Graduate Careers: The Career Doctor your employment questions answered

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The Independent Culture
Q: I'm looking for a career in the financial sector but I've noticed they all use a lot of jargon. How long before I can understand what they're on about?

A: Business jargon comes in three varieties: 1) The necessary "geek speak" that nerds in IT create to describe new products, eg rotoscoping, digitisation, cyberspace etc; 2) Elaborate but non-technical words and phrases that are used by the intellectually challenged in the sad hope that speaking in tongues will somehow make them appear to be less witless, eg "functional collaboration", "global orientation", "human capitalisation", "process re-engineering" etc; 3) "Trendy" jargon that is used by corporate show-offs, ie "cool", "joined-up thinking", "circling the drain", "blamestorming" etc.

Each company tends to have its own jargon and - horrendous though it may be - the sooner you access it the better if you wish to communicate on even the most basic level.

To help you do this, carry a notebook to jot down all the gobbledegook as you go through your day - ask a colleague or mentor to translate for you once the user is out of earshot.

Q: I feel relatively confident about my interview skills but one company has mentioned an opportunity for lunch after the interview for candidates to "meet and mingle". Should I work on my social skills too?

A: Of course. Once the niceties of the interrogation process are out of the way, a lot of companies like to see how you function as a member of the human race, ie meeting, chatting, listening and eating (and often all at the same time).

Rehearse your greetings and introductions, including a good handshake and realistic-looking smile; work on a few lines of small talk or questions about the job that you can ask the staff; make sure you choose food that is easy to eat (no vol-au-vents or chicken legs); and also remember to lay off the booze.

Q: I'm always stumped by the "hobbies and interests" section of a CV. What should I put on there to impress companies?

A: It depends on two factors: 1) The culture of the business you are applying to; 2) Your ability to cope with a bare-faced lie.

The idea of these hobbies sections is that they prove us to be well-rounded individuals with a zest for life, which is why sporty or challenging pastimes tend to crop up most regularly.

However, they also provide a handy subject for small-talk, which is why excessive inaccuracy is not recommended. Regardless of how obscure the activity you chose is, you can rest assured that at least one member of the interview panel will turn out to be an expert on it and that he or she will be gagging for a little in-depth banter.

So avoid the ultra-mundane, such as drinking and daytime television, but do choose something you can talk knowledgeably about.