December 1, 2014, by NUBS Postgraduate Careers

Practice Makes Perfect

By Ewan Henry.

Autumn term is always an exciting time for us in the Business School’s Postgraduate Careers team – new career stories and new aspirations that come with our new MBA, MSc and PhD students. It is equally exciting for students – returning to studies (perhaps after some years out), new friends, new lifestyle and in many cases a new location to explore and get to know.

With all this excitement and cramming in of lectures, group meetings and assignments it is sometimes hard to stop, take a breath and reflect on the experiences you’ve had so far. A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to join our MBA students on their ‘Business Practice Week’. As a group we visited 8 businesses in 5 days (many more if you count each Biocity tenant individually!) to learn more about different types of businesses, their cultures and the challenges they face.

Each visit was interesting in different ways.  It was great to learn more about the internal workings of these businesses and for the students to be able to contextualise learning from their core modules.  Yet visits like these, and indeed guest lectures and Business Leaders talks, can offer much more than combining theory with practice. They can offer great networking opportunities and great insights, even when the sector or company is not a ‘career target’.

So how do you use opportunities like this for best effect in your job search?

Understand the business before you apply

It is easy to have preconceived ideas of a business or sector. Several of the visits during Business Practice Week were eye openers and this can be useful whether positive or negative. You need to really try and get under their skin to find out their;

  • Business culture
  • Approach to developing staff
  • Working environment

No matter the culture of the businesses we visited during Business Practice week, the people that who thrived there were passionate about the business and proud to work for the company. The best way to find out key details about a business is to get to a networking event or pick up the phone and speak to the people who work there. Whilst this can seem like a scary thing to do for some people, remember that you are asking the person you are contacting to talk about something they are interested in. Trust me, they will be pleased to talk to you!

At worst you will learn about what it is really like to work in their business. At best you might unearth a gem of information that no other applicants know and impress the employer in the process. Companies want applicants who are proactive and interested in the business not just interested in ‘a job’. The chances are you have the skills to work at many businesses you target. The question is do you want to work there and would you fit in to the team?

Big isn’t necessarily better

Remember that there is no ‘right’ company to work in. There is only ‘right for you’.  Some people will suit a large organisation but others will fit in much better in a smaller environment. Large organisations often appeal  because others have heard of them, they advertise jobs regularly and the career progression structures are usually more obvious. As we learnt during the visits, smaller businesses  can be genuinely exciting and stimulating places to work where employees can have a real impact on the business and often have direct access to the decision makers.  So just because you have never heard of a company don’t discount them in your job search – they are probably one of the SMEs at the forefront of business that would be a great place to work. You just have to dig a little harder to find them!


The more you put all of this into practice, the better you’ll get at your job search and the more chance you’ll have of making a good impression.


Posted in Postgraduate