October 2012 Archives

Graduate recruitment: Joining the IT Crowd

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This is a guest blog from Nikki Briant, a recent female graduate who has entered the world of IT working within Cognizant's Insurance Practice.


Nikki Briant.JPGAs a recent graduate from Leeds University, I felt fairly daunted by the thought of applying for jobs in the current market. Given the level of competition for every place, however, I decided to bite the bullet and started looking and applying for roles at the beginning of my final year - a strategy which seemed to pay off. I was lucky to secure a job within six months, but there were a number of challenges I had to overcome first.


Given that applications are now predominantly online, my main difficulty was managing the time needed to fully research a company, complete an application and subsequent online tests, while balancing university and extra-curricular activities.


Another challenge was during the application period when I was based in Leeds but had to travel to London for numerous interviews and assessment days. This was very time-intensive and difficult to manage, but I tried to coincide interviews with study leave and holidays to help ease the pressure.


At Easter this year, after around six months of gruelling job hunting travelling up and down the country, I was delighted to be offered a role from technology services company Cognizant within its Insurance Practice. Having studied Management and Spanish at University, entering the world of IT and technology wasn't necessarily a typical career path but, from what I understand, it is an industry that is in need of graduates and in particular females, who have typically avoided this sector - I would urge others to look into it!


Specifically, my role involves a preliminary training session in New Jersey, US, with recruits from all over the world, but then I will be generally based in London. During the probation period, I am being exposed to several areas of the business unit and I'm looking forward to learning more about Cognizant and the way it works.


It is a varied role within a very fast-growing global company with operations all over the world. It is renowned for being at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies and business models, so there are lots of opportunities to contribute to this business evolution, which really appeals.


Finding graduate jobs certainly isn't easy, but from my experience here are my top tips:


  1. Define your strengths and weaknesses and decide where best they will be suited
  2. Widen your search to sectors you might not have considered before
  3. Persist at the task in hand, don't give up
  4. Use your networks and learn from any feedback possible
  5. Above all, remember you're not the only person in this situation - talk to others who have been there before or are going through the same process!

I think, in the end, my determination to succeed and to find a job that I felt would develop my potential are the reasons why I kept going. My work experience enabled me to focus on which direction I wanted to move in, and I am hoping that with Cognizant, as a large progressive organisation, I will be able to fulfil my potential within IT.


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Careers Clinic: Dealing with "bizarre" questions at interviews

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This is a guest blog post from Jeremy I'Anson, professional career coach and the author of You're Hired! Total Job Search 2013


Jeremy I'Anson Photo.jpg'What colour is Wednesday?'


'How many bicycles were sold in the UK last year?'


'How do you weigh an elephant without a weighing machine?'


Yes, they're genuine interview questions! These rather bizarre types of questions are much favoured by university dons who are probably rather bored and decide to add a bit of spice into the interview process. But increasingly interviewers from outside the academic world are using these extreme interview questions just to see how you respond.


If you follow my job search advice then you will be very well prepared to answer most types of interview question. Of course, being well prepared is one of the key factors in interview success. But by using these types of questions interviewers are asking a question for which there can be no preparation.


You can have no idea what kind of strange question the interviewer might ask. And that's just the point; the interviewer would like to see how you think on your feet and how you respond to something that is completely unexpected. There is some logic to this - dealing with unexpected situations might actually be a key requirement of the job.


There's no right answer to these types of questions so my advice would be to relax and take the opportunity to have some fun and come up with the most amusing and memorable response you can. Spending a whole day interviewing candidates for a job can be tough and all of those 'perfect' candidate responses can sometimes become tedious.


Make the interviewer's day and give a response that sticks in their mind. The chances are the interviewer will remember you and your response ahead of all the other candidates and you will have had the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that you can think on your feet, rise to a challenge, be funny and creative and, most importantly, deal effectively with the unexpected.



Do you have a careers question for Jeremy I'Anson ?


Email: :jeremy.ianson@xlsys.co.uk


Jeremy I'Anson is a professional careers coach and the author of You're Hired! Total Job Search 2013 published by Trotman Education. For further details visit www.totaljobsearchonline.com


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Careers Clinic: You ask the questions!

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This is a guest blog post from Jeremy I'Anson, professional career coach and the author of You're Hired!

Jeremy I'Anson Photo.jpgIt might seem that job interviews are all about answering questions but in fact most interviews conclude with "Do you have any questions?"

Now questions about holidays, working hours and overtime have their place but they are certainly not the questions you should be asking at a first interview. Much better would be to think about some carefully crafted questions that will let the interviewer know that you have really done your homework and are fully committed to the job. In fact it's fair to say that many interviewers attach a great deal of importance to the type of questions that you ask at the interview.

So what sort of questions should you be asking?

Plan to ask some questions that demonstrate your knowledge of the organization and reinforce the impression that you are a highly motivated and committed candidate.

For example:

"I saw on your web site that you are planning to open an office in New York. What impact will that have on your existing IT infrastructure? "

"I noticed in the press that you have recently introduced a new workforce mobility initiative using Apple iPads. Do you have any plans to expand that initiative now that 4G is coming on line? "

Both these questions will impress your interviewer. You are demonstrating that you have taken the trouble to look at the web site in some detail and moreover you have actually gone to the trouble of obtaining AND researching the company in the press. That's impressive!

So before your next job interview think not only about the questions you may be asked but also about the questions you would like to ask.

Asking the right questions at job interviews can ensure that you stand out from the other candidates and improve your chances of being offered the job.



Do you have a careers question for Jeremy I'Anson ?


Email: :jeremy.ianson@xlsys.co.uk


Jeremy I'Anson is a professional career coach and the author of You're Hired! Total Job Search 2013. Visit www.totaljobsearchonline.com for further details.

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The 7 deadly skills of the perfect leader

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This is a guest blog from Kevin Young, managing director of Skillsoft EMEA.


Employing and retaining strong and capable managers is becoming increasingly difficult as there just aren't enough candidates with the right skills or levels of experience. Figures released by the 2012 National Management Survey, carried out by the Chartered Management Institute, showed that 59 per cent of employers were struggling to recruit the right calibre of manager in 2011.


Here, Kevin Young, Managing Director of Skillsoft EMEA, outlines the seven deadly skills that every manager should strive to have and what organisations should be looking for in their future leaders.


1.   Be an effective communicator - lead by example

The success of a manager largely depends on their ability to communicate effectively with all those around them; organisations want managers that are able to both understand and be understood. Written communication needs to have clear direction, accurate facts and the appropriate language - nothing should be left to the guess work of the recipient. On top of this, oral communication is a must-have skill for any manager. The ability to speak with confidence, credibility and poise, and also with enthusiasm, will motivate others and boost productivity.


2.   Motivator, innovator

Organisations and managers alike shouldn't forget that leaders are the catalyst for achieving success. Leaders are not often born, they are made. Through training, experience and personal development good managers can be created and nurtured so they become invaluable business assets. They will seek out more challenging assignments, always meet deadlines and line staff will respect their direction. A team that is lead by a good motivator and an inspiring innovator will ultimately achieve.


3.   Be a strategic thinker

Strategic thinking is a term that affects managers at all levels and can impact on an entire organisation. For middle-managers this is difficult as they feel they are shouldering a lot of responsibility without really having any power. Although being caught between senior managers and line staff can be challenging, there is an opportunity to play an important role. The reality is that senior managers rely on the middle-manager to translate their priorities and directives so that goals can be achieved. Senior managers need to use strategic thinking to identify goals to drive a business forward and lead to future growth.


Needless to say, no matter at what level they sit, all managers rely on each other to convey important messages.


4.   Spotting and harnessing exceptional talent 

A good leader will cultivate the right team that will meet objectives and give your company that competitive edge. It is vital that talent spotting and development are treated as a top priority, especially in this economic climate. Managers also need to remember that talent may come from within your organisation, so shouldn't rush to look for external options as their next leaders could be right next to them.


5.   Discovering and nurturing your business acumen

Bridging the gap between management skills and business expertise can be a challenge for the most successful leader. By developing the business acumen of company managers, organisations will see new and compelling business strategies becoming defined, but the right skills must be in place. To possess business acumen, managers must understand their company's market place, its position within it and where improvements can be made. A thorough understanding of the business landscape will also help managers recognise and learn how external change can affect a company's success.


6.   A beautiful mind - solving problems and decision making

Decision making and problem solving are important skills in both life and business. One tends to incorporate the other, but techniques can be learnt to make the process quicker and ensure better results. Analysing a situation and identifying problems is a key business process, but as with being a leader, it does not come naturally to most of us. Decision making training can help leaders focus on each problem and deal with it in the appropriate manner. It will improve managers' skills and help them make more of an impact in their organisation.


7.   Adapting to an ever-changing business landscape

Business is an area where change is one of the only constants. Managers must learn to embrace these changes and seek out creative ways of dealing with the accelerating speed of modern business life. Whatever the change, good communication is crucial; listening to fears, questions or concerns from your line staff is key to helping them cope with any changes. Responding well to change will inspire your team and will show that you can adapt to any situation.


The importance of management training: helping your leaders grow


Good management skills do not always come easily but even if they do, training is vital. Skilled leaders can provide both immediate and long term benefit. By helping your managers to develop, your business will prosper, maximise its potential and enjoy a competitive environment. The right training will expose talents that may have previously been hidden and will offer managers the opportunity to be at the cutting edge of new business innovations.


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Careers Clinic: Recruiting at Amazon

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This is a guest blog post from Jeremy I'Anson, professional career coach and the author of You're Hired!

Jeremy I'Anson Photo.jpgIn the press a couple of weeks ago was news that Amazon has 2,000 vacancies for new staff. Of course not all those vacancies will be in IT but it's still great news for workers in the IT industry and potentially a great opportunity for some of the readers of Computer Weekly.

And the news is interesting in other ways. First of all, despite all the doom and gloom in the press about the double dip recession and the state of the economy, the fact is that many companies are doing exceptionally well at the moment and particularly in the services sector companies are hiring both contract and permanent staff. Very different from 2001 when I remember that there were just no vacancies with head freezes right across the IT Sector.

But today is different. Even a cursory glance at the Internet job boards will show you that there are plenty of jobs out there and remember that advertised roles are only the tip of the ice berg. Many employers and recruitment agencies are cutting back on expensive advertising and relying on good candidates coming to them.

The unadvertised jobs market is massive and accounts for at least 50% of the available jobs at any one time. How do you find those unadvertised vacancies? Well one tip is to keep your eye on the press. The Amazon vacancies were very well publicised in the national press but checking regularly in both the national and local press, searching online and in trade journals is a very good way to turn up those unadvertised jobs.

You might also try using Google Alerts so that you can hear directly about developments in your particular sector that might in turn lead to you next job opportunity.

So if you are job hunting then my advice would be to keep searching the Internet job sites but also start researching online and in the press for other potential opportunities that may not have been conventionally advertised and as a result will attract fewer applicants.

Do you have a careers question for Jeremy I'Anson ?

 Email: :jeremy.ianson@xlsys.co.uk

 Jeremy I'Anson is a professional career coach and the author of You're Hired! Total Job Search 2013. Visit www.totaljobsearchonline.com for further details.

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Back to the drawing board for IT in schools

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This is a guest blog from Colin Bannister, vice president and chief technology officer at CA Technologies UK&I, who looks at why the industry must play an important role in shaping IT education.


I've long been committed to the issue of developing IT skills across Britain's schools and universities. In such a fast-paced, continuously evolving industry it's of the upmost importance that we are nurturing young talent and understanding of just how exciting and rewarding a career in the IT industry could be; both for young men and women.


Demonstrating this through the national curriculum has been a difficult task and one which has invited many industry professionals - both in education and IT - to provide their opinions on where improvements can (and should) be made.


However, following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Department for Education, the British Computer Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering to shape the new IT programme of study back in September - the discussion went eerily quiet. 


That was until Monday 1st October, when Bill Mitchell, BCS director called upon teachers and industry experts to share their advice, albeit with just over a week's notice! 


I've been monitoring the response to this series of events, including a live poll looking into who should be responsible for the IT teaching agenda in the UK.  I've been watching the real-time reaction closely, which has revealed that 52% think that IT industry leaders should consult with government to lead its development.


This isn't news to me. Myself and many of my peers feel there is an element of responsibility on our heads in order to encourage learning amongst the next generation of IT professionals; we are ready and willing to contribute.


In the last few months, headlines have been swamped with statistics relating to the UK's skills shortage but I don't feel like this is a true reflection of the talent young people across Britain possess.  Unfortunately, the educational programmes are where the gaps appear, often failing to provide industry-ready skills, and business technology.


Of course, this situation isn't quite as bleak as the statistics make out. There are great initiatives out there, such as the ITMB course, which have helped equip a great swathe of graduates for the workplace. Unlike traditional business and IT degrees, the ITMB degree has developed a course in association with employers to give graduates an excellent mix of both business and IT skills, as well as integral business qualities including team working and communications skills.


In my opinion, the national curriculum needs to follow suit. Engaging the IT and education industry together, leaving time for debate and discussion is the only way we can ensure a tangible impact on the shape of the IT curriculum.  Having said that, highlighting the issue does mark an important milestone in raising awareness of the importance of the industry's ability to shape the way students are educated. 


Existing initiatives, including the ITMB, as well as educational bodies (such as eSkills) are beginning to facilitate this relationship between organisations and the education system, but there is still plenty of work to do.


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Careers Clinic: Writing a profile in your CV

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This is a guest blog post from Jeremy I'Anson, professional career coach and the author of You're Hired!

Jeremy I'Anson Photo.jpgYesterday I had a call from a reader asking about writing the profile section of her CV. Many people find this the most difficult part of the CV to write. Your whole CV is a condensed summary of your career and the Profile needs to "summarise the summary."


Quite a challenge! But it's important because it's the very first thing that recruiters see when they read your CV.


It needs to be just right otherwise they may simply move on to the next candidate.


So here are five tips to help you write an outstanding CV Profile.



1.   Try to be as concise as possible. You don't want to be writing a lengthy biography here. Recruiters may spend a maximum of 30 seconds speed reading your CV and they just want sufficient information to pre-qualify you for a particular job.


2.    Where possible try to open with a job title that closely matches the job title in the job advertisement you are responding to.


3.    Do mention the key requirements of the job you are applying for in the profile. This is particularly important for IT roles. Look for the key skills requirements and always include these in your short profile.


4.    Try to highlight any specific recent achievements. For example if you have recently completed an IT project ahead of schedule or under budget.


5.   Do mention experience that you believe will differentiate you from other candidates. i.e. you have expertise in using Agile or you are an ITIL v3 Practitioner. Don't forget to mention the sector you have worked in: telecoms, retail, finance etc. Most employers are looking for previous sector experience.


Spend some time customising this vital part of your CV for every job that you apply for. Put yourself in the recruiter's shoes. Does your profile match the key requirements of the job? 


It will only take you a few minutes to customise your Profile but it could make recruiters keep reading and ultimately get you short-listed for jobs.


Do you have a careers question for Jeremy I'Anson ?


Email: :jeremy.ianson@xlsys.co.uk


Jeremy I'Anson is a professional career coach and the author of You're Hired! Total Job Search 2013. Visit www.totaljobsearchonline.com for further details.


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Certification: A way to further expertise

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Certification should been seen as an educational process and not about success versus failure. Graeme Phillips, programme manager for Autodesk certification and training in EMEA, KnowledgePoint explores why certification should be seen as a way to achieve further expertise in this guest blog.   

Graeme Phillips 541.jpgAny good business will know that to stay at the top of its game it needs to have a competitive advantage. Just as any jobseeker or employee looking for a promotion will know that in order to achieve their dream job they need to stand out from the crowd by furthering their expertise.


Using certification to validate IT skills in the fast evolving creative industry can dramatically improve the chances of securing a new job or promotion, as prospective employers are able to quickly assess the standard of the applicant and their ability. However, certification as a process shouldn't be seen as a kudos enhancer - where the focus is purely on candidates to pass an exam in order to define career success.


Certification should be seen as an educational process, a way to achieve further expertise throughout a candidate's lifetime, which not only accelerates personal development but improves productivity. While candidates do gain an accredited award, they gain far more than a piece of paper. They are improving their employability, gaining competitive edge, refining their personal knowledge and increasing their ability to work with state-of-the-art software.


With this in mind, Autodesk is one such leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software, which has recognised these benefits and developed its own IT certification scheme to meet this market requirement.

A step in the right direction

For younger employees joining a company soon after graduation, certification bridges the gap between university or college where traditional methods and ideas are often still taught instead of the latest industry thinking and practices.

However, it can work well for older employees too. In a recent OnePoll survey carried out on behalf of education and training distributor, KnowledgePoint, 71 per cent of designers and engineers aged 35 - 54 years said that they thought certification was important. This could indicate that experienced professionals are considering learning as a means of enhancing their ideas and practice methods.

Simply preparing for certification helps candidates improve performance by strengthening existing skills and developing new ones through the study of the exam objectives. Effectively, it can help give applicants an advantage when being considered for a promotion or other career opportunities. After all, certification and the coinciding training are often seen as validation that the employee concerned has the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively meet the needs of their company.

Lately there has been dramatic rise in the number of candidates taking part in IT certification courses. In the OnePoll survey, it was found that over half of the respondents polled felt it was important or very important for design professionals to have certification qualifications on key design products and solutions.


Continuous improvement  

While certification does validate an employee's skills, it is important to remember that the focus of the training is not on success or failure. Supporting exam applicants throughout every step of the certification process, the emphasis is placed on personal knowledge gain and continuous improvement. Today's certification exams are not designed to catch out those completing them. Experienced certification providers will run the relevant revision course and training programmes to ensure that all candidates are up to scratch before taking the exam.

When taking the exams, candidates highlight any knowledge gaps which they may have. And, best practice training provides immediate diagnostic feedback, helping candidates to identify areas where they can improve their application skills and performance-based testing. With the latter, rather than simply answering questions about how they might accomplish an objective, candidates actually perform the task itself using real-life applications such as Autodesk Inventor.

The aim is to boost participants' confidence, which will in turn, help to improve productivity in the workplace as business decisions are likely to be carried out more efficiently. If a candidate fails an exam, support is provided through various training courses for them to improve and the exam can be retaken at any time.

Ultimately, IT certification should be seen as an educational process as it forms part of a learning life-cycle. It is not a one off exam which focuses on pass rates, it is a training course which can highlight and fill any knowledge gaps and, in turn, help candidates of any age to improve their employability, gain competitive edge, refine their personal knowledge and increase their ability to work with advanced software.

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