Jessica Pagel: Graduate Audit Trainee at KPMG

Featured Success Stories

March 04, 2020


Jessica, from South Africa


I am originally from South Africa so I did my undergraduate there which was in Marketing Economics and then I did my Honours in Africa as well which was just in Marketing. 

One of my best friends was actually coming to London to study at University of Westminster so I had heard first-hand and then I read online, browsed through the courses, applied and made my way over here. Fast forward, now I have the job that started in October!


‘I quickly found out that there were a lot more hurdles to jump through in the UK’


How did you find out about Student Circus and how was it helpful for you?


Student Circus was actually recommended to me by one of the friends I made at the University. She is an American student so she was also on a student VISA, and she was also hunting jobs that would give her a Tier 2 VISA. Student Circus was super ideal in how it lists and posts jobs that do sponsor Tier 2 VISA. 


Initially, I wasn't aware of how different the job application processes were from Africa, but when I started looking for jobs, I quickly found out that there were a lot more hurdles to jump through in the UK - a lot of the jobs I had applied for had online tests, online interviews, and then massive assessment tests. And we do have a few of those in Africa, but not to the same extent that you have here. 


My plan of action was to do as many internships as I could while I was studying and I kind of got those through friends in the UK - those were unpaid internships to help me get an idea of what area I wanted to venture into, professionally.  And then I reached out to my University's Career Service who did give me a few ideas, but in the end, I had to essentially go ahead and sort it myself. Student Circus was actually incredibly helpful in this process. Here’s why:


It was very frustrating having to search for companies that sponsor VISAs and I would have been maybe interested in a start-up or such but they won't sponsor VISAs. There was also a lot of frustration because I would apply to a lot of companies but as soon as they heard that I'd require them to sponsor VISAs, they were immediately not interested at all. So that was really stressful in the beginning. Also, on the current Tier 4 Student VISA, you only have 4 months after your course in the UK which isn't really a lot of time. They've just recently changed the legislation so now you can stay in the UK for 2 years after your VISA ends. 

In my search, when I found that most graduate programs sponsor Tier 2 Visas, it made the whole process so much more manageable in my mind.


‘I think the deadlines and timelines were one of the most important things’


How was your job application process?


I was actually quite surprised there were so many steps in the process - the first was the online application which involved filling in your grades and answering questions about yourself. Then there was a series of 3 tests that I had to do, there was numerical, verbal and then psychometric tests. Most of the companies have this format. After that, there was an online video interview which involved answering a couple of questions. Post that, there was an assessment centre which was a full-day engagement with lots of students, across activities, group work and interview. 


I think the deadlines and timelines were one of the most important things - I thought even I was a little bit late. I started looking basically on the 1st of June and by the 1st week of July I had the Assessment Centre and they offered me the job. it was really quick. But I know that when I was applying there were a whole lot of other companies  that had already closed their deadlines, I think Deloitte had closed it around March itself. So if I had to give advice to someone it would be that they should start looking in January. 


‘Big companies with big graduate programs sponsor VISAs with not much hassle’


Can you tell us how you landed KPMG?


So the KPMG Assessment centre, I thought, was really well-structured even with 160 students. The group exercise was to talk about a business idea - everyone came up with an idea and then chatted about it, marking went on as we proceeded. The written exercise was similar, and the interview was a pretty standard interview where they ask you about yourself. I think the Assessment centre can seem quite daunting but if you do some research on how it is conducted and speak to a couple of people who have done them, then it is not as scary as it seems. 


As for the VISA process, the company did everything. They asked me to send in my documents from the university, my passport and related stuff and they handed it to the immigration office who then called me first for a biometric appointment and 2-4 weeks after the appointment to get the BRP card. Big companies with big graduate programs sponsor VISAs with not much hassle - they are super willing to do it. 


‘Having a portal that can filter out jobs that sponsor Tier 2 Visas - Student Circus - was very helpful’


What tools and resources did you use?


You’ll find plenty of resources online. There are lots of chatrooms that mention the questions that have been asked in assessment centres. 

I didn't use the careers service that much, and spoke more to the lecturers, and one of my lecturers had even offered me a 3-month internship, but then I got this job. The careers services direct you to resources, but having a portal that can filter out jobs that sponsor Tier 2 Visas - Student Circus - was very helpful. 

Sometimes, a simple google search makes all the difference. 


‘Another very important tool is practising online tests’


Any advice for the incoming cohort of international students?


I know people who went to the same University as me and are actually still looking for a job. There were a bunch of other friends as well, from America, who actually went back home because they couldn't find a job here. 


My advice? Start early. Just go through the motions, because looking at how many steps there are in the application process may make it daunting, but just take it one step at a time. 

Another very important tool is practising online tests. It would be around £30 on the internet. And these practice tests really helped me. After a little practice, they are really doable and I felt better prepared to dive into the application process after honing my skills.

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