How to Impress Employers & Get Placements

How to Impress
Employers & Get
Booklets produced by
Careers & Employability
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06/06/2013 15:00
1. INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................................................. 2
2. WHAT DO EMPLOYERS WANT FROM YOU? ...................................................................................... 2
2.1 EMPLOYABILITY SKILLS..................................................................................................................... 2
2.2 KNOWLEDGE ..................................................................................................................................... 4
2.2.1 COMMERCIAL AWARENESS .......................................................................................................... 6
2.2.2 SELF PROMOTION – MAKING AN IMPACT ................................................................................... 7
2.2.3 ONLINE PROMOTION .................................................................................................................... 8
2.2.4 PERSONAL TRAITS REQUIRED FOR CAREER SUCCESS .................................................................. 9
3. EXPERIENCE ...................................................................................................................................... 12
4. REFLECTION ...................................................................................................................................... 19
5. WHAT TO DO NEXT? ......................................................................................................................... 22
APPENDIX 1: EMPLOYABILITY SKILLS AUDIT ...................................................................................... 23
APPENDIX 2: GENERIC EMPLOYABILITY SKILLS FRAMEWORK ........................................................... 24
APPENDIX 3: STAR – HOW TO PRESENT INFORMATION..................................................................... 26
APPENDIX 4: TIPS ON SOCIAL MEDIA USAGE ...................................................................................... 27
APPENDIX 5: SOURCES OF WORK EXPERIENCE ................................................................................... 28
This booklet has been produced for students who would like to learn about the skills,
traits and attributes that employers are looking for in newly qualified graduates. In
particular, it will demonstrate the importance of gaining work experience and help
you to become familiar with ways you can find it.
It is essential that you leave university equipped with a good degree coupled
with work experience and skills that can be utilised effectively in the
The number of graduates entering the job market each year keeps increasing. At
Cardiff University we have around 6000 individuals graduating each year. What does
this mean for you? High competition for jobs - try multiplying 6000 by the number of
Universities across the UK. You need to learn the key ways you can differentiate
yourself – how you can stand out from the crowd.
‘More than a quarter of organisations have reduced their spending on
recruitment this year ... over a third of this year’s entry level positions will be
filled by graduates who have already worked for their organisation’
Graduate Market in 2013, High Fliers Research.
Employers look for a variety of different criteria when recruiting graduates into their
organisations. An easy way to think about this is breaking it into the following areas:
Employability skills
By balancing your expertise across all these areas you can ensure that you give
yourself the best chance possible of securing the work that you dream of.
When we talk about ‘employability skills’ we are talking about the skills that
employers are looking for in their new recruits. They will question you, and assess
you, on these skills. You need to be able to provide evidence of these skills to
impress them and be successful in securing work. These are the skills you will gain
by completing work experience, placements and internships, as well as other
activities, that give you experience in the work place.
The ‘employability skills’ provided below are generally considered as the most
important by employers – you need to focus on gaining, or further developing, these
skills as well as being able to talk about them.
Self Management – Readiness to accept responsibility, flexibility, resilience,
self starting, appropriate assertiveness, time management, readiness to
improve own performance-based on feedback/reflective learning.
Team working – Respecting others, co-operating, negotiating/persuading,
contributing to discussions and awareness of interdependence with others.
Business and Customer Awareness – Basic understanding of the key
drivers for business success – including the importance of innovation and
taking calculated risks – and the need to provide customer satisfaction and
build customer loyalty.
Problem Solving – Analysing facts and situations and applying creative
thinking to develop appropriate solutions.
Communication and Literacy – Application of literacy, ability to produce
clear, structured written work and oral literacy – including listening and
Application of Numeracy – Manipulation of numbers, general mathematical
awareness and its application in practical contexts (e.g. measuring, weighing,
estimating and applying formulae).
Application of Information Technology – Basic IT skills, including familiarity
with word processing, spread sheets, file management and use of internet
search engines.
This booklet will get you started on both of these. This list is not exhaustive so we
recommend checking information on Career Central:
You will find that there is a mismatch between the skills employers believe
graduates have and what the graduates think they have.
Employers believe graduates have:
Graduates believe they have:
Information Technology
Team working
Self management
Team working
Self Management
Business / Commercial Awareness
Business / Commercial awareness
As you will see in the table above, the only skills match accuracy as perceived by
these groups are highlighted in bold.
It is important for graduates to be aware of their weaknesses as perceived by
employers. Your applications will be success if you can address what employers
want and make sure you back it up with skills based evidence.
The Employability Skills Audit in Appendix 1 and 2 will help you recognise your
skills and develop them.
Your university course will provide you with knowledge around particular subject
areas e.g. medicine, engineering, social science and many other specialist domains.
Your degree is a foundation stone upon which you will build your career. For some
jobs specialist knowledge is essential, whereas, for other jobs the skills and aptitude
for learning are more important.
Many employers want to see a combination of degree success coupled with the
knowledge, skills and experience necessary to be a success in the workplace.
28% of employers stated that they required a particular degree subject as
selection criteria
48% sought evidence of particular employability skills
AGR Summer Survey 2013
Academic achievement on its own is no longer going to give you the competitive
advantage needed for successful job hunting. You will need to find a way to
differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd.
Knowledge is a key aspect of this - it is essential that you build up other areas of
knowledge alongside your degree. For instance, you will need to gain knowledge
about the following areas to impress organisations (regardless of sector).
Research what careers are suitable for you in terms of degree but also in terms of
interest (not everyone goes into roles related to their degrees!).
Think about: What skills will you be using? What are the routes to achieve the
career goal? What additional skills do you need? What does the job entail? Where
do the jobs tend to be related? Deadlines for application?
It is these types of questions that will help you pinpoint exactly how you can achieve
the careers aspirations you have. To help you, check both our Careers and
Employability Centre, Career Central and (Occupational
Company / Industry:
Research what companies will be of particular interest to you and research the
sector generally. Dig deep for information so that you are as informed as possible.
Think about: Company aim? Size? Product? Service? Reputation? Competitors?
Location? Ethos? Culture? What is happening with them in the news? What’s going
on there right now?
To help you, you can use companies like ratemyplacment, you can direct search on
google for companies or use company directories, and you can start to follow
blogs and other social media strands to pick up who are the movers and shakers in
the industry. Try Companies House for information and try to download company
reports, portfolios and sign up to newsletters and other forms of electronic
Wider context:
There are bigger factors that affect all organisations regardless of size, sector,
product or service.
Think about: Use the PESTLE technique to break down analysis of companies and
sectors into manageable chunks. What is the impact of the following areas on the
company or industry? Political? Economic? Sociological? Technological? Legal?
These factors will shape the business and work environment – you need to know
their effect.
Think about: Use a SWOT analysis when thinking about the above factors.
This stands for Strengths – Weaknesses - Opportunities - Threats.
Under each heading you can think of all the potential possibilities. It is a technique
used to really get to the heart of what is going on in a certain circumstance at a set
‘Commercial Awareness is a primary skill that graduates have in short supply’
Association of Graduate Recruiters
Employers and Graduates recognise ‘Commercial Awareness’ as an area lacking
focus in new graduates. According to the Cambridge Dictionary it is defined as ‘...the
knowledge of how businesses make money, what customers want and what
problems there are in particular areas of business’.
As you will see, by following the guidance above, you are already on the way to
being commercially aware – companies will really appreciate this! However, it
doesn’t end here; there is a range of other ways to develop your commercial
awareness further. You can:
Read newspapers, journals and specialist magazines
Watch relevant TV programmes (not just the standard news). Why not try the
BBC news channel given its breath of interesting and informative content?
Listen to radio shows – you can multitask. Try podcasts too!
Select relevant RSS feeds – get live feeds of up to date information
Join a relevant institution / association – this can provide specialist
publications and, even better, it is a chance for you to network with others in
the industry
Think about what you can do outside of university life that can add value to
your career prospects. For example, are there committees you can join? Are
there specialist societies related to your chosen career? Get involved in some
To get more information on Commercial Awareness you can use:
- Career Central (
- Student Development Service
- Enterprise Team (
Careers and Employability put on a range of events during the year, including
Commercial Awareness workshops, and some of our schools run their own events.
There are many ways for you to get practical hands on experience of activities to
build your skills – find out what is happening as soon as possible.
One of the best ways you can help your career is being able to talk eloquently about
your experiences, your skills and what traits you have that will make you an excellent
In the information below you will find a range of tips and advice that you will help you
make a difference when talking to others. The best thing you can do is practice.
Hopefully reading the text below will give you more confidence in getting out there
and promoting your best features. We want to help you build the resilience you need
to get the career you want and we want you to be able to use a range of tools that
will increase your presence online.
Communicating with others effectively
There are many situations you will encounter during your professional, and personal,
life where you will have to communicate effectively. It is difficult to master the ability
of being concise while covering all the information necessary. If you are describing a
particular skill, or experience, we suggest using the STAR technique to funnel
information either verbally or in a written format (see APPENDIX 3). Essentially by
following this format you will find it a lot easier to accurately describe your
experiences and provide a logical structure for those listening or reading.
Another of the skills you have to master, and one that is quite often overlooked, is
actually listening effectively – this can have a massive impact on improving your
communication skills. This will allow you to build a two way relationship where you
can build rapport with another person. By listening effectively opportunities will
present themselves where you can demonstrate how you can make a difference to
that person’s private or professional life. We have two ears and one mouth – this is
the ratio in which they should be used to be a really good communicator.
Modern technology over the last 10 - 20 years has changed the landscape of how
business is conducted and how we interact generally. Now a high number of people
have smart phones, it’s possible to be online constantly and there are many
opportunities to record our thoughts, and monitor our lives, online. Managing, and
effectively promoting, a professional brand online is another way you can really
differentiate yourself from those around you. However, beware; this differentiation
can be both good and bad. Make sure you get it right!
LinkedIn – this is a professional networking site which can be a powerful tool to
connect with others in the business world. You can introduce yourself to new
contacts, connect with existing contacts and use it as an organic CV. You will be
able to get references from people, manage a large network of contacts and identify
how those relationships overlap.
If you do not have a LinkedIn profile already then you should create one. It’s free!
You are putting yourself at a disadvantage if you do not have one as many students
and graduates are already reaping the benefits. Remember though your profile
needs to be realistic, constantly updated and managed effectively. It will work for you
if you put the time and effort in.
Facebook – this is one of the most popular ways for students and graduates to
connect with peers and with companies. It is a constant source of live information.
You can gather information directly from your contacts or pick up details through
various promotional pages, groups and message boards. This can be an effective
tool but generally it is viewed as less professional than LinkedIn.
Remember: if you are posting personal comments, pictures and other material you
have to be clear about a strategy to manage your online presence. During the
recruitment process employers will quite often view Facebook pages to get a feel for
what the person is like – make sure your security settings on facebook are correctly
adjusted to avoid unwanted attention (if this is necessary). Once something is in the
public domain it is very hard to retain control – it is even harder to maintain control
over pictures or comments posted by others.
Twitter – this is an increasingly popular tool perfect for short, sharp bursts of
communication. Your messages are limited to a small amount of characters (160)
but that means people interact a lot quicker and more dynamically. Lots of
businesses have been built solely through effective twitter usage.
Just as the advice states above, you need to be careful what you say, who you say it
too and how you promote yourself. This can be a particularly useful tool for you to
build up a following in an industry but can be deadly to your career if used carelessly.
Blogs – a blog is a public space where people get to write freely about their
thoughts, feelings, actions, in a central place that others can view online. Some
blogs are particularly informative, useful and loved by the business world. Others are
not so informative or interesting. Quality of content can vary widely on blogs.
Be careful on how much trust you put in what you read and be careful with what you
write. Managing your online presence is just as important here as it is elsewhere. If
you are going to write a blog then write regular updates. This will help you maintain,
and increase, your audience. Marketing, PR, Journalism and other related disciplines
lend themselves particularly well to blog writing – it provides you with a way to
demonstrate your writing skills to potential employers. Often employers will ask for
evidence of your writing. If you are not involved in these activities your career may
well not flourish as well as you would like it too.
Job sites and company websites – there are a number of ways you can set up
profiles online that will allow others to search for, and find, your personal information,
career history and aspirations. Some companies allow you to register your details
on their company website. This allows them to search proactively for suitable people
that might make good employees when a suitable vacancy occurs. Additionally, you
should register your details with many of the big job sites (e.g. Monster, Total jobs,
etc.). You will be able to set up an online CV for perusal by others and you can also
receive job alerts on vacancies directly relevant to you.
Social media can be a useful tool for self promotion; however, it can affect the
reputation of both you and your employer. Be mindful of your online presence and
manage it appropriately. While you may not be uploading anything harmful, your
friends may not know better!
For tips on managing social media in the workplace see APPENDIX 4.
There are key personality traits that you will need to develop as a person to truly be
successful in your career. Two of the key areas where we see a number of students
fall short is in their ability to feel confident about themselves, their ability and what
they can achieve. Also, another area where students could generally improve is their
ability to stay resilient during tough times i.e. the coping mechanisms needed to
remain positive and upbeat after a number of failed job applications or being
unsuccessful at interview for a job they crave.
You will find many ways listed on the internet regarding how you can build both of
these, additionally, you can seek advice from Cardiff University’s Counselling
Service (, particularly about building self
esteem, and the Student Development Service offers courses that can help build
some of these key traits for your future success – look at this webpage for more
information (
Discussing your career options, and how you can build these traits, with one of our
careers consultants often proves invaluable for students and graduates.
According to ( top tips to build resilience include:
Build positive belief in what you can do. Through building your self esteem
you are better able to manage stress and cope with difficult circumstances.
Have purpose in life – get involved in activities or groups that are meaningful
Develop a strong social network – through having people in your life that
you can trust, and confide in, you are better equipped to deal with life’s
Embracing change – by becoming more flexible you can see change as an
opportunity rather than a barrier
Being optimistic – embrace positive thinking and be hopeful that you can
help shape a positive and brighter future regardless of the circumstances.
Do not neglect yourself – make sure you find time for activities you enjoy,
whatever the situation, and try to remain well rested as well as getting
involved in exercise.
Create goals – break down difficult situations or problems into manageable
steps and set small achievable goals to work your way through a situation.
Being overwhelmed can be a barrier to action – this technique should help.
Take action to solve problems – rather than waiting for a problem to resolve
itself (often it won’t!) take action to resolve it. By taking more control you
reduce the stress levels and will resolve the issue quicker.
Keeping working on your resilience – just like any skill this can be built with
patience and persistence. Keep practising and your resilience to cope with life
will build.
There are proactive methods you can take as an individual to improve the way you
think about yourself and the way you see the world. Just like you can go to the gym
to exercise your body there are ways to exercise your mind as well. You can make it
more flexible, more resilient and you can have more belief in what you can achieve.
The common factor here is that you have to find the motivation and energy to find
out how to develop, create a plan of activity and action that plan.
Creating the right impression
The impression you create within others will be a key aspect of what will make or
break your career. Building rapport, obeying social norms and creating a long lasting
positive impression will go a long way to ensuring that the other person remembers
you for all the right reasons.
Business etiquette is about building relationships with people. If you feel
comfortable around someone and vice versa, better communication and mutual trust
will develop. Business etiquette varies from region to region and country to country.
However, there are key pillars upon which good business etiquette is built.
Behaviour - manners and attitude speak volumes about you. If you come
across as selfish, undisciplined or discourteous your relationship is unlikely to
prosper. Appropriate business etiquette promotes positive traits.
Honesty - a reputation is slowly gained but quickly lost. Any placement is an
opportunity to grow your reputation. Understanding business etiquette
provides a framework in which you can work without fear of crossing
boundaries in terms of agreements, promises and contracts.
Character - Your character refers to what you as an individual bring to the
business table. Proper business etiquette allows you to exhibit your positive
qualities e.g. knowing when to be passionate and not emotional or selfconfident without being arrogant.
Sensitivity - sensitivity and consideration underlie all good business
etiquette. By avoiding misunderstandings / misinterpretations you lay
foundations for a strong business relationship.
Diplomacy - avoiding thoughtless words and actions protects you from
negative consequences. Business etiquette encourages careful thought of the
interests of others and choosing acceptable forms of expression.
Appearance - dressing appropriately, standing and sitting in the right place at
the right time, good posture and looking physically presentable are all
elements in making a good impression. Business etiquette teaches you how
to suitably present yourself and what to avoid.
Analysing, understanding and implementing the above will help you recognise what
business etiquette is and how it should be employed within the business world.
If you adopt an enthusiastic, professional and determined approach to any work that
you undertake then you will already be making great strides towards creating the
right impression on others.
… in a highly competitive graduate job market, new graduates who have not
had any work experience at all during their time at university have little hope of
landing a well paid job with a leading employer irrespective of the academic
results they achieve or the university they attended.’
Martin Birchall, Managing Director of High Fliers Research, 2012
According to the AGR Summer Survey 2013 the average number of applications per
graduate job, with leading graduate recruiters, was 85! This means you have 84
people to compete with!
Although there are many different types of work experience, structured placements
and internships are a particularly popular way of gaining career skills.
They tend to:
Focus on one career area (this varies greatly depending on the placement).
Occur in a set time frame (either 12 months or between 6-12 weeks over the
Be generally project-based.
Be open to penultimate year students only (there are some exceptions but these
are few and far between).
Occur in organisations of all sizes, generally the bigger the company the more
structured the training plan.
Be paid fairly well (again this can depend on company size and varies dependent
on location), a recent survey carried out by the Association of Graduate
Recruiters (2013) found that 80% of employers offer salaries of more than £250
per week to interns.
Be very competitive, with lots of students applying for a few roles. It is therefore
essential that your application hits the mark.
Other benefits include:
The structured element means the learning will be much greater than that of
shorter term placements.
As they tend to be more career related you can find out if this is the right choice
for you.
You can gain an insight into the organisation you wish to work in after graduation.
You will gain and develop ‘soft’ skills required by employers; these include self
management, teamwork, business and customer awareness, problem solving,
communication and application of information technology.
More than half of recruiters want graduates who have had no previous work
experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process and
have little or no chance of receiving a job offer for their organisations’ graduate
You are able to apply theory into practice.
You could receive sponsorship for your final year.
Work experience provides you with introductions to the ‘right’ people and
personal contacts that can be used for further work experience, future jobs and
possible referees for graduate applications.
Applying for placements / internships provides you with the necessary job search
skills required for your final year and after graduation.
Undertaking a placement makes the transition from University to work after
graduation much easier.
Internships and placement programmes are marketed via a number of means.
According to the AGR 2013 Winter survey in some cases you may need to apply
speculatively (explained later) in which case you may need to adopt a more creative
approach. Social media, company websites and recruitment websites are the most
common form of marketing graduate recruitment and where recruiters spend the
most money.
Sources of work experience can be found in APPENDIX 5.
What’s involved?
If you are applying for placement schemes or internships with graduate recruiters
then you can expect the application process to be similar to that of applications for
graduate jobs. Apply using an on-line application form, this is usually followed by
interviews and / or assessment centres (some may ask for a CV and covering letter
but this is rare).
If applying for summer placements through schemes such as GO Wales or STEP,
then you will need to register your details on-line, they usually require an up-to-date
CV and/ or online application form.
Speculative applications can be a way into the organisations that do not advertise
that they offer work experience. You need to apply with a well written, tailored CV
and covering letter.
The diagram demonstrates the processes or different approaches required for each
Graduate Recruiters – Structured Placement Years/
Summer Internships
On- line application form/aptitude
tests – Check dates with employers as
they vary widely
Summer Placements with other
organised schemes e.g. GO Wales
Source your own
Research organisations
Register on-line, apply with a well
written, tailored online application
Find out who is responsible
for recruitment
Telephone Interview / 1st Interview
Assessment Centres / 2nd Interview
Apply with a tailored CV
and Covering Letter
Applying speculatively should not involve sending the same letter and CV to
numerous organisations. You should follow a few simple rules:
Research the company, find out what they do.
Identify the key decision maker (a quick call to HR or the office if it’s a small
business should be enough to find this out).
Personalise the letter, show evidence of your company research.
Do not use the words job or vacancy, instead use the words opening or
opportunity and do not mention money until you get to interview!
Be enthusiastic and promote a positive self image.
Ask for a meeting.
Follow up with a phone call if you have not heard anything after a week or
Example Letter
I AM (WHO ARE YOU AND WHY ARE YOU WRITING?) ... e.g. a second year
Business Management student at Cardiff, committed to a career in accounting.
YOUR COMPANY IS GREAT (!) … e.g. with clients such as xxx the company has
an excellent reputation for the quality of its work. I particularly admire your xxx and
would love to learn xxx.
I AM SUITED TO THIS WORK AND YOUR COMPANY … e.g. you will see from my
CV, I have excellent numeracy skills developed acting as treasurer for the Business
Society. I have also gained leadership skills, developed in the volunteering sector
where I was responsible for a group of young adults cleaning the local river. I am
looking forward to applying these skills in a commercial context.
EXACTLY WHAT IT IS I WANT … e.g. I would value the opportunity to gain work
experience for however brief a period during the summer. I am available during the
following weeks ...
I CAN BE CONTACTED AT e.g. should you feel there may be a suitable opening I
would be happy to discuss these with you, I can be contacted by letter at the address
provided above, alternatively telephone xxxxxxxxx or e-mail xxxxxxxxx.
Yours sincerely.
Your name
Check Career Central – there is a range of tools and downloadable booklets that can
help with your CV, application forms and interviews.
Applications Forms / Interviews / Assessment Centres – all these processes are
designed to extract the right information needed to select or reject you.
In all situations it is essential that you are able to sell yourself and your skills in a
positive way.
You need to exude enthusiasm and confidence as well as
demonstrating your knowledge of the organisation you are applying to.
A careers consultant can help you with your application and preparing you for an
interview/ assessment centre.
What have you done that could help your application? Have you been involved in
any extra-curricular activities during your time at University that could help your
application? Check the methods of gaining experience chart below:
Work experience within a large organisation, usually paid.
These tend to take place over the summer and last between
6-12 weeks.
Placement schemes:
A period of work experience (paid and unpaid) taken as part
of your course or extra curricular activities. Can be arranged
by the university or independently through placement
providers e.g. GO Wales
Sandwich/Industrial Placements
GO Wales
Assessed work undertaken in your penultimate year as part
of a study programme. Generally paid.
GO Wales work with students and graduates to improve
employability and offer work experience. Students can take part
in the following:
GO Wales Placements
Paid work experience lasting 6-10 weeks in a variety of
industries. Candidates are paid a minimum of £250 per week.
GO Wales Tasters
Unpaid work experience in a variety of occupations designed to
fit around your timetable.
Unpaid work experience for students (particularly 1st and 2nd
years) usually for 17 – 70 hours.
Observing an employee in their role to learn what it entails. Use
personal contacts to source opportunities.
The Classroom Experience Project manages and offers unpaid
classroom based work experience opportunities to Cardiff
University undergraduates and postgraduates who are looking at
a career in teaching.
Entrepreneurial Not just self employment, the Cardiff University Enterprise Team
host a number of events where you can develop skills and gain
real commercial awareness.
Excellent for gaining valuable transferable skills from your 1st
year, even better if you can take on positions of responsibility.
Vacation work
Make full use of vacation work experiences. Customer facing
work is very useful, as is gaining positions of responsibility.
Year out
Working or volunteering for a year before or after studying. Paid
or unpaid (if you choose this option make sure you make the
year out count)
A chance for you to contribute to the local community and to gain
an understanding of the wider social issues. This can be
undertaken in the evenings or at the weekend, in the UK and
abroad e.g. scouting activities.
Opportunities within your course to undertake a real-life project
that gets you out into different workplaces or communities. Often
The Cardiff
The Cardiff Award encourages students to improve their
professionalism and employability whilst gaining confidence and
skills to be successful in the world of work. Participants are
expected to undertake extra-curricular activities or work
experience and attend a series of bespoke employer sessions.
Written submissions and presentations form a part of the
process and the end result is a more confident, skilled individual
that can sell their strengths to any recruiter.
These can be exchange programmes organised through third
party organisations, or are obtained independently. Useful for
gaining experience of a different culture and language. Paid or
Part-time work
Casual paid work undertaken during your studies.
If you are lacking activities that could add value to your applications think about
undertaking some short-term work experience. In addition to the previous list other
ideas include:17
Employer skills events run
Student Enterprise run a number of events designed to increase your
transferable skills (visit
Volunteering, e.g. register with Student Volunteering Cardiff or for ideas).
Paid casual work (register with Unistaff -
Take up a leadership role within a student society.
Become a Student Ambassador for a graduate recruiter, many employ
students to raise the profile of their company across campus.
(!/cardiffunicareers) for opportunities and you can
follow them on twitter (@cardiffcareers).
Tips to help you shine in the workplace:
Be friendly and confident –find opportunities to talk to others in the office
and build up your relationships. Offer to make tea if you have nothing else to
do or just go up and introduce yourself to new people and show an interest in
what they are doing.
Suggest new ideas and get involved – by getting involved you will learn
more, understand more and you will be recognised positively for your energy
and enthusiasm. Key traits that will impress others.
Record your contacts – You will meet a lot of interesting and useful contact
in the places you work or the other companies you come into contact with.
Make sure you keep in touch – Linkedin (as mentioned above) is a great way
to connect with people and to open up job opportunities in the future.
View everything as an opportunity – while some tasks may not be as
exciting as other by demonstrating your competence at whatever you
approach you will not only build your skills but you will increase the faith
people have in you to handle bigger and more complex tasks.
Ask questions – during quiet periods you may want to ask staff how they got
into their careers and gain as much career related information as possible.
This is a great learning opportunity to gain some useful insights and advice.
If you have free time – you may want to volunteer to help other departments
that you are particularly interested in or that you can see are struggling with
the resources they have. Just make sure this doesn’t impact on your day to
day activities / work.
“We do not learn from experience – we learn from reflecting on experience.”
John Dewey
An ideal way to improve your skills and develop as a person is to reflect on your
experience – you can access a deeper form of learning. Reflection can help you:
Better understand your strengths and weaknesses
Identify and question your underlying values and beliefs
Acknowledge and challenge possible assumptions on which you base your
ideas, feelings and actions
Recognise areas of potential bias or discrimination
Acknowledge your fears
Identify possible inadequacies or areas for improvement.
Reflection is a necessary stage in identifying areas for improvement in both personal
and professional contexts. Taking time to reflect can help you identify approaches
that have worked well. This will reinforce good practice.
The Gibbs Model of Reflection (1988)
The model above will help you to reflect by providing structure for your thoughts. It
will help you to learn from your experiences and can be applied to any situation. This
is not the only model available for thinking about reflection but it is one of the most
popular. As you get into this way of thinking you can adapt and change things to suit
your own purpose.
The majority of employers are looking for abilities that are difficult to teach, such as
self-motivation, self-awareness and confidence. Using this model will help you
develop skills that will make you more employable and provide you with potential
examples of when you have used them.
Levels of reflective writing:
LEVEL 1 - Experience Only – Students experience the learning without giving any
thought to it – it just happens. They find it hard to relate the areas of work covered to
their learning targets. They are often not sure if they have encountered a topic or
LEVEL 2 - Record and make explicit the experience – Students are able to
articulate their learning experience to others but only at a superficial level.
LEVEL 3 - Reflections on the learning experience – Students know what the
learning has meant to them. They are able to interpret the learning in a deeper way,
providing a range of examples and clear explanation of what they have gained from
the experience.
LEVEL 4 - Making the links and matching the learning – Students are able to
draw together and internalise their learning through concepts and models. They can
see the links and applications to other learning applications to other learning
situations and/or potential careers.
LEVEL 5 - Application of learning to new situations – Students can put their
learning into practice in new situations. They can make connections and piece
together what they have learnt. They are able to transfer their learning and add
value in the new context.
LEVEL 6 - Adapting to new situations – Students are more flexible and effective in
applying their learning to new situations, constantly evaluating its worth and adapting
their model of thinking accordingly, thus taking responsibility for and control of their
own development.
Kindly reproduced from the National Council for Work Experience and
“Making the Most of Work Experience” written by Centre for Career
Development, University of Nottingham
Reflection is not just a description. It is an exploration and evaluation of events.
Genuine reflective writing will involve revealing anxieties, errors and weaknesses
as well as your strengths and successes.
You should show understanding, look for reasoning and suggest plans for
When reflecting, only select significant parts of your experience. The full story
could become too descriptive.
Remember to think about what you would do differently in the future.
Reflective log / journal
Keeping a journal / diary describing your learning and achievements is beneficial.
Having this type of reflective log will enable you to:
Reflect on your experience (using the Gibbs Model)
Collect evidence on what you are learning
Establish how you are progressing towards your goals
There are two stages to do this:
Stage 1 – Collect suitable documentary evidence e.g. written work / reports,
written statements from your manager / colleague, video / audio /
photographic evidence.
Stage 2 – Writing your journal e.g. specific incidents where you have learnt
something, any training you have experienced, notes on the work conducted,
details of key contacts, other notes on important information you have
discovered and your personal thoughts and reflection.
Regularly record incidents that best demonstrate the skills, knowledge and
understanding you are aiming to develop. This will relate to, and should be
measured against, your action plan and the objectives you set. This may seem like
hard work but it will be an invaluable resource for updating your CV and completing
job application forms in the future.
Familiarise yourself with Career Central – this is your online tool for all things
careers (
Make contact with the work experience team – find out how we can help you
to get the experience you need to shine in your career
([email protected])
Do the employability skills audit located in Appendix 1 – this is really
important for you to map where you are and where you are going.
Research online methods of promotion and create profiles where
appropriate – we run workshops in conjunction with the Student Development
Service to give students practical experience of trying to identify opportunities
for work experience, finding jobs and utilising online promotional tools. Check
here to find out when these, and other events, are running across the
university (
Decide on your preferred occupation/s and research thoroughly taking into
account the information provided above. Think about the companies, the
sector and also the ways you can build your general commercial awareness.
You need to set work experience goals. Think about the year you are in,
what timings are good for you and when you need to apply to be successful
for various placement / job opportunities.
You need to set up a regular system for reflection so that you maximise
your learning and constantly review how you are going to achieve your career
Find opportunities to talk about yourself to others. Networking,
presentations, asking family members – set up a system where you
systematically check with people you know how they can help you and
practice telling them why you can make a difference. If you don’t sell yourself
no one else is going to do it for you – there is lots of competition out there for
jobs, placements and experience opportunities. Find the ways to make you
stand out.
Use this sheet to identify and evaluate the skills you can offer to an employer.
For this exercise your tutor will assign you one skill, you are required to make a note of
your best specific example of how you have demonstrated or developed each skill, and
where you developed it (socially, in work, at University). Please refer to the definition
table in appendix 2 for helpful ways to express each skill.
Go back to this table at a later date and consider where, when and how you have
developed other skills.
Team working
Influence and negotiating
Independent Working
Cultural Awareness
Action Planning / Organisational
Analysis & Decision Making
Problem Solving
Ability to put theory into practise
Creativity & Innovation
Self Promotion
Business Awareness
Communication & Literacy
Flexibility & Adaptability
Integrity & Honesty
Self Awareness
Self Belief/Confidence
Self Management
Positive Attitude
Technical Skills/Knowledge
Sources: Adapted from Birmingham City University, Educational Staff Development
The Art of Building Windmills – Peter Hawkins 1999
Skills relating to the
course, module or
profession. Feel free
to add your own.
An understanding of
basic principle and
the ability to apply,
develop and adapt
Sector based e.g.,
engineering, language
skills, programming,
personnel etc.
The most basic skill
/competencies required by
Your ability to analyse think
critically, evaluate and
synthesise information
People and Social
How you react to,
communicate and work with
other people
Business Awareness
A basic understanding of the key
drivers for business success
including the importance of
innovation and taking calculated
risks; the need to provide
customer satisfaction and build
customer loyalty. Understanding
more complex issues like how an
organisation attracts and keeps
customers and global, national
and local political and economic
issues and their impacts.
Communication & Literacy
The ability to communicate
formally and informally, verbally
and in the written form, with a
wide range of people both internal
and external of the organisation
Able to reflect upon, analyse
and learn from significant
experiences to support and
encourage self
Team working
Able to co-operate and
communicate effectively
with others. Contribute to a
group to meet shared
objectives and an
awareness of
Contribute to an
atmosphere that supports
and empowers all group
Action Planning/
Organisational Ability to
plan, develop and oversee
projects or events from start
to finish considering areas
such as reliability and
punctuality and attention to
ICT Skills
Use, present and communicate
information using a variety of ICT
skills and software
Analysis & Decision
Able to reach a position,
opinion or judgment
demonstrating a critical
consideration of the options
Interpersonal skills
The ability to relate to, and
feel comfortable with
people at all levels, to be
able to make and maintain
relationships as
circumstances change, to
be able to demonstrate
active listening and
communicate effectively
Influence and Negotiating
Identify desired outcomes,
show flexibility in
negotiating assertively to
reach mutually agreed
Personal Attributes
Understanding who you are and
your feelings; self awareness of
personal qualities in order to
develop continuously through life
Integrity and honesty
Demonstrate the ability to develop a
relationship over time showing
honesty, reliability, and fairness. An
understanding of right from wrong
and consideration of ethic dilemmas
Self Awareness
Awareness of who we are, why we
do things in particular ways,
knowing your personal
characteristics and traits. Ability to
identify your strengths, weaknesses
and values
Self Belief
Self promotion and confidence in
one’s own identified strengths,
abilities and capabilities
Adaptability & Flexibility
Able to manage change in an
adaptable and flexible manner.
Ability to ‘think on feet’ and
change styles in different
Problem Solving
Define and apply strategies
for changing or resolving a
situation or problem.
Evaluate and review method
Able to use, analyse and present
numerical data in appropriate
Putting theory into practice
Able to clearly understand
theory and integrate
theoretical concepts into
practical work.
Creativity & Innovation
Create and develop original
ways of working and problem
solving – ‘thinking outside the
Self Promotion
The ability to articulate your
strengths/skills/attributes to
Independent Working
Take control and
responsibility of own
contribution within set
boundaries or constrictions.
Work without supervision to
meet a set target
Establish and maintain
working and communicative
relationships with others to
support and further their
own objectives, identify role
models and develop a
professional identity
Able to take a leadership
role allowing others to
contribute effectively, whilst
accommodating differences
in opinion
Cultural Awareness
Awareness and respect of
other cultures, the impact in
a business context, multi
Sources: Adapted from Birmingham City University, Educational Staff Development Unit
The Art of Building Windmills – Peter Hawkins 1999
Self Management
Readiness to accept responsibility,
flexibility, resilience, a self starter,
readiness to improve your
performance based on feedback
and reflection
Demonstrated motivation towards
goals, showing passion and
Positive attitude
A 'can-do' approach, a readiness to
take part and contribute, openness
to new ideas and making these
The steps in STAR:
Describe the Situation – provide a broad description about what was going on at the time. This
could be a particular project for instance or the context of a situation you dealt with. Think
about who, where, what, when and why.
Describe the Task – here you provide a more focussed description regarding the particular
task you were involved with. Remember to provide enough detail with specifics but keep it
Describe the Action – Explain what action you took in this scenario. Make sure you focus on
what you did. At times people get caught in the trap of talking about ‘we’ – avoid this and make
sure you focus on your actions. You may want to provide information on your thinking /
rationale behind your actions in this section.
Describe the Result – Describe what happened at the end of the project or situation – what
was the outcome? The important part here is to keep the example positive and upbeat. Avoid
using an example that ends with a negative consequence e.g. project failure. Where possible
make sure you use examples which are quantifiable. People really buy into facts and figures.
A little self reflection (which we will come on to later) shows that you are thinking about your
actions, how you can improve and where you can increase efficiency in the future – this is all
about demonstrating a desire to continuously improve.
The STAR technique can be a really useful way to impart information to others. It can be used
in a variety of situations. For instance, you may attend networking events or have other
opportunities to meet professionals from companies you would like to work for. When you find
yourself talking to others about your skills think about using this technique. You can then guide
the conversation in such a way that you can promote your abilities and experiences and open
up new opportunities.
It will also be important for you to continue to build your ability at communicating with larger
groups. While your course might give you some opportunities you will need to build up these
skills as much as possible. Quite often opportunities present themselves that will allow you to
talk to small groups of people, or even larger groups, both of which are a great way to make a
large impact in a short space of time. Seek out opportunities to make presentations, talk to
groups and generally polish those communication skills (you may wish to check organisation
like toast masters – an international organisation aimed at helping people improve their public
speaking skills).
Here is a list of hints and tips on the use of social media for when you enter the
Refrain from adding colleagues or supervisors as friends on personal
networks. Many people want to keep their personal and professional lives separate.
Consider connecting on LinkedIn or Twitter as opposed to Facebook.
Be respectful. End of discussion. Swearing or derogatory comments can get you in
Know your company’s social media guidelines. When it doubt, look at any formal
guidelines the organisation has produced to know what to do and what not to do.
Be thoughtful about how you present yourself. If you identify yourself as an
employee of your company, make sure you represent yourself accordingly.
Use a disclaimer. When blogging or sharing opinions or thoughts via social media,
make it clear that the views you share are yours and not the company’s.
Don’t forget about your work priorities. Online activities should not take
precedence over your job.
Don’t engage in arguments with media or customers. If you see something you
disagree with, address it appropriately via your own blog or social media accounts –
but don’t pick fights. Back up your views with facts.
Add value. IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines state it best: “If it helps you, your coworkers, our clients or our partners to do their jobs and solve problems; if it helps to
improve knowledge or skills; if it contributes directly or indirectly to the improvement
of IBM’s products, processes and policies; if it builds a sense of community; or if it
helps to promote IBM’s Values, then it is adding value.”
Don’t overshare about your company. Here are some topics to avoid discussing
online: revenue, pricing, industry rumours, executive leadership, potential
acquisitions or investments, future product release dates, etc.
Be honest. Transparency is vital online. Don’t post anonymously or fail to mention
your affiliation with the organisation.
Give yourself a head start by gaining some work experience. The following will help you identify the variety of work experience on offer
and will get you started. It is not intended to be a comprehensive overview of sources.
Work related to your academic discipline or to your chosen career area often has to be arranged well in advance. Maximise your
chances by beginning your search as soon as possible.
Cardiff University Careers &
Vacancy Bulletin
Personal contacts
BBC Work Experience
Graduate Advantage
Graduate Talent Pool
Inside Careers
Rate My Placement
Search for vacation work and work experience opportunities on our on-line Vacancy Bulletin
to identify large firms with structured summer placements and internships as well as finding
work experience organised through Cardiff University Careers & Employability.
Talk to final year students on your course; find out which employers were interested in them
last summer. Don’t forget to ask academic staff.
The BBC is able to offer a broad range of short, unpaid work experience placements, very
competitive, apply online.
Opportunities for work experience in the UK Civil Service.
Enternships provides ambitious and dynamic students and graduates with an opportunity to
learn about business and enterprise through work placements in entrepreneurial and
innovative environments, from start-ups to global venture funds around the world.
Student resource for industrial placements.
Apply for paid full-time and part-time work placements, summer internships, graduate
placements, and free employability training.
20-week graduate work placements into SME’s in the South West region (mainly Devon,
limited opportunities in Cornwall).
The Graduate Talent Pool advertises a range of paid and unpaid internships suitable for
Provides sound work experience advice and advertises work experience vacancies.
Advertises placements and internships in specialist industries e.g engineering / accounting.
Good source of advice and a searchable database. The work experience discussion forum
is worth looking at.
A website community designed by students, for students. It allows you to write a review of
your experiences on placements or internships for the benefit of those looking to do the
same. Also advertise vacancies.
Target Events
Target Jobs
The Careers Group
The Year in Industry
The Year Out Group
Top Internships
Transition Tradition
Work Experience Events
Cardiff University
Work Experience Workshops
Cardiff University
Provider of paid project based work placements into small and medium sized companies in
England. Open to penultimate year students and graduates.
A student placement company, register online to receive placement information
Provides you with an unique opportunity to meet potential employers. Events vary
Provides sound work experience advice, also advertises placements and internships.
Up-to-date vacancies for part -time, temporary, voluntary or vacation work from the
University of London Careers Service.
Organise 12 month work placements across the UK. £25 fee. Suitable for penultimate year
students from engineering, science, IT, e-commerce, business, marketing, finance and
Offering opportunities and advice to people taking a gap year.
A website dedicated to advertising undergraduate internships; also provides useful
information and advice.
A portal for creative students, providing useful information and advice.
Unpaid placements across a range of sectors, mainly in London. £10 fee
Make sure you attend any Careers & Employability Work Experience events e.g. fairs,
workshops, employer talks etc.
Attend these workshops to ensure your work experience really counts. Refer to our
programme of events for upcoming workshops. Use our online Booking System to reserve
your place. Workshops run through CMS within depts too.
Casual/Work UK & International
If you want to earn some money and/or have a different type of experience this category of work is easier to find. As above,
we advertise any vacancies notified to us on our Vacancy Bulletin, and the same websites are worth a look.
Adventure Work
Camp America
Gap Year
International Summer Jobs
Jobs Abroad Bulletin
Working adventures, outdoor pursuits. UK & abroad.
Overseas work and travel programmes for students.
Summer jobs in the USA.
Advertises part time and temporary jobs as well as internships and industrial placements.
Summer jobs in Europe with Eurocamp or Keycamp holidays.
Seasonal work in the UK and abroad.
Database of summer jobs in a range of countries.
For national retail and fast food jobs.
Seasonal paid jobs in the UK and abroad.
PGL Holidays
Season Workers
Unistaff Jobshop
Vacancies working with children in PGL summer camps within the UK and abroad.
Fruit picking jobs in the UK and worldwide.
UK vacancies, mainly volunteer work, with links to other sites advertising UK seasonal
Unistaff Jobshop is a free service which provides all registered Cardiff University students and
students from any UK university with a central starting point in their search for casual
Speculative Enquiries
BBC Wales
Cardiff Works
CSV Action Cardiff
GO Wales Jobs
Experience Works
GO Wales Work Placements
[email protected]
GO Wales Work Tasters
IT Wales
Local Government
Students in Free Enterprise
Student Volunteering Cardiff
Una Exchange
VCS - Voluntary Community
Visit them at 109 St Mary St, or
telephone (029) 2022 7625.
Never reject the direct approach. Use the local employer directories available in the Careers &
Employability Centre, or the Yellow Pages to identify relevant firms. Send a CV and covering
letter and follow up with a phone call. Ideally identify and contact directly the person who
deals with personnel issues.
Lists all work experience opportunities on offer at BBC Wales, to apply complete the on-line
application form.
Cardiff Council’s in-house temporary employment bureaux. Information and application packs
available on (029) 2087 3087.
Places volunteers in educational based projects across the city.
Lists vacancies in Wales, also advertises work experience opportunities.
Provider of paid project based work placements in small and medium sized companies in
Wales. Visit the website, call in their office, email [email protected] or telephone to
make an appointment – details available upon registration.
GO Wales Work Tasters provide undergraduates and graduates with support for short-term,
unpaid placements with employers in Wales.
Up to 10-weeks paid IT placements for students studying IT-related disciplines (Wales only).
Both websites provide a full list of local authorities in Wales (and the UK). Useful for applying
for work experience.
Student teams working on social enterprise projects which create economic opportunity for
others. Team presents annually at national and international competition, sponsored and
recognised by major graduate recruiters. Contact the Student Enterprise team for more
Based in the Students’ Union. SVC works with disadvantaged groups in the community.
Although it advertises international opportunities, often there are summer schemes running in
Wales with international volunteers that requires leaders.
Offers help for people wanting to volunteer in Cardiff with information on over 300 voluntary
organisations in areas such as youth work, mental health, disability, older people, advice lines,
environmental projects, administration and community work. Visit them at St Mary’s Street,
Volunteering Wales
Wales Council for Voluntary
Portal site for all volunteer agencies in Wales. Many opportunities advertised
The official website of the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, the voice of the voluntary sector
in Wales. They represent and campaign for voluntary organisations, volunteers and
communities across Wales, contains a jobs page.
Non UK
Speculative Enquiries
Careers & Employability Centre
Educational Exchange
For those wishing to contact employers directly with speculative applications, the Careers &
Employability Centre holds a collection of directories of overseas employers, plus The Global
Resume and CV Guide.
A programme organised by the International Agricultural Exchange Association for students to
live and work in one of 12 countries on a farm or horticultural enterprise.
International student society organising exchange programmes and traineeships.
Prospects’ counterpart for organising work placements in the USA.
Volunteering in Madagascar on health, educational and sustainable development projects, fees
The Council provides educational and work exchanges as well as travel services for students.
3 months work experience in Europe for students and graduates.
Traineeships Office
Gap Year Review
Play Soccer Camps
Travellers Worldwide
United Eurobridge
Public employment services across Europe, advertises a variety of jobs, some which are
suitable for students and graduates.
The EU office is responsible for the administration of “Stages” (five-month periods of in-service
training for young university graduates and public service employees from the member states
of the European Union).
Everything you need to know about gap years from organisation information to insurance and
visa details.
Written by students who have undertaken gap years, provides independent reviews on various
International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience.
A placement service for people wanting work placements in Australia or New Zealand.
Providing an opportunity for graduates to gain business experience in organisations in New
York. Placements run for 12 months. There is a registration and participation fee.
One-year sports placements in New England USA.
Offers placements in a number of areas, including Journalism, TV and Radio, Law, Medicine
and Archaeology. There is a cost to participate.
Advertises placements abroad. Students need to register.
Volunteer Brazil
World of Skills
Year out Group
Volunteering opportunities for all people of all ages in Brazil, fees apply.
Paid placements in Europe
An umbrella group set up to provide details on companies and advice on planning your trip.
Voluntary Opportunities UK and International
British Trust for Conservation
Do It
Millennium Volunteers
The National Trust
Prince’s Trust
Project Trust
Opportunities Worldwide.
Advertises voluntary opportunities.
The main provider of volunteers for work camps.
A world database of volunteer organisations and vacancies.
Millennium Volunteers arranges voluntary work for 16-24 year olds in the local community.
Volunteering development agency for England.
Raleigh International
Sabre Trust
Student Partnerships Worldwide
A large number of volunteering opportunities available across the UK.
UK charity helping disadvantaged young people.
Have projects in Africa, South America and Asia. Teaching, medical and journalistic
placements are available as well as work in orphanages and children’s homes.
Offers three-month placements in Asia, South America and Africa on a variety of environmental
A UK registered charity working with communities and schools in the western region of Ghana,
Western Africa to enhance the education provision. Numerous volunteers are sent to Ghana
annually to help with literacy and School projects. Fees apply to cover administration costs.
A development charity, with rural community projects in Africa and Asia.
Voluntary Service Overseas
Worldwide Opportunities on
Organic Farms
Working Abroad
Working in Europe and Asia
A national campaign to raise awareness of the value of giving time. It includes an overseas
directory and volunteering opportunities.
Offers longer placements (usually two years) for older travellers. Relevant skills are required;
jobs range from doctors to plumbers. Youth programmes are also available.
Offers board, meals and an insight into farming in exchange for work.
An international networking service for volunteers. Includes organisations looking for
Europe and Asia's top-rated graduate employers and live economic data by country.
If you have found this booklet useful, you may want to pick up or download our other booklets,
Careers & Employability also runs a series of workshops in conjunction with these booklets. You can
find out more about these on our website.
We offer Career Management Skills (CMS) Workshops in many Departments. To find out if your
Department hosts these sessions, contact your Department or School Office.
on request at the Careers & Employability Centre
Careers & Employability aims to offer a fair and equal service to all its clients, regardless of their sex, ethnic
origin, age, sexuality, religion or disability. We are able to offer additional support to students who may
benefit from extra help. Please contact us for further details.
The information and advice provided by Careers & Employability is given in good faith and all
reasonable efforts have been made to ensure accuracy. Neither Cardiff University nor the individual
members of staff shall be liable to any person in contract, tort, statute or otherwise for any loss,
distress or damage of any kind howsoever caused (except for death or personal injury caused by the
negligence of Cardiff University or the individual members of staff). All information and advice is
provided only on the basis of this disclaimer.
What is Careers & Employability?
Careers & Employability is part of the University’s Registry, Governance & Students
Directorate and will provide you with the professional careers-related support you need
during your studies and beyond.
The new Careers & Employability Centre opened in July 2010. It is free for you to use and is
open weekdays from 9am - 5pm throughout the year. Whether you are just beginning to
think about your future, have made some plans or simply haven’t a clue what you want to do
there is an array of help available to you so please make use of it. Start today by reading this
booklet and utilising the events and services on offer.
Where is the Careers & Employability Centre?
2nd Floor, 50 Park Place, Cardiff
Minutes from the Students’ Union and a short walk from most
Academic Schools.
Offering information, advice and guidance; appointments, drop-ins
and workshops;
A wide range of resources
Employer events
As well as these services at the Centre we have a presence at Cardigan
House, Heath Park Campus. We also have GO Wales situated at 5
Corbett Road, Cardiff. Please see the Web for further details:
Careers &
GO Wales
City Hall
50 Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AT
Tel: (029) 2087 4828 Tel: (029) 2087 4828
e-mail: [email protected] e-mail: [email protected]
© Cardiff University 2013. All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any
means without the express, prior written consent of the copyright owner.