UCL Careers
  • Welcome

    The UCL Careers team use this Blog to share their ‘news and views’ about careers with you. You will find snippets about a whole range of career related issues, news from recruiters and links to interesting articles in the media.

    If you are a researcher, we a specific blog for you.

    We hope you enjoy reading the Blog and will be inspired to tell us your views.

    If you want to suggest things that students and graduates might find helpful, please let us know – we want to hear from you.

    Karen Barnard – Head of UCL Careers

    UCL Careers is part of The Careers Group, University of London

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    New Books for the Autumn Term

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 11 August 2014

    We’ve had a number of new books arrive ahead of the Autumn Term. We’ve linked them to their respective Amazon records, but don’t forget you can borrow these booked for up to three-working days from us!

    - UCL Careers

    Eight reasons to work at a start-up

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 6 August 2014

    This blog post originally appeared on the Develop you Career blog

    James Pursey is the Head of Inbound Marketing at carwow, an online comparison site for new car buying. He gives us his eight reasons why you should consider working at a start-up.

    “I graduated university in 2011 and wanted to join a start-up but was drawn into the corporate world on the promise of juicy pay cheques and a clearly defined career path. I decided I’d take the suit route for a few years to save up some cash, then leave to start my own business.

    After six months I quit my job and joined the start-up I should’ve gone with from the outset. I realised I was foolish to make a career decision based on what I felt I should do as opposed to what I actually wanted to do. After all, it’s crucial you enjoy what you do because otherwise it’ll suck the life out of you over time.

    In the past couple of years I’ve worked at a corporation, two start-ups and also on the other side of the table as a start-up founder. I’m in an unusual position because I actually have an informed opinion on whether start-ups are better than corporates. Although I clearly think start-ups are the better option, there are many benefits to corporate companies such as security, wages and progression, but you most likely already know those bits.

    Instead, here are my eight favourite reasons for joining a start-up.

    1) Be your own boss

    You don’t have to run a start-up to have ownership over something. Start-ups tend to operate on a matrix structure, which means you’re responsible for what you were hired for, it’s up to you to do your job, and there are no line managers.

    2) Things happen really really quickly

    Small teams move a lot faster than huge companies can, so if you have an idea you can normally get it put into practice within a day or two, not after six months of meetings and red tape.

    3) Learning from the top

    As I said a second ago, there’s no hierarchy here, and if you get in early enough you’ll be working directly alongside the executive team, learning directly from the people pushing the business along.

    4) You’ll learn a shed load of stuff

    Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be a content marketer, oh wait… maybe a social media guru, nope how about a developer? Start-ups promote cross-training, so you’ll learn things about subjects you had no idea about, boosting your skills portfolio and future employability.

    5) It’s bloody good fun

    You’ll be working in a fast-paced work-hard, play-hard environment with people with similar motivations and interests to you.  What doesn’t sound fun about that?

    6) You can progress quickly

    In less than six months I’ve gone from being a sales exec to running inbound marketing. If you have the right attitude you can progress fast.

    7) There are all sorts of perks – weird ones too

    From beer-stocked fridges and full fry ups every day, to Christmas parties abroad and pool tables in the office, start-ups are pretty cool environments to work in.

    8) The bumping-into-old-friends situation

    You bump into someone you went to secondary school with and the inevitable question of “what do you do for work” comes up. Saying you’re an accountant may be the perfect career for you, but you may be the type of person that wants to answer that question and blow someone’s mind – “I’m running inbound marketing at a start-up that just raised over a million pounds from the guys that invested in LoveFilm, Betfair and Zoopla, we’re providing consumers with a service they’ve been crying out for when it comes to buying a new car”. Winning.

    There are lots of pros and cons to both startups and corporates. Only you can decide which you think you’d prefer. Just don’t make a decision for the wrong reasons.

    Skills for Global Work –Skills for Global Life?

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 24 July 2014

    I was lucky to get invited to a breakfast debate hosted by Think Global at City Hall on June 20th.

    Think Global is a national education charity and the hub of a community of educators working to create a more just and sustainable world.

    There is growing interest in the skills young people need to flourish in the globalised workplace of the future.  Indeed, in 2018, the OECD’s PISA education league tables will include a measure on global competences.ThinkGlobal

    This debate considered whether our young people are developing the skills they need to thrive in a globalised world – both for the world of work and for life.  Speakers on the day included:

    • Caroline Waters OBE, BT’s former Director of People and Policy and Deputy Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission
    • Dame Julia Cleverdon DCVO, CBE, Co-Founder of Step Up To Serve Campaign
    • Dan Simpson, Head of Talent, Siemens UK
    • Tom Franklin, CEO at Think Global

    The top 3 skills were voted as the ability to:

    • think critically and openly about global and inter-cultural issues
    • to seek, understand, and analyse different perspectives on global issues
    • to interact well with people from diverse countries and cultures

    The top 3 threats were voted as:

    • Young people are not aware that employers value knowledge of the wider world more highly than degree classification or A-levels. More employers (79%) say knowledge and awareness of the wider world is important than the numbers of employers who say the following are important: degree subject and classification (74%), A-level results (68%), or A-level subjects (63%) according to an ICM poll of 750 business leaders
    • Horizons and aspirations are too narrow to thrive in a globalised and multicultural economy
    • Inward looking domestic concerns in the UK risks diminishing young people’s relative breadth of perspective against peers in emerging economies who are increasingly globally literate

    UCL Careers acknowledged the importance of equipping graduates with the knowledge, skills and capabilities for a global marketplace through dedicating three days on How to Market Yourself as a Global Citizen” during the intensive summer school session.

    To find our more about how to work with a global perspective, head on over to International Futures

    - Helen West, Careers Consultant, UCL Careers

    Insight from a student social entrepreneur

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 22 July 2014

    This blog post originally appeared on the Develop your Career blog

    Social enterprises are profit-driven businesses with social and environmental aims. Some of the best known social enterprises include household names like the Big Issue, Divine Chocolate and John Lewis. Have you ever had an idea for a business that could have a positive impact on your community or the wider world?  Lindsey Shirah, Projects Coordinator at Queen Mary Careers & Enterprise Centre, had a chat with James Larbi, an Aerospace Engineering undergrad at Queen Mary University of London who started his own social enterprise, Pre-ued, during his second year. Below James shares how he developed his idea and the most important lessons he’s learned along the way.

    What is your social enterprise and how does it work?

    JL: Pre-ued is an educational technology venture that partners with schools to make their courses publicly available online. We help top institutions take their mission from the walls of the classroom to the world by giving them an online platform where they can exponentially reach more students, raise their international reputation and boost admissions. Students in turn from around the world can study the best high school, secondary and pre-university courses for free.

    How did you come up with the idea?

    JL: It was in the summer of 2013. I had finished my 1st year of university and had just come back from travelling abroad. With a lot of time on my hands I thought it would be great to start a social enterprise/start-up and considered doing something relating to learning and technology. I had been drawn for a while to the idea of open education for everyone. This was partly due to a gap year I spent in Ghana, West Africa, where I worked with top academics making their research publicly available online. Some really phenomenal strides had already been made publishing university courses. There was however no one at the time doing the same for secondary schools so I wanted to pursue that idea.

    PreuedlogoI ran the idea past my business module course lecturer, Adam, for feedback and was delighted to hear his positive response and advice on developing it. Adam also taught me about the “Innovator’s Dilemma”, which is a state of mind that every entrepreneur or innovator can get stuck in that potentially blinds them to the flaws of their idea. Through talking to Adam I learned there are many phenomenal lecturers and staff members at university who will gladly help you develop your ideas. I also spoke with the phenomenal team at the Queen Mary Careers & Enterprise Centre who are really passionate and informative about social enterprises and start-ups in general. Rachel, James and Maya, part of the core enterprise team, have been so supportive of my idea and me as a whole.

    How have you gone about setting up your social enterprise?

    JL: I started out by developing a prototype of the platform. It was so basic I laugh at what I did when I think of it now! I realized that the only way to gain momentum in a start-up is to, in the words of Nike, ‘just do it.’ This ties along with some wise words from Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, who said “If you are not embarrassed about your first product, you’ve probably launched too late”

    After I had a basic prototype I needed to get some users. The users are primarily any student that would like to study a top course for free, but I had no courses to offer from schools at the time! This was a classic case of the “chicken and egg” story. I decided to start out by introducing the idea to schools and teachers. In order to get access to them I signed up to be an exhibitor in the Innovation Zone at the BETT Show 2014, the largest learning technology show in the world. Sharing the floor with some of the biggest names in technology was a great privilege.  I got to meet some of the best teachers, schools and innovators in the world and was able to form some partnerships throughout the course of the show.

    What have you found to be most challenging about this project?

    JL: The most challenging thing about the project has been accessing the funds to really scale up the venture. This is however not insurmountable now, with the numerous types of support from organizations such as Unltd who are passionate about social change and empowering social entrepreneurs to make a difference in the world. The explosion of crowd-funding also gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to raise small amounts of cash from your friends, family and the wider society who may receive either thank-you-s, rewards and in some cases, a stake in your social venture.

    What have you found to be most enjoyable?

    JL: The most enjoyable thing about this project is seeing someone who you don’t know from a completely different part of the world sign up to your platform. It’s so fulfilling to hear about the impact you can have on people in regards to enabling them to learn.

    What are the most important lessons that you’ve learned from setting up a social enterprise?

    JL: Always read through an entire document before you sign it! We all skim past the small print of a web page or document and just tick “I agree” or sign at the bottom of the page. But when setting up a social enterprise, it’s always really important to make sure you know what you’re getting into when you sign a document; whether it’s for engaging partners or buying anything, always read the small print.

    What would your advice be to another student interested in starting their own social enterprise?

    JL: Don’t be afraid to get your feet wet! Research and preparation are really important when starting any kind of venture, but at some point you have to just try out your idea and see what happens. You can learn a lot from the initial experience of getting out there. Also it’s best to do something you’re passionate about, because when you are working long hours, facing set-backs and hearing lots of “no’s” from users, partners and possible investors, your love for what you do is what is going to keep you motivated.

    Where/how can readers find more information about your social enterprise?

    JL: To sign up to take a top free course, kindly visit us at: www.preued.org. For teachers and educational institutions who’d like to publish courses for free on our site, kindly email us: info@pre-ued.com. To join our social community follow us on Twitter @preued and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/preued

    Thanks for sharing your experience and insight, James! For help developing your own social enterprise ideas, visit https://www.facebook.com/startyourownbusiness

    - See more at: http://www.careers.lon.ac.uk/blog/library/index.php/2014/07/insight-from-a-student-social-entrepreneur/#sthash.gfCNceN6.dpuf

    Have you thought about targeting local SME businesses for your job search?

    By Irrum Ali, on 15 July 2014

    So, you’ve decided the big corporate world is not for you.  You would much rather work for a smaller company – an SME, where you can make your mark, take on responsibility, get to understand the whole business not just a fraction of it, and potentially rise to the top.

    The next stage is to work out what SMEs are out there and how to target them?

     One way might be to think about what is on your doorstep.  Students based in London have a plethora of businesses to target and the majority of them are SMEs.  According to the Federation of Small Businesses and Department for Business, Innovation & Skills there were 841,000 private sector businesses in London in 2013.

    From data that we collect through the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey we can see that during the last 5 years after graduation 827 UCL students had graduate level roles in SMEs across London with 294 UCL students in businesses based near UCL in the WC1 area.Careers Fair

    In just one year (2012/13) 395 UCL graduates had graduate level positions in SMEs throughout London six months after they graduated.  Of those students 35 were based just near UCL.

    By targeting local businesses to UCL you can build up a relationship with an employer while you are still a student.  The employer is likely to know UCL, might be extra keen to engage with UCL students and could be willing to offer you the opportunity you have been looking for.

    Once you have your target list of SMEs you will need to contact them to see what opportunities they might be willing to offer – you could ask if they have a summer internship scheme or you may find it more fruitful to ask if they would be able to have a short informal chat with you about the work they do, or perhaps could they offer work shadowing for a day or two.   As they will be local they may be more willing to offer you something and the hope is that the initial thread can ultimately lead, perhaps via one or two more interactions, to something more robust.

    To source opportunities with SMES register with our shortlisting service UCL Talent Bank.

    For UCL students wanting more help with sourcing SMEs in relevant sectors and locations, and for general guidance on approaching businesses speculatively book an appointment with one of our Careers Consultants.

    Do we live in a VUCA world?

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 7 July 2014

    VUCA is an acronym used to describe or reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situations. The common usage of the term VUCA began in the 1990s within US military and has subsequently been used in emerging ideas in strategic leadership that apply in a wide range of organizations, including everything from for-profit corporations to education.

    The business sector has been talking about a VUCA world for a couple of years now, suggesting the turbulent environment is real and is here to stay.  Is this the “new normal”?  And if so, can we really prepare for a VUCA world?

    Dan Simpson, Head of Talent at Siemens UK believes that we should! In order to survive in the VUCA world, we need to change our perception of work.  In this brave new world, work is less location-specific and more network-based.  Your networks are key!  You will take them with you throughout your career regardless of employer or location.

    In our VUCA world, we must acquire and, more importantly, continuously update our skills for success.  We need to be prepared to take advantage of different learning methodologies: bite-sized learning in TED talks and MOOCs.  The ability to acquire life-long learning, the ability to reflect and adapt to new ideas is and will become increasingly invaluable.

    Whether or not VUCA is the “new normal”, there is no doubt that the world is being shaped in this way.  Dan Simpson at Siemens UK specifically searches for candidates who are able to recognise the importance of networking building, reflecting and updating skills. To prepare for the unknown can only be a good thing.

    To find out more about VUCA and how to prepare for the unknown, sign up to the University of London’s Employability MOOC which runs until 25th July.

    - Helen West, Careers Consultant, UCL Careers

    Learn how to ‘Polish your Presence’ at Bloomberg HQ

    By Irrum Ali, on 3 July 2014

    As well as perfecting your CV and interview technique, the next step is to ‘Polish you Presence’ by making sure you’re creating the very best first impression when meeting employers or even after you’ve landed your first job. UCL Careers run events, in conjunction with top employers, which can really take your ‘personal brand’ to the next level. I went along to one of these events to learn more.

    On Friday 30th May, more than 30 UCL students had the opportunity to learn and practice why and how creating a lasting impact is important with a productive morning at Bloomberg Headquarters. The event was a dynamic and interactive mix of sessions, presentations as well as a networking event with real Bloomberg recruiters – an opportunity that proved invaluable to all students whether they were job searching or not.IMG_5461b

    Hosted at Bloomberg’s prestigious and impressive offices in Moorgate, the chance to be in a real-life fast-paced business environment allowed us to get in a professional frame of mind and make the most out of the event. It was a great opportunity to get a glimpse in to corporate life and a flavour of what a large company like Bloomberg has to offer (including plenty of free snacks and coffee as well as a delicious lunch!).

    The morning kicked off with an opportunity to get to know fellow students with an ice-breaker to set the tone for the sessions to come – a few questions about ourselves, job searching and meeting employers to which we all held up coloured cards as our answers. Feeling more relaxed and knowing more about why other students were here, we jumped in to the information-packed three 30 minute sessions presented by Clare Williams, Head of Leadership, Learning and Organisational Development:

    • The Resilience Factor

    The first session focused on the abstract side of job searching and working life; dealing with difficulties is an aspect which many can be unprepared for. We were given tips and tools on how to deal with negativity, anxiety and reacting to adverse circumstances which will prove useful in the future, whether in a job rejection scenario or a tough working situation. Encouraged to think about our reactions to situations, we got under the skin of how we could rewire our beliefs to make ourselves tougher and more resilient.

    • Polished Elevator Pitch

    How do you tell an employer, in thirty seconds, what you’re all about? What you’re good at and what you can offer? We were helped to create our own pitch, with useful pointers and examples of how to ideally sell ourselves to anyone. We even got the chance to trial it out with other students before the lunch networking event and get useful feedback. This was really worthwhile as I created a pitch to use whenever I get the opportunity to speak with employers.

    • Building your Reputation

    The last session tied the above together and described what it means to build a reputation as a good candidate throughout your career. We developed a personal mission statement – something I had never considered – which highlighted strengths, skills and values important to remember throughout my career and useful to put in practice day-to-day. This would be the foundation of our ‘personal brand’ – being authentic to ourselves but conforming to the company or industry we are in.

    After a review of all thIMG_7728ree sessions, we were briefed about using our newly created pitches in the up-coming networking lunch with a small presentation by the HR Manager on how to connect successfully with employers.

    The final hour was a chance to put the morning in practice and chat to a range of Bloomberg employees, from a range of departments, about their job role, their way in and general career tips. It didn’t matter what we were interested in or applying to – it was all useful and relevant! Networking alongside other students, I had the chance to speak to some very engaging, knowledgeable and helpful people and successfully left with a business card!

    Interested in attending? YOU CAN JOIN TOO! Events are free and open to all UCL students and graduates. Take the step to sign up to UCLAlert! and find out about fantastic opportunities, like this, first!

    Want to work for an SME? UCL Talent Bank can help!

    By Irrum Ali, on 30 June 2014

    Small and Medium Sized Enterprises account for over half of employment in the UK. The advantages of working for them are numerous: you will find yourself in a varied working environment with fewer of the formalities of larger companies, have the opportunity to gain a higher and more immediate profile within the organisation, as well as developing a clear and tangible sense of the contribution you are making.

    UCL Talent Bank is uniquely placed to help you into an SME. Relaunched in April 2014, it has built relationships with around 200 employers, many of which fit into the SME category. Since April, 200 UCL students and graduates, of 850 whIMG_9864o have made profiles, have made applications, with 80 shortlisted and 20 interviewed. UCL Talent Bank will work to match your skills and abilities with the specific requirements of organisations to give you the best possible advantage as you look to secure your ideal role.

    UCL Talent Bank’s emphasis on SMEs means that it can give you the opportunity to find exactly the job you are looking for. As Nassim, who graduated from UCL this year with an MEng in Civil Engineering and has gone on to find work as a Business Intelligence Analyst at an SME put it: ‘I am extremely glad I managed to find the position…The role advertised was exactly the graduate position I wanted to do – I would even describe it as my dream job!’

    This is the level of precision with which UCL Talent Bank can match you to a role.

    Create your profile now.

    Reflections on Summer School 2014

    By Irrum Ali, on 26 June 2014

    It’s over! UCL Careers has just finished running the two week Employability Summer School as part of the Global Citizenship programme. Taking place over two weeks, from 2 – 13 June, we saw over 70 penultimate and final-year students, from a whole range of different departments, go through the fortnight building upon their skills as well as improving their confidence in the job hunting process. With over 20 interactive events tackling a whole host of topics, it was an intense first-time experience for many – the days were jam-packed with information, guidance and plenty of opportunities to put it all in to practice.

    What did they do?

    Beginning with an ice-breaker to get things going, students kicked off the programme with a day looking at how to connect with employers – a session rounded off with an opportunity to chat with a UCL Alumni panel and network afterwIMG_9961ards. The following day’s workshops focused on CV and applications as well as interview techniques and ended with a chance to speak to start-up businesses at the Small Companies Big Jobs fair. The week was then split in to sessions full of tips on online job searching, psychometric testing, mock assessment centres, post-graduate study and international job hunting with plenty of 1-1 coaching interspersed. Throughout the week, mornings were spent with varied plenaries from Capco and Save the Children which were engaging and insightful.

    Week two followed a differed flavour with a group ‘job searching’ session and an opportunity to put everything they had learnt in to practice at the annual UCL Careers Jobs Market. The students then divided up over the next three days with some attending the case-study-centred ‘Focus on Management’ and others developing strengths-based skills at the ‘Marketing yourself as a Global Citizen’ strand. The last day was dedicated to action-planning and forward thinking as well as a chance to celebrate the past two weeks – rounding out a successful programme of workshops with an HEAR accreditation and a well-deserved lunch.

    What did they build their confidence in?

    On their first day, students took a ‘confidence measure’ which got them thinking about how they felt in regards to their personal situation. With a score of one to five, they marked their self-confidence in:

    • Connecting with employers
    • How to write a good CV
    • Filling out applications
    • How to succeed at interviews
    • How to find relevant jobs
    • Making decisions about their future careers choice

    They then filled this same indicator out on the last day and compared them both – the idea being that they’d hopefully see an improvement from their first day. It is safe to say that there was a huge improvement! Every one of these pointers saw the numbers rocket from a score of around 1-3 to a confidence-inspiring 4-5 by the final day. Proving the value of all they had picked up over the two weeks, students felt that going forward, they were more ready and able to approach the job search armed with the right information and resources, as well as the support of UCL Careers in the months and years ahead.

    Well done class of 2014!

    What did students think IMG_0289of the Summer School?

     “The best course I’ve done at UCL! It has increased my confidence in connecting with employers and finding job that suits my strengths and personality as well.”

    “Enjoyable, interactive and applicable to real life.”

    “Finally someone turned the lights on in a pitch black room!”

    “UCL Careers is a great asset to the university – use it!”

    Want to find out more about this unique opportunity to hone your employability skills? Visit: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/students/skills/summerschool

    Throughout the year we run many events aimed at supporting students and recent graduates in all parts of their job search. Find out more: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/students/skills/calendar

    The Sprint programme is back this July!

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 23 June 2014

    The Sprint Development Programme for women undergraduates and graduates, sponsored by Royal Bank of Scotland, Microsoft and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, is back!

    So what is Sprint?
    We all know that students have a tough challenge balancing their academic studies along with trying to attend as many events as possible but Sprint, a bespoke programme designed by the Springboard Consultancy in partnership with Oxford University & Cambridge University to support the professional development of female undergraduate and graduates, offers something very unique.

    Building on the success of the Springboard programme for experienced women at work, Sprint was developed & delivered to address real issues faced by most undergraduate & graduate women. Research carried out by Oxford University indicated female undergraduates and graduates tended to possess strong negative perceptions of careers within industries such as Financial Services, Engineering and Technology, as well as a lack of confidence, assertiveness and access to relevant role models which often led to them deselecting themselves from such industries.

    Originally pioneered at the University of Cambridge and more recently at the University of Oxford, the 2013 summer programme was held at City University for their students, but was also piloted to UCL students studying in the Department of Management Science & Innovation to great success & is now returning to City University in July 2014 – it’s open to students across all courses at UCL, City and Kingston Universities.

    What will I experience on the programme?
    The programme is very intensive & geared towards building female undergraduate & graduate confidence and giving students access to strong peer & professional networks. Students will be put through their paces with lots of practical exercises designed to improve self awareness and esteem, taught how to identify & use personal power, use assertiveness positively, build their own image, confidence & networking skills and engage with inspiring industry role models.

    It’s a great opportunity for female students to experience some very bespoke development, get access to employer mentors and to an ongoing network of graduate and employer peers, which they will be able to utilise both during university and afterwards throughout their career – all for free!

    Student participants from UCL’s Department of Management Science & Innovation who took part in last summer’s programme threw themselves into what proved to be an incredibly intense but ultimately rewarding four days, experienced increased confidence both personally and professionally, got ongoing access to an employer mentor, and the opportunity to be part of the selective but growing Sprint community!

    When is it?
    Co-sponsored by The Royal Bank of Scotland, Microsoft and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the Sprint Programme will be held on 29th, 30th, 31st July and 1st September 2014.

    Those shortlisted must be able to attend all four dates!

    How to apply?
    Applicants will need register through their My Careers Service account AND submit a CV and a 300 word letter explaining why you, as a female undergraduate or graduate student, deserve a place on the Sprint Development Programme.  Any questions to Weronika Benning w.benning@ucl.ac.uk or Charlotte Turnbull c.turnbull@ucl.ac.uk.

    Deadline for applications is 6th July 2014 but early application advised!

    Applicants will be shortlisted according to how well they evidence having thought about their future career and demonstrating effectively why they wish to participate in the course, and how it will meet their development needs.

    This event is aimed at women but open to students from all years at UCL.

    View further details on the programme and book now through your  My Careers Service account (search for Sprint in the events calendar).