Andy Young, 24, graduated from St Andrews with a First in Chemistry with French in June 2011. He joined Standard Life in Edinburgh on their Sales and Marketing Graduate Programme in September of that year. He is now half-way through the programme.
What led you to apply to Graduate Programmes over traditional job vacancies?
Graduate Programmes are common in the Financial Services. I hoped to develop both personally and in terms of my career, and I’m happy to say that this has been the case. Graduate programmes open doors to you from the start. Another incentive was the “buddy” system where more senior members of staff help you identify your areas of development and mentor you into the company and industry. The final enticement was the rotational placements arrangement where you are able to experience
all functions of the organisation to discover your own strengths whilst making invaluable contacts.
How did you decide which schemes to apply for?
Different people look for different things, but the salary isn’t the be-all and end-all. Consider whether the work actually sounds interesting? What’s the corporate culture like (if you can judge in advance)? What are the benefits – such as holidays, health insurance and your pension? Of course, I would say the latter as I work for a pensions company. My priority was to enjoy my work and have experiences and responsibilities to assist me in the future.
Tell us about your experience of the application process
Some companies may stress candidates with surprise questions or time-limited presentation projects. Others may give you last-minute interviews, or won’t pay for
your travel – there are many ways to see how much you really want the job! Standard Life’s assessment-centre had the usual tricky obstacles but the whole atmosphere was really friendly – I didn’t feel like they were trying to catch me out. Also, you’re taken out for dinner and drinks the night before which helps you relax.
Do you believe your time at St Andrews strengthened your application?
Definitely. St Andrews University looks good on a CV – you’ve already overcome one of the biggest hurdles by getting into the University. Competition for graduate placements is tough, so any experiences you have from societies or otherwise can help to set you apart from the rest.
What tips would you offer to students considering applying for a Graduate Programme this year?
Apply ASAP! Most companies hire on a rolling basis so they’ll close applications once they meet their quota. Also, you don’t want to be travelling the country
doing interviews during exams or over Christmas. My advice to penultimate-year students is to do a summer internship at a company you like. These are great for your CV, and often result in job offers, removing stress from your final year (in terms of jobs, at least!). Also, you can often re-use stock answers to questions to speed up filling the forms – just make sure you tailor each one to the correct company!
Did you have any prior knowledge or experience of the industry?
Having studied Chemistry with French I had no idea about investments or pensions! I’ve picked up all the knowledge I need and am even taking exams to further
my financial knowledge. In fact, very few of us on the programme studied sales/marketing. Any degree can get you into almost any job – although hospitals are a bit of a stickler for medicine degrees…