Product design graduates return to share their experiences


Product Design Workshop

Post written by Caroline Hanson, Employability Adviser, Art and Design

Last month saw the first ever “Employability Week” aimed at Product and Furniture Design students, organised by senior lecturer Dean, in collaboration with industry experts and the Careers and Employability Service. The first day included three graduates from product and furniture design courses at Sheffield Hallam sharing about their current roles and career path since completing the course. Tom was using his creative skills to work as a marketing manager for Harris Brushes. He shared from his own experience about the negativity that can be faced after graduation which he called the hope/doom seesaw, to him, listening to the hopeful and aspirational voice was important to persevere through initial rejections. He encouraged students to go the extra mile at interviewing order to be memorable, for instance he designed and showed different elements of his design and marketing skills in his portfolio. Since beginning the role, it has developed greatly into a hybrid of marketing and design, he emphasised “Don’t be confined but the boundaries that are given when you secure a role.” Approaching people directly had paid off for him in the past and he even used LinkedIn to contact staff members within an organisation before the interview.

Abby had worked in a number of product design positions before her current role at W’innovate, which is a company based locally in Worksop and designs products for Wilkinsons. She has worked for in house design teams, in consultancy roles and also on a freelance basis, even having the opportunity to visit the production factories in China and gain an understanding of how her designs are manufactured. She emphasised the importance of commercial awareness, especially in consultancy roles, including being aware of the cost of the materials, the target market of your product and the selling price. Her advice for students was “Know yourself and the things you are good at and like working on, then you can sell yourself more effectively.” Her organisation is a graduate centre of excellence, offers short placements and is currently recruiting for a graduate positions of Assistant Product designer, so do take a look if you think this could be the role for you.

The afternoon session focused on portfolio development and every student had the unique opportunity to receive portfolio feedback from a professional in industry. Speaker Nick, reminded listeners that a portfolio should “Sell you, not just your products” and include broad a range of skills. As a recruiter he wanted to see your best work in your portfolio, not everything you’ve ever done, include rough sketches to show development of ideas and ensure a visual impact, by getting rid of any large blocks of text. Key advice was to “Build your personal brand and be thick skinned,” he also recommended entering design competitions open to recent graduates.

Students spoke positively about the day and went away with practical feedback on how to improve their portfolio and CVs. The remainder of the week included input from a top branding agency, practical workshops from the careers team and a boot camp for students to develop their enterprising skills, a number of students took up the offer of one to one appointments or enterprise advice to develop their plans further. Keep an eye on to find out about other events coming up!


Career Mentoring Information Sessions, 30 September

Heard about the Career Mentoring scheme? Want to know more?

Why not come along to an information session at the Careers and Employability centre or Collegiate campus?

Applications are now open for the Career Mentoring Scheme. If you have applied or are considering applying, please attend this session.

The scheme is very well established at Sheffield Hallam and we have over a hundred mentor places on the scheme. The mentors come from a wide variety of professional people waiting to mentor the right candidates. The mentors come from a wide variety of occupational areas*.

We are currently able to offer mentors in the following areas:

Business, Finance and Enterprise (approx 20 places), Construction (4 places), Creative industries (3 places – 2 of which are in Digital learning and one is with a theatre company director), Law and Justice (11 places), Marketing (7 places), People professions (18 places), Public, Voluntary and Charity sectors (8 places) and Technical industries (12 places).

We also have 25 places in the area of Health Scientific and Sports: We are very pleased to announce that this year we have 10 mentors with Reckit Benckiser in Hull.

Companies and organisations represented in include HSBC, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, Sheffield United Football Club, Peak District National Park, Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Irwin Mitchell, DLA Piper, Premier Foods, Sheffield City Council, the Department for Education, Museums Sheffield, the Civil Service, and some of our mentors also work at Sheffield Hallam, in a very wide variety of professional (non-teaching) roles.

*(NB: We do not have any mentors who are Primary or Secondary school teachers. Students considering this career should attend a separate session on getting into teaching).

City campus: Tuesday 30th September at 10am and 11am, Thursday 2nd October at 1pm and 2.30pm in the Careers and Employability centre.

Collegiate campus: Tuesday 30th September at 10am The Mews N205 and 1.30pm Heart of the Campus 1.52

Booking advised – but there may be spaces on the day

shuspace- employability – events – (login) – events

How Sheffield Hallam Student’s Union Can Help You

Sheffield Hallam Student’s Union is passionate about social enterprise, businesses or projects that have a clear social or environmental purpose at the heart of what they do.

We are very proud that since November 2012 we have provided funding, support and advice to 32 start-up social enterprises. These social entrepreneurs have tackled a wide range of issues for example:

  • Dan Aid ( ) offers advice to young people about the health risks associated with body piercing
  • Soberistas ( ) an online community specifically targets women who are concerned about their alcohol consumption
  • Risky Roads Project which works with young people aged 13 – 19 years in Sheffield to inform them, and raise awareness of, gun and knife crime, the consequences, and the lifelong effects this has on the victims, families and offenders
  • Dynamic Diabetes helps create suitable exercise regimes for  people suffer from diabetes

During the next academic year we will be running the Innovation Award to offer you the funding and support to start your own social enterprise. Not only is it a great way for you to give something back to the local community but you will also gain some invaluable experience that will also help increase your employability, for more information visit or email .

We also understand the importance of gaining transferable skills and specialist knowledge of social enterprise through hands on work experience. We are currently offering funded placements with two fantastic local social enterprises. Both positions will start mid-June and are for current students or those who are graduating this summer. The closing date for applications is 5pm on Wednesday14th May 2014 for more information visit:

In addition we have also supported three applications for Balloon Kenya which brings exceptional young people from around the world to work in Kenya for 6 weeks with budding local entrepreneurs.

Jobs Fair impresses employers and final year students

by Kayleigh Gray, graduate intern with Careers and Employment team  

On 13 March the Careers and Employment team put on another recruitment fair for students in the Careers and Employability Centre; it was focused on final year students, and invited these soon-to-be graduates to talk to local and national employers.

The day was a success, with over 300 students interacting with currently advertising organisations, thereby increasing their chances of jumping into a graduate job after leaving Sheffield Hallam. The event was so popular that we had students queuing out of the door – luckily it was a nice day and our ambassadors gave them some biscuits whilst they waited! Before coming to the fair, students had the opportunity to read who was there and what they do and as a result, they were able to prepare questions and bring relevant CVs. This contributed to positive employer feedback, with representatives saying that our students were friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable in their subject areas.

Each organisation had a stand where they answered student enquiries about their company and jobs; one of our pre-requisites for the fair was that all employers on the day had live graduate job vacancies. Employers present included Decathlon, Kin Speed and G Media. Some of the organisations stayed on to take part in a Question and Answer session which was very productive and offered our students the chance to engage with the companies in a different, more direct manner. Some of the questions included, ‘What do you value more, paid work or voluntary experience?’ and ‘When asking an interviewee about teamwork, what skills do you want to hear?’

Some employers were so impressed that they expressed an interest in taking part in our Career Mentoring scheme and have said that they would like to return for any other recruitment fairs we may have. In addition, the students benefitted from the employer interaction, the opportunity to ask questions and the chance to see a small sample of the jobs available upon graduation.  We appreciated the time that these companies voluntarily offered to us and our students and we will certainly be repeating the experience again next year for all to enjoy. If you have any Careers and Employment questions, please ring us on 0114 225 3752.

University employing its key strengths in survey

by Laurie Harvey, Public Relations Officer

A UK student survey has seen Sheffield Hallam University maintain its top spot for employability for a second year running, whilst also sealing first place for careers advice from academics, the low cost of its accommodation, international student support and research activity.

Sheffield Hallam came first out of 22 UK Universities in five categories from last Autumn’s Student Barometer Survey, with 93.5 per cent of students satisfied that the learning they undertake at the university will help them get a good job when they graduate.

The University also came first for students’ satisfied with the opportunities to earn money while studying, and third for the availability of financial support.

Paul Helm, assistant director of student and learning services at Sheffield Hallam, said: “We’re delighted that we’ve maintained our performance in last year’s survey and have added new strengths to our learning portfolio.

“Students are coming to us because they know the package of low priced accommodation, exemplary research and teaching, careers advice and a high rate of employability, is hard to beat.

“Employability is a crucial component of our courses and as an institution we place a huge emphasis on preparing our students for the world of work. That’s why Sheffield Hallam has the highest number of students enrolled on courses with a placement year in Great Britain ”

The Student Barometer survey is administered by the International Graduate Insight Group (i-graduate), and tracks the opinions of students at higher education institutions at 22 of the UK’s universities. Results are from the latest survey which tracked opinions in autumn 2013.

Why I chose an internship

Meet Kayleigh. She’s one of our graduates who decided to take up a one-year placement as an intern to help improve her employability. Here’s her story:

Degree: English Literature BA, graduated in 2013 with First Class honours

Current job title:  Careers and Employment Graduate Intern for Sheffield Hallam

Early on in my studies I realised that leaving university and getting into a graduate job should not be viewed as a right for a graduate: I had to consider my employability throughout my degree. English DOES make you employable because you will leave university with analytical, negotiation and communication skills (to name a few).  But only a small number of graduates will appeal to employers if they only draw upon skills that they have acquired academically. You should show that you have developed these skills and have gained new, complementary ones in other roles, whether that’s through part-time work, volunteering, joining a society or taking part in other extra-curricular activities like sport.

For example, during my first year at university I worked as a Student Course Ambassador and an Exam Invigilator whilst also volunteering as a Student Course Representative and a Faculty Representative. As a result, I developed my communication skills in a variety of ways and had interview experience under my belt just from that first year. There is an extra-curricular activity to suit everyone, so I’d advise you to visit the Careers and Employability Centre or the Students’ Union to find something to suit you.

Here are some of the tasks I’ve been working on as a graduate intern:

  • I undertake a variety of roles within the Careers and Employment Centre. Primarily I help organise and deliver the Career Impact Programme, am the Career Mentoring Scheme administrator, write tweets for the @SHUCareers account, manage the Career Impact LinkedIn page, organise meetings and work on both the Employment team and Information team for the Careers and Employability enquiry desk.
  • Alongside this I have also been involved with the launch of our new Careers and Employability Centre, including meeting the Vice Chancellor, contributing photos and feedback to the ‘SHU employability blog’, promoting the events and building relationships with relevant and important employability organisations, such as Hallam Union, the Sheffield Universities Recruitment Fairs (SURF) and the Research and Innovation Office.
  • I have created a strong relationship with the Students’ Union, conducting presentations with them to present a united employability front to the students; I have developed this further by starting a Students’ Union drop-in in the Careers and Employability Centre for students to talk to a Students’ Union representative every week about volunteering, joining a society or applying for the Hallam Award recognition scheme.
  • I supervise the Employability Ambassadors on a daily basis to review their role, conduct focus groups for the Careers and Employment service and am their first contact when they have any work-related queries.
  • Although I have developed a social media specialism within my job I also regularly use my English Literature skills to analyse data, write reports, articles and training documents for my colleagues and the service.

I’m three-quarters of the way through my internship now, and during that time (and the other experience I gained as an ambassador, rep and invigilator) I’ve upped my skills in so many ways. I’m an experienced organiser, event planner, and supervisor now. I’ve worked with a huge range of people – from students to employers to senior academics at these events and have used those opportunities to promote the services we offer.

I’ve learned to listen to feedback, conduct focus groups, to collate it and present it, and to present it to help influence change and improvement. And yes – I still love literature (as a staff member I can still use the learning centres here to borrow books!).

My internship finishes in July so I’m now focussing on the completing my employability journey and I am hoping to continue working in Higher Education- at Sheffield Hallam if I can!.  Here are my top tips for yours…

 My employability journey

                Reflect upon your potential career and find a few graduate jobs that you would like to do

Look at job applications for that sector and identify any skills that you’re missing

Consider how you may use those skills in your current paid and unpaid work

Locate some volunteering, activities or societies so that you can develop the missing skills

Regularly reflect upon the work that you’re doing and make a note of when you have excelled, faced challenges and/ or brought about a change

When you’re in your final year at university continue your paid and unpaid work because it shows organisational and time management skills

However alter your workload so that you do less work and if you’re volunteering, ensure that it is flexible so that you can do less during important academic periods

Consider doing work-based learning modules so that you get experience, skills and personal professional reflection whilst gaining academic credit

Remember your large amount of experience and employability skills when applying for jobs during both the application stage and the interview

Never give up. If you’ve put the effort in to make yourself employable then you will get a graduate job, so don’t get disheartened if you have a few unsuccessful interviews

Utilise the help available to you. The Careers and Employment service offers help to all SHU students and are still here to help for up to three years after you graduate. The whole graduate recruitment process can be confusing, so use the professional advice that the Careers and Employment Advisers offer. Come into the Careers and Employability Centre to the left of the Owen building entrance or ring 0114 225 3752.

Careers and Employability Centre officially opened

Journalism students recording an interview with Hugh Facey, MBE

In the six months it’s been open, our new Careers and Employability Centre has seen over 6,500 students come through the doors and has organised 63 employer presentations and skill sessions.  Dedicated to helping students plan their careers and find work, the centre also provides students and graduates with careers workshops and employer-led networking sessions.

So last week seemed an excellent opportunity to open our doors to local employers,  to promote the opportunities to work with our students and graduates to keep the best and brightest of them in the City and help to grow our industries and businesses – and even generate new businesses.

Chief executive of Gripple, Hugh Facey, officially opened Sheffield Hallam’s new Careers and Employability Centre on Thursday 6 March as part of National Careers Week. The event gave students the chance to network with a range of employers the University works with, including Morrisons, IBM, Nestlé and Network Rail.

Paul Helm

Paul Helm, lead for employability at the University, explained: “This new centre provides us with a focal point where we can help students develop the skills needed to launch their careers.

In this brand new centre, we’re providing workshops to help them plan their careers and find jobs. We work with them to improve their online presence for networking with potential employers, and offer advice on how to fill in application forms and shine in interviews.”

Hugh Facey ‘cutting’ the virtual ribbon

Hugh Facey, MBE, Chairmain of Gripple Ltd spoke to the attendees about his student days at what was then the City Polytechnic and the importance he and his company place on offering opportunities to our students.  He then performed a first for the University, by cutting a ‘virtual ribbon’ using an iPad linked up to a short, animated film of the centre made by some of our final year interactive media with animation students.  The event also gave some of our final year journalism students the opportunity to film interviews with our guests. We’ll be bringing you a report on both sets of students and the work they did for the evening in future posts on this blog.

In 2013 Sheffield Hallam came first in the Student Barometer Survey for employability and second place for the quality of its careers advice. The University also employs a large number of students – 1629 students were recruited last year into a variety of roles, including events assistant, laboratory assistant and photographer.

Here are just a few more facts about the impact our  Employability initiative is having here:

  • 59 per cent of Sheffield Hallam students study on courses with a work based learning opportunity (10 points higher than the sector average)
  • our latest employment figures show that last year 89 per cent of Sheffield Hallam students either entered work or went onto further study
  • during the last semester our Employment team advertised 1108 graduate jobs and internships and 2790 part-time/vacation positions
  • during the last semester our Employment team established working relationships with 1218 new employers
  • of the 6500 students who’ve been into the centre in the last six months, just under 3500 had a 1:1 session with an adviser
  • Over 600 students were also seen by our team of employment advisers in their own departments within each of our 4 faculties


Career Impact: Aiming High

by Kayleigh Gray, Graduate Intern, Careers & Employment Team

Career Impact is a university-wide programme run by our Careers and Employment Service. It aims to provide quality support, industry insight and networking opportunities for students who are high achieving, motivated and ambitious, in their search for employment on a graduate scheme. It also aims to enhance the impression employers have of Sheffield Hallam students, in focusing on employers who seek a high UCAS tariff and may previously have campaigned solely at red brick universities (High Flyers 2014). The scheme also supports students who share these ambitious aims, but may face additional barriers in their transition to work, such as those with disabilities.

Career impact students at the employer networking breakfast, 2013

Fortnightly skills sessions led by careers professionals or employers, focus on aspects of graduate recruitment such as assessment centres, application forms and networking techniques and include an opportunity for participants to share their experiences. Personalised one to one support is also offered, along with networking opportunities. Contact with employers is also facilitated; last year an employer breakfast led to two participants meeting the employers they now work for. Students have progressed onto graduate schemes with employers such as for Transport for London, Nissan, Birdseye and PFK and our current students have already secured places with Tesco and DHL.

A Twister challenge for the mock assessment centre with L’Oreal

This year’s Career Impact students have been attending our regular workshops, benefiting from sessions such as Making Your CVs and Applications Stand Out, with guests from BGL undertaking CV checks; alongside this our students have also experienced a Practice Assessment Centre with L’Oreal, the adventures of which can be seen captured in the photo to the right. The focus of the group is to ensure that Sheffield Hallam University students feel confident applying for graduate schemes.  As a result we encourage employer engagement but we complement it with professional development sessions like Effective Networking and Navigating Your First Graduate Job.

We are currently starting a Level 5 Career Impact group so that students are ready to apply for the graduate schemes which often close before Christmas. If you know any Level 5 students that are motivated, enthusiastic and well-suited to the Career Impact group then please email the Career Impact lead, Caroline Hanson at or the group administrator, Kayleigh Gray at:

My internship experience

As part of our series looking at the opportunities available to our students and graduates to boost their employability, we meet Chris McEwan, a 24 year-old graduate who shares his internship story here.

After three years of hard work and commitment, I successfully graduated from Sheffield Hallam University in 2012 with a 2:1 in Forensic and Security Technologies. Like many graduates in today’s difficult economic climate, I didn’t have a job lined up and was finding it difficult to get noticed in a very strong job market.

After waving goodbye to student life, I signed up to the Alumni network and regularly received news and job opportunities. Although already familiar with the Careers and Employability Centre, I hadn’t actually used the resource until leaving university. I dropped them an email and we arranged a meeting to discuss my future plans, enhance my CV and provide me with information on application forms and interviews. They directed me to the Sheffield Hallam job page where they had a Graduate Intern section. I was surprised by the amount of internships available at SHU, covering a wide spectrum of subjects.

I had applied for a Graduate Intern role at SHU and I managed to get invited to a selection event (an interview to you and me). Unfortunately I was unsuccessful, narrowly missing out on the highly popular role. However, all was not lost; the experience of the selection event was very beneficial. I gained a much better understanding of what employers wanted from graduates and the feedback that I received from the interview allowed me to improve on areas I wasn’t as strong in. Be sure to welcome any feedback with open arms; it is a great indication to what you need to work on for your next interview.

I also gained a great contact in a member of the interview panel. Knowing my strengths, they would send me job opportunities to future roles at SHU they felt would be ideal for me and the skills I had. As a result of this contact, I was recommended for a future Graduate Intern as an Online Presence Officer. I was successful in the first stage of my application and, again, was invited to a selection event. However, this time, luck was on my side. I was the successful candidate and accepted the job offer in a heartbeat. I couldn’t wait to embrace the challenge and get stuck in.

They say on average, it takes about six months after finishing your degree to find full-time employment; the exact time it had taken me to find my first graduate job. In the months between graduation and job success, I was finding the job application, interview process and rejection cycle extremely frustrating.  But it is important not to get too down about being unsuccessful in your quest for your chosen career; don’t dwell on the knock-backs. My persistence and hard work paid off in the end.

I have often read negative opinions on internships in the past. But when it comes to Graduate Interns at SHU, it is quite the opposite. From day one, I felt that I was a part of the team and was given a huge amount of responsibility to say I’d just started out. I sat down with my line manager and we discussed what I wanted to achieve during my time as an intern and we outlined objectives and any training opportunities; I was always fully supported on any training I wished to pursue. SHU has a great self-service training programme provided to staff and it was something I took full advantage of to enhance my CV and employability skills. I had regular fortnightly catch-ups with my line manager; this was my opportunity to discuss any concerns, workload or could just be a quick catch-up. It was great way to measure my performance and development.

“The value of a graduate intern is a refreshing perspective from a recent graduate.   Hearing about the “real” student experience, first hand, was of value to us all.” Sally Bradley, Professional Recognition Adviser  

I worked amongst a great bunch of colleagues who fully supported me during my internship. Having the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues on projects and make use of different skills in the department was very beneficial and helped build working relationships. As a part of the Innovation and Professional Development Team, I would like to think I took full advantage of having the opportunity to share my skills as well as learn from others, all the while improving the department’s online presence; the main objective of my internship.

“Chris made a fantastic contribution to our online presence, navigating his way through the complex world of IT support to design and launch two Word Press sites that have really transformed our professional development work.” Jackie Cawkwell, CPD Manager

Reflecting back on the experience, a Graduate Internship at SHU is extremely worthwhile, both for the employer and the employee. I felt my skills grow with every month I was there. I worked on various projects from assisting with organising large university events such as the Learning and Teaching Conference; to the re-design of the department’s website. One of my main areas was offering support and assistance to staff at SHU in using and creating screencasts as a way of presenting information. It was something I thoroughly enjoyed and staff embraced the opportunity to learn how to use screencasts. The experience has greatly enhanced my CV and key skills, whilst also providing me with a range of experience that employers in my sector want graduates to have. As well as being grateful for the opportunity to improve my own skills, I am also really proud that I can look back and say: “I did that. I helped improve the IPD team’s online presence.”

But my Graduate Internship didn’t just end there. With a successful application for another Graduate Intern role, I have recently started a 12 month internship as a Communications Officer. Having tried my hand at a range of technical skills, my new role will allow me to enhance my other qualities as well as reaching out to the student population here at Hallam. Looking ahead to the future, I am excited for what is to come and hopefully, I will become a much-appreciated member of staff at the university.

Whatever path I choose to follow next, my Graduate Internship experience will certainly help me along the way.


Thumbs up from students for our hands-on sessions

A recent presentation for Camp America

It’s always good for us to hear that the sessions we run are worthwhile. If you’re a student and need to know a bit more, ask a few questions, and hear about the application process, then have a look through our up and coming events and book onto one that suits your needs. You just book via the Employability tab on shuspace.

There is even a session next week (4pm on Wednesday 4th December) entitled Help! I don’t know what to do! – Lots of students are unclear about what they are going to do after university. If this is you then book in for this session. It’ll look at the factors that will influence your career plans, help you to clarify and research your career ideas and enable you to plan your next steps.

We try to offer a mix of employer presentations, skills workshops and hints and tips. Some days we’ll help you with interview skills and answering tricky questions, others we may focus on helping you get onto a graduate scheme.  Here’s just a bit of feedback from last week’s events:

‘good, informative… I learned a lot and will now apply to them’

‘Informative- successful- all good’

‘Helpful- good to speak to people who are graduates working here, can relate.’

‘Great, gave me a lot of information- helped with application process.’

‘Helped me with application, I now know the process they take and what I need to do.’

‘it was great… useful’

‘really useful… will now apply’