Last year, Stafford based Andrew went on a placement year and I became the sole web designer for the Students’ Union.
Since then I’ve taken on all kind of tasks; from adjusting text on a page through to a full blown redesign of the site!
In July this year, I graduate from the Staffordshire University, which means it’s time for me to leave my web design job at the SU. During March/April the Marketing Department are looking for someone to fill my shoes.
When I applied for my job there were some things that would’ve been really useful to know. Not so much about myself, but about what the job entailed.
I want the person who goes in after me to have the same enthusiasm and passion for the SU’s website. So here’s some tips if you’re thinking of applying for my job.
Research the CMS/Platform
When I started I had no clue what the SU’s CMS was. It turns out it’s much much more than just a CMS and is a complete platform that not only deals with the web face, but also the whole membership system!
Before going in, know this. The SU aren’t looking for a new platform or for someone to reinvent the wheel. It’s a web design job, not a web developer job. My boss told me how when I applied (and when Andrew’s post was re-advertised) that lots of applicants talked about what great things they could develop for them. The SU aren’t moving from the system any time soon as it controls and does so much! It can be a pain in the bum sometimes, but it has fantastic power behind it.
You don’t have to have already used it or know how to do anything with it, just be expecting to learn a lot about it in a short time!
I’m not going to say what the platform is, as a bit of digging around on the current site will bring up what it is.
Be prepared to redesign
As I mentioned, I redesigned the entire website style during the summer of 2012. It is highly likely that there will be another redesign called upon. The nature of Students’ Unions is that there are new officers every year and they have a different idea of what the website should do (whilst marketing has their own!).
Think about the website now and how you’d like to improve it. Look at the current coding structure to get an idea of what might be possible. Learn what it’s on now and whether it’s good or not. Do you have a plan for how the website would work on mobile?
Again, don’t try to reinvent the wheel, just try to think differently and creatively. Show the interviewers what you can do!
Look at the site and SU as they are now
I was very interested in what the SU was doing as I was part of the student media group when applying and had previous experience of a students’ union.
You don’t always need that detailed knowledge, just have a good idea of their values and aim. What are they trying to do and how are they currently going about it.
See what the website is like right now. Explore it and try to use it without a web design head on. How is information presented? What sort of features does it currently have that help students?
If you’re apply just because it’s a web design job, you might not get too far.
Think of your ‘customer service’ experience
It’s always funny when my boss has to do a Personal Development Review and comes to the question about my ‘customer service’ performance. I don’t serve ‘customers’ as such but work with many different departments within the SU; Money Doctors, the Student Advice Centre and Activities to name just a few.
How would you interact with them and ensure you’re getting the best information from them, whilst feeding back your thoughts to them.
I personally had very little experience of this before the job, but have certainly learnt more about how to deal with people’s web design requests. What is possible and going beyond their expectations.
Be yourself, but don’t waffle
Knowing my bosses, if you get through to the interview stage, don’t waffle on!
They like getting straight to the point and it being explained in plain English. It’s no good trying to explain something in a round about way and completely missing the point of what the question was asking for. This point may be a generic job interview point, but it’s certainly worth making!
What I’ve mentioned are no guarantees to get you my job, but they should certainly help you!
I have loved working at the Students’ Union and will be sad to leave after two and a half years there. I just want to see the website continue to flourish and grow better and stronger.
If you want to actually apply, you can get all the relevant details on the SU’s Jobs page; just click “Job Opportunities for Students” when you get there.
Just so you know, these are my own views and not those of the Students’ Union. Also to be transparent, I will be helping out with the recruitment process, so I may well be helping to short list and sitting in on interviews!