Careers Service

John (Liyu) Zhang: International Employability Intern

  • Degree: B.Sc. (Hons) in Actuarial Science and Mathematics (Expected graduation 2015)
  • Home country: China
  • My role: International Student Employability Intern, Careers Service, The University of Manchester

My story

The internship at the Careers Service was my first job.

I started applying for internship opportunities following a job fair held at Alan Turing building, where I talked with some employers. The first company I tried was called Barnett Waddingham, and after my application they never replied back to me. I also tried Towers Watson after their presentation at our school, but they just declined me at the first stage (online application). Then I attended another graduate job fair at Manchester Central and talked with employers and applied for companies. Afterwards I tried KPMG, HSBC, Mercer and many other famous companies, banking, consulting and financial.

I guess it would be a similar experience for everyone who started their career: attend a fair, apply for your ideal opportunities, and then get rejections at the first or the second stage. I used to search job vacancies at least once a week on CareersLink, anything related to maths, finance and accountancy. I applied for many vacancies and faced different kinds of failure: my CV not good, telephone interview not good, online test not good, or face-2-face interview not good. I felt upset and disappointed, it had been a tough time. My father said if I requested, he could help arrange some opportunities for me, but that’s not what I wanted. I came to this country in the hope to study knowledge and experience English culture, on my own. Luckily, after many disappointments, I grabbed my chance at the Careers Service and worked for Amanda Conway – my line manager, but more like my mentor of how to adapt to the environment.

Accessing careers advice

As I always failed during the first stage, I wondered if my CV wasn't good enough, so I had the opportunity to meet up with Karen Butterworth from Careers Service and improve my CV by adding more relevant evidence and details.

Also, as I have been working for Careers Service, I found there’s so much this award-winning department can help students with their employability, like CV advice, Manchester Gold Mentoring, mock psychometric tests and so on. All you need to do is be brave and proactive, make the most of what’s on offer instead of complaining that there’s no chance for you.

Previous work experience

I didn’t have any work experience before the internship, so this job was not only my first job in the UK but also the first in my life. Nevertheless, I guess my other experience did help me be more open-minded and communicative. As I always travel to different places and stay at local hostels with people from different countries and regions, I practiced my English and became brave to communicate with people, even though sometimes we don’t understand each other.

Suggestions for other students

Never overestimate yourself, or underestimate others.

I used to be very proud of myself as I always seem to do a better job in my maths courses than my friends and they always turn to me for help with academic work and ask me to explain my solutions of homework questions. As a result, in one period I always thought I was better than my friends. This proved to be totally wrong when I heard that one of my friends got the internship opportunity at PwC, a company from which I got rejected at the first stage. I came to realise that there are many competencies in the world that can help an individual stand out, the fact that I’m better at maths doesn’t mean that I’m in all aspects a better person than others. Keep humble and keep learning from others is what I learnt from this experience.

Secondly, it’s always easier said than done.

I have many friends who promise from the beginning to the end of the day that they would study hard to get high scores and they would try hard to find an internship. But in fact they just think they will and they just say they can. My suggestion would be: be honest to yourself, know your limits and once you make a promise to yourself, try your best to keep your promise. You can lie to other people, you can lie to your parents, but at the end of the day, you have to face your heart. People always say don’t lose your faith, don’t lose your confidence. Your faith won’t leave you if you can make all the promises kept, your confidence will come to you if you try your very best and stay honest to yourself.

All you need to do is be brave and proactive and make the most of what’s on offer!John Zhang, Graduation 2015 (expected)