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    "To the class of 2021 (and beyond): A few observations as I make my way through your CVs." Part II.

    4 June 2021

    Christine McDowell graduated from Harper Adams in 2011 with a BSc (Hons) in Fresh Produce Management and later achieving a PgC in Food and Fresh Produce as part of the postgraduate MDS scheme.

    Currently, Christine is the NFU’s Food Chain Adviser.  She is responsible for the NFU’s engagement with the UK’s largest grocery retailers, ultimately influencing the agri-food supply chain to back British farming. 

     Alongside this, Christine, originally from Northern Ireland now leads the NFU lobbying efforts to influence the Government as they develop policy, strengthening farmers’ position within the supply chain & ultimately striving for a fairer and functioning marketplace for farmers and growers.

    Prior to joining the NFU in 2015, Christine’s previous roles have been in the commercial, supply chain and technical functions within some of the UK’s largest food manufacturing businesses.

    A word from Christine

    “I sat where you are now, 10 years ago.  I didn’t know what my next step was, where I wanted to work or in fact what kind of role.  If I’m honest, I’m yet to answer these questions to this day.  I was applying for graduate jobs but falling at the last hurdle and I couldn’t understand why. 

    “When I was reading through this year’s crop of graduate applicants, I saw myself in many of you, trying hard but tripping up along the way.

     “So, I wanted to reach out with a helping hand so you make the best of your application and interview. Frankly, I didn’t have it at your age, and I wish I had.”

    5 more tips from Christine

    1. It’s all about YOU.  If you are asked to describe your role in a successful team, tell me what YOU did, how YOU did it and how YOU contributed to the team’s success.  Be clear and specific.  My pet peeve is too often the word “we” is used, and I don’t know where you fitted into the team success.  It will not come across as cocky.  It will come across as confident.

    2. Be a STAR! In an interview, give your answer structure.  Goggle the STAR method to help you land your key points.  It will also help stop you from waffling and will settle your nerves. 

    3. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.  Think about the types of questions you might get asked and rehearse your answers.  Have a variety of examples up your sleeve you can draw on.  If you have used an example to answer one question, try not using it again to answer another.  Do not try blagging it, it will not work!

    4. Questions are your opportunity.  If you find the interviewer probing you on your answer, 9/10 times they are willing you on to demonstrate a core competency they are specifically looking for, (this may feel like you are being challenged).   P.S, ever thought of getting in touch with someone who works in the business and asking them what are the core competencies the business looks for in their people, ahead of the interview?

    5. Finally, get comfortable being uncomfortable.  It is how we grow.  We all get nerves, and that is okay.  Give yourself permission to feel comfortable with them. Learn how best to control yours.  I control mine before they kick in by doing some deep breathing well in advance of the day as I go about everyday life – driving in the car, watching TV etc.  If I feel myself tensing up on the day, take a deep breath in and out slowly.  Relax into it.  You’re training your body to chill out by doing this.  Tell yourself you can do it.  You would a friend, right? So, tell yourself too. 

    P.S Don’t put pressure on yourself.  So what if it goes wrong! Failing is okay too you know!  Learn from the mistakes you made and move on. Asking for feedback really helps with this. 

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