Launched 12 years ago in Germany, the Odgers Berndtson’s CEO for a Day programme is now running in the UK, giving aspiring students the opportunity to shadow a high-profile business leader. Following a rigorous selection process involving a written application, an assessment, interviews and group activities, an unprecedented four out of the 15 finalists were from the University of Southampton: Arun Aggarwal (Law), Alex Bunker (History), Jack Covey (Environmental Science) and James Perkins (Chemistry).
Taking part in the programme this year are CEOs from organisations such as: BT, Deloitte, DFS, The Cabinet Office, Edelman, Go-Ahead, ITV, Kier Group, Legal & General and the National Trust. “I spent nine hours with Ed Williams, CEO of Edelman, which showed me how he goes about his business. It was a great opportunity to see how a company is run,” says third year chemistry student, James.
“It is extremely important for our current students to receive real-world experiences as part of their studies,” says Christopher Shank, Volunteer Officer in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, at the University.
Not only do these experiences help to bolster the CVs of students, but they also set Southampton students apart from their peers, both in the UK and around the world.
“The importance of business experience cannot be underestimated,” enthuses James. “Even if it is just for a day like mine, you still learn a lot about the world of work. Many graduates do not have an understanding of what an average day at a business entails: how to dress when in the workplace, how the meetings are coordinated and how graduate schemes are run.”
Law student Arun applied for the CEO for a Day programme because he likes to seize every opportunity to prepare for his future. “I’ve always aspired to be at the top of whatever I do, so I saw this as a brilliant opportunity to gain an insight into the world that I hope to enter into soon,” he says. “The experience has fuelled my passion for business and for leadership.”
“My day at Kier was a fantastic insight into high-level corporate working,” says Jack, who spent the day shadowing Haydn Mursel, CEO of Kier Group. “The efficiency, but also enthusiasm, with which everyone went about their work was obvious to see. For me this reiterated how essential it is to pursue a job in an industry or sector that you are passionate about. While the construction industry is unlikely to be my career destination, the day of shadowing has fuelled my desire to help make big decisions and work with highly-skilled teams to make a positive contribution to sustainable businesses.”
As well as national and international programmes such as CEO for a Day, which students can apply for, the University has a wealth of initiatives that current students can get involved in to prepare them for life after their studies. Students can take advantage of opportunities which include: work placements, internships and volunteering with the University’s commercial partners, networking with top employers at career fairs and employer-led workshops, help with writing CVs, as well as advice and top tips for interviews. Students can also specialise further with a postgraduate course and gain a more in-depth knowledge of their subject.
Chris explains that another fantastic way current students can gain valuable real-world experience is from you, the members of our alumni community. “Our alumni have been in the same situation as our current students; they can relate to a similar shared experience,” he says.
When alumni share their pathways to success, they are sharing a realistic path that can be emulated by current students.
The University of Southampton is a community with a lifelong membership, even after you have graduated you are still an active part in that community. “By volunteering to support the student community, you continue to connect with your institution,” Chris explains.
Chris is always looking for alumni who are interested in providing work experience to current students. But as he explains, whether on campus or off site, there are numerous volunteering opportunities for you to get involved with and help current students.
“In collaboration with the University’s Careers and Employability Service, we have had members of the alumni community come back to campus to participate in career panels, where they talked about their experiences of working in a particular industry or field. Speed networking events are also popular or maybe you would like to mentor a student? We also invite alumni back to campus to give keynote speeches at events,” he says.
You could also assist the University by volunteering at open days, recruitment fairs and by talking to younger students in local schools across Southampton.
But what is in it for you? Research has shown that volunteering is actually good for wellbeing and mental health. “Volunteering is good for the soul! Our volunteers say how much they enjoy the interaction with current students. In some cases they even provide students with opportunities to enhance their lives and job prospects,” says Chris.
Enrich the experiences of current students through a variety of initiatives. There are many ways that you can make a difference, from mentoring to offering an internship at your company. Find out what opportunities are available by visiting our website or emailing Chris Shank on firstname.lastname@example.org