April 29, 2016, by Alice Gould
How I Survived My First Assessment Centre
By Alice Gould, student blogger
After the stress of January exams and coursework deadlines had finally come to a close, it suddenly dawned on me that I will be graduating very soon. I don’t have much longer left as a student. In barely a few months, I am going to have to face the fact that I am a grown up.
It’s as exciting as it is terrifying. I think the most nerve-wracking part is that this is the first time in my life where my path isn’t laid out for me – I have to decide what’s next.
So I’ve decided to move to China.
It’s not as big a leap as it sounds. I always knew I wanted to move abroad after university. It was just a question of where. I’ve always wanted to go to China: the culture, the language and the cities – and yes, I’m not going to deny it, the food – have always fascinated me.
As for what I could do? After studying abroad for a year and spending time with people from many different countries I realised how lucky I was to be a native English speaker. Not just in terms of general employability, but also because it meant I could get a job almost anywhere in the world as a teacher.
I started researching companies and found an amazing programme with the British Council that seemed perfect for me. I was thrilled when I got an invite to an assessment day. Except… I’ve never been to an assessment day before.
I’d attended a few workshops on assessment centres while studying for the Nottingham Advantage Award, so put what I had learned into action.
As well as successfully completing tasks, it’s important to look and act professionally. Prior to an interview I do a ‘trial run’ in advance to make sure I know where I’m going and how long it will take me to get there. Unfortunately, as I had to travel from Nottingham to Manchester I didn’t have chance to do this: but instead I used Google Street View to map out my journey.
I booked a train that arrived two hours early (meaning a 4am start – ouch!) to make sure I wouldn’t be delayed by late trains or getting lost. This also gave me time to stop in a little nearby café to rejuvenate myself with some much needed coffee and go over my notes.
I also dressed the part in a smart dress and treated myself to new shoes. I’m glad I did as everyone else was wearing suits when I arrived.
A difficult balance
The first part of the day was a group task. Before starting I was aware there were two main ways to go wrong: by not contributing enough or by dominating and not taking into account other peoples’ thoughts and opinions. It’s a difficult balance – especially when you’re in a group with people you’ve never worked with before.
Overall, our group seemed to do well. Each member shared their own ideas and everyone was heard and considered.
Putting preparation into practice
The final part of the day involved a presentation, and answering questions I had seen in advance and questions I hadn’t.
My preparation involved a lot of research about China, about teaching, and about the British Council itself. I practiced answering questions out loud and timed my presentation so I didn’t talk for too long. As for the unprepared part of the interview, I made sure to always listen to questions fully and give appropriate answers with supported examples.
I always find it difficult to tell how I’ve done after an interview and this assessment day was no different. I should find out whether I was successful or not soon – so keep your fingers crossed for me and I’ll let you know in my next post.
Do you have an assessment centre on the horizon? You can find more help and advice here or you can book a one-to-one appointment on My Career.
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