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Why Startups can be a Perfect Place for Graduates

16 January 2020

Written by Theo Margolius, BSc Economics UCL 2015 & Co-founder of Otta

I didn’t discover how great it was to work for a startup until I moved to work for Nested after 2 years at an investment bank. In this post I explain why you should be considering startups for your first full time job, even though you may have mostly had exposure to large corporates in your research so far.

When I went to a careers event at university in 2014, most companies on the attendee list were established brands with well over 1,000 employees. This makes sense, as universities want to help get all of their students a job and big companies hire the most people. At the same time, large corporations have the time and resources to dedicate to these events (while fast-growing startups are focused on building their company and product). However, just because these firms are the ones you hear the most from, it doesn’t mean they’re the only option.

While graduate schemes at big companies can be good, I strongly believe that going to work for a startup straight out of university can be a great move for lots of people. Here’s why:

  • The growth opportunity is huge compared to corporates. Large corporates are complex machines that need individuals to do very specific jobs for them to function properly. At startups, your role may change and you’re likely to get involved in a wide range of tasks. This gives you more opportunity to learn, explore different parts of the business and develop your skills. At Nested, I saw the company triple in size and moved roles twice within the first 15 months across operations, finance and strategy. Everyone at the company had a good amount of exposure to the CEO, which is unheard of at big corporates
  • You can experience a fresh approach to culture and ways of working. While big corporates are trying to modernise their culture to make themselves more appealing to the next generation of workers, they simply can’t make that shift overnight. At startups you can experience a more flexible approach to work that might suit you better (like working from home on some days)
  • The pay is not always low. There’s a common misconception that jobs at startups are low paid. While it’s true that your pay is unlikely to reach the levels it would at investment banks or consultancies, great startups pay competitively to attract the best talent. While you need to make sure your salary is high enough so that you’re comfortable, I’d argue that the start of your career is not the time to focus on salary and you should be focused on learning as much as you can. As an extra perk, a lot of startups give their employees stock options in the business, which allows you to share in the upside if the company is a success.
  • Our generation wants to be mission driven. You’re more likely to find pleasure from work where you’re having an impact on something that matters to you. You have a lot more chance of finding meaningful work at a startup where you believe in the mission. For example, Flux are trying to get rid of paper receipts and Koru Kids are reinventing childcare options for busy parents
  • There’s no better way to see how to run a business. Joining a small and fast growing company gives you a significantly better overview of how the whole business works and what makes it successful. If you’re thinking of starting your own business early in your career then why not learn how it’s done sooner rather than later?
  • You don’t have to battle with the academic recruiting cycle. Big corporations typically hire for their graduate schemes at the same time of the year, with work on most schemes starting in August/September after you graduate earlier in the summer. On the other hand, startups hire when they need people. This could give you the flexibility to take time off and travel after university then interview with startups when you get back and start shortly afterwards
  • You won’t close doors. It’s unrealistic to expect to find your perfect job from day 1, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to. Your first job should enable you to learn as much as possible, and if it doesn’t quite work out, you’ll still be able to join a graduate scheme in a year’s time

If these points resonate with you then you should consider launching your career at a startup rather than taking the traditional graduate scheme route. It’s worth noting that choosing the right startup is more of a skill than choosing the right graduate scheme, so it’s important to do your research and get to know the company you’re considering working for more deeply.

At Otta, we’re rebuilding job search. Our product is the smartest way to search for entry-level jobs at startups in London. Find your next role at a fast-growing company by visiting our website. If you want to know more, feel free to email me using theo@otta.co

UCL Careers Fairs 2019: Engineering & Built Environment Fair

Skye AAitken14 October 2019

Considering a career in Engineering?

The UCL Careers Engineering & Built Environment Fair features some of the top employers from the fields of chemical, civil and environmental, electronic and electrical, and mechanical engineering, as well as construction and the built environment.

An Employer speaking to a student at the fair

Employers will be hiring for permanent graduate positions as well as internships and placements so this fair is mainly aimed at final year and penultimate year Engineering, Bartlett or related students.

All students are welcome to attend in order to research companies, but there may not be suitable structured programmes on offer.

When: Monday 21 October 2019 | 5:30pm – 8pm

Where: North and South Cloisters, Wilkins Building

Some employers attending include:

·      Mott Macdonald

·      RAF

·      GSK

·      Atkins

·      Bouygues UK

·      Eurostar

·      Berkley Group

·      Ministry of Defence

Plus many more!

For a full list of employers attending the fair, visit:

Engineering & Built Environment Fair

You do not need to book to attend our Careers Fairs, but you must bring valid UCL ID to gain entry.

For more information on about the fair and how to prepare, visit: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/about/events/careers-fairs

How To Plan Your Graduate Job Hunt | CareersLab

Skye AAitken14 October 2019

It’s that time again – we’re kickstarting our week with another episode of CareersLab with Careers Consultant, Raj Sidhu.

Are you wondering how to structure and organise your year to maximise your chances of getting that dream graduate role?

Then watch this video to learn:

  • The right things to do and when
  •  How to research, plan and apply to roles with confidence

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 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.

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

Skye AAitken8 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.

Sustainability Fortnight: Careers in Energy

Joe SSprecher15 March 2019

Careers in Energy Panellists

The 18th February saw Sustainability Fortnight kick off with a panel event exploring careers in the energy sector. 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.

Networking

Every single member of the panel cited the importance of networking, and several mentioned the connections they built by attending events such as this one. University career events bring professionals straight to your doorstep and make it easier than ever to engage with people in the industry. You can always reach out to them for a coffee or a phone call in the future, as many of them are happy to help and to give their advice. And don’t forget LinkedIn! Sara from XCO2, who also lectures at the University of Suffolk, reminded everyone to make sure your profile is up to date and filled out, and to use it to make connections with new contacts, as well as keeping up with old one. She estimated that 75% of her job roles came from ex-colleagues and references, so make sure you keep contact open with your professors and colleagues as you move between organisations. Charlotte, from the Renewables Consulting Group, added how useful your university’s alumni network can be. You can join UCL alumni network and find access to thousands of past students, many of whom are now offering mentorship opportunities.

Keep your goals in mind

“Follow your values”, recommended Ben, from Azuri Technologies. “Create your own mental checklist of what you want and stick to it when you’re job hunting. Keep a shortlist of the companies you’re interested in rather than jobs”. He went on to urge the importance of focusing matching your values to the organisations you’re applying to, and suggested signing up to their job feeds or newsletters, as well as attending their events.  Fiona suggested starting with research into how many types of companies there are in the energy sector, and to look at the Energy Institute and similar organisations – they often have student groups and networking events.

Sara pointed out that “Your first job might not be the one you want, but keep your ideas guiding you. Learn from each role.” She and Fiona both emphasised the importance of keeping an open mind, both about the type of company and the type of role you might be interested in. All of the panellists encouraged the benefits of “portfolio careers” and experimenting – particularly in a field as dynamic and changing as the energy sector.

Focus on your own development

“Soft skills are important”, Charlotte advised – practice your public speaking and writing skills.

Ben offered some pointers on the importance of feedback – “Feedback is golden. Ask your peers for feedback when working on group projects. Don’t take it to heart but try and develop from it.”

As always, don’t forget to tailor your cover letters! Jean-Paul, from Zenobe Energy, acknowledged that having to write them can of course be horrible – so don’t waste your efforts, and make sure they are tailored to the job and the skills.

Stay resilient

“Don’t be let down by rejection”, advised Jean-Paul. He also encouraged students to continue to go to events and to keep talking to people – you never know what will lead to an opportunity. Fiona echoed this: “Don’t take rejection personally, sometimes it’s just about timing.” Sometimes re-applying to an organisation later on might yield a very different outcome.

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

Sustainability Fortnight: Careers in Construction

Joe SSprecher15 March 2019

Careers in Construction Panellists

The 26th of February saw our panel discussion for Sustainability Fortnight exploring careers in the Construction sector. Our panellists were:

  • Julia Barrett, Director of Sustainability at Wilmot Dixon
  • Ali Ashpitel, Assistant Sustainability Manager at Mace
  • Jon Foster, Associate Technical Specialist at Atkins
  • Anastasios Skitzis, Sustainability Manager: Construction at Lendlease
  • Nerissa Webb, Environment and Sustainability Manager at Balfour Beatty

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 shared their wealth of experience and had plenty of advice for current students about what you can do now to get your career on track.

Values

Julia spoke of the importance of knowing your values as this is crucial to researching what type of company you may decide to work for and their values. Julia then spoke of great work opportunities for young and old at Wilmot Dixon. Knowing your values and what you believe in is a good first step. Jon agreed with this and suggested that students spend time researching various types of companies to see which ones fit best. Make use of all possibilities and any connections that you may have. Anastasios added that it is important to be honest and care about what you are doing as this will come across in any interview.

Julia loves working within the community and likes the thought of leaving legacy. Businesses may compete, but companies work together as they believe in sustainability. This sector attracts people who want to do the right thing. Julia is an advocate of change and informed students that 95% of decisions are made automatically and this provides a big challenge when trying to implement sustainability.

Learn soft skills, show you have other skills as well

Julia spoke about being resilient and discussed the fact that students may have knock backs when going through the interview process. Growing soft skills such communication and adding experience through volunteering will help. Knowing yourself and your passion will make you stand out. Ali strongly recommended making use of your time outside studying by researching what types of companies that you may want to work for and networking at events and or social media such as LinkedIn.

Ali reported that her job as assistant sustainability manager for MACE has been very varied and interesting. Making sure that students have or work on good communication skills is key as client management is a transferable skill that many students may find themselves needing.

Nerissa spoke about her job being very rewarding and challenging. Working with clients the communication can be challenging but that it is very rewarding seeing the finished product.

Opportunities

Julia spoke about the field of construction are struggling to recruit at this time, suggested that students visit the website and do some research to see if Wilmot Dixon is of interest.

Julia also suggested Future Build. This is a big conference running for three days at Excel in London. There are free workshops, product management and sustainability. A good opportunity to do some research.

Jon spoke about the need to seize all opportunities presented, you never know what opportunities may present themselves.

The panel agreed that networking using social media such as LinkedIn has opened up many doors for students, many opportunities.

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

Sustainability in the Built Environment

Chloe JAckroyd20 February 2019

Sara Godinho Senior Consultant at XCO2 and Lecturer at University of Suffolk

(*Spoiler alert: my career path has been a bumpy one, filled with trial and error. I don’t regret a single thing as every experience was valuable but hasn’t definitely been a straight line!)

I decided to study Architecture (MArch University of Lisbon) as I was told by a high school career advisor that it would be the best way to combine my creative and artistic side with my analytical thinking. It wasn’t really! While I liked studying Architecture it never really fulfilled me. During my studies, I had a module on Environmental Design that caught my attention. It sparked curiosity and interest in sustainability and environmental design that hasn’t fade.

After graduating and working for a couple of years in my home town Lisbon, I decided to move to London. I was always very oriented to international experiences, I did Erasmus in Norway, studied in Japan for a year, so it was only a matter of time before going abroad again. I was also increasingly frustrated as an architect only focusing on design and ignoring the environmental impact. I really wanted to make a difference and work on making buildings more environmentally friendly. London was an easy choice because after living in Japan, I understood how European I am. I also had a good English level and the UCL MSc Environmental Design and Engineering programme seemed really good. Coming to the UK was a breath of fresh air! The master was a lot of hard work but one of the best years of my life. I learned a lot, made great friends, and had a real “this is it” epiphany as this was the area I wanted to be working on!

I decided to stay after graduation but had a tough time getting a job, it took me about six months and a lot of rejection. I was trying to enter this new sector and was also a foreigner. I got interviews and having UK education helped but everybody kept seeing me as an architect with no UK work experience. I decided to change my strategy and got a job in an architecture practice. It was small and specialised in Passivhaus and was a great learning experience. I got to work on site delivering one of the most demanding energy certifications in the world on a project that has now received a CIBSE Building Performance Award! At the time, the practice had also some research funding so I was lucky to work on Post Occupancy Evaluation of Passivhaus buildings and study their actual performance. It also confirmed that I was less interested in the design and more on the performance so, a couple of years in, I decided to try to move into environmental consultancy. Having now UK work experience made change easier and I finally made it into consultancy work. Funnily for my current job at XCO2 my architectural background was valuable to them as we work with a lot of architects and, being trained in their language, is helpful.

At XCO2, my role is to lead on the energy and sustainability strategies for a project, being a masterplan, new built or refurbishment. My work focuses on reducing the environmental impact of the construction industry, improving buildings’ energy efficiency and performance while promoting occupant wellbeing. Buildings are such complex and beautiful constructions and we spend most of our time inside one so it’s really gratifying when my advice contributes to improving a building’s energy performance or occupant comfort.

Teaching came by serendipity into my life two years ago. Through connections, I saw that the University of Suffolk was looking for a Lecturer in Technology. I applied and got selected and immediately panicked! Would I be able to do it? Instead, I absolutely loved it from day one and teaching has been incredibly transformative for my career. Being able to digest all my knowledge and experience into teaching has made realise how passionate I am about sustainability in the built environment and how much it matters to me to pass on the concepts and the skills and influence future architects. I don’t see sustainability in the built environment as an add-on but as an absolutely fundamental aspect of design. I want my students (and everybody!) to know of the impact buildings have in the environment and in our wellbeing and give them tools to thinks and create better ways of designing.

Although balancing two jobs can be demanding with conflicting needs at times, they absolutely complement each other. My industry experience means I can bring very practical knowledge to my students and teaching requires me to translate difficult concepts into comprehensible principles. It keeps me very aware of the bigger picture and my focus on improving sustainability in the built environment.

 

 

 

Top tips for a student wanting to pursue a career in Ecology

Chloe JAckroyd20 February 2019

Clare Pugh Senior Ecologist at Atkins

My top tips for a student wanting to pursue a career in ecology would be:

Gain as much experience as possible! Volunteering with local Wildlife Trusts and local interest groups (e.g. bat, badger, amphibian and reptile, bird etc) is a great, inexpensive way to develop skills and make useful contacts. If you are based in London and looking for some interesting opportunities perhaps you could try:

  • London Wildlife Trust – the Trust look after 41 nature reserves across the capital and there are lots of different ways to get involved, including practical conservation, environmental education, citizen science surveys, ‘venture volunteering’ with the Trust’s ongoing projects, volunteer warden etc.
  • London Bat Group – this is a voluntary group working throughout the Greater London area to protect and enhance London’s bat populations. They organise public bat walks and surveys, mainly during the summer months. You can become a member of the group (one year’s membership £7.50 (unwaged £4)) and benefit from a regular newsletter, member-only events, and bat group meetings and talks.
  • The Conservation Volunteers – TCV relies on an army of passionate volunteers to carry out vital conservation work all year round. They offer a range of activities suitable for all levels of experience and fitness. If you visit their website and enter your postcode you can find a TCV activity near you (for example, my nearest sites are Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park and Stave Hill Ecological Park).

Join the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) Student subscription fees for 2018/19 are only £22, and student members studying on a degree course accredited by CIEEM are eligible for free membership. Student member benefits include:

  • Discounted rates on an extensive professional development programme (including training courses and conferences);
  • Plan and record your Continuing Professional Development (CPD) through an online platform;
  • Local and regional networking opportunities through nearest Member Network;
  • A digital copy of CIEEM’s In Practice magazine every quarter;
  • Monthly updates on policy and the latest news from the sector directly to your inbox; and
  • Exclusive member discounts from carefully chosen suppliers of equipment and clothing.

 

 

Sustainability Fortnight: What you can expect

Joe SSprecher8 February 2019

Sustainability is a big deal. It’s one of the most pressing challenges we face today and many of us want to get involved through impactful careers.

The UCL Careers Sustainability Fortnight is designed to give you insights into the roles, rewards and routes into this rapidly developing sector. Here can you develop you understanding of the business issues and global challenges of the sustainability sector, preparing you for career in the field.

Interested in tackling sustainability in NGOs, businesses and governments?

Employers look for graduates who can:

  • Analyse real-world situations critically
  • Understand international issues in a global world
  • Demonstrate ethical leadership
  • Work within different social contexts
  • Engage with a diverse range of people
  • Use resources and budgets wisely

If you have the skills needed to tackle global challenges, you will be well placed to find employment across the sector. Employers are looking for sustainability conscious employees  across the entire organisation – not just in ‘sustainability’ roles. Whether that’s understanding climate risks in an investment portfolio or Modern Day Slavery issues within recruitment roles.

What’s on:

  • Panel talks and lectures from sustainability experts and professionals
  • Q&A sessions so you can have your questions answered
  • Bike sale and maintenance events
  • UCL Sustainability tours
  • Hot-topic discussions
  • Business forums

What you will learn:

  • How do organisations define sustainability
  • Inform yourself with the chance to challenge business representatives at panel and networking events
  • What Corporate Social Responsibility really means
  • How to be an Environmental Auditor
  • What skills you need to be competitive in the sustainability job market
  • The future trends for the energy or construction markets
  • How different sectors are moving towards a sustainable future

Sustainability is a realistic, interesting and prosperous career path with has many routes in. With a broad range of roles available, there will be something to suit anyone with an interest in the sector.

Find out for yourself at one of our events!

  See what’s on and book your place today!

 

Top 10 insights from Charities & NGOs: Behind the scenes – influencing & policy

Joe SSprecher5 February 2019

As part of UCL’s Charities & NGOs Themed Week we held a panel session titled “Behind the Scenes – Influencing & Policy”.

We were joined by Jens Van den Brande, Economist at the National Foundation for Educational Research, Shilpa Ross, Senior Researcher at The King’s Fund, Annabell Rebello, Job Coach and Skills Trainer at Mencap and Beth Blackmore, Operations Executive at Koreo working with Charityworks.

Here are some key insights from the event, combined with some tips from UCL Careers Consultants.

  1. Don’t be too narrow minded, learn from different experiences

A common theme was not to be too focused on one specific ‘dream role’. Gaining experience within the sector can provide valuable experience and insight that could allow you to cross over to another organisation or role. In entry level positions or smaller organisations, you are often asked to get involved with numerous projects, assisting a variety of teams, which enables you to develop a variety of valuable skills. This will help you develop expertise and give you a flavour of the different types of roles found within charities and NGOs which can help you find that ‘dream role’.

  1. Get experience that will give you a head start

All panellists highlighted the importance of gaining work experience early in your job search. Work shadowing, internships, volunteering in a charity or even joining certain university societies were all stated as excellent opportunities to gain valuable experience for your CV and may even lead to directly hearing about a paid opportunity within an organisation.

  1. You can contribute!

Don’t underestimate what you can contribute now; panellists highlighted that across the sector young people are underrepresented on charity boards of trustees. Investigate becoming a charity trustee – look up “Young Charity Trustees” on Facebook or LinkedIn for inspiration. Check out the Charity Digital Code – charities need digital skills at all levels. As one panellist said – you are the digital natives!

  1. Find a cause you’re passionate about

Panellists felt finding a cause that you feel passionate about can be crucial in succeeding with your job search within the charity sector. Employers are often looking for driven staff who want to make a real difference in the area they work. Taking the time to do some research in your areas of interest can lead to finding an organisation with goals that align with your passion and will result in you having the opportunity to work with like-minded people. Guidestar is a great resource for finding UK charities working in a particular field.

  1. Understand the sector you want to work in

Looking into specific roles that interest you within the sector can often give you the edge when applying for roles. Do some research into the organisation you want to work for. Get an idea of who their competitors are and find out how certain organisations are unique. Why is it that you want to work for them specifically? Through doing your homework on an organisation before applying you gain an understanding of the roles they have on offer as well as which positions would suit you best.

  1. Variety is the spice of life!

Many of the panellists stated that the variety within their role was one of the things they enjoyed the most. Interacting with a variety of stakeholders, hearing their stories and working towards making a difference in the lives of others was something that made their work worthwhile.

  1. Find your unique selling points (USPs)

Identifying your USPs was something many of the panellists mentioned as being particularly important and would enable you to stand out from the crowd during an application process. Having these USPs will set you apart from other candidates and focus on the attributes you have that employers can benefit from. Examples of USPs can be some particular work experience, a postgraduate qualification or particular skills you have acquired.

  1. Access support from colleagues and networks

One of the key benefits of working within the charity sector according to all panellists was the collaborative, friendly and driven nature of the workforce within the sector. Making the most of colleagues, asking them questions and tapping into their skills and knowledge can be invaluable when gaining knowledge and understanding best practice. Seek out a mentor – someone in the sector prepared to take an interest in your growth and development, who you can share your goals and fears with openly, who will be a source of wisdom and encouragement. Try the UCL Alumni mentoring database or ask around in organisations you have contact with.

  1. Funding limitations leads to lack of job security within sector

One of the major challenges mentioned facing the charity sector is a lack of funding and financial security. This can lead to a lack of resources, lower salaries, limited staff benefits and an uncertainty surrounding job security when compared with corporate organisations. Although this seemed to be a challenge across the sector, one of the panellist had a very positive way of looking at this, stating that a lack of job security leads to a varied career and therefore gaining a wealth of skills and experience.

  1. Basic competencies are key to most positions

Panellists highlighted the importance of needing to meet key competencies when applying for roles. Organisations will often outline key qualities they’re looking for in candidates, which will equip them with the attributes needed to carry out the advertised role. It is important to show an understanding of these competencies and have strong examples of times when you have demonstrated these skills. Quite often these competencies are based on softer skills such as communication, problem solving and team work.

In summary:

An organisation’s workforce will often come from a range of different backgrounds, this is why focusing on your passion for the cause, drawing from your USPs and previous experiences, along with being able to demonstrate key competencies will put you in good stead to succeed in the application process.