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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  • Environmental Careers Week: UCL sustainability staff share their experiences

    By Weronika Z Benning, on 18 February 2016

    As part of UCL Careers Environmental Careers Week, we asked members of staff around UCL about their environmental jobs, what motivates them and what tips they’d give to recent graduates.

    Evan Landy, Sustainability Officer

    Evan

    What does your role consist of?

    My role covers three main areas of sustainability at UCL. I use the RICS Ska sustainable fit-out tool to embed sustainability into refurbishment projects throughout the estate – this involves designing in measures to drive energy efficiency, waste reduction, procure environmentally friendly materials and to maximise occupant wellbeing within refurbished spaces. I also spend time auditing and assuring both construction and occupational activities to monitor and reduce our operational environmental impacts and risks. Lastly, I am involved in driving the UCL Estates Biodiversity Action Plan to monitor and improve biodiversity on site through designing in green roofs to new building projects and incorporate biodiversity enhancements elsewhere around campus.

    What got you interested in the environment?

    I always enjoyed spending time outside as I was growing up, whether it was outdoor sports or wildlife watching and when it came to thinking about my career, the only thing I wanted to do was to contribute to the multitude of challenges that I began to realise were affecting the environment. I have been lucky enough to experience some of the most spectacular sights and sounds on the planet – from watching blue whales in the Atlantic Ocean to trekking up Mount Kenya and ultimately I am driven by such experiences and wanting to do my bit to protect that for future generations. I think it is important to realise that economic development is inevitable which brings challenges and also opportunities as new technologies, research and collaboration can help ensure this is done more sustainably than in the past.

    What tips would you give to someone interested in this field?

    I think it is really important to gain experience in all walks of life, work with and understand the needs of different people and why being sustainable might not be at the forefront of everyone’s agenda. Ultimately, not everyone is going share the same passion for the environment as you so it is critical to understand what else can drive sustainability – often there are tangible benefits such as costs and wellbeing that need to be identified and communicated effectively. Most importantly though, I would say that there is no conventional way in to a career in sustainability – although it helps to have a degree in an environmental discipline for some roles, it is often not a prerequisite and please do not be put off if you have other skills as we need talented environmental writers, artists, lawyers, economists and people across all industries to work together towards resolving the worlds environmental and sustainability challenges.

    Jennifer Hazelton, Strategic Research Facilitator for the Environment Domain

    Jennifer

    What does your role consist of?

    My role is multi-faceted and involves working with academics right across the UCL Schools, Departments, Institutes and other research groupings. I help to identify, publicise and coordinate opportunities for funding in environment-related areas, particularly where there is an interdisciplinary element which could not be provided within an individual unit. I look after the publicising of UCL Environment research, including the Environment Domain website, twitter feed, blog site and emails, keeping up to date with what is going on across campus. I liaise with colleagues in professional services such as Research Services, UCL Press, Web and Marketing, Estates and Information Services in order to support UCL’s environment-related research and the Domain.

    What got you interested in the environment?

    I have always loved the outdoors, having grown up surrounded by lots of open space in Northumberland. The role of the environment in the health and wellbeing of me, my family, friends and the rest of humanity has gradually become clearer; so too the impact we, individually and collectively, have on everything from our immediate surroundings to global systems. The power of nature is awe-inspiring, and humankind has shown remarkable adaptability and resilience in the face of environmental hazards, but equally we pose our own threats to the world around us. A desire to understand the relationships between people and their environment led me to study Geography as an undergraduate, and everything I have done since.

    What tips would you give to a current student keen to work in this field?

    I think the attributes which I have that helped me get to this position are having an interest in almost every field of study. I work with academics from all  disciplines and need to be able to broadly grasp what they do and find linkages or gaps between them. At school I enjoyed all subjects, then went on to study a degree which provides an excellent base for most environment-related disciplines. I then took a job as a Research Assistant, where I was able to study part time for my PhD, and gradually moved across from a purely research role to a professional services position when I realised that I didn’t want to be involved in a single line of research. My advice would be to remain open minded and take opportunities that present themselves, even if they differ from what you might have planned (I always wanted to be a school teacher!)

    Ciaran Jebb, Sustainability Officer (Energy)

    Ciaran

    What does your role consist of?

    In my role as Sustainability Officer (Energy), I am supporting improvements to UCL’s energy management and the energy and carbon performance of the University’s construction and refurbishment projects. At the moment I’m working to improve our energy billing and making sure we’re meeting our legal obligations for things like our buildings’ Display Energy Certificates as well as our own sustainability reporting. I’ve only just started at UCL, but I’m looking forward to helping implement energy saving initiatives in collaboration with UCL’s departments and getting started on UCL’s Living Lab project, supporting research which uses the campus as a test bed for research.

    What got you interested in the environment?

    I have always been interested in renewable energy, and while studying Chemistry as an undergraduate I worked on developing new materials that can be used to improve solar technology. I’m a keen cyclist, even in London, and I believe there should be no difference between living comfortably and living sustainably. I want to help create positive environmental change and for the last two years I’ve been an active member of my local Green Party. This gives me the chance to talk to lots of people about living sustainably, and how that can improve their wellbeing and our shared environment.

    What tips would you give to a current student keen to work in this field?

    My advice is not to be afraid of changing your mind and taking a non-direct path to do what you want. After graduation I worked in accountancy for several years, before deciding to pursue my interest in sustainability. And although it’s been a big change, the skills I developed have been really useful in my current role – I still deal with a lot of numbers. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of getting experience. Because I started on a non-environmental career path, the volunteering I did outside my job was essential in allowing me to make the jump into an environmental role. And remember that sustainability is an incredibly broad area, and increasingly opportunities will appear in organisations and industries that would never have considered it important before.

    UCL Career’s Environment and Sustainability Week took place in the week commencing 8th February. Make sure you join us next year for a similar programme of events: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/events/getinto/environment

    Top 5 Green jobs sites: How to find a role in the environment/sustainability sector

    By Weronika Z Benning, on 4 February 2016

    Looking for a career that benefits the planet? With sustainability top on the agenda right now for every kind of organisation – from national governments to global corporations – there are more and more opportunities to find a career that aligns with your values.

    The Green Economy has hit £122bn, according to The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and, in 2013 employed more than a million people. And that’s just for specialist companies that make up what the government has called the Low Carbon and Environmental Goods and Services industry, and so doesn’t appear to account for the many opportunities to work in sustainability roles in charities, NGOs or companies that are trying to reduce their carbon footprint.

    So where can you find these ‘green jobs’? Well, as well as attending UCL’s Environment and Sustainability Week, which starts on the 8th February and gives you the chance to meet professionals from a whole range of organisations, from Carbon Plan to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), you might want to check out these job sites and recruitment agencies:

    The University of London’s Jobonline also has lots of environmental type roles that are aimed at students and graduates, in it’s ‘Natural resources and Environment’ sector. To keep updated, sign up for UCLAlert!

    Here are some of the current roles:

    UCL Careers’s Environment & Sustainability Themed Week takes place from February 8th – 11th.

    Environment and Sustainability Week coming soon

    By Weronika Z Benning, on 1 February 2016

    If you’re passionate about the environment, UCL Careers’ Environment and Sustainability Week from 8th Feb is a must.

    Whether you’re looking for a volunteering position while you study, want to find out more about how to work in conservation and biodiversity, or are keen to develop your networking skills to break into this competitive sector, there’s an event for you. As well as the chance to meet a really diverse range of professionals, from Green Alliance to the National Geographic Wild, we’re also very fortunate to have Forum for the Future coming in to deliver a practical workshop on System Innovation, so you can get stuck in to solving some of the greatest sustainability challenges.

    For those of you who know you want a career that benefits the planet but aren’t yet quite sure what that might look like, our Green Careers Discovery Evening on Tuesday 9th February offers a lively and dynamic introduction to a whole range of different areas of work via group speed-networking. With organisations such as the Department for Energy and Climate Change, Mott Macdonald and Ofgem represented, this is a great chance to get to know people working in exciting environmental roles and hear their tips for how you can launch your career in the sector. We’re even offering a workshop on networking skills the day before to help you make the most of this valuable opportunity. And once you’re ready to apply, you’ll want to make sure your CV is up to scratch, so we’re putting on a workshop to help you see your CV through the eyes of the environmental sector employer.

    So what are you waiting for? Sign up and find your path to a fulfilling career in sustainability. Places are strictly limited so early booking is recommended.

    Corporate Cult? We try to work with everyone.

    By Phil Howe, on 11 June 2015

    George Monbiot’s recent article in The Guardian, “How a corporate cult captures and destroys our best graduates”, raised some interesting questions about graduate recruitment at the UK’s top universities. At UCL Careers we recognise not all organisations have equal resources, and that it is our responsibility to give non-profits, public sector organisations and SMEs every chance to promote their career opportunities to UCL students and graduates.

    The article criticised several Russell Group universities and, although his researchers did not contact UCL and nor were we criticised in the article, we wanted to share what we are doing to ensure students and graduates find out about and have access to more than just City careers.

    The article accused leading universities of passivity in the face of “love bombing” from large corporates, suggesting they should be doing more to counter this. UCL Careers devotes considerable time and resources to initiatives alerting students to alternative career options, and encouraging non corporates to come on to campus. Looking at our events this week, we are working with 23 employers on our Global Citizenship Employability Programme, of which 50% are charities, SMEs or public sector bodies, including Think Ahead (a graduate programme for mental health social work) Ark Schools (an educational charity) and Bartonia Care (a healthcare scheme for the elderly). Likewise, looking at the employers collaborating on our Focus on Management course, these include the Civil Service Fast Stream, Researchers in Schools and Repositive (an SME working for efficient and ethical access to genomic data), alongside several large corporates. Finally, just over 25% of the employers attending our Jobs Market, are from the public and charity sectors, or are SMEs.

    We developed our themed weeks specifically to raise the profile of sectors such as Charities and NGOs, the Environment, and Museums and Cultural Heritage, and to place them on an equal footing with our Careers Fairs which feature more corporate career paths. Unlike our Fairs where organisations pay a substantial fee to attend, our themed weeks are completely free of charge for employers.

    This year’s themed week programme comprised 26 individual events covering six sectors, and over 1,300 UCL students attended. They heard from expert speakers at organisations such as Amnesty International, Save the Children, the NHS Graduate Programme, the Institute of Conservation, the National Theatre, the V&A Museum, Global Alliance for Chronic Disease and the Stroke Association. Some weeks, such as Charities and NGOs, almost entirely featured SMEs, charities and public bodies, but even weeks such as Life and Health Sciences had representation from non corporates at every event.

    The UCL Careers Twitter hashtag #uclinspireme highlights a range of career opportunities which UCL students and graduates may not be aware of- and where employers may not have the resource to promote them on campus. This includes a series of blogs written by people in less publicised graduate jobs including fashion PR, market research, and child safety, as well as highlighting less common vacancies such as “Epidemiology Intern”, “Content Marketing Executive”, and “Fundraising and Marketing Graduate Trainee”. Students can follow @uclcareers, or search for the hashtag #uclinspireme, to keep up to date with these.

    We also make a great effort to involve charities and SMEs in our placements, internships and vacancy services. Smaller organisations are put off by fees to access university students, but are also often worried about attending high profile events and receiving huge numbers of applications, which they don’t have time to process. We set up our shortlisting service, UCL Talent Bank (which takes much of the legwork out of recruitment) specifically to engage smaller employers and bring their vacancies to UCL students’ and graduates’ attention. Since Talent Bank started, we have advertised around 175 roles for non corporates, including Rainforest Foundation UK, the Institute for Sustainability and homelessness charity Providence Row. Talent Bank is free of charge for employers.

    Talent Bank is a service for all UCL students and graduates but we are also tasked with sourcing internships for specific courses at UCL, one of these is the BASc Arts and Sciences. Over the two years we have been working with these students around 65% of the internships they secured were with either SMEs or charities.

    Finally, we often arrange for employers to visit departments to talk about relevant career opportunities. In two examples from this year, two panel discussions in the School of Public Policy involved representatives from Oxfam, VSO and Macmillan Cancer Support, while a recent panel event at the Institute of Education featured a large UK based charity, an international development organisation, the director of a small business and a self-employed consultant, the idea being to demonstrate to students the variety of the types of careers they could aspire to.

    The Guardian article praised the Careers Service at the University of Cambridge for trying to “counter the influence of the richest employers”. It lauded their policy of imposing a fee on rich recruiters and using the proceeds to make it easier for non profits to recruit at the university. Almost all leading UK universities charge fees for recruitment services to larger organisations, and UCL is no exception. First and foremost, these fees have to represent good value for the companies who pay them or they won’t recruit here, and the many students who are interested in careers such as finance, law, consultancy, IT and engineering will miss out. That said, we consciously invest any surplus from these activities into services for all students, including the initiatives listed above.

    We don’t believe our role is to make value judgements about particular career paths, and nor will we tell you that you should or shouldn’t pursue a particular job based on our own ethics. We do believe we have a responsibility to marry our knowledge of the many different careers UCL students pursue, with the availability and interest of particular employers when delivering our events and services. We hope this overview provides reassurance that we don’t just promote one type of career, but we are always interested in hearing from students and graduates if there are particular employers or sectors you want to see more of.

    – Phil Howe, Employer Engagement and Business Development Manager, UCL Careers.

    Careers in Energy & Sustainable Resource Forum round ups

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 25 February 2015

    Did you miss the UCL Institute for Sustainability and the UCL Energy Institutes Careers forums during our Environment week? Fear not, Laura Firmin from UCL Careers has written a round up for you:

    Institute for Sustainability Careers in Energy Networking Event

    A wide variety of speakers from sustainable energy consultancies and SMEs working within the sustainable planning and architecture arena each invited the audience to look back with them through their career journey that has led them to where they work now.

    Some top career tips from this event:

    1. Use an analytical mind-set to break apart your current or previous work experience to decide exactly what it is you did/ didn’t like about that role. Was it the working hours? The people you worked with? Were you using your strengths? The manner in which your efforts were recognised? Use these insights to assess the suitability of the job you’re applying to.
    2. Weigh up your interest in the sector with what the job is actually asking you to do day-to-day.
    3. If you’re a researcher, or doing a PhD, start building your network by proactively approaching companies who may be interested in your research and offer to present what you are working on to them. Many companies run lunchtime lectures in which you could do this and you can achieve many outcomes at once:
      1. You get to practice your presentation skills in preparation for your poster talk/ VIVA
      2. You are effectively promoting yourself, the university and your work to interested employers in the area
      3. If you are feeling stuck in a rut – having to put something coherent together and getting out of the office may spark new insights.

    This networking event brought together many London businesses working towards a sustainable future – especially around the built environment. This is a pressing issue for London and environmental jobs are not just out in the countryside; for those of you who want to continue saving the planet whilst living in this city – there are plenty of opportunities locally which could fulfil both these desires.

    Careers in Sustainable Resources Thursday 12th February 2015

    A great introduction by professor Paul Ekins created a focused atmosphere with an injection of humour and warmth.

    Top tips to come from the night’s speakers were as follows:

    1. Nick Lakin, Group Head of Government Affairs at Kingfisher suggested that many graduates entering the sustainability sector are likely to have big ideas for the future of their world. His advice is to balance ideas with practicality. Change is not always easy as holding a belief in a particular approach – so be pragmatic and be ready to adjust your idea so that you can collaborate with others.
    2. Joshua Davies, Graduate Sustainability Consultant at URS-AECOM reminded the audience of the importance of gaining varied work experience. If you are looking to get into consulting – your variety of work experience and expertise will enable you to work on lots of different client projects. Stay proactive to avoid limiting your knowledge bank.

    Many multi-national companies run consult on environmental and sustainability issues and have whole departments dedicated to the sector. However, even if you are hired to work in that department, you may also be required to work in other areas of the business where need occurs. So, be open-minded and consider whether your green values are matched throughout the business.

    Environment week 2015 round up

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 20 February 2015

    This post looks at the events organised by UCL Careers during our Environment Careers Themed Week. If you didn’t manage to attend these sessions, we’ve captured some of the key points we took away to report to you. Our previous blog post also features some tips for getting into the environment and sustainability sector from the UCL Institute of Sustainability.

    The Effective Networking workshop – or ‘Connecting with people who want to talk to you’.

    Right from the first icebreaker, the UCL Careers seminar room was humming with energy and chatter as students threw themselves into task of mandatory mingling. Asked to discuss the benefits and potential barriers to networking, it was clear that while everyone agreed that it was a good way to make inroads into a sector such as the Environment, the idea makes most people weak at the knees.

    Imagining rocking up to a formal networking event, clasping a handful of business cards in sweaty hands, and having to deliver a perfect elevator pitch to a room full of disinterested senior people who have far more important things to do than talk to you, it’s not surprising most people shy away from networking.

    Despite these fears there are many reasons someone at a networking event might want to meet you (finding talent or just getting a chance to talk about themselves for example) – it’s all about asking simple, open questions about their work lives that get them talking.

    The message from this workshop, delivered by Dave Carter of UCL Careers, was that networking doesn’t have to be daunting. Given the number of people who hung around after this workshop chatting, it seems networking can even be fun!

    The Writing a CV for the environment sector workshop

    “If you want to catch a fish, you have to think like a fish”.

    This was the ethos behind the workshop, which gave students an opportunity to see through the eyes of a recruiter when scanning and scoring CVs for a researcher role in the environment sector.

    Under tight time-restraints and with a pile of CVs to sift through, it was very quickly clear what makes a CV stand out, or fall out for a recruiter’s pile:

    Tricks such as using plenty of bullet points, highlighting key skills from the person specification and putting the important information at the top were a winner; while long, wordy paragraphs and irregular formatting were very much considered turn-offs when you had a lot to sift through.

    Finally, it is important to tailor your CV to every job application. Unfortunately, no CV is one-size-fits all!

    The Sustainability Leadership workshop

    Participants at this revolutionary session were thrown straight into the deep end when their first task in groups was to share their burdens and take them out of their metaphorical rucksacks. This involved each participant listening to their peers in turn with respect and patience. Greta Rossi, co-founder of Ākāśa Innovation took our potential future leaders in sustainability on a journey, introducing tools to help them harness their leadership ability. By the end of the session, each group of students had connected with each other in a meaningful way.

    The Case Study: The London Olympics – The Green Games

    Richard Jackson, Head of Sustainability at UCL shared his tips for ensuring that sustainable initiatives run throughout an enormous event such as the London 2012 Olympic Games.

    1. Have clear strategic objectives: these must be in place right at the beginning and you must stick to them – even if plan A does not work – you must ignite plan B in order to meet those green objectives. If a material does not function as planned – can you produce one that does? When your site is audited – you will need to be able to say that you have delivered your objectives.
    2. Get your people energised and inspired about the initiative. A prize as simple to produce as a pin badge for excellent engagement really encourages participation – especially if you have only produced a limited number!
    3. Know your supply chain – every step of the way – be credible
    4. An international event such as the Olympic Games is not the place to TEST innovative energy-saving ideas. Can you factor these tests into a trial part of the site beforehand?

    To find our more information about Sustainability Careers, head on over to Careers Tagged.