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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!

5 Career Lessons from our Favourite TV shows

Joe O'Brien5 August 2020

Read time: 4 minutes

Written by Nicole Estwick, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

In recent months, many of us have sought escapism from current events through our screens, whether that’s through social media, zoom calls or virtual events. TV has also played a massive part in this, especially during the days of lockdown where some of us finally got round to watching the box set we’ve put on hold for ages whilst others tuned in to live TV for the first time in a long time or re-watched a classic series.

Although the world of TV may seem a long way away from our everyday reality, there are still plenty of life and career lessons we can learn from some of our favourite characters. In this post, I’ll outline 5 of the career insights gained from TV series I’ve watched during lockdown:

  1. Friends – Don’t let failure stop you from chasing your dream job

It’s the series many of us can recite word for word and although Friends may present an idyllic image of life and success in New York for a group of twentysomethings, there are still some interesting learnings we can gain from some of its characters – particularly Joey.

As an aspiring actor, Joey’s career is often unpredictable with a number of ups and downs throughout the series, from losing his dream role in a film and ending up in Vegas as a Roman Gladiator entertainer to being cut entirely from a show he was casted in. Despite all of this he kept going, taking failure in his stride until he secured his dream role as Dr. Drake Ramoray on Days of Our Lives, showing that it’s important to accept that failure may be part of your career journey but what is key is having the motivation and strength to keep going in the face of adversity.

  1. The Walking Dead – Always be on the lookout for opportunities to grow and progress

Its hard to see how you might be able to learn career lessons from a show that is based on a Zombie apocalypse but hear me out. Removing the blood and gore (of which there is plenty) you can see that at the heart of The Walking Dead is a group of people who are constantly making moves to improve on their situation by actively seeking opportunities to build a new life for themselves in a post-apocalyptic world.

Linking this back to your job hunt or even a role you may be currently in, don’t just sit back but take an active role in trying to grow and develop yourself so you can get your foot in the door or make headway up the ladder; your career journey does not end once you’ve secured a job, but it is an ongoing process of growth and development.

  1. The Simpsons – Avoid making comparisons and don’t be bitter about others’ success

A specific episode comes to mind when referring to this point and it is the battle between Homer Simpson and arch enemy Frank Grimes. When Frank starts as a new employee at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant after working tirelessly his entire life to reach this point, he is faced with his polar opposite in Homer who appears lazy, incompetent and clueless in the role, yet seems to be even more successful in every way possible than him. In trying to understand Homer’s success, Grimes’s jealously drives him crazy and eventually leads to his death.

Whilst this is an extreme example, the key lesson here is that many of us will look at the successes of friends and classmates and be frustrated that our own career may not be moving in the same direction of travel or as quickly, but it is important to focus on your own journey, not let jealously cloud your thinking, and realise that even the most successful individuals will face challenges despite what they display to others.

  1. The Office – Your job (even your dream job) will have its positives and negatives

Referring to the US office here, the team at Dunder Mifflin show in almost every episode how the 9-5 is a mixture of the good, the bad, and the bizarre which is a reflection of not only work but also life which won’t be a bed of roses everyday.

You may find yourself in a role, especially at a junior level, where lots of admin may be involved or if you’re in a small company you may have to adapt to do lots of different things – what is important is having a positive attitude, making the most of it and finding small ways to make the negative tasks that are part of your role a little more enjoyable.

  1. Ru Paul’s Drag Race – Don’t be afraid to showcase your skills and what you can do with confidence

Queens on the iconic Ru Paul’s Drag Race never fail to showcase what they can do and they do it with confidence. Whilst many of us won’t be putting on an actual show or performance for employers in the same fashion as Bianca Del Rio, viewing the application process metaphorically as a runway whereby you need to clearly display what assets you have and what you can do will boost your chances of success.

Ensure that your CV and Cover Letter clearly outline what you can offer and if you do make it to the interview stage, see it as another chance to demonstrate with confidence that you are the right person for the job in question.

There you have it! How some of your favourite TV show and characters may be delivering key career lessons without you even realising it!

If you are looking for help or guidance for your personal career journey, please do visit our website for additional resources or book a one-to-one appointment with UCL Careers.

How can Learned Societies and Professional Associations Help my Career Planning?

Joe O'Brien4 August 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Glyn Jones, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

Learned societies and professional associations can play an important role in helping with your career prospects. This blog will highlight suitable initiatives you can get involved with as an undergraduate or postgraduate student.

What is a learned societies or professional associations?

Learned societies and professional associations are organisations that exist to support and promote subjects or professions within a particular sector.

Membership organisations often run events and conferences, offer travel awards and bursaries and sometimes manage journals within their sector of interest.

What areas do they exist in?

Learned societies are prominent in academic disciplines, especially amongst the sciences, but many associations also work within the arts and you’ll find that the majority of professional industries will have some kind of professional association affiliated to it.

When researching your potential future career options it’s worth looking for a professional body in your sector of interest.

Do I need to pay to become a member?

To enjoy the whole range of initiatives offered by an organisation, you may need to become a member. There are often many different types of membership plans, such as reduced or free membership for undergraduate members. We would recommend exploring what the have to offer!

It is worth noting that some resources may be available to non-members, such as on the careers section of a website. Be sure to take a look at what you can access online for free before committing to paying for membership.

How can they be beneficial?

  • Events

Learned societies and professional associations often run events based on a particular area of interest within that discipline, or on a career pathway within that industry. Due to the current situation, many events have moved online, so recordings of previous sessions may also be available.

Here is a selection of some events provided by some life sciences learned societies to give you a taster of what might be on offer:

It may also be that these organisations seek volunteers to help with (virtual) events or contribute to online content e.g. blog, news articles. By getting involved in these events you may gain valuable experience that can help demonstrate your skillset.

Benefit to you: Builds your knowledge and skills within a particular area of interest through attending events or contributing to the work of a learned society or professional organisation.

  • Networking

Events run by learned societies and professional associations can be useful places to network with those working in a field of interest. This opportunity may enable you to grow your professional network outside your usual circles e.g. within UCL or London.

It’s not only through attending events that you can grow your networks either. You may wish to keep an eye on regular contributors to the work of the society, such as committee members and student representatives. Another way to identify networking opportunities may be through specific interest groups, or geographical groups affiliated with these organisations. For example, the British Society for Immunology have a list of their Regional and Affinity Groups. You can use these to identify potential networking opportunities.

Benefit to you: You have an opportunity to network with different individuals who you might not otherwise meet. This can give you a different perspective of the industry outside what you would normally hear about.

  • Careers Resources

Often learned societies or professional associations have careers sections on their websites. These may offer advice on possible career pathways within the industry or provide details of qualifications needed for a career in your field of interest. An example might be the British Psychological Association’s Become a Psychologist webpage. As well as careers information, you may find case studies on such sites, which can provide information and real life examples on a range of professionals working in the industry.

Benefit to you: By using this focused careers information relating to your area of interest, you may find much more detailed/specific information compared to broader careers advice sites, such as Prospects.

  • Funding / Developmental Opportunities

Summer studentships are common amongst some learned societies, a list of examples within the life sciences has been collated on the Royal Society of Biology’s website. The application process may require you to approach an existing member of the society who would act as your supervisor. You would then work together to submit an application for the studentship. Each organisation will set out its own requirements and application process, so it’s worth researching exactly what is needed for the application. Alternatively, you may find that such organisations offer student prizes that are great to put on your CV, or possible financial awards that can be used to contribute to travel costs.

Benefit to you: Making the most of these funding opportunities could enable you to gain experiences that you may not be able to afford otherwise. Check the requirements to understand if you (or your potential supervisor) need to have been a member of the organisation for a certain amount of time before applying to make sure you qualify.

Next steps

This blog has highlighted some potential benefits you could gain from getting involved with learned societies or professional associations, particularly focusing on benefits for undergraduate and postgraduate students. Why not look for an organisation that works in your field of interest on the Directory of Professions. Then explore their websites to see what benefits they can bring to your journey.

Sector Insights: Market and Social Research

Joe O'Brien28 July 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

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

What is market and social research?

Market and social research is an incredibly broad and wide-ranging sector that is primarily concerned with using research as a tool to support decision making. The research could pretty much be about anything – from informing decisions about brand packaging to decisions affecting government policy.

The quantitative and qualitative methods that are used in the research are again extremely varied – for example, researching using the internet, analysis of data from consumer wearables, taste testing, focus groups and large-scale international telephone surveys. Social researchers use many of the same skills and methods as market researchers but their concern is always with improving the performance of the public sector through influencing national policy or policy at a local level.

The majority of market researchers work within a research agency. Some large research agencies within the private sector, such as Ipsos MORI and Kantar Public UK, also have specialist social research departments. However, other key employers of social researchers include central government departments, local authorities, higher education research institutions, social research agencies such as NatCen, charities, pressure and lobby groups and trade unions.

For further introductory insights into the market and social research sector, I would recommend this Career Guide put together by the Market Research Society.

Meet David Ireland, Research Manager at Ipsos MORI

I recently contacted David Ireland on LinkedIn to find out about his experience as a Research Manager at Ipsos MORI, and his route into the market and social research sector. David completed his MSc in Security Studies at UCL in 2015 and he told me that he enjoys a career that draws upon his academic training, allowing him to use his research skills to impact business.

David also kindly answered my following questions:

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

Whilst at UCL, research methods modules were key. Alongside that, work experience was key. Not just internships – some of the most useful lessons were from when I worked in a running shop as it really built my presentation and communication skills.

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

Juggling multiple tasks and projects isn’t to be underestimated! Analysis with a curious eye – thinking about what research means and what should be done off the back of it. Presentation skills and communicating – I do quite a lot of presenting and talking and that’s super important. Other things include writing, data visualisation, delegating (up and down).

What does a typical day at work looks like for you? What do you find most enjoyable and most challenging?

A typical day starts between 9 and 9.30am. I catch up on emails and plan the day based on what’s going on. I typically spend time working on projects (PowerPoint reports are the norm), talking to other internal teams and having client meetings. Normally I have a client meeting once a week but that ebbs and flows (some weeks none, other weeks multiple). Most enjoyable is delivering something that is really good with powerful messages that has impact, whether a presentation or a report. Most challenging can be juggling multiple projects as there’s often a lot going on.

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

My advice would be to not just think of yourself as a researcher – especially if you’re interested in going into more of a commercial research role. Think about how research can impact business.

Next Steps to Building your Network

Despite the impact of Covid-19 and the current lack of in-person networking opportunities, here are some tips on how you can continue to build your connections and explore a career within the market and social research sector:

  • Whenever I reach out to UCL alumni like David and they respond with enthusiasm to help and fantastic advice, it’s a reminder of what great value and a source of support they can be to current students and recent graduates. So, if you’re interested in finding out more about a career in market and social research, reaching out to UCL alumni on platforms such as LinkedIn or UCL’s Alumni Online Community is a really great way to do this and to start building your network. Sometimes you might not hear back but hopefully sometimes you will – and it’s worth it!
  • You can find out more about using online platforms for networking in our recent blogpost on 5 Key Resources for Networking from Home.
  • For further insights into building connections within the market and social research sector, I would also recommend checking out networking advice provided by the Market Research Society.
  • Remember that if you would like to explore your career in the sector further – for example your networking plans, how to use the summer to develop relevant sector skills, or something else – you can book in with UCL Careers for a one-to-one guidance appointment.

Top 10 Tips on Preparing for a Virtual Assessment Centre

Joe O'Brien20 July 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

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

Due to the current situation, many employers around the world are adapting their recruitment strategies to ensure candidates are still able to take part in internships and summer placements. As part of this experience, recruiters are moving interviews and even assessment centres online.

Assessment centres typically consist of several activities run over the course of a day, designed to test how candidates deal with work-related situations. These may include presentations, in-tray exercises, psychometric tests, case studies and group exercises. However, do not be daunted by the thought of this. A virtual assessment centre simply means the whole process will be run online, without the need to visit company offices or meet recruiters face-to-face.

The idea of being assessed through a series of online tasks may be a challenging experience but don’t worry, I have 10 top tips to ensure you are ready for your next virtual assessment centre and boost your chances of success.

  1. Check Your Tech

It’s important to check that your technology is up to scratch prior to the assessment centre. To ensure everything runs smoothly on the day, download any necessary software in advance, and check you are comfortable with any audio and video requirements i.e. using your camera and microphone correctly. Perhaps rehearse speaking clearly and slowly, allowing for any slight delays in transmission, or excessive pixilation or lag. You might also wish to double-check your broadband speeds at different times of the day. Finally, charge your devices so you don’t run out of battery halfway through the assessment centre.

  1. Clear Your Space

Always consider your environment before attending a virtual assessment centre. Will there be any distracting background noises, perhaps from building work in the street, or even a noisy kitchen appliance? Also think about what else is in shot; you may wish to move those dirty mugs from view! Consider your lighting as well; it is always preferable to sit with your face to a window. Overall, a plain, clean, tidy and neutral background is preferable, so if this is impossible, consider blurring your background on your device.

  1. Follow the Instructions

It is crucial that you read all correspondence carefully in advance of the assessment centre. If requested, send across your right to work documents and any photographs prior to the day. It is often useful to provide an alternative contact number should technology issues occur at the last minute. Again, remember to download the required software and do any preparatory reading prior to the big day.

  1. Communicate in Advance

You should aim to pre-warn recruiters if you have slow internet speeds or poor connectivity so that they are aware in advance should the situation arise.  If you consider yourself to have a disability or health condition, share this with the team beforehand so that all necessary adjustments can be put in place well in advance of the day.

  1. Take Your Time

Remember to treat a virtual assessment centre in the same way as if you were attending in person. Schedule the day accordingly, making sure you place a note of the date in your online or physical diary. Also ensure you are fully prepared in advance, so you have no excuse to ‘turn up’ late or appear flustered! In fact, ensure you join the URL link approximately 5 minutes in advance, leaving enough time to enter any meeting ID or passwords. Also remember to log out promptly at the end of the assessment centre too.

  1. Dress to Impress

Just because you don’t need to leave the confines of your bedroom, doesn’t mean you have any excuse not to dress the part, so forget about attending the assessment centre in your favourite pyjamas and dress to impress! Smart and professional attire is crucial, so select your outfit as if you were attending a physical assessment centre.

  1. Show That Smile

Remember to build rapport and maintain a positive outlook during the assessment centre. Smile and try to enjoy the experience! Maintain direct eye contact and pay attention to your body language. You don’t want to fidget or play around with pens, hair or jewellery. If you are tempted to keep waving your hands around to express yourself, then consider being more mindful of this and perhaps practice speaking with reduced hand movements so you don’t distract the recruiter.

  1. Keep Your Focus

A virtual assessment centre will take all your concentration, so you should try to avoid all potential distractions. This includes your housemates, family members, and even excitable pets, so make others aware that you are unavailable during this time. Also consider putting your mobile or smart devices on silent for the duration of the assessment centre.

  1. Do Not Panic

If you lose your internet connection, do not panic. Before the day of the assessment centre, calm your nerves by ensuring you have a contingency plan, such as moving to mobile data or a nearby hot-spot on your laptop if necessary. Keep contact numbers for the recruiter ready so you can call them immediately and keep them updated on the situation, should it arise.

  1. Enjoy The Day

Finally, take a deep breath, get stuck in and enjoy the day. Even if you are not successful, treat a virtual assessment centre as an exciting and unique learning experience, giving you a great opportunity to keep in touch with employers and network with fellow applicants.

Don’t forget, if you’re likely to need to attend a virtual assessment centre for the types of roles you’re applying for, UCL Careers can help you understand even more about them, develop key skills that recruiters will be assessing and provide example assessment centre exercises. Good luck!