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Why interning at a start-up is an incredible learning experience

By Rachael Richardson-Bullock, on 9 June 2021

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Elena Raimondi, UCL Alumni.


I graduated from UCL with an MPhil in Philosophy in March 2021. With a background in Philosophy, by the time I graduated I was eager to gain as much hands-on work experience as possible.  

I craved learning new skills and practical knowledge in a business environment and I figured that a start-up would be a great place to start. I joined TidyChoice as a Human Resources intern and it has proven to be an incredible learning experience. In this blog postI want to share my experience so that it may encourage more graduates to join start-ups. 

London start-ups 

I am sure that you have heard about the dynamic London start-up ecosystem, a universe of fast-growing companies born of a single brilliant idea and fueled by the cutting-edge work of small but close-knit teams. It is easy to get hooked on these companies’ vibrant culture and success stories, and so I did.  

My learning experience 

Within my first couple of weeks, I have become an integral part of the team. My colleagues rely on me for recruiting and onboarding new professionals, and my suggestions to improve our HR processes have already been implemented. It was always going to be a good learning opportunity, but I did not expect the learning curve to be this steep. I have learnt so much so fast, and there is still so much more to experience. 

Reasons to intern at a start-up 

Here are some of the reasons why interning at a start-up has been one of the most intense learning experiences of my life and why I would recommend it to any recent graduate. 

1.) Work directly with the founders and managers 

You learn directly from those who envisioned the company, created it, and have run it since its inception. The knowledge and know-how that is passed on to you comes from the people who have steered the business through good times and bad times and learning from that experience is invaluable. 

I collaborate closely with the Operations Manager at TidyChoice. I am supervised by the company’s co-founder and CEO and I meet weekly with the rest of the team, including a brilliant CTO, who co-founded and literally built our website. All of them know the business inside out and are the ideal people to learn from. 

2.) Gain insights into every aspect of the business 

Not only do you oversee the whole business function you are working in, but you also get to see how the whole start-up works organically. You will be able to peek into all aspects of the business and have the chance to easily collaborate with any of your colleagues when your areas overlap. This allows you to learn beyond your own function and job description. 

For instance, as a HR intern, I know everything that is going on in our recruiting and lead each of our candidates throughout the entire recruitment process, from the moment they first get in touch to their activation on our platform. In addition, I’ve also regularly learnt a lot about Operations, Marketing and Product Development because we regularly have team meetings where everyone explains how the business is going on their end.

3.) Learn to think critically 

Critical thinking is a great skill and at a start-up you are constantly encouraged to think about how we do things and what can be improved. That encouragement allows you to connect more deeply with your job, understand it better and learn to figure out problems on your own. 

I can discuss my suggestions to streamline our recruitment process with colleagues. I am encouraged  to suggest and implement improvements as part of my role. In this close-knit team where very little is set in stone, every new proposal is either quickly rejected or adopted, leaving room for new ideas. 

4.) Handle a lot of responsibility 

When the team is small, colleagues and customers will inevitably rely on you. Colleagues are there to support you, but it is up to you to own your role and help the business succeed. 

At TidyChoice I am responsible for recruiting and onboarding new professionals, so my performance immediately reflects on the success of the business. I have a material impact on the business and my colleagues count on me. 

5.) Learn hands on 

Autonomy, initiative and speed are truly valued in a rapid-growing company, so you will start doing your job on Day 1 and learn it as you go. Your colleagues will shadow you at first, but there is no bench time before diving into the job. It is a challenging environment and you can progress quickly. There is no limit to the level of responsibility you can take on. 

At TidyChoice, I was shadowing interviews as soon as I started the internship. I was conducting phone interviews on my second day (while being shadowed) and I learnt how to navigate our systems and carry out essential tasks in the first week. While I have a handbook that I can refer to, I mostly rely on my colleagues’ feedback to learn and improve at my job. 

6.) Variety will keep you engaged 

In this shapeshifting business, you learn more than one way to do your job. Processes are constantly evolving and improving, so by the time you have mastered a certain task, you need to be ready to master the next one. 

In my role, every day is different and I have a high level of autonomy over how I manage the work. Whilst my performance is assessed against deliverables, it is entirely up to me how I meet targets. 

7.) The potential for growth is exciting 

Being part of a fast-growing company means that you have the opportunity to develop new skills as your role evolves. If you are flexible, you have the opportunity to expand your knowledge beyond your current function. 

My current focus at TidyChoice is mostly on recruiting and onboarding, but the role is expanding to take on more HR functions. I also contribute to other business functions, such as marketing where I am asked to provide my input and opinion on new advertising campaigns.   


For these reasons and more, interning in a start-up is an incredible learning experience and an exciting career move that I would encourage all graduates to consider. If you wish to acquire valuable skills and practical business knowledge when you are fresh out of university, you should definitely give it a go.

Don’t delay – there’s still time to apply for a UCL Connected Learning Internship

By Rachael Richardson-Bullock, on 17 May 2021

Read time: 2 minutes

Written by Eleanor King, UCL Student

Man sitting at a table resting his chin on his hands smiling.

Over 140 students working across 74 projects completed a UCL Connected Learning Internship during July and August 2020. Student feedback confirmed that these opportunities greatly improved key employability skills, including written and verbal communication, teamwork and collaboration, planning and organising, problem-solving, decision-making and even creativity. 

Don’t just take our word for it. Read below for an exclusive interview from Eleanor King, who completed her Connected Learning Internship at UCL in 2021. 

1.) What made you apply for a Connected Learning Internship, and how did you find out about it? 

I wanted to truly get involved with the UCL community – as a postgraduate new to UCL, during a time of great disconnection (the pandemic), I wanted to feel more like a part of the university. The UCL Careers Instagram page was where I first found out about the internships – I find the page very useful and I use the updates via the Instagram Stories to explore opportunities within UCL while studying. I was motivated to apply because of the skills that internships give you, and their value to employers. This internship in particular – Connected Learning for Accessibility and Inclusivity in Disaster Studies – appealed to me, as I am passionate about outreach, having previously worked as a student mentor as an undergraduate. 

 2.) Did you gain any particular skills or learn anything new during the internship? 

Absolutely – firstly, from a completely technical perspective, I learned how to use Adobe Acrobat in order to make PDF documents more accessible. This is something that will really help me, as I apply for jobs. I also improved my organisational skills, I was able to connect with new professionals, all of them in another department, and learn more about what entailed accessibility and inclusivity, which broadened my knowledge. I learned not only from the academic staff I was working with, but also fellow intern Fransesca Kurlansky, as we discussed our individual tasks together, and conducted a critical appraisal of a lecture created by one of our mentors, Virginie Le Masson. This internship reinforced my interest in outreach, and it further enhanced what must be considered when making content more inclusive, strengthening my grasp of intersectionality – something which will help me in my studies. 

3.) How will you apply this experience to your future career journey? 

The experience and skills I gained from this internship will be invaluable to my future career journey. It strengthened my ability to assess and scrutinise content, and I am more aware of factors to search for when looking at a document’s accessibility score and how inclusive it is, making me able to implement change in the workplace. It has also shown me that I am able to take up multiple roles simultaneously, as I am able to organise my time effectively, as I have displayed by balancing the internship with my university work. It has taught me to always say yes to new opportunities, as they will bring new skills and rewards – something that I will always apply as I embark on my future career journey. 

4.) What is inspiring you right now?  

My new move to London is inspiring me currently. I have just moved to London after studying from home, and the independence, new outlook and opportunities this has given me is inspiring me to work harder on my masters and job applications. Having started my masters under COVID-19 restrictions and not being able to meet new people in a new city was something that, when I applied, I couldn’t ever have imagined, nor wanted to imagine. However, I pushed myself to get involved with the opportunities that UCL offer to feel more connected with the university community. Having been able to write for a university magazine and complete an internship while under restrictions felt like a massive achievement, and it is my ability to now go to campus that is driving me to continue to leave my mark on the UCL community. 

Next steps: 

If Eleanor’s experience has inspired you, then take a look at the current Connected Learning Internship opportunities available to you.  All internships are fully funded and are available remote/online for up to 70 hours per role, to be undertaken between 12 July 2021 and 27 August 2021. 

Remember to submit your application online via myUCLCareers by 21 May 2021.

4 Reasons to Apply for a UCL Connected Learning Internship

By skye.aitken, on 13 May 2021

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Rachael Richardson-Bullock, Marketing Communications Administrator at UCL Careers.

3 women sitting a table in a row smiling.

Are you looking to gain some experience to add to your CV? Or would you like an opportunity to reflect on your current strengths and develop new skills? Then the UCL Connected Learning Internship Scheme may be just the thing for you. Paid internships are available across a range of academic and professional service departments throughout UCL between 12 July and 27 August 2021. You will be required to commit 70 hours per role and can apply for up to two opportunities most suited to your skillset, experience and motivation. Sound good? Here’s 4 reasons why you should apply:

1.) Gain employability skills

Person specifications are always looking for key employability skills, like written and verbal communication, teamwork and collaboration, high level of organisation, problem-solving…the list goes on! A UCL Connected Learning Internship can help you gain or build on these skills, helping you become more desirable to employers. Over 140 students worked across 74 projects during July and August last year, and confirmed their opportunities improved these key employability skills.

2.) Designated support

We know that undertaking an internship can be a daunting prospect, but with a UCL Connected Learning Internship, you’ll be supported by a dedicated supervisor from within the hiring department, so you’ll have plenty of help and guidance throughout the opportunity. Direct feedback on how well you’re doing and where you could improve will help you maximise your internship but also prepare for the world of work.

3.) Self-reflection

You’ll be offered the use of a self-reflection tool, so you can map your progress throughout your internship. You’ll also have the option to discuss your experience with a member of the UCL Careers Team to reflect on how the internship has supported your employability skills development. This is a great chance for you to articulate your new skills, competencies and motivations for your CV and for future applications.

4.) Income

All of the UCL Connected Learning internships are paid at the London Living Wage, so this is a great opportunity to obtain an income and gain some valuable skills and experiences at the same time.

We hope these reasons have helped convince you, but don’t just take our word for it! Hear from students who completed a UCL Connected Learning Internship during July and August 2020:

‘Really enjoyed the internship. Interesting content and useful transferable skills that I’ll take forwards.’

‘I loved my team and how accommodating and friendly they were. They gave me a lot of flexibility and allowed me to try to pursue what I want to get out of the internship.’

‘It was an amazing opportunity to help the department, knowing that this will have an impact on the students.’

‘A great experience that led on to a further 8 week post.’

OK I’m in! What do I need to know about applying?

UCL Student – you must be a current UCL student to apply.

Deadline – the deadline for applications is 21 May 2021.

Application – via myUCLCareers.

Time Commitment – you should ensure you can commit enough time to complete the internship during the period specified and as agreed with the host UCL department.

Online/Remote Working – internships will be conducted online, so you must have the ability to work independently (and remotely) and the circumstances to carry out the work in this way.

Individual Role Requirements – each internship will have specific requirements, so please do check the individual role descriptions for each internship that you wish to apply for.

Remember, you can book a one to one appointment with a member of the UCL Careers team for personalised practical tips and advice to help you better understand how recruiters will shortlist your applications and how you can best demonstrate your motivation and your most relevant skills and experience. View the opportunities available and apply now via myUCLCareers.

Good luck!

Kick-Start Your Career with an Internship

By skye.aitken, on 13 April 2021

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Nasima Bashar, Internships & Vacancies Officer at UCL Careers.

Internships are a great way for students and graduates to explore different roles, organisations, and working environments to help identify what you do (and do not) want from your future career.

Undertaking an Internship

There is a lot to gain from doing an internship, from developing transferable skills such as teamwork and time management, to adding work experience to your CV and making connections with new employers. Internships allow you to explore a new field of work and reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, enabling you to build your confidence and understand the benefits that your academic experiences bring to a working role.

Current UCL students and recent graduates are eligible to apply for an internship through the UCL Careers Summer Internship Scheme. All internships offered through this scheme will take place between June – September and pay above National Minimum Wage. Applications will open on 12th April, closing on 30th April. You can view and apply for opportunities here.

Current students and those who have graduated within the past 2 years also have access to the myUCL Careers platform, an excellent resource for careers events, employment opportunities, and volunteer positions. If you are interested in finding an internship, we recommend you check out some of the available resources including this article on Sourcing and making the most of internships and the CareersLab video Finding Internships hosted by Raj, one of our Careers Consultants. Anyone interested in learning more about sending in speculative applications to employers can click here for more information.

See the following tips for other ways to boost your career prospects before and during internships:

Create a Portfolio

For some roles (particularly those in media, fashion, or design) it’s important to have a portfolio of work to show to employers in interviews. This could include photos, drawings, examples of writing, or anything else that demonstrates your creativity and ability. You may begin compiling your portfolio during your degree but undertaking an internship can help to improve it. Not only does an internship help to increase the amount of work in your portfolio – it’s also a great way to show that you understand how to deliver a project within a budget and in line with a client brief. It is important to have your portfolio available online; including a link to it in your CV can help employers readily access your work.

Revisit Connections

It is important to revisit any connections that you may have made during your studies when looking to begin your career. Leveraging your network can allow you to identify people who are in your desired field or industry, and to set up informal interviews to learn more about your potential career path. This will remind people that you are still interested in their work and put you in a stronger position once you have graduated. Another great way to build your network is to begin speaking with potential mentors and to connect with UCL alumni who work in your field of interest. Be sure to check out UCL Alumni’s UCL Bentham Connect platform when building your network.

Build Your Online Brand

Your personal brand is how the outside world sees you, including prospective employers. Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook can be powerful tools to let employers know who you are and what you do. LinkedIn is especially important to anyone looking to build their personal brand and begin their career, as more and more job applications are taking place directly through LinkedIn. Make sure your profile stands out and shows you as the accomplished graduate or student that you are!

Learn About Yourself

The first step in making an informed decision about anything related to your career is understanding yourself. If you don’t know what you want from a career, or what your strengths are, this can be very difficult. Use your holidays or time after finishing your course to get to know yourself better. Travelling, making new friends, and learning new skills, can be beneficial ways to bring out your strengths and help you discover your passions. Undertaking an internship is an excellent way to learn more about yourself whilst also trialling a potential career. Remember that guidance and support is always available through UCL Careers and if you wish to, you are able to book a short guidance appointment with one of our Careers Consultants.

Kick-Start Your Career with an Internship: Working in SMEs and Start-Ups

By skye.aitken, on 12 April 2021

Read time: 4 minutes

Written by Nasima Bashar, Internships & Vacancies Officer at UCL Careers.

It can be a daunting task to begin thinking about your future career whilst still at university. In the first few months of your studies, graduation can seem quite some time away. However, you’ll find that your time at university can go quickly so it’s a good idea to get a head start where you can. The ongoing global pandemic further reinforces this, as students and graduates may feel the mounting pressures to establish concrete employment plans for this summer.

There is no “right” way to plan for your future career and no correct answer to the question of where you should be in your career-planning journey at this stage. UCL Careers is here to help you, whether you have known your career ambitions for years, or you still feel confused about which career path to take. We see over 6,000 individual students a year, all who follow different and unique paths to their future careers. Wherever you may be at this stage, UCL Careers is here to help you.

A great way for students and graduates to gain experience is through taking an internship. This allows you to gain experience in a range of roles and sectors, take a holistic approach to your education, and apply the skills that you have acquired from your degree. It is important to remember that 96% of graduates switch careers within three years. While this may sound discouraging – it highlights there is no set path for you to follow on the search for your ideal career. So much choice can be overwhelming, and internships are a great way to get a taste of different opportunities. This year the UCL Summer Internship Scheme is open to all UCL students including undergraduates and postgraduates, and recent graduates. .

The UCL Summer Internship Scheme hosts a range of opportunities across various sectors. All opportunities are exclusive to UCL students and recent graduates, and pay above National Minimum Wage. Two of the most common internship opportunities as part of the scheme are in affiliation with Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups.


 SMEs make up 99.8% of all London’s private sector businesses. Furthermore, employment in SMEs represents 60% of all UK employment. Students and graduate often envision working for large corporations that are well-known internationally, but it is also important to consider the benefits of working for a smaller organisation. Some of the advantages to working in a SME include:

  • Greater scope of the role.
    • Working for a smaller organisation, it is more likely that you will have a hands-on role, where you are able to quickly get stuck-in to the company’s daily routine. Widening your skillset in such a way allows you to be more competitive within the job market after completing your internship.
  • Closer working relations with your colleagues.
    • If you work for a large organisation, it is unlikely that you will come into contact with colleagues that are outside of your department. If you work for an SME, it is more likely that you will work closely with colleagues across multiple departments. Although you will be working in a specific role, this will allow you to see how other teams work and potentially allow you to identify a new area of interest.
  • More personable.
    • You will never feel like a faceless employee if you are in constant contact with the leaders of your company or organisation. A smaller team can help you to feel more welcomed, and more valued. SMEs often do many things to improve employee wellbeing, with many providing free breakfasts, fruit, drinks, and breakout spaces, etc.


Start-ups are newly founded organisations that aim to solve a problem or fill a gap in their respective sectors. By joining a young company, you will typically be involved with a diverse range of tasks, giving you great exposure and allowing you to grow with the business. You may even contribute to shaping future strategies. Some of the advantages of working for a start-up include:

  • A chance to “hit the ground running”.
    • Working for a start-up is likely to never be boring. Joining an organisation in their early stages of development means it is likely that you will be expected to do a little bit of everything. Taking on a dynamic role in a fast-paced environment will prepare you well for future opportunities.
  • Increased responsibility.
    • A close-knit working environment that is less hierarchical than a large company often enables you to take more ownership of the work that you do. As every employee plays a key role in contributing to the success of the business, you are likely to see the direct impact of your work.
  • Opportunities for growth.
    • Start-ups are always looking for valuable team-players who will stay with the company for years to come. Joining a start-up as an intern may allow you to become an essential part of a new team, and you may be given the opportunity to take on a more permanent position.

SMEs and start-ups are not a one size fits all, there are many different types and sizes of organisations to work for. Through the UCL Summer Internship Scheme, you can work a part of an organisation and explore the type of work environment that best suits you.

Share your Talents…with UCL Talent Bank

By skye.aitken, on 23 February 2021

Read time: 2 minutes

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

If you are looking for a job for when you graduate, or an internship for the summer break, try UCL Talent Bank.

UCL Talent Bank is a service run by UCL Careers which matches UCL candidates with opportunities sourced by the UCL Talent Bank team. The team actively source opportunities for UCL students and graduates, and then present applications to employers.

Anytime you submit an application via UCL Talent Bank and are unsuccessful in securing the role, one of our career professionals will provide you with tailored feedback on your application, helping you to develop your application skills and increase your chances of successfully securing a role in the future.

Typically, these opportunities are at Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and include internships, graduate roles, and part time jobs. Plus, all of the opportunities are exclusive to you as a UCL student or graduate, increasing your chances of successfully securing a role!

Keep reading for an exclusive interview with Nasima Bashar, Internships & Vacancies Officer at UCL Careers, who helps organise opportunities for UCL students via the UCL Talent Bank service.

This sounds like an amazing opportunity for students! Can you tell me a little bit more about the process and how students can apply?

Once we advertise the role on myUCLCareers, students can start their application, which typically involves uploading a tailored CV and cover letter. Once the deadline has passed, we review the applications and send the shortlisted candidates to the employer.

Students can apply for as many UCL Talent Bank opportunities as they like and all opportunities on myUCLCareers are paid in accordance with National Minimum Wage legislation.

The employer will then get in touch with any candidates whom they wish to follow up with, and progress to the next stage of the recruitment process.  If students are not invited for an interview, but were shortlisted, we ask the employer to provide feedback on the application and why they chose not to interview on that occasion.

If students are unsuccessful for a role, we can also provide individual and tailored feedback, specifying key areas that can be worked on to ensure improvements ready for the next application.

So how are UCL Talent Bank opportunities sourced compared to other roles that students may find for themselves?

We will actively source opportunities for UCL students and graduates, and present applications to employers on every occasion we possibly can, to ensure students have the best opportunities available to them.

We look for roles that will be of benefit to UCL students in terms of the skill set, support, and general wealth of experience that can be gained from working at each organisation. There are dedicated members of the UCL Careers team who seek roles for specific student groups, including engineering students, PhD and research students, and opportunities which are appropriate for all student levels across all academic disciplines.

It is a great pleasure to source opportunities where students go on to thrive in their roles and really enjoy working within a supportive and engaging workplace.

Fantastic! Are there any additional advantages to be gained from engaging with the UCL Talent Bank service?

A UCL Talent Bank opportunity is typically exclusive to UCL students, but this is not the only benefit of the service. When sourcing an opportunity, we make sure there is a good amount of support in place for our students who successfully secure the role, whether that be a supervisor or mentor who oversees the student.

We also ensure there are specific objectives and outcomes which the student can work towards throughout their time at the organisation and really try to ensure there are real benefits and tangible skills the students will gain from the opportunity.

Employers are very interested in recruiting the best talent, and UCL is the best place to do so. We have over 40,000 students within the University made up of undergraduates, postgraduates and research students and employers are fully aware we have plenty of bright students who meet their organisational needs!

Many UCL students and graduates have benefited from the scheme, which began in 2015. Sarah, UCL BSc Economics alumni, had this to say about the service:

“UCL Talent Bank is a quick and easy way to find fantastic opportunities with SMEs. As a recent graduate I found many relevant, interesting opportunities and the first one I applied for, I got! The job I have now has fast tracked my career and I’ve even started a professional qualification.” 

To begin your UCL Talent Bank search, just log-in to your myUCLCareers account and select UCL Managed Opportunities Scheme list, UCL Talent Bank to view all available opportunities.




5 Things to expect from Careers in the Life Science Industry Week 2021

By skye.aitken, on 22 February 2021

Read time: 2 minutes

Written by Dr Sophia Donaldson, Senior Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

Starting on Monday 8th March we’re hosting a week of virtual events to help you navigate the Life Sciences Sector, and find out where you might fit within it. All events are held live, and will give you the opportunity to pose your own questions to speakers. Events are open to students, graduates, PhDs, and research staff, with full details and booking here.

Below are 5 things you can expect from the week.

  1. An overview of just how broad the Life Sciences Industry is

“Life Sciences” is a pretty loose term, right? The industry encompasses a huge range of opportunities, including roles in drug development, patenting, marketing, and selling new therapies, or communicating the latest developments in bioscience to policymakers, clinicians, and the public. We’ll kick off the week with a session at 11am on Monday 8th March from CK Group, a science-focused recruitment agency, who’ll provide an overview of the Life Science Sector, and share the kinds of roles they help companies recruit for, including roles for undergraduates, masters grads, and PhD-holders.

  1. Insight into how to use the lab and data science skills you’ve picked up from your course

Many of you will have enjoyed gaining practical experience in labs, either wet or dry, during your course. But aside from progressing within academia like your lecturers have, it can sometimes be difficult to see how these skills might translate into the workplace. So, we’re running an event to help you understand just that. In our Life Science careers in data science and the lab panel, at 6pm Tuesday 9th March, we will bring together professionals working either in lab or clinical research, or with the increasingly large amounts of data generated from them, across a range of settings. You’ll hear what their roles look like day-to-day, and gain top tips on how to follow a similar path. Organisations represented will include GSK, IQVIA, Parexel, and the NHS.

  1. Ideas for how to leave the “doing science” bit to someone else.

Many people don’t necessarily love the laboratory or data analysis elements of their study or research, and yet they still enjoy being exposed to a range of cutting-edge developments. If this sounds like you, rest assured there are plenty of ways to capitalise on your scientific knowledge and background, and stay aligned to science, without actually having to be “a scientist”. We’ll showcase some of these roles in two panel events. In Careers in Science Communication and Policy, at 6pm Monday 8th March, we bring together a range of professionals who communicate the latest life science developments to the public and policy makers. And in Biology and Business, at 6pm Thursday 11th March, we host speakers who have combined their passion for science, with roles in business, investments, and patent law. Organisations represented across these two events include CRUK, Wellcome, BBC, Incyte, and Arix Bioscience.

  1. Insight into how COVID has effected the industry

We all know the effects of the pandemic have been wide-reaching and will last for some time to come. But not all roles and organisations will be affected equally. For example, non-COVID-related health charities may be hit significantly harder than big pharma companies associated with vaccine development. We will be asking all of our speakers to share with us how COVID has impacted their role and organisation, and what they feel the lasting impact may be.

  1. A chance to experience life science sector work first-hand

You can learn a lot from hearing people discuss their roles. But the best way to decide whether or not something is for you? Try it out! We’ve organised two experiential workshops that’ll give you a taste of life sciences work. In A Career in Medical Writing  – Experiential workshop by the European Medical Writing Association 11am-12.30pm, Thursday 11th March, you’ll gain insight into the role of a medical writer, and participate in exercises to practice and improve your own medical writing skills. And in Strategy Consulting in Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare – Experiential Workshop by Cambridge Healthcare Research on Wednesday 10th March, 11am-12pm, you’ll learn about the consultant journey and the kind of consulting case studies you’re likely to face in the interview process and in the job.


Student Interview – Aliza Ayaz (Part 2)

By skye.aitken, on 10 December 2020

Read time: 5 minutes

Written by Joe O’Brien, Marketing Communications Assistant at UCL Careers.

UCL Careers had a great chat with Aliza Ayaz, UCL student and founder of UCL Climate Action Society, about her experiences as a student, personally and professionally. She has interned for McKinsey, KPMG, the UK Government, the NHS and the UN. We asked followers on our Instagram to send in their questions for Aliza and we got so many, we’ve had to split this blog into parts! If you haven’t already, make sure to read part 1!

1. How did you manage to secure an internship for the Department of BEIS?

This was through the main Civil Service recruitment process – no shortcuts. The process was as follows:

  • Numerical, personality and critical reasoning test. Warning: very long. 30% of the candidates are filtered at this stage alone.
  • The application: It was one of the longest applications where they want every detail of what you have studied and what you hope to gain. 60% of the candidates are filtered here.
  • Competency based interviews with 2 exercises lasting 3 hours. The exercises depend on which role you are applying to, or which role they plan to offer based on interests expressed in your application. Questions could be about modelling, economics or literature depending on your internship stream.

2. I want to go into a career that helps the climate! How did you land the UN internship?

I wrote a research paper for the United Nations Development Programme whilst in high school when I was 16. This wasn’t planned at all by the way and happened due to a series of random events/interests. Since then, I have been in touch with a number of UN officials while participating in various projects. One of the secretaries to the Regional Director told the recruiter I would be a good fit so they got in touch to share this specific internship opportunity. I interviewed with them. They saw my passion and thought I could do the job so I got it! It was a thrilling experience.

3. Can a second year with an empty CV still manage to get an internship?

Yes, for sure. I know of people who did not even have a proper, updated resume until third year. Point is, there is always a worst case scenario and there is always a way to tackle it. You probably don’t have an “empty” CV to begin with – you must have done something. Perhaps not in a professional capacity, but extracurricular, or taking up interests in your personal life. The trick is knowing how to articulate those skills and interests in your resume. To help you do this, attend CV workshops, read online blogs regarding resumes, or hit up UCL Careers! I am also happy to help your draft a resume.

You might also want to look at it as a positive: it is really hard to trim down a resume to one length when you have a lot of experiences. I was horrified when a friend first told me that my three-page resume had to be trimmed down to one. A lot of it was extracurricular stuff or small projects, but it mattered to me and conveyed my interests. In the end, I had to get rid of it and only a limited few things are on my resume at the moment. It kind of broke my heart but it had to be done and that’s completely fine. The entire point of recruitment processes is to get to know the candidate beyond their resume.

Lastly, it’s never too late to get started. Start applying to places. Get in touch with NGOs about how you could help them. Look for working opportunities within your department or your local authority, may be even your local hospital, café, restaurant or grocery shop. You can find roles in a number of areas from customer relationships to commercial traction. You will then have plenty to write in your resume!

4. What if someone doesn’t have all the skills necessary for an internship they’re applying for?

Firstly, speak to their HR department about your concern. Bear in mind, the bigger the company, the more swamped their HR is, hence the less likely you will get a response. If HR isn’t available to discuss your suitability, then reach out to an employee who’s doing the very job you are applying for. You can find them on LinkedIn or the official company website under “Who we are” or their project examples.

Secondly, the decision to invest the time and energy in applying to an internship depends on the extent to which the skills you do not have are needed in an internship. If you don’t have X skill that is required in 60% of the work you would do as an intern, that is unfortunately a clear answer – that internship is not the right fit for you.

Thirdly, what is the room for gaining those skills on the go during the internship? Remember, internships themselves are learning opportunities. So, if they have pre-requisites then it is probably not the industry for you unless you feel very much willing to put effort into learning that skill from scratch prior, independently. This comes with passion or a role of high interest. It is double the effort but it is doable.

5. Do you have any advice for recent grads looking for internships/grad roles?

We are in a recession. The job market has shrunk by 70%. The roles are more niche than ever. You might be thinking there are too many graduates and not enough opportunities, or that competition is going to be tougher than ever for the companies that are still recruiting.

  1. Take time to find what’s right for you: Research for yourself. Which industry? What kind of a role? Start up or established companies? Mid-tier versus large corporates? Be authentic to yourself and trust yourself. I learnt that one from my dad. Speak to as many people as you need to to get an idea of what you are looking for. Then apply strategically to the firms that are still advertising any positions. Because you are interested in the role, you will likely produce a good quality application. You might have read a blog by a current employee or spoken to a student who interned there and these insights will help you work on a stronger application. Overall, my point is that this research will give you a head start in your hunt for internships/grad schemes because you would know which roles you adequately provide the skillset for.
  2. Get in touch with start-ups: They are always in need for more hands but you have to be willing to offer your time without big expectations for the money you are paid.

6. I will be doing an MSc in Public Policy from Sep 2020, how does one get an internship with the UN?

Masters students have a greater likelihood of securing an internship at the UN than undergraduates because of their knowledge and skills reservoir. For 60% UN internships, a masters is compulsory. Public Policy is also a great MSc that fills in gaps for UN projects. Keep an eye on their vacancy page and do thorough research on the role(s) you find interesting. Pay attention to the skills they need and the job description. 80% of being able to secure a UN internship is applying to the right one. If you apply to one that you do not have the experience/skills for, it’s just not going to happen (unless you have a source of course). The applications generally ask you to demonstrate how you meet the criteria and what exact examples you have that showcase your ability to get the job done. Choose the right perosnal example and tailor it to the competency they require.

7. How was your policy experience? What did you do on a day to day basis and did you enjoy?

Growing up, I thought of policy as one of my potential career routes. My role at BEIS offered a very unique opportunity and insight into working as a Social Researcher for the UK Government. I was allocated to the Social Research Fast Stream. I also had a mentor from another team that gave me further exposure across teams in the department.

I was primarily responsible for a literature review drawing together the available evidence on the home retrofit market. The literature review fed into policy development for the Buildings Mission ambition to halve the cost of retrofit by 2050. This is one of the Grand Challenges and a key area for the Energy Efficiency and Local (EEL) policy team. My review was added to the evidence base for EELs work on home retrofit as part of their action plan, drawn up in response to the responses to the ‘Building a Market for Energy Efficiency ‘ consultation. I also identified evidence gaps and helped to scope out future research into home retrofit, in particular the UK retrofit supply chain. I was interpreting data, developing a narrative around the key findings, designing and delivering presentations to senior colleagues and MPs – I loved it all.

8. Where should I start if i feel like I don’t have the network to get opportunities?

You have three options.

  1. Build one! However, this obviously takes a lot of work, networking and professional experience. At the age of an undergraduate, it’s trickier to meet as many industry experts as you would need to qualify for having a “good network.” It is definitely possible but you would probably want to jump to an easier, quicker option.
  2. Tap into an exisitng network: UCL Careers, UCL Alumni, SEO, Bright Network, Black Heart Foundation, EY Foundation – these are all examples of existing networks you can dive into. And they are GREAT networks. Equally, you might have a friend who has a “network”. Ask them for help. Have a conversation about what it is that you want to do and they can put you in touch with the right people. Remember, don’t try to bypass them by using their network behind their back! That doesn’t end up well with the potential employer nor the friend.
  3. Don’t use a network at all and just apply to schemes. Everything is advertised on company websites and their HR teams are more than happy to answer any of your questions. This is the standard procedure and pretty straight-forward.

9. What is the work/life balance like in Consulting?

I have to admit, one must keep their expectations in check: consultants find it very difficult to create a good work-life balance. At the big firms, this will never be just 40 hours a week. It can go up to 80 hours a week. Be mentally prepared for a full workload on a day and to do overtime when results for a task don’t go to plan. In terms or priorities, you will start questioning quality versus quantity.

The key, I imagine is a broader understanding of the balance needed: this differs from person to person and day to day. A challenging career, an active social life, the time to train for marathons, to cook and get eight hour sleep all are important but very difficult to achieve at the same time in consulting. So an awareness of this dilemma will help you cope or enjoy better. For example, block out certain hours on the weekends for yourself or speak to your manager about scheduling you on projects that vary from intensive for some months and not so intensive some other months.

*My answer is based on internship experience and conversations with senior consultants as well as recent graduate friends in consulting.

Student Interview – Aliza Ayaz (Part 1)

By skye.aitken, on 1 December 2020

Read time: 5 minutes

Written by Joe O’Brien, Marketing Communications Assistant at UCL Careers.

UCL Careers had a great chat with Aliza Ayaz, UCL student and founder of UCL Climate Action Society, about her experiences as a student, personally and professionally. She has interned for McKinsey, KPMG, the UK Government, the NHS and the UN. We asked followers on our Instagram to send in their questions for Aliza and we got so many, we’ve had to split this blog into parts!

  1. Which was your favourite internship and why?

Uh, tricky one! It’s really difficult to pick because I had different but equally enjoyable or insightful experiences during each internship. However, there is a clear answer when it comes to the steepest learning curve and the ability to create direct impact in real time. This was with a start-up in healthcare. As a Population Health student, it became clear that insight driven health is the foundation of any innovation-led approach to more effective, efficient and affordable healthcare. At this start-up, I was operating at the intersection of business and technology to combine real-world experience, clinical and business insights and new, enabling intelligent technologies to deliver the power of Insight Driven Health in this demanding new digital world. At this internship, I saw why the world’s leading healthcare payers, providers and public health entities are ready to pay for services that help them become the intelligent healthcare enterprises of the future – from the back office to the doctor’s office.

  1. How did you get your internship opportunities?

I applied as all are expected to. Details regarding internships are always advertised on a company’s website including opening dates, deadlines, recruitment process and candidate criteria. In some cases, I was recommended for an opportunity and contacted to discuss the role. I am very lucky to have a rich network of industry experts who see the potential in youth and are ready to give them a chance to do their magic.

3. How much time did you spend researching internship opportunities?

This may be a shock given my background but I wasn’t very efficient. I didn’t really have any idea about the scope of companies, who the major players were in a specific industry or why knowing the difference between industries or companies really mattered. So, I didn’t do any research the first time round. I was too busy enjoying student clubs – debating, horse riding, acting etc and so naturally had limited time anyway. I kind of applied anywhere and everywhere my friends were telling me to. This made sense because what mattered to me was gaining exposure across the public and private sector. I didn’t have a set career path in mind – I still don’t.

If I had better researched prior, I could have probably quantified a fewer number of companies I knew I wanted to apply to. Research definitely saves time and energy, allowing you to better focus on quality applications so I would recommend that you do that. But at the same time, I knew what I wanted at that point was to accurately compare how public versus private sector operates, how their work differed and how they impacted businesses, society and the environment. I gained this insight through the variety of places I applied to. You can tell a lot about an organisation just from its recruitment process. Their interview and application questions as well as HR conduct convey what the company values in its employees and what their culture is. This could be a perfect fit or a complete mismatch with your personality and work ethic. In two places, after submitting my application and moving onto the first informal chat, I knew I couldn’t thrive in that company’s culture and withdrew my application. At other times, I asked as many questions as I had during the interview stage to truly gauge whether the role is what I wanted or if I was the right fit for them.

4. How did you prepare for interviews?


Is this designed to test my numerical or critical reasoning skills? Then I like to go with a fresh mind and that means 8 hour sleep plus a good breakfast. This helps me more than anything to focus and perform my best during the interview. Often, these tests cover areas you would have already studied over school life so it isn’t anything new. You might need a refresher, so practising some tests prior could help. But this isn’t always necessary and depends on how confident you feel.

If this is designed to get to know me better, I make sure they know I am very happy to do that. I listen to their questions and answer genuinely. The conversation tells me how much they want me just as much as it tells them how much I want them.

The company website almost always clarifies the aim of the interview so you can anticipate the kind of questions you will be asked. If this isn’t clear, then email the recruiter.

5. How do you balance your own hobbies and passions at the same time as your career goals?

I mean honestly, in the earliest days, I didn’t. I was very okay with that. I learned to not feel guilty about it. I missed friends’ birthday parties, I was MIA for a while. I think all my friends knew I had this dream of something I wanted to build. I am a really mission-oriented person. Nothing over-rides mission to me. I truly believe people in your life should understand that.

In social and environmental advocacy, my role is continuous and this is so intense. For me, there’s no better way to end the day than with the people who bring the greatest sense of calm and perspective to my life. It’s ideal to see my family in real life, obviously, but given their work & travel, video call has to do.

Also, I live by my calendar. I put everything in it — not just meetings, but thinking time and brainstorming time, even when the only person I’m brainstorming with is myself. It is unified across all elements of my life: personal, professional and everything in between.

So try to work smart because you have to make sure you arrange time. Fitness is also a big factor as it keeps you energetic which is really important.

6. How to stay true to your goal in a world focusing mostly on profit and career development?

I think this question explains why it’s important to not just set goals, but to ensure you set the right ones. Think what’s important for you – this could be launching a product, growing a brand, creating awareness, finding your soulmate, earning a crazy amount to live a luxurious life or making your parents proud– the list is never ending and there is no self-judgement. The more you want it, the more motivated you will be. Create a game plan for each of your goals and make sure your goal is measurable: hours with family and hours at work, revenue in business and income for supporting yourself, number of activities to unwind and the research amount for your career – again the list doesn’t end. Next, give yourself a deadline: by when do you want to achieve your personal and professional goals? Also, make little, tangible goals that lead to big ones. Get real about what’s holding you back. Be open to change and to inspiration. This might not work for everyone – there’s no perfect recipe – but it works well for many people that I have met.

7. What advice would you give a first year looking to get into the Sustainability field?

Join the Climate Action Society at UCL. We host a multitude of social events, educational workshops and conferences on all things sustainability that give you an idea of how you can pitch in, plus provide you with the opportunity to start delivering impact in real time immediately. Don’t worry about not having the knowledge area or the skill-set in climate advocacy, we are very happy to teach you this. Some of the ways we help you are also the advice I would give:

  • Try to shadow policy professionals in the sustainability area. Email people directly! You will learn how to interpret key policy needs and setting the scope of any sustainability reforms. It might also give you the opportunity to develop verbal and written skills in communicating climate evidence appropriately to different audiences. This is important for youth activism.
  • Take up the opportunity to interact with academics working on the sustainability key subject areas. We have plenty of experts at UCL.
  • Get in touch with NGOs in this field. We at the Climate Action Society help you do that! Look for opportunities to shadow NGO researchers in the teams working on commissioned research and gain an understanding of procuring and managing sustainability in a local council.

8. How was your experience in working in different student societies?

Each society has its own amazing reach, be it a cultural group, the coffee enthusiasts at the Coffee Society, the Lacrosse lovers or the Business-y bees. I attended numerous events by different societies throughout term-time and was a committee member at some. I was growing alongside: learning, joining teams, organising events, meeting people, having fun. Below, I summarise my experience:

UCL MUN Society: For those looking for a way to tackle their fear of public speaking, this is probably the best way to do so. You learn about world affairs, debates (present and past) and make new friends while engaging in contemporary intellectual conversation. And don’t worry, you have the support of the lovely committee to guide you throughout. I was part of the debating team at my high school and so it was natural for me to continue this hobby at UCL. Through this platform, I also had the pleasure to chair two of the largest MUN conferences: the UCLMUN and LIMUN.

UCL Pakistan Society (Vice President), UCL Afghan Society (Events): The small but frequent events are rich in culture. The food and dress-up events are beautiful ways to celebrate tradition. Having grown up all around the Middle East, I wasn’t exactly familiar with diversity in Pakistani or Afghan culture. But meeting a variety of different people at these societies took care of that and I came out with memorable friendships. It was the perfect mixture of laughter, warmth and new-found love for cultural history.

UCL Guild and UCL Business Society (BizSoz) (Vice President): I wanted to stick my hands into something-businessy, something-entrepreneurship and I was convinced cut-throat “corporate slavery” isn’t the only way to do so. Usama Yusuf, UCL Guild Founder, founded Guild because he believed there are truly so many pieces of the puzzle that is modern-day business: tech, consulting, finance, entrepreneurship, data science and so on. At the Guild, I found a place to gain exposure to industry leaders and students who were well-versed in the internship/job area. I learned a lot from their own experiences and bonded with students who shared the same entrepreneurial interests as me. It can be a bit daunting to join, and it really was for me; I still remember pitching my Vice Presidency 2 minute speech in an auditorium with 200+ people for the UCL BizSoc elections. Unlike other candidates, I had never really participated in BizSoc events so doubted I would be welcome, but I totally was. And that shows that the Business Society is for absolutely anyone.

Tip: What I see a lot is that students join a society then they sort of do it halfway. They don’t really focus on it because there are a hundred different societies to choose from and there is so much going on. There isn’t much harm in this except if you sign up to be a committee member. Explore to the extent you can pull your weight as a responsible team member – that then allows you to truly enjoy yourself at the society you become a part of.

9. Was it difficult to start your own society?

In order to start a society, the Students Union general procedure is super simple: fill in a short form, get 30 signatories and you can have your own society. Each term, the SU receives at least 20 different society proposals. That’s 60 proposals in one academic year. Starting a student club is designed to be easy because UCL promises an open space for initiatives. I know so many people who have started their own society for the sake of starting one. The difficult part is running it, staying true to the objectives and taking it to the next level to achieve the society’s goals.

While there will obviously be a number of struggles involved with putting in endless hours in addition to your academic responsibilities, raising capital, and working with a range of different members, the biggest challenge is often figuring out what the right end goal for your members is: what they will pay for, what they will enjoy, what they will dislike. I absolutely enjoyed all the challenges I faced at CAS; For one, they varied so much! My team and I all saw them as no more than hiccups and growing opportunities.

I know a lot of people note that CAS was mostly an instant success but that is because a lot of research went to it prior. For some of our other niches such as corporate sustainability and so on – that took us two years to perfect; we had to keep changing the “message” of our movement, going through numerous iterations, and moving forward so that the members were happy with the final product i.e our events. I placed a lot of focus on diversity & inclusion because welcoming everyone’s participation, not just their perspective was super important for the vision I had for CAS. We all loved this diversity and we bonded into the #CASfam. I also worked with the Under Secretary General for Recruitment Dhaval Nayi to revamp the structure of the society, discarding and adding roles each year, so I learnt that you shouldn’t be scared to fix what isn’t working. Always trust your instincts; it’s hard to shut things down but you have to keep moving. It’s great to have a dream, but you also need to make sure that what you’re offering is something that people need.

Stay tuned for part 2!

Apply now for UCL Connected Learning Internships

By skye.aitken, on 20 October 2020

Read time: 2 minutes

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

Are you looking to gain some experience to add to your CV? Or would you like an opportunity to reflect on your current strengths and develop new skills?

Then check out the UCL Connected Learning Internships scheme, advertised on myUCLCareers from 22 October 2020.

Paid internships are available across a range of academic and professional service departments throughout UCL, and you can apply for up to two opportunities that are most suited to your skill set, experience and motivations.

The internships are for 35 hours either full or part-time; and will run between 1 December 2020 and 29 January 2021.

What can I gain from a UCL Connected Learning Internship?

  1. Employability skills

Over 140 students working across 74 projects completed a UCL Connected Learning Internship during July and August 2020. Student feedback confirmed that these opportunities greatly improved key employability skills, including written and verbal communication, teamwork and collaboration, planning and organising, problem-solving, decision-making and even creativity.

‘Really enjoyed the internship. Interesting content and useful transferable skills that I’ll take forwards.’* 

  1. Designated support

You will also be supported by a designated supervisor within the hiring department, so you will have plenty of help and guidance throughout the opportunity.

‘I loved my team and how accommodating and friendly they were. They gave me a lot of flexibility and allowed me to try to pursue what I want to get out of the internship.’*

  1. Self-Reflection

After completing a self-reflection tool, you will also have the option to discuss your experience with a member of the UCL Careers team, to fully reflect on how the internship has supported your employability skills development. This is a great chance for you to articulate your new skills, competencies and motivations on your CV and within future applications.

‘It was an amazing opportunity to help the department, knowing that this will have an impact on the students.’*

  1. Income

Internships are paid at the London Living Wage, so are a great opportunity to obtain both an income and gain some valued skills and experience at the same time.

‘A great experience that led on to a further 8 week post.’*

Do I need to meet any particular criteria to apply?

  1. UCL Student

You must be a current UCL student to apply.

  1. Time Commitment

You should also ensure you can commit enough time to complete the internship during the period specified and as agreed with the host UCL department.

  1. Online/Remote Working

Internships will be conducted online, so you must have the ability to work independently (and remotely) and the circumstances to carry out the work in this way.

  1. Individual Role Requirements

Each internship will have specific requirements, so please do check the individual role descriptors for each internship that you wish to apply for.

Remember that you can book a one to one appointment with a member of the UCL Careers team for personalised practical tips and advice to help you better understand how recruiters will shortlist your applications and how you can best demonstrate your motivation and your most relevant skills and experience.

When is the deadline for applying?

The deadline for applications is 4 November 2020, so check out the opportunities available and start planning your applications now.

Apply now via myUCLCareers

Good luck!

*Quotes from students who completed a UCL Connected Learning Internship during July and August 2020