Graduate in Focus: Nikhinder Rai

Guest BloggerFinal Year, Graduates, Graduates in Focus, Postgraduate

Nikhinder Rai graduated from Aston University in 2019 with a BSc (Hons) International Relations and French degree. She currently works as an Environment Manager for Virgin Media O2. We caught up with her to find out more about her career journey so far.


What does a typical day in your job look like?

I spend the first half an hour of my morning researching news and updates within the environmental sphere. I will then plan out my tasks for the day around any calls scheduled in my calendar. I spend most of my day working on projects that will contribute to the business’s environmental blueprint. These projects vary from finding net-zero and zero-waste initiatives to reporting on sustainability KPIs.

What has been the highlight of your job so far?

A notable highlight in my role so far is the joint venture between O2 and Virgin Media. I’m a real advocate for change, and I see this as a valuable opportunity to expand my role further and take on greater environmental responsibility within the new business.

How has your current role shaped your career plans?

Before landing this role, I was confused over where I wanted to take my career. Since starting this role, I have worked on projects that align with my values. As a result, I now recognise that corporate responsibility and sustainability is the right field for me. I hope to work towards gaining the environmental expertise I need to become a leader in this field.

How did you secure your role?

I found my current role through the internal jobs board at O2. However, I initially joined O2 through the Retail Leadership Graduate Programme. I became aware of O2’s graduate schemes through a top graduate employers’ book that I picked up at a careers fair held by Aston University’s Careers+Placements team. I also used TARGETJobs to browse through roles and narrow down the fields that interested me.

To prepare for the application process, I dedicated time every week to practice psychometric tests. I attended interview sessions with various employers to improve my interviewing technique and receive constructive feedback. Most importantly, I mentally prepared myself for rejection and accepted this as part of the journey to securing the role that I wanted.

Did you receive any support from Careers+Placements when looking for a graduate job?

I attended numerous events held by the Careers+Placements team, including employer workshops, interview sessions, application support sessions and CV writing workshops. Thanks to the resources provided by the Careers+Placements team, I was able to secure several interviews for graduate schemes.

Did you do a placement or gain any other work experience before securing your graduate role?

I secured my placement at the British Chamber of Commerce EU & Belgium. My placement enabled me to gain real exposure to a variety of policy areas, the inner workings of the European institutions and those working within them. My experience at the Chamber also equipped me with endless discussion points for interviews during my graduate job search. Working and living abroad in itself helped me to develop in many ways. I would recommend this experience to any student looking to expand their horizons.

Alongside my studies, I worked part-time at Asda. Having a part-time job undoubtedly helped me to manage my time and prioritise tasks in the most efficient way. Again, a great talking point in interviews.

What advice would you offer to current final year students or other recent graduates looking for a role at the moment?

You must invest a lot of time and effort into your applications. It will never be a waste of time. Even if you aren’t successful in gaining the role, the time you have invested in the application process will only make you a better candidate for the next application.

Don’t rule yourself out because you don’t meet all the job requirements, e.g. A-level grades. Instead, email the employer and let them know what you have achieved during university that will make you a great candidate for the role despite not having the required A-level grades.  

Finally, accept rejection as part of the process of finding your ideal role.

Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash

Written by Nikhinder Rai, an Aston graduate (2019)