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Student Interview – Aliza Ayaz (Part 1)

By Joe O'Brien, on 1 December 2020

Read time: 5 minutes

Written by Joe O’Brien, Marketing Communications Assistant at UCL Careers.

UCL Careers had a great chat with Aliza Ayaz, UCL student and founder of UCL Climate Action Society, about her experiences as a student, personally and professionally. She has interned for McKinsey, KPMG, the UK Government, the NHS and the UN. We asked followers on our Instagram to send in their questions for Aliza and we got so many, we’ve had to split this blog into parts!

  1. Which was your favourite internship and why?

Uh, tricky one! It’s really difficult to pick because I had different but equally enjoyable or insightful experiences during each internship. However, there is a clear answer when it comes to the steepest learning curve and the ability to create direct impact in real time. This was with a start-up in healthcare. As a Population Health student, it became clear that insight driven health is the foundation of any innovation-led approach to more effective, efficient and affordable healthcare. At this start-up, I was operating at the intersection of business and technology to combine real-world experience, clinical and business insights and new, enabling intelligent technologies to deliver the power of Insight Driven Health in this demanding new digital world. At this internship, I saw why the world’s leading healthcare payers, providers and public health entities are ready to pay for services that help them become the intelligent healthcare enterprises of the future – from the back office to the doctor’s office.

  1. How did you get your internship opportunities?

I applied as all are expected to. Details regarding internships are always advertised on a company’s website including opening dates, deadlines, recruitment process and candidate criteria. In some cases, I was recommended for an opportunity and contacted to discuss the role. I am very lucky to have a rich network of industry experts who see the potential in youth and are ready to give them a chance to do their magic.

3. How much time did you spend researching internship opportunities?

This may be a shock given my background but I wasn’t very efficient. I didn’t really have any idea about the scope of companies, who the major players were in a specific industry or why knowing the difference between industries or companies really mattered. So, I didn’t do any research the first time round. I was too busy enjoying student clubs – debating, horse riding, acting etc and so naturally had limited time anyway. I kind of applied anywhere and everywhere my friends were telling me to. This made sense because what mattered to me was gaining exposure across the public and private sector. I didn’t have a set career path in mind – I still don’t.

If I had better researched prior, I could have probably quantified a fewer number of companies I knew I wanted to apply to. Research definitely saves time and energy, allowing you to better focus on quality applications so I would recommend that you do that. But at the same time, I knew what I wanted at that point was to accurately compare how public versus private sector operates, how their work differed and how they impacted businesses, society and the environment. I gained this insight through the variety of places I applied to. You can tell a lot about an organisation just from its recruitment process. Their interview and application questions as well as HR conduct convey what the company values in its employees and what their culture is. This could be a perfect fit or a complete mismatch with your personality and work ethic. In two places, after submitting my application and moving onto the first informal chat, I knew I couldn’t thrive in that company’s culture and withdrew my application. At other times, I asked as many questions as I had during the interview stage to truly gauge whether the role is what I wanted or if I was the right fit for them.

4. How did you prepare for interviews?

Depends.

Is this designed to test my numerical or critical reasoning skills? Then I like to go with a fresh mind and that means 8 hour sleep plus a good breakfast. This helps me more than anything to focus and perform my best during the interview. Often, these tests cover areas you would have already studied over school life so it isn’t anything new. You might need a refresher, so practising some tests prior could help. But this isn’t always necessary and depends on how confident you feel.

If this is designed to get to know me better, I make sure they know I am very happy to do that. I listen to their questions and answer genuinely. The conversation tells me how much they want me just as much as it tells them how much I want them.

The company website almost always clarifies the aim of the interview so you can anticipate the kind of questions you will be asked. If this isn’t clear, then email the recruiter.

5. How do you balance your own hobbies and passions at the same time as your career goals?

I mean honestly, in the earliest days, I didn’t. I was very okay with that. I learned to not feel guilty about it. I missed friends’ birthday parties, I was MIA for a while. I think all my friends knew I had this dream of something I wanted to build. I am a really mission-oriented person. Nothing over-rides mission to me. I truly believe people in your life should understand that.

In social and environmental advocacy, my role is continuous and this is so intense. For me, there’s no better way to end the day than with the people who bring the greatest sense of calm and perspective to my life. It’s ideal to see my family in real life, obviously, but given their work & travel, video call has to do.

Also, I live by my calendar. I put everything in it — not just meetings, but thinking time and brainstorming time, even when the only person I’m brainstorming with is myself. It is unified across all elements of my life: personal, professional and everything in between.

So try to work smart because you have to make sure you arrange time. Fitness is also a big factor as it keeps you energetic which is really important.

6. How to stay true to your goal in a world focusing mostly on profit and career development?

I think this question explains why it’s important to not just set goals, but to ensure you set the right ones. Think what’s important for you – this could be launching a product, growing a brand, creating awareness, finding your soulmate, earning a crazy amount to live a luxurious life or making your parents proud– the list is never ending and there is no self-judgement. The more you want it, the more motivated you will be. Create a game plan for each of your goals and make sure your goal is measurable: hours with family and hours at work, revenue in business and income for supporting yourself, number of activities to unwind and the research amount for your career – again the list doesn’t end. Next, give yourself a deadline: by when do you want to achieve your personal and professional goals? Also, make little, tangible goals that lead to big ones. Get real about what’s holding you back. Be open to change and to inspiration. This might not work for everyone – there’s no perfect recipe – but it works well for many people that I have met.

7. What advice would you give a first year looking to get into the Sustainability field?

Join the Climate Action Society at UCL. We host a multitude of social events, educational workshops and conferences on all things sustainability that give you an idea of how you can pitch in, plus provide you with the opportunity to start delivering impact in real time immediately. Don’t worry about not having the knowledge area or the skill-set in climate advocacy, we are very happy to teach you this. Some of the ways we help you are also the advice I would give:

  • Try to shadow policy professionals in the sustainability area. Email people directly! You will learn how to interpret key policy needs and setting the scope of any sustainability reforms. It might also give you the opportunity to develop verbal and written skills in communicating climate evidence appropriately to different audiences. This is important for youth activism.
  • Take up the opportunity to interact with academics working on the sustainability key subject areas. We have plenty of experts at UCL.
  • Get in touch with NGOs in this field. We at the Climate Action Society help you do that! Look for opportunities to shadow NGO researchers in the teams working on commissioned research and gain an understanding of procuring and managing sustainability in a local council.

8. How was your experience in working in different student societies?

Each society has its own amazing reach, be it a cultural group, the coffee enthusiasts at the Coffee Society, the Lacrosse lovers or the Business-y bees. I attended numerous events by different societies throughout term-time and was a committee member at some. I was growing alongside: learning, joining teams, organising events, meeting people, having fun. Below, I summarise my experience:

UCL MUN Society: For those looking for a way to tackle their fear of public speaking, this is probably the best way to do so. You learn about world affairs, debates (present and past) and make new friends while engaging in contemporary intellectual conversation. And don’t worry, you have the support of the lovely committee to guide you throughout. I was part of the debating team at my high school and so it was natural for me to continue this hobby at UCL. Through this platform, I also had the pleasure to chair two of the largest MUN conferences: the UCLMUN and LIMUN.

UCL Pakistan Society (Vice President), UCL Afghan Society (Events): The small but frequent events are rich in culture. The food and dress-up events are beautiful ways to celebrate tradition. Having grown up all around the Middle East, I wasn’t exactly familiar with diversity in Pakistani or Afghan culture. But meeting a variety of different people at these societies took care of that and I came out with memorable friendships. It was the perfect mixture of laughter, warmth and new-found love for cultural history.

UCL Guild and UCL Business Society (BizSoz) (Vice President): I wanted to stick my hands into something-businessy, something-entrepreneurship and I was convinced cut-throat “corporate slavery” isn’t the only way to do so. Usama Yusuf, UCL Guild Founder, founded Guild because he believed there are truly so many pieces of the puzzle that is modern-day business: tech, consulting, finance, entrepreneurship, data science and so on. At the Guild, I found a place to gain exposure to industry leaders and students who were well-versed in the internship/job area. I learned a lot from their own experiences and bonded with students who shared the same entrepreneurial interests as me. It can be a bit daunting to join, and it really was for me; I still remember pitching my Vice Presidency 2 minute speech in an auditorium with 200+ people for the UCL BizSoc elections. Unlike other candidates, I had never really participated in BizSoc events so doubted I would be welcome, but I totally was. And that shows that the Business Society is for absolutely anyone.

Tip: What I see a lot is that students join a society then they sort of do it halfway. They don’t really focus on it because there are a hundred different societies to choose from and there is so much going on. There isn’t much harm in this except if you sign up to be a committee member. Explore to the extent you can pull your weight as a responsible team member – that then allows you to truly enjoy yourself at the society you become a part of.

9. Was it difficult to start your own society?

In order to start a society, the Students Union general procedure is super simple: fill in a short form, get 30 signatories and you can have your own society. Each term, the SU receives at least 20 different society proposals. That’s 60 proposals in one academic year. Starting a student club is designed to be easy because UCL promises an open space for initiatives. I know so many people who have started their own society for the sake of starting one. The difficult part is running it, staying true to the objectives and taking it to the next level to achieve the society’s goals.

While there will obviously be a number of struggles involved with putting in endless hours in addition to your academic responsibilities, raising capital, and working with a range of different members, the biggest challenge is often figuring out what the right end goal for your members is: what they will pay for, what they will enjoy, what they will dislike. I absolutely enjoyed all the challenges I faced at CAS; For one, they varied so much! My team and I all saw them as no more than hiccups and growing opportunities.

I know a lot of people note that CAS was mostly an instant success but that is because a lot of research went to it prior. For some of our other niches such as corporate sustainability and so on – that took us two years to perfect; we had to keep changing the “message” of our movement, going through numerous iterations, and moving forward so that the members were happy with the final product i.e our events. I placed a lot of focus on diversity & inclusion because welcoming everyone’s participation, not just their perspective was super important for the vision I had for CAS. We all loved this diversity and we bonded into the #CASfam. I also worked with the Under Secretary General for Recruitment Dhaval Nayi to revamp the structure of the society, discarding and adding roles each year, so I learnt that you shouldn’t be scared to fix what isn’t working. Always trust your instincts; it’s hard to shut things down but you have to keep moving. It’s great to have a dream, but you also need to make sure that what you’re offering is something that people need.

Stay tuned for part 2!

How to Prepare Yourself for a Fintech Job

By Joe O'Brien, on 26 November 2020

Read time: 4 minutes

Guest blog from Esme Loans

The term ‘fintech’ simply means ‘financial technology’. It describes a broad sector that includes businesses such as personal banking services, cash flow management apps, business finance lenders and more. Fintech companies can be exciting to work in. They’re fast moving (being driven by technology) and are constantly pushing each other to innovate and evolve – not to mention that the sector is growing quickly.

If you’re considering a career in fintech, though, where’s the best place to start? How can you, a budding marketer, accountant, or perhaps a developer, get ready to break into the fintech space and prepare yourself for an entry-level role? That’s exactly what we’ll cover in this blog post as we share our tips and insider-insights.

We are Esme Loans, an online business loans provider who are part of the NatWest group. Since 2016, we’ve lent over £149m to 2,210 business owners in the UK, and so we’re well-versed in how the fintech sector operates.

  1. Get the relevant qualifications

A degree that’s relevant to the type of job you’re interested in is a good place to start. Don’t narrow yourself down based on the specific title of your degree, though. Instead, think about the transferrable skills you’ve gained. With a business degree, you may be well-suited for a marketing role, or a maths degree could set you up to start a career in accounting. Fintech’s typically offer a diverse range of roles that revolve around supporting technology and financial management so take your time to explore all of the options.

What’s more, gaining additional qualifications such as enrolling in courses with Chartered Institutes, undertaking online courses, and evidencing your technical proficiencies (maybe developing a strong GitHub portfolio if you’re wanting to work in web development) could improve your chances of securing that first interview.

  1. Gain work experience

Undertaking a role that mirrors some of the skills you’ll need for your entry level job could help you prepare yourself for your first fintech role. That could mean an internship, or even working in a voluntary capacity – so long as you’re developing some essential skills you’ll need on the job.

For example, helping a local charity shop manage their finances could prove to be a be useful indicator to prospective employers that you’ll be willing to work hard and build your skillset within their company. Alternatively, a lot of fintechs work with start-ups and small-to-medium sized businesses, so gaining some general experience working within such a business (even part-time) could set you up for a client-management or business analyst role and ensure that you have plenty to talk about in your interviews.

  1. Research the fundamentals of your discipline

If you can see yourself managing a bank’s operations or developing a revolutionary mobile banking app one day, you may want to kickstart your journey right now by reading three foundational books that most professionals in the discipline will be aware of.

Having a decent understanding of some of the foundational concepts and theories associated with the discipline you’re looking to move into could give you a good base of knowledge that allows you to contribute to team meetings in your first few weeks on the job. With that core knowledge, you can even innovate and get creative with your colleagues, rather than worrying about feeling like ‘the new guy’ for too long.

Don’t stop at books, though. Join online forums, read popular industry blogs, immerse yourself in the latest news within your fintech discipline of choice and keep an eye on what may be cutting edge and potentially game-changing for your employer over the coming months. Hearing that you understand the upcoming pressure points they’ve identified for their businesses could stand you in good stead in an interview.

  1. Practice your interview technique

There are some interview tips that transcend job roles and disciplines, and it’s your job to master these to give yourself the best chance of securing a role. Key tactics and strategies that every applicant should have in their arsenal include:

  • Good eye contact and body posture. This can show that you’re confident, engaged in the conversation and willing to learn.
  • Deliberate non-verbal cues. By this we mean nodding softly to reassure your interviewer that you’re listening carefully to them, which can be a good indicator to employers that you’re genuinely interested in their work.
  • A natural curiosity. Do your research to understand what projects your prospective employer is currently working on, how their company functions, and who the people are behind the scenes. It will get you excited about the opportunity and will indicate that you’re prepared, have thought ahead and are a self-starter, all favourable qualities to prospective employers.

As an employer, we actively look for a sense of enthusiasm, commitment, and curiosity in those we interview for entry-level fintech roles. We hope that our tips and insights prove useful to you, and we wish you the best of luck with starting out your new journey.

Interview with an Alum: Sarah Fortais, PhD Fine Art, Slade School of Fine Art 2018

By Joe O'Brien, on 24 November 2020

Read time: 5 minutes

Interview with Sarah Fortais, PhD Fine Art, Slade School of Fine Art 2018

What is the core purpose of your role and what typical activities does it involve?

As a self-employed artist I create work for exhibitions, performances, private commissions, and public artworks. These include large-scale, permanent bronze works as well as ephemeral works made from found materials. I also teach, running courses during the Slade Summer School and giving lectures both across London and in Canada. My specialisation is sculpture and performance and so most of my teaching revolves around these subjects, but sometimes it also incorporates the study of creativity and ways of implementing creative methodologies, which relates to my PhD research.

I live and work in my studio and so a fair chunk of my time is spent ensuring that all my equipment is running safely and also coming up with new ways of storing more and more work.

Another important part of my day-to-day operation is organising logistics for installation and delivery of artworks, and keeping up to date with necessary safety training and licensing. This has at times involved learning to use different types of 3D rendering software, so as to ensure work can be approved before installation. Because I build and install most of my works by myself, staying physically active is extremely important to my job, and I try to take time away to hike and stay active. Most of the time however, I seem to get my exercise by wearing spacesuits or carrying giraffe parts across London.

What kind of people and clients do you work with?

I have worked with UCL on a number of projects including the UCL Donor Wall, which involved working with hundreds of different people including students, staff, volunteers, charities, private and corporate benefactors, and recipients of research scholarships or patients of medical procedures directly resulting from UCL’s research. I also work with artist groups such as London Sculpture Workshop and London Bronze Casting and institutions like the Pompidou Centre and the Victoria & Albert Museum. I have taught students aged 10 and upwards but primarily I focus on teaching University students completing a Bachelor’s degree in a creative subject. In addition to lecturing on fine art programmes, I have also lectured for London College of Fashion because my PhD research focused on defining cool, which also included defining concepts such as trend and copying. Through exhibiting and performing my work I have been able to travel across the UK as well as France and Canada, and have been able to work with local residents, tourists, refugees, and first-time gallery goers. Part of why I have chosen to be self-employed is because I enjoy working with continuously changing clients.

How did you get to where you are now?

I completed my PhD research in 2018 and so I have only been self-employed in the UK for the last year and a half. In order to gain contracts I first answered a lot of open calls for artworks and volunteered my time invigilating exhibitions for my peers, in order to gain a back-catalogue of work and experiences that I could draw from when applying for paid contracts. I still sometimes exhibit my work for free or for a small financial loss for the exposure which I feel has led to many groups independently contacting me with offers of commissions and performance opportunities. I also try to experiment with my performances in public and document them whenever possible. This means that even when I have a work-in-progress I can get public feedback and sometimes even free materials or meals!

What have been some challenges to your role due to Covid-19 and how have these been responded to/managed?

Seeing galleries and campuses close to the public has meant that many of my contracts/commissions have either been postponed or cancelled outright. I also lost a commission due to the fact that the client felt that they were no longer able to support an artwork that encouraged people to come together, which was a real shame because for me that’s what makes art-making worthwhile. As a result of losing these opportunities, I took on two key-worker roles in London, one as a part-time Art Technician at a public high school, and another at a bakery, to make ends meet. I have since left the bakery position as enough of my fine art contracts have picked up again, but I used the position as an opportunity to practice my fine motor skills, to increase my knowledge of health and safety in the public sector, and to divert/recycle food waste. I have found working as a technician with high school aged students to be very rewarding and it’s inspired me to begin private tutor sessions as well as revisit some mixed media projects that I did not resolve while on my BFA. Furthermore, as a key worker I have been able to commute without interruption and subsequently I produced a performance series with artist Emma Burdon to chronicle how London’s coffee shops have been adapting and changing over the past months.

How do you see your work, or that of the sector more generally, impacting on societal wellbeing as we learn to live with Covid, and do you see any signs that investment in the arts will increase as part of the health and wellbeing response? 

I think most people are aware that both making and experiencing artwork can have a profoundly positive impact on wellbeing. It’s also acutely apparent that there are many, many groups of people underrepresented in the arts and excitingly, I have seen a positive shift at the grassroots level toward supporting artists from a wider range of backgrounds. At the same time, I feel that most large institutions have yet to reflect these changes, and I also feel that overall, the arts industry places far too much emphasis on exclusivity both for its commercial viability, and for determining its conceptual and social value. What I would like to see is a large-scale reimagining of the fine arts sector and for artists to become employed across a wider range of disciplines, so as to more deeply integrate art-making into every sector. I have always preferred to find art in unexpected places and so I feel that personally, in order to make work that I feel is relevant to other people, it should take place in any setting that people are willing to constructively criticise, interact with, or enjoy it. In 2018, artist Zeinab Saleh curated an exhibition titled Widening the Gaze at UCL’s Slade Research Centre, which included an astounding array of works by artists whom I feel are already challenging and profoundly impacting the arts industry in ways that can only result in improved societal wellbeing.

How would you go about getting experience (placements, work experience, internship) in the industry you work in?

There are many online opportunities available on an international level that have recently become exclusively online. As for work experience, I would suggest that artists continue to answer open calls (many groups like A-N and Curator space have been posting calls consistently over the last few months) and asking for feedback whenever possible. I also have found it immensely helpful to look outside my industry for experience. For example, while completing my education I worked as an Assistant Foreman and Environmental Resource at Habitat for Humanity, and also was employed by my Students’ Union while studying at Central Saint Martins. As it might not be possible at the moment to gain experience invigilating or assisting other artists in their studio, I would instead suggest honing your skills on small, manageable projects or experiments and document them in a way to build up a portfolio for future assignments.

What is the one thing students can be doing right now to boost their career prospects at a time where opportunities in the arts may be limited?

As a sculptor, I would suggest focusing on resourcefulness and using any time that can be made available to develop new ways of sourcing materials, techniques, and ways of presenting, and then resolving a few artworks that can be used to showcase your adaptability to employers/clients/institutions. My advice is not to focus on self-reliance, but rather, to use the changing environment as part of the process of generating artwork and finding safe ways of being visible. For instance, I used the changing rules about travelling in London to my advantage and was able to produce a performance which took place completely masked on the London Underground. Prior to lockdown, the TFL told me I was not allowed to create such a performance but with the changing rules it actually meant that my performance became not only allowed, but became the safest way to travel. The only misstep at this time would be to stop producing artwork.

Do you have any top tips for current students who may be interested in your career area?

For any portfolio it is paramount that it includes what appears to be completed works. However, I want to stress that whether or not you as the artist thinking that the work is completed is irrelevant to whether it appears completed to others. Thus, my advice is to focus on how you frame or present your works so that each time you share them they can, for each client, uniquely and contextually be experienced as completed works. This will give you a competitive edge compared to other student portfolios that stress artworks as assignments or experiments, as they are not using their portfolio as an opportunity to demonstrate an understanding of the client’s needs or sensibilities.

Sector Insights: Data Science

By Joe O'Brien, on 17 November 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Susanne Stoddart, Recruitment & Selection Advice Manager

What is Data Science?

Data science is concerned with turning raw data into meaningful information that organisations can use to inform their decisions and improve their work. Data scientists work with huge datasets, such as online reviews of products and services or health care records. This big data is generally too large for analysis by using conventional statistical methods and analytical tools. Rather than data science being a sector in itself, there is need for data scientists across a wide range of sectors, including technology, transport, retail, finance, consulting, government, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and health care. Everyday activities are increasingly leaving digital footprints and employers seek workers who can help them make sense of it.

Meet the Data Scientists

I recently contacted Pooja Trivedi and Adam Davison on LinkedIn to find out about their experience in data science, and about their routes into this area of work. Pooja currently works as a Data Scientist at Curve and completed her MSc in Social Research Methods at UCL in 2019.

Adam is Head of Insight and Data Science at The Economist. Adam completed his MSci in Physics at UCL in 2006 and his PhD in High Energy Physics in 2010, also at UCL.

Did you do anything during your time at UCL or after you finished your degree that helped prepare you for your current job?

Pooja: I currently work at Curve as a Data Scientist, and I learned about them through the UCL Careers Fair in the summer of 2019. I started working at Curve as an intern while I was doing my course, so it was a very unique learning opportunity.

Adam: Not especially unfortunately. I was lucky in that my PhD research work was focussed on analysis of very large datasets coming from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. I never had a strong career plan to move to data science, and debated the merits of leaving vs. remaining in academia for a long time. Luckily when my moment to move came a lot of my skills were a good fit for what industry was looking for.

What are three key skills that you use in your current job?

Pooja: The three main skills involve: attention to detail, the ability to think about the customer and their needs, as well as working well with others, as there are many stakeholders who rely on data.

Adam: When I first moved to data science I was working hands-on problem solving myself so it would have been software engineering, data analysis and a knowledge of statistical modelling. Over time career progression means that now I spend much more time trying to connect what is possible with the data to the problems the business needs solving, so today the list would focus more on interpersonal skills and a broad knowledge of techniques and technologies.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

Pooja: My role as a data scientist is unique because I don’t just work in quantitative areas. I also do a lot of qualitative research that involves customer interviews, research on consumer behaviours, and research on the field as a whole.

Adam: When I first transitioned to commercial data science I was surprised at how little my job differed from the research I was doing in academia. A typical day would have been discussing an issue the business was facing with my manager, then spending most of my day writing code (SQL/Python) to access and convert data into a form I could analyse or build a statistical model around.

What would be your top piece of advice for current students interested in a career in data science?

Pooja: It’s important to at least know SQL, and there are bonus points if you know Python. I’d also recommend that anyone looking to pursue data science finds a field that they are interested in, because they will be constantly looking at the data for that field.

Adam: Don’t assume you need to know everything about every technology or complex machine learning tool to apply for a job, everyone recognises that entry-level candidates will be lacking some skills. For someone applying for their first role I’m looking for someone that’s done some data analysis and statistical inference, and most importantly understands why they did it and how the tools they used work. I expect to find gaps where training will be needed, so if you need to get better at Python or learn about a machine learning technique that’s a secondary concern.

What Next?

If you’re feeling inspired by Pooja and Adam’s careers in data science, here are some ideas on what you can do right now to start developing your skills and building your network: · Become a member of the UCL Data Science Society to gain access to the Data Hub, offering workshops, articles, competitions, networking opportunities and more. · Sign up to Data Science Weekly, a free newsletter featuring curated news, articles and jobs.

· Develop your data science skills with online data science competitions hosted by organisations such as Kaggle and Topcoder.

· Build your network by reaching out to data science experts on platforms such as LinkedIn and UCL’s Alumni Online Community. You can find out more about using online platforms for networking in our recent blogpost on 5 Key Resources for Networking from Home.

· Remember that if you would like to explore your career in data science further you can book in with UCL Careers for a one-to-one guidance appointment.

Sector Insights: The Different Career Avenues in Accounting

By Joe O'Brien, on 10 November 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Tom Bilby (Guest writer from The Accountancy Partnership)

Ever considered a job in accounting? Did you know there’s a lot more roles available in this sector than being an accountant? There’s a range of exciting and rewarding careers available for those who choose this route. After all, the whole business world runs on finance!

After you’ve finished your degree, you can choose a role in accountancy that suits your personality, working style and niche interests within finance. You’ll go on to complete specific qualifications that will refine your expertise and allow you to increase your potential salary.

That’s why it’s essential that you understand the routes available to you at this stage. Let’s take a look at just a few of the accountancy roles you may or may not have heard of.

Bookkeepers

Bookkeeping is one of the most common routes accountants take in their career. It involves looking after the accounts of a business or person, so that tax and other financial obligations can be calculated correctly.

There will always be a high demand for bookkeepers within the industry, so it’s a reliable role to pursue. There are also plenty of opportunities to become a self-employed bookkeeper if you have an entrepreneurial spirit.

Auditors

A financial auditor is responsible for reviewing a business’ accounts, documents and data to ensure compliance with procedures. This is a great role to go into if you have an eye for detail.

Auditors don’t just work for the tax people either. They’re often employed by companies seeking methods to be more risk averse and save on costs. They’re the detectives of the accounting world!

Management Accountants

If you’re an accountant but you’re not a fan of the bewildering world of tax, perhaps the management accountant route is for you. These accounting experts will take responsibility for improving the overall profitability of the company.

Generally, they’re folks who love patterns and efficiency, and will model new projects and ideas to propose to the financial director and senior management team.

Forensic Accountants

Forensic accounting is possibly the coolest job title in the accounting world, but sadly does not actually involve analysing financially motivated murder scenes. It does however, involve reviewing accounts and documents for discrepancies and inaccuracies.

It’s another ideal role for those who enjoy detail-oriented tasks.

F, P & A Analyst

F,P & A stands for financial planning and analysis. If you take on this role, you’ll be interpreting and breaking down financial information for senior decision makers in the business. For example, you might model and analyse the company’s performance over the last year, and present this to the sales director.

This is a role that will suit those who seek to be actively involved in the direction a company will take. It can be very rewarding, but requires someone who is highly confident in their analytical skills.

Payroll Manager

It’s exactly what you’d think. Payroll managers manage the payroll! In this job you’ll be responsible for ensuring people get paid the right amount, at the right time. You’ll also need to have a strong understanding of income tax and other deductions such as pensions, student loans and national insurance.

There are obviously some key personality traits you need to get into the world of accounting, but don’t forget, there’s also a hugely diverse amount of career pathways to suit your personal preferences and strengths.

Spend some time at the start of your journey trying to find out what’s best for you; there are plenty of opportunities for work experience and there’s no harm in pivoting your career at any point.

Whatever path you choose, you’re bound to find a long and rewarding career in accounting.

Article By – The Accountancy Partnership

5 things to expect from Museums, Arts and Cultural Heritage Week 2020

By Joe O'Brien, on 2 November 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Nicole Estwick, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

This year’s Museums, Arts and Cultural Heritage week kicks off from Monday 16 November with a series of virtual events offering you information, insights and advice on the different roles and opportunities available in each sector and what you can do to make your first steps into the industry. Events during the week are open to students and recent graduates from all degree disciplines with bookings now open on myUCLCareers.

So what can you expect from this particular themed week? Read on for our list of 5 things to look out for during this year’s events:

  1. A focus on the Museums, Arts and Cultural Heritage sector In relation to the Coronavirus

It’s widely known that the creative industries which Museums, Arts and Cultural Heritage are part of have been particularly impacted by the Coronavirus and this will be a central focus for events that will be running during the week. We’ll be providing a wide range of perspectives from professionals working in the industry pre-Covid, during the outbreak, and we’ll also look at what could potentially lie ahead for students and graduates looking to make their first steps into these sectors in the future.

  1. Insights into the realities of the current job market in the industry

Our first event of Museums, Arts and Cultural Heirtage week will offer an insight into what opportunities are available at this time in the sector. A panel discussion and Q&A will bring together recruiters, HR staff, freelancers and other professionals working within Museums, Arts and Heritage to share views on what the current picture is on jobs and recruitment, what the future of the industry may look like and what students can be doing now to try and carve out their first steps for their career. Speaker details will be announced shortly.

Museums, Arts & Cultural Heritage: Perspectives on jobs and recruitment will take place on Tuesday 17 November 2020 from 6.00-7.30pm GMT. Book your place here

  1. Information on the breadth of roles available in the sector and how they have changed as a result of current circumstances

For those of you looking to understand the different roles that exist within the industry, you will be able to join us at a virtual event with representatives in the Arts and Cultural sector to hear about their job roles, how they become involved in the industry, and if/how their work has been impacted in recent times. This will be a panel discussion and Q&A session with speakers announced in due course.

Museums, Arts & Cultural Heritage: Working before and during Covid will take place on Wednesday 18 November 2020 from 6.00-7.30pm GMT. Book your place here

  1. A look at the wider impact of Museums, Arts and Cultural Heritage roles in wider society

With current events leading us to look at the bigger picture, we’ll also be running an event on how the work of Museums, Arts & Cultural Heritage organisations impacts on wider society. Our panel will be discussing their roles in the context of this, at a time when our health and wellbeing is more in focus than ever.

The bigger picture in Museums, Arts and Heritage Careers will take place on Thursday 19 November from 5.30-6.45pm GMT. Book your place here

  1. Details of live opportunities and job openings within the sector

Finally, throughout the week, you will also be able to follow UCL Careers along on social media to receive information on live opportunities you can apply for in the Museums, Arts and Cultural Heritage sectors.

For more details on this follow UCL Careers on Twitter

Introduction to Government & Policy Week 2020

By Joe O'Brien, on 22 October 2020

Read time: 2 minutes

Written by Nasima Bashar, Internships & Vacancies Administrator at UCL Careers.

Monday 26 October marks the start of UCL Careers Government & Policy Themed Week. You will find below a run through of the range of events organised to inspire and engage those who are interested in a career within the public sector, as well as those who are yet undecided. This is your chance to meet with organisations in this sector – to hear from and network with a range of guests from recent graduates to senior officials.

The following events are open to students and recent graduates from all degree disciplines and all of the events below are now bookable through your ‘myUCLCareers’ account.

All events will take place remotely.

Introduction to Government & Policy Careers
Monday 26 October: 1-2pm BST
Join representatives from the Civil Service in a talk introducing careers within this exciting sector.

Panel Discussion: Careers in the Heart of Government
Tuesday 27 October:  6-7.30pm BST
Hear from speakers working across the UK Civil Service. Guests from the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA)Cabinet Office, and the UK Civil Service Fast stream will talk about their careers to date. This event will include Q&A and a networking opportunity. 

Panel Discussion: Influencing Policy
Wednesday 28 October:  6-7.30pm BST
Hear from representatives of some of the shapers of public policy. Speakers include DEFRADCMSUniversities UK and HM Treasury. This event will include Q&A and a networking opportunity. 

Workshop: Implementing Policy
Thursday 29 October:  12-2pm BST
Guests from the Civil Service will guide you through the policy making process. You will work through a group exercise; designing and evaluating policy options to recommend for implementation. You will receive feedback throughout this process and guidance on how to approach policy recommendations.

Exploring International Careers in Government & Policy
Available from Friday 30 October 9am BST
Watch the interviews to gain some valuable insights from UCL Alumni now working in this sector across the world in a wide range of roles. Interviews will be available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/about/events/themed-weeks/government – Watch this space!

Apply now for UCL Connected Learning Internships

By Joe O'Brien, on 20 October 2020

Read time: 2 minutes

Written by Victoria Abbott, Recruitment & Selection Advisor at UCL Careers.

Are you looking to gain some experience to add to your CV? Or would you like an opportunity to reflect on your current strengths and develop new skills?

Then check out the UCL Connected Learning Internships scheme, advertised on myUCLCareers from 22 October 2020.

Paid internships are available across a range of academic and professional service departments throughout UCL, and you can apply for up to two opportunities that are most suited to your skill set, experience and motivations.

The internships are for 35 hours either full or part-time; and will run between 1 December 2020 and 29 January 2021.

What can I gain from a UCL Connected Learning Internship?

  1. Employability skills

Over 140 students working across 74 projects completed a UCL Connected Learning Internship during July and August 2020. Student feedback confirmed that these opportunities greatly improved key employability skills, including written and verbal communication, teamwork and collaboration, planning and organising, problem-solving, decision-making and even creativity.

‘Really enjoyed the internship. Interesting content and useful transferable skills that I’ll take forwards.’* 

  1. Designated support

You will also be supported by a designated supervisor within the hiring department, so you will have plenty of help and guidance throughout the opportunity.

‘I loved my team and how accommodating and friendly they were. They gave me a lot of flexibility and allowed me to try to pursue what I want to get out of the internship.’*

  1. Self-Reflection

After completing a self-reflection tool, you will also have the option to discuss your experience with a member of the UCL Careers team, to fully reflect on how the internship has supported your employability skills development. This is a great chance for you to articulate your new skills, competencies and motivations on your CV and within future applications.

‘It was an amazing opportunity to help the department, knowing that this will have an impact on the students.’*

  1. Income

Internships are paid at the London Living Wage, so are a great opportunity to obtain both an income and gain some valued skills and experience at the same time.

‘A great experience that led on to a further 8 week post.’*

Do I need to meet any particular criteria to apply?

  1. UCL Student

You must be a current UCL student to apply.

  1. Time Commitment

You should also ensure you can commit enough time to complete the internship during the period specified and as agreed with the host UCL department.

  1. Online/Remote Working

Internships will be conducted online, so you must have the ability to work independently (and remotely) and the circumstances to carry out the work in this way.

  1. Individual Role Requirements

Each internship will have specific requirements, so please do check the individual role descriptors for each internship that you wish to apply for.

Remember that you can book a one to one appointment with a member of the UCL Careers team for personalised practical tips and advice to help you better understand how recruiters will shortlist your applications and how you can best demonstrate your motivation and your most relevant skills and experience.

When is the deadline for applying?

The deadline for applications is 4 November 2020, so check out the opportunities available and start planning your applications now.

Apply now via myUCLCareers

Good luck!

*Quotes from students who completed a UCL Connected Learning Internship during July and August 2020

Government & Policy Week: Working in Non-Political Think Tanks – Interview with Dr Moira Faul, Executive Director NORRAG, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies Geneva

By Joe O'Brien, on 12 October 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Sally Brown, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

So, what is NORRAG and what do they do? 

The network for international policies and cooperation in education and training (NORRAG) is a global network of 5,000 members for international policies and cooperation in education and training. NORRAG’s strength lies in addressing under-researched questions of quality and equity in key issues in education and development, and in amplifying under-represented expertise, particularly from the South. NORRAG’s core mandate is to produce, disseminate and broker analytical research and to build capacity for and with the wide range of stakeholders who constitute our network. Our stakeholders from academia, governments, NGOs, international organizations, foundations and the private sector inform and shape education policies and practice at national and international levels. Through our work, NORRAG contributes to creating the conditions for more participatory, evidence-informed decisions that improve equal access to and quality of education and training. NORRAG is an associate programme of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva.

What is a think tank and how does NORRAG differ from other types of think tanks?

Most generically, think tanks are knowledge-producing organisations that are not universities. Some may be affiliated to specific political parties or positions, and their research is more politically motivated. Others, like NORRAG, are affiliated to universities and while the research they do is more applied than might be found in university social science departments, it remains analytical. Among analytical think tanks, NORRAG differentiates itself through our focus on surfacing and amplifying priorities and perspectives of experts from the global South and East alongside those from the North and West.

What led you to this role?

While my career ambitions have always been focused on a leadership position in international development and education, my path to this role has been quite circuitous! Originally from Zimbabwe, I held senior managerial positions in private sector adult education in Spain (1997-2001) and China (2002-03), and was then Head of Education and Youth Policy (UK) at Oxfam GB (2003-2009). My work led me to a question I couldn’t answer on Oxfam’s time, so I started a funded PhD at the University of Cambridge (2009-13), after which I managed a research-policy exchange programme. After moving to Geneva in 2015, I worked as Research Fellow at the UN Research Institute for Social Development (2015-16) and at the Public-Private Partnership Research Centre at the University of Geneva, before being promoted to Deputy Director and Senior Research Fellow (2016-19) at the Public-Private Partnership Research Centre.

What issues are currently affecting the work that NORRAG does? Do you feel similar organisations are also being affected in the same way?

The biggest challenge that non-political think tanks face is funding, although NORRAG suffer less than many since we are generously supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and Open Societies Foundation, as well as through research grants. Funding has always been tight, especially core funds that support the whole institution, but has become increasingly difficult for us and our partners. Increased government funding earmarked for applied development research is certainly helping.

Another, more positive, matter relates to the global Sustainable Development Agenda, in which organisations that may have specialised in one issue area or another (the environment, say, or health) are being challenged to consider the intersections between their specialisation and that of others: how does what happens in health affect the environment and vice versa? Education has such deep transversal effects on all aspects of sustainability that this is a challenge that NORRAG welcomes and actively embraces.

If a student/recent graduate were to apply to NORRAG – or similar – what do you feel would make an application stand-out?

Graduate applicants need to show that they have the technical research skills and knowledge base required for the post for which they’re applying: we research themes as diverse as public and private education finance, digitisation, education data (from children and schools through to international organisations and networks). They would also need to demonstrate congruence with our values of research integrity and analytical rigour, in addition to our vision of equal access to quality education and amplifying expertise from the South.

Do you have any top tips for students/recent graduates wanting to get into this sector/think tanks?

Do your homework on the organisation you’re applying to! Even more so than in other fields. There are so many different types of think tanks that there’s bound to be one that fits what you’re looking for; but you have to take the responsibility of making sure of that.

10 Tips to a Successful Language Career

By Joe O'Brien, on 7 October 2020

Written by Ed O’Neill (Guest writer from UK Language Project)

If you’re interested in a career in teaching, why not start offering your services as a private language tutor? Whilst incredibly rewarding and interesting work, it can also equip you with that all-important experience you need to succeed in your further career.

Language expert Ed O’Neill from UK Language Project takes us through the do’s and don’t’s of getting started.

10 Steps to get you started

  • Select language
    • Choosing your language is important. Make sure it’s one you know to at least C1 (advanced level). Your native language is always a good bet.
  • Choose between online/in-person teaching and choose your market
    • Personal preference may dictate this. Are you fine with lessons on your laptop? Or do you prefer face to face, in-person interactions? Perhaps a mix of both would work?
  • Research language teaching qualifications
    • This isn’t essential just at the start but it’s important to know what qualifications are available if you decide to pursue this in the long term.
  • Ensure your admin is in order before starting
    • From registering for tax, buying a good microphone and speakers/headset, to printing/scanning your materials. Get this sorted ahead of time.
  • Register with tutoring marketplaces
    • The marketplaces do the marketing for you and will find you students. Get on as many as you can.
  • Be open to new opportunities and put yourself out
    • Go the extra mile. There are no traffic jams on the extra mile! If you take as many opportunities that come your way as you can, you’ll be rewarded down the line.
  • Reviews, reviews, reviews!
    • Set yourself apart. Get every student to review your lessons and build a portfolio of happy students who will be keen to recommend you. This will attract others to you and your lessons.
  • Make continuous forward progress
    • Teaching is a growth process. You and your skills will improve over time with experience. Embrace the learning and keep crafting your teaching to get better and better.
  • Keep building your network
    • Once your established, apply for freelance work with agencies/language schools. This can really add another dimension to your work and often works out more stable in the long run.


We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at how to get started with what is an incredibly rewarding career. A much more detailed guide can be found on the UK Language Project website.