My experiences of Ambitious Futures: A graduate scheme for university leadership

Ambitious Futures LogoGuest post by Kim Smith, Careers Consultant and Ambitious Futures alumnus.

So you’ve studied at university but would you ever consider working here? I started my career on the Ambitious Futures Graduate Scheme and have since worked in various roles in Higher Education (HE), including my current role here in the Careers Service.

If you don’t fancy a career in academia, but are interested in Higher Education then this could be the scheme for you, as you get to experience at least three different Professional Services/Support functions (e.g. careers, recruitment, marketing, HR, alumni, international, research, school administration), which can help you explore which path might be right for you.

In each rotation you will be assigned a project. Projects are very diverse, so you will gain a variety of new skills, including project management. Here are some example projects to help you get a flavour of the scheme:

  • Work in the Recruitment Office to complete an audit of our communication channels with students and produce a report which makes recommendations for streamlining our service and improving the experience for students.
  • Work in the Research Office to review our Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (postdoctoral students going to work on placement in industry), by interviewing stakeholders and make recommendations for improvement.
  • Work in the International department to produce a market intelligence report on EU recruitment.
  • Work in the Student Services Centre to design, market and conduct a survey to assess the level of understanding students and staff have of our services, and how useful they find the support.
  • Work in conjunction with the Counselling Service and the Sports division to launch a student-facing campaign about mental health and wellbeing and promote services

Placements are allocated on business need, so you will not have complete choice over your three rotations. However, your preferences will be taken into consideration for the final placement where possible. You may be able to shadow members of staff in other departments for a short period of time if you have a particular interest in their work, but cannot be accommodated for a full placement there.

Since graduating I’ve worked in four different universities (the great thing is universities are all over the country so good if you want to move around!), in seven different roles (plenty of opportunity to try new things), which has helped me to figure out what I enjoy doing. I am now working as a Careers Consultant at The University of Manchester, but fellow trainees from my year on the scheme are now working across HE in roles such as Press and Communications Officer, International Recruitment Manager, Residential Life Coordinator and Registry Administration Officer. Although most graduates of the scheme find work in HE, others onto work in other sectors too, so you won’t be ‘stuck’ if you don’t enjoy the scheme.

If you would like to find out more about my experiences on the scheme, please feel free to contact me on LinkedIn for a chat or book an appointment in the Atrium, University Place.

Application process and top tips

Applications are open now until the 19 January 2018.

However this deadline will be reviewed in line with the volume of applications received, and may close earlier. Therefore you should complete your application as soon as possible.

Application form

  • You will be asked about what interests you about working for a university; try to dig beneath the surface of what you already know as a student. Can you speak to someone who works for a university to help your understanding of the departments and the goals of the institution?
  • Use the STAR (situation, task, actions and result) technique to answer the competency based questions.
  • Come for an applications advice appointment at the Careers Service to get your questions checked.

Strengths-focused telephone interview

  • The interview aims to find out what you really enjoy doing and where you get your energy from. Have a look on the website for some example questions
  • You will need some good real life examples to help you demonstrate your passion!
  • Come for an interview simulation with the Careers Service. You can practice in person or over the phone.

Assessment Centre

  • You will participate in some individual activities, such as a role play where you may have to resolve an issue under pressure and prioritise tasks; writing up a short report based on information provided; and a strengths-based interview. You will also participate in a group activity to see how you work in a team.
  • Do more in-depth preparation for your interview and on the university you will be working for. Gain more interview practice if necessary.
  • Don’t panic if you think you performed poorly in one of the tasks, take a deep breath and wow the assessors in your next one. They will be looking at your performance over the whole day.

2 responses to “My experiences of Ambitious Futures: A graduate scheme for university leadership”

  1. Great post Kim, and welcome to the Careers Service! Is this scheme also suitable for postgraduates, either Masters or PhDs, and have you come across anyone on Ambitious Futures who came to it from a postgrad degree?

  2. Absolutely! Anyone who has completed further study is welcome to apply as long as you graduated in the last five years. Plenty of graduates who have a masters degree do come onto the programme. Applicants will need to articulate their motivations for working in the professional services side of universities, and the skills they have gained from PG study to be successful!

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