Last week, I attended an event in Birmingham organised by BP to support female students with their career path. As a current BP STEM scholar, I am invited to attend various careers events the company organises – and I was particularly interested in the opportunity to develop useful skills and find out more about how BP is supporting female leadership.
The participants were university students from a real mixture of degree subjects and year groups, the event being aimed at female students at any stage in their studies. It was particularly interesting to speak to those studying non-STEM subjects to find out about what attracted them to BP, since although around half of the graduate jobs on offer are for non-technical roles, so far most of the students I have met on BP events have studied a relevant degree to the industry. Many of them mentioned that this one day event was an opportunity for them to find out whether or not a job at the company could be for them, and they were also interested in working in a large, diverse and global company with a focus on personal development and supporting employees.
The afternoon began with the usual welcome and introductory talks, followed by a workshop on the importance of personal branding. We were asked to think of three words we would like people to think of when they met us – for example I chose “focussed”, “team player” and “proactive”. This led onto a discussion on what exactly our chosen words meant in terms of our behaviours and work ethic, and then how we could demonstrate them to potential employers in job applications. We were then given the opportunity to have a professional photograph taken, suitable for use on websites such as LinkedIn.
This workshop was followed by what has to be the best refreshments selection I’ve ever seen at a careers event – so fantastic it deserves a whole paragraph to itself! There were a range of sandwiches catering to all tastes and dietary requirements, delicious posh little cakes, and scones with cream and jam. Some coffee helped provide an essential mid-afternoon pick-me-up, and it was something of a challenge not to spend the break just stuffing myself silly with all the delicious food…
Once we were suitably refreshed/ stuffed, it was time for the second workshop session on networking and presenting yourself. We discussed in groups about celebrities who show confidence and good communication skills, then encouraged to identify specific actions they take to achieve this which we could then emulate. In an attempt to demystify the word “networking”, something often associated with chatting up the boss to get a promotion, we were advised to think of it simply as meeting new friends and colleagues, and working on our confidence and presentation skills to subtly show off our skills. In particular, we practiced handshakes (including some very amusing activities) and how to use non-verbal communication and asking questions during conversations.
After the workshop sessions, there was the opportunity to ask our questions about careers at BP to a panel of current employees, including several participants on the graduate scheme. It was very interesting to hear from those at all stages in their career paths, including some who had been with BP for most of their careers already. Topics discussed included the general setup of the graduate program, opportunities for progression, how the company had changed over the years, current challenges and opportunities in the oil and gas sector, and some advice they had for us regarding applications. All in all, a very helpful panel discussion.
Finally, we were provided with yet more refreshments and drinks for a casual networking/ discussion session – a great opportunity to ask a few more questions from the BP employees and to talk to the other students about their experiences.
Overall, a very insightful day where I learnt several useful skills for future job applications. It is great to see companies like BP organising careers events to support female students with their career, and interestingly this event was less about promoting working for BP and more about providing genuinely useful advice.