A couple of days later I saw a post on Canvas about the upcoming ‘Common Purpose Future Leaders Experience’ and thought this would be the perfect way to expand this curiosity.
What is Common Purpose?
Common Purpose is a three day course: connecting students with worldwide industry leaders, through group discussions; exploring real life challenges they face; and engaging in challenging discussions with your peers.
It is a program I have seen advertised over the years at Newcastle University but never had the confidence or motivation to join, with other time commitments. Now, having completed the event, I am so glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone.
The event was hosted by a range of global leaders from Common Purpose and was attended by students from a variety of programmes from Newcastle University Business School across a period of 3 days, 10am until 2pm. It is an opportunity I was incredibly grateful to take advantage of whilst a Newcastle University student, as all costs of the course were covered by the university, something many other participants would not be lucky enough to say.
It started out with some introduction events, including an exercise focused on describing what we wanted to be when we were 10 years old, to get everyone talking. Due to the ongoing pandemic, it was held online, via Zoom, which presented challenges in communication and teamwork, but it also presented a brilliant opportunity for all students to access the course from home.
The exciting thing about this event is that, whilst it was designed to increase students’ awareness of leadership, decision-making and cultural change, it also allowed each student to set their own personal objectives on the first day, for what they wanted to gain from the course. For me, this was to expand my curiosity as previously mentioned, increase my confidence in networking and improve my teamworking with peers I am not familiar with.
The structure depended on the day, but there were approximately 3 core activities each day, which involved the main group being broken down into smaller groups, using breakout rooms. On the first day we did an exercise where we were given various statements – such as ‘the Covid-19 vaccine should be mandatory’ – and had to say whether we agreed or disagreed with them and discuss our varying opinions. This was an eye-opening exercise, as it gave me confidence in voicing my opinion even if it is different to others. Alongside this, it also highlighted the fact that many differences in opinion are due to the understanding of the statement or interpretation and you can nearly always find some similarities with others.
Engaging with industry professionals
Each day we also had a talk and the opportunity to pitch questions to industry professionals, including representatives from Nokia, Tik Tok, Alice’s Honey and Projek Dialog. This provided insights into leadership and career progression, which was most beneficial for myself as I am close to the completion of my Masters and interested in exploring my next steps. A key theme brought up was being a leader who is authentic and listens to others at all levels, learning from each other for the greater good of the organisation. All speakers also highlighted the importance of taking ownership of your own career progression, never saying no to a challenge and being confident to speak up and share your ideas, no matter who you are.
Real-world business challenge
The final day was a highlight of the program, as we were presented with a real-world business problem to address and present our findings on, working with a representative from MettaSpace. This presented an opportunity to put our teamworking skills – which we had been working on the previous two days – into practice, while working in a time pressured situation since we only had 50 minutes to generate, discuss and plan a presentation of our ideas.
This exercise highlighted the difficulties in leadership of a group without key allocation of roles and time pressure. This also displayed the difficulties in virtual teamworking since it limited the opportunity to divide work and split into smaller groups, with seven people generating a lot of ideas under time pressure.
However, by working together we came to the realisation that it was easier to give each person a task and then go through the overall presentation together, with one person leading the discussion and creation of a PowerPoint. This led to a successful presentation which gained great feedback from the organisation and has led to a continued conversation with MettaSpace, providing future opportunities to work with them for myself and other participants of the course.
Having reflected upon my experience of this course, I have identified three key takeaways:
- Listening is not enough: active listening is key. When listening to others’ opinions it is important to listen and understand what they are saying and why they are saying it. This way you can create better engagement, giving the speaker confidence and also engaging in a deeper discussion.
- Everyone has insecurities, but not everyone sees yours. Throughout the session, we all shared our goals for the week with many of us wishing to gain confidence in networking, speaking to a group or teamworking. However, whilst we each had these insecurities, others did not recognise them and many perceived others differently to how they perceived themselves. Therefore, don’t be scared to give public speaking or networking a go and actively listen to the feedback and opinions of others, as this can provide a real confidence boost in overcoming these securities. This brings me nicely to my final takeaway.
- Always seek feedback and reflect on your growth. Seeking feedback can be daunting but it is the best way to grow and improve. Throughout the week we finished each session by reflecting on what we had learnt, reflecting as a team on our performance and how each person contributed. Finally, we were tasked with writing a reflective essay to gain a micro-credential from the course – this supported me in preparing for interviews since partaking in the scheme and even in writing this blog!
Don’t miss out on this great opportunity
I hope, from reading this blog, the benefits of partaking in the Common Purpose Future Leaders Program are clear: expanding curiosity; gaining confidence; improving teamworking and time management skills; and providing a valuable opportunity for networking with industry professionals.
Therefore, I would encourage anyone looking to build a prosperous career within the business world or interested in leadership to sign-up to this course as, not only will you have a brilliant week of development, but you will also become Common Purpose alumni, gain a micro-credential to display on your LinkedIn, and have a unique experience to discuss at interviews, displaying your motivation for your own improvement.
So, don’t let your confidence or other commitments hold you back! Make time for the Common Purpose Future Leaders Experience whilst you are a Newcastle University student, and take advantage of this great opportunity to add to your development.
Chat to a current student or read more blogs on our Unibuddy messaging platform
Emilie is a postgraduate student studying Accounting, Finance and Strategic Investment at Newcastle University Business School.