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Archive for the 'Alumni Profiles' Category

Interview with an Alum: Suban Abdulle

Joe O'Brien26 March 2020

Interview with Suban Abdulle, UCL alum and entrepreneur. Written by Joe O’Brien, Marketing Communications Assistant at UCL Careers.

Hi Suban, tell us about where you are in your career and how you got there?

I’m the Founder and CEO of Silk Theory – a premium bedding Company, specialising in Silk Pillowcases! I actually started Silk Theory around 2 weeks after my last exam. This decision was considerably influenced by my role as the Managing Editor and Writer of UCL FinTech Business Review, where we interviewed, analysed and dissected some of FinTech’s most exciting startups.

How were UCL Careers able to support you as a student? 

A few weeks before my last exam, I booked a meeting with an advisor from UCL Innovation and Enterprise. This was really helpful, and I was able to sit down with an experienced business advisor and go through my business plan and strategy in depth! They also hold monthly networking sessions and competitions, which really helped me hone in on my pitching skills.

UCL Careers services, events, and resources are open to recent graduates like yourself for up to 2 years after graduation, how do you foresee yourself utilising UCL Careers services to help you reach your career goals?

I think it’s really useful to network as much as you can and to talk about your business to as many people as you can. I’ve attended a few of the events hosted by UCL Innovation and Enterprise and have met some really wonderful people who have been able to help me on my journey with Silk Theory!

What other services did you make use of during your time at UCL?

Whilst in my second year, I booked an appointment with the careers service to discuss my intended IB route post university. It was a great was to explore different avenues and options with someone experienced in career progression. This definitely helped get the ball rolling in terms of thinking outside the box!

Can you tell us what your favourite and/or most challenging aspects of being an entrepreneur are?

My favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur is being able to follow my passion and meet a lot of interesting and exciting people along the way. Also, meeting customers and hearing their love and passion for your product is really amazing.

A challenging aspect would be that it comes with a lot of ups and downs. Since this is my first venture, it’s pretty much been trial and error till now and I’ve learnt a great deal!

What career advice would you give to current UCL students ​or recent graduates reading this? ​

An advice that I would give is to set goals and be persistent in achieving them. Persistence is something which has been crucial in my growth. Also, if you’re looking to get into business, speak to as many people as you can about your idea. Utilise your network, and if you don’t have any … make some! We’re so lucky to be living in the era of LinkedIn and Instagram.

Where was your favourite place to go on campus when you studied here at UCL?

My favourite place on campus was definitely the main quad. After hours of revision, I’d often meet up with friends for a quick break and recharge for the next revision session. The open greenery and benches makes it the perfect spot to relax and socialise.

Where can readers find out more about Silk Theory?

The best place to find out more about Silk Theory is through our website www.silk-theory.com and our Instagram account @silktheoryuk! We can also be found on twitter at twitter.com/silktheory!

Sustainability Fortnight: Career Stories with Sustainable UCL

Joe O'Brien24 February 2020

As part of UCL Careers Sustainability Fortnight our colleagues at Sustainable UCL are sharing their career stories, motivations and top tips. Inspired? Check out our full events programme and learn more about careers in sustainability

Written by Katie Robinson, Sustainability Engagement Intern at Sustainable UCL.

What does your role consist of?

Having worked with the Sustainable UCL team for just five months, I have learnt an incredible amount in this short period of time. Not just about sustainability within UCL but about the larger Climate Crisis and the incredible actions students, staff, academics, scientists (the list goes on), are driving in a commitment to protecting our planet.

In broad terms, my role consists of developing sustainability engagement programmes at UCL, raising awareness around sustainability and encouraging, promoting, and facilitating actions among UCL staff and students.

A large part of my role is coordinating with our Green Champions across the many departments, to embed sustainability as common practice. We have developed the Green Impact toolkit to reflect UCL’s Sustainability Strategy 2019-2024. Since the launch of this Strategy, we have seen an encouraging increase in engagement and active participation. I work to bring these various activities and conversations into a cohesive whole, as much as possible, to showcase the incredible work individuals and teams are doing.

What got you interested in the environment?

It was during my Masters in Cultural Heritage Studies at UCL that I realised I cared about protecting the planet above all else. Heritage is a heterogeneous term so I turned my attention to human-nature relationships and how this has transformed over time, to where we are today.

This drive stems from the time I became vegetarian, instigated by a concern for animal welfare. As I moved towards veganism, I inevitably researched my new diet and it naturally fed into all of my other habits: shopping, consumption, hobbies, holidays, etc. An initial compassion for other species, evolved into a care for the environment and social justice, which are intrinsically tied in the climate crisis. My role with Sustainable UCL lets me share this passion and enthusiasm for positive change with others.

What tips would you give to someone interested in this field?

Do not worry if you have realised, after choosing/studying your degree that it no longer matches with your concern for sustainability. Every industry and sector must respond to the climate crisis now so whatever your field of study, they will need your academic expertise and commitment to sustainability to help them change. I have an undergraduate degree in History of Art and a postgraduate degree in Cultural Heritage Studies. I previously worked in hospitality for eight years. These previous pursuits do not seem particularly well suited to a career in this field but it is all about using the experience you do have to find the role that suits your strengths.

I would highly recommend reading plenty and often. News changes and research is outdated and updated regularly in the climate crisis, so read broadly. This can be commute reading such as articles on the tube. If you find an area you are particularly interested in, research with a little more focus on this and you will be well versed to talk about it in your next role.

Thank you to Katie and Sustainable UCL for sharing their career stories. Keep an eye out for our next edition coming soon. For remaining Sustainability Fortnight events, see here.

UCL alum shares experience of volunteering as Chairman of London Gay Men’s Chorus

Joe O'Brien20 January 2020

Written by Anthony Hull, MSc Construction and Enterprise Management 2011 & Project Manager at Network Rail

Background to the London Gay Men’s Chorus

The London Gay Men’s Chorus started in 1991 when 9 guys decided to sing Christmas carols at Angel Station to raise funds for the Terence Higgins Trust.  It has since grown to become a registered charity with over 300 members.  Other than performing and entertaining, educating and inspiring through song, its mission includes:

  • To provide a safe, supportive community for gay men to socialise, exchange ideas and have fun; and
  • To work with schoolchildren, teachers and parents to eradicate homophobic bullying.

When did you join the LGMC and why?

I joined the LGMC in January 2014. I had been in the choir at school and the work the group were doing and the events they took part in really struck a chord with me and something I felt I would love to be a part of. The rest is history.

Why did you decide to take on a volunteer role within the Chorus?

I felt that I had something to offer the group with my background in project management, as I could see that the work of the chorus consisted of many background parts that may not be immediately obvious. I have never been one to sit on the side lines and say what I think should be done – I want to get in there and play my part.  I particularly wanted to offer some support and give back to an organisation that was providing me and continues to give me such personal joy and contentment. I had no intention or wish to be the chair when I joined the committee, but as my time in various trustee roles lengthened, I gained the confidence to step up and take forward some of the ideas that had been forming in my mind.

As chairman, what are your main responsibilities?

I am both the lead for the internal management of the chorus as well as lead external representative with other organisations and have a varied mix of responsibilities both legal, strategic and operational. Firstly, I lead the Board of Trustees, which on a practical level involves the chairing of meetings and developing of the agenda each month as well as agreeing the roles and responsibilities of those on the board. I also have lead accountability for ensuring that the Chorus is complying with its legal obligations as a charitable company. The second part is strategic in terms of ensuring the chorus has a strategy and action plan in place to meet its objectives across the year and is always looking two to three years ahead, as these are the kind of timescales we need to work to in terms of planning for the shows, performances and tours we undertake. The third element is very practical day to day operations. Our trustee board currently also acts as the management committee, so I oversee a range of issues which require attention. These can be anything from ensuring we have refreshment provision at rehearsals to ensuring we have made our Gift Aid claims to ensure we have a good cash flow.

How have you found balancing your ‘day job’ with your Chairman responsibilities?

This is a huge challenge. My day job is a project manager for a range of construction schemes ranging in value of between £5m to c.£2bn. As with all projects, there are peaks and troughs of activity across a year and the biggest challenge is ensuring that I dedicate a portion of my time to my work as chair, whilst balancing with the needs of what I am paid to do. I don’t always get that right and too much focus in one area can cause a backlog in the other. A key lesson I have learnt is around ensuring I undertake activities in little and often bouts of work, prioritising what needs to be done, working gradually on some of the bigger ambitions our chorus has and also delegating to those who can dedicate time to a given task.

What would you say have been the top three benefits you’ve been able to action on behalf of the charity during your chairmanship?

I would say that the top three issues I have been able to bring in my time since being elected have been a much improved and more professional approach to our management of performances and events, right from the first contact to close out, payment and feedback at the end. I am working to ensure that we plan our years ahead in a much more systematic way in order to ensure that the chorus has a wide range of opportunities for members, whilst balancing the resources and finances available. The third area of activity is to get a greater focus on our financial sustainability. We have many ambitions about how we would like to do new projects, but we need to ensure we have a much more consistent and strengthened position – no different to any other charity no doubt!

Would you recommend volunteering / charitable work to others and if so, why?

Yes, I definitely would. I say this because volunteering and doing charitable work offers a way of enacting change and making an impact in an area which is of personal importance to you. It also allows you to bring skills from your day job and vice versa and brings a lot of satisfaction.

Where can people find out more about the LGMC / get involved in the charity?

You can visit our website at www.lgmc.org.uk for more information. Alongside joining and taking part as a singing member, you can also support our work as a non-singing member. Later in 2020, we shall be appointing external people to our board of trustees to bring a different perspective when making decisions and also skills that we may not have internally at present. Do keep an eye on our website for information about that or contact me on chair@lgmc.org.uk.

Insights Into: Working In Travel Journalism

skye.aitken27 November 2019

Written by guest writers, Sophie Dening and Katie Bowman.

A common thing people write under ‘hobbies and interest’ on a CV is ‘travel’. But have you ever thought about turning this interest into a career? Sally Brown, UCL Careers Consultant, talked to two UCL alumni who have done just that. 

Image of a woman taking a photo of some ruins in the sunshine

Sophie Dening, Editor and journalist

UCL graduate: BA French Language and Literature (1997)

Sophie is a self-employed editor and journalist – for publications such as Condé Nast Britain, Gourmet Traveller, the Evening Standard and the Daily Telegraph. She is also the acting production editor at Lonely Planet magazine.

How did you get your job?

I applied for my job as production editor at Lonely Planet magazine via a jobs site. I had been on extended maternity leave following a long period as a freelance food and travel writer. It took me six months of applying for jobs before I got one, and I had to accept a drop in my salary. 

What’s a typical day like?

I check emails and make sure I am up to date with where we’re at with all the pages of the magazine, as well as future issues and side projects, then divide my time between writing, editing and working in InDesign. I also manage another subeditor and a freelancer, and work on the flatplan and lead a weekly editorial meeting.

What do you enjoy about your role?

I enjoy working with words, I enjoy carrying out varied high-level administrative tasks, I appreciate working with a team and learning from them, and I enjoy regular hours and low stress.

What are the challenges?

Getting everything done in time, always – deadlines. Sheer volume of work.

How relevant is your degree to your current job?

Currently not particularly, more tangentially, in terms of working with texts. But as a freelancer I have worked as a translator for hotel brands, and worked extensively in Paris and France as a food and travel writer, where I have used my French language skills.

How has your role developed and what are your ambitions? My role here at Lonely Planet has been interesting as I have acted as a sort of workflow consultant as well as carrying out the usual tasks. It is a year-long contract covering someone else’s role. My ambition at present is to continue working for LP when I finish my contract, as a writer or project editor, and to find other regular freelance work that will fit in with my family commitments.

Any words of advice for someone wanting to get into this sector?

Try to get experience any which way you can: work on a student paper; write a blog; enter writing competitions, in order to populate your CV. And do try to enter a sector that will hold your interest for years to come; once you are established as any sort of specialist, it can be hard to move around within publishing. Advice for someone wanting specifically to become a production editor or chief sub in travel publishing? Get any subbing experience as you can and apply for junior subbing roles. You need to be really good at English, and be able to spot a spelling mistake – aka a typo, in the trade – at 20 paces. Read up on style (I recommend Butcher’s Copy-editing, Cambridge University Press). Travel writers and editors tend to be fairly well-travelled and may start to specialise (in terms of destinations) right from the start of their careers – rather than entering travel publishing in order to travel. You are bound to experience rejection in the publishing industry (don’t lose confidence – there are jobs out there!), and salaries have not gone up much recently. It can be tough being a freelancer, or advancing in a competitive sector. But it is an interesting industry, always changing, and full of great people and varied work.

Image of a woman walking through a field holding a camera

Katie Bowman, Features Editor, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine

UCL graduate: English (1999)

Katie has worked in her current role for nearly 17 years, she has also worked as a sub-editor for Condé Nast International and Marie Claire Australia.

So, what does a features editor for a travel magazine do?

The Sunday Times Travel magazine is different from newspapers – it is on sale in stores competing with magazines such as Vogue. It is mainstream, glossier and I suppose more ‘glamorous’ than a newspaper travel section. My role is varied, from looking at how to make the front cover enticing to deciding what goes into the rest of the 164 pages of the magazine. The features have to be both inspirational and also realistic to sell well – ensuring well-timed ‘big hitters’ such as New York or Paris. Locations such as these can be revisited year after year, compared to a newspaper who might focus on recent events across the world such as bombings or natural disasters.

What is your role like on an average day?

My actual day to day activities involve commissioning freelancers, going through ideas pitched by more junior members of staff and perhaps travelling myself.

With regards to travelling, if this is a major focus for you then you might consider working as a freelance writer/journalist instead. The main advantages are that you have control over your schedule, where you go and can work around your other commitments such as family. Working on a magazine ‘in-house’ often means you are getting involved with the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the publication rather than the actual travelling. As the dynamic of teams vary from magazine to magazine, then it is essential that you find this out before applying – as you might find an in-house role will only allow you to travel sporadically if at all. 

What do you enjoy about your role?

The change – I have been in this role for nearly 17 years, but the novelty still hasn’t worn off! This is because the world never stops feeling new – even a location that we have featured many times can change – such as a new restaurant or a new local event. Travelling is all I ever wanted to do – in fact, I would rather stay in travel (such as being a flight attendant) than journalism (such as working on a financial publication). I love planning trips, not just going on them! 

What are the challenges?

The pay really – you won’t make much money if you want to work in this industry! Just doing freelancing alone also probably won’t allow you to pay your rent/mortgage. Most freelancers do other roles – such as copy writing or editing – alongside their freelance work.

 How relevant was your degree to your current role?

My English degree is not directly relevant to my current role, but it was helpful in the past for me to secure internships. I was competing against people who were studying master’s degrees in journalism, so having the name ‘UCL’ was really helpful in getting opportunities.

Do you have any tips for current students wanting to get into this industry?

Do an internship with a well-known publication whilst you are living in cheaper student accommodation. We have interns who are forced to either spend a lot of money travelling into London or sleeping on friend’s floors in order to do the internship.

How would I find out about internship opportunities?

Our two-week programmes are always oversubscribed, but follow us on social media as we may have someone drop out – so we might ask for a replacement at short notice. Most internships are unadvertised, so choose a few publications and write a perky and engaging cover letter – remembering that you are not applying to a big corporate company, so don’t make it cold and impersonal: ensure you write to a named person rather than ‘Dear Sir or Madam’. In the letter, state clearly your availability – if you can only offer a couple of afternoons a week due to your course timetable that is fine.

What might make an application for an internship stand-out?

A clear level of maturity – so make sure your CV looks professional and highlights that skills that would make you useful in the workplace such as computer skills, languages and other office skills. Make the life of the person reading your application as easy as possible. If you already have a blog / website then write this on your application – it is useful for me to see your potential.

But the other important thing is to make the most out of the experience once you are there. Don’t have too high expectations of the internships – you won’t be writing big cover stories! You also might not always be doing the most exciting tasks – but grit your teeth and get on with it. Also, leaving early without a valid reason can give a really bad impression. Be proactive during the experience, approaching people with your ideas – ask them ‘What can I pitch?” or “Can I offer some ideas?”.

What would you look for when commissioning a freelancer?

Similar to other editors, I tend to work with freelancers I have worked with before – as I know I can trust that they will deliver. However, this does not mean I am not open to working with new people. Their initial pitch might be something I could use in a smaller story and I would be looking for something that is tailored to this magazine – which the freelancer has been clear about where it would ‘sit’. It is the responsibility of the freelancer to curate and build the stories – not to send the same pitch to 20 different magazines.

Any other tips for potential freelancers?

Be aware that you will receive very little feedback. But give the initial pitch the time it deserves and it will pay off in repeat commissions. After you have done an internship with a magazine, then offer to write for free ‘on spec’ pieces – this could be as simple as writing a piece about your recent holiday destination. You will then accumulate by-lines and build up a professional portfolio – you only need 2 or 3 well-known publication names – then pitch properly using your portfolio. It is not always enough just to have published in a university magazine – as they are not always well-edited. Having a well-known publication in your portfolio is invaluable.

UCL Careers Themed Weeks 2019: Museums, Arts & Cultural Heritage Interview

skye.aitken14 November 2019

Ian Richardson – Senior Treasure Registrar, Department of Learning and National Partnerships, British Museum

MA in Cultural Heritage Studies from the Institute of Archaeology (UCL) in 2007

Photo of interview, male wearing a suit in front of a bookcase
What is your role and where you work?

I work as part of a project called the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which is run by the British Museum. Specifically, I manage a team of four Treasure Registrars and we carry out the administration for cases of ‘Treasure’ reported under the requirements of the Treasure Act 1996. Treasure items are objects which, when found, have no known owner and which are made of gold or silver and are more than 300 years old, hoards of coins except for base-metal coins hoards of fewer than 10 coins, and prehistoric base-metal hoards. In practice, the vast majority of this material is found by metal detector users.           

What challenges does your sector / organisation face at present?

One challenge that we face which is specific to our jobs is that continuous rise in the amount of material being reported and which we have to process. This seems down to the growing popularity of metal detecting as a hobby and also to the fact that reporting such finds has been made easier over time. This challenge is linked to something that is facing the entire museum sector, which is a lack of funding to support all of our activities. Many people are now expected to ‘do more with less’.

What is the range of roles that people can apply for in your organisation?

There are a wide range of roles available at the British Museum. Probably what first comes to find is ‘curatorship’ but in fact, roles directly involved with the collection only make up about 1/3 of the jobs at the British Museum. There are also opportunities in fundraising, facilities and maintenance, finance, human resources and education, for instance.

What skills/qualities do you feel are particularly important in the type of work you do?

In my role it is useful to have a good general knowledge of British History, current archaeological and museological principles, and of the types of artefacts that are typically found in Britain. However, the last topic is something that is picked up quite quickly ‘on the job’. More generally it is important to be organised, have good attention to detail and the ability to understand how one’s job impacts on wider activities within the museum and beyond. There is a lot of diplomacy required in this role, as it involves dealing with colleagues who one has to chase for progress, and also involves a lot of correspondence with members of the public whose expectations (in terms of timescales and potential financial rewards) have to be managed.

Sustainability Fortnight: Careers in Energy

UCL Careers15 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.


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.

Career Profile | Independent Sexual Violence Advocate

UCL Careers7 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! 

Insights from the ‘UCL Careers: Insights into Publishing’ event

UCL Careers4 January 2019

UCL Careers recently hosted a panel event around getting into publishing and understanding what a role in the industry involves. Here’s what our panellists had to say:

Hannah Ray, Editorial Director at Macmillan Children’s Books

‘Editing means different things in different companies. My role as Editorial Director is around 30% creative and 70% business-focused – such as costing and selling strategies. Highlights include having the opportunity to work with both established authors and new talent. Challenges include working to deadlines when there are so many people involved – such as when people get sick and there are many people waiting for the book.’

 headshot of Hannah Ray
headshot of Allie Collins

Allie Collins, Editor at Bloomsbury Sport/Freelance Editor

‘When you work freelance, you have more control over your own time and projects. Conversely, working in-house means you get to see books through from start-to-finish. Sometimes a challenge as an editor is managing authors’ expectations – such as the design of the front cover –  so often you need to act as a mediator.’

Tom Atkins, Freelance Proof-reader  

As a freelance proof-reader you come in at the end and cast a slow lengthy glance over the proof pages – so you get to work with paper and pencil! It is great if you love spotting flaws – like spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes and any minor plot inconstancies. Working freelance can be lonely though, and you don’t have guaranteed work or a pension – not to mention that you have to do your own tax returns!’

headshot of Tom Atkins
headshot of Ella Kahn

Ella Kahn, Literary Agent at Diamond Kahn and Woods

As a literary agent you are at the beginning of the process – essentially a manager for authors. You may work with a range of publishing houses – both large and small. You often will meet editors for coffee and lunch to build up a picture of what they are currently looking for in a commission. It is both a sales and editorial role and you have a close relationship with the authors you represent – often being both a nanny and a lawyer for them. You might get over 50 submissions from authors a week, but only take on 1-2 people a year. Highlights include working with authors and championing them to get the recognition they deserve. Challenges are dealing with rejection – on both sides. You have to handle turning people down and getting turned down by publishers.’

Top ten tips on getting into publishing

  1. Have passion: this is a very competitive industry. Everyone’s CV is impressive, so tailor your cover letter and light up when you talk about the industry in your interview. It is not enough to say ‘I love books’ and don’t have an overly romantic view of the industry – there is a lot of business to it such as profit and loss. So show you have negotiation skills and that you can use an Excel spreadsheet. Communication and relationship-building skills are also vital. Show transferable skills.
  2. Understand the importance of networks: start to meet people now, whether this is professionals or peers also pursuing this industry.
  3. Do your research: when applying to publishing houses, learn about the books they publish – look at things like Amazon rankings and understand the different genres.
  4. Ask insightful questions at interviews: good examples include “What is coming out soon?” “Which books are you most excited about publishing in the next year?”.
  5. Be aware of current trends: Know who the big authors in your genre of interest are.
  6. Consider taking a job in a department that is not your first choice: once your foot is in the door you might be able to change departments.
  7. Follow key people on Twitter: try searching hashtags such as: #askagent #askapublisher and #ukya
  8. Want to work freelance? you might want to start in-house as it is very rare editors will work with freelancers they don’t know. You can start doing freelance work on the side.
  9. An MA in publishing can be useful: it gives you a great overview of the different areas, but it is not a pre-requisite, as publishing is trying very hard to be inclusive. If you want to do a professional course, ensure it is an industry recognised one.
  10. Keep going! Be resilient and thick skinned – you will get interviews. Learn from interviews you fail at and ask for feedback and put it into practise.

Want to learn more?


Working in Government & Policy: Rewards, Challenges and Top Skills

UCL Careers16 November 2018

Government & Policy Week icon showing Houses of Parliament UCL Careers Government & Policy Week 2018 welcomed a range of employers and UCL alumni working in government and the public sector to share their career insights and advice to students.

What do they find most rewarding and challenging in their careers? What skills and competencies are important to get into and work in the sector?

Find out what we learned below.


Employers at our ‘Careers that Make a Difference in the Public Sector’ panel said seeing the impact they are having on people and influencing society is one of the most rewarding parts of their jobs. For example, “on the Think Ahead programme, you work with mental health and social issues on the frontline, in people’s homes, so you see the direct impact you are having on people.” An alum from the TeachFirst programme said that the most rewarding part for them was “making an impact by opening people’s eyes to the possibilities in education that they can have”.

Frontline said that “producing long-term positive effects on society by building relationships with families” is most rewarding. Even working behind the scenes in the Civil Service, it was highlighted that “you have the potential to influence from the inside”.

Employers discussed variety and diversity in the job – no day is the same. An alum from Police Now said their “most memorable moment was working at the Olympics” and Unlocked said “working with prisoners is funny and interesting – they are always full of interesting stories!” The Civil Service Fast Stream shared that “a great advantage to working in the Civil Service is the size and breadth of the field – it’s so huge that there’s lots of range, diversity and opportunities to progress and specialise in”.


A common insight was that working in the public sector could be demanding and emotionally challenging. Frontline, Police Now, TeachFirst, ThinkAhead and Unlocked agreed that dealing with mental health patients, crime offenders, prisoners and children can be emotionally challenging: at times, they may not want to be helped and you can face confrontation.

In our ‘Influencing Policy’ panel, employers stressed the nature of politics as challenging. National Housing Federation said “Politics is insanely difficult and always changing – you need to put in a ton of graft work”. Advice from Agora think tank is “aim to be a good strong voice within change”. Working on policies you disagree with is a possibility in the Civil Service Fast Stream. Their advice on dealing with it is all about perception: “If the policy is contentious, it can actually be beneficial to work on it – you have the opportunity to make sure it is implemented in the best way possible”. They also advise that there are opportunities for less policy-focussed roles in the Fast Stream.

An alum who will start work as a Senior Public Policy Manager for Data, Platforms and AI for Vodafone Group expressed that “public perception can be a challenge as well as data ethics”.

So, what were the top skills for the public sector?


Employers emphasised that for a career in the public sector and government, you should show that you care about people. Whether you are working frontline with members of the public or influencing and writing policy behind the scenes, your work is affecting people and their everyday lives. Advice from Cancer Research is “find out what people care about and tailor your service towards them”.


Relationship building was another key skill desired by employers – especially those that involve working directly with clients on the frontline (e.g. Think Ahead, Frontline and TeachFirst). In the Civil Service Fast Stream, you will move from one department to another so relationship building and teamwork is also required in non-frontline work to collaborate with different teams and people.


Employers highlighted adaptability because frontline work may require you to attend emergency / crisis situations at short notice. Policy work is also difficult as politics is always changing. Agora think tank and Greater London Authority emphasised that “Brexit has left many unanswered questions about the future” so adaptability will be important.


Resilience was a key discussion amongst employers across the events. Responding and adapting to political changes or perhaps dealing with clients, emergencies and crises means that the job can be demanding and emotionally challenging. Being able to recover quickly from difficult situations is crucial for working in the public sector.

Speakers who attended: Agora think tank, Cancer Research, Civil Service Fast Stream, Frontline, Greater London Authority, National Housing Federation, Police Now, TeachFirst, Think Ahead, Unlocked & Vodafone Group.

There are still more UCL Careers Themed Weeks coming up! Media Week is next, starting on 26 November with, Charities & NGOs, International Development, Sustainability Fortnight and Life & Health Sciences Week still to come.

Visit our website to find out more about upcoming Themed Weeks.

Meet the Alumni through this weeks Museums, Arts & Cultural Heritage Themed Week

UCL Careers12 November 2018

Museums, Arts and Cultural Heritage Themed Week: Meet the Alumni

Want to get an honest insight into working in the Museums, Arts and Cultural Heritage sector? Come to our Alumni Networking Event on Tuesday 13 November, where you can meet UCL alumni from different areas across the sector and ask them about:

  • Where and how to look for roles
  • Who to contact, and
  • What experience is needed

Find out about their experiences since graduating from UCL, including how they successfully transitioned from being a student to having a career in the sector.

There will be a panel discussion, giving you an opportunity to hear from the diverse speakers, followed by a Q&A session, with questions from the audience – so come prepared!

After this, you will have a chance to practice your networking skills; where you can ask more detailed questions to specific panellists in a safe and informal setting. Drinks and nibbles will be provided during the networking!

Chairing the event will be Dr Nina Pearlman (UCL MA Fine Art, 1996), Head of UCL Art Collections. The panel will include:

  • Dhikshana Turakhia Pering, Youth Programme Manager at London Transport Museum (MA Museums and Galleries, 2008)
  • Lisa Westcott Wilkins, Managing Director at Dig Ventures (MA Archaeology, 2002)
  • Eric Brunjes, Chief Executive at Attack Magazine (BA History, 2006)
  • Adam Klups, Historic Buildings Advisor at Church of England (BA History of Art with Material Studies, 2011)
  • Jonathan Franklin, Librarian at National Gallery in London (MA Library & Information Studies, 1986)

To find out more about each of the speakers, see the short biographies below. Book now for this event happening TONIGHT as part of the Museums, Arts and Cultural Heritage themed week. We look forward to seeing you there!

Speaker biographies
Dr Nina Pearlman (UCL Slade MA Fine Art, 1996) – Head of UCL Collections, UCL Art Museum
Nina is responsible for the sustainable development of the Museum’s art collections, spaces, programmes, partnerships and team to ensure benefit for current and future generations.

Nina is also a contemporary art curator, writer and lecturer and specialises in interdisciplinary collaborations between research & art and public art. She studied fine art, history of art and critical theory, gaining her MA from the Slade and BA from the University of Haifa.

Prior to joining UCL Nina worked independently on curatorial projects, strategic planning and fundraising with artists and institutions drawing on a background in business development in the corporate sector. This, coupled with visiting lecturer contributions across the HE, built up an extensive contemporary art network nationally and internationally. She led the Cultural Heritage pathway for five years on the MA for Arts Policy and Management at Birkbeck College focusing on Museums for the 21st century, and has acted as a selector for the Bartlett School of Architecture’s Research Materialisation award since its inception and is a nominator for Prix Pictet, the global award in photography and sustainability.

Dhikshana Turakhia Pering (UCL MA Museums & Galleries in Education, 2008) – Manager of the Arts Council England funded Young People’s Skills Programme, London Transport Museum
Dhikshana manages the Arts Council England funded Young People’s Skills Programme for 18-25-year-olds at London Transport Museum, focusing on making the cultural and heritage sector accessible and diverse. Dhikshana has 12 years’ experience with the majority of her career spent at the Science Museum, working in learning teams on everything from delivery and development to management and operations. As Trustee of the Museums Association, Dhikshana works actively on sector-wide workforce developments. Her passion lies with actively diversifying the sector, by changing and developing the whole workforce model from recruitment to exit.

Lisa Westcott Wilkins BA MA MCIfA FRSA (UCL MA Archaeology, 2002) – Co-founder and Managing Director, DigVentures
As co-founder and Managing Director at DigVentures, Lisa has found the perfect place to combine archaeology with over twenty years of professional experience in communications, finance and journalism, including several years as Editor of Current Archaeology magazine. With a Master’s degree in Archaeology from UCL and a prestigious Clore Fellowship under her belt, she now focuses her energy wrangling field archaeologists and harnessing brilliant creative sector innovations for DV. She is an international speaker on crowdfunding for the creative and cultural sectors and leads on the consultancy aspect of DV’s work. She is responsible for the Americanisms, absurdly strong site coffee and early morning DV dance parties.

Eric Brünjes (UCL BA History, 2006) – Chief Executive, Attack Magazine and Music Producer
Eric Brünjes, aka ‘Brvnjes’, is a music producer and entrepreneur based in London.
As a music producer, he has produced for artists such as Fetty Wap, Feli Fame, Talib Kweli, Mobb Deep, The Recipe and Meridian Dan.
As a sound designer and composer, he has composed for Adidas, Puma, M&M’s, Schuh and Honda. In 2018, he recorded the backing arrangements for Ariana Grande’s live show.

He also runs Attack Magazine which is dedicated to dance music lifestyle and production. Attack released the book ‘The Secrets of Dance Music Production’ in 2016. Attack is publishing several other titles in 2019. Eric is based in London where he lives with his wife and young family.

Jonathan Franklin (UCL MA Library & Information Studies, 1986) – Librarian, National Gallery in London
Jonathan Franklin read classics, then took a Master’s in Library and Information Studies at UCL. He worked at the British Architectural Library and the National Portrait Gallery, before moving to Ottawa, Canada, in 1996, where he managed the Library and Archives of the National Gallery of Canada. Since 2014 he has been the Librarian of the National Gallery in London. He has been professionally active in the Art Libraries Society of UK & Ireland, the Art Libraries Society of North America, and the Art Libraries Section Standing Committee of the International Federation of Library Associations.