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
  • Want to contribute?

    Please read our Guest Blogger Policy

  • Career Lessons from Love Island 2018

    By UCL Careers, on 24 July 2018

    Remember that time we changed your lives with the three key career messages we took from last year’s Love Island? Well, it was such a great idea, it brought us such a lot of professional respect, and it gave us such an excellent excuse to watch Love Island at work*, that we thought we’d do it again before this year’s show comes to an end:

    1) Show me the evidence
    If you transcribed all of Georgia’s Love Island communications, uploaded them into NVivo or Wordle, and created a word cloud, it would look something like the below: 


     

     

    But did that convince us she was loyal or honest, babe? No. In fact, rather the opposite. It was her actions – staying true while Josh was in Casa Amor, leaving the villa with Sam – that eventually won us over.

    Although some may not like to admit it, employers are no different to Love Island viewers. They need evidence to be convinced. So what can you do? Well, it’s wise to use employer language in applications. If your target employer has asked for leadership skills, explicitly tell them when you’re talking about leadership skills. It makes their job easier. But rather than simply declaring what a fantastic leader you are in your own opinion, why not provide examples of how you used your leadership skills, and what you achieved with them? This evidence-based approach will help you feel more comfortable promoting yourself, and the employer feel more comfortable believing you.

     

    2) Negative experiences can be valuable

     Laura, Laura, Laura. Our hearts have broken for you not once but twice. Should you regret your missteps? Should you lament moments spent with Wes and New Jack as wasted time? No! For through those relationships you learned what you do not want, and that allowed you to see what you do want – a mature carpenter and model who has kissed Britney Spears – more clearly.

    When I speak to students and graduates about their past internship or placement experiences, they often view them as useful only if they turned out to be exactly the right role, with the right employer, for them. Of course that’s a wonderful result, but it’s not the only useful one. There is value in all of your past experiences as long as you take the time to reflect and draw it out. What was it you didn’t enjoy about a role? The task? The colleagues? The environment? And which elements did you enjoy? Exploring these questions is crucial in getting to know yourself, and deciding what your next step will be.

     

    3) A little role play can help

    Oh hell, when surfer New Laura entered the house, Dr Alex made a real hash of the one relationship that seemed to be working for him. But he saved it by role playing a first meeting at a bar with Alexandra, and now they’re living happily ever after together**.

    Maybe a little role play can help you too. Interviews are a crucial part of an application process, but they’re a relatively unusual scenario many people have limited experience with, especially in the earlier stages of their careers. So when you have an interview coming up, we advise getting as much practice as possible. Set up mock interviews with your friends and family, especially those who have knowledge of interviews and/or the field you’re entering. And book a mock interview with one of our careers consultants, who can help you role play in a safe setting, and then provide feedback to improve your performance for the real thing.

    *If my boss is reading this then obviously I’m totally joking

    **Correct at time of writing.

     

    Written by Sophia Donaldson, UCL Careers

     

    LGBTQ+ Careers – SOAS Careers Service Panel Discussion

    By S Donaldson, on 21 May 2018

    LGBTQ+ rainbow flagEarlier this month SOAS Careers Service ran a discussion panel on LGBTQ+ experiences in the workplace. Sitting on the panel were LGBTQ+ professionals employed in a range of sectors; we heard from two management consultants, an artist, a charity worker, a higher education professional, a digital marketer, and a jobseeker. Three of the panellists had past experience in teaching, one had spent time in recruitment. The panel kindly shared a variety of thought-provoking views and personal experiences. The main messages I took away were:

    All parts of our identity can shape our career

    Many of the speakers felt being a member of the LGBTQ+ community had influenced their career decisions. For some that meant being subconsciously drawn to open, inclusive, and innovative environments. For others, after experiencing workplaces that weren’t diversity-friendly, their move to open and inclusive work environments was far more deliberate. Some said although their gender/sexual identity hadn’t determined the sector they’d chosen, it did influence the companies they targeted within that sector, and the types of initiatives they became involved with at work e.g. LGBTQ+ groups, and equality and diversity recruitment initiatives.

    Research was quoted showing LGBTQ+ people are more attracted to altruistic careers than heterosexual people, and the panel’s charity worker agreed their sexuality had influenced their choice; they felt they wanted to help society in part to prove their worth and overcome the stigma associated with being LGBTQ+.

    The drag artist was pretty sure their LGBTQ+ identity may have influenced their career choice….and there are specific arts funds that as an LGBTQ+ person they can apply to for their work.

    Some workplaces are more accepting than others Thumbs up featuring the LGBTQ+ rainbow flag.

    A few speakers shared experiences of working in less tolerant workplaces and countries, and the negative impacts they had. There was a feeling shared by three panellists that in the workplace, just as in the rest of society, non-binary identities such as pansexuality, bisexuality, and gender fluidity are currently less well understood and accepted than some of the other LGBTQ+ identities. With this feeling came a call for people to make fewer assumptions about colleagues’ identities.

    One speaker emphasised the importance of being out and proud in shaping less open workplaces to be more accepting. But if you’re concerned about joining an already diverse and open employer, each year Stonewall compiles a list of 100 organisations doing great work for LGBTQ+ acceptance, which is a good place to start. Here is 2018’s (huzzah for UCL at number 98). Also try speaking to people working in your target sectors and organisations. This sort of ‘informational interview’ can provide a better idea of whether a role and organisation is for you in every way, including the LGBTQ+ angle.

    The drag artist worked in a pretty accepting environment…and they emphasised the difference between working in an accepting but predominately straight environment, and queer-run, queer-owned businesses which are leading the way in acceptance, and whose policies they hope will eventually be adopted by other employers.

    The decision to be out at work is yours and yours alone

    Although all speakers were generally “out”, the panel reflected a range of experiences of being open about their sexual and gender identity at work. One panellist had not been out when working in less tolerant countries, another has been closeted as a teacher, which is a decision they now regret. The benefits of being out at work were discussed: the fact that it encourages other people to be out and confident, that it encourages straight colleagues to be more aware and accepting, and that the energy it takes to hide a major part of yourself every day at work could be better spent on doing and enjoying your actual work.

    After much deliberation, and asking tutors and family for advice, one panellist made a conscious decision to be out when working as a school teacher. They wanted to provide a proud LGBTQ+ role model to young people, which had been lacking when they were at school. Although it was terrifying at first, the projected confidence with which they were out led pupils to not see it as a big deal.

    The drag artist was pretty comfortable being out at work…but in past 9-5 office environments thought their career wasn’t helped by the fact they were, in their words, “really queer”. So they assured the audience that no one person should feel they have to be out and leading the way, you have to do what’s right for you. The panel agreed it’s an individual decision people need to make for themselves, and that personal safety and comfort must be considered.

    To hear more LGBTQ+ workplace experiences, check out Stonewall’s LGBT voices, which forms part of their mega helpful Starting Out Guide. UCL HR also have links to useful resources, including UCL’s LGBT+ Volunteering Fair. And for inspiration, check out The OUTstanding lists: LGBT leaders and allies today.

     

     

     

     

    Science Communication and Science Policy Forum

    By S Donaldson, on 16 March 2018

    Did you come to our Careers in Science Communication and Science Policy forum earlier this month? No? Well fret not! You haven’t missed out because we’ve summarised the key points below.

    Who were the speakers?

    David Robson, a freelance writer and editor, previously at New Scientist and BBC Future, currently writing his first book THE INTELLIGENCE TRAP: Why Smart People Make Stupid Mistakes, and How to Avoid Them, which will be published in Spring 2019.

    Iain Dodgeon, Strategic Ventures Manager in the Wellcome Trust’s Public Engagement team, where he’s helped develop science-related entertainment in the form of games, TV, and films. Iain is a former medical doctor.

    Rose Gray, Senior Policy Advisor at Cancer Research UK. Rose is a UCL Chemistry alumnus, who built up a range of science communications experiences while studying, including working with Guerrilla Science.

    Sam Dick, a Science Information and Policy Officer at The Institute of Cancer Research, who completed his PhD in Structural Biology at UCL before moving into policy work via voluntary and internship roles at The National AIDS Trust and the Humsafar Trust in India.

    Aalia Kazi, an Account Manager at Incisive Health, a healthcare communications agency that focuses on policy and policy makers. Aalia is a UCL MSc Cardiovascular Science alumnus, who first joined Incisive Health as an intern after volunteering for Doctors of the World UK.

    And Jayne Hibberd, Associate Director at Galliard Healthcare Communications, whose role focuses on global communications strategies for her clients. As Associate Director, Jayne helps shape the future direction and day-to-day business of the agency.

    What do they like about working in Science Communications and Science Policy?

    Everyone agreed working with bright motivated people – whether they’re other communicators, scientists whose research must be communicated, or policy makers being communicated to – was one of the best things about working in these two sometimes overlapping sectors. Jayne values the insight she gains into her pharmaceutical company agency clients driving exciting scientific developments. As a popular science writer, David especially enjoys working with art departments of magazines on displaying stories effectively.

    Many felt being attached to science, which most of the panellists studied at university, was a draw, as were daily tasks of writing and crafting arguments, and the variety of scientific topics covered by both those communicating to the public and to policy makers. Iain mentioned working for an organisation like Wellcome, which is independent from government and commercial pressures, is liberating.

    Aalia, Rose, and Sam agreed that knowing their policy work influences real changes that impact real people’s lives is one of the best things about their jobs. Rose gave the example of having reports she’s worked on read by the secretary of state, and seeing beneficial legislation passed in part as a result.

    What are the worst bits?

    The variety of topics covered can have a downside, potentially leading to overload and stress. The hours can sometimes be long, and working late occasionally means cancelling social plans. Though the hours and deadlines seemed more of an issue for those working with clients, they were also mentioned by David when he’s scheduling interviews with researchers overseas outside of working hours due to time differences. David also commented that getting negative feedback on your writing from editors can be very tough at first, so you need to develop a thick skin.

    Aalia and Jayne have clients, and though they both value working with them, they acknowledged it can also be demanding, a bit like having multiple bosses. The client-focused nature of the work also means they both have to account for their time very precisely in order to bill clients, a different way of doing things to the other speakers.

    For those in policy, the flip side of the rewards gained when important change is effected is that it can be frustrating when something you’re passionate about doesn’t work out, or when change is only incremental. Additionally, the work is dictated in part by political whims rather than simply by the science.

    Will getting a science communication or policy qualification help you get in?

    None of the speakers had one of these qualifications so clearly it’s not a prerequisite! Those in science communication mentioned that the qualification can be a great way to build networks which may be valuable, but that the science communication world is fairly small so you can build useful networks through your working life without the qualification too. Rose commented that having a policy qualification shows motivation, but in her team at CRUK relevant policy work experience is likely to be prized above a qualification. And some people undertake a policy qualification after already working in the sector for a while in order to get maximum value from the experience.

    Any tips for those wanting to enter the sector?

    The overwhelming advice from the panel was to do stuff. Lots of stuff. Even if you don’t know where it will lead. This reflected the speakers’ career paths. Whether it was Iain leading a comedy group and securing funding for a film-making course while at university, Rose working in a hospital alongside her study and learning she didn’t want to be a medic but she did want to influence change over the NHS, or Sam volunteering in policy and outreach during his PhD and realising this was the work he enjoyed the most, all of the speakers had stories of taking a punt on something they thought looked interesting without necessarily having a ‘career plan’ in mind. In retrospect their narratives make sense, fitting together nicely into a career story. But none of them knew that at the time. They simply tried stuff, learning about themselves and the working world in the process.

    The panel also advised reaching out to people. Most will be happy to tell you about their experiences and offer advice, some may even be able to give you a job. Jayne in particular shared that she would be impressed by the motivation of someone who was proactive enough to contact a professional and show an interest in their work.

    For aspiring journalists, David extolled the virtues of starting a writing career in a small industry publication or local newspaper as a way of creating a portfolio and getting valuable feedback on your writing. He also advised being bold and pitching story ideas to publications like New Scientist who are always looking for great feature ideas. And if a pitch gets accepted, ask to be paid.

    And finally, Rose recommended visiting UCL Careers. In her words, Rose “absolutely rinsed” us when she was exploring her career options, and found our help very useful.

    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.

    My summer of love with Lynda

    By S Donaldson, on 8 August 2016

    LovePhoto from Ruben Ulset

    At the beginning of the year I wrote a blog about how valuable the online-learning platform Coursera can be for your career. And now for what might be an even bigger love-in: Lynda.

    Oh, Lynda. How did I ignore you for so long? I guess I was too busy, too caught up in my own world. But then right when I needed you, you were there.

    Ok. I’m getting ahead of myself. Who or what is Lynda? Lynda is a website containing online tutorials from experts in lots of useful stuff – especially, but not limited to, software skills. UCL has bought a subscription to it, so anyone with a UCL login is able to access the site.

    I’ve recently started working through some Lynda tutorials myself, and they’re great! So practical and well made, and each session is broken into bite-size chunks to make them easier to follow.

    In terms of up-skilling to further your career, Lynda is a wonderful tool to have. Employers are often keen that their new recruits can hit the ground running. So if you think your target job will require skills you’re currently lacking – maybe coding skills, Photoshop skills, or anything really – Lynda may be able to help you fill those gaps. And even employers who are ready and willing to train you up from scratch will appreciate the motivation demonstrated by starting your learning early.

    But what if you’re not sure which skills you’ll need? Lynda has created ‘learning paths’ for different roles. These are playlists of tutorials to work through, starting from the basics upwards. So whether you want to become an Agile project manager or a music producer, it’s worth seeing if Lynda can help you get there.

    You can even put together your own learning lists. Handily, UCL’s digital education team have already made some for you, including this fab one on careers skills, ranging from CV-writing, to pitching projects and products. So if you’ve got some spare time over the summer, why not check them out, and see if you love Lynda as much as I do!

     

    No grad scheme? What now?

    By S Donaldson, on 17 June 2016

    Blue.jpg

    Image taken from russellstreet

    It’s June. By now most of you will know whether or not you bagged that elusive grad scheme place. If you did, congrats, because grad schemes are notoriously competitive, and they’re pretty cool in many ways; you’ll get a set training scheme with lots of institutional support, you’ll have a big company’s name on your CV, and you’ll probably be paid a little more than the average grad.

    But if you didn’t make it through the gruelling application process, or if you hadn’t even heard of a grad scheme until it was too late to apply (or maybe until right now?), worry not, because you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority. Only 16% of graduate-level jobs (i.e. jobs meant for grads) are grad schemes. So here are a few things you 84% could do instead:

     

    Try working for an SME

    What the flip’s an SME, I hear you cry? It’s a ‘small or medium sized enterprise’, which is basically any company with fewer than 250 employees. You’re unlikely to have heard of a lot of SMEs as they don’t have the capacity to run huge training schemes, and they often don’t have the resources or the inclination to come onto campus for university careers fairs.

    But one thing they do have is jobs. Lots and lots of jobs. SMEs make up 99.9% of UK businesses, they account for almost half of the UK’s GDP and between them they employ 60% of the UK workforce, and 50% of new graduates.

    Although big training schemes can seem very attractive, working for an SME has its benefits. Smaller companies are likely to give you more responsibility earlier, a more varied workload, closer contact with senior managers, and you’ll more easily see the impact of your work.

    Vacancies at SMEs come up as and when the business requires, so you don’t have to worry that you’ve missed the boat. Jobs boards like JobOnline, UCL TalentBank, and recruitment agencies can be great ways to find SME job adverts. But why not be proactive and contact businesses that interest you? Small start-ups may not have the time or money to advertise entry level roles, so well-timed speculative applications can be successful. UCL Advances has a list of SMEs to start to you thinking about whom to approach, and there are plenty of other SME lists out there (e.g. this London Stock Exchange, this Times, or this UKSBD one) to help you identify target employers.

     

    Try being more committed

    One of the nice things about large graduate schemes is the chance to rotate across different departments within the same organisation. The aim is to help you decide which role and department is right for you.

    But what if you already know what’s right for you? Why bother with all of that? If a company, whether large or small, is advertising a permanent role in your area of interest, why not apply directly? Even some of those employers offering large graduate schemes tell us that if grads know which team they belong in, direct entry might be a better bet than a rotational training scheme. And depending upon the role, direct entry can be less competitive and involve fewer arduous applications stages than graduate schemes.

    Plus, if your grades fall below the grad scheme thresholds (often 2.1 and above), applying directly for lower-level roles can be a great way to get into your target organisation. From there you can work your way up, and we’ve seen examples of graduates (and even some non-graduates who didn’t complete their degree) using this route to get onto their target graduate scheme from within.

     

    Try being less committed

    Saying that, 1-3 year graduate schemes require a lot of commitment. It can be an appealing idea to know where you’ll be in a few years, but it can also be somewhat restricting. Shorter internships and placements are a fab way to try out different sectors and organisations, build your networks, and learn about your work preferences, without making a long-term commitment to one organisation. This sort of experimentation could be perfect if you’re not quite sure which route is right for you yet. And if you’re still set on the grad scheme path, the experience you pick up on the way will make your applications stronger in the following years.

    And although graduate schemes promise to fast-track you, their regimented nature means that their pace may be too slow for the really ambitious among you. By contrast, regular graduate roles give you the freedom to apply for new higher-level positions whenever they come up and you feel ready, without tying you to a set training path.

    What does your favourite Beyoncé song say about your career?

    By S Donaldson, on 6 May 2016

    Like, how flipping good is the new Beyoncé album? Am I right? Yes.

    But which track is your fave? The haunting, poetic, heart-rending opener, “Pray you catch me”?  Or are you more into the loud, rocky, hell-hath-no-fury-type number “Don’t Hurt Yourself”?

    It turns out the answer could say a lot about you. David Greenberg, a Cambridge PhD student, has been researching the underpinnings of musical taste. And he found certain ‘cognitive styles’, or ways of thinking, are associated with a preference for distinct music types.

    People with a greater ability to understand thoughts and feelings in themselves and others, labelled “empathisers”, tend to prefer mellow, melancholy music like R&B and soul. Whereas ‘systemisers’, those better at spotting patterns and understanding the workings of systems, prefer loud, intense, ‘fun’ genres like punk and hard rock.

    Interesting stuff in itself. But at UCL Careers we just can’t resist looking for ways to help you with your career thinking. And we figure if you’re the type of person who loves putting people in boxes (and don’t we all enjoy that a little sometimes?), you might want to take your musical tastes into account when considering your future career. Systemisers are likely to be good at analytical, mathematical and scientific problem-solving jobs. So if you’re a grindcore lover, perhaps you’ll make a fine economist. Whereas empathisers may prefer working with people, especially if the role involves understanding emotions and behaviour. So if you like a bit of soft rock or smooth soul, maybe you’ll enjoy being a counsellor.

    And if checking your Spotify playlist hasn’t solved all your career woes (which I very much doubt it has), there are more sophisticated job-matching tools out there, like Prospects Planner or Plotr. Shockingly, they don’t ask whether you prefer Adele to Slipknot, but they do make you think about what motivates you in your work, and the type of environment you’d be happiest in.

    A word of caution: Although these algorithms will churn out a list of jobs for you, they’re unlikely to offer a firm and final answer to your career choice. We all change and develop over time, and as you gain more work experience you’ll learn more about your preferences. This means your answers may vary at different points in your life. See these tools as more of a starting point to help identify a few careers worth investigating further.

    And a second word of caution: Sometimes people are frustrated or even offended when their top job match is something they would never consider doing, or would have to retrain completely to achieve. But in these cases it’s worth evaluating the top 10-20 answers. Taken together they can help you spot patterns in the type of role you may enjoy. If you’re finding it tough to do this on your own, why not bring the list along to a one-to-one careers appointment to use as a basis for a discussion?

     

     

    N.B. Bey’s new album works so well in its entirety, so it’s kind of tricky to pick a favourite. But my current stand-out tracks are ‘Sorry’ and ‘All Night’. Just FYI.

     

     

    What career skills were you shouting about in 2015?

    By S Donaldson, on 6 January 2016

     

    Are you sick of 2015 countdown lists yet? No? Good, because here’s another one.

    Have you heard of Coursera? It’s great. It allows you to take free online courses in pretty much anything, and those courses are taught by university experts. In fact, UCL careers consultants helped deliver a course in Employability Skills in 2014 and 2015.

    And now the good people at Coursera have put together a handy list of 2015’s most coveted career skills. When you complete a course you receive a certificate, and get the option of posting said certificate to your LinkedIn profile. By assessing courses with the most certificates posted to LinkedIn, Coursera have worked out the top 10 skills people most wanted to show off to recruiters last year. It’s a nice measure of what’s hot with employers right now, with ‘digital marketing’ coming out on top, and ‘data science’ featuring heavily in the top 10. Check out the full list here.

    And to be notified when the employability skills course runs again, visit the course page and add it to your wish list.

     

    S Donaldson, UCL Careers Consultant