jobs on offer finally returning to pre-financial crisis numbers, firms like EY have an increased interest in making sure some of the talented grads that might have slipped through the cracks in the past are being profiled properly. Absolutist conditions for successful applicants previously included at least 300 UCAS points (equivalent to three B grades) and a 2:1. These have been scrapped.

The focus has instead shifted to online assessments and numerical testing to ensure that only the best candidates are making it through to the interview stage. In June, PwC similarly scrapped UCAS points as a way of profiling candidates too. “A-level results vary significantly with proxies for social class — the south of England versus the north, parents who are better off and parents who went to university” says Richard Irwin, PwC’s head of student recruitment. “Those things can’t be predictors of whether you’re a good accountant or management consultant” he argues.

Deloitte have taken it to the next step, profiling applicants in a way that makes sure the socio-economic circumstances of the candidate is understood as a part of the process. They don’t think all grades are equal; someone with three B grades at a school that averages straight D grades, in fact, is highlighted as remarkable.