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School of Business and Management

Hats Off to SBM Graduates Joining Top City Graduate Schemes

Congratulations to our BSc Business Management, BSc Accounting and Management and BSc Marketing and Management students who successfully graduated as the Class of 2018 at the School of Business and Management (SBM), Queen Mary University of London on 24 July 2018.  Graduating is not only the culmination and recognition of three or four years’ hard work; it is also the passport and passing out parade to the start of one’s career.  Here at the School of Business and Management our dedicated Careers Team: Sonia Singh, Helen Green and Iain McLoughlin actively encourage and support SBM students to start their careers before they graduate.

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Three students from SBM who kept their ‘eyes on the prize’ share their hints, tips and experiences on how they obtained a coveted place at a Top City firm’s graduate scheme in their final year:

  • Jocelyn Welsh, BSc Business Management 2018, Goldman Sachs Graduate Scheme
  • Nayem Ahmed, BSc Accounting and Management 2018, Grant Thornton Graduate Scheme
  • Marcos Ushiro-Lumb, BSc Business Management 2018, Lloyds Banking Group Graduate Scheme

Tell me about your graduate scheme?

There are a range of graduate schemes out there that give you the opportunity to work in the different functions and departments of a business.  In Nayem’s case:

“I will be studying accounting. [I was] looking for a graduate scheme training contract that pays for the ACA qualification so that after 3 years I would be qualified.  I was accepted beginning of April.” 

Jocelyn’s graduate scheme at Goldman Sachs involves 12 weeks of training, 2 weeks developing financial skills; and Goldman Sach’s culture training in New York with the entire global graduate class.  This is followed by ten weeks back in London. Overall, she will have different placements tailored to her skills, interest and personality.  As she says:

“The scheme is year-long, however because I did a placement [at Goldman Sachs] it is more like a new hire than a graduate scheme.”

Marcos will be working for Lloyds Banking Group.  He says:

“Commercial banking business has many divisions. I wanted something more client based.  Interacting with people.  Clients, expats, go abroad, merger acquisitions help with that.   I didn’t like the idea of being sat down behind a desk. On the website it said I can be at the client’s offices and that stood out for me.”

How did you hear about it?

Securing a graduate scheme can be the case of the right place at the right time.   Jocelyn found this to be the case during her time undertaking an internship at Goldman Sachs.  As Jocelyn says:

‘…I heard good things about the placement year.  A friend told me about the one at Goldman Sachs.  I asked the School if I could take a year out and then I only applied for Goldman Sachs.  Four months later I got a call saying come in for an interview and got four more interviews.  You can apply for different departments but I went for Operations Efficiency …I was in a class with 30 placement students from universities such as Bath, Durham and Bristol.  About 70% of the students will come back to the same department but not the same job [for the graduate scheme]’. 

However, often than not, finding a graduate scheme place involves focus and perseverance to help good old lady luck and serendipity come your way which Nayem found with his role at Grant Thornton:  

“Grant Thornton was the last one I applied for and I didn’t think I would get into a top ranking accounting firm.  I went for another firm, got through all stages but didn’t get it.  I did four or five assessment days and interviews before Grant Thornton.  Didn’t get those but it prepared me.  Grant Thornton is one of the best firms I applied to out of all of those.  So many things added up.  It is in London and in the top 5.”

What was the application process for your graduate scheme?

Now-a-days businesses and organisations like to conduct multi-staged recruitment processes to not only check that your knowledge and skills are right for the job but that your values and personality are also a ‘good fit’ for the organisation.

As Nayem can contest for Grant Thornton:

“It was a four to five stage application process. I was invited to an interactive test, video interview and follow up call.  I had an experience day, which involved group exercises and 1-2-1 interview.  It was a fast process.”

Marcos didn’t do an internship with Lloyds.  However as he relays:

“I applied directly through their website.  The [application] process involved:

  • CV
  • Aptitude test, next round
  • First round of interviews had to record it and deal with situations [work scenarios]
  • Live video interview to see how you fit with their values
  • Assessment centre and final 1-2-1 interview for an hour and the activities worked to see how you would react in certain situations and scenarios.”

How did the School and University’s Careers Service help you?

With so many different facets and layers to a graduate scheme application and interview process it is advisable to get help and support if you are a novice in such situations; or you do not know anyone who has done it before and can therefore mentor and guide you through it.   Jocelyn attended one of Sonya Singh’s CV workshops. Goldman Sachs commended her for her outstanding application. 

As Jocelyn explained:

“Sonya’s workshop in the first year helped set up my CV.  The cover letter – should be split in 3’s i.e. Why Goldman Sachs? Why the Job?  Why You?  I up-played my experience like gap year, fact I have always worked and treasurer of a society.  The best thing I did was look at the job specification and wrote down the qualities wanted and company values and everything on my CV I assigned to these tags:  Team Work, Problem Solving and Ethical.  I got good feedback.”

Marcos also used the Career Service:

“…I asked about assessment centres. I did one and got rejected and got advice.  It was helpful because it gave me more practice.”


What are your career aspirations?

Graduate schemes are a great way to get to know a company and get hands on experience in different roles and departments.  Therefore, not having a clear career goal at this stage does not matter just as long as you have a clear passionate commitment and interest in the company and role that you have applied for.  However, if you have a definite job in mind look and apply for the graduate scheme that can help you get there like Nayem:

“It is an audit role.  It is what I wanted to do, become a Chartered Accountant.  What I like about these organisations is the structure of the programme and a ladder to move up the organisation.  Do it for three years, get certified and move up and progress there.”

…and Marcos:

“The graduate scheme is two years long and you can gain a qualification.  At the end of it I can become a Chartered Banker, have Six Sigma qualification or another one.”

In hindsight, what advice would you give yourself and others in securing a place on a graduate scheme?

Securing a place on graduate scheme is not just about the programme you are studying.  Companies want to see well-rounded individuals who are utilising and developing skills in and outside of the classroom. Whether it is a part-time job, voluntary work, running a society or participating in sports, drama and art clubs everything counts.  These activities and more are teaching you e.g. leadership, communication, teamwork, influencing and creativity skills that are prized by employers.  As Nayem himself knows:

“Get experience in everything and anything and do voluntary and part-time work…Anything so you have something to talk about at interviews.  Pick up general life skills.  University gives you the opportunity to learn, to do presentations and speak in front of people.  Skills that can help with group exercises in front of people.  Skills that can help with assessment centres.  Make the most of university and do extra-curricular stuff.  If you have a part-time role it will really help give you a taste of work and working with people at different stages or older, then you don’t underestimate the world of work.”

As for the actual process, Marcos’s advice is:

“Apply early.  It does help massively.  I lived with four boys in my house and they applied too late and have not got a graduate scheme…[and] if you get disheartened when you get rejected keep going…[also] If you get to live interview stage or an assessment centre be yourself and in my case that is what came through.”

Final bits of advice

As Marcos sums up:

“Enjoy the time you have and the time you have at university and enjoy meeting new people from different walks of life and set your sights on what you want to achieve and persevere.”

Nayem reiterates and expands on this:

“I believe it is important to fulfil your potential.  I am glad I came to university even though I went to work after secondary school.  A degree gives you something to fall back on and it is a relaxed way of getting general life experience that everyone needs.”

…and as Jocelyn relates back to the graduate scheme process:

“Get involved and do lots of things [at university] this gives you lots to talk about [at the interview] and makes you interesting and different.