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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.

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.

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!

Getting Ready for the Virtual Jobs Market

Joe O'Brien9 July 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Nicole Estwick, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

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

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

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

  1. Know what to expect

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

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

  1. Do your research

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

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

  1. Practice your introduction pitch

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

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

  1. Ask the right questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Volunteering Online is Good for you

Joe O'Brien10 June 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

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

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

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

  1. Zooniverse

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

  1. Amnesty Decoders

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

  1. Do It

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

  1. SPEAK – Be a Buddy

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

  1. Missing Maps

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

  1. Be My Eyes

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

  1. The British Museum

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

  1. UNV Online

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

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

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

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


UCL Careers Employer Insights – June 2020

Joe O'Brien9 June 2020

Read time: 2 minutes

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

A new survey from the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) and the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) took a snapshot of changes to hiring amongst 179 employers, who shared their insights during the period between 20th April and 4th May. As a group, representing a varied spread across sectors and regions, and even including some smaller employers (small-to-medium enterprises make up a major proportion of graduate destinations for UCL students and nearly 30% of the group surveyed had fewer than 250 employees), their insights show a useful development from our first Employer Insights blog in April 2020 following March research. This new data explores employers’ reactions from a time when the UK was beginning to have discussions about how and when lockdown might potentially come to an end— giving businesses a clearer idea about what sort of recruitment timeline they might be working with.

Where has lockdown had the biggest impact on employers and how?

The greatest impact of the UK lockdown, which began in mid-March, has been notably on small and medium sized employers (those with fewer than 250 employees, and less than 50 million Euro annual turnover). Half of them reported negative responses when asked about the overall impact of the pandemic, with 20% neutral and just 30% positive. Nearly half were most urgently concerned about the financial impact of the lockdown on their ability to survive as a business, and therefore heavily trending towards postponing all hiring plans, or even cancelling job offers, as priorities lie with protecting current staff. Concerns about business sustainability were particularly highlighted in responses from employers in the energy, engineering, and industry sector; the legal and professional services sector; and the retail and FMCG sectors.

What changes to recruitment and on-boarding are being made?

While changes to recruitment plans for all businesses are generally being driven by the financial impact on their business; large employers are also anxious about their ability to support new hires. Some have expressed concern and hesitation about on-boarding new starters and interns completely remotely, whilst they wish to ensure new starters are feel a sense of belonging and students have a meaningful learning experience. Adjustments range from increasing the amount of learning and development available online, to shortening the duration of their learning and development programmes or delaying them altogether.

What are employers plans for recruitment and inductions moving forward?

Despite some firms’ misgivings, adapting to online recruitment and inductions may become the new normal, and catalyse longer-term change into more flexible approaches and greater use of technology. We should expect a long-term move from employers to make greater use of technology in their recruitment processes. Indeed, more than 50% of larger firms actually reported positive reflections on the overall impact of the lockdown! For tips on how to master live and recorded video interviews be sure to check our CareersLab videos on 5 Expert Tips For Live Video Interviews and How to ace video interviews (recorded video interviews).

The shorter term picture is now quite clear – firms are reporting drops in recruitment numbers— not as big as initially feared, but still substantial – and internships and placement numbers are the hardest hit. However, graduate roles are seeing less of a negative impact than non-graduate roles such as apprenticeships. Looking forward to next year, it may be that many employers are still not in a position to plan too far ahead. 40% of surveyed employers still don’t know what their next intake’s numbers will look like, but longer-term changes to their processes of recruitment, and therefore how students should prepare for them, are likely here to stay.

Book an appointment

Do remember that we continue to offer one to one appointments online where you can speak with one of our career professionals to discuss your own personal circumstances.

UCL Careers will continue to keep you abreast of the latest findings in the graduate employment sector. Further blogs will follow summarising this information as well as other useful tips on how to manage your career thinking and planning during these challenging times.

5 Key Resources for Networking from Home

Joe O'Brien2 June 2020

Read time: 5 minutes

Written by Nicole Estwick, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virtual Internships: What are they worth?

Joe O'Brien2 June 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

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

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

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

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

  1. Flexibility and comfort

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

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

  1. Technology and adaptability

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

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

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

  1. Develop skills in a professional setting

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

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

  1. Commitment and resilience

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

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

Next steps

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