ambitious futures

July 22, 2016, by Carla

Getting HigherEd: How to Successfully Apply for Ambitious Futures

By Jodie Neville, Graduate Trainee in HE Management

Have you made the most of your time at university? Why not develop this further on a graduate scheme in the Higher Education sector? I did…

The Ambitious Futures Graduate Programme is a unique opportunity to gain experience across the Higher Education sector. Since starting the scheme in September 2015, I’ve been building a foundation of skills in project management, in three different departments across two universities.

I applied because I am passionate about contributing to the progression of students and learning about how this is done in different contexts. Even during my time as an undergrad I had a range of roles from a Student Ambassador on open days to marketing with the careers team as well as a couple of mentoring posts. I was interested in the different ways this progression was being achieved across the university.

Experience what it’s like ‘behind the scenes’ at university

My first placement saw me initiate and manage a project on customer experience with the Campus Management and Services department at Birmingham City University (BCU) – where I studied for my degree. This was an exciting chance to review the effectiveness of their communication with the wider university. As part of this I was able to conduct interviews with students and staff at a range of different levels in the institution, from academics to faculty deans, support staff to strategic decision makers.

Placement two, with the Financial Management team here at Nottingham, has seen me participate in a few different projects. I was nervous about this placement at first, as I am from a non-financial background with my degree being in English and Media. However, the team have made me feel really welcome and I have learned a lot during my time here. I have been part of creating two new Workspace sites – among other projects – so managing my time effectively has been really important.

My last placement in this 15-month scheme will be back at BCU with Academic Services, which I’m excited to start.

If this sounds like the scheme for you, applications open again around December.

3 quick tips to help you ace application process

Showcase your experience

The initial written application asks a lot of skill-based questions. If, like me, you mainly have experiences that are limited to the time at your university, you should still have plenty of examples to draw on. It allows you to describe situations where you have demonstrated particular skills in a more narrative way.

Try using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique. I used the Strength Focused Assessment list on the Ambitious Futures website to ensure my responses were focused and relevant.

Research telephone interviews

At the next stage I was invited to a telephone interview.  I’d never had one before and I found this quite formal. I decided to treat this as though it were a face-to-face interview. I even dressed up smartly to get into the right frame of mind. I smiled, which sounds odd as nobody can see you, but it helped me to remain confident and lifted my tone of voice. I made sure I was in a quiet place where I wouldn’t be disturbed and had good phone signal – I was using my mobile and the last thing I wanted was to be cut off!

Attend a mock assessment centre

I was then invited to an assessment centre, which took place at my home institution. During the day I had a face-to-face interview; a role play exercise, where I had to solve a problem with a partner of the university; a written exercise, where I offered solutions to a specific issue; and a group-based exercise where, as expected, I had to demonstrate my ability to work in a team while making a strong case for my individual skills.

If you get chance to attend a mock assessment centre first – do it! Especially if you haven’t been to one before. The University of Nottingham put them on during term time, so keep an eye on the skills workshops page.

If you are self-motivated and enthusiastic about higher education, I would say definitely apply. You can find out more about Ambitious Futures online or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

For more help and advice on applications, interviews or more, book an appointment with one of our careers advisers – we’re here all summer. 


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