Careers Advice

Ask The Expert: University of Dundee

Here we ask careers experts to share their knowledge and expertise about successful graduate placements. This time we hear from Stephanie Brewer, careers adviser at the University of Dundee.

Published: 02/05/2018

Stephanie Brewer, Careers Adviser University of Dundee

What’s the most important thing to look for in a graduate placement?

It is essential to take a detailed look at the project brief, key tasks and responsibilities of the role at the outset to check it is the right placement for you. Do they appeal to you and are they at a level you’re happy with?

This varies from one person to another but bear in mind that there will be a balance of project-related tasks, as well as those that relate to the day-to-day running of a business when working for a SME so it is important that you are able to ‘muck in’.

If you need further clarification, get in touch with the employer directly. This will help you to decide if the opportunity is a good fit for you.  

Why would you recommend a ScotGrad placement?

I would recommend ScotGrad for lots of reasons. Firstly it has a strong track record of students and graduates successfully completing their projects as can be clearly seen from this website.

It is great that there are a wide selection of roles on offer across the whole of Scotland which range from marketing through to software development. Placements have been carefully scoped out at an appropriate level for a student or graduate so you can be confident that what you’ll be working on will be valuable to both you and the SME. 

What’s your top tip for tailoring applications?

It is important that you always refer to the person specification as a guide when you’re applying for a role as this tells you what the employer is actually looking for. This includes a list of essential criteria detailing key skills, qualifications and technical aspects required to do the role. Take each in turn and highlight explicitly how your experience relates. Be as specific as you can, giving examples from your studies, part-time jobs, extra-curricular activities, travel and volunteering.

How can a candidate stand out during an interview with an SME?

My family ran a small business while I was growing up which gave me a valuable insight into the qualities and characteristics that business owners look for. For example, with an SME interview questions will place emphasis on assessing if you are the right fit for the organisation and the team, perhaps more so than when being interviewed by a larger company. 

Think about answers to questions around how you work with people and the role you take in a team. Be prepared to talk about your interests outside of work - interviewers want to get a sense of your personality so they can be sure you’ll settle quickly into their team. 

Working for a SME means you may be required to take on additional tasks out with your job description. Take the opportunity to flag up examples of when you have done this demonstrating your flexible approach and capacity to learn quickly. 

What is the best piece of career advice you have received?

During an interview for a graduate analyst role, I was asked a challenging question that I had no idea how to answer! I quite openly responded that I would ask a colleague. This turned out to be the response the interviewer was looking for! I learned that it was OK, and even encouraged, to ask for help and support. You’re not expected to be the finished article when you graduate, in fact, employers place a premium on those who ask questions and want to continuously learn. 

Graduate placements with ScotGrad are available throughout the year. If you’re interested in ScotGrad check out our current placements on offer and register for updates.