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Jobs. A topic of discussion as soon as you start classes. Often students don’t understand that there is a certain art to job applications and end up being too hard on themselves throughout the process. As someone who has been in this position, I want to share my learnings so that future students who start this journey have as much advice as possible.

Applying for jobs early

If you are someone who is keen on working in the UK after graduation, then getting started on the job hunt in June/July before your programme starts is wise. Starting early is important because job-hunting is a tedious process. Giving yourself more time to do it, rather than crunching it in a smaller window, will leave you panicked and you won’t be able to put your best self forward. Further, once lectures start, you get busy with coursework so having done the groundwork enables you to be more in control of your time

I am studying MSc Management and I am applying for jobs in consulting. In this field, a lot of the applications have not only a requirement of CV and cover letter but also other questions that you need to answer. The applications for these jobs don’t just end at round one. There are at least three to four rounds that take place before hearing the final outcome if you make it that far. Additionally, many job applications are on a rolling basis so the sooner you get your application in the better.

Starting the job hunt

Before you start your job hunt, it would be beneficial to spend some time thinking and researching different industries you might be interested in. This will allow you to better understand these fields, in case you don’t already, and will then allow you to narrow down your choices or reconfirm your preferences.

Once this has been done, you have already narrowed down your search. This is where setting up an appointment with a career consultant can be helpful. If you are an international student who has never experienced the recruitment process in the UK, meeting with the career consultant at the Business School is helpful as they help you set out a plan or path to work on. Preparing questions prior to your meeting will give you answers that will clarify the process for you. Also having the career consultants go through your CV and a draft cover letter can highlight things you don’t notice yourself.

An example of questions you might ask an Imperial career consultant:

  • What does a general recruitment process look like? How many rounds are there?
  • What websites can I use to look for job openings? (One website that I found beneficial was Bright Network)
  • Discuss the field/s you are interested. This will allow the coach to understand what you are looking for and can give insight into what the jobs and process looks like

The typical stages of job applications

The first round usually involves submitting your application. This includes filling out general information about yourself, attaching a CV, cover letter and answering questions. It is not always the case where a cover letter is compulsory but even if it is optional, it is recommended to upload one.

Then comes a round of taking a test for most applications. There are various forms of testing - it could be a psychometric test, game-based assessment, critical reasoning, situational judgement or mathematical testing

Making it to the next stage for a consulting application means you will have to do a case study interview, maybe even two or three. The last round is usually a fit interview where they see whether you would be a good fit for the company.

Some companies also have an assessment centre where they have you spend the day taking multiple interviews. These interviews could be solving a case study, working with other candidates on a project, making a presentation, followed by an interview with senior members of the organisation.

Balancing applying for jobs with your programme

It is easy to get caught up in applying for jobs. However, keep reminding yourself that you’re here for your degree, if you put School aside then you could be risking your studies.

Starting your programme is an important time in your life. It’s a chance to get comfortable with what’s to come,  expand your skillset and make new friends. You will be studying together for the next year and working in teams on group projects. Furthermore, it is the people who will be your connections around the world for the years to come.

This is your time to prioritise. Plan your days and weeks and set goals that are realistic for you. While at times it can get overwhelming and you may feel guilty about not working on applications because there is a lot of programme work, this is the time when you must be kind to yourself. Remind yourself how much is on your plate and that you are doing your very best.

My advice for future students

First, don’t give up. It is all about how long you can hold out and persevere. As difficult as that might be, it is will only make you stronger.

Secondly, do keep in mind that it takes a while to hear back from people. During this time, don’t keep your hopes up on that one organisation. You may only have a rough idea of when they will respond so keep working on other applications as well.

Third, career events can be useful, but it is a two-way street and you have to put in the effort to reach out to people you meet during these events and interact with them. Keep at it. It can take months but keep at it. Remember, some people have already had experience with the recruitment process before. It’s natural as humans that we compare ourselves to others, but at this time we have to consciously remind ourselves not to do that.

Finally, know who you are and don’t let a rejection define you. You are not a measure of which job applications don’t work out.

This is trial and error. It’s a test of being knocked down, getting back up, and trying again. Keep trying. Keep giving it your best. I am sure what is meant for you will definitely come along and at the right time. You’ve got this!

Fatima Sohail, MSc Management 2021-22, student at Imperial College Business School

About Fatima Sohail

MSc Management