Druga Kumar: Graduate Researcher at Gerson Lerhman Group
Featured Success Stories
June 17, 2019
I did my A-Levels back in Malaysia, in Kuala Lumpur, and then I came to the UK, did my law degree, LLB for two years, I did it at Hull. Then I studied for the Bar, and have just now graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University.
Why did you choose UK and this University as your place of study?
A law degree obtained in the UK is recognized in Malaysia. I chose to come to the UK because firstly, I wanted the overseas experience. At the same time, I wanted a law degree that is recognized back home, just in case. Because no one knows where you’ll end up after the course, whether you'll work overseas or go back home, and I didn’t want to waste my time in pursuing a degree that is not recognized, so that's why I chose the UK. I went to the particular university, Hull, because a family friend, who's also a lawyer, had graduated from there. Hull as a city is also quite small and student-friendly, so I could really focus on my studies. It is also very cost-effective, being a student that's important, too.
What field were you looking for work experience in? How did you go about looking for and applying to opportunities here?
Basically, I was looking for graduate opportunities because I had never taken a full-time job before, it was always a part-time job or an internship, so I was looking for graduate opportunities. It could enable me to start from scratch, because otherwise, these jobs demand 1 or 2 years' experience, these are the jobs you come across a lot while searching on other online job portals and platforms,which is why I think personally Student Circus is the better platform because its focus is on graduate jobs for international students.
It focuses exactly on that, so students don’t need to waste time going over specifications of every job out there and then realize they need experience or that they don’t fulfill other eligibility requirements.
I was looking for graduate jobs, and simultaneously I was looking for opportunities in the business world, because coming from the legal side, it is not just law, but you also need to know how to make money as well- so it is also sales. That's why I chose a corporate orientation.
Did you feel that the sector/field that you were interested in, had ample opportunities for an international student?
Firstly I think if you do the IPC and you go down the Solicitor route, there will be a lot of opportunities for you, especially, in fact, for international students, because a lot of big law firms are looking for people with language proficiency. They want a lot of people who can speak Chinese and other languages because they're trying to attract clients from other countries as well, especially the big corporate law firms.
So there are a lot of opportunities but my one advice would be to start early.
Maybe start in the second year of law school, try to get a few interviews. You need enough time to be able to experiment, to find out what you really want, to make mistakes.
As for me, I did not apply for opportunities in my second year. I kept looking for opportunities, doing placements, going for internships, but that's not enough. To actually secure a job, you actually need to know how to do an application well, and you need to know the right company to approach, so I think it is a good practice to keep an eye out for open days, application season, etc. I think you should take one season to just apply, and only focus on getting at least one interview, then you can work on your interview skills as well. So that was something I wish I did in my second year. That was definitely a lesson for me.
How different are the job-hunting and application processes in the UK from your home country?
In the UK they do on these timelines, they have these grad programs, etc but in Malaysia, you can just walk in and inquire. They don’t have a specific job application timeline, like in the UK, November through January is crucial until they start again in September, but in Malaysia, you just go in and inquire. Even on the websites, they post if you believe you have the skills, please send us your CV. So they are continuously looking for people. Whereas in the UK we need to wait for the application season.
What was the application process exactly like (what were the steps: interview, Assessment center, etc?) (inter alia expand questions on preparation, the setting of the interview)
I just put in my CV, and I tailored it to the specific job I was applying for. I made sure about that, uploaded it and answered 3-4 basic questions about why I want to join them and such. The second round was a video interview which is also fairly simple. I got through the video interview and got the HR interview. I did not get called for the partner interview, but it is a fairly long process, in these 4 stages. Some law firms also have aptitude tests that you need to take and certain grades you need to meet.
I think it was about 3 weeks from the time of submitting my application to the time of them getting back to me, and going through these interviews. The whole process I've heard is about a month.
How did you prepare for the Interview/AC? Did you avail the facilities provided by the Careers Service at your University for preparation? Was there any particular interview question or aspect of AC that you found especially crucial?
I was told the Video Interview was supposed to be just competency questions, so I took those questions to the University's career department and asked them for guidance. They gave me specific key words and indicators that companies actually want to hear from a candidate. And basic things, like, in a video interview, you only get one take, you have to sit with a white background, not in a kitchen. Keeping it professional.
When I went for the HR interview, I got the feedback on it, which was good because I got to learn from that. I didn't find any questions particularly hard. You need to research the company and not just that, but really think about how you fit in that company. So going back to when they gave me the feedback. Their question was about a smart skill that I have recently learned. The feedback was they just wanted to relax and know more about me as a candidate, and so next time I should let them see my personality a little more because they were looking at whether I am the right fit for the job. I was apparently too focussed on putting forth that I can do the job.
Any advice you have for students in the same boat as you were?
I think firstly you want to know and need to find out whether the company can sponsor you, so don't waste your time going for companies that don’t have the license to give you a work visa as an employer.
Once that's sorted, check the job applications, the timeline is very important, and I would personally advise students to apply and do a long-term internship, like 6 months to one-year internship, with the company that has a VISA license. You can work on Tier 5. Once they see your work, and they like you, they may just take you in under Tier 2. I think that's a really smart way to go about it.
Networking in a job helps, but as an international student, you can network at events, yet it might not take you very far, because they haven't seen your work yet. International students have to understand that if a company takes you in, they are going to invest in you through the VISA process, so you really have to prove your work ethic, and standalone networking won't help in that case. The locals can network and convert it into jobs because they can apply anytime, but international students, it is more than just networking, it is letting prospective employers watch you work.