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“TEXT!!” What can Love Island teach us about careers?

By uczjsdd, on 17 July 2017


I assume you’re watching Love Island, right? It seems we all are. And if you’re not, you’ve only missed ~40 episodes. Cancel all plans and you’ll be caught up in no time. It’ll be well worth it. Much like David Attenborough’s Planet Earth, Love Island offers new perspectives on our world, a window through which we may behold truths hitherto unknown. Obviously I’ve learned everything I know about love from the show. Most people have. But Love Island also offers wise teachings on careers. In case fans of the show have missed them, and for non-fans without 40 hours to spare, I’ve summarised Love Island’s three key career lessons below:

1) Don’t judge a career by its cover

I don’t mind admitting that even I, one of Love Island’s biggest fans, was at first somewhat sceptical, or even scathing, about the show. I viewed myself as above it. But how wrong I was. It took merely one episode to have me truly hooked.

I’d stereotyped the show and the kinds of people who watch it. And it’s easy to do just the same thing with careers. What images come to mind when you think of an accountant? A psychologist? A social worker? A librarian? And what information are those images based on? Sometimes we can be very dismissive of, or incredibly attracted to, certain career paths due to commonly-held stereotypes. And if we don’t delve beneath the stereotype, we risk making ill-informed career choices. Websites like https://www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles give you impartial information about a whole host of job roles, so it’s a great place to check that your initial impressions are correct. We also recommend talking to people in the roles you’re interested in, and testing jobs out whenever you can. You may just find a hidden Love Island-esque gem!

2) First choices don’t have to be final choices

Where would Olivia (and we the viewers) be if she’d stuck with her first Love Island coupling? Cast your mind back to episode 1 and you’ll remember she was first paired with Marcel. But he wasn’t her type on paper, so she moved on to Sam, who also wasn’t her type on paper. Then she was off to Chris, who also appeared not to be her type on paper. Then she tried out Mike, who was totally her type on paper. But despite being her type on paper, she actually wasn’t too keen on him (see point 1 above), so she’s (currently) back with Chris and seemingly very happy.

Imagine if in episode 1 Olivia had felt her first choice would have to be her final choice, that she and Marcel would have to get married and be together forever. It could have left her paralysed by indecision. Well that’s how many students feel about career decisions. They worry so much about getting it ‘wrong’ that they find it difficult to engage with career thinking at all. But worry not. Studies like this, this and this tell us that changing careers, sometimes multiple times, is pretty normal. So chill. Take some of the pressure off. Career thinking is an ongoing process. You’re not necessarily making the choice about what to do forever, just what to do next. The experiences you have in every role, and the ways you change and grow over time, will inform where you go from there.

3) Be aware of your online presence

It’s hard not to feel a bit sorry for Jonny. He became the show’s villain after doing what plenty of other contestants do, dumping one person for another. But when that dumpee is the nation’s sweetheart Camilla, you’re bound to be a little unpopular. This unpopularity wasn’t helped by Jonny’s social media profiles, which he’s now deleted, and has admitted portrayed him as being something he wasn’t.

So obviously if you’re thinking of entering next year’s Love Island you should do a thorough social media audit. But what if you’re applying for a job? A 2013 survey of recruiters showed 92%, 35%, and 18% used LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, respectively, to vet candidates before interview, and 42% had reconsidered a candidate based on what they found on their social networking profiles. Unsurprisingly, profanity and references to guns and drugs were viewed pretty unfavourably by recruiters. But so were photos of alcohol consumption, and spelling and grammar mistakes, rather common features in social media profiles. So be sure to regularly evaluate your privacy settings to ensure you’re happy with what recruiters might find!

What does your favourite Beyoncé song say about your career?

By uczjsdd, on 6 May 2016

Like, how flipping good is the new Beyoncé album? Am I right? Yes.

But which track is your fave? The haunting, poetic, heart-rending opener, “Pray you catch me”?  Or are you more into the loud, rocky, hell-hath-no-fury-type number “Don’t Hurt Yourself”?

It turns out the answer could say a lot about you. David Greenberg, a Cambridge PhD student, has been researching the underpinnings of musical taste. And he found certain ‘cognitive styles’, or ways of thinking, are associated with a preference for distinct music types.

People with a greater ability to understand thoughts and feelings in themselves and others, labelled “empathisers”, tend to prefer mellow, melancholy music like R&B and soul. Whereas ‘systemisers’, those better at spotting patterns and understanding the workings of systems, prefer loud, intense, ‘fun’ genres like punk and hard rock.

Interesting stuff in itself. But at UCL Careers we just can’t resist looking for ways to help you with your career thinking. And we figure if you’re the type of person who loves putting people in boxes (and don’t we all enjoy that a little sometimes?), you might want to take your musical tastes into account when considering your future career. Systemisers are likely to be good at analytical, mathematical and scientific problem-solving jobs. So if you’re a grindcore lover, perhaps you’ll make a fine economist. Whereas empathisers may prefer working with people, especially if the role involves understanding emotions and behaviour. So if you like a bit of soft rock or smooth soul, maybe you’ll enjoy being a counsellor.

And if checking your Spotify playlist hasn’t solved all your career woes (which I very much doubt it has), there are more sophisticated job-matching tools out there, like Prospects Planner or Plotr. Shockingly, they don’t ask whether you prefer Adele to Slipknot, but they do make you think about what motivates you in your work, and the type of environment you’d be happiest in.

A word of caution: Although these algorithms will churn out a list of jobs for you, they’re unlikely to offer a firm and final answer to your career choice. We all change and develop over time, and as you gain more work experience you’ll learn more about your preferences. This means your answers may vary at different points in your life. See these tools as more of a starting point to help identify a few careers worth investigating further.

And a second word of caution: Sometimes people are frustrated or even offended when their top job match is something they would never consider doing, or would have to retrain completely to achieve. But in these cases it’s worth evaluating the top 10-20 answers. Taken together they can help you spot patterns in the type of role you may enjoy. If you’re finding it tough to do this on your own, why not bring the list along to a one-to-one careers appointment to use as a basis for a discussion?



N.B. Bey’s new album works so well in its entirety, so it’s kind of tricky to pick a favourite. But my current stand-out tracks are ‘Sorry’ and ‘All Night’. Just FYI.



Career inspiration No. 3: Taylor Swift

By uczjsdd, on 4 November 2015

In this series of blogs we’ll be looking to pop culture for career inspiration.

Taylor SwiftImage of TS from @taylorswift13

How has it taken me three celeb career inspiration blogs to get to Taylor Swift?! Here are just a few of the possibly infinite number of career lessons we can learn from Tay Tay’s phenomenal success.

1) The first step doesn’t have to be the last

Remember when Taylor Swift was more than a little bit country? I do. She was doing pretty darn well, and country music is a hugely lucrative business. But she decided to follow a different creative direction, making her sound a little more pop and a lot more awesome.

Choosing the right path when you graduate can be tough. Putting time into researching what’s out there, and into researching yourself, will ensure you make an informed decision. But don’t fret too much, because just like T-Swiz, many people change direction during their career, sometimes only slightly, sometimes quite drastically. The experiences you have in the world of work will reveal what you do and don’t enjoy. And the process can continue throughout your career, as both you and your jobs evolve.

2) Networking is great for your career

Swifty knows how to make friends, and how to make the most of them. There’s her collaboration with Kendrick Lamar, her on stage guesting with Mary J. Blige (and SOOO many others), her touring, instagraming and BFFing with Haim, and her star-studded Bad Blood video. These links broaden her already incredibly wide appeal, helping her sell more records.

Taylor Swift and MaryJ BligeImage of pro networker T with Mary J Blige from @taylorswift13

But networking isn’t just for the superfamous. It’s important in most careers. If you need proof, just check out the data in What London Graduates Do. 25% of graphic designers, 27% of scientific researchers, and 32% of management consultants surveyed heard about their job through personal contacts. And that’s not just friends and family (although of course you should make the most of any links you have). Personal contacts include people met at networking events and through LinkedIn or through UCL’s Alumni Community: a chance to speak to Alumni in sectors you’re interested in. So get networking!

3) Learn from feedback

Believe it or not, even Taylz isn’t perfect. But her Twitter beef with Nicki Minaj earlier this year showed she can admit when she’s wrong and take steps to improve herself.

As we saw with Nadiya from GBBO, career resilience is vital. You’re bound to get some rejections, so it’s important to stay positive. But it’s also sensible to reflect upon what (if anything) caused the knockback. As Albert Einstein famously said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”. And that guy was pretty smart.

Employers will often provide feedback if you’ve been unsuccessful at interview, so ask for this, and use it to improve your performance next time. And you can always come and visit us at UCL Careers for guidance on improving your applications and interview technique.


S Donaldson, UCL Careers Consultant

Career inspiration No. 1: Nadiya from GBBO

By uczjsdd, on 12 October 2015

In this series of blogs we’ll be looking to pop culture for career inspiration.

Nadiya 3

Image from BBC One

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week you’ll know that Nadiya Hussain quite rightly won 2015’s Great British Bake Off. Her acceptance speech brought a tear to many an eye and her victory has been all over the papers and EVERYWHERE online.

But this is the UCL Careers blog. Surely we can’t make the GBBO about careers, right?


We think Nadiya’s performance holds important career lessons for us all. And we’re going to tell you about them.

1) Sometimes it’s good to step out of your comfort zone

Nadiya wasn’t the most confident contestant to begin with. But she threw herself into the competition, and as the weeks went by her boldness grew, culminating in her glorious victory. And that speech! “I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never gonna say I can’t do it. I’m never gonna say ‘maybe’. I’m never gonna say, ‘I don’t think I can.’ I can and I will.”

Pushing yourself to have varied experiences will help you develop skills and confidence. And testing out different things can help you figure out exactly what you want from a career. If you’re nervous, why not start small? Try taking on a new task in a social or voluntary setting first. Then when you’re feeling braver you can transfer your new skills to your course or job.

2) Resilience is vital

Ok. So Nadiya had some low points on the show. She presented incomplete vol au vents. She fluffed the soufflé technical challenge. She shed some tears. But did she let that stop her? No sir.

Jobhunting can be tough, most people don’t just walk into the first job they apply for. Even the best candidates are bound to get a knockback every now and then. But staying positive and learning from your experiences is an important career development skill.

3) Make your motivation clear

Recruitment is an expensive and time-consuming business, as is training new staff. So it’s important for employers to know they’re taking on people who are motivated to work hard and stick around for a while. In your applications and interviews you need to show you’ve done your homework, you understand the role and the company, and you’re excited about the position.

Nadiya was clearly serious about baking and the competition, hence the incredible show stoppers and the tears. But for the best evidence of Nadiya’s passion, one need look no further than her wonderful facial expressions. Enjoy!

Nadiya 4

Image from Indy Voices

S Donaldson, Careers Consultant, UCL