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Getting started as a translator

Joe SSprecher5 June 2019

Katie Hill | Translator, French and Greek to English, at Translation Pod

Visit Katie’s LinkedIn profile

Everything you need to know about getting started as a translator

My name is Katie and I’ve been working as a freelance translator since 2011, after a brief stint in ad sales. I mainly specialise in marketing translation from French and Greek to English. I also offer subtitling and copywriting services to a variety of international clients, including Netflix, Sephora and Watsons (the Asian equivalent of Boots).

One of the things I love most about my job is the range of different projects I get to work on. I might be translating a brochure for a French architect one day and subtitling Greek corporate videos the next.

Some of my projects last for weeks (like subtitling TV series or translating children’s books), while others are short and have to be delivered on the same day (like press releases, websites and magazine articles).

Warning: this isn’t a standard nine-to-five job, and if you like having a routine, it might not be the career for you! But if you’re curious about different industries and want to use your language skills on a daily basis, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll never look back.

How do you get started?

The translation industry can be quite competitive, especially for popular language combinations like French or Spanish to English. It’s also tough to break into when you don’t have any experience. So, how do you get started?

Firstly, think about the type of translation you enjoy doing and research companies and organisations that might need your services. How specialised you are is entirely up to you.

There is an argument for focusing on a particular field, so you can develop your knowledge and become an expert. On the other hand, working in different areas helps to diversify your income and stops you becoming too niche. It depends on the volume of work you get, but also on what you find most enjoyable.

Once you’ve decided, I would recommend contacting someone who is already working in the field you’re interested in. This is something I did when I first went freelance and it was incredibly useful for getting practical advice. It was also helpful to get feedback on my translations from someone more experienced.

You can search for people online (through platforms like UCL Alumni Online Community, LinkedIn, and Twitter) and also sign up for mentorships like the IOL mentoring scheme.

How do you find jobs?

There are several ways to do this: you can set up profiles online (linguist directories through the Chartered Institute of Linguists and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting are a good place to start), sign up with translation agencies or contact potential clients directly.

Make sure you send your CV to the right person at the company or agency you want to work for (vendor managers, talent managers, content managers, editors, people who are responsible for communications and publications etc.).

There are also specialist websites like ProZ, Translators Base and Translators Café, which can be useful early in your career. The translation jobs advertised on these websites offer comparatively low rates, but it’s a great way to get started. You can also find a list of translation agencies to apply to.

What skills do you need?

  • Language skills (understanding the source text is vital, but also being able to conduct business in your second or third language – most of my communications with clients in France are in French, for example)
  • A flair for writing and confidence writing in different styles (persuasive, informative, authoritative)
  • Curiosity and good research skills
  • Time management (you have to be comfortable working to tight deadlines)
  • Technical skills (particularly for subtitling, but also for translation software)
  • The ability to be objective about your work
  • An understanding of different approaches to translation

Whichever specialism you choose, you’ll need to use CAT tools (Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast etc.) for commercial translation. Translation agencies often require them so they’re a useful investment.

You can download trial versions and sign up for free training online. You can also get hold of software at a discounted rate through Translator Group Buys on ProZ.

Do you need any specific qualifications?

My MA in Translation has been invaluable, not just in terms of developing my practical skills but also in shaping the way I think about translation and giving me the confidence to turn it into a profession. Aside from the knowledge and skills you gain, a postgraduate degree or a professional qualification like the Diploma in Translation (DipTrans) gives you credibility and makes it more likely that someone will hire you.

However, you can develop the required language and translation skills through living abroad, and you can always gain qualifications later in your career. If you have a BA in languages or you’ve mastered a second language by living in another country, you have the skills necessary to start work as a translator.

How do you stand out from the crowd?

Specialist knowledge and additional skills will definitely give you the edge, like copywriting, editing, search engine optimisation (SEO), desktop publishing (DTP), content management systems (CMS), film editing, voiceover, coding and software development, campaign management and social media expertise…

If you’ve picked up any relevant skills through jobs or volunteer work, make sure you highlight these on your CV and online profiles. It may even be worth investing in some professional training (I’ve taken courses in copywriting and SEO).

More unusual language pairs will also get you noticed (I get contacted most often about translations from Greek, for example).

Finally…

It took me a long time to establish myself as a translator – much longer than I thought! If you struggle to find work in the beginning or things don’t quite go to plan, don’t be disheartened. It’s all part of the process and every experience (good and bad!) will contribute to your future success as a translator.

Take control and secure your summer internship

Chloe JAckroyd24 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.

Working on resilience: What would the Victorians do?

Chloe JAckroyd15 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

Joe SSprecher15 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.

Top tips for a student wanting to pursue a career in Ecology

Chloe JAckroyd20 February 2019

Clare Pugh Senior Ecologist at Atkins

My top tips for a student wanting to pursue a career in ecology would be:

Gain as much experience as possible! Volunteering with local Wildlife Trusts and local interest groups (e.g. bat, badger, amphibian and reptile, bird etc) is a great, inexpensive way to develop skills and make useful contacts. If you are based in London and looking for some interesting opportunities perhaps you could try:

  • London Wildlife Trust – the Trust look after 41 nature reserves across the capital and there are lots of different ways to get involved, including practical conservation, environmental education, citizen science surveys, ‘venture volunteering’ with the Trust’s ongoing projects, volunteer warden etc.
  • London Bat Group – this is a voluntary group working throughout the Greater London area to protect and enhance London’s bat populations. They organise public bat walks and surveys, mainly during the summer months. You can become a member of the group (one year’s membership £7.50 (unwaged £4)) and benefit from a regular newsletter, member-only events, and bat group meetings and talks.
  • The Conservation Volunteers – TCV relies on an army of passionate volunteers to carry out vital conservation work all year round. They offer a range of activities suitable for all levels of experience and fitness. If you visit their website and enter your postcode you can find a TCV activity near you (for example, my nearest sites are Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park and Stave Hill Ecological Park).

Join the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) Student subscription fees for 2018/19 are only £22, and student members studying on a degree course accredited by CIEEM are eligible for free membership. Student member benefits include:

  • Discounted rates on an extensive professional development programme (including training courses and conferences);
  • Plan and record your Continuing Professional Development (CPD) through an online platform;
  • Local and regional networking opportunities through nearest Member Network;
  • A digital copy of CIEEM’s In Practice magazine every quarter;
  • Monthly updates on policy and the latest news from the sector directly to your inbox; and
  • Exclusive member discounts from carefully chosen suppliers of equipment and clothing.

 

 

Insights into Consultancy for Sustainability

Chloe JAckroyd20 February 2019

Tim Curtis profile

Tim Curtis Managing Director at Ricardo Energy & Environment

What does consultancy work involve?

Like many things in life, the answer is “it depends”!  …on the company you work for, the sector you work in and the specific clients you are engaged by.

From my experience, there are some common themes in the working life of an environmental consultant:

  • Resilience is key. People in consultancy businesses work under continuous pressure. There is the pressure to deliver excellent work for a customer to time and budget.  They also need to win the next piece of work and respond to the demands of working in and across teams.  So, consultancy work is tough, but it can be tremendously rewarding.
  • Communication skills are critical. Even at the most junior level, you will be in a project team, likely to be talking to clients and will get exposure to senior management, so the ability to articulate what you are doing in an engaging and compelling way is key.
  • Contribution to the Team is paramount – that might be a small project team, a business area or the company as a whole. Work is very fluid in consultancies, and people are expected to get involved when there is a need and where they can add something.
  • Variety is energising – if you have an enquiring mind and like doing new things regularly, then consultancy can be really exciting. Projects tend to be from a couple of weeks to 6 months so you will be moving swiftly from one project to another.  And, you will often need to juggle multiple projects.
  • Environment as a topic is inspiring. People love working for an environmental consultancy because they know they are making a difference.  A couple of examples:
    • We recently completed a knowledge transfer energy project in Bangladesh. As a result, the power sector leaders and experts will be able to maximise access to electricity for the 165 million people in Bangladesh.
    • We looked at how to improve the management of surface water run-off treatment options for Southampton Airport (including a lot of chemicals used to de-ice planes). As a result, we have protected aquatic wildlife by preventing chemicals going into the local river.

What sectors does your company provide consultancy for? Can you give some examples of the issues and projects that a sustainability consultancy tackles?

At Ricardo, we work across most of the environmental areas: climate change, energy, waste, scarce resources, water, air quality, sustainable transport, agriculture, biodiversity, environmental impact, chemicals.

Our clients are many and various – national and local governments, major corporations and heavy industry, transportation providers, infrastructure and utility companies, international agencies and funders (eg the World Bank). But also smaller companies and not-for-profits.

The work of environmental consultancies is best illustrated by some examples of our projects:

  1. Combining smart grids and electric vehicles in Brighton, UK
    This project entailed creation of a charge-point roll-out strategy for EV charging infrastructure in Brighton.  A critical element was use of smart grid technology to unlock spare capacity for increased numbers of electric vehicles (automated transfer of electricity to areas of high demand).  Through this we were able to maximise the power available from existing infrastructure, hence avoiding costly network reinforcement or substation replacement.
  1. Supporting a State Government in Australia to assess the implications of transitioning to a Circular Economy (CE)
    This project looked at the implications of transition to a Circular Economy (designing waste out of the economy) across eight key sectors, identifying global trends and potential local action. This brought together key experts from the fields of waste, water, sustainable transport, energy efficiency, resource use and advanced manufacturing. The project provided global insight into actions and best practice activities from across the key sectors, identifying potential implications, barriers and enablers of a circular economy.
  1. Integrated environment programme for Liaoning Environmental Protection Board (China)
    The aim of this project was to tackle the interrelated issues of pollution abatement, economic modernisation and social redeployment within Liaoning Province.  Ricardo led the Air Quality Management component of the project that:
  • Established comprehensive emission inventories at city and provincial level
  • Delivered training and capacity strengthening
  • Developed effective ambient and source (of pollution) measurement programmes, dispersion modelling and GIS based environmental information systems
  • Developed economic models for the cost-benefit analysis and design of optimal emission control and mitigation strategies

What range of skills  and what academic subjects does your company look for when hiring for consultancy roles?

The kinds of skills we need are quite varied:

Environmental policy analysis Economic evaluation
Modelling /monitoring (eg air and water) Technology development (eg software products and tools)
Evaluation of technology performance Data management (eg inventories)
Engineering (mechanical / electrical / chemical) Digital resilience for critical infrastructure
Pollution incident management Digital services (IT development)
Life Cycle Assessment Finance
Health Impact Assessment Marketing

So, we have some very specialist and deep technical skill requirements, some more broad research and investigation skills, + more generic areas like economics, IT, finance and marketing.

Therefore, the range of academic subjects we recruit from is wide, and role dependent.  Most people we take on will be at Masters level, and many will have a scientific or engineering background, but not all.

What are the challenges for the environmental sector in future, and what impact will they have on consultancy work?

That is a huge question!  I am going to cheat by providing a link to an excellent slideshow that you can look at, recently produced by the World Resources Institute.

The key issues identified in the slideshow can be summarised as:

  • Tumultuous times: will geopolitics limit climate action?
  • Bracing for impacts: will climate adaptation rise up the agenda?
  • Sustainable apparel: will fast fashion slow down?
  • Deforestation: will commodity supply chains rise to the challenge?
  • Project of the century: will Belt & Road advance green growth?
  • Micro-mobility: a fad or the future?
  • US Climate action: turning the tide on Trump?

So, these are major global themes……what might they mean for international environmental consultancy opportunities:

  • Global emissions are rising……1.5 degrees temperature rise is not far away…..might be more about adapting to than mitigating climate change in the future?
  • Focus on cities/states as clients (and key actors)……when historically it may have been national governments.
  • Need for more attention on water management (eg enormous water footprint of fashion industry – 2,700 litres for one shirt).
  • China’s “Belt and Road” initiative is huge – opportunities for consultancy (and risks to environment)?
  • Biodiversity expertise needed in response to deforestation.
  • Changes to urban mobility strategies and plans in response to behaviour change.
  • Need for “blended” solutions of public and private finance across all areas.

This agenda appears to provide an enormous range of potential opportunities…….and it does.  However, there is a but………as a consultant, you can only do the work that clients want to engage you for, and global risks can take time to feed into consultancy projects.

In environmental consultancy, the topics are fascinating, challenging, enlightening and rewarding, but you need someone who has a budget to engage you to do the work.  So “thought leadership” in helping the wider world to appreciate the issues and the opportunities is key to open the conversations with potential clients. The ideal approach is to seed ideas, get their interest and then offer a solution……that is the art of being a great consultant.

(more…)

Career Profile | Independent Sexual Violence Advocate

Joe SSprecher7 February 2019

A former UCL student reflects on how her role as a sabbatical officer for Students’ Union UCL led her to work in the charity sector.

Annie Tidbury was Women’s office for Students’ Union UCL, an experience she describes as “transformative”. Each Spring UCL students elect seven full-time, paid sabbatical officers. Four of the seven act as charity trustees and all gain a great wealth of experience working for a registered charity. The deadline for this year’s nominations is 22nd February at noon. Interested? Find out more on their website and think about nominating yourself or a fellow student!

Annie, what is your current role?

For the past year I’ve been working as an Independent Sexual Violence Advocate – that means that I support and advocate for survivors of sexual violence who are going through the criminal justice system.

What made you decide this was for you?

My time as Women’s Officer is what made me want to work in the women’s movement. Back in 2014, I organised some training for myself and others at the Students’ Union and that training was delivered by the rape crisis centre I currently work for. It was honestly something as small as this that introduced me to the job that I do today.

What experiences helped you along the way?

Being Women’s Officer was really transformative for me and it is undoubtedly the main reason I was accepted onto a charity sector grad scheme after leaving UCL. Let’s be honest; there aren’t very many graduate jobs where you go straight in at the top of an organisation and get to make really big decisions about how it runs. As Women’s Officer I had the time, platform and resources to run university-wide campaigns, change policies and procedures, advocate to management and create the kind of spaces that I wanted to see within the union. All of those things were important in and of themselves, and they also gave me knowledge and skills that have been invaluable ever since; in my role as a project manager at a small charity, as head of membership and communications at a slightly larger learning disability organisation, and now in my role at a rape crisis centre.

I feel that it’s important to say that whilst being a sabbatical officer will almost definitely be useful for whatever you want to do next, your future career should absolutely not be the only reason you stand for election. If you don’t particularly care about the Students’ Union, or the position you’re running for, then you will most likely have a frustrating year and do a bad job. Trust me, it’s happened. But if you do care and if you think that students having collective power is important, then do it and you will reap the rewards throughout your sabbatical year and beyond.

This article was written as part of Charities and NGOs Themed Week.

Find out more about upcoming Themed Weeks on our website! 

Top 10 insights from Charities & NGOs: Behind the scenes – influencing & policy

Joe SSprecher5 February 2019

As part of UCL’s Charities & NGOs Themed Week we held a panel session titled “Behind the Scenes – Influencing & Policy”.

We were joined by Jens Van den Brande, Economist at the National Foundation for Educational Research, Shilpa Ross, Senior Researcher at The King’s Fund, Annabell Rebello, Job Coach and Skills Trainer at Mencap and Beth Blackmore, Operations Executive at Koreo working with Charityworks.

Here are some key insights from the event, combined with some tips from UCL Careers Consultants.

  1. Don’t be too narrow minded, learn from different experiences

A common theme was not to be too focused on one specific ‘dream role’. Gaining experience within the sector can provide valuable experience and insight that could allow you to cross over to another organisation or role. In entry level positions or smaller organisations, you are often asked to get involved with numerous projects, assisting a variety of teams, which enables you to develop a variety of valuable skills. This will help you develop expertise and give you a flavour of the different types of roles found within charities and NGOs which can help you find that ‘dream role’.

  1. Get experience that will give you a head start

All panellists highlighted the importance of gaining work experience early in your job search. Work shadowing, internships, volunteering in a charity or even joining certain university societies were all stated as excellent opportunities to gain valuable experience for your CV and may even lead to directly hearing about a paid opportunity within an organisation.

  1. You can contribute!

Don’t underestimate what you can contribute now; panellists highlighted that across the sector young people are underrepresented on charity boards of trustees. Investigate becoming a charity trustee – look up “Young Charity Trustees” on Facebook or LinkedIn for inspiration. Check out the Charity Digital Code – charities need digital skills at all levels. As one panellist said – you are the digital natives!

  1. Find a cause you’re passionate about

Panellists felt finding a cause that you feel passionate about can be crucial in succeeding with your job search within the charity sector. Employers are often looking for driven staff who want to make a real difference in the area they work. Taking the time to do some research in your areas of interest can lead to finding an organisation with goals that align with your passion and will result in you having the opportunity to work with like-minded people. Guidestar is a great resource for finding UK charities working in a particular field.

  1. Understand the sector you want to work in

Looking into specific roles that interest you within the sector can often give you the edge when applying for roles. Do some research into the organisation you want to work for. Get an idea of who their competitors are and find out how certain organisations are unique. Why is it that you want to work for them specifically? Through doing your homework on an organisation before applying you gain an understanding of the roles they have on offer as well as which positions would suit you best.

  1. Variety is the spice of life!

Many of the panellists stated that the variety within their role was one of the things they enjoyed the most. Interacting with a variety of stakeholders, hearing their stories and working towards making a difference in the lives of others was something that made their work worthwhile.

  1. Find your unique selling points (USPs)

Identifying your USPs was something many of the panellists mentioned as being particularly important and would enable you to stand out from the crowd during an application process. Having these USPs will set you apart from other candidates and focus on the attributes you have that employers can benefit from. Examples of USPs can be some particular work experience, a postgraduate qualification or particular skills you have acquired.

  1. Access support from colleagues and networks

One of the key benefits of working within the charity sector according to all panellists was the collaborative, friendly and driven nature of the workforce within the sector. Making the most of colleagues, asking them questions and tapping into their skills and knowledge can be invaluable when gaining knowledge and understanding best practice. Seek out a mentor – someone in the sector prepared to take an interest in your growth and development, who you can share your goals and fears with openly, who will be a source of wisdom and encouragement. Try the UCL Alumni mentoring database or ask around in organisations you have contact with.

  1. Funding limitations leads to lack of job security within sector

One of the major challenges mentioned facing the charity sector is a lack of funding and financial security. This can lead to a lack of resources, lower salaries, limited staff benefits and an uncertainty surrounding job security when compared with corporate organisations. Although this seemed to be a challenge across the sector, one of the panellist had a very positive way of looking at this, stating that a lack of job security leads to a varied career and therefore gaining a wealth of skills and experience.

  1. Basic competencies are key to most positions

Panellists highlighted the importance of needing to meet key competencies when applying for roles. Organisations will often outline key qualities they’re looking for in candidates, which will equip them with the attributes needed to carry out the advertised role. It is important to show an understanding of these competencies and have strong examples of times when you have demonstrated these skills. Quite often these competencies are based on softer skills such as communication, problem solving and team work.

In summary:

An organisation’s workforce will often come from a range of different backgrounds, this is why focusing on your passion for the cause, drawing from your USPs and previous experiences, along with being able to demonstrate key competencies will put you in good stead to succeed in the application process.

International Development Themed Week | 4th – 8th February 2019

Joe SSprecher1 February 2019

We have an exciting week of events coming up to help you better understand this sector and possible routes in – full of opportunities to hear from professionals working in this field about their roles and organisations.

What is International Development?

The sector is about supporting people from economically disadvantaged places around the globe to address a range of issues that includes poverty, human rights violations, education and healthcare. Many organisations not only respond to emergencies but work with developing countries to implement long-term and sustainable solutions.

Introduction to International Development will give you the information you need to get started thinking about a career in this sector.

This lunchtime session will give an overview of the areas of work, the types of organisations and different ways to get into the sector.

How do I get into the sector?

Like any sector, there are many different routes in but usually you will need an undergraduate degree for entry-level or volunteer positions. However, many organisations also offer graduate schemes and internships.

Pathways into International Development will give you a chance to hear from professionals in the sector about the paths they took, other possible routes and what is offered by the organisation they work for. You might even learn things that you can include in your future cover letters!

What is it like working in the sector?

So, you’ve done your research about the International Development sector, you have identified some organisations and roles that sound interesting on paper – but what is it really like working in this sector on a day to day basis?

Alumni Perspectives in International Development, will give you a chance to hear from professionals – all of whom started their journey at UCL.

Spotlight on Global Health

This year we have a spotlight event on the area of Global Health.

Careers in Global Health is our final event, aiming to showcase both clinical and non-clinical roles. You will get a chance to hear from professional in this area, the sort of projects you could get involved in and how to progress while still at UCL.

What else is happening during the week?

Keep an eye out on the UCL Careers Twitter page for current jobs and opportunities related to this sector.

I’m a bit nervous about talking with guest speakers

Not to worry, many people find this daunting, so why not attend the upcoming Careers Essentials workshop on Career Essentials: Making the most of Panels and Alumni events. We have even written a blog on this exact topic.

How to get the most from a panel or networking event

Joe SSprecher28 January 2019

Going to a panel or alumni event will give you the opportunity to meet and hear from a range of speakers. They will be able to provide insight into their industries, and stories from their own careers that might prove to be invaluable when starting your own career.

To get the most out of attending a panel or alumni event, we’ve got a few tips to help you before, during and after the event.

Before

Research the speakers and their organisations. There’s plenty of easy ways to find out about companies and their opportunities, as well as the speakers themselves.

Start with LinkedIn to find out about the speakers and the organisations. On LinkedIn, there’s also a fantastic feature attached to organisations that shows you which alumni from UCL work there. It should prove useful to see which UCL graduates work for the organisation, as well as their roles. You might also be surprised to see the wide range of degree backgrounds that our graduates have within a single organisation!

There’s also Glassdoor, a helpful resource for finding reviews as well as other information such as salaries and even past interview questions.

Lastly, do a search on Google and look through the news to see what has recently been written about the companies in relevant news feeds.

If you’ll be attending an alumni networking event, consider what you wear to event to help you make a great first impression.

During

Take notes during a panel event, whether it’s simply to keep a list of websites or events that speakers recommend, or advice that you’ve found insightful.  This may also assist with asking questions, as you might want to follow up with questions on something that was said during the event.

At an alumni event, try to engage in a conversation with an alum. A simple tip is to ask open questions to begin with such as “How did you start working for …”, as this cannot be answered with a short yes or no, and that will help your conversation start flowing quickly.

For any type of event where you can network, always try to connect with people that you are interested in speaking with. Sometimes the connection will be the start of a longer conversation and potentially lead to future opportunities.

After

Within the first couple of days after the event, reach out to your new connections via LinkedIn or email. If they’re a working professional, remember that their time may be limited so be considerate when asking for advice.

What are your next steps? Is there a new jobs board to sign up to, or a networking event worth signing up for? Aim to have two or three simple actions that you plan on following up and set a simple deadline for each action.

As great as a panel or networking event is, the true value often comes once you capitalise on what you have learnt through the event.

Want to attend an exciting panel or networking event? The UCL Careers Themed Weeks give you the chance to meet professionals in a range of exciting sectors such as Charities & NGOs and International Development.

By Jai Shah – Careers Consultant