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The Benefits of Growing Your Professional Network

Joe O'Brien10 July 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Glyn Jones, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers

We’ve previously shared a blog post offering useful tips on how to grow your online network, however today we take a step back and ask, why are we recommending you cast out your social net and start connecting with people?

The ideal scenario is that you reach out to someone working for your dream organisation, you attach your CV and hey presto, they offer you a job. Unfortunately, real life is rarely this straightforward.

We certainly encourage you to make speculative approaches for graduate employment or work experience, however if this is the only benefit you see to reaching out to those working in your sectors of interest, you may find this to be a long, unrewarding process.

So here are some other benefits that come from reaching out and building your professional networks, which you may not have thought of.

  1. Gain insights into your industry of interest

Through speaking with those working in a sector of interest, you’ll be able to gain insights about that industry, how things work, its trends and challenges. This provides you with knowledge of the sector that is both insightful and current. To have this information incorporated into your applications or to refer to this in an interview could truly set you apart from other candidates.

  1. Find out if a sector really interests you

You can read job profiles on graduate job sites such as Prospects or look at career sections on employer websites to get an idea of what a role involves. But if you want detailed information about the day to day work, there’s nothing better than speaking with someone who actually does that job. By having conversations with people working in the industry, you’ll be able to ask questions that you wouldn’t normally find answers to. Through finding out about work cultures and expectations, you will gain a greater understanding of the industry as a whole or specific employers within the sector. You can then use this information to decide if you fit in to this environment.

  1. Learn about different career pathways

Everyone has a different career pathway; some people might have gained experience through an internship while others choose postgraduate study or taking a sideways move and changing industries. By hearing from others who have gone through this process, you may come across pathways that you otherwise never would have considered. You may learn about a specific internships or work experience programme that you didn’t even know existed. It might be that you hear about an organisation’s work and find that it aligns with your own aspirations. Learning about other people’s career journeys might just be the help you need to start your own.

  1. Enhance your future job opportunities

By growing your network, you’re making links with potential future colleagues or employers. If you’re focused on working in a particular industry you’d be surprised how you may come across the same individuals multiple times. Your main motivation for pursuing online networking could be seeking a full time job or gaining some work experience, but even if this does not come to fruition immediately, you never know when these contacts may prove useful. Even if opportunities don’t come directly from those you’ve contacted, they may know someone else who has an opportunity that may be of interest. So by making a good impression and growing these networks you’re putting yourself in a good position, which could mean opportunities coming your way in the future.

These are some of the different benefits that can come from networking with those working in your field of interest or potential job sectors. If you’d like to discuss how to go about identifying useful people or how to go about reaching out to these individuals, please do book a one-to-one appointment with UCL Careers.

Getting Ready for the Virtual Jobs Market

Joe O'Brien9 July 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Nicole Estwick, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

The academic year may be over, but there are still plenty of opportunities to move forward with your career over the summer with our virtual Jobs Market.

Taking place on Thursday 16th July from 2-5pm, UCL’s Jobs Market offers the chance for you to meet and network with employers from a variety of industries who are looking to recruit for jobs and graduate schemes – all with current vacancies / immediate starts.

With this year’s event taking place virtually for the first time, you may be unsure about what to expect, how to approach companies you’re interested in or even how to stand out to employers.  In this post, we’ll look at the 5 ways in which you can make the most of the Job Market and future networking events with employers.

  1. Know what to expect

Getting to grips with what to expect in advance of any event will really help in ensuring you can prepare in the best way possible. Look for information online and on social media to check the timings of the event, if you need to book a place and if you can drop in at any point or should attend for the duration.

In the case of the UCL Jobs Market, you should book a place through your myuclcareers account where you will be able to view employer profiles and current vacancies all in one place. On the day of the event, those who have booked, will be able to access live video chats to speak directly to employers in the same way you would at a physical jobs market. Booking will close 3 hours before the event start time, so please be sure to book in good time. For further details, visit our page on the UCL Careers website.

  1. Do your research

Before attending the Jobs Market or any employer networking event, it’s essential to do some research on who will be attending. Employers often feedback on their disappointment that students are ill prepared and don’t make the most of the opportunity they have to connect with them, so assess in advance which organisations you want to talk to and what you want to find out from them.

Visiting company websites and social media pages, reading up recent news stories related to the employer and looking into what current vacancies they have will help you to stand out from other candidates who may not be as prepared, and create a positive lasting impression with employers who may consider you for current or future vacancies.

  1. Practice your introduction pitch

A common concern raised by students with networking is knowing what to actually say and how to make a strong introduction to the individual or company you are interested in. Build your confidence in this by developing a pitch and practicing this with friends, family or even in front of a mirror ahead of the event.

Your pitch should not only be a brief introduction to you, but it should also outline your interest in the employer. Consider structuring your introduction with an overview of your basic details (name, subject of study, hobbies and interests) before moving onto your interest in the role/company/sector and include a strong opening question to progress the conversation.

  1. Ask the right questions

Once introductions have been made, it can be a challenge for many to sustain and progress the conversation. Asking the right questions is key to this, but it can often be tricky to know which types of questions to put forward to an employer.  In networking conversations, it’s beneficial to ask more open questions such as ‘What did you enjoy the most?’ rather than closed questions (i.e. ‘Did you enjoy it?’) which could instantly stall the conversation with a simple yes/no answer.

It is however, also important to be aware of who you are speaking to and adapt your style where necessary, as the questions you ask a Company Director are likely to be different to the questions you ask a Graduate Trainee. For further guidance on this, including example questions take a look at slides from our Careers Essentials talks on Connecting with Employers Remotely and Making the most of Careers Fairs.

  1. Don’t be afraid of continuing the conversation after your initial meeting

It is easy to walk away from a networking event or a conversation with an employer without a clear result or next step, however it’s important to not let this happen when engaging with an employer or individual you have a real interest in. Show confidence and take the initiative by asking for an email address or the LinkedIn profile of the person you are speaking to and send them a message to allow the conversation continue after the event.

Investing the time to build a good rapport with an employer from events such as the Job Market could boost your chances of success in the application stages or lead to new opportunities that you may have not had access to before.

Following the tips above will ensure you have the best and most productive experience networking with employers at the virtual Job Market and future online employer events.

For further advice, please do visit our online resources, check out our video on mastering online networking from our CareersLab series on YouTube and book to attend our special lunchtime Careers Essentials talk on Making the Most of the Jobs Market on Wednesday 15th July from 1-2pm.

Is a Masters Right for me? Assessing Your Options for Postgraduate Study

Joe O'Brien1 July 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Nicole Estwick, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

Dissertation complete. Exams over and Graduation is approaching. What’s next? For some, heading straight into full time employment may be the obvious choice but for a growing number of students, further study is becoming an increasingly popular option, particularly this year where according to careers platform Prospects* there has been a 40% increase in postgraduate course searches during Spring 2020- the period in which the Covid 19 outbreak reached its peak in the UK.

But how do you decide whether or not continuing onto postgraduate study is right for you, especially as someone who may be graduating this year? In this post we’ll cover some of the key points you may want consider in your decision making process.

  1. Should I do a Masters straight after my undergraduate degree?

Continuing on to complete a Masters straight after your undergraduate degree is a popular option for those who do not wish to disrupt the familiarity of studying at university or want to continue to develop a deeper understanding of their subject, however it is not the only option. Many individuals who study at postgraduate level are in fact mature students with 61% aged 25 or older coming back to study after a period of work experience. In some cases, employers may even sponsor students to complete a Masters part time alongside their professional role.

In the current climate where parts of the job market remain unclear for graduates, continuing onto complete a Masters this year may help you to build up your skills and expertise in a particular area to increase your chances of success for when the job market returns to normal so it’s worth considering if this could be an option for you. Alternatively you may want to assess if it would be better to take on postgraduate study after or alongside gaining work experience and once you have a clearer sense of your career goals.

  1. Is a Masters essential for my chosen career path?

A Postgraduate level qualification is an essential requirement to enter some professions, but not all, therefore it’s important to assess the value of a Masters qualification in relation to your career goals.

Take the time to research this by looking at job descriptions to see if a Masters is listed as essential (required) or desirable (not required) and gather insights from individuals working in the field you’re interested in through networking platforms such as LinkedIn or the UCL Alumni Online Community. Finally, seeking out whether the companies you are interested in are hiring at present and what value they  place against work experience vs. academic qualifications is also very useful – this will vary from sector by sector but the insights gathered may help you to move forward in making a decision on whether to continue your studies.

  1. How will I fund further study?

Another big consideration to make in terms of pursuing further study is the financial investment required. Postgraduate study in the UK differs to your undergraduate degree in that course fees vary across subjects and can be higher in some cases than your original degree meaning that you may need to . Although there are financial bursaries and scholarships available, these vary between each university and can be competitive. Before making a decision, it is worth assessing if pursuing a postgraduate degree would be a good investment and if you have the tools in place to support yourself financially for an extended period of study along with general living costs. The website findamasters.com has some useful advice on this.

  1. Have I considered alternative options?

Finally, postgraduate study is not solely limited to Masters Programmes and some professions such as accountancy and HR require separate qualifications that must be completed as industry standard. These can be Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma courses. Another alternative are online courses available on platforms such as Futurelearn, Coursera and more which offer a chance to gain a in a broad range of academic and vocational subjects. Although these may not go into the same level of detail as a traditional Masters course and accreditation may vary, they offer a more flexible and often cheaper way to gain a qualification that you can make use of in your future career. It’s worth considering if this form of further study is recognised by employers in the area you’re interested in and if this could work for you as an alternative to a traditional Master’s qualification.

Thinking through your ideas for further study with the points above in mind may help you in your decision making process on whether or not to continue your studies as applications come to a close over the summer months.

For those requiring further support in assessing their options you can book into speak to a careers consultant in a 1:1 short guidance appointment or check out our ‘Should I do a Masters?’ CareersLab video.

Identifying and Defining Your Skills: You Probably Have More than you Think!  

Joe O'Brien25 June 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Lee Pike, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

  1. What are skills?

This may seem like a silly question but it’s actually something worth clarifying. From some of my discussions with students during their appointments, there seems to be some confusion between ‘skills’ and ‘experience’. They are not the same thing and it’s important to know the difference.

A skill is something that you are good at doing: it could come easy to you or be something you learn. An experience is where you learn skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.

When discussing what to put on their CV, lots of students say ‘I don’t have any relevant experience’. They think that recruiters are only interested in experience in a chosen field. Recruiters acknowledge students may not have relevant experience, so they want evidence of skills that you’ve learnt from any type of experience that is transferable for use in their work environment.

(Recruiters are not expecting you to do the job unsupervised from day one so they expect to provide you with on-the-job training.)

  1. Types of Skills

Skills can be divided into two categories; technical or soft skills.

  • Technical (Specialist) Skills

You learn technical skills during your degree, with extra training (such as an online course) or from previous work experience e.g. using specific software packages or specialist equipment.

  • Soft (Transferable) Skills

The term ‘soft skills’ under sells what they are; they are better defined as ‘transferable skills’. They are skills you might learn in one experience which you can adapt to another i.e. they are transferable! They are skills that can work in every type of job – and that’s why they’re so important. They go beyond the ability to use a specific piece of equipment or do one specific thing.

Typical transferable skills sought after by recruiters are problem-solving, time management, communication, teamwork and leadership.

  1. How do I identify my skills?

You already have lots of skills but may not be aware you possess them. There’s a lot to gain from reflecting on your skills and qualities and seeing how these can enhance your career and personal development. To analyse your skills and how they relate to skills employers look for, think about:

  1. Your personal qualities;
  2. Skills developed through study;
  3. Skills developed at work;
  4. Skills developed outside work.


1. Personal qualities

Attributes such as patience, humour, initiative, and flexibility are relevant to the type of work you are suited to. The better you know yourself, the more likely you are to find a role that suits you. Your personality affects your style of operating in the workplace and the way you respond to situations.

Have you considered your own behaviour, emotions and reactions?  Why not ask people close to you – they may be able to identify strengths and qualities that you haven’t considered.

2. Skills developed through study

You develop a wide range of skills as a student, such as commitment, self-motivation, and confidence, all valued by employers. For example, if you had assignments where you worked to strict deadlines, you can show that you have good time management and motivational skills.

3. Skills developed at work

If you have work experience, you’re likely to have skills which are essential in that environment, such as communication, interacting with people, being aware of the ways in which you learn and managing your time. Enhancing your capabilities in these areas can help you make the most of opportunities at work and will look good on your CV.

You may not recognise the wide range and high level of skills and abilities you have. Identify your skills by

  • noting down all the jobs you have done (full-time, part-time, voluntary, etc.) and think about what
  • you learnt from each one and w
  • hat skills you developed.

4. Skills developed outside work

You gain valuable knowledge, understanding and skills from everyday experiences, and through training, hobbies, interests and involvement with voluntary organisations. Think about:

  • Your experience and the roles you’ve had outside academia/work;
  • The projects you have undertaken;
  • Organisations, clubs or societies that you’ve been involved with.

Each of those roles demand different skills.

  • If you enjoy DIY, then you’ve no doubt planned a project, set yourself timescales, organised your work and seen it through to completion;
  • If you’ve chaired meetings, then you’ve taken a leadership role and been diplomatic yet assertive. You’re likely to have kept to deadlines and ensured that individuals have been included. This demonstrates interpersonal skills;
  • If you’ve been in a debating club, you’ll have developed your communication and persuasion skills;
  • If you play sport, you’re likely to have teamwork and leadership skills.

Look back over your work, studies or leisure activities and think about the tasks you completed in each. This helps you identify the skills you’ve learned.

  1. Next steps

It’s not unusual for individuals to compare themselves with others and feel superior or inferior towards them based on their strengths and weaknesses.

The thing is, every individual is different and we all function differently based on our personalities. It is important to know yourself and your capacities. Recruiters similarly look for individual personal strengths in addition to required skills – a workplace full of identical types of people does not function effectively.

Your strengths are things you can use to your advantage, things you can use to push yourself further. But it doesn’t mean that your weaknesses are your downfall. They are areas you can improve, not something you lack. They are things you could develop and build. So it is as important to know your weaknesses as much as knowing your strengths.

  • You can try looking up The RichardStep Strengths and Weaknesses Aptitude Test (RSWAT) online. It is a test to identify your strengths and weaknesses designed with simple, straight to the point questions.
  • The UCL Careers Online Library is great for searching for a whole variety of resources. For example, after identifying your skills, you could try the ‘Demonstrating your skills’ leaflet.  There is a useful table on the last page of this leaflet which describes what different skills are and ways you may demonstrate them on a CV, for example.
  • Targetjobs has a helpful resource describing different skills and competencies for graduates typically asked for by recruiters and how you can demonstrate them in a CV or in an interview.
  • You can get one-to-one advice by booking a careers guidance appointment to help your analytical thinking and explore your skills or to discuss any of the above exercises you may have completed. Learn how the skills you have can help you with your career planning.

By taking time to analyse your past experiences, you will identify transferable skills you didn’t know you had and will be able to provide evidence of them on your CV. If you identify any weaknesses, this provides focus on what you can improve going forwards.  Good luck!

Career Lessons Learnt from my Cat

Joe O'Brien16 June 2020

Read time: 4 minutes

Written by Susanne Stoddart, Recruitment and Selection Advice Manager, UCL Careers.

Aloof. Disloyal. Present dead rodents at the feet of their favourite humans to signal gratitude. These are just a few of the challenging behaviours associated with cats and, let’s face it, they hardly set our feline friends apart as employee of the month material. Due to the current situation, I’ve spent a lot of time recently intruding on my cat Florence’s personal space (i.e. I’ve been working from my home). I’m now fully accustomed to a work day punctuated by a friendly headbutt here or a sudden lunge across my desk in pursuit of something only Florence can see there. However, keeping an eye on Florence isn’t just a health and safety matter, it has also become a major event in my lockdown calendar. So, in a more light-hearted post today, I thought I’d share some career lessons that I’ve taken from my spectatorship. It turns out cats may be more career-savvy that I once thought.

Be Curious

I’m on a video call? So is Florence. Amazon delivery left in the bush? She’s onto it. “Curiosity killed the cat” goes that famous proverb, but let me just say I disagree. Florence turns 16 in August and she’s spent a lifetime involving herself in other people’s business. I think that not-quite-so-famous proverb, “curiosity built the career”, is closer to the truth, and you could also channel the feline innate sense of curiosity to start getting ahead with your career thinking.

There are lots of ways that you can explore your career curiosities this summer, whether you know the sort of career you’re looking for, or you don’t know where to start. It may be useful for you to find out about what UCL graduates have gone on to do following their degrees, or explore different roles and the skills required for them. At the alumni panel events that we ran during the 2019/20 academic year, alumni representing a range of sectors consistently highlighted that the process of taking up different roles, even if they didn’t turn out to be dream jobs, was invaluable. It enabled them to explore their career values further and to develop their skill set before moving on. So, try to enjoy exploring and keep an open mind!

Build your Network

I used to subscribe to that view of cats as aloof and distant creatures. I thought the affection that Florence periodically bestowed on me was an exclusive “thank you” for all that I do for her. But over the years I’ve spotted her being stroked by inhabitants of No.10 across the way, sitting on the lap of the lady opposite and, on several occasions, being held in the arms (in the actual arms!) of my neighbour’s niece. Rather than criticising her disloyalty, I’ve come to admire Florence’s networking skills as she widens her net of potential feeders and endeavours to keep them warm.

The current situation has prevented face-to-face networking, but you can adapt and continue to develop your own networks online at this time. Use platforms such as LinkedIn to make connections with employers, follow organisations and gather the latest recruitment news. Why not also make use of UCL’s Alumni Online Community to connect with former students working in sectors that you make be interested in? Use this platform as an opportunity to seek advice and resources that might help with identifying opportunities and career planning.

Develop Resilience and Adaptability  

Even at the age of almost 16, I’m struck by Florence’s ability to react quickly, bounce back from many a crashing thud and find creative solutions to problems. For example, when Florence caught me (the problem) watching cat videos (on my lunch break) last week her creative response was to lie across the laptop so no one was watching anything but her. Other times, I’ve seen Florence flip from the neighbourhood networker discussed above to almost complete self-sufficiency. Take note because that skill of independence is incredibly in-demand right now as many organisations have made the shift to remote working. Take a look at our recent blogpost on Virtual Internships and how they can help you to develop highly sought after employability skills including independent working.

In the current situation, we are all being required to draw upon our resilience and resourcefulness, and here at UCL Careers we have lots of ideas on how you can strengthen and utilise these attributes in your skills development, career planning or job hunting. Go ahead and checkout our recent blogposts on Free Digital Resources to Upskill Yourself from Home, Career Lessons from the Covid-19 Response and Building Resilience in Your Job Hunt.

What Next?

I’ll keep watching Florence for any further career insights she cares to send my way. In the meantime, remember that UCL Careers is here to support you virtually this summer, whichever stage of your career planning you are currently at. You can book in for a short guidance appointment to discuss any of your ideas further with a Careers Consultant.

Planning a Pathway to your Career Destination – How do I get there?

Joe O'Brien11 June 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Glyn Jones, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

It can be difficult working out what career path to follow. UCL Careers is here to help you and can offer assistance with mapping possible career pathways that may suit you. However, sometimes even if you know where you want to end up it can be tricky figuring out how to get there.

In this blog I’ll be discussing some useful techniques and resources you can use to get yourself where you want to be.

  1. Use online networking platforms

We’ve spoken about the importance of networking from home in a previous blog post and using the platforms listed is an ideal way to reach out to those working in the area you’re interested in. In addition, plenty of information can be obtained through simply viewing profiles and seeing different career pathways people have taken. This doesn’t need to be a blueprint for you to follow exactly but seeing suggestions of the type of positions that might be suitable for you at certain stages in your career can prove extremely useful. For example, seeing internships that others have done or learning about their graduate entry roles, you will start to understand potential pathways.

Tip: When searching for suitable profiles on LinkedIn, consider searching for particular organisations of interest and then viewing the ‘People’ section, or alternatively use ‘UCL Alumni’ as a guide to your search, using the filters made available to you to narrow down your search.

  1. Using sector guides and job profiles

Graduate job profile sites such as Prospects and Target Jobs are great resources to visit to find out about popular destinations for graduates, but they can also be useful when researching a role later in your career. Looking at the graduate level profiles can offer suggestions for career progression and personal development. Often these will state what the training opportunities may be like and where that role can take you. In addition, you can search for more senior positions and this will offer guidance on how you get to that level and the qualifications you may need. Gaining information from these sections can inform you of the necessary steps you may need to take to pursue a career in this area.

Tip: Take a look at the ‘Employers’ section of those relevant job profiles as they often mention some of the major employers in that sector. You may also want to make a note of any professional associations that are mentioned under the ‘Qualification’ or ‘Professional Development’ section who offer support in those industries of interest.

  1. Search for case studies

Another reliable source of careers information is case studies. This will enable you to learn about the real life career pathways of professionals and what’s motivated them along the way. You may find such profiles on career sections of particular organisation websites, so be sure to check those companies you’re eager to work for. If organisations of interest don’t have designated careers sections to their websites, you might find useful case studies on university websites, such as the Case Studies webpage one that can be found on the UCL Careers website. Finally, association, institution and society bodies are a great source of profiles and case studies as they highlight the variety of roles available within a certain industry. As mentioned, many case studies will talk about the careers journey of individuals and how they got to where they are today. While their career pathway will be unique to their circumstances, you may be able to draw inspiration and insights about potential pathways that would be viable for you.

Tip: Make the most of associated bodies and supporting organisations that work in the areas you’re interested in. They will often have designated careers sections of their websites and may be running future events that would be of interest to you.

These are just some suggestions of how you can work back from an end destination to help you consider your possible career pathway. Using resources readily available online is certainly useful, but do also take any opportunity to reach out to individuals working in those industries of interest, as they may be able to offer specific advice relating to your situation. You may find our CareersLab episode on Mastering Online Careers Networking on helpful for advice on the best ways to reach out to individuals. Of course if you’d like to talk about your career pathway with someone from UCL Careers, please do book an appointment with us to discuss your options.

Why Volunteering Online is Good for you

Joe O'Brien10 June 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

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

Volunteers’ Week 2020 took place last week (1 – 7 June), so it’s an opportune time to think about how you might offer your help, particularly in support of those affected by the current situation. As well as contributing to charities and those in need within your wider community, volunteering online is a great way to boost your employability skills and is an excellent source of experience should your summer plans be uncertain. Don’t forget that volunteering online could also improve your mental health and create a sense of social and personal wellbeing. The amount of time you dedicate is completely flexible, plus all you need is an internet connection!

Here’s our pick of the some of the top online volunteering opportunities available to you right now:

  1. Zooniverse

Zooniverse is an online platform that enables ‘people powered research.’ Whether you are looking for a career in data-analytics, research or communication; or more broadly across the sciences, humanities or more, the app allows participation in all kinds of research. This is a great opportunity to get involved in more niche sectors as well, with research projects as diverse as classifying galaxies, counting penguins or transcribing manuscripts. Volunteer your time with over 2,077,955 other registered volunteers around the world and add a unique experience to your CV.

  1. Amnesty Decoders

Amnesty Decoders volunteers help to research and expose human rights violations. All you need is to use your computer or smartphone to sift through images, information and documents to support those affected. Amnesty activists have helped defend hundreds of thousands of people at risk across the globe, and this experience will also boost your analytical, research and digital skills.

  1. Do It

Take a look at Do It, a voluntary community platform, with a variety of volunteering opportunities that can be completed from the safety of your own home, such as telephone befriending, where volunteers offer to make daily calls to vulnerable or isolated individuals during lockdown. As well as providing a valuable service, this is great for boosting your confidence and interpersonal skills.

  1. SPEAK – Be a Buddy

If you want to boost your language, translation and mentoring skills, then look no further than the SPEAK – Be a Buddy scheme. As well as learning more about other cultures around the world, you will effectively share your language skills, motivation and passion to assist others to learn a language. This is also a great way to make new friends and connections in these challenging times.

  1. Missing Maps

Missing Maps is a collaborative project to provide vital assistance with mapping areas where humanitarian organisations need to provide relief efforts and meet the needs of vulnerable people by providing disaster response activities. Volunteers work remotely to trace satellite imagery, so as well as increasing your geographical, problem solving, and attention to detail skills, you will be literally contributing to activities that save lives on the ground.

  1. Be My Eyes

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers for visual assistance through a live video call. This could involve helping with reading instructions, navigating new surroundings or even reading a recipe. As well as providing a vital social connection, this voluntary scheme will boost your listening and verbal communication skills.

  1. The British Museum

The British Museum is just one example of museums, galleries and collections across the globe that are desperate for voluntary assistance, both in person and online. Opportunities vary according to the work of the department and their current needs, but this can be a great foothold into an area that is notoriously difficult to gain work experience in. Departmental volunteers can help online with cataloguing artefacts, retrospective evaluation of exhibitions and contributing to learning programmes.

  1. UNV Online

United Nations Volunteering (UNV) online programme is a vital resource supporting United Nations entities and their partners, and is particularly crucial in the current situation. A variety of volunteering projects are available, boosting your key transferable skills across writing and editing, translation, leadership, art and design, project development, technology and advocacy. All meetings and communication takes place online through Skype and email exchange, so there’s no excuse not to get involved.

  1. UCL Volunteering Service
    Students’ Union UCL’s Volunteering Service also have a guide for safe volunteering, featuring lots of opportunities for UCL students to get involved whilst observing social distancing requirements. The guide includes details of virtual volunteering and how to stay safe if you’re helping out in person.  If you’re looking for some inspiration, you can also read about the experiences of some UCL students who’ve been volunteering during the current situation.
  2. UCL Alumni Volunteer Now

UCL’s Volunteer Now has digital volunteering opportunities designed to help you stay connected, share knowledge and play an active role in supporting UCL’s global alumni community. With current opportunities within Professional Development, Social & Wellbeing and Alumni Online Community Support, you could gain great experience in a range of activities, from blog writing, running online community groups or even being a mentor.

Remember that extra-curricular activities and volunteering experiences are great ways to demonstrate your strengths and skills both in your CV or when answering competency questions at interview, so take some time now to think about how you can demonstrate your skills and experiences. Don’t forget to take the opportunity to book a virtual application advice appointment with the UCL Careers team if you would like some feedback or further assistance with your applications.


5 Key Resources for Networking from Home

Joe O'Brien2 June 2020

Read time: 5 minutes

Written by Nicole Estwick, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

Networking in the traditional sense is a concept that can fill some with dread, but there is now more than one way to meet and connect with individuals that share a common interest with you. No longer is it solely about making an approach and sharing small talk in a room full of people, but a large part of networking now also takes place remotely with individuals using a range of platforms to build an online profile in order to connect with recruiters, employers and other professionals.

But where do you start with finding, interacting and building a network of contacts in the field you’re interested in? In this post, we’ll outline the key resources you can use to build your network from the comfort of home.

  1. LinkedIn: LinkedIn is perhaps the most well-known platform for connecting with professionals online with a broad range of users across different industries and levels of experience. For students, it can seem a daunting place, however it is valuable tool in optimising career development and networking opportunities.

In terms of where to start, if you have an up to date CV then you can use this as the basis of creating a profile where you can also breakdown the skills and areas you wish to pursue a career in – this is key as recruiters often use LinkedIn to find potential candidates. Once you have a profile, you can start to build connections to grow your network and seek out new contacts. Start small with this by connecting with friends, family, and work colleagues before moving onto connecting with contacts of theirs that might be relevant to you and your career interests by sending a request along with a brief message. From there, if you continue to make connections and develop your profile, your web of contacts will grow, as will the opportunities you are presented with.

  1. UCL Alumni Online Community: For those who are looking to make contacts within a smaller pool of people, the UCL Alumni Online Community offers a great opportunity to connect exclusively with former students from UCL who are now working across the world.

Within the platform, you can search for alumni by the course they studied, the department they were in or even by employer so you can identify how many students have gone onto work for a specific company in the online directory. Select alumni within the directory will also be labelled with a ‘Willing to help’ badge whereby they have agreed to support current students with careers advice or in some cases to become a mentor to students who are looking for guidance with their next steps. To use the website, you will need to register before gaining access to the directory to connect with UCL Alumni and start making new contacts.

  1. Social Media: Whilst many of us use social media to connect with friends and family, platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can be particularly useful for making professional connections, especially in areas such as the arts and creative industries where recruitment processes vary in comparison to more traditional sectors.

Where appropriate, consider making a professional profile away from your personal account and use this to follow new contacts and employers, share your work and engage in conversations with others online. You can also use the Direct Messaging (DM) function to send an introductory note to organisations or individuals you are interested in and in some cases this can often be a much more successful way of making contact as opposed to email which may not be reviewed as often.

  1. Forums: Although somewhat trickier to source, forums are another useful way to engage in conversation with others who have a similar interest to you. They can also be useful in conducting further research into the trends or challenges that may exist within your chosen industry and allow you to seek out information that may not be as readily accessible on mainstream websites.

Consider starting with the professional body of the sector you are interested in, which often have forum or chat pages where professionals discuss current industry news and issues. In the current climate, some of these bodies are also offering virtual webinars and events which could be another way of sourcing new contacts in your network.

  1. Apps: There are apps available for most things on the market at the moment and networking is no exception. One of the apps that has gained popularity in recent years is Shapr, where you can build your profile based on the career fields you are most interested in, your professional goals, and your status as entrepreneur, freelancer, student, etc. A similar app, Debut is aimed directly at students looking to showcase their profile and skills to connect with graduate employers. Whilst these apps do include paid for content, there are also some free features for networking so it’s worth taking the time to try these out and decide what could work best for you.

In trying one, two or even all five of the options listed above, there is the potential to not only progress your career but also build your confidence in networking- a skill which will be essential not only now but in the future too. Watch the CareersLab episode on mastering online networking for further advice or visit our online careers library for helpsheets.

Virtual Internships: What are they worth?

Joe O'Brien2 June 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Emily Oliphant, Recruitment Selection Adviser at UCL Careers.

The value of practical, in-house internships was summarised well by the then Director of Resourcing at Deloitte in 2018 – “It’s a win-win. Students find out if that career is for them. Companies get early access to talent.”

Given the situation we are in, there has been a requirement for companies to make a shift towards offering virtual internships in order to comply with the social distancing advice from Government. Consequently, the questions that have cropped up most often in relation to virtual internships during my student appointments have been, ‘Are they worth the effort?’ and ‘Surely there are more benefits in waiting and applying for an internship in a practical setting itself, instead of completing an internship from my bedroom?’.

After speaking with a few students who are currently undertaking virtual internships and from looking at the benefits from a recruiter perspective, I will outline 4 reasons why virtual internships are definitely worth your time and what they can offer you during the lockdown period.

  1. Flexibility and comfort

Undertaking standard working hours in a typical in-house full-time internship often involves a commute, at a time when you are likely to still be studying or conducting research alongside your internship.  Being able to save time on the commute and embrace the flexible working practices that have been adopted by many companies during this time, you may find it easier to handle the various workloads whilst gaining valuable skills and thereby boosting your CV.

Some students may feel pressured at the prospect of meeting the whole team on their first day of an internship.  However, speaking with a student who had experienced this initial apprehension in past in-house internships, they noted that the introduction procedure is somewhat different in a virtual internship.  Instead, most companies assign a specific manager or supervisor to either individual interns or groups to introduce you to the set up.  This gentle introduction would serve you well if you are particularly anxious about undertaking an internship or if this is your first internship experience.

  1. Technology and adaptability

With the advancement of technology playing a huge part in how companies were operating even before the lockdown, being at the forefront of the technological change and being able to witness how companies are now dealing with these unique circumstances could prepare you well for a shift in standard working practices.  Key commentators are beginning to question whether some companies will introduce remote working as a more common option or even default position, such as the estate agency company Purple Bricks for example.

The Big Four companies that many graduates find so attractive have had a long-standing positive approach to working from home, even in junior positions.  A student who has undertaken a virtual internship with an app-developing company also explained that the use of remote technology has been very useful for learning new software and technical skills.  Using the screen share option on video calls allowed her to receive one-to-one visual learning sessions that may not have been so in an office environment.

Having had the experience of working remotely and using a plethora of software to do so will provide you with experience and a skillset that could serve you well in a role that offers this benefit in the future!

  1. Develop skills in a professional setting

Working remotely offers you the opportunity to develop key skills, that perhaps a practical setting may not be able to offer as easily.  Organisation, self-motivation, adaptability and independent working skills are critical in making sure that you are dealing with your responsibilities efficiently – especially in a virtual capacity.

Many competency-based applications these days require you to outline examples of when you have demonstrated adaptability, worked effectively in a team and when you have succeeded independently.  The application of a strong example of working independently in a professional setting (rather than academic) is something that is less common in student applications as junior/graduate roles rarely involve a great deal of independent duties due to experience levels.  A virtual internship would be a great way of demonstrating that your independent working skills have been developed, beyond the remit of your studies.

  1. Commitment and resilience

Not everyone is going to apply for virtual internships.  Some people may consider waiting until in-house opportunities are available will be the best use of their time. Therefore, as a recruiter, to see that a student has undertaken a virtual internship will inevitably boost your credibility when you are explaining your commitment to your chosen career path. It will demonstrate that even in the challenging times, you were prepared to develop your skills and garner knowledge in an industry you want to achieve in.

So, my advice?  Get stuck in!  If you discover there’s a virtual internship available, giving you an opportunity to explore an industry you’re considering pursuing a career in, I advise you apply and try to get the most out of it!

Next steps

If you have an application in mind and want further advice, please do book an online one-to-one application advice appointment (via Microsoft Teams) through the UCL Careers website to talk through your application, CV and/or cover letter.

Ensuring your Digital Footprint Leaves a Good Impression

Joe O'Brien29 May 2020

Read time: 5 minutes

Written by Lee Pike, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

If a prospective employer is checking you online, think about what they might find.  Have you ever been embarrassed by a social media post you wrote or regretted a photo you were tagged in? The good news is you can, and should, control what recruiters see.

There are approximately 45 million users of social media in the UK in 2020, which equates to approximately two thirds of the population.  Regularly engaging with others is generally seen as positive by employers. It shows you’re tech savvy but also gives prospective employers a more rounded picture of who you are.

With increased recruitment costs averaging £3,400 per person, many prospective employers are using social media to proactively undertake targeted recruitment, predominantly using LinkedIn.  But scarily, many employers are also using someone’s online presence to vet prospective candidates (as well as existing employees!).  Therefore, it’s important to ensure your digital footprint leaves a lasting positive impression.

Thankfully, what you project online is within your control and the way to do this is relatively straight-forward – it’s just realising it’s necessary in the first place. Once you start to manage your digital self, you can make sure that you are presenting a professional but also personal persona.

Steps to managing your online presence

  1. Search for yourself.

The simplest way to start is to use a search engine on yourself (and if you don’t see anything, try searching ‘name + UCL’).  It’s important to not only look at the initial page/subsequent pages of results, but also at the images and videos.

Does what you find worry you?  Put yourself into the shoes of a recruiter – does it worry you now?  Is there anything you wouldn’t want your parents to see?!

Conversely, you may prefer not to have an online presence or your search has zero results. Think to yourself – what might a recruiter think if they see no online presence?  Could it be interpreted to mean you have something to hide? As such, is having no online presence a positive thing?  How might you have an online presence that is positive for a recruiter to see?

Understanding what others can (or cannot) see about you means managing your professional and personal presence is made easier.

If you see something you don’t like or is no longer true for you, can you remove it?  If you see something which someone else posted, ask them to take it down (or contact the owner/administrator if they don’t).

  1. Limit who can see what.

An easy way to limit what others can see is to check your privacy settings. You might decide to limit your ‘fun’ online media so only friends, connections or approved followers can see it, making it invisible to the general public.  Anything negative should be made private (or better deleted).

You might be connected to, and hence associated with, something that is sending out negative or unprofessional points of view.  Remember you can leave certain people/organisations/groups and remove any followers you feel might be detrimental to your online persona.

Untag yourself from photos and avoid any bad language, ill-advised comments or jokes.  Remember, there is no distinction between what you say in real life and what is said online.

  1. Create a positive digital impression.

The great thing is, you can control what people see and there are many ways to do this.  Here is just selection you can try:

  • As it says on their website, ‘LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network on the internet.’ Don’t miss out. Use LinkedIn for your professional online presence.
  • Use a professional looking head & shoulders profile picture – people with a profile pic on LinkedIn are 14 times more likely to get clicked on.
  • Be selective about who you follow. Think about that positive message you want to convey and remember, this is a professional network platform, not a social network platform, so don’t simply follow friends.
  • You can try creating an online portfolio such as starting a blog, creating your own website, or design an infographic about your interests and experiences. These can demonstrate your digital and content producing skills.
  • Engage positively in discussions, forums and debates. By taking part you’re expanding your presence and making others more aware of you. You’re also leaving behind positive digital footprint impressions.

Next steps

Why not set aside some time within the next week or so to start this process.  Search for yourself and see what you do (or do not) find.  Think about the results in terms of a recruiter and think – does this represent me in a good way? If not, what actions do I need to take to improve things?

Remember – you are in control of your own online presence. You only have one attempt at making a good first impression – make it count!