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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    Please read our Guest Blogger Policy

  • Stranger Careers Advice

    By S Donaldson, on 27 November 2017

    What did you get up to this weekend? I stayed in and binge-watched series 2 of Stranger Things. I know, I know, I’m a little behind. I could pretend the delay was due to my active social life or (more believably) because I had The Defenders and Transparent to get through first. But the truth is I was terrified it wouldn’t live up to series 1. I simply couldn’t bear to see Eleven et al. in a sub-par storyline. So imagine my delight when I found that not only is series 2 just as good as the first, but it’s also choc-a-block with useful careers messages – Totally Tubular! Here are three careers tips I took from the upside-down world of Hawkins:

    1) Speaking the same language helps

    “The demogorgon”, “the shadow monster”, “demodogs”, “true sight”…these are terms Eleven, Mike and the gang use to navigate the scary and weird world in which they find themselves. Without these words it would be far trickier to make sense of and communicate what’s happening around them.

    Compared to studying at university, new jobs and sectors can also feel like scary weird worlds. And if you don’t speak the language – something employers might describe as showing “commercial awareness” – they’ll be even more foreign. So before you attend a careers event and network with employers, and certainly before you make applications, try to learn a little of their language. The best way to do this is by reading relevant industry publications; the blogs, magazines and journals those working in your chosen field are reading. They’ll tell you what’s going on in a strange other world, and the correct terms to describe it.

    2) There are many ways to bring something to a team

    [Warning: this tip contains spoilers. Soz.]

    The Stranger Things kids are a motley crew, yet they’ve managed to save eachother, Hawkins, and presumably the entire world twice. Mike’s the leader, and Eleven’s contribution is obvious, sure. But what about the rest of them? Will keeps getting lost or infected, Lucas reveals the group’s secrets, and Dustin hides a demodog. Yet they all help in their own way. Without Will, the evil-root-tunnel-thingies would never have been found. Without Lucas bringing Max on board, they never would have reached those evil-root-tunnel-thingies. And without Dustin’s bond to a demodog, they’d never have made it out of the evil-root-tunnel-thingies alive.

    These sorts of teamworking skills (minus the evil-root-tunnel-thingies) are attractive to most employers. So even if you’re a Dustin or a Lucas and you don’t take up the obvious leader or ideas-generator role, you have something to add. If you find it difficult to identify and communicate your contribution, check out Belbin’s team roles for details of the less prominent but still vital roles people can play.

    3) Skills can be transferred

    Eleven’s telepathic skills were ideally suited to her first (enforced) career in espionage. But does that mean she can’t do anything else? No sir-ee, she didn’t let herself be pigeon-holed. She recognised her transferrable skills and carried them into a variety of settings, including anti-bullying campaigns, demogorgon elimination consultancy, and an internship at a vigilante start-up.

    Just like Eleven, you’ll have developed a bunch of skills throughout your university experience that will also be useful in other settings. It’s important to recognise what these skills are so you can speak confidently about them. It could be the research or writing skills you picked up along the way, the organisational skills you used to plan a project or to fit your university work around extracurricular activities, the teaching skills you used to help bring coursemates up to speed, or the communication skills you used to present your work in front of a class. If you spot a skill you enjoy using, seek out further opportunities to develop it through your university work, internships, or extracurricular activities. This will convince an employer it truly is a strength you can bring to their organisation.

    “TEXT!!” What can Love Island teach us about careers?

    By S Donaldson, on 17 July 2017

    Love-Island-logo

    I assume you’re watching Love Island, right? It seems we all are. And if you’re not, you’ve only missed ~40 episodes. Cancel all plans and you’ll be caught up in no time. It’ll be well worth it. Much like David Attenborough’s Planet Earth, Love Island offers new perspectives on our world, a window through which we may behold truths hitherto unknown. Obviously I’ve learned everything I know about love from the show. Most people have. But Love Island also offers wise teachings on careers. In case fans of the show have missed them, and for non-fans without 40 hours to spare, I’ve summarised Love Island’s three key career lessons below:

    1) Don’t judge a career by its cover

    I don’t mind admitting that even I, one of Love Island’s biggest fans, was at first somewhat sceptical, or even scathing, about the show. I viewed myself as above it. But how wrong I was. It took merely one episode to have me truly hooked.

    I’d stereotyped the show and the kinds of people who watch it. And it’s easy to do just the same thing with careers. What images come to mind when you think of an accountant? A psychologist? A social worker? A librarian? And what information are those images based on? Sometimes we can be very dismissive of, or incredibly attracted to, certain career paths due to commonly-held stereotypes. And if we don’t delve beneath the stereotype, we risk making ill-informed career choices. Websites like https://www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles give you impartial information about a whole host of job roles, so it’s a great place to check that your initial impressions are correct. We also recommend talking to people in the roles you’re interested in, and testing jobs out whenever you can. You may just find a hidden Love Island-esque gem!

    2) First choices don’t have to be final choices

    Where would Olivia (and we the viewers) be if she’d stuck with her first Love Island coupling? Cast your mind back to episode 1 and you’ll remember she was first paired with Marcel. But he wasn’t her type on paper, so she moved on to Sam, who also wasn’t her type on paper. Then she was off to Chris, who also appeared not to be her type on paper. Then she tried out Mike, who was totally her type on paper. But despite being her type on paper, she actually wasn’t too keen on him (see point 1 above), so she’s (currently) back with Chris and seemingly very happy.

    Imagine if in episode 1 Olivia had felt her first choice would have to be her final choice, that she and Marcel would have to get married and be together forever. It could have left her paralysed by indecision. Well that’s how many students feel about career decisions. They worry so much about getting it ‘wrong’ that they find it difficult to engage with career thinking at all. But worry not. Studies like this, this and this tell us that changing careers, sometimes multiple times, is pretty normal. So chill. Take some of the pressure off. Career thinking is an ongoing process. You’re not necessarily making the choice about what to do forever, just what to do next. The experiences you have in every role, and the ways you change and grow over time, will inform where you go from there.

    3) Be aware of your online presence

    It’s hard not to feel a bit sorry for Jonny. He became the show’s villain after doing what plenty of other contestants do, dumping one person for another. But when that dumpee is the nation’s sweetheart Camilla, you’re bound to be a little unpopular. This unpopularity wasn’t helped by Jonny’s social media profiles, which he’s now deleted, and has admitted portrayed him as being something he wasn’t.

    So obviously if you’re thinking of entering next year’s Love Island you should do a thorough social media audit. But what if you’re applying for a job? A 2013 survey of recruiters showed 92%, 35%, and 18% used LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, respectively, to vet candidates before interview, and 42% had reconsidered a candidate based on what they found on their social networking profiles. Unsurprisingly, profanity and references to guns and drugs were viewed pretty unfavourably by recruiters. But so were photos of alcohol consumption, and spelling and grammar mistakes, rather common features in social media profiles. So be sure to regularly evaluate your privacy settings to ensure you’re happy with what recruiters might find!

    Oscar-worthy careers inspiration from La la land and Whiplash

    By S Donaldson, on 9 February 2017

    !!Spoiler alert!! In addition to deeply valuable careers insight, this post may give away film plots.

    It’s the film that divided UCL Careers. La La Land is a box office and awards ceremony hit, but not everyone understands its success. The argument in our office has been raging for weeks, so most lunchtimes look like this SNL sketch.

    But whether you’re a clueless philistine who just didn’t get the film, or a film connoisseur who loved it (joke…sort of), I hope there’s one thing we can agree on: La la land is about careers. And its writer/director Damien Chazelle’s 2014 film, Whiplash, is also about careers.

    So as well as a moving cinematic experience, here are three careers-related lessons we can take from Chazelle’s films.

    1) Role models are pretty useful

    Whether you’re heading to Paris inspired by an aunt’s foolhardy dip in the Seine, dreaming of re-establishing a tragically lost jazz bar, or decorating your music school dorm room with drumming legend photos, it’s much easier to start on a path when you’ve seen others walk it before you.

    So when you’re looking for career inspiration, gather as many case studies as possible. Take an interest in your friends and family members’ careers. But don’t stop at people you already know. Why not try searching UCL’s alumni community or LinkedIn for graduates from your course? What are they doing now? How did they get there? And make use of the case studies we provide. At our careers events (like those comprising week’s Environment week, or March’s Life and Health Sciences week), we invite people from a range of industries to chat about their roles and career paths. We also regularly post career story inspiration on this blog. You’ll find just a few of our case studies here.

    2) Careers involve compromise and sacrifice

    La La Land and Whiplash explore the sacrifices made to follow a dream. For instance, to be a world-class drummer, you apparently have to sacrifice the skin on your hands.

    But sacrifices and compromises aren’t simply the domain of creative greats, they’re part and parcel of every career (and all of life, really). There are so many things that can be important to someone in a career: money, prestige, location, like-minded colleagues, work-life balance, chances to progress, fun, etc. etc. etc. But not all jobs offer all of them all of the time. Sometimes we have to prioritise those values that are most important to us, and at the expense of other things, even if it’s just in the short term.

    No one finds this process easy. If you need help working out your career priorities, or making a career decision, come and speak to one of our careers consultants in a one-to-one short guidance appointment.

    3) Even the greatest candidates need resilience

    Whiplash and La La Land show us everyone faces rejection at some point. Thankfully, most people’s career rejections don’t involve being publicly fired or having chairs thrown at their heads. But rejection can still be painful.

    ‘Resilience’, a bit of a careers buzzword at the moment, describes the hardiness that helps people move on positively from rejections. That could mean accepting rejection for highly competitive roles is common, and shouldn’t dissuade you from trying again. Or it could mean taking feedback on board and putting in an even better application next time. If you’re struggling to work out how your applications or interview technique might be improved, check out our online and in-person applications and interview advice.

    Career inspiration No. 3: Taylor Swift

    By S Donaldson, on 4 November 2015

    In this series of blogs we’ll be looking to pop culture for career inspiration.

    Taylor SwiftImage of TS from @taylorswift13

    How has it taken me three celeb career inspiration blogs to get to Taylor Swift?! Here are just a few of the possibly infinite number of career lessons we can learn from Tay Tay’s phenomenal success.

    1) The first step doesn’t have to be the last

    Remember when Taylor Swift was more than a little bit country? I do. She was doing pretty darn well, and country music is a hugely lucrative business. But she decided to follow a different creative direction, making her sound a little more pop and a lot more awesome.

    Choosing the right path when you graduate can be tough. Putting time into researching what’s out there, and into researching yourself, will ensure you make an informed decision. But don’t fret too much, because just like T-Swiz, many people change direction during their career, sometimes only slightly, sometimes quite drastically. The experiences you have in the world of work will reveal what you do and don’t enjoy. And the process can continue throughout your career, as both you and your jobs evolve.

    2) Networking is great for your career

    Swifty knows how to make friends, and how to make the most of them. There’s her collaboration with Kendrick Lamar, her on stage guesting with Mary J. Blige (and SOOO many others), her touring, instagraming and BFFing with Haim, and her star-studded Bad Blood video. These links broaden her already incredibly wide appeal, helping her sell more records.

    Taylor Swift and MaryJ BligeImage of pro networker T with Mary J Blige from @taylorswift13

    But networking isn’t just for the superfamous. It’s important in most careers. If you need proof, just check out the data in What London Graduates Do. 25% of graphic designers, 27% of scientific researchers, and 32% of management consultants surveyed heard about their job through personal contacts. And that’s not just friends and family (although of course you should make the most of any links you have). Personal contacts include people met at networking events and through LinkedIn or through UCL’s Alumni Community: a chance to speak to Alumni in sectors you’re interested in. So get networking!

    3) Learn from feedback

    Believe it or not, even Taylz isn’t perfect. But her Twitter beef with Nicki Minaj earlier this year showed she can admit when she’s wrong and take steps to improve herself.

    As we saw with Nadiya from GBBO, career resilience is vital. You’re bound to get some rejections, so it’s important to stay positive. But it’s also sensible to reflect upon what (if anything) caused the knockback. As Albert Einstein famously said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”. And that guy was pretty smart.

    Employers will often provide feedback if you’ve been unsuccessful at interview, so ask for this, and use it to improve your performance next time. And you can always come and visit us at UCL Careers for guidance on improving your applications and interview technique.

     

    S Donaldson, UCL Careers Consultant

    Career inspiration No. 1: Nadiya from GBBO

    By S Donaldson, on 12 October 2015

    In this series of blogs we’ll be looking to pop culture for career inspiration.

    Nadiya 3

    Image from BBC One

    Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week you’ll know that Nadiya Hussain quite rightly won 2015’s Great British Bake Off. Her acceptance speech brought a tear to many an eye and her victory has been all over the papers and EVERYWHERE online.

    But this is the UCL Careers blog. Surely we can’t make the GBBO about careers, right?

    Wrong.

    We think Nadiya’s performance holds important career lessons for us all. And we’re going to tell you about them.

    1) Sometimes it’s good to step out of your comfort zone

    Nadiya wasn’t the most confident contestant to begin with. But she threw herself into the competition, and as the weeks went by her boldness grew, culminating in her glorious victory. And that speech! “I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never gonna say I can’t do it. I’m never gonna say ‘maybe’. I’m never gonna say, ‘I don’t think I can.’ I can and I will.”

    Pushing yourself to have varied experiences will help you develop skills and confidence. And testing out different things can help you figure out exactly what you want from a career. If you’re nervous, why not start small? Try taking on a new task in a social or voluntary setting first. Then when you’re feeling braver you can transfer your new skills to your course or job.

    2) Resilience is vital

    Ok. So Nadiya had some low points on the show. She presented incomplete vol au vents. She fluffed the soufflé technical challenge. She shed some tears. But did she let that stop her? No sir.

    Jobhunting can be tough, most people don’t just walk into the first job they apply for. Even the best candidates are bound to get a knockback every now and then. But staying positive and learning from your experiences is an important career development skill.

    3) Make your motivation clear

    Recruitment is an expensive and time-consuming business, as is training new staff. So it’s important for employers to know they’re taking on people who are motivated to work hard and stick around for a while. In your applications and interviews you need to show you’ve done your homework, you understand the role and the company, and you’re excited about the position.

    Nadiya was clearly serious about baking and the competition, hence the incredible show stoppers and the tears. But for the best evidence of Nadiya’s passion, one need look no further than her wonderful facial expressions. Enjoy!

    Nadiya 4

    Image from Indy Voices

    S Donaldson, Careers Consultant, UCL