Having taken part in the rigorous application process with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which led to her winning the prestigious TARGETjobs Management Undergraduate of the Year Award (sponsored by Enterprise), Sarah Burke knows what skills are needed to be a manager. She also knows how to prevent your confidence being knocked, so you can work at fulfilling your management potential without worrying that others in the room are better than you.
Here are Sarah’s four top steps to success for building and demonstrating the qualities Enterprise Rent-A-Car looks for, particularly in applicants to its graduate management trainee role.
Step one: don’t be afraid to be ‘human’
Being seen as ‘human’ – that is, as personable and as someone who understands that people make mistakes – is important for the role of manager as it helps you to build a strong, open and understanding relationship with those you manage.
During recruitment processes, don’t set yourself the standard of being ‘super-human’ – this will just prevent you from showing your true self and from allowing your natural people skills to shine through. ‘Be yourself,’ Sarah says when referring to the assessment centre she undertook as part of the TARGETjobs Undergraduate of the Year Awards process. ‘This might be the professional “best” version of yourself, but don’t shy away from talking to fellow candidates and asking them questions – and be polite to everyone you meet.’
By demonstrating awareness that no one is ‘perfect’, you’ll help to show that you understand people and the challenges of people management. Sarah discusses the group project she participated in during the assessment centre – both how she urged others to speak and how, when asked how the task went after they ran out of time, she explained that they could have been more organised and set limits on the amount of time people spent talking at the beginning. She added that she could have spent a bit less time talking herself. ‘You’re not exposing yourself by accepting that you could have done better, as the recruiters have watched the group during the task; you’re just showing self-awareness and authenticity,’ she explains.
It makes sense that recruiters at Enterprise are understanding when candidates don’t perform ‘perfectly’, as long as they can show they know where they went wrong and how they might change this. The company isn’t looking for super-human straight-A* students or fully-fledged managers. In fact, for its graduate management trainee role, the company prioritises soft skills – and the potential these show – rather than grades and relevance of degree subject.
Step two: show your work ethic
Enterprise has a promote-from-within culture so graduates who want to be supported while learning and progressing in their career are the most suited to a position with the company. In order to prove your enthusiasm for ‘working your way up’, being able to demonstrate your strong work ethic is important – that’s why it’s one of Enterprise’s six core competencies.
As Sarah highlights, talking about part-time jobs can be a great way of doing this; no matter how far away your position is or was from that of manager, your time working will be viewed as valuable for a role such as graduate management trainee. ‘A strong manager is willing to engage in any of the tasks that managees carry out,’ she says. ‘That way, they will understand the roles of those they manage, and will be better placed to guide them.’
Sarah has undertaken many part-time jobs and she puts her aptitude for customer service, something Enterprise really values, largely down to communicating with such a range of people through these roles. ‘When I worked as an “elf” in Lapland, I had an amazing manager who had started as an “elf” and – in seven years – worked her way up to the position of resort manager. This drove home to me just how useful knowing how to do a job before leading others can be,’ she says. ‘It also taught me that observing and learning from your managers can improve your own management skills.’
Step three: connect with people outside your comfort zone
An effective manager is more interested in people than power. While you’ll need the confidence to make people aware if they’re not working to the best of their ability, they are more likely to respond to a manager they know and respect, rather than some detached disciplinarian. 'At Enterprise, everyone’s personable and invested in people,' Sarah says.
Sarah built up her understanding of people by moving out of her comfort zone. She felt challenged by her time working as an ‘elf’ in Lapland and as an au pair in Madrid, yet these proved themselves to be great opportunities to meet and talk to new people. ‘I made sure I really listened and learned from others,’ she says.
At the moment it’s difficult to meet new people in person and take on the kind of challenges made possible through travel. So, Sarah advises making full use of: the opportunities to network provided by platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter; volunteering; and attending online events such as webinars. She’s also been making use of the careers service at her university.
Step four: keep a brag book
As emphasised above, valuing and understanding other people is important for the role of manager. However, without confidence in yourself, others won’t feel confident that you will manage them well – potentially leading to problems such as lack of motivation.
When we spoke to her, Sarah was preparing to give a speech at an Enterprise event for International Women’s Day. The theme was imposter syndrome, which she said affected her during the TARGETjobs Undergraduate of the Year competition. ‘I felt like I had somehow fallen through the cracks in the process and everyone else was better than me,’ she explains.
So, how did she rebuild her confidence in herself? ‘One of the ways I stop imposter syndrome from creeping in is by carrying a “brag book” around with me. In it, I write down all my achievements and this helps to lift my confidence in myself and my abilities. These don’t have to be huge: it’s nice having my TARGETjobs Undergraduate of the Year success in there now, but it’s listed alongside a good grade I attained in an assignment and the time I decided to network with someone – which led to a useful experience.’
If you do gain a position at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, you should remember that you were hired for a reason: recruiters saw your skills and potential. You could always add that to your brag book and read it whenever you need a confidence boost!
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