John graduated with a Masters in Mathematics from The University of Manchester in 2005.
I work as a projects officer at the Co-operative on their graduate training programme. I secured this position after searching for graduate schemes online. I found it was important to start the application process as early as possible and started applying around October.
Although the Co-operative takes graduates with any degree, I believe doing a maths degree gave me an advantage over the other candidates going for the finance role as I had completed many financial modules during my studies. I also think by doing a core subject such as maths you have shown prospective employers that you have completed a solid degree and have expertise in the right areas.
My working day is a balance between analysing data, meeting people from various parts of the business and coming up with solutions to a variety of complex problems. Some days will involve a lot of spreadsheet work and analysing different data and coming up with new ways to interpret data. I also attend meetings with managers from across the business to discuss how my actions are going to affect their area and what they would or would not like me to do.
From these meetings I have to come up with solutions to different problems in which my objectives are met without causing any damage to other areas of the business.
My initial role involved very basic finance work but it allowed me to get to grips with the operations of the business. I then spent approximately seven months working across another couple of departments. The projects in these departments had completely different objectives so I had to adapt and learn quickly.
My first project involved a lot of data analysis and I had to produce presentations for senior management. I had to come up with different ways to approach problems and persuade senior managers that this was the best way to go about things. In my next project I have to provide financial training to non-financial managers.
My ambition is to complete a professional qualification as soon as possible, and during my last year of study I would like to have moved into a specialised area, to then become an expert over the coming years.
I enjoy the variety of problems I deal with and am glad that my job involves a lot of new challenges rather than the same repetitive processes every day.
Putting in place new ways of working can be incredibly difficult if a person has worked a particular way for a long time. Being able to persuade staff that a new system or way of working will be better in the long run can be difficult to accomplish.
The retail sector is highly competitive and ensures innovation has to be at the heart of everything you do. Standing still means everyone will overtake you, so constantly adapting and improving is the only way of staying ahead in the market.
You need a lot more than just a good degree from a decent university to get on a graduate scheme. Taking part in activities outside of your degree is really important. Try to get yourself involved in sports teams, hobby groups or committees. Part-time work will also enable you put something relevant on your CV to help you stand out.
Make use of careers fairs and visit your careers advisor. Don’t pigeon hole yourself too early - look at lots of companies and sectors and be sure to apply early.
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