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

Joe O'Brien24 November 2020

Read time: 5 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

What kind of people and clients do you work with?

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

How did you get to where you are now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sector Insights: Data Science

Joe O'Brien17 November 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Susanne Stoddart, Recruitment & Selection Advice Manager

What is Data Science?

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

Meet the Data Scientists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Next?

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

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

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

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

Sector Insights: The Different Career Avenues in Accounting

Joe O'Brien10 November 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Management Accountants

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

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

Forensic Accountants

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

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

F, P & A Analyst

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

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

Payroll Manager

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

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

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

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

Article By – The Accountancy Partnership

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

Joe O'Brien2 November 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Nicole Estwick, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more details on this follow UCL Careers on Twitter

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

Joe O'Brien12 October 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Sally Brown, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

So, what is NORRAG and what do they do? 

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

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

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

What led you to this role?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Tips to a Successful Language Career

Joe O'Brien7 October 2020

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

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

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

10 Steps to get you started

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

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

Make a Flying Start to your Career with these Tips from our Feathered Friends!

Joe O'Brien21 September 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

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

My name is Victoria, and you may have met me in person, or online, running your applications advice appointments. However, due to the current situation, I’ve been working from home for several months now and sheer good luck has provided me with weeks of sunny days and long, warm evenings. I’ve therefore spent a disproportionate amount of time in my garden this summer, and couldn’t help but notice the large number and variety of birds that visited each day. Whilst sitting outside, I soon realised the diversity of personalities and varying characteristics of the different species of birds. And of course, with careers in mind, I soon got to thinking about the various tips and skills we could all learn and apply from our fledgling friends to our own personal career journeys.

The Dove:

The dove is a calm and peaceful bird, and can often be found supporting and caring for others. Although these are positive characteristics, they can often leave the dove vulnerable in the wild. Applying this understanding to your individual career plans, always ensure that you focus on your own dreams and aspirations, rather than just tagging along with your friends, meeting family expectations or following current trends. You may wish to browse through the UCL Careers Guide to provide further inspiration and ensure that you don’t become too passive or predictable with your career planning. Perhaps aim to visit some virtual Jobs Fairs or Insight Days during the autumn term and gain an awareness of areas that you haven’t investigated before? Our handy blog provides some great tips on making the most of the virtual jobs market. You could also book a short guidance appointment at UCL Careers to help you identify your own dreams and take your first steps towards trying something new.

The Eagle:

Okay, so I haven’t been lucky enough to see an eagle in the Kent countryside. However, I have spotted plenty of smaller kestrels and falcons, all of whom demonstrate confidence, independence and a competitive nature. These key characteristics are really important for the eagle when hunting in the wild; however the eagle understands that true success also lies in its ability to remain patient. So the eagle really is a master at knowing how to use its strengths and adapt its skills to any given situation. Confidence, competiveness and independence are also key characteristics when planning your career steps; however it is also essential that you remain patient when you experience setbacks, and try to think beyond the end result, just as the eagle thinks beyond the final hunt. Similar to the eagle, ensure you understand and can demonstrate your skill-set fully on your CV, and make sure you tailor your applications with the key criteria required for the role. Learn how to utilise and combine your strengths, skills and experiences by writing a great cover letter and practise using the STAR method in our handy STAR blog, to fully demonstrate your skills and competencies (also applicable in an interview situation). An applications advice appointment can also help you to maximise your CV and cover letter.

The Goldfinch, Blue-Tit and Sparrow:

These birds may be some of the smallest in the garden, but they are also the noisiest! Chatty, curious, resilient and resourceful, these are the team-players in the garden, working together to achieve their aims. Just like these birds, it is really important to make the most of your connections when considering your career. Check out our previous blog posts on how to grow your online network and learn how to boost your networking skills. Don’t forget to take advantage of the wealth of alumni support at UCL as well. You could also take a look at the huge range of resources available within MyUCLCareers and focus on improving your Linkedin profile to increase your views and boost your network. Just like these resourceful and curious birds, don’t forget to speak to your fellow students and university professors, as they may also have great insights and tips onto how to access your chosen industry or career.

The Owl:

As the nights draw in, I’ve been lucky enough to witness a pair of owls calling to each other across the garden. The owl, traditionally known for being a sage, wise bird, often stands for predictability and efficiency. Similarly, if you are detail oriented and enjoy routine and structure, you may identify with these traits. It is often crucial to be organised and plan your career options, but don’t forget to consider all possibilities or you run the risk of being too inflexible in your job search. Don’t just wait for your dream job to be advertised, take the lead and make speculative applications for graduate employment or work experience. You should also consider the bigger picture when thinking about your career and employability. Areas such as work-life balance, green initiatives and sustainability, and the chance to take part in pro-bono/charity work may be important to you, as well as the more obvious factors such as salary, location and promotion. Websites such as Prospects are great for giving insight into various job roles, as well as signposting you to key organisations within the sector. Also check-out our UCL Careers Sector Insights, which provide really informative content and interviews with recent graduates working in industry.

With a new term fast approaching, many of you will be starting to think about a return to university. Working through book-lists, listening to preparatory lectures and catching up with fellow students are probably all top of your to-do list. However, I would really recommend that you also spend a little bit of time thinking further ahead and considering the multitude of career options available to you. UCL Careers offer a range of one-to-one appointments, whether you’re exploring options, writing applications or want support preparing for interviews. So book an appointment, let your imagination soar and don’t worry about ruffling a few feathers along the way!

Insights from UCL Class of 2008 Webinar

Joe O'Brien31 August 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Glyn Jones, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers

Nick Coveney, Publisher Relations and Content Lead at Rakuten Kobo Inc took part in a recent UCL Careers, Class of 2008 insights webinar. I’ve summarised 5 of the key messages from Nick’s journey about how he went about navigating the job market during the last global recession in 2008.

  1. Having a clear idea of where you want to go can be very useful

Nick knew exactly what he wanted to do when he applied to university. He had a clear career goal of working in publishing and becoming an editor. Through having this goal in mind, Nick was able to seek out relevant opportunities, make the most of societies, volunteering and work placement opportunities that presented themselves to him. Nick spoke about how knowing exactly what he wanted to do helped him embrace opportunities such as getting a placement with a publishing house, volunteering with the most suitable societies and picking the right postgraduate course to study. This confidence in knowing exactly what he wanted to do helped him hone his skills and tailor his experiences, which would ultimately lead to him working in his chosen sector of interest.

Not everyone has a clear idea of exactly where they want to go, but having an idea of a sector of interest can be really valuable as it allows you focus on getting key experiences that will prove relevant further down the line.

If you want to learn more about specific industries and the graduate opportunities available, take a look at the Job Sectors section of the Prospects website.

  1. Things may not go according to plan: adapt and be resilient

Nick had three goals when graduating with his BA in English from the University of Nottingham.

  1. Get a good English degree from a good university
  2. Secure a graduate job with a major publisher
  3. Become an editor

The plan was ticking along nicely and Nick had even secured a graduate scheme. Then the financial crash of 2008 happened. In the matter of a few weeks, Nick went from being well on track, to graduating with a 2:2 and having his graduate scheme cancelled. Despite these setbacks, Nick didn’t allow this to prevent him from pursuing his chosen career path. He adapted his plans and took what opportunities he could, eventually ending up in his dream role as an editor.

Resilience and the ability to adapt is key when searching for career opportunities. There are very few people who have never been rejected or unsuccessful at some point in their career. What’s important is to not give up. Adapt to the circumstances you’re in and continue to strive for your desired end goal.

Read our blog post on Building Resilience in Your Job Hunt: How to Progress Your Career Planning and Overcome Setbacks in Challenging Times for tips dealing with setbacks.

  1. Any opportunity can offer skills

After hearing that his graduate scheme was cancelled, Nick had to move back home and extend his part time job, working full time just so he could earn a living. Although not what he wanted to do, this opportunity still provided him with experiences that developed his transferrable skills.

This opportunity also maintained Nick’s drive and energy to succeed in his sector of interest. Through doing something he didn’t want to do, it reaffirmed his desire to work in the publishing industry and acted as motivation for him to pursue his goal with even more vigour.

In challenging times you may sometimes need to compromise on your first choice job, but don’t forget that the transferrable skills you develop in these roles can still be useful when it comes to applying for more desired positions in the future.

If you want to learn more about how and when you can develop your transferrable skills be sure to visit the UCL Careers Skills Hub.

  1. Make the most of extracurricular opportunities, but know your limitations

Nick spoke about how he enjoyed working with societies and clubs during his undergraduate degree at Nottingham and added how useful these had been in future job applications. However, he did state that he was possibly guilty of getting too involved in these extracurricular activities, which meant that his studies suffered. When completing his masters at UCL, he seemed to find a much better balance. He still volunteered at some societies and was a course representative, but this time he made sure that he gave his studies enough time, enabling him to secure a distinction.

Finding the right balance between academic and non-academic commitments can be tricky whilst at university. Involvement with clubs, societies and work placements can be valuable when it comes to applying for roles, but try to make sure this isn’t to the detriment of your academic pursuits.

To find out about the range of clubs and societies you can get involved with at UCL, take a look at the UCL Student’s Union Clubs & Societies Directory.

  1. Find your niche

Nick had a clear idea of where he wanted to go with his career and was able to pursue this, even if it meant not following the most direct career path. However, it was interesting to note that while Nick thought he knew exactly what he wanted to do, he actually found an area within that sector that suited him even more. Through different experiences in his chosen sector and developing areas of interest during his academic studies, such as his dissertation, he carved out his own niche. He utilised the skills he’d developed through his experiences and combined these with knowledge of the sector he was interested in during his studies.

Sometimes, to identify your niche you can’t be afraid of moving away from your ‘dream job’. If you know the sector and are aware of what you’re good at, then this doesn’t need to be a scary prospect. Think of it as a matter of utilising the skills and experience that you’ve acquired, thereby offering something that no one else is able to within the sector.

If you’d like to discuss how you might go about finding your niche in a professional setting, or if you want to speak about any of the topics mentioned in this article please do book a one-to-one appointment with one of our Careers Consultants.

It was heartening hearing about Nick’s journey. He proved that even when times are challenging, it doesn’t mean that your dream job is off the cards. If you weren’t able to attend the session yourself, you can find the full recording of the session here.

Start Planning for Your Future with UCL’s Masters Careers Essentials Course

Joe O'Brien17 August 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Nicole Estwick, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers

The new academic year may not be underway just yet, but for incoming postgraduate students, planning your year ahead as well as planning for your future after UCL can start now with UCL Careers’ Masters Careers Essentials Course.

This short, optional online course is open to all incoming postgraduate students and aims to provide you with a useful set of starting points for thinking about your future career direction and successfully applying for what you want to do.

So why should you sign up? Here’s five excellent reasons to complete the Masters Careers Essentials course:

  1. Get an early understanding of the graduate job market and know when to apply

As many postgraduate students begin their studies in the autumn, this is the time many employers open their application processes to graduates who will be finishing their degree the following year. The same also goes for PhD applications which generally open around this time too.

Accessing the Masters Careers Essentials course ahead of your first term will help to ensure you are ahead of key dates and don’t miss deadlines for opportunities you may wish to pursue. This will be particularly important this year as the graduate job market adapts to the challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic. Seeking the valuable advice of UCL Careers staff on the course will give you an advantage when you begin looking for roles during and after you have finished your course.

  1. Know your options and progress your career thinking

Some of you may have taken up further study with a particular career in mind, whilst others may still be assessing what they can do next on completion of their Masters.

The Masters Careers Essentials online course can also help you in identifying and researching the options available to you with video content and online resources outlining effective strategies you can use to evaluate the different pathways you can take, helping you to make positive steps forward in your career planning.

  1. Get application ready

For those seeking opportunities during their studies as well as after, Masters Careers Essentials also provides practical tips and advice to get you ready to make applications as soon as you join us.

The course includes sections on writing effective applications and delivering successful interviews and presentations with detailed examples of good and bad techniques in each area that you can apply to applications you will be preparing during the year.

  1. International student? Get advice on working in the UK and abroad

At UCL, we welcome students from all around the globe to study with us and we know that some international students will be exploring the possibility of staying to work in the UK after their Masters degree, while others will be looking forward to working or starting a PhD in their home or a third country.

In the Masters Careers Essentials course, we provide guidance on both of these areas as well as sharing key resources for working abroad ensuring you are equipped with the best tools for your international job search.

  1. Find out about the support available to you at UCL ahead of the new academic year

Finally, the Masters Careers Essentials course allows you to get familiar with UCL Careers and the service we provide ahead of the new academic year.

Your first few weeks will no doubt be busy so why not get a head start on understanding what careers support is available to you so you can maximise your chances of success from day one of your degree.

Register for the Masters Careers Essentials course

If you have any technical problems with signing up to the course, please contact extend@ucl.ac.uk for technical assistance.

Accessing Careers at a Time That Suits You – Careers Essentials Online Moodle

Joe O'Brien12 August 2020

Read time: 4 minutes

Written by Lee Pike, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

Did you know you can access careers 24/7? That’s right! Whether you’re an early riser or a bit of a night owl, you can access essential careers help and guidance at a time that suits you.

Our one-to-one appointments, workshops, and employer events take place during ‘core’ hours.  Outside these hours you can still access a wealth of information through Careers Essentials Online. This is a video-based, interactive course on Moodle, designed to provide insight and practical tools for students at any stage of their career-thinking.

  1. Careers Essentials Online Structure

The online course has six modules to help guide you through whatever stage of career thinking you might be at. You can go through each in turn or just those that appeal or apply to you in the moment. Below is a list of each module with some descriptive text of each.

Module 1 – Your future and how to work towards it

  • Learn how to make next-step career decisions and understand more about yourself and what might be important to you.
  • Find out how to generate potential career options and carry out job research.
  • You can then approach the task of sourcing opportunities with confidence.

Module 2 – Understanding the graduate job market

  • We’ll demystify phrases like ‘Graduate Schemes’, ‘competencies’ and the ‘hidden job market’.
  • Understand more about the reality of looking for jobs / work experience.
  • Learn what employers look for when recruiting at graduate level.

Module 3 – Sourcing jobs and work experience

  • Understand the best sources of advertised jobs and work experience.
  • Learn strategies to access opportunities that are ‘hidden’ and how to apply for unadvertised work.
  • Find out how best to utilise the services of a recruitment agency.

Module 4 – Effective CV, cover letters and applications

  • Understand how to personalise a CV to a specific role to increase your chances of selection.
  • See examples of model cover letters.
  • Find out how to answer motivation and competency-based questions on application forms.

Module  5 – Interview success

  • Understand how the majority of interview questions are predictable.
  • Learn how to approach an interview including answer preparation by using relevant structures / evidence.
  • Learn how to create a great first impression.

Module 6 – Planning for success – managing your job hunt

  • Understand how to create a strategy to help you plan and move forward with your career thinking and job hunting.
  • Learn how to stay motivated and resilient on your journey.
  1. Module Structure

Each module has four sections: Interactive Tutorial; Support Centre; Key Resources; and, Feedback.

Interactive Tutorial

Interactive Tutorials are full of insight, advice and exercises to help you through each module topic. They range between 20 to 45 minutes to complete. An Australian study compared online tutorials using interactive material with electronic book material. It found that the interactive tutorials produce better results than non-interactive online tutorials.

Support Centre

The Support Centre is where you’ll find links that enable you to book a one-to-one appointment with a Careers Consultant or Applications Advisor. You’ll also find links to careers events, workshops and careers fairs. All events that are usually face-to-face are currently running virtually via Microsoft Teams and other virtual platforms. If you use the Careers Essentials Online before your face-to-face appointment, the appointment will likely be more focused as you’ll have a much better understanding of your issues before you meet.

Key Resources

The Key Resources are a selection of short downloadable mini-guides pertinent to the module topic. Many of these resources form part of the interactive tutorials. This section provides quick access to them rather than needing to go through the Interactive Tutorial.


Feedback is an important part of the Careers Essentials Online Moodle. We always want to improve our offering to you and your feedback is invaluable!

Next steps

Why not…?

  • Make a cup of tea and settle down to an interactive tutorial. You will learn something new at a pace that suits you.
  • Have a look at the services that are available to you through myUCLCareers and UCL Careers Events Programme.
  • Use the key resources from each module. Another fantastic source of online resources is the Careers library.
  • Provide feedback so the Careers Service can continue to improve the Careers Essentials Online Moodle – we’d love to hear from you!