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Stand Out From The Crowd

Becoming a graduate opens up a myriad of potential opportunities, courses and roles but what to do? One of the options is the Stand Out from the Crowd course run by the Unlocking Cornish Potential team. When doing a course like this you already have an idea of what you want to take away at the end; improved presentation skills, becoming a better communicator or learning to work better in a team. Whilst these are all things which are picked up in the course, perhaps the most important discoveries are the ones you never thought you’d make. I’m an English graduate so whilst the idea of a presentation didn’t faze me, I wanted to learn how to translate these presentation skills into presenting myself in front of a potential employer. It’s all very well to generate ideas but if you can’t present it properly you may as well have no content at all.

What I didn’t anticipate were the kind of things I would learn about myself as a person and how I interact with others given their different personality types. The course combines both individual work (psychometric tests, personal presentations) and group work (problem solving, what you can learn from each other) in such a way that you progress personally during group exercises, by facing challenges often outside your comfort zone and learning how to work as a team to find the best solution. There’s both a practical and a theoretical element to this approach; after learning about personality types and how they interact you are then encouraged to interact with others and see theory in practice. From the outdoors exercises I learnt that in a group situation my role consists of hearing the ideas of others and offering advice, a sort of editing approach. This sort of insight is valuable as you become aware that everyone has a role in a team situation, even those who usually operate independently.

Throughout the course you have the exciting opportunity to meet local business men and women who each have a different approach to business and presentation. Whether it is the start up recruitment agency or the established eco-friendly print company, each gave us a taste of what business meant to them and importantly for us, what they look for in graduates. As we progressed through the course the theme emerged that graduate employers seek motivated people with professional attitudes, the kind that the Stand Out course helps to create by taking unpolished graduates and honing these professional skills. The course concludes with a presentation to a Panel consisting of local business representatives and Unlocking Cornish Potential members, in which graduates pitch themselves as a product using the presentation and personal skills learnt throughout the course. The presentation itself whilst initially daunting carries the air of celebration about it as one by one fellow graduates discover what it is that they do well and present themselves from the heart with a new found confidence and emotional intelligence.

I didn’t know what to expect from the course initially yet found it challenging and full of surprises. Overall the course content helped to make me more confident and motivated and I would recommend it especially to those who wouldn’t normally try something like this in order to stand out from the crowd.

The Final Day

Post Presentation Relief!

Adobe CS6 Visual Communication at University College Falmouth

One of the things I have been doing recently is working on improving my knowledge of design, specifically image manipulation. Whilst I might have mastered Microsoft Paint, I couldn’t help but feel I could better my CV with some Adobe skills and a Visual Communication certification. To this end I got hold of an old copy of CS5 and started to apply some of the techniques I already knew and see how they worked in an Adobe program. I always find it useful when learning to integrate new approaches wherever I can and found the perfect opportunity in a friend’s birth day. Here I became familiar with the content-aware move tool and transformations in order to quickly mask an area and create text similar to the real one. The original of this image is the Hollywood star of Stevie Wonder and features a piano instead of a collie and is a little over exposed, which I adjusted with a blue filter effect.

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Having become more comfortable with the tools and layout of CS5 I decided to see what sort of certification program was available via the adobe website: http://www.adobe.com/uk/education/resources/certificate-programs/photoshop-exam-objectives.html which lists the schema of work in CS4/5/6 exams. There was little difference between the CS6 and CS5 so it seemed best to me to take the more current CS6 exam. Whilst I was studying at University College Falmouth I became aware that they ran various Adobe courses and so asked when their next intake would be. Fortunately they had one running a couple of weeks from when I asked so I booked on and got practicing. In order to focus on some of the tools I started to use Adobe Photoshop Touch for Android which offers a cut down version of Photoshop with a focus on filters and effects. As you can see from the images below, by changing the images levels, applying a HDR tone and changing exposure values a more vibrant picture emerges.

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This was good practice for the exam which went well and I received my ACA accreditation shortly after. The first thing I then did was to create a profile picture using a photo of myself which needed attention. Firstly I needed the background image to disappear via clone stamp, then following a crop I used the tools previously mentioned to build up more layers until it appeared I was wearing a shirt rather than a vest, much better for LinkedIn and other such sites.

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Doha Days

Ok, so it’s taken me a while to get around to it but finally I’ve had the chance to write some Doha-based words. It’s been two mildly hot, strange weeks adjusting to the climate and native customs and to be honest it’s a mixed bag. Whilst the appeal of waking early into perfect sunshine every morning is a far cry from blighty, the staggering amount of dust often curtails outside activity, so much so that I’ve yet to see anyone sunbathing despite a cloudless sky and high 20’s temperatures. If you can tolerate the flies though it’s doable; just don’t apply sunscreen or you’ll return inside as if you’d just walked through ground zero whilst covered in super glue. In.  Sun. Out. Guerrilla tanning. In all probability this isn’t that important anyway given that in the hotter months (May onwards) the task is to avoid the sun as much as possible lest one becomes frazzled.

The community itself is nice and welcoming, we live in a compound with a cheery security guard (perhaps too cheery to be convincing, alas!) and mostly British and Irish teachers all of whom are friendly, if disarmingly candid, about the surreal nature of the Doha experience, more on that later. The villa is fine and sunny and spacious, if there was to be a gripe though it would be the Arabic television channels which offer truly awful takes on 1970’s  Bollywood and MTV Arabia (you can imagine the horror). First week was grand as the Irish say, I even got a welcome cake (hence my happiness) and there was a party which made me appreciate that wherever you are in the world, if there are Irish your glass will be ever full and flowing.

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Caketime!

Some thoughts on the culture then from a naive westerner. Until arriving here I had no conception that there might be such a thing as a ‘pork licence’, of course you hear of people banning pork but contra banning it, really? Not that it matters too much to me either way, I can’t say I’ve missed it although in all probability if I were to smell bacon it’d be a different story. It’s just bizarre that like any ban someone always tries to find a way around it. Instead of aisles filled with sausages and bacon there’s beef bacon or chicken ham which from a distance or casual glance appear identical to it, yet it reality appear limp, pallid and watery. Much of a much-ness. Most western foods are obtainable here, some even in improved form. Take McDonalds for example, not that its much use to me but I’m assured having one delivered to your door at 3am after a night out for the same (perhaps less) than the cost back home is a valued resource. And for the most part this is true of all takeaway food out here it’s cheap and deliverable just don’t push it too far, even if the offer of 24 hour hummus delivery for 6 riyal (about one pound) is mind blowing.

I must digress from the fore to the aft orifice in much cruder matters I’m afraid, for every cultures point of difference begins in the lavatory. Whilst not as non-western as other eastern states that eschew toilet roll completely, or encourage the binning of it, it is certainly not the preferred method of post defecation clean-up. Here we have a sort of ‘bum gun’ which showers the derriere post push leaving a wipe clean finish. TMI? Probably, but good to have the heads up eh? Whether you’re into that sort of thing or not (as you might imagine it’s less favoured by the western contingent) its juxtaposition next to the bidet finally solves the age old argument as to the function of the latter. I told you it was for the feet!

My final thought for the day is the Villagio, a small Italian village located in the heart of Doha. Yes, you did read that correctly. I say a village but what I’m in fact describing is one of the most bizarre shopping centres I’ve thus far encountered; electric gondola’s pootle on past Krispy Kreme and Versace (and Hobbs) under a painted sky which if you’re not looking too hard, actually gives the impression of being outside.

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A little piece of number 7

Of course the effect would be more realistic if we weren’t in the desert and therefore needed large and frequent air conditioning units as well as artificial lighting, but the inclusion of the ice rink is welcome. In fact given the bizarre, simulacrum that is the Villagio it’s perhaps the only part which stands defiantly against the pastiche Italian offerings that surround.

In Sum (Doha);

A bizarre bazaar

McDonalds never too far

Mind the bad TV.

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