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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  • 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.

    Performance Marketing Reconciliations Analyst: Inspire Me

    By Weronika Z Benning, on 28 April 2016

    As part of our #UCLInspireMe series, Sophie Neal talks to us about her role at NMPi, an award-winning digital agency in Islington. Sophie graduated from UCL with an MSci in Physics in 2015 and now works as a Performance Marketing Reconciliations Analyst. Here she shares some tips for UCL students who want to get into the sector. For more insights from recent graduates working for smaller organisations, visit https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-careers/ and search #SMEProfile.

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    How did you get into your role?

    I got talking to someone in the company who recommended it to me. Through email, I asked about any job shadowing or intern positions and was contacted a couple of months later. I had a phone interview and came in to meet my would-be manager and started an internship. A couple of months later I was offered a job!

    What does a typical day in your job involve?

    My days can vary quite a lot depending on the time of the month and year. I always make sure to check my emails first thing when I come in – if anything has happened overnight I will be immediately alerted and we often receive messages from clients as a growing number are based internationally. Tasks for the day can then include preparing reports that are due to go out, checking and recording any payments that have come in, building new or updating existing accounts or chasing payment issues.

    What skills are important in this role?

    Being proactive is important as it’s easy for work to mount up quickly. Problem-solving skills can also come in handy.

    What are the best things about working in your role?

    There are lots of things I love about my role. I love the fact that at times I have the ability to work fairly autonomously but my team still comes together to talk, compare, collaborate and share tips and ideas. I also love the variation of work I have within my role – I never get the chance to get bored.

    What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

    I’ve always been quite shy – especially around people I don’t know very well – so personally, one of the biggest challenges for me is if I have to contact new clients or network contacts. When I first started, I felt a little out of my depth with simple things such as excel. Being a physics graduate I had plenty of experience using it but for very different purposes, so it’s something I had to quickly adapt to.

    What top tips would you give to a student interested in this type of work?

    If it’s something you’re interested in, do your research, take your time to gain a good understanding of the industry and apply.

     

    To see current opportunities at NMPi, visit http://nmpilondon.com/careers

    Finance and Corporate Development Executive: Inspire Me

    By Weronika Z Benning, on 4 March 2016

    As part of our #UCLInspireMe series, Shirley Wang, Finance and Corporate Development Executive at LoopMe, talks to us about how she got this role and shares some tips for UCL students.  For more insights from recent graduates working for smaller organisations, search #SMEProfile

    Shirley Picture

    What did you study?

    I finished my undergraduate from University of Liverpool then continued my postgraduate study in UCL Msc Management.

    How did you get into your role?

    I was referred by a manager I used to work with when I was doing my internship in Shanghai. After several rounds of interview, I started the 3-months internship with LoopMe and got a chance to finally join the company after the internship.

    What excites you/ what was your biggest success within your role?

    Joining a growing company is very exciting as everyday I have chances to take more responsibilities. The culture of the company is very open which allows me to learn a lot from the more experienced staffs in the company as well. I feel like I contribute to the company but meanwhile I also grow with the company.

    What are the most/more challenging aspect of your role?

    This is my first formal job after graduation, of course there are some challenges there. Firstly, there are differences between what I have learnt from University and the practice at work. How to apply the knowledge into work would be one of the challenges. I also need to remind myself I am no longer a student in the University but an employee now, so I need to take responsibilities and do my best to contribute to the success of the company. LoopMe is a very international company; language barriers and culture difference are another problem I need to deal with. But all the challenges helped me to finalize the switch from a student to an employee and I have also received a lot of help within the company to help me to overcome those challenges.

    What top tips would you pass on to a student interested in this type of work?

    Be open to all challenges and difficulties and always keep learning and become a better one.

    About LoopMe:

    LoopMe is the world’s largest mobile video platform, reaching over 1.25 billion consumers worldwide via integration with programmatic ad exchanges and direct publishers.

    LoopMe has global offices in New York, London, San Francisco, Beijing, Dubai, Dnepropetrovsk, Berlin and Paris and specialises in:
    Full-Screen Mobile Video Advertising, Mobile Marketing, Rich Media, Social Preference Targeting, Mobile Video, Social Endorsement Targeting, Artificial Intelligence, Demand-Side-Platform, Real-Time-Bidding, HTML5, Machine Learning, Big Data

    Follow in Shirley’s footsteps:

    Apply for the Tech Account Executive graduate internship with LoopMe, currently open on UCL Talent Bank: http://bit.ly/1Skoy38 deadline: 12 noon Wednesday 16th March 2016.

    10 Advantages of a Graduate Job at an SME

    By Weronika Z Benning, on 1 March 2016

    Are you already feeling like you’ve missed out on the top graduate jobs and big graduate schemes? Don’t worry, there’s a great opportunity that you may not have thought of, that might even suit you better. Apply to work at an SME.

    So, what is an SME? Small Medium Enterprises make up more than 99% of private sector business in the UK and the US, and are characterised by a lower number of employees and lower turnover rates.

    Importantly, it seems like staff are actually far more content at SMEs. Research by TUC discovered that SME employees are not only most satisfied at work, but also most content with their freedom to choose working hours, most engaged by their employers, and subjected to much lower levels of stress and bullying.

    Besides the statistics, why should you apply to work at an SME? Well just to start you’ll…

    • See Your Influence Immediately

    Unlike with graduate jobs at larger businesses, you’ll see evidence of the consequences of your work from day one. You can chart the success of projects and tasks you’ve directly worked on and it will hugely increase your confidence to be able to tell future employers, family and friends that ‘Today I did _____’ as opposed to ‘Today I was part of the team that implemented_____’

    • Given Responsibility Straight Away

    Due to the smaller teams employed at SMEs you’re far more likely to be given responsibility much more quickly. You may find that you’ll be put in charge of accounts or projects almost immediately and allowed to suggest your own ideas for consideration with much more success.

    You’ll regularly be working closely with the people who charge all of the large decisions from early on, so you’ll discover that you’ll have far greater control over exactly what your day to day job involves.

    • Progress Fast

    You’ll find that chances to progress are available to you far more rapidly at SMEs, due to your proximity to the people that make the decisions, you’ll be able to wield influence more easily. At larger companies, you’re likely to be face with a clearly defined career path to progress within a number of years, but at an SME, you could find yourself rising up the ranks immediately.

    • Have a Varied Working Day

    Again, due to the nature of the small team, you’ll be able to take on ad-hoc duties that appeal. Furthermore, due to the responsibility you’ll yield straight away, you’ll be working in a much more reactive way. A day’s never boring at an SME!

     

    • Face Less Competition, Easier Applications

    The truth is less people apply to SMEs and so the competition is lower, and the application process is often less exhaustive. They rarely have more than one round of interviews and you’ll find that pretty soon you’re dealing with your potential direct line manager or even the CEO. This way you’ll be able to get your personality across much more easily than with a faceless HR department.

    • Start When You Want

    Many graduate schemes have a lengthy process of application and will start only once a year, but at SMEs they tend to hire for graduate jobs all year round. This means that if you’ve missed the boat on those big application processes, or have decided to take some time out, you’ll be able to get stuck into applying whenever it suits.

    • Work in a Calmer Environment

    A lot of SMEs will offer a more chilled out working day. You’ll quickly get to know everyone at the business, including top level management, and so you’ll quickly feel part of the team. Smaller companies understand that their employees are their most important asset, and so, even as an entry-level member of staff you’ll be treated with a greater level of respect.

    • Learn to Solve Problems

    Instead of spending your first couple of months on a very systematic training programme where you’ll be shown exactly how you’re expected to work and perform at the business, you’ll be challenged to think innovatively and deal with incoming problems straightaway. This is significantly more mentally engaging as well as being a beneficial transferable skill to have.

    • Develop Entrepreneurial Skill and Commercial Understanding

    Due to your proximity to the company’s management team you’re far more likely to find out about the inner workings of the business, from finance to management decisions. Not only will this kind of commercial knowledge look impressive on your CV, but if you want to start your own business at a later date this entrepreneurial knowledge could be instrumental in your success.

    • Boost Your CV

    When you decide to move on to another company down the line, starting at an SME may be the best way to make your CV look highly impressive. Hands on experience of dealing with clients, making key decisions and examples of how you’ve directly improved the business appear more impressive to many companies than qualifications or training that you’ve received in house, particularly as they can always provide specific training themselves.

     

    Article contributed by Inspiring Interns

    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.

    The Small Companies Big Jobs Fair – Tuesday 3rd June

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 22 May 2014

    Thinking of entering enterprise or starting your own? Then ‘The Small Companies Big Jobs Fair is for you!

    When: Tuesday 3rd June 1-5pm

    Where: North Cloister, UCL Wilkins Building

    There will be companies from an array of sectors offering internships, placement and job opportunities covering marketing, advertising, web development, digital music and production to name a few. Find out what it takes to get started and whether you have the right CV to get hired by attending one of the sessions on;

    •       Lessons from working in Start Ups: The good, the bad, and the awesome;
    •       Mistakes when starting up – and how to avoid them;
    •       Supercharge your CV – land that start up interview.

    To keep up-to-date on who’s coming and more details head on over to: www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/summerevents

    The Small Companies Big Jobs Fair is brought to you by: UCL Management Science & Innovation, UCL Careers, UCL Advances, Silicone Milkroundabout, FATJIL and the National Association of Colleges & University Entrepreneurs (NACUE)

    How to secure a job in a Small/Medium Sized Enterprise : Case Studies

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 28 March 2014

    Want to get a job in a SME but have no idea where to start? We collected a few different case studies of how students at UCL have got into SMEs.

    Case study 1

    Aim: Secure Job in the Charity Sector

    Starting point: Experience in management and IT and also an MA in Human Rights at UCL

    Method used to secure a job in an SME:

    • Studied the sector in detail – further knowledge was acquired
    • Maximised personal networking and contacts
    • Gained further knowledge, contacts were used to facilitate informative industry interviews
    • Focused job search further by understanding the sector
    • Applied to positions that needs core strengths in order to get an interview
    • Structured the applications on what the employer wants and highlighting strengths
    • Applied to jobs

    Result: Succeeded in securing a job in the charity sector

     

    Case study 2

    Aim: Secure Electrical and Electronic related job

    Starting Point: MSc in Electrical and Electronics Engineering in the UK and previous work in home country

    Method used to secure a job in an SME:

    • Identified problems with previous application by getting advice from career consultants
    • Focused job search for vacancies that were in-line with my strengths i.e. languages and understanding home country culture
    • Sent speculative applications to employers that would be interested in my strengths
    • Applied to short term and long term internships
    • Spent additional time on understanding the job description and person specifications in order to apply to  the right jobs
    • Kept on applying

    Result: Secured an internship with a company that is expanding in my home country and the potential of a job in the future

     

    Case Study 3

    Aim: Secure job in security, policy in Think tanks, NGOs or government body

    Starting point: MA in Politics, Security and Integration

    Method used to secure a job in an SME:

    • Dedicated additional effort as was required by the industry and the employers observation and research showed that low number of  advertised jobs were available
    • Researched related websites to get the news about the industry and find out the names of relevant employers
    • Strengthened personal support network to keep up job hunting momentum – long process
    • Cancelled plans to travel and focused on job hunt – times management
    • Managed time to ensure priorities
    • Attended job fairs organised by the career service to expand possibilities
    • Made new contacts and strengthened existing contacts
    • Applied for internships and jobs related to my strength and skills

    Result: Found an internship in-line with my strength first and carried on applying then found exactly the right job overseas

     

    Case Study 4

    Aim: Graduate job in computer software

    Starting Point: MEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering

    Method used to secure a job in an SME:

    • Went  to  a few niche job fairs for entrepreneurial companies that required specialist skills and expertise
    • Made new contacts by networking, LinkedIn
    • Discussed options with careers consultants
    • Applied to relevant internships and jobs constantly

    Result: Secured a job with an application developer

    For further help with getting work with an SME, pop in to see us at UCL Careers or sign up to UCL Talent Bank.

    What’s In a Name? Volunteering vs The Internship and the Beauty of Starting Small

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 28 February 2014

    This post originally appeared on the VSU Blog.

    Katy Murray, who graduated from UCL last year, reflects on her experiences in the world of volunteering … katy_murray

    There comes a time in every student’s university life when it dawns on them that this cosy, safe bubble of structured learning and student loans is not going to last forever. Soon the panic sets in, and there becomes one word that university students cling to like a life belt in the stormy seas of reality, an ideal they pursue like a holy grail of employment: The Internship. Yet applications for Internships can be as competitive as the post-graduation job hunt, especially now that organisations are facing increasing pressure to pay their interns (and rightly so). “The Internship”, however, is not the only line of defence between you and unemployment; if you are looking for valuable skills regardless of pay, volunteering  can be just as valuable as an internship, and, especially when volunteering for a small organisation, can even make you more resourceful and more used to unexpected challenges.

    During my second year, I learnt the power of starting small.  I was incredibly fortunate to find an unpaid role in a small social enterprise company. I am still amazed and the enormous level of responsibility, autonomy, and opportunity this small organisation gave me. When I finished, with a view to gaining more hands-on experience on a smaller scale, I contacted the UCLU Volunteering Services Unit to see how I could help.  Working with the VSU took me into some tiny charitable and not-for-profit organisations in London, an eye-opener to the real communities behind the commercialised veneer of WC1.  These are noble and desperately needed organisations, a lifeline for the communities who are being ever squeezed by London’s ceaseless gentrification.  Yet these places are likely to fall beyond the radar of many an ambitious UCL student looking for big CV points, their senses finely tuned to the scent of a near-by careers fair or looming graduate scheme application deadline.

    Frankly, I know this because I was precisely one of those students. I volunteered with the VSU, but this was not before I had narrowly missed an opportunity for an internship for the British Red Cross. When working for the VSU I visited many small scale charities, but until visiting, it would never have crossed my mind to cook food for a group of elderly people in a local Highgate community centre. This was because I “knew”, like every tactical student trying to tot up employability points around their course deadlines, that for a busy recruiter glancing at my CV (according to UCL Careers, the average recruiter spends about 90 seconds scanning each CV) a big name like the British Red Cross or Oxfam would catch the eye better than X unknown local charity. What I have learned from my time with the VSU, however, is that not only is this a miscalculation, but that to continue with this attitude could mean that many bright, creative and caring young students could miss out on some eye-opening experiences; experiences which expend their employability not only on paper, but far more noticeably in person.katy_murray

    A good example of this is a memorable experience I had when I met with the head of a local community centre. I waited for her in the main hall of the centre, where she joined me to conduct the meeting.  As the meeting progressed, however, more and more people entered the hall, offering us food, interrupting us frequently with questions, or dragging chairs loudly across the floor. As I was trying to conduct this meeting, which I found stressful with all the noise and interruptions, I began to feel a bit irritated.  As I left, however, the coordinator apologised for the busyness of the hall. It turned out that a meeting was about to start which was incredibly important for the community centre, informing its participants of the government cuts and changes to benefits.

    As I reflected on this experience, I realised that this meeting had demonstrated to me the remarkable nature of some of these small organisations and initiatives. They are chaotic because they are dealing with people whose whole lives are chaotic and difficult. Yet the manager was still able to give me her time despite the importance of the meeting that was about to begin. Meanwhile she was calm, collected, and dealt with each query briefly but effectively, while I sat there stressing that this was not meeting my expectations of “professional”. When I relayed this epiphany to John Braime, the VSU’s Volunteering Manager, he nodded fervently. “Absolutely,” he said “I often give talks to some of the UCL business students. I tell them that an internship at a big consultancy firm is all well and good, but if you really want to learn about time and people management, try going down to your local community centre and see about taking some tips from them.”katy_murray1

    Going to a large company or organisation in search of valuable work experience is, of course, still an excellent career move. Larger organisations can offer you a valuable starting step on a career ladder and provide you with some important experience. Yet it is important to look for more than a “name” as your key criteria for choosing your next employer. Since graduating I have begun volunteering at the Children’s Heart Federation, a national organisation with only 8 permanent members of staff, which I found out about through the VSU’s weekly emails. I am now second in command on a campaign which has recently featured on the One Show, Radio Four and BBC Breakfast. On my second day, I was surprised with the opportunity to accompany my line manager to Parliament to lobby an MP. Last week I represented the company at an all women’s networking event, where I gave two presentations. Again, this opportunity was offered to me last minute, and I had just enough time to be briefed on what I had to say before my cab arrived and I was on my way to give my speech.

    Volunteering is never dull, and full of exciting (and often unexpected) challenges. Therefore not falling for a name not only applies the name of the organisation, but the name you attach to your experience. “The Internship” has become the holy grail because it implies a structured and supervised programme of learning, work experience, and/or training. “Volunteering”, on the other hand, is often shunned because to most it implies tasks which are valuable and often very rewarding on a personal level, but which are unlikely to provide many professional skills. This, as I hope I have demonstrated, is not the case. Most importantly, as these examples show, working for a small charity that does not have the resources of its larger counterparts, offers constant opportunities to exercise and develop one’s own resourcefulness. This is the fundamental power of starting small.