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By Cecily Rooney, Theology & Religious studies graduate 2016 & Careers Intern 2016-17.

I’ve known I’ve wanted to do a TEFL for quite some time now. I was lucky enough to go and spend some time working in Rwanda during my second year of University which really inspired me to take the plunge and move abroad to teach.

How to decide which course?

It’s important to note that TEFL is just an acronym for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. There are a few companies on the web which have TEFL in their name, but there are also lots of other qualifications you can do such as CELTA or TESOL. When deciding which to do, it’s crucial you do your research.

  • What sort of qualification do you need for the country you want to work in?
  • What is your price range?
  • How long have you got to do your qualification?
  • Do you see yourself doing this long-term or short-term?

I spent a good few weeks mulling over these questions. I then started shopping around, asking friends and reading people’s blogs so that I made an informed decision about which qualification to do. I ended up going for TEFL.org as it seemed like a well-reviewed course, one which was accredited in Spain and it was in my price range. I opted for an online only course as I have some teaching experience under my belt.

The course

The course that I decided to do is no walk in the park. It takes a lot of time and effort and should not be thought of as an easy option to getting work abroad. I have learnt A LOT about grammar – who knew there was such a thing as gerund?! Fortunately, you have access to an online chat forum where other students discuss the tasks and modules. I have found this to be particularly useful and have spent many an hour reading over peoples’ tips and advice.

Finding a TEFL job

Finding a job was actually incredibly easy for me thanks to good old CareersLink. I had been advised that going for a summer job/camp would be a really good way to get some experience and also to see if I am any good at this teaching English malarkey! So with that in mind, I searched for a summer job and found an ideal one in Spain. I applied, made an incredibly cringy video, and got the job! They then offered me work in September for the academic year which was a total win-win situation.

There was also a job board on the TEFL.org website which had a lot of good vacancies on there. You can also use other job searching platforms in order to keep your search nice and wide. See: The TEFL guide here.

Ask everyone you’ve ever met, ever.

Networking can also be a huge help for getting you settled in a new country. If a friend of a friend of your mate Tom once lived in the country you want to go to then ask them about it. I have found people love reminiscing about their time in another country so are almost always happy to help! Besides, it’s only ever the locals who know where to find the best food and drink in a city.

And there you have it, my honest account of my TEFL search experience. Lots of contemplating, lots of research and lots of excitement to get out there and teach!

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Traditionally it’s the time of year we all try to make ourselves feel better by making plans for summer holidays.  You definitely need a break from studying over summer but there are lots of options depending on what you want from your time off.  Here are some places you could start…

I need to earn money
  • Internships & vacation schemes : depending on what year you are in the options vary but they are normally paid and will give you experience in a business that will be useful for any future applications even if its in a completely different line of work. Think of it as testing out career options while getting paid. (Advertised in semester 1 and early semester 2) www.manchester.ac.uk/careerslink
  • Summer jobs: Often working in businesses where extra summer staff are needed, resorts, tourist areas,  summer camps, play schemes, hotels, sports & leisure etc in the UK or overseas. (Can be advertised at any time – it is also worth contacting any businesses you are interested in speculatively)
    You may also find one off jobs in local businesses looking for students for specific projects or roles these are often advertised late spring or early summer when an opportunity arises.

    Use CareersLink to search for summer jobs and internships

I need to get experience for a specific career
  • Internships & vacation schemes: These are usually with larger organisations and may be advertised well in advance Semester one and early semester 2. Some companies will take successful interns onto their graduate scheme so it can be a great way to get a foot in the door. Don’t worry about getting trapped in just one company though, you can take your experience elsewhere or even to s different industry it it doesn’t suit you.,
  • Speculative applications: Not all sectors will have official schemes especially creative, not for profit or small businesses so you may have to contact them speculatively to find out if there is an opportunity for you.
  • Volunteering: if you want to work in the charity sector /international development, or will be applying for medicine or teaching you will probably need voluntary experience. Some paid opportunities may also be available.
  • Language skills : How about a summer school arranged through the University?
I need to gain some general skills & experience to improve my CV

If you have had little experience before then you may need to spend some time over summer gaining skills and also using the time to work out what you like & dislike. Both will help you when it comes to applying for your next role.

  • Volunteering A great place to start, you don’t need to commit to something lengthy at first, you will meet new people and gain some good transferable skills straight away. Once you know what you like or what skills you want to gain you can look for specific types of opportunities.
  • Summer jobs  Lots of different types of work available – if you’re going home for the summer ask family members or friends to look around for you. Think about what skills & interests you can demonstrate so that you can make a strong application.
  • Part time jobs are a good way of gaining skills and some cash to pay for that holiday! Over vacation times you can be more flexible or take on more hours too.
I want to go abroad
  1. Do you know the country or region you want to go to? Check out Passport careers for information & opportunities around the world.
  2. Do you speak a language?
  3. Do you have an activity or role you want to get involved in?
  • Summer jobs: It’s not summer everywhere – what season is it where you want to go, ski or summer season?  Is it a tourist area – will there be attractions, bars, cafes hotels needed staff? Do you have local contacts who can help you?
  • Volunteering: the volunteering team have partnered with some trusted overseas organisations to provide you with opportunities. plus information on how to stay safe if you are finding your own opportunity.
  • How about TEFL or TESOL? Teaching English as a foreign or second language? A TEFL summer school can be a good way to start, you may need to do a qualification before you go so have a look around at what meets your needs and budget.
I want to do something completely different

What does different mean to you? New people, new places, not study, adventure, something creative?

  • Volunteering: there are so many different opportunities that you are bound to find something to stretch you or appeal to your creative side.
  • Internships & vacation schemes: You’ll spend the summer working with new people learning a completely new job, possibly in a new town.
  • How about learning a language with a summer school arranged through the University?
  • You could take language classes locally or perhaps learn coding or take up a sport / fitness activity or hobby that will help you keep mind and body healthy for the future.
  • Working holidays: If you know you want to travel and are going to be going for a full summer you may be able to fit in some work to help with costs and also pick up some skills.  Check the visa situation – can you work?  How long does it take to get a  visa? Start making contacts and investigating options before you go.  Once you are there you may find further opportunities – just make sure you are safe, employment law and rights are not the same all over the world.
That’s all very well but I can’t afford it!

We can’t pay you to take a holiday but if you have found some unpaid experience or need help with travel costs for volunteering or internships we may be able to help. See our work experience bursary and check out the other funding opportunities too.

Any questions you know what to do – talk to us 

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2018 STP – opened 15th January, closes Monday 12th February at 5pm

The NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) is open for applications!

Thousands of scientists and engineers of all disciplines work for the NHS, and the STP is how they recruit most of their Clinical Science trainees each year.

Many Manchester students and postgrads apply to the STP, so we update this blog post each year to help you navigate the process.  We will also update this post over the next few months when there is new information to share with you.

N.B. Some of the resources mentioned in this post may only be accessible by University of Manchester students. If you are not a Manchester student, have a chat with your own Careers Service about the support available to you.

Tips for applying 

You have until 5pm on Monday 12th February at the latest to submit your online application and (for anyone who isn’t an in-service applicant) until 5pm on Wednesday 14th February to complete the online tests – but get in as soon as possible as applications are reviewed as they come in.

The National School of Healthcare Science website has so much information for applicants it can be overwhelming – however, if you want the best chance of getting into these super-competitive posts, you’ll hoover it all up and use the advice in your application. A good place to start is by reading the STP Frequently Asked Questions for Applicants 2018.

The list of specialisms by location will be updated throughout the application window, and for 2018 includes Cancer Genomics and Opthalmic Science. Each specialism has a different number of vacancies and the list is usually updated several times during the application window (some are already on version 4.0): check back regularly for additional vacancies! You’ll have to inspect each specialism individually, but as it’s better to focus on a specific specialism in your application, it does make sense. (Applying for lots of different specialisms just to train in a specific location has never been recommended, never mind the fact it’d be tricky to tailor your application for multiple specialisms given the 250 word count for each section!).

We have been told previously that only 3 candidates are interviewed per post, so the competition is red hot.  You’ll therefore need some great answers to the essay questions:   set aside some time to do your research, think about your experience and craft your answers – you need to do yourself justice here.

Online application form

The online application form is near on identical to last year, so if you applied last year, you know what to expect. Frustratingly, there is still no easy way to preview all the questions before you start to fill it out – so we’ve had a sneaky peek for you.

Top Tip
As you go through the online form for the first time, you can’t advance on to the next page without completing the mandatory sections. However, you can review and change most of the answers once you get to the end – just don’t press “Submit” until you have filled it all in and checked it!

There are lots of mandatory sections, and once you fill in some answers, other mandatory questions may appear.  Be prepared to answer A LOT of questions about eligibility, fitness to practise etc before you even get to the bit where you fill in your education!  You also need to supply the details of three referees, one of whom must be your most recent education supervisor (or line manager, if you have graduated and are in work).

When your application form is read by the people who will shortlist candidates for interview, they won’t be able to see the choices that candidates have made. Hence, if you choose two different specialisms your application will go to both short listing panels, who will not know if you have ranked that specialism as first or second choice. They also will not see any candidate names – it is done completely blind.

Essay questions

The form asks the same four questions as last year and, again, you are allowed a maximum of 250 words per answer. An implicit test here is whether you can write accurately AND concisely.

  1. YOUR KNOWLEDGE, MOTIVATION AND COMMITMENT TO THE TRAINING PROGRAMME

In less than 250 words, please state why you have applied for the Healthcare Scientist Training Programme. Give details of your motivation, suitability and future career development or aspirations. Describe what actions you have undertaken to increase your knowledge, experience and understanding of healthcare science and the training programme for your chosen specialism(s).

  1. YOUR COMMITMENT TO HEALTHCARE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

In less than 250 words, please describe your commitment, interest and enjoyment of scientific practice and technology. Please provide examples of how you seek to develop, improve and adopt innovative processes in your work or studies.

  1. VALUES AND BEHAVIOURS

The NHS Constitution* values and behaviours are paramount to the delivery of healthcare services.  In less than 250 words please describe how within your own experience you would display these qualities.

(*Have you read it yet? You can find it here)

  1. TEAM WORKING AND LEADERSHIP

In less than 250 words describe occasions where you have worked as part of a team and outline the skills you used to benefit the outputs of that team. Also, please describe a situation or situations when you have taken the opportunity to lead others and identify how you managed any challenges that arose.

There’s help on completing application forms on our website, including a useful hand-out. We definitely recommend taking the Context-Action-Result approach to structure your answers, to help keep them concise. Always take time to proof read your answers before you submit them (a good tip is to read them backwards to spot typos). University of Manchester students and recent graduates can get assistance from the Applications Advice service in the Atrium in University Place and also look out for Appointments in your School.

Online tests

After you submit your online application, you have two tests to complete before the deadline, and you have to get through each of these for your application to get considered.

The tests are numerical reasoning and logical reasoning, and you can practise here. We guess they’re using logical reasoning tests to find people who are good at spotting patterns and trends (useful for diagnostics) as well as deductive logic. These tests can be very challenging if you’re not familiar with them, so do take time to practice, especially as only one attempt is permitted per email address!  Previous applicants tell us that with practice you can learn how to answer the logical reasoning questions accurately, so it is worth working your way through example tests.  Although they are multiple choice, in some cases you have to choose from a LONG list of possible answers – guessing is not going to be a sensible strategy!!

You might also want to check out the psychometric test info on our website, including practice test materials. We have a new resource this year, Graduates First, which provides worked solutions for the answers you get wrong in its tests. I’d definitely suggest using a proper calculator when completing the numerical reasoning test and not the one on your ‘phone.

You’ll be able to do the STP tests at any time until the closing date but don’t leave it until the last minute: what would you do if you suddenly lost your internet connection or the site crashed with the weight of all the last minute tests being taken?

If you have a disability or a condition like dyslexia, you can request extra time to complete these tests. You’ll need to send evidence to support your request  at least 3 working days before the aptitude tests deadline date i.e. Friday 9th February!  If you fail to notify the team before the deadline date, you may not be granted the extra time you need.

Being optimistic …

If you’re one of the lucky ones who gets invited to interview, you might want to check out the interview dates for your specialism and keep the date free – looks like there’s no flexibility, so move heaven and earth to get there if you get invited.

Good luck – we are rooting for you!

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Don’t worry if you’ve missed out on an internship – although helpful, an internship isn’t the be-all and end-all. There’s plenty alternatives.

  1. Go travelling

Whether it’s Devon for a fortnight or East Asia for a year, travelling is great fun and gives you an opportunity to stand on your own two feet. A lot of organisations are interested in what kind of person you are, more so than your qualifications – are you a cultural fit for their business? With that in mind, travelling can be just as beneficial to a job application as an internship.

Plenty opportunities abroad are paid so you don’t have to be wealthy to go away; many Asian and European countries especially look to pay students to be English teachers. Furthermore, Study China, Study India, and Global Graduates are just a handful of examples of either entirely or somewhat funded opportunities to go abroad with the University.

  1. Volunteering

Like I’ve already touched on, employers nowadays want lovely people as well as well-qualified people. Having experience of volunteering will set you apart from others as it shows that you were passionate enough about a certain thing to go ahead and do it for free anyway.

You can pretty much volunteer to do anything – whether it’s in the local community, in the arts, with the elderly, or with charities, there are plenty of opportunities. Lots of small charities look for volunteers in a range of roles: fundraising, marketing, social media, or getting involved in managing projects. Perhaps have a search for some small groups in your community which may require some assistance.

  1. Get a ‘normal’ job

Go work in a bar, or a café, or in a museum, or anything! Every job can give you experience that you can use towards a career, and it installs a work ethic that employers will love. The job doesn’t always have to be directly relevant to the career you want, you just need to be able to develop your professional skills, and as an added bonus it will give you a little extra money.


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Guest post by Humanities Careers Consultant, Delia Goodwin.

First things first- this is not the end of the world as you know it! After all the time you spent thinking about applying, deciding who to apply to, slaving over the application forms and possibly getting as far as interviews or assessment centres, it can be a big disappointment if you think you had your heart set on a particular company or scheme and you’ve not made it. This can be a real knock to your confidence, especially if you have friends and fellow students who have got through. However frustrating (and annoying) this is, try to see it as another challenge to overcome rather than being tempted to lick your wounds for too long.

I’ve met countless graduates over the years who haven’t got onto the graduate schemes of their choice but have gone on to do other things they’ve really enjoyed. Some decided to travel for a while (remember that after graduation is a great time to do this- you may never get the chance again!), some have gone onto further study and others found great graduate jobs that just aren’t badged as a “scheme”. Recently I’ve been at a few events where graduates have spoken very openly and positively about the fact that they were in fact glad that the path they’d taken was a different one to the one they had originally hoped for. Ever seen the film “Sliding Doors”?!

So what can you do to re-group and bounce back? What might be helpful is to think about the feedback you received, good and bad, and think about this for next time you have an interview (which you inevitably will at some point). Maybe you didn’t have quite enough experience, work or other, which you could draw on in the assessment process. In which case, go and get some more! Or maybe it was the reflective part of the questioning that threw you off course- it can be hard to articulate your thoughts in a pressurised situation, but the more interviews you go to, the better your chances of improving with practice, and above all convincing the recruiter of your suitability.

You might be stuck for ideas about what you can do instead, but fear not. Graduate schemes actually represent quite a small percentage of the options that graduates go into (approximately 10-12% depending on what data you look at), so the majority of graduates in reality don’t go into a graduate scheme. Look at the figures for Manchester: 93.2% go straight into employment or further study, and again, those on graduate schemes form just a small proportion of that. So hopefully this will give you some reassurance that there are lots of other options out there. Plus- you don’t have to rule yourself out completely of your dream scheme- some graduates re-apply the following year and are more successful second time round.

Still, if you decide that a graduate scheme isn’t for you, then at the Careers Service we can give you some advice about your next steps and where you can look, so don’t hesitate to call in and see us for a chat or book an appointment with a careers consultant. And remember this in the words of the poet Robert Frost:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference..”


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Amanda Conway, Careers Consultant at The University of Manchester, explores whether practice does make perfect with 3 of the main tests facing Manchester students.

When it comes to applying for graduate jobs or internships, the chances are you will face a test or two along the way. Whilst some favourites remain firmly embedded in employers’ selection processes, like the numerical reasoning test for example, newcomers in recent years have included the online game assessment and a nemesis for many students – the situational judgement test! So what to do? How do you give a test your best shot on the day and what really makes a difference?

The old favourite – the reasoning test

Numerical, verbal and logical reasoning tests explore how well you reason with data and have rated well for their ability to predict performance in a job based on performance in a test. But what if you are not giving it your best shot? What if you are simply not ready to sit the test? This is where the practice effect comes in. Being familiar with the types of questions you are likely to face and more importantly, brushing up on the techniques you will need to use (like percentage calculations, ratios, currency conversion for numerical tests), can make a real difference. If you want to do yourself justice, get practising. You don’t need to pay to sit practice tests – your university has done that for you. Log on to Graduates First, for example, have a go and find out what the right answers were and how you should have worked them out. There are even video tutorials on the site for any numeracy skills needed. www.bit.ly/graduatesfirst

The friendly but feisty – the situational judgement test

Put together to give applicants a valuable insight into the types of situations they may face in the job, these tests usually appear relevant,  fair and quite friendly. But they can and do catch many students out. The responses sought by the recruiters are often not obvious and more importantly, can differ depending on what qualities the employer is looking for. Our favourite tips are to find out much more about the job you are applying for, the skills sought, the qualities required and what the organisation values are. Check their website and study their recruitment information closely.

If you need a steer, consider the importance of customer focus, client care, professionalism, or taking action in the job. Doing nothing in a situation is often not a good strategy. The Careers Service website has a good section on situational judgement tests and links you to practice tests on Graduates First, Assessment Day and other sites where you can also reflect on the preferred answers.  It can be a balancing act between understanding more about professionalism and not trying to be someone that you are not. Being yourself and happy in your work is not over-rated. www.careers.manchester.ac.uk/psychometric/

The new kid on the block – the online games-based assessment

Could this be that test – the one you can just sit, without any advance practise required? Claimed to give a truer picture of yourself and your personality than a questionnaire, these assessments immerse you in short online tasks and games to uncover some of your qualities and preferred ways of behaving. It could be about memorising number sequences, deciding whether to take a risk or responding to images. Not something that it is easy to prepare for.

Whilst being a seasoned gamer won’t convey advantages, it may help some people to explore their levels of concentration and speed of response– so practising brain training apps, like Peak  or Luminosity, could help familiarity. Scoring could reflect qualities such as how you approach problems, plan ahead, your determination in the face of setbacks or your ability to stay focused. However, it’s not always easy to see what these tests are getting at, so it’s best not to second guess. You may try to show you’re focused on profit-making, for example, and yet a game is more about your trust in others!

One thing you can do, though, is be clear on what the employer is looking for. Trying a few other personality assessments online could also give you an insight into some of your key characteristics and how they may slot best into the world of work.  After all, do you want to work somewhere that is not a good fit for you? www.careers.manchester.ac.uk/psychometric/

Is that it, am I good to go?

Nearly! It goes without saying that a good night’s sleep, a calm mind and an absence of distractions on the day will improve your performance, but remember, this will also mean turning off the notifications on your phone. A call from your parents or Snapchat updates from your chums, right in the middle of a game, will not do you any favours.


Filed under: Applications and interviews, Careers advice, Graduate jobs, Undergraduate, Undergraduate-highlighted
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Guest post by Careers Consultant, Kim Bailey

I vividly remember the first time I had to deliver a presentation to the class during my degree. It was a 10 minute presentation about Shakespeare to a small group of students, and it was by far the most terrifying thing I had to do since I arrived at university; uncontrollable shaking hands, red faced and heart palpitating I stumbled through. Fast-forward five years, and I’m off this afternoon to present to over 100 students as part of my day job. If you told me at university that presenting would be a core part of my future job I would have laughed in your face. So how did I get to the place where I’m comfortable and confident in my ability?

Practise! It’s like anything; if you try and try again you will improve. I got a part time job as a Student Ambassador at university, where I had to give prospective students campus tours, and deliver presentations in schools. Yes the first time was petrifying, but by the hundredth time I was well versed in what to say, and knew how to engage my audience.

Take small steps: Becoming more confident won’t happen overnight, but proactively try to take small steps over the coming months and years. Rather than seeing the things that scare you as big unsurmountable obstacles, try and break them down into smaller goals. This small step could be anything from, ‘I’m going to put my hand up this lesson and contribute an idea in my class’ to ‘I’m going to join a society this year to meet new people and try something new.’

Do the things which scare you: It’s so easy to avoid things you don’t want to do. For example, say there’s a networking evening on for your course where you can meet alumni and chat to them about their careers. The thought of walking up to a stranger and asking them questions drives fear into your bones, and  you would much rather go home and watch TV, rather than face that scary prospect. Next time, have a go at tackling the obstacle head on even if it does scare you. It all comes back to practise, and you’ll never have chance to practise in such a safe environment, at university again.

Don’t listen to the ‘self-talk’: ‘Are you mad, I can’t do that!’, ‘people are going to think my ideas are stupid’, ‘nobody will want to hear what I want to say’; sound familiar? We all have that little voice at the back of our minds who tells us we’re not good enough from time to time. It’s impossible to switch it off permanently, but we can ignore it for a while and hit the override button. Give it a go, and you might surprise yourself!

Failure: So you step out your comfort zone and put yourself out there, but then it all goes wrong and you feel like you are back to square one. Even though it feels awful in the moment, believe me, you are making progress. In that failure, you can learn about how to approach the situation differently next time. The hardest part can be picking yourself back up again, but push through the fear and if at first you do not succeed, try and try again!

Come and talk to us…add some details about what we can offer/how students get in touch


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‘Everybody gets knocked down in life…there will be disappointments, there will be losses and as, my late mother drilled into me, it’s not at all about getting knocked down – that’s inevitable – it’s about getting back up.’  These wise words were said by Hillary Clinton, on the Graham Norton show, and regardless of your political views are worth paying attention to.

Maybe for you, getting to university proved pretty straightforward? Perhaps you were one of the highest achieving in your school year group, worked hard for your GCSEs and A levels (or equivalent qualifications), applied, got accepted and looked forward to starting your course. But, once here, you’ll have found yourself with a lot of equally smart people who, like you, might be applying for opportunities such as work experience and graduate schemes. Due to the sheer volume of applications many of you won’t be successful first time round and will need to keep trying. How you deal with this is key to your eventual success.  To help you, here are a few tips:

  • Reflect on why you weren’t successful. Do you need more experience? Was your application tailored enough or have you been putting in a lot of applications and not had time to properly do this? If you were interviewed, could you practise your technique so next time you come across as a really strong candidate? If you’ve had a number of knock-backs, could you be more strategic and also target smaller companies/organisations, rather than the biggest and best known ones? If your area of interest is particularly competitive, have you thought of a Plan B? The Careers Service can help you with each of these points. For instance, we can signpost you to work experience and volunteering opportunities (a great way to add to your CV), provide feedback on an application, put you through a simulated interview, offer guidance, help with psychometric tests and more…
  • Read the autobiography of any successful person, and chances are their ability to ‘bounce-back’ is a theme running through it.   Think of someone you admire and find out what coping mechanisms they’ve developed;
  • Build your own personal support network. Identify friends and family members who will help you feel better after a disappointment. Offer support when a friend needs it so you give back. Together you can act as ‘cheerleaders’ and remind each other how great you are!
  • Be kind to yourself. It’s tough putting your all into something and getting knocked back. You have every right to be disappointed, so treat yourself to a healthy bar of chocolate (if there is such a thing!) or whatever works for you;
  • Try to keep things in perspective. There will be other opportunities you can apply for, or you might apply for something again next time round when you’ve got more experience under your belt.

It’s important to see rejection for what it is – a set-back, nothing more, nothing less. cknowledge it, see if you can learn from it and move on.  Above all, don’t allow it to get the better of you.  And remember to make the most of help available from the Careers Service, now and for up to two years after you graduate.


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Written by Humanities Careers Consultant, Helen Buzdugan

If you’re making job applications at the moment, you will almost certainly encounter failure and rejection, if you haven’t already. It’s tough, but it’s normal. More than that, it’s actually a GOOD THING.

As a society, we focus far more on success than we do on failure. A quick Google search yielded almost twice as many results for the word “success” (1.32 billion) as it does for the word “failure” (683 million). We tend to admire success in others, and believe we should strive for success in our own lives, but there are some problems with this approach.

Focussing purely on success can deter you from taking risks, as you may be afraid that if you do something outside your comfort zone, you will fail. For example, I see students who tell me “I’m not going to bother applying for X job, because it’s too competitive, and I wouldn’t get it anyway”. And with that, they let their dreams float away.

I know it’s tough facing the prospect of putting a great deal of time and effort into doing online tests, making applications and going to interviews and assessment centres, when you know the level of competition for that dream job is high. But someone has to get that job, and most of the other graduates will probably be feeling the same way as you. Plus, if you live by that logic, only daring to do things which have a guarantee of success, you wouldn’t ever try anything new. Remember, with job applications, you have to be in it to win it!

Secondly, focussing purely on success can make your self-esteem vulnerable. It may lead you to set unrealistic expectations that you will always achieve high standards in whatever you do or that you should ‘get it right first time’. If you don’t give yourself permission to make mistakes the first, second and even the hundredth time you do something, you will be less resilient when you do something less than perfectly, or when factors outside of your control (e.g. other more experienced candidates or unstated employer demands) thwart your ambitions.

Job interviews are a great example of a new skill that you can’t necessarily expect to excel at the very first time you do it. It takes practice to get it right, and even experienced people who have done hundreds of interviews still get nervous sometimes and have off days.

Perhaps most importantly, when you are successful, there’s less opportunity to learn and grow. Most successful entrepreneurs have had plenty of failures en route to success. Just look at Richard Branson. Failure provides us with fertile ground to learn more about ourselves and particular skills and situations, so that we can develop and improve our performance.

The best response to failure is a ‘growth mindset’ approach. A person with a growth mindset will look critically (but not judgmentally!) at what went wrong in a situation, analysing the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of what happened, and assess what they could do differently next time. This might involve asking for honest feedback from others, e.g. from a recruiter following an interview in which they were not successful. Crucially, they will believe they can improve, and they will be willing to try and fail.

JK Rowling – someone who has experienced the extremes of failure and success – once said, at her Harvard University commencement address: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might not have lived at all.”

So I urge you to go out there and try. Apply for that job that you believe you have no chance of getting. Go to that interview that is way out of your comfort zone. And when you mess up, hear nothing back, or are rejected, remember that it’s a normal human experience, pat yourself on the back for giving at your best shot, and think about how you could do better next time. And then one day, with perseverance and a sprinkling of luck, you will nail it!


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Some degrees are vocational, some are not, but whatever you study there are always more options after Uni than just literally using your degree. You may be a scientist but you don’t have to work in a lab!

Let’s face it a degree is a piece of paper that says you studied a subject for x years to a required standard. It does not take into account your individual interests, personality, extracurricular experience and circumstances. So why use it as the only basis to plan your future.

Your actual degree will give you some specialist knowledge, some skills and possibly the option to do work experience like a placement or work on a project for a company. If you want to be literal about what your degree gives you check these out. You can decide to what extent you have these skills or attributes. Watch History student Muneera talking about her degree.

While you are spending 3+ years studying you hopefully will get out and do some “stuff”, join a society, play sport, volunteer, get a job, mentor other students, do a year abroad, talk to people and form opinions.  All these things help you to develop skills. 

You are evolving, your 3rd year self would probably laugh at some of your 1st year self’s expectations, that’s fine we all learn by experience, you will carry on learning and evolving when you leave university and way beyond!

See the bigger picture

If you say you are a geography student and don’t know what to do (I was) we may ask you if there is anything related to your subject you are interested in – just to check, but we don’t have any expect you to have a revelation on the spot.

  • Do some musing (ok we call it reflecting) think about who you are and what you want out of life. What is really important to you? Success, money, feeling good about what you do, location, hours of work, stress, other commitments?
  • It doesn’t have to be forever what do you need right now? (it’s nice to have a long term plan, but most people’s change)
  • Can you accurately evaluate your own skills & strengths?  Do you know what you are good at and what you enjoy (these may not be the same things!)

Once you know a bit about yourself you could start looking at jobs and evaluating whether they meet your goals Prospects Planner can be useful at this point – it will suggest some job roles that meet your preferences based on a short survey.  You could rule some in or out, and then go and look at some live vacancies to see what the jobs really look like, or talk to employers at fairs & networking events.

What if I find the job I really want and I’m doing the wrong degree?
  1. I wouldn’t panic too much there are a huge amount of jobs that take any degree and often it’s more important what skills you have developed.
  2. Big and small companies can also differ in their requirements so shop around.
  3. For some jobs you can do a Postgraduate “conversion” course e.g. IT, law, social work, teaching & medicine.
  4. Worst case scenario e.g. If you want to become an engineer and you have done English that’s going to be tricky – BUT there can be other options so don’t give up – talk to us and keep an open mind.
Don’t worry too much about what other people are doing.

While it can be interesting to find out what people from your degree do next, it doesn’t tell you what they did after that – which could be completely different.

Often students tell us all my friends are doing this….  They may be right, they may be wrong or it may be just right for them.  You need to evaluate what YOU want to do and then take action accordingly. By doing whatever everyone else is doing you could simply be wasting your time or completely stressing yourself out!

Talk to us about options with or without your degree!


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