Josephine studied Economics and Politics BSc (2014) and currently works for HSBC as a Graduate Recruiter (emerging talent) because she loves the academic community and working in the corporate world, which gives her the best of both worlds.
What does working as a Graduate Recruiter (emerging talent) at HSBC look like on a day-to-day basis? What made you choose your current role?
My work is different depending on the month, and reflects the academic year, so it looks like a bit like a student’s! September is the start and that’s when I work on attraction for graduates and students. When you see recruiters at careers fairs, working with societies, or giving lectures on campus, that’s all part of attraction. We’re there to talk to students about the organisation, answer any questions they have, and generally there to support students with considering their next steps.
Just before Christmas, we move into selection, so that would be interviews, online assessments, assessment centres and everything else that makes up the assessment process. I usually run and host assessment centres, which means that I’m coordinating the day, and am there to support applicants and assessors. If needed I’ll also assess students in some of the exercises as well, so it can be quite full on. After that, I’m calling students with feedback and making offers.
Late Winter to early Spring is onboarding, which is the period from when applicants accept an offer to when they start work with the company. In this period, we do background checks, reference checks, make sure they have email addresses, laptops etc. Then Summer is the planning stage, when we speak to students and universities and plan activity. I have a particular focus on diversity and inclusion during this period, to make sure students from all backgrounds have access to opportunities, which includes knowing about the opportunities, what to expect, how to prepare for interviews and so on. There are also events with other companies, and I sit on panels and talk about different aspects of the scheme process and organisation.
Why I chose the role is going to sound cheesy, but I love the academic world as well as the corporate world, and this job gives me the best of both, working with universities and students, but also with a big company. I really like how varied it is, everything changes so much month on month, so I am always doing new things and don’t get bored. At some times of year I can have 10-25 events a week, and I enjoy the busy, fast-paced, exciting nature of that.
Can you tell me about a key turning point in your career?
I started with experienced recruitment and then moved to graduate recruitment. The difference these opportunities make to students is massive. Seeing interns coming in the summer, nervous and scared, not knowing what to expect, and how much they grow during the time they’re with us is also amazing to see. Seeing this was what made me confident I was in the right job.
How did your time studying Economics and Politics at Queen Mary equip you for life after university?
I think the main way was by providing me with a great experience of independent learning. When you’re in work, no one is spoon feeding you anything or making you study, so having to be proactive with coursework and exams (which no one tells you how to do) really helped me build that skill. Now that I’m working, I need to be proactive in taking on new projects, and I learnt how to do that at Queen Mary. When you go to university, you also have to learn to manage your personal life with study, which you also have to do later with work.
Thinking about my degree specifically, it’s really helpful to be able to understand the industry language, concepts and terminology. Whilst I’m not in a Finance role, I’m recruiting people who will be, so it’s really useful to know what people are talking about.
Why did you choose your degree subject? Why did you choose Queen Mary?
When I chose my A Levels, I did Economics and I loved it. I didn’t have the option to study Politics, but it was something I always liked so when I saw that Queen Mary offered combined Economics and Politics, it seemed like the perfect option.
I chose Queen Mary because unlike a lot of London universities, it has a campus which was something I was keen to experience. I’d also heard from others who had studied there that the teaching was of a really high quality, so it seemed like a great fit.
What’s a piece of advice which changed your perspective?
I’ve had loads but I think the advice to be proactive about doing things was a important one. I’ve been lucky not to have managers who micromanaged me, so I’ve had the space to do that too. When I finished university, it was weird because I didn’t know what to expect, but being supported by managers to take the lead in my own career and development helped. So now, I know how to decide what I want to do, what I want to develop, and to work towards those things. When I started my current role, I was able to sit down with my manager and discuss what I wanted to develop including things like developing my confidence in speaking up. She then helped me find opportunities to develop these - I even spoke in front of 500 people! This approach has led to me being able to structure projects and also personal development the way that I need to.
What advice would you give a current student or recent graduate considering their career options?
Develop your personal brand – I think as a student or recent graduate, you have to think about what will make you stand out. You aren’t expected to have experience, so think about what your strengths are, what makes you stand out, and the impression you leave on interviewers/assessors. Developing your soft skills will always be priceless, not only in your job search but also in your career development. Understanding yourself better is a vital first step – identify your strengths, areas of development and most importantly your values. It is true that people work for people not companies, so you need to work somewhere that matches your values otherwise you just won’t be happy. Knowing your strengths, weaknesses, and areas of development, and being able to talk about those and demonstrate those, will also stand you in good stead.
What was the most memorable thing about your time at Queen Mary?
As much as I enjoyed my studies at Queen Mary, the most memorable part about my time at university was the people I met. I made friends with people from all over the world, and this allowed me to learn more about different cultures and perspectives. I’m still friends with many of the people I met at Queen Mary to this date.
Do you have any role models that you look up to, in or out of your field?
It’s hard to narrow down my answer to one role model. I’d definitely say that people I have worked with and currently work with influence me and also contribute massively in gaining more knowledge as well as improving my performance at work. I find that during my career, the more I expanded my network within companies where I worked, the more I benefited both on a professional and personal level. I gained more knowledge and expertise in my field from senior colleagues and business stakeholders. Working in a team has not only ensured the standard of our projects is ever-improving, but it also makes working so much more fun! I find myself identifying tricks and traits from colleagues that allow me to perform my job better, which is a major factor in my development.