My graduate journey in the tech industry, James Nickelson, CAPCO

James Nickelson from CAPCO tells us about his role in the Technology sector. We asked James to tell us a bit about himself and his role.

Portrait photo of James Nickelson from CAPCO

Hey! I’m James and I’m a University of Surrey graduate. I studied International Business Management and graduated in 2016. I didn’t do a placement, but looking back I wish I did. Since graduating from Surrey, I have worked at two Management Consultancy companies. CAPCO, who I currently work, for is a Management consultancy which is based in Old Street, who specialise in financial services. At CAPCO I work as an Associate Consultant for HSBC, where I am part of a team responsible for the governance and reporting of the IT change portfolio, within the bank. Aside from work, I enjoy travelling, going to music festivals and I’m a BIG sports fan.

What was your application experience?

My application experience? Monotonous, dull and quite de-motivating to be honest! I joke(ish), I remember going to the graduate recruitment fair, at the start of the year, and just going back to my place and sending out applications left, right and centre. I was so worried about not having a job secured (especially with not having a placement experience to fall back on). I soon realised that these applications should take time, research and attention to detail, to tailor your application to the company and to highlight transferable skills. At the very beginning I took rejections very personally, some I would even write back to and announce to them that they have made the “BIGGEST MISTAKE” … they didn’t reply (I wouldn’t recommend using this approach).

For me, applications are about finding out what suits you as a person, and I find that I much prefer face to face conversations, this enables me to show my personality and explain my experiences in better detail… of course everyone has to write an application form, it’s when you get to the later stages that you find out what approach suits you. When I eventually found a job, it wasn’t as difficult as when I first started, I put this down to continuously applying, learning and doing my research on current trends and news. I had 4 stages, an application form, a phone interview, an assessment centre and then a final interview (I was nervous….not going to lie). When I got the job offer, I knew I had put in the work to deserve this place in the company and would take the chance given to me.

What are the key things to include when writing an application to ensure it is successful (particularly for organisations like yourself)?

For organisations, like CAPCO, the main thing is to show your personality and unique experiences that not many people would have. Having a forward-thinking attitude and entrepreneurial spirit goes a very long way with companies such as CAPCO, it makes you stand out and leaves recruiters thinking “He/she has got something about them”. I definitely feel, what helped me, is to broaden your experiences at University and just give any ideas or opportunities a go, because you never know what may happen. For example, there was a mass email sent out to my course about an opportunity to help build a Football App. Myself and a friend of mine signed up, showed our enthusiasm, and got involved in developing an app we were very interested in. Through that and my performances, the Investor offered me an opportunity to work for the company that he works for….which I found out was a young Monzo. Without reaching out and giving it a chance, I wouldn’t have been able to talk about this experience now…something that proved vital in applications and interviews, because it was interesting to talk about! Recruiters and employers saw my enthusiasm and felt that I would bring that to their company.

What are the mistakes to avoid?

Don’t copy and paste from another application! Organisations will see right through it and your chances of getting employed by them go down severely. This is not to say you can’t use the same theme or structure, but the core content should be well researched, detailed and specific to the organisation you are applying to.

Spelling and grammar are key, make sure you double check and proof read by someone else, to make sure it makes sense and it has a good flow. I’m a big culprit of this, especially during University, not having the patience to read through the application a couple of times to make sure everything was 100% correct. Don’t be Michael Scott….

Film still of Michael Scott with caption 'Sometimes I'll start a sentence and I don't even know where it's going. I just hope I find it along the way.

Research is key and makes you stand out from the crowd. Looking at the latest news, trends in the market and any other valuable, relevant information you feel can be applicable to your application is a great way to impress your potential employers. It shows your enthusiasm and drive to join them on their journey.

Finally, it’s essential to take time on your application, these shouldn’t be rushed. When I was applying to jobs, in my final year of University, there was a pressure to make sure I had an opportunity ready for when I graduated. However, this shouldn’t affect your time taken to do an application. Research, plan, proof read, check and double check before you send it off, that way you know you have shown the depth of your skillset and can be confident you have put in maximum effort for each organisation.

My top tips for applications

I hope this advice helped you guys, and although I may not be an expert, having experienced this (tough) process it has given me a new perspective on this stage in my career. If I had to leave you with one more quote, it’s probably one my Mum uses on a regular basis “If you don’t succeed, try and try again” and she’s right! It may be incredibly disheartening, if you receive a few rejection emails, but don’t panic…. there are plenty more fish in the sea (this is not dating advice by the way), there WILL be a company out there that will be a perfect fit for your career aspirations and skill set I promise you.

So…. play your cards right, nail your application and interviews and you never know, one day you could be in the hot seat….

Film still of Ricky Gervais, sitting in the boss's chair, in his role in the TV show 'The Office'

ECC Note

  • CAPCO opportunities on Surrey Pathfinder, click here.
  • James is happy to be contacted on LinkedIn here