UCL Careers
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    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.

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    Karen Barnard – Director, UCL Careers

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

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    The Five Most Useful Things I Learnt at GCEP

    By Chloe J Ackroyd, on 23 May 2017

    moodle graphic

    Written by Tiba Fazeli; (UCL Alumni) M.A in Transnational Studies

    1. Take the time to properly research your company or organisation.
      • Of course, the website is a great place to start, but don’t limit yourself there. As a minimum, you should spend some time familiarising yourself with the website, but you should also look for information in news articles (using Google News), on LinkedIn or through alternative sources. This way, you can get an insight into their latest developments, like whether they’ve made any major recent structural changes, as well as get to know more about the people they work with (e.g., clients, suppliers, donors, etc.). Not only could this information potentially give your application and/or interview that extra edge, but it will also force you engage with and thoroughly understand the company’s or organisation’s values, ultimately helping you to decide whether they fall in line with yours.
    1. Cater BOTH your CV and cover letter to the role and organisation.
      • Before attending GCEP, I knew this was a given for the cover letter, but I never really considered updating the content of my CV to cater to a specific role. To be frank, I thought it was both time consuming and unnecessary. However, I learned that a few minor alterations and amendments can actually go a long way. Employers and recruiters might have to read through hundreds—if not, thousands—of CVs when they advertise a role. If you can clearly identify why you’re perfect for the job, rather than expect them to work it out based on your background and experiences, then you’re a step ahead of the guy who sent out 30 generic copies of his CV. And yes, that might mean eliminating a few details from your past that are perhaps admirable, but irrelevant to the role.
      • Of course, whilst your CV should generally point out your skills in a concise, easy-to-read format, you can use your cover letter to highlight anything on your CV that you think deserves greater attention. This is also your opportunity to demonstrate your passion and personality to the employer…though ideally, not at expense of your professionalism. If you stick to a clear structure outlining why me, why the role and why the organisation (in whichever order works best for you), then again, you’re doing the guesswork for the employer and providing them with yet another reason to hire you.
    1. There’s nothing wrong with a two-page CV, but your cover letter should always be one page.
      • For years, the question of whether a CV should be one or two pages left me both anxious and bewildered. When I finished university in 2008, the answer was one…well, two was passable, but one was better. Based on this advice, I spent ages struggling to include the important, yet diverse and plentiful details of my background, whilst choosing a large enough font size so that the person who read my CV wouldn’t have to use a magnifying glass. In the time that has passed since then, I think employers, recruiters and, generally, the world at large have come to realise that people are diversifying. They’re getting their Bachelor’s degree in Literature and their Master’s in Biology. They’ve worked as a server at a restaurant, as well as a digital marketing assistant. They have multi-faceted skill sets, and frankly, one page just isn’t enough to demonstrate everything they bring to the table. These changes in the professional world mean that not only is a two-page CV now acceptable, but it’s actually becoming the norm. At the same time, it’s important not to fill two pages with unnecessary information, just for the sake of filling two pages. As I mentioned in the last tip, all the information presented should be relevant to the role, and if possible, to the organisation.
      • On the other hand, a cover letter should never be more than one page. If you’ve gone onto the second page, then you know you’ll either have to edit the body of the letter, or alternatively, go for a smaller font size—10 at the very But really, you should try making the letter more concise and punchy, before forcing the reader get out his/her bifocals.
    1. LinkedIn isn’t just professional Facebook. You can and should use it to meet people in your desired sector, company or organisation.
      • One of the best tips I picked up at GCEP was to make good use of LinkedIn to network with individuals in my desired sector, company or organisation. Sure, you can use LinkedIn to gain access to information about the people who work at a particular company or organisation, including their backgrounds and potentially some of their published work. But you can also use it to engage directly with someone who works in your desired sector or organisation—or even better—with someone who is currently working in the role or a similar role to which you’re applying. In my personal experience, I reached out to someone who worked in the same role I was applying to, but in a different department at the organisation. I offered to buy him a coffee in exchange for an honest chat about the work of his organisation and his experiences there. Meeting him in person and speaking with him for what was supposed to be 30 minutes, but ended up being an hour and a half, lent the organisation a human quality and offered me an insight into the social culture. After this conversation, I knew that I wouldn’t have any trouble fitting in with the rest of the staff, as it seemed they had similar backgrounds and values to mine. This really put me at ease during my interview, and in the end, generated a very positive outcome (i.e., the job!). If you manage to meet with the person before you submit your CV and cover letter, then you can even mention what you took away from the conversation in your job application.
    1. It’s important to be professional, but it’s more important to be genuine.
      • Believe it or not, it’s not that hard to tell the difference between someone who is discussing something he/she is genuinely passionate about, versus someone who is pretending to be passionate about something because they think they have to. In other words, are you really passionate about finance, or have you ventured in this direction for the money? It’s not that the latter is equivalent to a cardinal sin. It’s simply that people exude more charisma and confidence when they talk about something in which they truly believe. And this can go both ways… You may not be enthralled by the financial analyst role, but perhaps, you’re really interested in the organisation or sector. You can highlight your ability to accomplish the logistical tasks at hand, while you emphasise your passion for the content. Alternatively, if you’re lacking a little on the skills and experience side but you love the company’s or organisation’s work, then you can focus on that during your interactions with the employer. At the end of the day, when it comes to considering your next role, where—let’s face it—you’ll be spending the majority of your waking hours for the foreseeable future, it’s important to be honest—not only with the employer, but also with yourself.