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Interview with Jo Gibney, Head of Business Development at Association of Volunteer Managers

Joe O'Brien3 February 2020

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

As part of UCL Careers’ Charities & NGOs themed week, we interviewed Jo Gibney (Head of Business Development at the Association of Volunteer Managers) about her career and her top tips to students interested in the sector.

When did you join the Association of Volunteer Managers and why?

I started at AVM in August 2019 after having volunteered from October 2017 on their board. I was volunteering as I had an interest in developing the profession of volunteer managers. I joined as an employee as this gave me the opportunity to drive and shape the direction of the group and bring them a new perspective.

What lead you to be interested in the charities sector in the first place?

I fell into it – when I was at university in the 1990s there was little information offered about the sector as a whole. I did a science-based degree, but realised that I didn’t really want to work in that field. After working in a number of jobs I didn’t enjoy, I approached an employment agency for something more challenging. They suggested a couple of charity jobs, and so I ended up in a campaigning job for a charity. I was also volunteering for St John Ambulance, and I eventually got into volunteer management. I learned that I wanted to work in a field that wasn’t sales or money-driven, and to do something satisfying and worthwhile.

What makes your role interesting and what makes it challenging?

It’s interesting because I get to see how a small business works and help to make it grow so we can support our members. I get to speak to a range of people and develop the right events for them.
What’s challenging is having to engage with the business side and see things from a different perspective (rather than being on the inside of the charity I’m working to support them). I’m seeing the day-to-day challenges of small charities after spending more of my career working for larger charities. It’s a big learning curve.

Why would you encourage students to get into the charities sector and/or volunteering?

If you’re passionate about making an impact on others and the world then this is the sector for you. You’ll get to see your impact it in action which, if you’re supportive of the cause, is very rewarding. Any skills you have will be useful in the charities sector. There are also many jobs in charities that simply don’t exist within the private sector! I’d encourage students to volunteer because you get to build on existing skills and develop new ones while really helping. It allows you to try out different avenues and opportunities and experience different (and extremely diverse) roles and working environments in a flexible way. This can often be just a few hours a week, so it’s really useful for giving an insight into the sector and knowing what you want to focus on when you graduate.

What do you think charities look for in their staff and volunteers?

They’d like you to be passionate for the cause. It’s also important to have transferrable skills. It’s important to do your research before you apply and know what you’re getting into and the challenges you will face. You will need to be collaborative and have communication skills. Charities need people who can think creatively and can constructively question the set way of doing things.

What top tips would you give to students?

Research: Investigate different types of jobs and different charities as the sector is very broad with a lot of scope, and research a charity before applying. Don’t discount working for smaller, less well-known charities as you can end up doing more, gaining more skills and having a more direct impact. The sector isn’t for everyone – you could still do a lot of good in the private sector with corporate social responsibility schemes, or move into charity work later in your career.

Be proactive: Use LinkedIn to make connections – don’t be afraid to contact people to find out more about their job or organisation, as it’s a very generous sector for sharing time and knowledge. On a practical level, https://www.charityjob.co.uk/ is a great place to search for a job.

Be flexible: Be prepared for your career to be varied with no straight line – there is a lot of moving around to different charities doing a variety of jobs using different skills in different places, so it suits people who can be flexible.

Embrace the breadth of the sector: Remember that not all jobs are on the frontline, so if you don’t feel like you’d be suited to working with service users you could be just as valuable working in research, finance, fundraising, marketing and all sorts of roles.

7 Things We Learned at Media Week 2019

Joe O'Brien11 December 2019

Written by Rhiannon Williams, Global Internships Manager

Media Week took place at the end of November and we explored the diverse areas within this sector including advertising, broadcasting, publishing, PR, marketing, and journalism. We had a fantastic line-up of speakers across 5 events, including 14 alumni sharing their insights into life after UCL. So, what did we learn?

  1. Be open minded and don’t be afraid to try different things
    From working in a kitchen to doing internships in sectors such as finance, our panellists tried a range of things before embarking on a career in their industry. Being open minded when starting out is often valuable as it can lead to new opportunities that you may have not considered before.

    Perhaps consider the differences between working in an agency and working in house. In agency, you may have a broader variety of projects and there is potential for more rapid career progression, whereas in house you can understand the workings of one organisation in more detail and build relationships with senior stakeholders in the company. Assess which may work best for you and research job profiles for entry level roles like Press Assistant, Junior Account Executive, and Marketing Executive on websites such as Prospects to build an understanding of what is involved in the role.

  2. Take advantage of having London on your doorstep
    With some of the country’s biggest brands and creative agencies based in the capital, it’s a great time to source work experience whilst you are studying at UCL and benefit from the opportunities that many students in universities around the country may not have access to as easily.
  3. There is more competition than ever before in publishing
    Don’t be passive with opportunities as there will be someone else ready to make something of them if you don’t. Make your own luck and demonstrate your curiosity when applying for opportunities. Book-selling skills are incredibly attractive to publishers (working in a bookshop means you know what sells!) but remember that everyone else ‘loves books’ so don’t use this as your USP when writing your application.
  4. Use your network to get a foot in the door
    Networking plays a big part in this industry so think about your network and if there are any friends, family or acquaintances who may have a connection to or work in the industry. You can also try the UCL Alumni Community which offers the opportunity to connect with former students who are now working in a range of roles. Be sure to use LinkedIn as well which allows you to search for and connect with employers.
  5. Like most sectors, there are good and more challenging elements
    There are challenging sides to the industry, particularly at junior level. You may be required to take on a variety of tasks from sourcing props for a campaign shoot, carrying out basic administration duties, and compiling large databases of media and celebrity contacts for a campaign. Gaining experience will allow you to assess if the working environment is right for you.
  6. Follow, and prove, your passions
    Showing evidence of your passion for your chosen field, through work experience, self-driven projects, collaborative work and/ or research, will not only prove to yourself that it’s right for you but it will speak volumes to prospective recruiters / clients too.
  7. Be yourself
    Your uniqueness is a selling point. Develop your interpersonal skills – working in media means talking to all sorts of people so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You never know, the person you’re talking to might be the one to give you your next opportunity!

What next?

Seven Tips For Securing A Career In Cultural Heritage

Joe O'Brien26 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

How To Develop Your Career Ideas | CareersLab

skye.aitken4 November 2019

Do you have some career ideas? Confused what to do next?

UCL Careers Consultant, Raj, shares his top 3 practical tips on how to develop those ideas into the career you’ve always wanted!

We’re posting a new CareersLab video every week on the UCL Careers YouTube channel and right here on the UCL Careers blog.

If you’re a UCL student or recent graduate and you have a question you’d like Raj to answer in a future CareersLab video then please email us at careers.marketing@ucl.ac.uk.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and the UCL Careers Newsletter so you never miss an episode.

UCL Careers Themed Weeks 2019: Top 5 Lessons From Government & Policy Week

skye.aitken1 November 2019

Written by Colm Fallon, Careers Consultant, UCL Careers

You may have missed Government & Policy Themed Week 2019, but don’t fret, you can access recordings from this year and previous year’s events and related resources by heading to our website.

Panelists sat on chairs on stage

It’s impossible to sum up all of the valuable insights shared throughout the week, but here are 5 things we learned from Government & Policy Themed Week 2019:

  1. Rapid changes are the norm

Working in the Civil Service can sometimes resemble the TV show ‘The Thick of It’. There may be fewer expletives used, but things can change rapidly, and you have to be adaptable. For example, you may be working on and promoting one policy in the morning, but by the afternoon priorities may have shifted and you find yourself having to completely change your focus.

  1. Evidence is key

Our speakers also emphasised how working in a space where the agenda can be set and changed by forces outside of your control may not be for everyone and that’s OK! You may spend months working on a policy but due to public pressure or economic factors, it may not be implemented or may have to be adapted to meet the changing circumstances (the world as it is, not as we wish it to be). The work of advising Ministers means focusing on the evidence and that is not affected by changes in public opinion.

  1. Experience is knowledge

You can gain useful experience working on the fringes of government, e.g. public affairs, lobbyists, think tanks, charities, and so on. You’ll gain an outsider perspective on how government works. Importantly, working in the Civil Service means being apolitical, you need to be impartial and able to provide policy arguments, not political arguments. If you have political ambitions you may be better off gaining experience outside or of course working directly with parliamentarians and political parties. Some MPs would suggest that working completely outside of and removed from politics can be beneficial. Learning about business, people and the world can help you better serve your constituents.

  1. Change takes time but the results can be very rewarding

Influencing policy is being a voice in the discourse, one of many. Although it can be difficult to be heard the most rewarding aspect is seeing the impact on individuals of the policy changes you’ve fought for and implemented. It’s important to realise that change takes time, and the key to success is to make sure that the long term impact is understood and prioritised over short term gains and personal biases.

  1. Everyone gets imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome (feeling like a fraud who will be found out at any moment), can be common and it’s a normal way to feel. Be kind to yourself, have realistic expectations and remember that learning is a process. No one can be expected to know everything right away. The key to success is to work on upskilling and build relationships with colleagues and mentors. Utilise your network for support and advice, most people would have been through the same experiences as you at some stage.

 

Applying to GSK’s graduate scheme in 2019/20? | CareersLab

skye.aitken8 October 2019

This week, Careers Consultant, Raj Sidhu, takes CareersLab on the road! Watch his journey to GSK’s headquarters to learn more about their graduate opportunities.

Want insider tips from GSK’s graduate recruitment team, that could help you with every graduate scheme application you make?
Then watch this video to learn:
  • The best time to send graduate scheme applications
  • What the recruitment process for a graduate scheme looks like
  • Insights into GSK’s graduate scheme

We’re be posting a CareersLab video every week on the UCL Careers YouTube channel and right here on the UCL Careers blog.

If you’re a UCL student or recent graduate and you have a question you’d like Raj to answer in a future CareersLab video then please email as at careers.marketing@ucl.ac.uk.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and the UCL Careers Newsletter so you never miss an episode.

8 Steps To A Spectacular CV | CareersLab

skye.aitken25 September 2019

This week we launched a brand new YouTube series called CareersLab. In the first episode, Senior Careers Consultant, Raj, shares eight of his top tips for creating a spectacular CV:

Have you ever felt as though your CV doesn’t fully convey the qualities you could bring to an organisation?

Then watch this video for 8 powerful tips you can use to transform your CV today!

  • Learn exactly how to tailor your CV
  • Understand how to present your experiences in a way that an employer can fully appreciate – with multiple examples
  • Learn how to present your degree, software and other skills to present the whole you

We’ll be posting a CareersLab video every week on YouTube and right here on the blog.

If you’re a UCL student or recent graduate and you have a question you’d like Raj to answer in a future CareersLab video then please email as at careers.marketing@ucl.ac.uk.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and the UCL Careers Newsletter so you never miss an episode.

Career Essentials Group Work Sessions Launching This Autumn

skye.aitken24 September 2019

Three students around a table having a discussion

We are delighted to let you know that this Autumn UCL Careers are launching Career Essentials Group Work, a new series of lunchtime small group sessions. These sessions will give you the opportunity to work with other students on your applications, learn from each other’s experiences, share ideas and receive advice from the trained facilitator. Our new sessions are a sub-branch of our long-running and popular Career Essentials programme, which covers a wide range of career topics. With a maximum of 6 participants at each session, our new group work programme is designed to help you take practical steps to developing your own applications in a supportive environment.

Throughout the Autumn we will be running a fortnightly CV group work session from 13:00 to 13:50 at UCL Careers. In this session, you will gain feedback and tips on how to present your CV. You will also learn how to tailor your CV for the particular role you are interested in applying for and make an impactful first impression with recruiters.

The CV sessions will take place on the following dates:

Please click on the above dates to access myUCLCareers for more details about the CV sessions, the required preparation work and to book your place. Bookings will open two weeks in advance of the sessions.

Please note:

  • Places are limited to 6 participants at each session and therefore booking is essential. Only book if you are able to attend.
  • To take part in the sessions you must complete the short preparation tasks and be willing to share and discuss your work with other participants.
  • The CV session will focus upon CVs for non-academic purposes, such as job and internship applications.

In the Spring our Career Essentials Group Work programme will be expanded with further practical sessions on making speculative applications and using STAR to showcase strengths and skills on application forms. More details to follow soon.

Remember that you can also access support for UCL Careers by booking in for a 1:1 application advice appointment with us.

Getting started as a translator

UCL Careers5 June 2019

Katie Hill | Translator, French and Greek to English, at Translation Pod

Visit Katie’s LinkedIn profile

Everything you need to know about getting started as a translator

My name is Katie and I’ve been working as a freelance translator since 2011, after a brief stint in ad sales. I mainly specialise in marketing translation from French and Greek to English. I also offer subtitling and copywriting services to a variety of international clients, including Netflix, Sephora and Watsons (the Asian equivalent of Boots).

One of the things I love most about my job is the range of different projects I get to work on. I might be translating a brochure for a French architect one day and subtitling Greek corporate videos the next.

Some of my projects last for weeks (like subtitling TV series or translating children’s books), while others are short and have to be delivered on the same day (like press releases, websites and magazine articles).

Warning: this isn’t a standard nine-to-five job, and if you like having a routine, it might not be the career for you! But if you’re curious about different industries and want to use your language skills on a daily basis, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll never look back.

How do you get started?

The translation industry can be quite competitive, especially for popular language combinations like French or Spanish to English. It’s also tough to break into when you don’t have any experience. So, how do you get started?

Firstly, think about the type of translation you enjoy doing and research companies and organisations that might need your services. How specialised you are is entirely up to you.

There is an argument for focusing on a particular field, so you can develop your knowledge and become an expert. On the other hand, working in different areas helps to diversify your income and stops you becoming too niche. It depends on the volume of work you get, but also on what you find most enjoyable.

Once you’ve decided, I would recommend contacting someone who is already working in the field you’re interested in. This is something I did when I first went freelance and it was incredibly useful for getting practical advice. It was also helpful to get feedback on my translations from someone more experienced.

You can search for people online (through platforms like UCL Alumni Online Community, LinkedIn, and Twitter) and also sign up for mentorships like the IOL mentoring scheme.

How do you find jobs?

There are several ways to do this: you can set up profiles online (linguist directories through the Chartered Institute of Linguists and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting are a good place to start), sign up with translation agencies or contact potential clients directly.

Make sure you send your CV to the right person at the company or agency you want to work for (vendor managers, talent managers, content managers, editors, people who are responsible for communications and publications etc.).

There are also specialist websites like ProZ, Translators Base and Translators Café, which can be useful early in your career. The translation jobs advertised on these websites offer comparatively low rates, but it’s a great way to get started. You can also find a list of translation agencies to apply to.

What skills do you need?

  • Language skills (understanding the source text is vital, but also being able to conduct business in your second or third language – most of my communications with clients in France are in French, for example)
  • A flair for writing and confidence writing in different styles (persuasive, informative, authoritative)
  • Curiosity and good research skills
  • Time management (you have to be comfortable working to tight deadlines)
  • Technical skills (particularly for subtitling, but also for translation software)
  • The ability to be objective about your work
  • An understanding of different approaches to translation

Whichever specialism you choose, you’ll need to use CAT tools (Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast etc.) for commercial translation. Translation agencies often require them so they’re a useful investment.

You can download trial versions and sign up for free training online. You can also get hold of software at a discounted rate through Translator Group Buys on ProZ.

Do you need any specific qualifications?

My MA in Translation has been invaluable, not just in terms of developing my practical skills but also in shaping the way I think about translation and giving me the confidence to turn it into a profession. Aside from the knowledge and skills you gain, a postgraduate degree or a professional qualification like the Diploma in Translation (DipTrans) gives you credibility and makes it more likely that someone will hire you.

However, you can develop the required language and translation skills through living abroad, and you can always gain qualifications later in your career. If you have a BA in languages or you’ve mastered a second language by living in another country, you have the skills necessary to start work as a translator.

How do you stand out from the crowd?

Specialist knowledge and additional skills will definitely give you the edge, like copywriting, editing, search engine optimisation (SEO), desktop publishing (DTP), content management systems (CMS), film editing, voiceover, coding and software development, campaign management and social media expertise…

If you’ve picked up any relevant skills through jobs or volunteer work, make sure you highlight these on your CV and online profiles. It may even be worth investing in some professional training (I’ve taken courses in copywriting and SEO).

More unusual language pairs will also get you noticed (I get contacted most often about translations from Greek, for example).

Finally…

It took me a long time to establish myself as a translator – much longer than I thought! If you struggle to find work in the beginning or things don’t quite go to plan, don’t be disheartened. It’s all part of the process and every experience (good and bad!) will contribute to your future success as a translator.

Sustainability Fortnight: Careers in Conservation, Ecology & Wildlife

UCL Careers15 March 2019

 

Careers in Conservation panel

The 20th of February saw our second panel discussion for Sustainability Fortnight exploring careers in Conservation, Ecology & Wildlife. Our panellists were:

We heard from each panellist about their career path and the decisions that led them to their current roles – to hear their stories, you can read their biographies and view the event recording.

The speakers had plenty of advice for current students – and what you can do now to shape your own career.

Get involved

Gwen Buck, Policy Advisor at the Green Alliance, found her career after becoming interested in the politics around the environment and conservation. She found that involving herself in events and networking opportunities in the local area enabled her to find out about companies and career opportunities she might not have found otherwise.

“Make sure to ask people plenty of questions!” – Gwen Buck, Policy Advisor at Green Alliance

Clare Pugh, Senior Ecologist at Atkins, also recommended joining the Ecology Network as another way to broaden understanding of the industry and access contacts and career opportunities.  Both panellists were keen to point out that even though experience might not be in the form of a formal work placement any experience can still be greatly beneficial.

David Kirby, Associate Ecologist at WPS, finally added that “gaining any kind of experience is a good idea”.  This can be particularly useful in gaining practical experiences such as surveying and gaining a surveying license; these are necessities of the roles at his firm and can be gained whilst still a student.

Attitude

Jonathan Brauner, Logistics and Business Liaison at Wildlife for All, was keen to stress the importance of a positive attitude when working in this area.  “All of the staff at our organisation are voluntary” he stated.  “This means that it is vital that anyone looking to work with us has the right attitude, both in giving their time and their approach to the work”.  Gaining work experience in the industry can often be temporary, unpaid or physically exerting and therefore anyone looking to participate should be positive they are willing to take part and happy to do a range of tasks.

Persistence is key

Francesca Trotman is the Founder of charity Love The Oceans and was keen to point out that persistence has been a key trait which her career has benefitted from.  “I always knew what I wanted to do but setting up a charity which works in Mozambique has plenty of challenges”, she said, “but I’ve been told I won’t be able to do something 1,000 times and have always managed to do them so far”.  She also felt that being flexible is a real benefit, particularly due to the atypical types of opportunity that come up to someone looking to work in the industry.

Potential growth areas

The panel were asked about potential growth areas which students may see increased opportunity in for the near future. Clare discussed areas within her work in sustainability for large consultancies and pinpointed biodiversity net-gain (improving biodiversity rather than simply offsetting losses) as an area that is being increasingly promoted within her field.

David added that there are increases in the use of new technologies, for example in the collection and analysis of data, which is also growing and is an area which students should look to understand and develop new skills in.

Want to learn more? You can find event recordings and resources from previous Themed Weeks on our website.