The day started as one might expect of a late autumn Wednesday morning in Birmingham: cold, overcast, windy and generally pretty miserable. Who could blame the students of Birmingham for remaining curled up, warm and cosy in their beds till long after any other reasonable human would have surfaced? However this was no ordinary Wednesday, preparation for the Science, Engineering and Technology fair was already well under way by the time the first bleary eyes had staggered onto campus. One of the most exciting fairs of the year for students across engineering, science, computing and maths disciplines understandably created a bit of a buzz – this was a chance to find out about the graduate schemes, year in industry placements and summer internships that the top companies in those industries had to offer (not to mention some of the better freebies to be found at any of the Careers Network events.)
As with previous years, there was little surprise to find a small group of students waiting outside the great hall for the doors to open gradually increase to a substantial crowd by 11:00. Everyone was aware of the calibre of company inside and wanted to take full advantage of their presence by getting in early and making themselves known to any potential future employers. Most were browsing through the fair guides to find out a little more about the companies there – researching a company before approaching them is an important step for anyone looking to gain the most out of a careers fair. One comment overheard: “Soo… what do you guys do?” was one of the worst opening gambits I heard, and clearly the company rep was unimpressed. Whilst the companies are there to promote themselves, it is important to remember that they’re looking for the most impressive and enthusiastic employees – a fact highlighted by the (generally) high degree of knowledge displayed by those visiting the fair.
Being a Physics student myself, this fair was one I’d been awaiting most eagerly. Of particular interest to me were representatives from government and defence contractors (GCHQ, BAE Systems, QinetiQ), the big energy companies (BP, EDF), and the standard industry giants that most graduates would give an arm or a leg to get a foot into (Jaguar Land Rover, IBM, Rolls Royce). The importance of these events cannot be understated. Are you looking to apply for placements or internships starting in the summer? Had you not attended this fair you may not have known that applications for government and defence contractors need to be in six months in advance in order to obtain security clearance – interested in working for GCHQ, BAE, Detica or QinetiQ? Get your applications in ASAP! Conversely, nuclear energy leader EDF are focussing on the graduate recruitment and a simple internet search will offer no information about intern or placement schemes which don’t open until January. This event however allowed me to chat to a recent employee who’d been hired onto the graduate scheme off the back of a year in industry to find out exactly what would be on offer, whilst also putting my name down to be notified the moment the schemes open – a great example of how these events help students get the jump over their peers.
Also of value was the science and engineering specific recruitment agencies such as Gradcracker and matchtech – not everyone will get a job with one of the top international companies in their field straight out of university! And of course Career Network’s CV checking service and >>PROGRESS>> demonstrations were taking place throughout the day – other essential tools at the disposal of University of Birmingham students to give yourself the best chance at getting the job you really want.