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Top 10 Tips on Preparing for a Virtual Assessment Centre

Joe O'Brien20 July 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

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

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

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

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

  1. Check Your Tech

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

  1. Clear Your Space

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

  1. Follow the Instructions

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

  1. Communicate in Advance

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

  1. Take Your Time

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

  1. Dress to Impress

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

  1. Show That Smile

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

  1. Keep Your Focus

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

  1. Do Not Panic

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

  1. Enjoy The Day

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

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

How to Shine Like a STAR in Your Next Application…

Joe O'Brien17 July 2020

Read time: 4 minutes

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

With potentially fewer opportunities available in the graduate jobs market due to the current situation, you’re even more determined to complete your internship application to the very best of your ability. You’ve added your personal details, academic qualifications and previous work experience and you should have everything ready to send by the end of the day.

Then disaster strikes – you need to answer the dreaded competency questions section. You can feel the panic rising, and you rack your brain for anything you can write about, any anecdote or example that might satisfy the topic in question.

But fear not, as an experienced recruiter, I’ve spent many an hour pouring over hundreds of competency based application answers – the good and the bad. Competency questions can be difficult to answer, but by using the following simple strategy and some good storytelling, I promise that you will come up with answers to impress even the most cynical of recruiters.

Reveal all, I hear you say.

Here goes…prepare to be amazed by the mighty power of the STAR method.

STAR provides you with a simple, straightforward technique to answer both competency and strength based application questions by telling a meaningful and impactful story about your previous experiences. Don’t forget, the same tips also apply when answering questions during an interview.

STAR is an acronym that stands for Situation, Task, Action & Result.

(S) Situation – set the scene.

(T) Task – define the problem, goal or issue.

(A) Action – explain in detail your actions: expand on the what, how and why.

(R) Result – describe the outcome and show your success in using that skill.

You could also reflect on the experience at the end of your answer and tell the recruiter what you learnt or would do differently next time.

Let’s run through an example to fully develop your understanding. Imagine the application asks you the following question:

Can you describe a situation where you had to demonstrate excellent leadership?

Let’s break down the answer in the following way:

(Situation) Whilst studying for my degree at University…

(Task) …my study group were struggling to reach a decision on how to complete our class coursework.

(Action) What you did? I took responsibility over the situation, and organised a class meeting after our weekly seminar.

(Action) How you did it? I produced a timetable for the meeting to ensure all relevant points were discussed, ensured everyone had the chance to speak and raise their views, and then organised for a vote at the end of the meeting so that a decision on how to proceed was reached quickly and fairly.

(Action) Why you did it? I decided to manage the issue in this way to ensure that our coursework deadlines were not missed, and to avoid unnecessary conflict.

(Result) As a result, our coursework was submitted on time, class morale was boosted and we received an excellent grade.

Can you see how the answer uses the STAR method to fully develop the story and provide rich detail to the experience?

Remember to use an appropriate example in your answer, as you still need to be able to fully demonstrate the relevant skill being assessed, e.g. ‘Leadership,’ as per the above example. You should also aim to keep the Situation and Task sections simple and concise, whilst spending approximately 70-80% of your word-count on fully developing the Action section.

Take some time out now to brainstorm some of the different tasks and experiences you’ve been involved in, and how you can adapt them to demonstrate different skills. Remember that time spent volunteering or participating in extra-curricular activities is just as relevant as work experience here.

Have a bank of competency questions and answers ready, and you will always be prepared to shine like a STAR in that next application (or interview).

And remember that you can still book an online application advice appointment if you want to run through any specific competency questions with a trained advisor before you submit your applications.

Good luck!

Identifying and Defining Your Skills: You Probably Have More than you Think!  

Joe O'Brien25 June 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Lee Pike, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

  1. What are skills?

This may seem like a silly question but it’s actually something worth clarifying. From some of my discussions with students during their appointments, there seems to be some confusion between ‘skills’ and ‘experience’. They are not the same thing and it’s important to know the difference.

A skill is something that you are good at doing: it could come easy to you or be something you learn. An experience is where you learn skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.

When discussing what to put on their CV, lots of students say ‘I don’t have any relevant experience’. They think that recruiters are only interested in experience in a chosen field. Recruiters acknowledge students may not have relevant experience, so they want evidence of skills that you’ve learnt from any type of experience that is transferable for use in their work environment.

(Recruiters are not expecting you to do the job unsupervised from day one so they expect to provide you with on-the-job training.)

  1. Types of Skills

Skills can be divided into two categories; technical or soft skills.

  • Technical (Specialist) Skills

You learn technical skills during your degree, with extra training (such as an online course) or from previous work experience e.g. using specific software packages or specialist equipment.

  • Soft (Transferable) Skills

The term ‘soft skills’ under sells what they are; they are better defined as ‘transferable skills’. They are skills you might learn in one experience which you can adapt to another i.e. they are transferable! They are skills that can work in every type of job – and that’s why they’re so important. They go beyond the ability to use a specific piece of equipment or do one specific thing.

Typical transferable skills sought after by recruiters are problem-solving, time management, communication, teamwork and leadership.

  1. How do I identify my skills?

You already have lots of skills but may not be aware you possess them. There’s a lot to gain from reflecting on your skills and qualities and seeing how these can enhance your career and personal development. To analyse your skills and how they relate to skills employers look for, think about:

  1. Your personal qualities;
  2. Skills developed through study;
  3. Skills developed at work;
  4. Skills developed outside work.

 

1. Personal qualities

Attributes such as patience, humour, initiative, and flexibility are relevant to the type of work you are suited to. The better you know yourself, the more likely you are to find a role that suits you. Your personality affects your style of operating in the workplace and the way you respond to situations.

Have you considered your own behaviour, emotions and reactions?  Why not ask people close to you – they may be able to identify strengths and qualities that you haven’t considered.

2. Skills developed through study

You develop a wide range of skills as a student, such as commitment, self-motivation, and confidence, all valued by employers. For example, if you had assignments where you worked to strict deadlines, you can show that you have good time management and motivational skills.

3. Skills developed at work

If you have work experience, you’re likely to have skills which are essential in that environment, such as communication, interacting with people, being aware of the ways in which you learn and managing your time. Enhancing your capabilities in these areas can help you make the most of opportunities at work and will look good on your CV.

You may not recognise the wide range and high level of skills and abilities you have. Identify your skills by

  • noting down all the jobs you have done (full-time, part-time, voluntary, etc.) and think about what
  • you learnt from each one and w
  • hat skills you developed.

4. Skills developed outside work

You gain valuable knowledge, understanding and skills from everyday experiences, and through training, hobbies, interests and involvement with voluntary organisations. Think about:

  • Your experience and the roles you’ve had outside academia/work;
  • The projects you have undertaken;
  • Organisations, clubs or societies that you’ve been involved with.

Each of those roles demand different skills.

  • If you enjoy DIY, then you’ve no doubt planned a project, set yourself timescales, organised your work and seen it through to completion;
  • If you’ve chaired meetings, then you’ve taken a leadership role and been diplomatic yet assertive. You’re likely to have kept to deadlines and ensured that individuals have been included. This demonstrates interpersonal skills;
  • If you’ve been in a debating club, you’ll have developed your communication and persuasion skills;
  • If you play sport, you’re likely to have teamwork and leadership skills.

Look back over your work, studies or leisure activities and think about the tasks you completed in each. This helps you identify the skills you’ve learned.

  1. Next steps

It’s not unusual for individuals to compare themselves with others and feel superior or inferior towards them based on their strengths and weaknesses.

The thing is, every individual is different and we all function differently based on our personalities. It is important to know yourself and your capacities. Recruiters similarly look for individual personal strengths in addition to required skills – a workplace full of identical types of people does not function effectively.

Your strengths are things you can use to your advantage, things you can use to push yourself further. But it doesn’t mean that your weaknesses are your downfall. They are areas you can improve, not something you lack. They are things you could develop and build. So it is as important to know your weaknesses as much as knowing your strengths.

  • You can try looking up The RichardStep Strengths and Weaknesses Aptitude Test (RSWAT) online. It is a test to identify your strengths and weaknesses designed with simple, straight to the point questions.
  • The UCL Careers Online Library is great for searching for a whole variety of resources. For example, after identifying your skills, you could try the ‘Demonstrating your skills’ leaflet.  There is a useful table on the last page of this leaflet which describes what different skills are and ways you may demonstrate them on a CV, for example.
  • Targetjobs has a helpful resource describing different skills and competencies for graduates typically asked for by recruiters and how you can demonstrate them in a CV or in an interview.
  • You can get one-to-one advice by booking a careers guidance appointment to help your analytical thinking and explore your skills or to discuss any of the above exercises you may have completed. Learn how the skills you have can help you with your career planning.

By taking time to analyse your past experiences, you will identify transferable skills you didn’t know you had and will be able to provide evidence of them on your CV. If you identify any weaknesses, this provides focus on what you can improve going forwards.  Good luck!

Top 5 Skills For Careers in the Arts

skye.aitken27 November 2019

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

UCL Careers held an event about Careers in the Arts on 15th November 2019 as part of our Museums, Arts and Cultural Heritage Themed Week.

Our panelists were:

Joane Filipe: Exhibition Designer & Creative Producer at InterestingProjects

Chloe Godman: Gallery Manager at Open Gallery

Julia Padfield: Press & Publications Assistant at Shakespeare’s Globe

Anna Testar: Assistant Curator at Royal Academy of Arts

As part of a really interesting evening, these are some of the most useful skills to develop for your career in the Arts from our panelists’ perspective:

1. Be Proactive

It can be tricky to start a career in the arts, so be proactive in seeking out opportunities to gain experience or create your own. Start a blog, put on exhibitions of your or your friend’s work, volunteer at galleries and apply for internships – these are all great ways of building up your experience, and you’ll make connections at the same time. You don’t have to just work within the arts – you’ll gain transferable skills no matter what work you do and don’t be too concerned if your career isn’t linear, as you’ll be able to spin your experience and skills back to your arts work. Say yes to anything interesting that comes your way and take the time to work out what you’re good at.

2. Attention To Detail

You may be writing exhibition guides, arranging the logistics of an exhibition tour, communicating with the public through social media, licensing images, tracking invoices and payments to your business, or many other tasks you will be asked to complete in the course of your career – attention to detail is crucial in maintaining a high standard of work, especially in an industry that doesn’t have much money to spare on mistakes.

3. Organisation And Multitasking

Organisational skills are very useful to have in any sector, and the arts is no exception. You may need to juggle several projects (for example planning several future exhibitions) at the same time, prioritise conflicting deadlines, and keep a careful track of budgets, so the ability to multitask and being methodical prioritising your work will be crucial.

4. People Skills

Whether you work with customers and clients or colleagues, in sales or in a press office, as a curator or designer, you’ll need people skills to succeed. You might need to be persuasive to make a sale or negotiate a loan of an artwork for an exhibition, to be collaborative while working on a team project, or engaging while talking to a school group, but working effectively with others is key. You can also use your people skills to build up a network of useful contacts across the industry, which may prove invaluable in your next career move.

5. Passion

The arts is a competitive sector, so having a passion and knowledge of your subject may allow you to stand out next to another equally-qualified candidate – you don’t need to know everything about a topic, but showing enthusiasm at interview can certainly impress employers. Your enthusiasm may also help to create relationships with other professionals (they may remember you when a job becomes available), and can help sustain you through the frustrations of job hunting and through a career where high pay is rare. Indulge your passion by reading, going to exhibitions or the theatre, listening to music – the more you build connections between different artistic creations the broader your knowledge will be, which will only help your work. Conveying your enthusiasm to those consuming the arts can be the most rewarding part of your job.

If you’d like to explore more, blogs and resources from the Museums, Arts and Cultural Heritage Themed Week can be found on the UCL Careers website.

Jargon You Should Know To Get Ahead When Applying For Fin-Tech

skye.aitken11 October 2019

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Deciding on a career path can be an overwhelming experience but fear not, you are probably not the only student stressing about which career path to choose. Often the industry jargon that crops up during career research and investigations can be downright terrifying. But here is the good news – you are not alone! As a student putting feelers out, you are in the best possible position to get a head start on learning the technical jargon and positioning yourself as an up-and-coming expert in your chosen field, long before any of your “competitors” (sorry, those are unfortunately your classmates) do.

You’re in the right place, especially if you are looking to get a handle on Fin-Tech technical jargon. Before you can start applying for roles, you need to know what the industry pros are talking about (and referring to), without having to ask them – so I am going to share with you what I’ve learned along the way. Let’s jump right in…

  • Fin-Tech

It is good to know what Fin-Tech stands for – it almost certainly will come up in an interview. Think of an interviewer asking “So, what is your understanding of the term Fin-Tech?”

It is basically an abbreviation of ‘financial’ and ‘technology’. Any business that works with technology that manages and controls finances is considered a Fin-Tech company. Fin-Tech can refer to several different financial areas, such as cryptocurrency, banking applications, money management tools, automated investment programs and apps, and so on.

  • Sandbox

“Sandbox” is a bit of lingo that refers to regulation. When someone in Fin-Tech speaks of a sandbox, they are referring to a “safe space” or a controlled environment where Fin-Tech companies can try out new tech. The Fin-Tech community has started eagerly trying to implement “sandboxes” where tech innovators can present their new tech aimed at the financial services industry. This way of testing provides both tech designers and companies operating in the financial sector the opportunity to uncover potential glitches as well as regulation problems that might arise from using the tech. It also helps both parties to figure out if they are a good “match” for each other.

  • Blockchain

This is tech software that underpinned Bitcoin. In some instances, industry pros might refer to it as DLT which stands for Distributed Ledger Technology. The software provides industry professionals with access to shared info records, which are regularly updated by computers (a network).

  • Robo-Advice

This is the term used for advice that is provided via a computer algorithm instead of an actual live human. A robo-advisor will be able to invest a client’s money on their behalf. The investments are done in portfolios that are made up of several small funds that are exchange-traded.

  • Future Proofing

This is the process of ensuring that the product or Fin-Tech innovation is more than just a passing fad. This will require testing, market research and projections.

  • Marketplace Lending

A marketplace lender is an alternative financial service (not a bank) that uses technology to evaluate loan requests. The data gathered is used to match lenders with borrowers. Marketplace lenders are efficient with cost-cutting and can streamline loan approvals.

  • Bootstrapping

An entrepreneur is said to be bootstrapping when he attempts to found and build a company with little capital or from personal finances or the operating revenues of the new company– like playing it by ear with no back-up finance.

  • Proof of Burn

This term can also refer to “proof of work” and basically means that someone is bootstrapping (when an entrepreneur starts a business with little capital) one cryptocurrency for another. When someone mentions “proof of burn”, they are implying that crypto miners should prove that they burned some of the currency they acquired. The proof required is showing that currency has been sent to an un-spendable address that is verified.

  • Open Banking

This is something that the non-bank financial lending sector is pushing for in the UK. While not many banks embrace the concept, there are some that are creating such platforms. Open Banking is a concept that entails banks sharing their data with third parties, to ensure that there is more competition and choice in the financial lending sector and to improve on transparency. The idea is to benefit consumers. Fin-Tech companies wish to create applications (or one application) that presents multiple bank account information within one app. This will make financial management easier and quicker.

Last Word

These are just some of the tech terms that are hot in the Fin-Tech industry right now. Brush up on your jargon knowledge before applying for any Fin-Tech roles. One of the requirements of an expert in the field is to have your finger to the pulse of all things tech related – the jargon included. Good luck!

This is a guest blog post written by Alice Farren. Alice is a financial journalist, fin-tech and SME specialist with a passion for promoting the talents and success stories of emerging entrepreneurs.

SME Loans is a business finance brokerage specialising in alternative funding solutions for small and medium-sized enterprises.

UCL Careers Researchers Programme – Summer 2019

UCL Careers18 March 2019


Find your future: UCL Careers Researchers EventsUCL Careers are delighted to confirm their programme of workshops and events for the summer term 2019, specifically designed for UCL’s Researcher’s community.

The programme includes workshops led by UCL Careers Consultants, for careers both in academia and beyond, to help researchers identify and develop core competencies, which are vital for competing in the job market, as well as a mix of Employer Forums and Employer Workshops that give the opportunity to hear from professionals in a range of sectors outside of academia, to ask questions, understand the job market and build business networks.

Researchers won’t want to miss the big event of the summer term – the annual full-day ‘Professional Careers Beyond Academia’ Conference. Presented by UCL Populations & Lifelong Health Domain Early Career Network & UCL Careers, supported by UCL Organisational Development, this conference will be held at the Institute of Child Health on 6th June, focusing on the field of life & health sciences and its related areas, such as UK and Global Public Health, Science Communications, Research & Development, Consultancy, Government Policy and more.

Booking on all events is now open.

For the full programme of events/workshops coming up for researchers this summer and book your place/s, please view the ‘Events Calendar’ on our Researchers page.

 

Any queries, please contact careers.researchers@ucl.ac.uk

Sustainability Fortnight: Careers in Conservation, Ecology & Wildlife

UCL Careers15 March 2019

 

Careers in Conservation panel

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

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

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

Get involved

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

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

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

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

Attitude

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

Persistence is key

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

Potential growth areas

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

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

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

Sustainability Fortnight: Careers in Energy

UCL Careers15 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.

How to get the most from a panel or networking event

UCL Careers28 January 2019

Going to a panel or alumni event will give you the opportunity to meet and hear from a range of speakers. They will be able to provide insight into their industries, and stories from their own careers that might prove to be invaluable when starting your own career.

To get the most out of attending a panel or alumni event, we’ve got a few tips to help you before, during and after the event.

Before

Research the speakers and their organisations. There’s plenty of easy ways to find out about companies and their opportunities, as well as the speakers themselves.

Start with LinkedIn to find out about the speakers and the organisations. On LinkedIn, there’s also a fantastic feature attached to organisations that shows you which alumni from UCL work there. It should prove useful to see which UCL graduates work for the organisation, as well as their roles. You might also be surprised to see the wide range of degree backgrounds that our graduates have within a single organisation!

There’s also Glassdoor, a helpful resource for finding reviews as well as other information such as salaries and even past interview questions.

Lastly, do a search on Google and look through the news to see what has recently been written about the companies in relevant news feeds.

If you’ll be attending an alumni networking event, consider what you wear to event to help you make a great first impression.

During

Take notes during a panel event, whether it’s simply to keep a list of websites or events that speakers recommend, or advice that you’ve found insightful.  This may also assist with asking questions, as you might want to follow up with questions on something that was said during the event.

At an alumni event, try to engage in a conversation with an alum. A simple tip is to ask open questions to begin with such as “How did you start working for …”, as this cannot be answered with a short yes or no, and that will help your conversation start flowing quickly.

For any type of event where you can network, always try to connect with people that you are interested in speaking with. Sometimes the connection will be the start of a longer conversation and potentially lead to future opportunities.

After

Within the first couple of days after the event, reach out to your new connections via LinkedIn or email. If they’re a working professional, remember that their time may be limited so be considerate when asking for advice.

What are your next steps? Is there a new jobs board to sign up to, or a networking event worth signing up for? Aim to have two or three simple actions that you plan on following up and set a simple deadline for each action.

As great as a panel or networking event is, the true value often comes once you capitalise on what you have learnt through the event.

Want to attend an exciting panel or networking event? The UCL Careers Themed Weeks give you the chance to meet professionals in a range of exciting sectors such as Charities & NGOs and International Development.

By Jai Shah – Careers Consultant

Government & Policy Week: Working in Policy Analysis & Think Tanks

UCL Careers12 October 2018

Guest blog from Andy Norman, Research Analyst at Centre for Progressive Policy

Profile photo: Andy Norman, Research Analyst at Centre for Progressive Policy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A job in policy analysis in a think tank can offer something special to those who are lucky enough to follow this career path: the chance to improve the lives of people up and down the country. Yet while it is always important to keep this ultimate goal in mind, the role of a policy analyst can be a few steps removed from the impact you are striving for. So if you want to see the direct impact on people’s lives on a daily basis that is often found in charity work or front-line services, then perhaps policy analysis is not for you. But what this job does offer you is an opportunity to make genuine improvements at a systemic level.

The day to day role of a policy analyst in a think tank is varied. Much of the job involves researching a specific topic – for example, healthcare or education – identifying problems and coming up with innovative policy solutions. One day you could be pouring over government datasets to extract key insights, the next you could be leading a focus group seeking the opinions of members of the public.

Coming up with practical, evidence-based policy solutions to some of society’s most complex problems, however, is really only half the job. The best think tanks work hard to ensure that their recommendations are actually implemented. A policy solution can be fantastic on paper, but if it never leaves the pages of a report then its impact will always be zero. That’s why a big part of what think tanks do is to work with policymakers throughout the process of researching and writing a report to make sure that the ultimate policy recommendations have a good chance of being effectively implemented.

Unfortunately, think tank policy analyst vacancies are extremely limited and so competition is tough. A tried and tested route into the industry is via an internship, usually paid the living wage. But think tanks often receive hundreds of applications from eager graduates for their internships so learning how to stand out from the crowd is key. Proving that your analysis skills are top notch is of course important. But showing that you are able to think innovatively to find new solutions to stubborn problems is crucial. But, in the end, what think tanks want to see from their applicants is a belief in and commitment to the kind of societal and economic change they are working towards.

While the work of think tanks can seem complex and confusing from the outside, the essence of what we do is actually very simple. Ultimately, those that work in think tanks analyse how the world is today, imagine how they want it to be in the future and devise policy solutions to provide a bridge between the two.

Government & Policy Week icon showing Houses of ParliamentInterested in a career that makes a difference? Government & Policy week is your chance to hear from those working at the heart of government; people who influence policy; and leaders in the public sector.

 

What’s happening?

Monday 22 October 13:00 – 14:00: Intro to Policy: what are my options?

Monday 22 October 18:00 – 20:00: Careers in the Heart of Government

Tuesday 23 October 18:00 – 20:00: Influencing Policy

Wednesday 24 October 12:00 – 14:00: Civil Service Workshop

Thursday 25 October 18:00 – 20:00: Careers that make a difference 

To find out more, visit the Government & Policy Themed Week page on our website and register to attend these events via myUCLCareers.