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After only signing up to the Lancaster Award at the end of my second year, I have managed to complete the award and pass my interview this month. Having completed the activities sheet, extremely long and tedious skills bank and the application form, I wondered if it was worth it. In the end, I came to the conclusion that it definitely is.
Firstly, there is a very wide scope for what can be included under ‘activities’ and many will find that they have already done a lot of what is needed. I managed to use my part-time job from home, a work experience that I had already completed after first year, and the Race for Life as my voluntary activity. They aren’t very strict on what can be used and the activities check list is probably one of the easiest parts of the award.
Although personally I do not want to go into a career in business, I found the Insight days helpful in gaining skills that I would be able to talk about and use in future interviews. The day was not a bore – free lunch and drinks were included and you worked in groups doing things, without having constant PowerPoint presentations. They managed to make the day fun even if it wasn’t something you particularly felt you needed. Similarly with the shorter workshops that you need to complete; I took the initiative to take a workshop that I felt would help me most – Impressive Interviews. Seeing as I hadn’t had a formal interview before, this helped me with the last stage of the award.
Understandably, the most time-consuming part of the award is the paper work, especially the Skills Bank. Having got my skills bank returned back asking for ‘more detail’, I realized that it was going to take a lot longer than expected. I would advise people currently doing the award to do their skills bank as they go along and not to leave it all to the last minute. If you fill in one or two skills a day or week, then it becomes easier to put together and a lot less tedious. The key thing to remember (which I managed to forget) is that they want the paperwork to be up to the standard that it would be for a formal employer. Therefore you need to forget that this is going to be seen by your university’s careers advisers and act as though high-up employers will be looking at it. This is important on your application form, and one of my downfalls. Make it as formal and intuitive as possible.
After passing all the paperwork, the interview doesn’t seem as scary, as you have nearly finished. Again, it is important to treat this formally – employers from companies may be there and you should act as if this is an interview for a job. Tips for the interview – read over your application form. They tend to ask you to expand/explain/detail events and activities listed on your application form, so be wary of them quizzing you on that. They also ask you questions about the award itself – what was challenging? What did you enjoy most? But don’t panic, this was a lot less scary than I imagined.
All in all, I do believe having the Lancaster Award on my CV can only be positive. It has helped me understand and acquire skills that I can use in the future, and has given me the experience of what to expect from interviews and what employers are looking for. Ultimately, it is important that they want you to treat each stage as if this is a proper employer, therefore don’t fall down on being lazy as they will pick up on the smallest of spelling mistakes and missing punctuation!