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Take control and secure your summer internship

By Chloe J Ackroyd, on 24 April 2019

Written by Recruitment and Selection Advisor, Susanne Stoddart.

It won’t come as a surprise to hear that graduate employers will really value seeing some professional work experience on your CV. According to research from the Institute of Student Employers, recruiters believe graduates with professional work experience have the required transferable skills to do the job better than those without it. But we know it’s not always easy setting out to secure these opportunities. The many myths and ideas that circulate about internships – for example, that interns only carry out menial tasks but, at the same time, all internships are ultra-competitive – hardly build confidence or inspire action.

Although the summer break is just around the corner, it’s not too late to secure some professional work experience for the vacation. The UCL Jobs Market 2019 takes place on Wednesday 5th June, 2-4pm, where you can meet with employers offering summer internships in a wide range of sectors. Also, take a look at our advice on Sourcing and making the most of internships. But first, carry on reading for a couple of tips on building confidence and beating the application blues (with assistance from some self-help gurus… and Wonder Woman!).

Take Control with Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, has sold over 25 million copies, and Covey’s first habit revolves around Circles of Concern and Circles of Influence. A Circle of Concern encompasses the wide range of worries a person has about life, or about a particular aspect of their life. Covey says that we should be focussing our time and energy not on our Circle of Concern but instead on our Circle of Influence, which encompasses issues that we actually have some control over.

You may be wondering what all these circles have got to do with your summer internship. Well, many of the discouraging ideas that circulate about internships are beyond your control or influence and therefore belong in the Circle of Concern. You can’t do anything about the fact that securing an internship is a competitive process, or that, maybe, you’ve never done an application for professional work experience before. There’s no point in dwelling on these concerns or letting them put you off giving it your best shot if you have a little time. It’s far better to be proactive and empowered by focussing on what you can control – your Circle of Influence – such as putting together an effective application that showcases your motivation, skills and experience in the best light. Remember, if you’d like some help with this, you can book in for a one-to-one Application Advice appointment with UCL Careers.

Smash Impostor Syndrome with Amy Cuddy

With an estimated 70% of the population experiencing it at some point in their lives, impostor syndrome is where an individual doubts the validity of their accomplishments and fears being exposed as inadequate, despite evidence that they are actually a competent, skilled and successful person. The common concern that you need professional experience to secure more professional experience can spark the fear and self-doubt characteristic of impostor syndrome and discourage internship applicants. In reality, employers don’t expect interns to have lots of professional work experience; they’re interested in motivation, transferable skills and potential. Academic achievements, extra-curricular activities – such as mentoring, playing sports or being on the committee of a student society – in addition to volunteering and part-time work are all valued successes that can showcase skills and potential.

For Amy Cuddy, banishing the impostor syndrome is all about the “power pose” – she advises that we take a couple of minutes in private to stand tall with chest out and hands on hips, just like Wonder Woman, in order to increase confidence for the day ahead. In one of the most watched TED talks of all time, Cuddy proves that body language affects not just how others see us – it also influences our own minds, reduces stress, increases confidence and impacts how we see ourselves.

Whether channelling Wonder Woman proves to be your thing or not, take control, acknowledge your achievements, showcase your skills and secure your summer internship anyway! The application effort will be worth it when you get your invitation to interview and remember, when it comes, you can book in with UCL Careers for a Practice Interview as another great way to boost your confidence and prepare.

UCL Careers Researchers Programme – Summer 2019

By Chloe J Ackroyd, on 18 March 2019


Find your future: UCL Careers Researchers EventsUCL Careers are delighted to confirm their programme of workshops and events for the summer term 2019, specifically designed for UCL’s Researcher’s community.

The programme includes workshops led by UCL Careers Consultants, for careers both in academia and beyond, to help researchers identify and develop core competencies, which are vital for competing in the job market, as well as a mix of Employer Forums and Employer Workshops that give the opportunity to hear from professionals in a range of sectors outside of academia, to ask questions, understand the job market and build business networks.

Researchers won’t want to miss the big event of the summer term – the annual full-day ‘Professional Careers Beyond Academia’ Conference. Presented by UCL Populations & Lifelong Health Domain Early Career Network & UCL Careers, supported by UCL Organisational Development, this conference will be held at the Institute of Child Health on 6th June, focusing on the field of life & health sciences and its related areas, such as UK and Global Public Health, Science Communications, Research & Development, Consultancy, Government Policy and more.

Booking on all events is now open.

For the full programme of events/workshops coming up for researchers this summer and book your place/s, please view the ‘Events Calendar’ on our Researchers page.

 

Any queries, please contact careers.researchers@ucl.ac.uk

Working on resilience: What would the Victorians do?

By Chloe J Ackroyd, on 15 March 2019

Black and white photo of Victorians in front of a brick house. Three rows with six young men at the back, three women and bearded man in the middle and three children at the front.

Written by Recruitment and Selection Advisor, Susanne Stoddart.

For many employers, resilience springs to mind not only as an invaluable soft skill but also as a skill that is underdeveloped in graduate workers. Indeed, in a recent QS report on The Global Skills Gap in the 21st Century resilience was identified by employers as the skill that graduates are lacking in most when compared with its perceived importance. Defined as an individual’s ability to overcome difficult experiences and adapt to new situations, resilience is required to solve problems and prosper in today’s fast-changing job market. Resilience is also needed in order to manage setbacks in the job hunt and application process before even setting foot in the workplace.

“There is, perhaps, no situation in life in which difficulties have not to be encountered and overcome before any decided measure of success can be achieved. Those difficulties are, however, our best instructors, as our mistakes often form our best experience.”

In 2019, there was an ever-growing collection of personal development books on the market promising to help readers build that bounce back mentality so sought after by employers and necessary for overall wellbeing. But this isn’t a new trend in popular psychology. Around 150 years ago Victorian advice manuals also had a lot to say about resilience and its relationship with success. The above quote is taken from the first ever personal development self-help book, published by Samuel Smiles in 1859 and aptly titled Self Help.

Here are four tips that Dr Smiles (in an advice manual called Character, 1871) and Edward Sisson (in The Essentials of Character, 1910) had to offer on developing the ability to overcome problems and adapt. The advice still has relevance today for anyone looking to enhance these vital work skills. It reminds us that resilience is a skill that can be developed by trying to adopt certain behaviours and attitudes.

  1. Be Optimistic
    For Edward Sisson, resilience involved developing a positive mindset or – in his words – ‘a more robust cheerfulness under the test of pain, loss, misadventure, disappointment’. Sisson wrote that ‘the cheerful man gets into the way of looking on the bright side… he gives preference in his attention to the pleasant, the encouraging, the desirable’. Living up to his name, Samuel Smiles also heavily prioritised a happy disposition when faced with challenges, highlighting that ‘cheerfulness is the first thing, cheerfulness is the second, and cheerfulness is the third’.
  1. Become a Lifelong Learner
    Sisson believed that adopting a mindset that was continuously open to learning opportunities encouraged ‘the sort of education that removes mountains and turns obstacles into stepping-stones’. This enabled an individual ‘to take charge of their own culture and career’. These words have considerable relevance in today’s fast-changing job market where roles such as app developer didn’t even exist ten years ago and workers need to constantly update their skills and competencies to help futureproof their career.
  1. Identify Goals
    For Sisson, having goals in life was vital for helping to put short-term difficulties into perspective, noting that ‘the forces of character flow most effectively into action only when they are rallied to the achievement of clearly conceived and firmly held purposes.’ Smiles agreed, expressing concern that without a future focus challenging times can force a person to become ‘like a body of stagnant water, instead of a running stream doing useful work and keeping the machinery of a district in motion’. Long before the popularisation of SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) goal setting, Sisson highlighted that a person ‘must not merely dream of strength, of wisdom, of skill and power’; they should take steps and ‘resolve to attain them’. They should hold themselves accountable for ‘pursuing and achieving, and be inspired and energized by the vision’.
  1. Make Connections
    Long before LinkedIn, Smiles recognised the importance of networking and building relationships that could provide a source of support and inspiration during periods of difficulty, uncertainty or exploration. Smiles advocated building connections with others in order to ‘learn not only from what they have enjoyed but – which is still more instructive – from what they have suffered’ on the road to success. Networks, Smiles continued, provide a means for ‘increasing our resources, strengthening our resolve and elevating our aims’. Alternatively, ‘an entirely new direction’ may come as a result of ‘a happy suggestion, a timely hint, or the kindly advice’.

 

Have the Victorians inspired you to start strengthening your resilience today? If so, why not begin by exploring the UCL Alumni Online Community? On this exclusive networking site, you can make connections with alumni from all over the world and even search for a mentor from the pool of experienced alumni working in a wide range of sectors.

Have you already identified any career goals that will help you stay on track or would you like some help investigating your ideas further? Remember, whether your aim is to explore your options, find opportunities to develop your skills and sector experience, or apply for a job, UCL Careers is here to help.

Sustainability Fortnight: Careers in Conservation, Ecology & Wildlife

By Joe S Sprecher, on 15 March 2019

 

Careers in Conservation panel

The 20th of February saw our second panel discussion for Sustainability Fortnight exploring careers in Conservation, Ecology & Wildlife. Our panellists were:

We heard from each panellist about their career path and the decisions that led them to their current roles – to hear their stories, you can read their biographies and view the event recording.

The speakers had plenty of advice for current students – and what you can do now to shape your own career.

Get involved

Gwen Buck, Policy Advisor at the Green Alliance, found her career after becoming interested in the politics around the environment and conservation. She found that involving herself in events and networking opportunities in the local area enabled her to find out about companies and career opportunities she might not have found otherwise.

“Make sure to ask people plenty of questions!” – Gwen Buck, Policy Advisor at Green Alliance

Clare Pugh, Senior Ecologist at Atkins, also recommended joining the Ecology Network as another way to broaden understanding of the industry and access contacts and career opportunities.  Both panellists were keen to point out that even though experience might not be in the form of a formal work placement any experience can still be greatly beneficial.

David Kirby, Associate Ecologist at WPS, finally added that “gaining any kind of experience is a good idea”.  This can be particularly useful in gaining practical experiences such as surveying and gaining a surveying license; these are necessities of the roles at his firm and can be gained whilst still a student.

Attitude

Jonathan Brauner, Logistics and Business Liaison at Wildlife for All, was keen to stress the importance of a positive attitude when working in this area.  “All of the staff at our organisation are voluntary” he stated.  “This means that it is vital that anyone looking to work with us has the right attitude, both in giving their time and their approach to the work”.  Gaining work experience in the industry can often be temporary, unpaid or physically exerting and therefore anyone looking to participate should be positive they are willing to take part and happy to do a range of tasks.

Persistence is key

Francesca Trotman is the Founder of charity Love The Oceans and was keen to point out that persistence has been a key trait which her career has benefitted from.  “I always knew what I wanted to do but setting up a charity which works in Mozambique has plenty of challenges”, she said, “but I’ve been told I won’t be able to do something 1,000 times and have always managed to do them so far”.  She also felt that being flexible is a real benefit, particularly due to the atypical types of opportunity that come up to someone looking to work in the industry.

Potential growth areas

The panel were asked about potential growth areas which students may see increased opportunity in for the near future. Clare discussed areas within her work in sustainability for large consultancies and pinpointed biodiversity net-gain (improving biodiversity rather than simply offsetting losses) as an area that is being increasingly promoted within her field.

David added that there are increases in the use of new technologies, for example in the collection and analysis of data, which is also growing and is an area which students should look to understand and develop new skills in.

Want to learn more? You can find event recordings and resources from previous Themed Weeks on our website.

Sustainability Fortnight: Careers in Energy

By Joe S Sprecher, on 15 March 2019

Careers in Energy Panellists

The 18th February saw Sustainability Fortnight kick off with a panel event exploring careers in the energy sector. Our panellists were:

We heard from each panellist about their career path and the decisions that led them to their current roles – to hear their stories, you can read their biographies and view the event recording.

The speakers had plenty of advice for current students – and what you can do now to shape your own career.

Networking

Every single member of the panel cited the importance of networking, and several mentioned the connections they built by attending events such as this one. University career events bring professionals straight to your doorstep and make it easier than ever to engage with people in the industry. You can always reach out to them for a coffee or a phone call in the future, as many of them are happy to help and to give their advice. And don’t forget LinkedIn! Sara from XCO2, who also lectures at the University of Suffolk, reminded everyone to make sure your profile is up to date and filled out, and to use it to make connections with new contacts, as well as keeping up with old one. She estimated that 75% of her job roles came from ex-colleagues and references, so make sure you keep contact open with your professors and colleagues as you move between organisations. Charlotte, from the Renewables Consulting Group, added how useful your university’s alumni network can be. You can join UCL alumni network and find access to thousands of past students, many of whom are now offering mentorship opportunities.

Keep your goals in mind

“Follow your values”, recommended Ben, from Azuri Technologies. “Create your own mental checklist of what you want and stick to it when you’re job hunting. Keep a shortlist of the companies you’re interested in rather than jobs”. He went on to urge the importance of focusing matching your values to the organisations you’re applying to, and suggested signing up to their job feeds or newsletters, as well as attending their events.  Fiona suggested starting with research into how many types of companies there are in the energy sector, and to look at the Energy Institute and similar organisations – they often have student groups and networking events.

Sara pointed out that “Your first job might not be the one you want, but keep your ideas guiding you. Learn from each role.” She and Fiona both emphasised the importance of keeping an open mind, both about the type of company and the type of role you might be interested in. All of the panellists encouraged the benefits of “portfolio careers” and experimenting – particularly in a field as dynamic and changing as the energy sector.

Focus on your own development

“Soft skills are important”, Charlotte advised – practice your public speaking and writing skills.

Ben offered some pointers on the importance of feedback – “Feedback is golden. Ask your peers for feedback when working on group projects. Don’t take it to heart but try and develop from it.”

As always, don’t forget to tailor your cover letters! Jean-Paul, from Zenobe Energy, acknowledged that having to write them can of course be horrible – so don’t waste your efforts, and make sure they are tailored to the job and the skills.

Stay resilient

“Don’t be let down by rejection”, advised Jean-Paul. He also encouraged students to continue to go to events and to keep talking to people – you never know what will lead to an opportunity. Fiona echoed this: “Don’t take rejection personally, sometimes it’s just about timing.” Sometimes re-applying to an organisation later on might yield a very different outcome.

Want to learn more? You can find event recordings and resources from previous Themed Weeks on our website.

Sustainability Fortnight: Careers in Construction

By Joe S Sprecher, on 15 March 2019

Careers in Construction Panellists

The 26th of February saw our panel discussion for Sustainability Fortnight exploring careers in the Construction sector. Our panellists were:

  • Julia Barrett, Director of Sustainability at Wilmot Dixon
  • Ali Ashpitel, Assistant Sustainability Manager at Mace
  • Jon Foster, Associate Technical Specialist at Atkins
  • Anastasios Skitzis, Sustainability Manager: Construction at Lendlease
  • Nerissa Webb, Environment and Sustainability Manager at Balfour Beatty

We heard from each panellist about their career path and the decisions that led them to their current roles – to hear their stories, you can read their biographies and view the event recording.

The speakers shared their wealth of experience and had plenty of advice for current students about what you can do now to get your career on track.

Values

Julia spoke of the importance of knowing your values as this is crucial to researching what type of company you may decide to work for and their values. Julia then spoke of great work opportunities for young and old at Wilmot Dixon. Knowing your values and what you believe in is a good first step. Jon agreed with this and suggested that students spend time researching various types of companies to see which ones fit best. Make use of all possibilities and any connections that you may have. Anastasios added that it is important to be honest and care about what you are doing as this will come across in any interview.

Julia loves working within the community and likes the thought of leaving legacy. Businesses may compete, but companies work together as they believe in sustainability. This sector attracts people who want to do the right thing. Julia is an advocate of change and informed students that 95% of decisions are made automatically and this provides a big challenge when trying to implement sustainability.

Learn soft skills, show you have other skills as well

Julia spoke about being resilient and discussed the fact that students may have knock backs when going through the interview process. Growing soft skills such communication and adding experience through volunteering will help. Knowing yourself and your passion will make you stand out. Ali strongly recommended making use of your time outside studying by researching what types of companies that you may want to work for and networking at events and or social media such as LinkedIn.

Ali reported that her job as assistant sustainability manager for MACE has been very varied and interesting. Making sure that students have or work on good communication skills is key as client management is a transferable skill that many students may find themselves needing.

Nerissa spoke about her job being very rewarding and challenging. Working with clients the communication can be challenging but that it is very rewarding seeing the finished product.

Opportunities

Julia spoke about the field of construction are struggling to recruit at this time, suggested that students visit the website and do some research to see if Wilmot Dixon is of interest.

Julia also suggested Future Build. This is a big conference running for three days at Excel in London. There are free workshops, product management and sustainability. A good opportunity to do some research.

Jon spoke about the need to seize all opportunities presented, you never know what opportunities may present themselves.

The panel agreed that networking using social media such as LinkedIn has opened up many doors for students, many opportunities.

Want to learn more? You can find event recordings and resources from previous Themed Weeks on our website.

Where will you go this summer? Funding available for internships outside of the UK!

By Joe S Sprecher, on 11 March 2019

Thinking of undertaking an internship outside of the UK this summer? Applications have opened for UCL’s Global Internships Bursary, which provides financial support for students who have sourced their own summer internship in 2019. Grants of £500 are available and can be used to offset costs associated with working overseas such as flights, visas, vaccinations and living costs.

Applications close on 28th April (23.59). Eligibility applies. See more details and how to apply.

Magali standing on the Brooklyn Bridge

Magali Medinger, intern at the United Nations in New York

Last year Magali Medinger travelled to New York to complete an internship at an NGO. She told us more about her experience…

“My global internship was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Although it was nerve-wracking at first and sometimes challenging, if you want to learn more about the world, other people and most importantly yourself, I highly recommend taking on an opportunity like this. Breaking out of your comfort zone is key for growing as a person, so pack your bags and off you go.”

Why did you choose to undertake an international internship?

My main criteria for an international internship was to be able to work at the UN. I did not choose the country per se, as there are only two permanent Missions of Luxembourg to the UN in the world, and the spot in New York was open. Yet the fact that the internship was international, and in a new country, made the experience much more valuable. Hard work and responsibility at the workplace, combined with the immersion into a new culture and city also made it unforgettable.

What did you do doing your internship?

My tasks were many and varied, including general assistance to the diplomatic agents of the mission: assistance in report writing of meetings, tracking the activities of the different bodies of the UN, and daily general and specialised press screening. Moreover, I participated and assisted speechwriting in side events like “Children and Sustainable Development” and “Safer Roads and Inclusive Transportation”, and attended a number of high-level plenary meetings.

How did you immerse yourself in the culture of a new country?

Before going to New York, I had never been to the United States, nor had I ever really travelled to a new continent by myself. I think one of the most important things is planning. In order to immerse yourself in the culture of a country, you need to understand it first. Of course, it is also key that you leave space for spontaneous and unplanned moments, but you need to make sure you know enough about the country so as not to miss out on great opportunities.

What was the most useful part of your internship?

The conversations I had and the speeches I was able to listen to. Getting a grip of how the UN works and most importantly how the people inside this huge international organisation think and act is only possible by witnessing and being a part of it.  

What were some of the challenges you faced during your internship?

Adapting to a new environment, new colleagues and a new job. It was a lot to take in at the beginning, but the people I met there were very caring and helped me overcome most challenges. Being on your own is not easy, but you get the chance to learn a lot about the world and yourself.

Do you have any tips for other students thinking of doing an internship overseas?

Be open to everything and don’t let your fear of the unknown stop you. Observe and listen carefully, adapt to your role. Connect with people and experience the city and culture.

UCL Careers Global Internships

How to make the most of your summer

By Joe S Sprecher, on 28 February 2019

Summer Internships Scheme

Internships are key to building experience as a student or recent graduate. Employers are much more likely to hire someone with internships and work experience, rather than someone with a generic resume, lacking experience. Many internship opportunities help set the foundation for your career. The summer is a perfect opportunity to focus on what needs doing and to gain that all important experience.

Here we explain the benefits of undertaking an internship and what you need to consider when building on your own brand, networking and online presence, along with the softer skill benefits it offers.

Undertaking an internship

You can gain a lot from doing an internship. From being able to develop common workplace skills such as team work and commercial awareness, to demonstrating work experience on your CV and making new connections with employers. You will be able to explore a field of work and reflect on your strengths and weaknesses to build your confidence, and understand how theory and research relate to practice in a work context.

Last, and not least, you will have an opportunity to earn money. Find a summer internship in our UCL Careers Summer Internship Scheme where you will be paid London Living Wage. Opportunities are live now until 24th March.  You can also browse other opportunities on myUCLCareers.

Creating a portfolio 

For some roles, especially in media, fashion and design, it’s important to have a portfolio of work to show employers at interviews. This could include photos, drawings, examples of writing or anything that demonstrates your creativity. You could use the summer to build an online portfolio in the form of a website then use the link on your CV or in future applications.

Have you connected?

If you have made some connections over the year, you can re-visit them. Leverage your network to identify people who are in your desired field or industry and set up an informational interview to learn more about your potential career path. Begin speaking with potential mentors, such as UCL Alumni and build relationships with existing mentors. This will put you in a strong position after you graduate and it will remind important people that you are both interested and interesting!

Building your online brand

Linked to networking your personal network is how the outside world sees you, including prospective employers. Sites like LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook can be powerful tools to let employers know who you are and what you can do.

Learning about you

The first step in making an informed decision about anything relating to your career is understanding yourself. If you don’t really know what you want or what you are good at then this can be really hard.

Use the summer to get to know yourself a bit better. Travelling, making new friends or learning new skills through online courses can be a really good way to bring out your strengths and help you find your passion. Don’t forget, you can always come into UCL Careers for a short guidance appointment with one of our Careers Consultants.

Find yourself an opportunity through the UCL Careers Summer Internships Scheme, or through the myUCLCareers vacancies tab. Deadline for applications for roles in the UCL Careers Summer Internships Scheme is Sunday 24th March.

Life and Health Sciences Themed Careers Week | 4th March 2019

By Joe S Sprecher, on 26 February 2019

Life & Heath Sciences. 4th - 8th March 2019

We’re hosting a week of events to help you navigate the Life and Health Sciences Sector, and find out where you might fit within it.

What is the Life and Health Sciences Sector?

Well, it encompasses anything that aligns with Life and Health Sciences. That means it’s very wide-reaching – from drug development, patenting, marketing, and selling new therapies, to using interventions directly with patients, or communicating the latest developments in health science to policymakers and the public. That’s why we have four exciting panels lined up for you, where you can hear from people working in a variety of roles within the NHS, private companies, charities, and universities.

Our four evening forums are listed below:

Biology and Business – using scientific knowledge in a business context | 6-8pm Monday 4th March

Working for public and patient health outcomes | 6-8pm Tuesday 5th March

Careers in data science and lab research | 6-8pm Wednesday 6th March

Careers in science communication and science policy | 6-8pm Thursday 7th March

What will I learn from guest speakers?

Come along and listen to panellists describe their day-to-day work, their career journeys, and their top tips for anyone looking to enter the sector. Each panel event will also include a chance for you to ask questions at the end, both of the wider panel, and one-on-one with speakers. If you’re not sure how best to interact with alumni and guest speakers, we have a blog and a preparatory session to help you:

Making the most of Life and Health Sciences week – How to talk to industry professionals | 1-2pm Mon 4th March

How will I know if I’ll like a particular job?

Hearing first-hand accounts from people working in different roles can give you a clue as to whether you’ll like a job. But there’s no substitute for giving it a try yourself. And gaining experience helps you develop new skills, and tells future employers you’re clearly motivated.

That’s why we’ve organised opportunities for you to get a taster of two popular careers – Life Science Consulting and Medical Writing:

A Career in Medical Writing  – Experiential workshop by the European Medical Writing Association | 2-4pm Tuesday 5th March

Strategy Consulting in Healthcare and the Life Sciences – Experiential workshop by IQVIA | 2-5pm Wednesday 13th March

And if you’re ready to test something out on a longer term basis, why not search for Life and Health Sciences-related roles on our vacancies system? Below are just a few open for applications right now:

Medical Research Assistant – Owlstone Medical | Deadline – 16th March

Biotechnology or Biochemistry Associate Editor – CASTUS (India) | Deadline – 3rd March

Regulatory Sciences Associate – Southwood Research | Deadline 31st March

European Patent Examiners – European Patent Office (Germany/Netherlands) | Deadline 10th March

Medical Affairs Associate (one-year placement) – Bristol-Myers Squibb | Deadline 15th March

Sustainability in the Built Environment

By Chloe J Ackroyd, on 20 February 2019

Sara Godinho Senior Consultant at XCO2 and Lecturer at University of Suffolk

(*Spoiler alert: my career path has been a bumpy one, filled with trial and error. I don’t regret a single thing as every experience was valuable but hasn’t definitely been a straight line!)

I decided to study Architecture (MArch University of Lisbon) as I was told by a high school career advisor that it would be the best way to combine my creative and artistic side with my analytical thinking. It wasn’t really! While I liked studying Architecture it never really fulfilled me. During my studies, I had a module on Environmental Design that caught my attention. It sparked curiosity and interest in sustainability and environmental design that hasn’t fade.

After graduating and working for a couple of years in my home town Lisbon, I decided to move to London. I was always very oriented to international experiences, I did Erasmus in Norway, studied in Japan for a year, so it was only a matter of time before going abroad again. I was also increasingly frustrated as an architect only focusing on design and ignoring the environmental impact. I really wanted to make a difference and work on making buildings more environmentally friendly. London was an easy choice because after living in Japan, I understood how European I am. I also had a good English level and the UCL MSc Environmental Design and Engineering programme seemed really good. Coming to the UK was a breath of fresh air! The master was a lot of hard work but one of the best years of my life. I learned a lot, made great friends, and had a real “this is it” epiphany as this was the area I wanted to be working on!

I decided to stay after graduation but had a tough time getting a job, it took me about six months and a lot of rejection. I was trying to enter this new sector and was also a foreigner. I got interviews and having UK education helped but everybody kept seeing me as an architect with no UK work experience. I decided to change my strategy and got a job in an architecture practice. It was small and specialised in Passivhaus and was a great learning experience. I got to work on site delivering one of the most demanding energy certifications in the world on a project that has now received a CIBSE Building Performance Award! At the time, the practice had also some research funding so I was lucky to work on Post Occupancy Evaluation of Passivhaus buildings and study their actual performance. It also confirmed that I was less interested in the design and more on the performance so, a couple of years in, I decided to try to move into environmental consultancy. Having now UK work experience made change easier and I finally made it into consultancy work. Funnily for my current job at XCO2 my architectural background was valuable to them as we work with a lot of architects and, being trained in their language, is helpful.

At XCO2, my role is to lead on the energy and sustainability strategies for a project, being a masterplan, new built or refurbishment. My work focuses on reducing the environmental impact of the construction industry, improving buildings’ energy efficiency and performance while promoting occupant wellbeing. Buildings are such complex and beautiful constructions and we spend most of our time inside one so it’s really gratifying when my advice contributes to improving a building’s energy performance or occupant comfort.

Teaching came by serendipity into my life two years ago. Through connections, I saw that the University of Suffolk was looking for a Lecturer in Technology. I applied and got selected and immediately panicked! Would I be able to do it? Instead, I absolutely loved it from day one and teaching has been incredibly transformative for my career. Being able to digest all my knowledge and experience into teaching has made realise how passionate I am about sustainability in the built environment and how much it matters to me to pass on the concepts and the skills and influence future architects. I don’t see sustainability in the built environment as an add-on but as an absolutely fundamental aspect of design. I want my students (and everybody!) to know of the impact buildings have in the environment and in our wellbeing and give them tools to thinks and create better ways of designing.

Although balancing two jobs can be demanding with conflicting needs at times, they absolutely complement each other. My industry experience means I can bring very practical knowledge to my students and teaching requires me to translate difficult concepts into comprehensible principles. It keeps me very aware of the bigger picture and my focus on improving sustainability in the built environment.