Future leaders: an interview with winners and finalists of the Top100 Awards

by Aug 23, 2021

Last week, we spoke to some of the finalists of the GradConnection Top100 Awards. Since 11 amazing students represented UTS at the annual awards ceremony this year, we’re spoiled for choice and are lucky enough to be chatting to three more winners or finalists today.

So what exactly are the Top100 Awards? Wow, I’m so glad you asked!

The annual awards recognise top university students across the country, connecting them with leading employers to get a taste of what the graduate recruitment process is like. With interviews and assessment centres, Top100 participants get the chance to develop their career and employability skills.

Whether you’re a first or final year student, the Top100 Awards have something for you. You might even be named as one of Australia’s top future graduate talents and have your name printed in the Australian Financial Review!

But that’s enough from me. Let’s find out a little bit more about some of the people who went through this exact process this year.

Emily studies a Bachelor Engineering (Civil) (Hons), and took home the gold in the Jacobs Engineering Consulting Award. She has completed two six-month internships with Arcadis, and study tours to both Cambodia and Nepal.

Bhavya (or Bhavi as his friends call him!) is a second year Bachelor of Information Technology student and finalist for the Coles IT Award. He strives to make a positive impact on the world in every way he can, and most recently through the use of our world’s ever-changing technology.

Alex completed his Bachelor of Business (Accounting and Finance) degree at the end of 2020, and went on to place as a finalist in the EY Innovation Award. He has also won a number of social impact and strategy competitions against some of the leading Business Schools around the world, and hopes to use these experiences to effect change for good in the corporate, government, or non-profit space.

 

Thanks for chatting to us! Why don’t you tell us a bit about the Top100 process? What was it like to go through?

Emily:

The Top100 process is meant to mimic the graduate recruitment process and so consists of a group and one-way interview, psychometric testing and an extended response.

 

It was interesting to experience as there were aspects of that process I had never experienced and so each stage was challenging. Whilst I found myself a little out of my depth at times, I definitely came out more confident.

 

What made you decide to give Top100 a try?

Bhavi:

When I go through LinkedIn I always see these people stand out with Top 100 Future Leader in their achievements. It always intimidated me – I thought they would have to be some kind of prodigy.

 

I decided to give it a try anyway because I really had nothing to lose and something to gain, and an hour before the deadline I sent in my responses. Turns out really anyone can do it, so don’t be intimidated!

 

What scared you the most about the Top100 process? How did it turn out?

Alex:

Prior to the Top 100 process, I had successfully gone through formal recruitment processes of organisations, which gave me some awareness of what the process might look like.

 

While I personally enjoyed the elements that involved in-person collaboration, and opportunities to speak with leaders who were really insightful, I always found one-way interviews to be a bit of an awkward process, especially when there isn’t anyone on the other side of the screen to speak to.

 

Ultimately, with a bit of reflection on my personal strengths, and motivations for the program, I found that these went a lot better than expected – especially with some preparation. 

 

What have you enjoyed most about the Top100?

Alex:

What I’ve really enjoyed about the process was the opportunity to meet people along the way.

 

The people who end up being successful in the process all have interesting backgrounds and stories which leaves me very optimistic about the diversity of future leaders from university entering the workforce in the next few years. 

Bhavi:

I genuinely enjoyed the process of the Top100 journey but by far my favourite moment was awards night. It was a fancy dinner in the heart of Sydney, alongside the best students and the best employers, and it made the whole process worth it.

 

Good food, good drink and good company to celebrate your learning is something I wish everyone experiences in the coming future because you all deserve it.

 

What did you learn about yourself, the recruitment process or your industry while going through Top100?

Emily:

I particularly enjoyed the extended response question which was based around technological barriers that the industry is facing. This really made me think critically about the industry and reflect on its future.

 

The second part of the question was “how will I challenge today and reinvent tomorrow?”, which really made me reflect on my current ability and future aspirations. This part also gave me the opportunity to practice selling myself, which is something that I sometimes struggle with.

Bhavi:

One of my biggest takeaways from the Top100 process was being comfortable with the structure of assessments, because you see these methods of assessment in every job application at one stage or another.

 

Now when I apply for other opportunities, I walk in with the advantage of knowing what works well, what doesn’t work, what’s going to happen and how to come out on top. This can really be a big advantage over other applicants that come in without the edge you have.

 

What do you think is the most important skill or ability Top100 candidates should have?

Alex:

I think the most important skill for Top100 candidates to have is self-awareness. I believe that reflecting on things like your personal interests, passions, and upbringing will help articulate what type of future leader you can be.

 

For example, as a first-generation university student, I’m deeply passionate about advocating about how our institutions can be more diverse, inclusive and equitable, and most importantly create a sense of belonging for all. 

 

How do you think the Top100 process will help your career?

Emily:

Top100 has helped my immediate career because it increased my profile within the company I work for, the university and the wider industry. This gave me an opportunity to start my career with a good reputation. 

 

I think it can also give you direction with your career as the process involves a rigorous set of questions that makes you reflect on your experiences, your ambitions, and your perspective on the industry as a whole. This process can be applied throughout your whole career and gives you an opportunity of practising that career-based reflection early on.

Bhavi:

I reckon this is one of my favourite flexes in an interview: to just tell the interviewer they can find me on the AFR 😂.

 

Other than that, I really feel like knowing so many other peers that share the same goals and ambitions as me – as well as employers that favour such qualities – will be the biggest helping hand. There comes a point where who you know matters more than what you know.

 

What advice would you give students thinking about giving Top100 a go?

Bhavi:

The next 365 days will go by whether you want them to or not. By then, you’ll either be a Top100 leader, or you’d have given it a good go, learnt a lot about yourself and now know how to be better prepared for a job interview in the future, or nothing would have changed.

 

Most people never see themselves as what they’re truly capable of, so I really really think you should give this a go. I’m sure you’ll get something good out of it.

Alex:

My advice to students thinking about giving Top100 a go is to reflect on their motivations and adequately prepare for the process. Have a think about the issues you are passionate about, how this will drive the type of leader you’d like to be, and how your career will enable these goals.

 

Next is to prepare for the process itself. I’ve found that there are plenty of resources online to practise your numerical and deductive ability.

 

Additionally, UTS Careers provided excellent resources to write a good application, and practise for one-way video interviews. (You can find some of these resources here.)

Emily:

I would say go for it! You have everything to gain and nothing to lose in applying. It is a great opportunity to learn something about yourself, gain a little confidence, and develop a better understanding of the future of your industry.

 

So what are you waiting for? Apply today for GradConnection’s Top100 Awards for your chance to be like Emily, Bhavi, and Alex. Get direct access to top employers and practise a real-life graduate recruitment process.

Who knows, you could even see your face in the Australian Financial Review!

 

Featured image courtesy of GradConnection

Lily Cameron

Lily Cameron

Communications Assistant

Lily Cameron is a writer and editor based in Sydney. She is a UTS Communications (Creative Writing) graduate, and current Communications Assistant at UTS Careers. She is passionate about telling stories, both hers and others’, and the way digital and social media is changing the literary landscape. Her writing has appeared in Voiceworks, The Brag, and elsewhere.

Emily Gerrard

Emily Gerrard

Graduate Bridge Engineer | Aurecon

Emily studies a Bachelor Engineering (Civil) (Hons), and took home the gold in the Jacobs Engineering Consulting Award. She has completed two six-month internships with Arcadis, and study tours to both Cambodia and Nepal.

Bhavya Popli

Bhavya Popli

Bhavya (or Bhavi as his friends call him!) is a second year Bachelor of Information Technology student and finalist for the Coles IT Award. He strives to make a positive impact on the world in every way he can, and most recently through the use of our world’s ever-changing technology.

Alex Cheng

Alex Cheng

Associate | L.E.K. Consulting

Alex completed his Bachelor of Business (Accounting and Finance) degree at the end of 2020, and went on to place as a finalist in the EY Innovation Award. He has also won a number of social impact and strategy competitions against some of the leading Business Schools around the world, and hopes to use these experiences to effect change for good in the corporate, government, or non-profit space.