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 – Director, UCL Careers

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

    Accurate at the time of publication
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    Five Common Mistakes in Job Applications – and How To Avoid Them

    By Weronika Z Benning, on 22 September 2016

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    We’ve all been there. You sit for days and days, snuggled under your duvet, shooting off job applications. Out of fifty apps, you get seven responses – all rejections.

    This is the reality of life after uni – or, for the proactive among us, final year. In a world where twenty people apply for every skilled job, half of them good enough for the role, what can make you stand out? And what are you doing wrong?

    Here’s five common mistakes you could be making.

    You don’t know what you’re applying for

    This is the most common reason for rejection from a job. “Graduates and those seeking to further their careers often pay 99% of their attention to the big things on their CVs – their academic performance, employment history, achievements and so forth,” says employment expert Lillian Bususu. “But those things mean little when a company receives a CV addressed to the HR manager of their rival.”

    For every single application, you must change your approach. Do your research; Google is there for a reason. Customise your CV, covering letter and the skills you advertise. 36% of employers reject copy/paste applications, and 14% turn you down for a lack of research. Don’t give them the excuse.

    So repeat with me: “I would love to work at [insert company name here] because…”

    Your CV isn’t up to scratch

    How hard is it to write a decent CV? Very – or so anecdote suggests. HR and recruitment officials are always complaining about CV quality. So how can you put yours in the ‘good’ camp? Firstly, typos. It’s possible that you’re making the language mistakes this Guardian article seeks to eliminate. Check over your resume and amend where necessary.

    Secondly, your formatting – is it professional? There are no real rules for CVs, which makes it harder in many ways. You want a recruiter to look at your document and go: “That looks like a serious, organised person.” Emojis and star-shaped bullet points are not your friends. Here’s an example of a grad CV format from the National Careers Service – or look at these from the Guardian. It’s best to design your own – originality, etc – but nobody will sue you for getting ideas from a template. Submit PDFs rather than Word docs where possible, to preserve your beautiful layout. And for the love of Miley, don’t go over two pages. Lastly, don’t sell yourself short. It’s easy to get caught up on what to include and what not to. But if you put everything in and order it well, nobody’s going to fault you.

    You don’t have the experience

    Your first job will always be the hardest to get. Universities may be stressful and work-heavy and possibly even impressive on a CV, but they are not work. They don’t prepare you for the rigmarole of the commute, the necessity of attendance and often rigid hours of an actual workplace. In fact, the only guarantee that a graduate can hold up in a real job is if she has had one before.

    “But I’m only just out of university!” you cry. “I can’t have had a job!” True – but other applicants will have internships, part-time roles and volunteer experience to their name. They’ll have worked gap years and done summer placements. The more of this you have – whatever the industry or role – the more likely you are to be looked on favourably by an employer.

    So, if you haven’t already, get out there. If your interviewer asks, “What are you doing at the moment?”, you need to be able to respond. Volunteer, build a website or tutor some local schoolkids. Sign up for a short course or online tutorials while you’re job-searching. There’s work out there for everyone.

    You’re not using all your resources

    Ever heard of hidden skills? If not, you might be overlooking your most employable attributes.

    Hidden skills are abilities you have but don’t recognise. Are you always the one to organise outings and trips for your group of friends? That is people-management experience right there. This handy website can help you convert other activities into excellent CV and interview babble.

    Additionally, you know those rejections you get? You can reply, you know. Follow up on rejections.

    Generally, employers are open to giving feedback. This valuable tool, which so few jobseekers use, is a good way to identify the failures in your applications and improve future chances.

    Finally, remember that you are a multifaceted person. You have lots of skills and could work in many different industries or positions. Spread your search – if one approach isn’t working, try applying for other roles. Want a job in marketing? Try applying for social media and content writing positions. They’re great experience that can strengthen a marketing CV in the future.

    You’re not tied to your first grad job; switching industries and roles is commonplace. Concentrate on getting your foot on the ladder for now. The dream job can come later.

    You’re too… young…

    This is a hard one to accept. Millennials – those born between 1980 and 2000 – are not well-liked in the working world. We are unemployable and undesirable. Though we boast the technological hard skills required for many jobs, we lack soft people and business skills.

    So you must work against your stereotype. If you look at the words ‘soft skills’ and frown, fix this issue. Don’t be yet another Gen Y recruit with no idea what the term ‘icebreaker’ means. It’s tough out there for our generation, but it’s not impossible.

    Finally, it’s a numbers game. Apply to five jobs? Expect to hear nothing. Apply to five hundred? That’s more like it. Stay motivated and remember: you’re not alone. And if it all goes to pot, you can always write your CV on a sign and go for a walk.

    Inspiring Interns is a graduate recruitment firm which specialises in sourcing candidates for internship jobs and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs London, visit our website.

    Guest blog post by Susanna Quirke of Inspiring Interns. Inspiring Interns is a graduate recruitment firm which specialises in sourcing candidates for internship jobs and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs London, visit our website.

     

    How to tackle psychometric tests

    By S Donaldson, on 7 December 2015

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    Psychometric tests are one of the hoops some of you will have to jump through to get a job. Large employers often use these tests as a quick and easy way of cutting down the huge volume of applications they receive. So how should you tackle them? Well, firstly, don’t panic. Secondly, do prepare. And thirdly, don’t panic some more.

    1) DON’T Panic

    Easier said than done, right? Employers tell us that lots of people do panic. They assume they’ll fail and so they opt out of the recruitment process at the psychometric test stage without even sitting the test. And a few employers have told us that women self-select out a lot more than men. So stop doing that people! Especially female people! If you take the test you may pass and get through to the next application stage, or you may fail and not progress to the next stage. If you don’t take the test you’re certain not to progress. So give yourself a chance and take that test.

    It’s quite common for employers to test verbal and numerical abilities (though not all will test both), and sometimes logical thinking too. The numerical tests can seem scary, especially if you’ve been studying a humanities degree for the past few years. But if employers are accepting applicants from all academic disciplines (and many are) then they’re clearly not looking only for maths geniuses. And some tests are designed to be extremely difficult, with too many questions for the assigned time. So people can often think they didn’t do very well and then find they passed.

    2) DO Prepare

    Saying that, you should probably panic a bit…but just enough to make sure you put appropriate time into preparing. Psychometric tests aren’t a walk in the park. If you’re out of practice working with graphs and numbers then you’re likely to be slow and perhaps even bad at numerical reasoning tests when you first look at them. Similarly, even if you think you’re good with words, verbal reasoning tests aren’t always straightforward, and may be harder than you expect.

    But with practice you can improve. Employers often offer the chance to take practice tests before the real one. Always take them up on this. And as a UCL student or recent graduate you can try a range of practice tests through UCL Careers. These tests provide feedback on how you compare to others in terms of speed and accuracy, helping you to gauge your ability and see if you’re improving. There are also handy hints and tips to be found on careerstagged – just sign in with your UCL login and search “psychometric tests”. Always tap these free university careers resources first  – they’re great and just for you – but if you’ve exhausted them and still aren’t confident, there are websites out there that offer the option to buy more sample tests.

    Another way to ensure you’re prepared is to find out as much as possible about your target employers’ tests. Psychometric tests can vary greatly, so it’s worth investigating which provider your target employer is using, and then focusing your practice on the same types of tests. It’s also useful to know whether your potential employer negatively marks their tests for incorrect answers. This information isn’t always readily available, but if you can find it, it will help you work out how to balance speed versus accuracy in your answers.

    3) DON’T Panic….again

    Preparation and practice will bring your performance up to its optimum level. But of course there is a peak point for every individual, past which they’re unlikely to improve. If you’ve put in the work and still not made the grade, don’t feel dejected. Different employers use different tests and different cut-off points – some much harder and higher than others – so one rejection shouldn’t put you off all employers with psychometric tests. And not all employers and roles require the completion of these tests, so think about other routes into your chosen career or employer – maybe with the help of a one-to-one appointment with a UCL careers consultant. Another bit of good news is that there may well be a trend emerging of employers moving away from psychometric tests; this year Barclays scrapped theirs completely in order to make the recruitment process faster and more enjoyable for everyone involved.

     

    S Donaldson, Careers Consultant, UCL

    Image from Boaz Arad

    Believe in Yourself! Martial arts and the attitude of success with job applications

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 15 October 2015

    I know what you’re thinking. What do martial arts have to do with job applications?

    This is not about extra curricular activities (well I do mention that later). It’s about what you can learn from martial arts and how you can use this information to approach job applications in a healthier way!

    Practising the philosophies of martial arts may help you overcome that initial dread of filling in the application form.

    Both ‘practices’ have a lot in common. Both seek to project a positive self-image of confidence and strength.

    Application Form/FlickrApplication-Glasses-Pen – Creative Commons/Flazingo Photos/Flickr.com

    The Martial Arts Way

    If you’ve trained in a martial arts class, you’ll know that negative thinking leads nowhere. The only way is up and forward when faced with physical and mental challenges.

    Believe in yourselfnever give up – is not only the principle; it is the essence of martial arts practice and the only way to progress to higher levels of achievement.

    Go to any traditional martial arts class and you’ll see it’s also very performative. The practitioner performs specific set movements or ‘forms’ through positive and focused mental effort.

    Martial arts teach you to become comfortable with your physicality and accept what you can’t control. The dread of getting hit in sparring for example, becomes insignificant when it actually happens. There is a complete acceptance of consequence whilst simultaneously strategising one’s next move. This attitude of accepting reality for what it is and moving forward despite the consequences is a useful trait to practice and cultivate, and may well help you push past the initial disappointment of not getting through to an interview.

    The amount of energy and focus you invest in your application is proportionate to how much you desire that particular role. So, why not fully accept that you have chosen to write this application and win or lose you’re going to put your best foot forward, because in the end, you will not be in control of the outcome. Turn that dread into confidence and the quicker you can complete the application!

    The application and the importance of attitude

    A viewer of martial arts thinks, “Wow”, “Amazing”, “That skill!” Aren’t these the reactions you’d wish to evoke in an employer?

    To induce this effect applications should reflect candidates who believe in themselves and appear confident. “You’re number one” my instructor always says. “Not two, not three—number one!”

    You have to be number one when conveying information about yourself in applications. A lot of students fear coming across as arrogant rather than confident but this only happens if you write in a way that expresses you’re better than someone else.

    “The successful warrior is an average [woman or] man with laser-like focus,” says Bruce Lee. You think only of yourself and your progress. Time thinking about the strength of the competition—the other applicants, is wasted energy you could be using to win!

    Students often worry about what they lack compared to other candidates, rather than focusing on what they already have and could cultivate further. Eg. join the Economics and Finance Society if you want to demonstrate your drive and passion for finance-related roles. Learn a language, self-taught or through the university, if your dream employer has preferences for bilingual or multilingual staff.  Your aim is to project an image of their ideal candidate: an individual they invest and believe in to do a good job. The operative word here is ‘do’ – it is recommended that 70% of your application form answers reflect action words. The employer will measure your ability to contribute positively to their organisation by learning about how you performed in your past experiences. Show them how by what you did (think achievements) and don’t talk vaguely of roles you performed.

    What do all world champion martial artists have in common? Discipline! Build confidence in areas you need improving for a particular role, turn perceived weaknesses into strengths and work hard to attain new levels of success, which you can then reflect in your application form. This is the martial arts way. Believe in yourself!

    “Choose the positive. You have choice – you are master of your attitude – choose the positive, the constructive. Optimism is a faith that leads to success.”

    – Bruce Lee

    But what does it mean to Believe in Yourself?

    You engender a positive spirit and meet challenges with courage whether you’re faced with a invitation for interview or a rejection – you persevere like martial artists: when they get knocked down they stand back up and keep going, changing movements, learning new techniques. Martial artists don’t do the same thing expecting the same result. Adapting to the situation is therefore key. In a similar vein, having a flexible approach to writing your application and whatever its outcome will build and maintain self-belief—in being able to keep going, keep applying, despite challenges.

    Martial arts usually involve a system of grading in which each student strives for their next belt. This means having a goal is crucial in cultivating an attitude of success as it keeps the practitioner focused. What is your career goal? Make it visible and it will motivate you further.

    Here’s an idea: make a quick list of the top ten values you live by. These can include anything from Integrity, Open-mindedness to Health and Education. This will immediately reinforce your sense of self and boost esteem. Traditional clubs run their classes by precepts and tenets; core beliefs which students respect and uphold, further implanting a strong resolve. Rob Yeung, Business Psychologist and writer of job application and interview books insists that simply reminding yourself of your key values is like an “instant espresso shot of confidence”.

    Even better, spending a few moments visualising your future – imagining and feeling successful – influences the outcome of your actions. Positive visualisation is no secret in competitive sports and a vital tool for martial artists; creating and practicing imagined combat situations and visualizing success nurtures the belief to win. It’s all part of that healthy habit that martial artists have of ‘training the mind’.

    The great news is that, like other skills, self-belief can be practiced and mastered.

    Conquer lingering anxiety by thoroughly researching your field, your future job role and the company you’re applying to before beginning your application. For the martial artist, studying your opponent during a fight is essential in knowing where the weaknesses and strengths are. Preparation comes before success.

    If this still isn’t hitting home then try out a martial arts class and see how the philosophies and practices blend into other areas of your life, bringing you a renewed sense of faith in yourself. (Not a bad thing to put on your CV either!)

    Still struggling with your application? Don’t forget you can book an appointment and have one of our Application Advisers check it for you before you submit.

    – Payal Patel, Application Adviser, UCL Careers

    How the Global Citizenship Employability Programme helped me : UCL Alumni

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 21 April 2015

    James Finch, Physics 2014 graduate, attended the Global Citizenship Employability Programme last summer and he tells us why it was so helpful

    Graduating from Physics I wanted to pursuit a Technology career in the city. In previous summers I had obtained relevant work experience through internships but hadn’t converted them into full time positions. I knew that applications opened in late summer and lasted till around the New Year and my aim was to work hard applying over this time period.

    The first step I took to prepare was to participate in the Global Citizenship Employability Programme. This covered many areas of the application process:Global Citizenship Employability Programme

    > Application forms

    > CVs

    > Cover Letters

    > Psychometric tests

    > Assessment centres

    > Interviews

    > Job hunt planning

    Furthermore through the course you are introduced to the many other services that UCL Careers offers, such as the Alumni programme, 1-1 sessions, careers fairs and workshops. Through the Alumni programme I was able to obtain contacts within the industry/organisations that I was applying for, which was invaluable as you really get to understand what it is like to work for these companies and in these careers. Finally and most importantly I was introduced to the great team at UCL Careers and found the consultants very helpful in getting advice.

    Applying what I had learned from the Employability programme, I started making progress with my applications, securing interviews with firms I really wanted to work for. I found it extremely beneficial to practise for interviews with the consultants, it helped build confidence and I received useful tips on how to improve. I always felt that the consultants came well prepared with relevant information about the types of questions that might be asked and about how the interview process would be carried out.

    All this soon resulted in securing a job as a Technology Analyst at an Investment Bank. Much hard work was required on my part but the advice and support I received through the careers service really made it easier, with all the tips and hints along the way, that are difficult to pick by yourself. Even if you are very confident, there is no harm in reaching out to these guys, you will definitely learn something new that will benefit you in your job hunt. Good luck!

    If you’d like to find our more about the Global Citizenship Employability Programme, visit: www.ucl.ac.uk/global-citizenship/employability

    Application tips for engineering students

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 11 October 2014

    The engineering sector is similar to most others and it highly competitive. We’ve popped together some tips to help with the application process.

    Apply early

    First and foremost if you want an engineering graduate job or internship then you better get applying. Deadlines for graduate schemes and internships are different from those at university and applying early could give you a huge advantage. Although many jobs have ‘open’ deadlines or closing deadlines around the end of the year, it pays to take action in September and October as deadlines don’t tell the full story.

    Most employers assess applications as and when they are submitted. Many even hold assessment centres and make numerous job offers to early-bird candidates by the time the official closing date rolls round. This means that even though there are spaces left by the closing dates, there will be far more competition for fewer jobs.

    Consider jobs or internships at small engineering companies

    Don’t just look at big companies. By working for a smaller company you will often have more opportunities and responsibility than at a larger one. You’ll be amazed at the diverse range of smaller engineering consultancies that are able to offer graduates positions.

    Non-engineering experience can boost your CV

    • If you can’t find work experience in engineering, try to find a role that enables you to develop and demonstrate key skills (leading teams, problem solving, negotiating, etc) which can then be transferred to engineering.
    • While at university, get involved with as much as you possibly can while still maintaining a 2.1 level of degree. If you can demonstrate core skills that your degree probably doesn’t give you, you will be more employable.

    Be positive and passionate

    • Apply when you are in a positive state of mind.
    • Work on showing interest and passion. Create your own projects, follow your own processes, contribute to open source projects, etc.
    • Apply for jobs you have a passion for, and ignore how much they pay.
    • Your passion will show in your application/interview and you will be more likely to be successful.

    Research the industry you most want to work in…

    • Do your homework into the particular sector you are interested in to give you an extra edge.

    … but don’t get obsessed with an ‘ideal job’

    Get feedback on unsuccessful applications

    • Seek feedback from employers, especially after an interview. I found the most effective method to be phoning people rather than emailing as emails can be easily ignored!

    It’s not what you know…

    • Make use of any contacts you have already in jobs or the sector you want to work in. Networking is important: attending careers fairs and presentations are good starting points.

    For more career advice, search for graduate jobs and internships in the engineering sector please visit TARGETjobs Engineering.

    The UCL Careers Engineering fair on Monday 13th October is kindly sponsored by Targetjobs Engineering.