I keep hearing about this York Award, but what is it?

York Award. You probably feel like you’re seeing or hearing about this every way you turn. It’s true, but there’s a good reason why we bang on about it so much!

Most students from their first year at University do lots of things besides their academic studies and these can be useful opportunities to develop skills which employers value.  It’s these activities that can be used in a York Award application from.

Why bother?

  • The York Award is an official University award
  • It shows you’re a proactive individual, who’s up for a challenge
  • You could win a place on the new York Futures scheme’s personal development day
  • There’s a chance to apply for an Achieving Excellence Bursary of £2,100
  • Employers are interested in the York Award and what it says about you
  • You can help your college win the  York Award Trophy for the college with the most applicants

The simple application form asks you to give personal evidence of the following skills and qualities.

  • Self-managements
  • Team working
  • Communication
  • Contributing to the university community
  • Employer engagement
  • Problem solving

In the second part of the form you can choose two additional skills to demonstrate from your experience. These are:

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Guest blog: How to kick-start a career in project management

Guest blog written by Simon Buehring, founder and CEO of Knowledge Train

Project management takes place in every sector and industry. Projects make change, positivity and growth happen.

Because of the essential nature of projects, project managers will always be in demand. And because every industry employs them, this makes a career in project management open to all graduates.

Read on to discover more about the career and how you can enter the field.

What does a project manager do?

Project managers are responsible for the daily running of projects. They are strong leaders, driven to get results and able to communicate effectively with a diverse range of people. They have an eye for spotting risks and solving problems.

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Do you know what you’re doing this summer?

Okay, so ideally you’d like to have a holiday at some point in the summer vacation and rightly so. What with a full academic year of assignments, essays, tutorials, lectures and exams – you’ve earned the break.

However, with 13 weeks of vacation, it’s also an ideal time to get some work experience in whatever shape that comes. Work experience can give you:

  • An insight into a particular type of work or sector
  • Extra cash (yes, lots of internships and summer jobs are paid)
  • Skills and experience to add to your CV and to use in future applications.

Lots of graduate recruiters offer summer internships of anything up to 3 months and these, more formal, structured schemes, are important in gaining experience and understanding of a large company. Some employers also use them as way of recruiting to their graduate programmes, so that’s why you’ll hear a lot about this type of work experience.

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GUEST BLOG: Teaching English as a foreign language

Guest blog written by Evonne Young, Web Education.

Keep your options open, think outside the box and try another way of exploring the other part of the world.

Asia is the oldest continent and China is one the oldest countries in the world. With 5,000 years of history, Chinese culture is never the same with other parts of the world and heavily influences many of the other Asian countries. It is one of the must visit countries and it is definitely one of the safest countries if working/living overseas ever comes across your mind. However, English does not work that well in China, which becomes one of the major concerns that stop western people from exploring.

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GUEST BLOG: 6 ways to develop commercial awareness at university

 Guest blog written by Liz Bland, Careers Consultant at Aston University and was originally published in MyPlus Students’ Club. Read the careers blog for more advice about applications and disability.

Are you commercially aware? Many employers include commercial awareness as a key requirement when advertising their graduate vacancies. In fact, the Association of Graduate Recruiters reported in the AGR 2016 Development Survey that nearly 80% of their members were seeking this employability skill. But what does it mean and how can you develop commercial awareness while you’re at university?

Commercial awareness defined

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines commercial awareness as, “knowledge of how businesses make money, what customers want, and what problems there are in particular areas of business”.

People who are commercially aware can look at situations from a business perspective and appreciate concepts such as profit, income generation and cost reduction. On a broader scale, they also have an awareness of the job they are applying for and the wider sector within which the company operates, key competitors and current market trends.

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GUEST BLOG: York Award for 1st years

 Guest blog written by Jessica Chatburn, Second Year Archaeology & Heritage student

University is so much than going to classes and getting a degree. It is about developing who you are as a person, experiencing new things, and challenging yourself beyond that of your degree. Not only will you have tonnes of fun doing extra things like joining a society or evening running one, but it will look great on your CV’s to employers and you can even earn an award for it!

The York Award is a great opportunity for you to reflect on your university experience and get recognition for your hard work which is a super self-proud moment. My experience of applying and filling out the York award applications was definitely positive. The form is easy and simple to fill out and doesn’t take up a lot of time. The ability to save and edit the form any time before the deadline was handy as it allows you to complete it in stages and even edit and improve the form if things pop into mind or you gain a better skill example.

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GUEST BLOG: Self-employment straight out of university

Guest blog been written by Andrew Trodden, Marketing Executive at Churchill Knight & Associates Ltd – specialist contractor accountants

The idea of becoming self-employed straight out of university may sound frightening and unrealistic. However, more and more graduates are choosing to become their own boss as soon as they complete their studies. Starting a solo professional career will involve a lot of willpower and determination but the rewards can be substantial.

The number of self-employed workers continues to rise

The number of self-employed workers in the United Kingdom (UK) is on the rise and has been for a number of years. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) confirmed that in November 2016, there were over 4.77 million self-employed personnel in the UK, making up 15% of the entire workforce. Since 2008, the number of self-employed has increased over 23%.

Graduates are increasingly being drawn towards freelancing and the gig economy

A recent study by Elance has found that 87% of graduates with a first or second class degree believe that freelancing and working in the gig economy is “a highly attractive and lucrative career option” (Elance, 2013). Furthermore, 29% of students have already decided that within 5 years of graduating from university they plan to be working as a freelancer. Based on these figures, it is possible that over 4,750 students at York University are already planning a self-employed career in the near future.

Advantages of being your own boss

There is a host of benefits available to those who are their own boss. Below is a list of the main reasons people decide to become self-employed.

  • You can choose the contracts that suit you and decline the ones that don’t. As a result, work should never be boring.
  • You are able to be flexible by negotiating the terms of a contract. For example, you might want to work 4 days a week or decide to finish at 4:00 pm every day. This can make planning your holidays easier than if you were in full-time employment.
  • You can earn more money. You are in charge of the rates you set and the opportunity to make an excellent living is realistic.
  • You will have the opportunity to learn from a variety of clients. Whether you work from home or at external locations, you will meet a variety of knowledgeable clients, as well as carry out new and exciting tasks to develop your skill set.
  • You will avoid the typical office politics that full-time employees regularly complain about. As a self-employed worker, if you don’t get on with one of your clients then you can choose not to work with them again.
  • You will be responsible for running your own business, building a brand and developing your place within the market. Whilst this will involve a lot of hard work, it will be exceptionally rewarding.
  • You are not committing to being self-employed forever. If you decide that contracting just isn’t for you then there is no need to worry – you can look for a full-time position.

How will you get paid?

Self-employed workers tend to work through an umbrella company or set up a limited company. If you work through an umbrella company, you will be paid as if you were in full-time employment and the umbrella company will make the appropriate tax and National Insurance Contribution payments to HM Revenue and Customs. Using an umbrella company will remove the complicated administration involved in being self-employed and starting your own company, but it is not the most tax efficient way to operate.

The most tax efficient way to operate as a self-employed worker is to set up a limited company. This is also considered the most professional way to present yourself in front of clients. A limited company can theoretically involve a lot of paperwork and ongoing administration. However, you can choose a specialist contractor accountant to take care of this for you.

What to look for from a contractor accountant

If you choose to use a contractor accountant, you will want to select one that takes care of all the important things involved in running a limited company. The following checklist should help answer some of your questions when looking for an accountant:

  • Are they specialists in the contractor and freelancer sector?
  • Do they charge a setup cost or close down fee?
  • Is there a tie-in period?
  • Do they offer a fixed fee that is based on your requirements?
  • What kind of administrative support do they provide?
  • Are you paying to use the accountant’s software package or will you receive a full package support from real people?
  • Do they have an online portal?
  • Do they offer any additional services, for example completing your personal tax return?
  • Do they operate in full compliance with HM Revenue & Customs legislation?

Finding your first project as a self-employed worker

Finding your first contract might seem a daunting task. Firstly, make sure you have an up-to-date CV and you are ready to hand it out to the appropriate organisations. Refresh your LinkedIn profile at the same time and start connecting with recruitment agencies and people of interest. There are many recruitment agencies specialising in roles for contractors. Having a browse online is a great place to start. If you notice a local networking event, make sure you go along.

Knowledge is the key to success and a great way to find out more about contract roles in your chosen field is to ask around. Are any of your friends or family self-employed, or work in the recruitment industry? Have you considered touching base with your university careers department?

Whatever you decide, don’t rush in to anything until you have had a thorough review of the options available to you. There is a lot of support available for students, both undergraduate and postgraduate. Please do not hesitate to ask for guidance.

Best of luck!