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

  • A A A

    Start the New Year off right if you’re planning on applying for a Grad Scheme

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 8 January 2016

    Highly sought after by UCL students, graduate schemes have been seen as being the gold medal upon completion of your degree. However only a limited number make it through as competition is tough. On average, there are 85 applications for every single graduate scheme position. 

    Myth: a degree will be enough. Employers are now looking for more from students. HSBC noted: “We recruit up to 1,500 graduates on to one of our 70 graduate programmes around the world. For those jobs, globally, we receive around 100,000 applications. As 90% have a 2.2 or a 2.1, it therefore takes something extra to stand out.”

    The conversion rate from landing that internship in the company you want to work for to securing a place on their graduate scheme can be as high as 70-80% in some companies! Every company wants the best candidates, so do apply early. Some may fill positions whilst recruitment is still happening. Don’t leave it to the last minute to apply. Also, come and get your application reviewed by one of our specialist application advisors.

    Only 7-10% of graduates who enter the workplace do so through a formal graduate scheme, so how do you maximise your chances at success? Preparation is incredibly important. We’ve put together a handy timeline of things to do, whether you’re a first year or a finalist who hasn’t even thought about what you are going to do when you finish.

    UCL Study Level Spring Term (January – April 2016) Summer Term(May – August 2016) Autumn (2016)(Sept 2016 onwards)
    First/Second year going into Penultimate year > Start looking at careers/jobs you may be interested through Careers Tagged

    > Clarify Visa options in the UK (if international students)

    > Research jobs in home country or country you wish to work in (UCL login needed to view this link)

     

    > Apply for internships/gain work experience during the summer through UCL JobOnline > Career Planning

    > Attend Careers Fairs and Employer Events

     

    Penultimate going into Final year  > Gain relevant work experience either through internships or experience within that sector

    > Identify your hard skills from your soft skills and compare this against their competencies and develop your skills

    > Apply for internships for summer through UCL JobOnline

    > Attend our Global Citizenship Employability Programme
     

    > Attend our Focus on Management course

    > Look at company websites, many open applications for their graduate schemes between July – September.

    > Gain work experience during the summer

     

    > Career Planning

    > Attend Careers Fairs and Employer Events

    > Identify Graduate Schemes & Apply

    Final year becoming a Recent Graduate > Apply for graduate level jobs / schemes – some companies have rolling deadlines. You can find most of these via the companies website or through UCL JobOnline > Apply for graduate level jobs via UCL JobOnline

    > Target unfilled Graduate Schemes via the companies websites or through UCL JobOnline

    > Attend the UCL Jobs Market 2016 event (more information coming soon)

    > Join UCL Careers Graduates  (once your course finishes)

    > Follow steps above

     

     

     

    We’re also open all year round so whether you want to talk about career options, have an application checked or have gained an interview and want to practice, we can help. Our website has a comprehensive amount of information for each step and you can pop-in personally and speak to one of our information team who can help.

    And even if a graduate scheme doesn’t float your boat, we can help you find your future in your chosen career path as a vast number of our alumni go on to work within Charities, NGOs, Media, Law and Science sectors.

    Good luck!

    What are you getting out of your work experience?

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 21 October 2015

    Recently there was an interesting article in the Independent about “Work experience for students – are placements really all they’re cracked-up to be?”  The article, although a little pessimistic, provides a good insight into the fact that not all work experience is equal in terms of the benefits provided for students.  It all depends on factors such as duration of experience, type of organisation and whether it is a structured experience.

    The Office 001EG Focus/Flickr.com/CreativeCommons

    Undertaking any form of work experience – internships, placements and insight sessions – will be beneficial – the key is knowing what the benefits are.

    For example, if you were to embark upon a short bout of work experience – one or two weeks – you are unlikely to gain much in terms of skills development.  However, you will learn a little bit about the industry the company is in and what it is like to work for that company (e.g. is it a small, tightly knit team where everyone mucks in, or is it a large company with formal organisational structures where you have a well-defined role). From this experience you can start to understand more about your own preferences around working culture and environment.  You will also be starting to develop a personal network of contacts who may be useful for your future career aspirations.

    You might also gain similar benefits from events and insight sessions run by companies to enable students to gain knowledge about a particular industry and the roles available in it. Law, media, finance and management consultancy firms run these type of sessions to introduce students to the sector, what roles are available and what skills would be needed to succeed.

    With a longer internship of around six to twelve weeks you will be testing out an area of work or industry that you are interested in. You will increase your understanding about the company and how it fits into the sector.  For example, you’ll gain insight into what differentiates it from other companies and how this influences how the company operates within the market. The work you do within the internship will enable you to demonstrate to future employers which skills you used outside of your studies. You may improve your technical skills within your internship and it is likely that you will begin to develop and demonstrate your “softer skills” such as how you operate within a team, how you manage a project, how flexible and committed you are, and how you communicate with your colleagues. If the work is demanding, you will gain insight into what skills you need to improve.  Even if the work is not as challenging as you would like, by reflecting on the experience you will become more self-aware and begin to understand what you most enjoy and what you do not want to do. You will start to form a realistic impression of what type of role and environment might suit you.

    If you secure a place on a structured summer internship scheme such as those run by large finance, consultancy and technical firms, the work will be of a similar nature to a graduate role and there is likely to be a training component to your internship. Undertaking an internship on a summer scheme in these sectors can sometimes lead to candidates being offered a place on a graduate scheme once they have graduated.

    For internships in small or medium sized companies, or schemes where you rotate, you may gain experience within more than one area of the company and gain a more meaningful understanding of how different areas of the company slot together.

    For year long internships or placements, you will gain a much deeper insight into the industry you are working in and heightened self-awareness. For a placement that forms part of your course, you will have the opportunity to integrate academic theory into practice.  You will become more expert at any technical skills you use and continue to develop your “soft” skills. You may, by now, have worked out for sure whether you want to continue in that role/industry or you may have decided to use the transferable skills you have gained in other sectors.

    For any opportunity where you have had to undertake tasks or projects, you will increase your confidence and you will be better able to demonstrate your abilities to future employers.

    Where you have had to go through a recruitment process (e.g. application, interview, assessment centre) you will have gained valuable experience in how to navigate the process and if you have asked for feedback along the way, you will be able to use that to help you improve next time you apply for a role.

    You will (hopefully!) have also been able to earn whilst you have been strengthening your knowledge, skills and confidence. By law companies must pay the National Minimum Wage for an intern unless they are exempt (for example if they are a registered charity).  There is an exemption of payment if the experience is a placement as part of an academic course. Be informed – see information on the National Minimum Wage.

    For more information on the benefits of the different types of work experience and how to make the most of the opportunities see the information about internships and work experience at Target Jobs, Prospects and the resources at Careers Tagged – work experience.

    – Rochelle Symons, Placements and Vacancies Manager, UCL Careers.

    How to prepare for our Careers Fairs…

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 30 September 2015

    Every year UCL Careers holds a number of Careers Fairs to help you talk to employers and find out first hand what they are looking for. You will get more out of the Careers Fair if you spend a little time preparing…

    Be aware that there will be a mixture of all kind of employers from many different sectors exhibiting each day and you might find an employer that you had never really considered before becoming a favourite for you. To help you prepare effectively we’ve put together some handy tips to get you started

     

    UCL Careers Fair

    Before the fair

    > We strongly encourage you to do some research on the exhibitors before the fair: www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/fairs

    > As well as reading the exhibitor profiles, click through to the organisation’s own website to find out more about them.

    > After your research, decide which exhibitors you particularly want to talk to, and you will be able to ask more informed questions. It can be difficult to understand the difference between big companies within the same sector.  Often it is the cultural aspects that make a real difference in the working environment and this can only be appreciated through talking and interacting with representatives at the Careers Fairs.  Try to prepare some questions in advance and think about the main points that you would want an organisation to know about you – it can help you feel more confident.

    > Come along to one of the preparation sessions organised by UCL Careers (starting w/c 5th October).

    At the fair

    > At the fair, each exhibiting organisation has a stand and their representatives are there to answer your questions about what the organisation does, what jobs they offer to final year students and graduates, what internships/placements they provide to earlier year students, and any other opportunities that they offer.

    > Shows motivation in a competitive job market esp. if you refer to attendance in applications/ interviews

    > Often particular insight re. staff experience relating to specific projects they’ve been involved in or training they’ve had can be used as ammunition that can be a real differentiator when answering motivation based questions – ie lots of first hand information not available on any website that other candidates might not be able to offer.

    > Wherever possible, try to talk to someone on the stand instead of just picking up a brochure. Use the opportunity to ask your questions face-to-face.

    > If you are feeling a bit nervous about approaching your first choice organisation, it can be a good idea to visit some other stands first to practise your technique.

    > If you are given a business card, make a point soon afterwards of noting on it anything that it would be useful to remember. Have they suggested you email them with further questions? Did they give you advice on their recruitment process?

    > Even if you have a ‘hit list’ of exhibitors, consider other organisations at the fair that are less well known. They might be offering just what you are looking for.

    Remember to bring your UCL ID or GradClub ID card as you won’t be able to enter the fair without this!

    Other hints and tips

    > Remember that many of the opportunities are available to students of any discipline

    > If you want to have a CV ready to hand over, arrange an appointment at UCL Careers before the Careers Fair to ask for some CV feedback

    > The fair may be busy when you arrive – don’t be put off. People tend to congregate by the entrance, so head to another part of the fair where it will probably be quieter

    > Avoid walking round the fair with a group of friends. The exhibitor may not realise that you are interested in them, and you could miss out because your friend happens to be more talkative than you!

    > If you feel overwhelmed, and don’t know what to do or where to start, make sure you visit the UCL Careers for help.

    > Staff on the exhibitor stands are often relatively recent graduates who can tell you what it is really like to work in their organization.  They may even refer to particular projects that they’ve been involved in or training that they’ve had –all of which is great information for you to use when you apply for a position at their company.  This insight is not available on any website and creates a unique impression when it is your time to apply.

    > In a competitive job market, it can make a difference to refer to any interaction with employers during the application process

    For further information about the fairs, please visit: www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/fairs

     

    Is there a difference between work experience, an internship and a placement?

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 10 September 2015

    With much being said about the value that employers place on job candidates having previous work experience UCL Careers has seen the amount of opportunities for work experience, internships and placements rise drastically over the last few years.  At the same time the terminology has become quite confusing and often the words “work experience”, “placement” and “internship” are used interchangeably by students, employers and the general public even though they could mean very different things in terms of what the student will actually experience.

    Focus on Management

     

    When you apply for opportunities it is important that both you, and the employer, have the same understanding as to what the opportunity is, how involved you will be and what you will gain from it. We thought we’d attempt to come up with descriptions of how we use the terms to help build an understanding of what the differences are.  So, here goes:

    Work experience

    Traditionally was associated with a short period of time within a company, such as one to two weeks to gain exposure to an organisation. It might include an element of work shadowing staff to observe what they do in order to understand a role better as well as getting involved in relatively low level tasks to help support the business in a very practical way.  Recently the term “work experience” has become an all embracing title for any form of participation in a working environment, and could include volunteering work with a registered charity which may not be paid but would still be counted as work experience.

    Internships

    Generally last anything from four weeks to a year. They may or may not relate to your studies and could vary greatly in terms of what the role will involve. Often, and in particular for large companies where they have an established summer internship scheme, the work will be of a similar nature to a graduate role.  For these companies the internships are likely to be structured with possibly an element of training. For some sectors such as banking and finance, having an internship on your CV is fairly important if you want to pursue a career in that field. Undertaking an internship on a summer scheme in these sectors can sometimes lead candidates being offered a place on a graduate scheme once they have graduated. However, there are also many other organisations that will offer internships that are not part of a scheme, but will enable you to experience what it is like working in a particular role and sector.

    Placements

    The word “placement” varies in meaning but at UCL, placements are thought of as an assessed, integral part of an academic programme and the tasks undertaken will most likely relate to your programme of study. However, many courses at UCL do not have this element within them.  If they do, they will usually range from three months to a year, depending on the requirements of your course. The level of work in a placement is usually similar in scope to an internship or graduate role. Placements are likely to be structured and may involve an element of training. Often you would be assisted by course staff in your search for a placement.

    There are also other opportunities out there such as “insight sessions” which are usually offered from employers in the finance, management consultancy and law sectors.  These are short periods (days or a couple of weeks) where you have the opportunity to attend events and activities within a company designed to help you understand more about that company, the sector it is in and what roles are available.  Often there is a chance to undertake some level of skills training as part of the insight session with the aim to help you understand the skills necessary for the sector.

    The key thing is to find out more about an opportunity in terms of what you will actually be doing and what, therefore, you might gain in terms of skills, experience and insight into a particular industry or working environment. You should also make sure that you understand what you are entitled to with regards to payment. By law companies must pay the National Minimum Wage, if you are classed as a worker, unless they are exempt (for example if they are a registered charity).  There is also an exemption of payment if the experience is a placement as part of an academic course. Be informed – see information on National Minimum Wage

    For more information about work experience, internships and all the other types of opportunities use UCL’s Careers Tagged resource and see The Careers Group sheet on Securing Internships and Work Experience.

    – Rochelle Symons, Placements and Vacancies Manager, UCL Careers.

    How to prepare for our Career Fairs…

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 30 September 2014

    Every year UCL Careers holds a number of Careers Fairs to help you talk to employers and find out first hand what they are looking for. You will get more out of the Careers Fair if you spend a little time preparing…

    Be aware that there will be a mixture of all kind of employers from all kinds of sectors exhibiting each day and you might find an employer that you had never really considered before as being a front runner for you. To help you prepare effectively we’ve put some handy tips together to get you started:

    Before the fair

    We strongly encourage you to do some research on the exhibitors before the fair: www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/fairs

    As well as reading the exhibitor profiles, click through to the organisation’s own website to find out more about them.

    You can then decide which exhibitors you particularly want to talk to, and you will be able to ask more informed questions. Try to prepare some questions in advance and think about the main points that you would want an organisation to know about you – it can help you feel more confident.

    At the fair

    At the fair, each exhibiting organisation has a stand and their reps are there to answer your questions about what the organisation does, what jobs they offer to final year students and graduates, what internships/placements they provide to earlier year students, and any other opportunities that they offer.

    Wherever possible, try to talk to someone on the stand instead of just picking up a brochure. Use the opportunity to ask your questions face-to-face.

    If you are feeling a bit nervous about approaching your first choice organisation, it can be a good idea to visit some other stands first to practise your technique.

    If you are given a business card, make a point soon afterwards of noting on it anything that it would be useful to remember. Have they suggested you email them with further questions? Did they give you advice on their recruitment process?

    Even if you have a ‘hit list’ of exhibitors, consider other organisations at the fair that are less well known. They might be offering just what you are looking for.

    Remember to bring your UCL ID or GradClub ID card as you won’t be able to enter the fair without this!

    Other hints and tips

    • Remember that many of the opportunities are available to students of any discipline
    • Staff on the exhibitor stands are often relatively recent graduates who can tell you what it is really like to work in their organisation
    • If you want to have a CV ready to hand over, arrange an appointment at UCL Careers before the Careers Fair to ask for some CV feedback
    • The fair may be busy when you arrive – don’t be put off. People tend to congregate by the entrance, so head to another part of the fair where it will probably be quieter
    • Avoid walking round the fair with a group of friends. The exhibitor may not realise that you are interested in them, and you could miss out because your friend happens to be more talkative than you!
    • If you feel overwhelmed, and don’t know what to do or where to start, make sure you visit the UCL Careers for help.

    For further information about the fairs, please visit: www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/fairs

    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.