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UCL Careers Explains…Why you need a National Insurance number and how to get one

Skye AAitken3 December 2019

Written by Katharine Evans, Internships and Vacancies Officer at UCL Careers.

A person writing at a deskWhy you need a National Insurance Number

National insurance is a tax on your earnings that goes into the National Insurance Fund which pays for various benefits. You pay national insurance contributions between the ages of 16 and state pension age on earnings. More information about National Insurance can be found in X part of this blog.

Your National Insurance number is unique to you throughout your life but you cannot use it as a form of ID. It is made up of 2 letters, 6 numbers and a final letter. Such as: QQ 12 34 56 C.

Everyone who wants to work in the UK must have a national insurance number. You can start work without one but you must then apply immediately. The law requires you to apply for NI number if you do not already have one and you are working or are intending to work.

How to get a National Insurance Number

If you are looking for work, starting work or setting up as a self-employed person, you will need a national insurance number. If you have the right to work in the UK (even if it is only part-time), you will need to telephone The National Insurance Number Application line on 0800 141 2075, lines are open Monday-Friday 8am-6pm. You will need to phone from the UK. You may be required to attend an ‘Evidence of identity’ interview.

There are many services online that offer to get you an NI number for a fee. These sites should be avoided, they don’t provide you with any advantage, and instead charge you for their services, when it’s easy to go the official route and get your national insurance number for free.

Once your application is successful, you will receive a letter confirming your NI number. Take good care of this as it is your reminder of your NI number and you will need to use it when you contact HM Revenue and Customs or the Department for Work and Pensions. As soon as you have your NI number, you should tell your employer.

Careers Q&A | CareersLab

2 December 2019

Written by Joe O’Brien
In this episode, Raj answers your careers questions! He gives his thoughts on whether or not bullet points should feature in cover letters, and answers questions around part-time work. You can send him more questions by emailing careers.marketing@ucl.ac.uk

In this episode, Raj answers your careers questions! He gives his thoughts on whether or not bullet points should feature in cover letters, and answers questions around part-time work. You can send him more questions by emailing careers.marketing@ucl.ac.uk

UCL Careers Explains…Starting a new role

Skye AAitken28 November 2019

Written by Katharine Evans, Internships and Vacancies Officer at UCL Careers.

This is the first in a series of blog posts that will help you understand more about contractual information, payment for your work, Income Tax and National Insurance.

Today’s blog post has been designed to help you understand what employers should be providing you with when they offer you a job.

A person working on a laptopJob Details

When you are offered a job it’s an exciting time and you will likely be really happy to have secured a position. Once you have agreed to take the role you must ensure that you are given all the details that you need about it. It’s important to make sure that you have the information in writing from your new employer – this could be in the form of a formal document or an email exchange. Your employer is legally obliged to provide the terms and conditions of employment within two months of your starting date, but it is best if you can go over the details with your employer as soon as you join the company. Often an employer will give you details verbally however, basic idea behind having the details in writing is to give you and your employer information that you can both refer back to if any disputes arise, as such the contract / email exchange should include all of the following:

  • The name of the employer and employee
  • The job title
  • Date of commencement of employment
  • Duration of employment – is it for a fixed period or ongoing?
  • Place of work
  • Rate of pay and when you will be paid
  • Normal hours of work
    • Check the normal working hours and look for mentions of compulsory overtime, or whether time off in lieu (TOIL) is given. Some employers limit the hours that can be worked and others may ask you to opt out of the “working time directive which aims to limit hours to 48 hours per week – see https://www.gov.uk/maximum-weekly-working-hours
  • Holiday entitlement and holiday pay
    • All full time UK workers are entitled to a minimum of 28 days of annual leave. This is made up of 20 annual leave days plus 8 bank holidays.
    • Part time workers are entitled to the pro rata equivalent.
    • If you’re working on a zero hours contract, or a temporary role you may find that you accrue holiday hours for each hour worked or you may be paid holiday pay separately from your hourly pay, this equates to 12.07%.
  • Pension scheme
  • Sick pay
  • Notice period
  • Disciplinary rules and procedure
  • Grievance procedure

Payment

If you’re working a job with set hours your pay may be set out as a pro-rated annual salary – for more information about this see https://www.themix.org.uk/work-and-study/workers-rights-and-pay/pro-rata-pay-1685.html If you’re being paid hourly and you often work different hours each week, then your employer should let you know in writing how much you’re paid per hour, and your standard working hours. It’s important to find out how your hours are worked out. Eg. are they recorded through clocking in? Do you complete timesheets? Or is each shift recorded by your manager? Regardless it’s a good idea for you to also make a record of the hours you work. You should also make sure that you know whether your breaks are paid or unpaid and whether overtime, or weekends and night shifts are paid at a different rate.

Occasionally your employer may want to change the terms of your employment. Even if you have only been given the terms verbally the employer must obtain written permission from you for any changes. Any changes that you agree to must be backed up with a written statement within one month of the changes taking place.

Top 5 Skills For Careers in the Arts

Skye AAitken27 November 2019

Written by Rachel Garman, Careers Information and Research Officer at UCL Careers.

UCL Careers held an event about Careers in the Arts on 15th November 2019 as part of our Museums, Arts and Cultural Heritage Themed Week.

Our panelists were:

Joane Filipe: Exhibition Designer & Creative Producer at InterestingProjects

Chloe Godman: Gallery Manager at Open Gallery

Julia Padfield: Press & Publications Assistant at Shakespeare’s Globe

Anna Testar: Assistant Curator at Royal Academy of Arts

As part of a really interesting evening, these are some of the most useful skills to develop for your career in the Arts from our panelists’ perspective:

1. Be Proactive

It can be tricky to start a career in the arts, so be proactive in seeking out opportunities to gain experience or create your own. Start a blog, put on exhibitions of your or your friend’s work, volunteer at galleries and apply for internships – these are all great ways of building up your experience, and you’ll make connections at the same time. You don’t have to just work within the arts – you’ll gain transferable skills no matter what work you do and don’t be too concerned if your career isn’t linear, as you’ll be able to spin your experience and skills back to your arts work. Say yes to anything interesting that comes your way and take the time to work out what you’re good at.

2. Attention To Detail

You may be writing exhibition guides, arranging the logistics of an exhibition tour, communicating with the public through social media, licensing images, tracking invoices and payments to your business, or many other tasks you will be asked to complete in the course of your career – attention to detail is crucial in maintaining a high standard of work, especially in an industry that doesn’t have much money to spare on mistakes.

3. Organisation And Multitasking

Organisational skills are very useful to have in any sector, and the arts is no exception. You may need to juggle several projects (for example planning several future exhibitions) at the same time, prioritise conflicting deadlines, and keep a careful track of budgets, so the ability to multitask and being methodical prioritising your work will be crucial.

4. People Skills

Whether you work with customers and clients or colleagues, in sales or in a press office, as a curator or designer, you’ll need people skills to succeed. You might need to be persuasive to make a sale or negotiate a loan of an artwork for an exhibition, to be collaborative while working on a team project, or engaging while talking to a school group, but working effectively with others is key. You can also use your people skills to build up a network of useful contacts across the industry, which may prove invaluable in your next career move.

5. Passion

The arts is a competitive sector, so having a passion and knowledge of your subject may allow you to stand out next to another equally-qualified candidate – you don’t need to know everything about a topic, but showing enthusiasm at interview can certainly impress employers. Your enthusiasm may also help to create relationships with other professionals (they may remember you when a job becomes available), and can help sustain you through the frustrations of job hunting and through a career where high pay is rare. Indulge your passion by reading, going to exhibitions or the theatre, listening to music – the more you build connections between different artistic creations the broader your knowledge will be, which will only help your work. Conveying your enthusiasm to those consuming the arts can be the most rewarding part of your job.

If you’d like to explore more, blogs and resources from the Museums, Arts and Cultural Heritage Themed Week can be found on the UCL Careers website.

My Global Internship: how to ace your video interview

Skye AAitken27 November 2019

Written by Rhiannon Williams, Global Internships Manager at UCL Careers.

Applying for roles overseas means you are inevitably going to experience a video interview, particularly for smaller firms who have no budget to fly all of their applicants over to their offices! There are two types of video interview – pre-recorded ones where you will be given a question and you record your answers and live ones where someone will be on the other end asking questions and engaging in a conversation with you. This blog is going to focus on the latter but advice about pre-recorded video interviews can be found in one of our CareersLab videos, ‘How to ace video interviews

With the right amount of preparation, you can ace your video interview just as well as if it were in-person. What’s more, the way that you conduct yourself is a real life example of how well you can work in a global and remote working context. So how can you prepare?

Before the interview

Student sat in front of an abstract painting whilst holding a brochure whilst at their global internshipThink about the time

Communicate clearly and remember that you may need to take time difference into account. Compare these responses:

  • Could we arrange the interview for 3 next Monday?
  • Could we arrange the interview for 15:00 (GMT) on Monday 11 September?

 The second is much clearer. If you want to offer the suggestion in the interviewer’s time zone, you could write 15:00 (GMT+1) or 15:00 UK / 16:00 France. Time and Date is a good website for checking time differences.

Go the extra mile

Employers are busy, and recruitment of an overseas candidate can already be extra work. Anticipating what information, they may require from you could not only save you both time, but also demonstrates proactive thinking. For example:

Share a list of your contact details. Use your judgement as to what methods to suggest. Whatever you end up using, be aware of your public visibility and make sure what an employer can see is appropriate, from profile pictures to past status updates.

  • Do let me know how you would like to conduct the interview. I have attached my details here should you need:
    • Phone/WhatsApp: +441234567890 (include international dialling code!)
    • Skype: xx@xx.com
    • Zoom: 12345678
    • Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams etc

Enable international calls on your phone. If video communication breaks down, then phone can be a backup option. Ensure you have international calls enabled just in case – ask your service provider.

Show some flexibility. You’re unlikely to be asked to wake up at 3am, but there’s a chance you may have to get up a couple of hours early, use a lunch break, or speak after hours. The more flexible you can be the better (within reason), and shows that you are interested in the role.

Research from afar

It’s essential when preparing to apply for any interview that you research the company – and it’s no different for a video interview. You may be less familiar with aspects of an overseas organisation such as their perception in the local market or the location they are based. The internet is a powerful tool in this situation, and you could use resources such as:

  • Glassdoor – this is useful for any candidate to learn about an organisation from it’s own employees. There is a useful feature allowing you to filter by location. However, be mindful that there are countries where Glassdoor is not commonly used, or small organisations that return limited or no information, which doesn’t necessarily mean the experience won’t be a good one.
  • LinkedIn – you might wish to research the current talent they have hired. You can use LinkedIn to search the organisation’s current and past employees and get an understanding of their background, work experience, interests etc. You might also find a mutual connection somewhere! Take your findings with a pinch of salt – you don’t necessarily have to ‘fit the same mould’.
  • Alumni – use the UCL Alumni Online Community to connect with alumni overseas to get tips about interviewing in their home country.
  • Your prospective organisation’s website – naturally, many organisations have some form of online presence, from LinkedIn to their own domain. Explore this thoroughly to get an understanding of their business, culture, and values.

During the interview

Student sat at a computer with their global internship employerTake challenges in your stride

Any job interview can be stressful, let alone one that is both via video and with an overseas employer. Be aware of potential challenges such as:

  • Language miscommunications. The language of the interview will likely be the same as that of the job description (although do check if you’re unsure!) and this could potentially be the interviewer’s second (or third) language. This may not be a challenge and you might not even realise. However, if you are faced with a situation where miscommunication occurs, don’t worry! Just be honest and ask for clarification where needed – you could ask the interviewer to repeat the question, or repeat the question back to them first to check your understanding.
  • Technical issues. Despite advances in tech, issues can still occur. It’s up to you to make a judgement about what you can live with and what is going to have an impact on your performance. Sometimes the best option is to acknowledge an issue when it occurs, and say you’ll let the interview know if it affects your ability to perform. Do not wait until the end to raise a significant technical issue – it may look like you are making excuses.

Tips from students on the ground

  1. Prepare an introduction to your university or qualifications. Overseas employers may be less familiar with UK universities and the degree classification system. Scholera has a free conversion tool you can use.
  2. Prepare answers to common questions for overseas candidates. For example, previous international experience, adapting to working in a new country etc. For candidates returning to their home country, you could instead be asked about what your international experience has taught you, why you’re looking to return home etc. Interview Stream has a whole section dedicated to common questions asked in international job interviews – access them by selecting ‘conduct an interview’ > ‘custom interview’ > ‘international/global job search’.
  3. If you have told the employer you speak a foreign language, be prepared to use it to answer a few questions. Don’t say you’re a fluent speaker if you’re not comfortable doing this!

So start preparing for your video interviews and put yourself in the best possible position to ace it. Got your own tips to share? Comment below!

Insights Into: Working In Travel Journalism

Skye AAitken27 November 2019

Written by guest writers, Sophie Dening and Katie Bowman.

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

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

Sophie Dening, Editor and journalist

UCL graduate: BA French Language and Literature (1997)

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

How did you get your job?

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

What’s a typical day like?

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

What do you enjoy about your role?

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

What are the challenges?

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

How relevant is your degree to your current job?

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

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

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

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

Image of a woman walking through a field holding a camera

Katie Bowman, Features Editor, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine

UCL graduate: English (1999)

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

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

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

What is your role like on an average day?

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

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

What do you enjoy about your role?

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

What are the challenges?

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

 How relevant was your degree to your current role?

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

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

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

How would I find out about internship opportunities?

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

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

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

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

What would you look for when commissioning a freelancer?

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

Any other tips for potential freelancers?

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

Seven Tips For Securing A Career In Cultural Heritage

26 November 2019

Written by Glyn Jones, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

As part of Museums, Arts and Cultural Heritage Themed Week, we held an event on Careers in Cultural Heritage on 14 November 2019. Four panellists joined us for a Q&A discussion, sharing their insights from the experiences they’ve had during their time in the industry.

Here are the top tips that we took away from the event:

1. Pursue your passion

Tellingly, each panellist told us why they love what they do. They were passionate about various things including research, history, volunteering or arts and literature, all of which allow them to contribute to the industry in which they work. Pursuing your passion will not only contribute to your drive in the workplace, but means you’re more likely to enjoy your role. Make sure that you can demonstrate this passion, through attending relevant talks and events, carrying out research or even going on to do a postgraduate qualification.

2. Find a skill that you are good at

Having a desirable skill that you are good at, which you’re able to evidence during an application process, can give you an advantage when applying for opportunities. Some of the panellists mentioned how they utilise particular skills that they are good at and tailor this towards opportunities for which they are applying. Demonstrating your suitability for a role through this particular skill allows you to carve out your own area of expertise within an industry.

3. Gain relevant experience

Relevant experience can be crucial in job applications. Through this, you’re able to demonstrate your understanding of the sector, the day to day responsibility required for the role and how you are well equipped to do this. Work placements as part of a Masters are excellent opportunities to gain these experiences, as are internships and volunteering opportunities.

4. Be adaptable

Show that you can turn your hand to multiple tasks to demonstrate your adaptability and broad skillset. Panellists highlighted the importance of being able to work with a range of different collections, taking on more management responsibilities through their roles and juggling multiple projects across different locations. Whatever the work involves, showing a can-do attitude and being able to adapt to changing circumstances is a valuable skill for this sector.

5. Make the most of development opportunities

The Cultural Heritage industry seems to be fiercely competitive, therefore panellists were keen to emphasise the importance of making the most of developmental opportunities when they come around. This could be gaining further experiences within your organisation, taking part in training offered by your employer, pursuing further education or undertaking a

traineeship. All these opportunities will enable you to further your knowledge as well as giving you valuable practical experience.

6. Push yourself

All panellist spoke about the importance of working hard and showing a commitment to the work that you do. Push yourself; this commitment can lead to the opportunity to take on more responsibility and gaining further skills, which may prove useful later on in your career. The panellists said this with the caveat that with a long career ahead of you, you should make sure to avoid burnout.

7. Network

Networking can be important in many different sectors. Building contacts and professional networks can be crucial in getting valuable insights and hearing about future opportunities within certain industries. The picture painted by our panellists was of a highly competitive industry that has stiff competition for each vacancy. Through your networks, you will be able to set yourself apart to gain valuable insights that can give you the edge when applying for vacancies.

You can read our other post-event blog from Museums, Arts and Cultural Heritage Week: Careers in Museums

If you want to speak to one of our Careers Consultants about your career, please book an appointment via MyUCLCareers

Insights From: Deputy Social Media Editor in The Independent

Skye AAitken26 November 2019

Written by guest writer, Ben Kelly from The Independent.

Photo of Ben Kelly from The Independent

Ben Kelly, Deputy Social Media Editor in The Independent shares some insights into his career so far…

I work in the Audience team at The Independent, who sit at the main news desk and help draw a majority of traffic to the website. By looking at what is doing well on social media, and what people are searching for, we help the news editor shape the agenda for the day, and when stories are written, we get them out there for people to read and share across the main social channels like Facebook and Twitter. Essentially, my team makes sure that our host of great writers are having their work presented in the best way, and that it is being exposed to as big an audience as possible.

News is very much a 24/7 operation, so I can be expected to do late nights and weekends sometimes, but most days it’s a case of working on a list of key stories we want that day, and then spending the rest of the day making sure writers have the best headlines, and that we’re getting all the best stuff out there at peak times for readers. Most of the writers at The Independent want their stuff to be performing best, which makes my team very popular!

I like being at the forefront of the news agenda. Spotting something on Twitter quickly means we can write it up as a story within minutes, and this is often a race against competitors, which pays off if we get there first. Equally we have the ability to draw attention to lesser-recognised stories, or suggest alternative takes to stories which everyone else is already covering. Often my work environment is very busy, and can feel quite pressurised, but that’s part of the cut and thrust that most people in the industry enjoy.

Obviously my English degree helped me as a writer, but most of my current work skills have been learned. Partly this was on the job, but it’s also been through my own personal interest in news, which means I have a good idea for what makes a good story, how they should be written, and how things should be prioritised.

Most of my colleagues at The Independent, and even in the Audience team, have arts and humanities degrees like English, and some people have done postgraduate degrees at City University. But my role – like many in the industry – are fast changing with the evolving ways we consume news, and with changing technologies. So while a traditional education is essential, I think any digital-based work is largely a case of learning as you go.

In a similar way, I find news rooms are very fluid places where you can progress, or move to different departments if your skills are suited or required elsewhere, and that’s what I like about working in such a big company like The Independent – there are always opportunities to grow and expand as a professional.

Personally, I don’t think postgraduate study is necessary. Most people I work with simply got stuck into a job on their local paper, or for a small magazine, or an independent production company, and learned as much in skills, savvy and connections in a couple of years than they would have through study. The best way to learn most of this trade is on the job.

Many people will probably come into the media sector looking at a traditional angle like writing or reporting, which is how I began too. Any basic entry level job at any publication should be sought out and used to improve for your next position (sites like Gorkana, LinkedIn and Mediargh are great). But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that you must learn to adapt to the changing market.

So while you should learn the basic ‘pyramid structure’ of how to write a story, you should also learn how to record and edit audio and video to go with it, how to do a piece to camera so you can do a Facebook Live when you’re out on an interview, how to write the best headlines so that your story stands out on Twitter. It’s no longer enough just to be a good writer, so learn all the various ways you can tell a story, and this will make you much more attractive to employers. Over time then, you’ll find a niche that really suits what you’re good at, and what you enjoy.

If you are interested in getting involved in the media, my advice would be to get writing on your own blog or for small publications wherever you can, and if you want to get into a more production side of things, then start making video clips or podcasts of things that interest you. There is more technology available to make this happen than there ever has been before. Look to people whose work you admire, and find out how they did it, and maybe even reach out to them for advice. Keep an eye on the media world, what’s going on, who’s who, and what jobs crop up. The best thing you can do is get a job – any job – in a media organisation, as this will start you on the ladder, and help you learn and create contacts in your early professional years. From there, you can then carve out the direction in which you want to go.

UCL Careers Themed Weeks 2019: Museums, Arts & Cultural Heritage Top Tips from Gina Koutsika

19 November 2019

Written by guest writer, Gina Koutsika, Creative & Skills Director at V&A Museum of Childhood.

Panellist on Careers in Museums Panel, 11th November, 2019.


It was a great pleasure to be on the ‘Careers in Museums’ panel at UCL and to see so many students wanting to work in museums. For those that could not make it, here are my top 4 tips to succeed in the museum sector:

  1. Learn about yourself, your needs and your preferences. Working in museums is fulfilling and rewarding. You are surrounded by passionate and interesting colleagues, significant – and sometimes astoundingly beautiful – artefacts that can reveal so many different stories and you create memorable, life-changing, enjoyable experiences for and with the public. However, working in museums requires – not only at the start but throughout your professional journey – a lot of personal sacrifices. It requires to invest a lot of your personal time; a lot of your energy and the pay is for some roles less than the national average. It is important to be confident that working in a museum is really what you want to do and that it worth the personal cost. Alternatives include being a museum supporter, museum consumer and a museum volunteer, while having a different career.
  2. Develop your competencies and skills. Volunteer in different roles and in a variety of museums. Get to know the sector and gain hands-on experience, which is often more valuable, than academic knowledge. When I started and while working full-time, I was volunteering in both my own organisation (at another department) and in another museum. It was exhausting but also exciting and it enabled me to build on my skills and experiences, which led to a promotion.
  3. Grasp any opportunity that comes your way and seek to create your own opportunities. Be open, available, and willing to support others. It’s important to make connections, take up training and networking opportunities. You may even want to source a mentor. There are a number of networks you can join for free, and museum membership organisations, like ICOM, MA, GEM, VSG as well as subject -specialist network, that usually have a discounted student membership. There are also bursaries to attend conferences and training days, and it is worth saving up and investing in your professional development.
  4. Regularly, visit museums and exhibitions and observe how visitors engage and interact. Note what worked and what did not. Think about what you may have done differently and your reasoning for it. Talk to the front-of-house staff and learn from their experiences in the galleries. Keep a log of your visits and who you meet. Keep up with the latest developments in the sector through newsletters, research papers, books. Read widely and outside the museological literature.

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

Skye AAitken14 November 2019

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

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

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

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

What challenges does your sector / organisation face at present?

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

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

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

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

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