Getting a Graduate Job - Interview with Naomi McConnell

Tuesday, 9 June 2020  |  Suzanna

Tell us a bit about yourself -

I studied Sociology at University of Ulster. It was a broad degree that gave me an insight into how much our world has changed and is changing socially. I graduated in 2019 and was lucky to secure a place on Kukoon’s graduate job scheme. I was absolutely delighted to secure a graduate role so close to home as I do think that there is a misconception that you have to be in Belfast or Dublin for a graduate role.


What is Kukoon Rugs Graduate Scheme?

Kukoon Rugs are one of the leading ecommerce companies in Northern Ireland. The Graduate Scheme here allows graduates to gain experience across many areas of the business before deciding which department is the best “fit” for you. I have worked in the customer service department, ecommerce sales and accounts - all within 10 months! You very much are thrown in the deep end and are doing “real” work that adds value right from the start. It's both exciting and intense. 

Best thing about Kukoon?

There is a fantastic culture, the business has been going through a lean transformation - which is hugely exciting to be part of. Every department is responsible for instilling an attitude of continuous improvement and working on improving all the processes we do on a daily basis. It is really refreshing that everyone is part of this from the moment they join. Before Covid, the whole company met every morning for a meeting to discuss what went well the day before and what we want to improve upon. Only months into my role I was able to lead a morning meeting!

The graduate scheme with Kukoon is definitely a highlight. I actually am the first person to have ever been on the programme! I have genuinely got unrivaled experience working across three departments in 10 months. It is a huge adjustment leaving university and joining the workforce so to be part of such a forward thinking company has been brilliant. When Covid-19 hit we were able to transfer to working from home instantly - the company has great vision and foresight.

How has it been completing a graduate programme through a pandemic?

It has certainly been very strange. We are a very "social" company and regularly have other businesses in for tours to see how our lean journey is going. To have been working from home and not seen anyone for the past three months is really different but its fascinating that our customer service department is all working together from various locations across NI with no difference to the service our customer recieves. I feel lucky to have been able to continue to work and add value during this time.


What would your top tips on how to get a graduate job?

  1. Firstly, don’t panic. There are jobs out there if your willing to work hard and are open to what your doing.
  2. Definitely keep your options open. Be open to roles that are a “foot in the door” of companies you want to work with. Go into any role and prove yourself. All experience counts.
  3. Read the criteria to the roles your applying to and show in your application how you meet the criteria. If you don’t meet the criteria see if you have transferable skills which you could apply - make sure to mention how these skills are transferable. Make it impossible for the company not to interview you!
  4. Show passion - the key thing employers are looking for is genuine passion and enthusiasm. Most employers don’t expect lots of experience - most things can be taught. If you have the right attitude you will go far. A key thing you can do is write a cover letter and tailor it to the role you are applying to.
  5. Take time to make a CV and make it stand out - it doesn’t need to be fancy formatting but it does need to make the person reading it think you're worth an interview.
  6. Consider taking a job that isn’t a graduate job - don’t be too proud! Get a foot in the door and show that you are willing to work in anything to get on the graduate scheme.

Had you any experience prior to securing your graduate job?

I’ve been working since I was 13 - between corner shops and my family business. I had basic experience in social media and clerical work which while is great to have had, isn’t relevant to what I’m doing with Kukoon. I think the key thing any work experience helps with, whether it's paid or unpaid, is showing a work ethic.

What advice would you give to someone trying to get a graduate job with no experience?

I am very lucky to have gained some experience from I was young but none of my experience is relevant to what I am doing within Kukoon so my top tips would be -

  1. Volunteering is an amazing opportunity. I did this with Ulster University as a student ambassador at events and with my own Youth Group at home. Volunteering has multiple benefits - you never know who you could meet that could lead to an opportunity and also it shows future employers you are ambitious and willing to get stuck in. Volunteering won’t be paid but it is an amazing way to build up experience on your CV if you have no other experience. If you are looking to get into a particular sector try and volunteer within that sector. For example, if you want into marketing and have no experience - contact local agencies and offer to volunteer to write articles for free. You then can say on your CV you’ve been a Marketing intern. Alternatively, if things go well you might even be offered a paid job!
  2. Identify your key achievements at university and don’t be afraid to talk about these. If you got a first class honours - make sure to play this up. If you won an award for your dissertation - tell future employers. Remember that employers understand that you won’t have much experience - think of the extracurricular activities you were involved with and how these have helped you. If you were part of the hockey team this could show team work. Maybe you were class rep or President of a society - this can show leadership. Show who these skills can help you with the role you're applying to.
  3. Structure your CV so that your accomplishments are first - if your lacking in experience put this further down the CV.
  4. Network, network, network. The more people you are talking to the higher your chances of hearing about positions and securing a graduate job. LinkedIn is brilliant for this - connect in with class mates, school friends, lecturers and be active.


Any final tips or words of wisdom?

Accept that it might take some time to work out what you really want to do and what you really are good at! Most of us graduate around 21/22 and pension age now is over 70 - so that gives just short of 50 years working. Don’t expect it to be in your dream job the moment you graduate. Remember that everyone starts at the bottom - keep gaining experience wherever you can and don’t give up. Whatever you do - do something! An employer won’t be interested in someone who has done nothing for months.


Interested in joining the Kukoon team - Check out our careers page for any vacancies.

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