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5 factors that affect your starting salary (and how to tackle them)

By UCL Careers, on 25 November 2015

Guest blog written by Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student.

You’ve got more say in your pay than you think. Save the Student flips the lid on salaries to show you the money – and how to get it.

The good news is that having a degree stacks the salary odds in your favour: graduates go on to earn around 60% more than someone without a degree over the course of their career. While that’s a hefty bonus in the long term, take a look at some fixable factors that influence your pay from day one.

1. The going rate

Graduate salaries can fall anywhere between a measly 12 grand to more than five times that – but where you land on the scale depends on the industry you head for. Careers in technical fields are more likely to bag the bucks, with graduates in IT reporting starting salaries of up to £70,000. Pay in the Arts tends to start (and stay) much lower. Pick a career – or subject – that can work across several industries to keep your options open. Visit, What Do London Graduates Do, to get more inspiration and help inform the decision making process.

2. The route you take

Researching the going rate can give you an idea of the ballpark you’re heading into, and if there are routes or roles which could net you more. Whether you take a side-step or a full detour depends on how much starting pay matters to you. Use your Maths degree to get into accounting and you could be looking at £17k in your first year – use it for banking, and you could get twice that.

3. Demand

The fewer folk qualified to do a job, the better the pay scale – so getting further training, experience or a specialism can be strong bargaining tools for more money. If you want to play the trends, there are in-demand vocations with cash incentives open to most degree subjects – teaching is one, along with Aldi’s retail management grad scheme, which comes with a £42k golden hello.

4. Location

Big cities typically pay more, with London most likely to top the chart. You’ll pay a premium for living there, though, so it’s worth balancing the lure of better starting pay against higher rent and transport before you up-sticks.

5. Knowing how to negotiate

Asking for more cash when you’ve just landed a job might seem hideously impolite – but one of the reasons graduates earn less than they could is that they just don’t ask. Women are even less likely to negotiate (and more likely to earn less over their careers than guys doing the same job), so it’s important to know your worth.

How to negotiate like you mean it:

  • Fixating on the money at your first interview won’t give the best impression. Ask once an offer’s on the table.
  • Have compelling reasons for wanting more – whether it’s because the salary doesn’t reflect transport costs for the location or you’ve got skills that the company will profit from.
  • Be realistic: if the salary on the job ad was ‘up to £16,000’, you’ll be lucky – or ludicrous – to ask for twice that. Know the going rate, though, so you’ve got a sound basis for your pitch.
  • List what experience, solutions or qualifications you can bring to the company that other candidates can’t. If you’re super confident, you could ask for a bonus for delivering key job objectives or deadlines.
  • If your employer can’t stump up extra cash, they may be able to offer perks instead, from health insurance to travel or extra training.

There’s no shame in asking for what you’re worth – at best you get it, and at worst, you get the salary that was advertised. If you really feel the salary isn’t a fair match for your skills, it’s up to you to decide whether the business is one you can devote yourself to between now and next pay review. Once you get on the career ladder, though, the fastest way to promotions and pay rises is often by moving company – so take the long view.

Why it’s not (just) about the money

It’s unrealistic to think salary isn’t important – but it’s not the only factor in job happiness.

Doing something you enjoy sure makes it easier to go to work every day, while working with like-minded people can get you a giggle along the way.  Meanwhile, your salary will go up time, with your attitude, achievements and experience all helping to boost your pay packet.

Money isn’t the only thing a career can buy you: from training to team nights out, there are tons of ways to make it pay. Make sure you get your dues!

– Ruth Bushi, Editor, Save the Student

Guest blog written by Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student. Featuring the kind of straight-talking advice you won’t get at school, the site has everything you need to know about managing money without the migraines: student finance explained, insider info on careers, plus ways to save and scrimp without the stress.

5 Things You Can’t Put on a CV

By UCL Careers, on 13 November 2015

This post originally appeared on campus.about.me.

To judge a college student by his or her CV would be like judging a YouTube video from its freeze frame. You just can’t get the whole picture.

A résumé is critical for students during an internship or job search. All of the basics, like education, skills, and experience, are important. However, at all costs, avoid being solely defined by the words typed between the margins of a resume.

What about all the other great ‘stuff’ that makes you who you are? Here are five very defining things you can’t put on a CV.



1. Your Picture

Jordan Jenkins, Ball State University

Let people see you as more than a bunch of letters. Put a face to your name and make it fun. People like to see you being you, not you in an uncomfortable suit and tie.

2. What Matters Most to You

Do you have your own Etsy store? What about a SoundCloud with awesome music recommendations? Maybe you’re simply looking for your next gig, like George Washington University student Zach Kahn. Use your page to point people to something that matters, even if that’s just having them send you an email.

Corinne Kelly, Bentley University
Corinne Kelly, Bentley University

3. Your Love Of Weird, And Not So Weird Stuff

A bio doesn’t have to be cut and dry. Whether you’re into Beyoncé, college sports, Steampunk, or fly fishing, share your interests and people will want to connect with you. Check out Corinne Kelly’s bio for a little inspiration.

4. Celebrate, Don’t Hate On Your Social Media

Let’s face it, social media is a part of the job search. Embrace it and show off your social media accounts that make you proud. Take awesome photos? Link up your Instagram. Always up to date on the latest scandals and trends? Add your Twitter!

Pablo Vera, Polytechnic University of Valencia

5. Who You REALLY Are

Résumés typically have a pretty set template, while some people can get creative, some are left in the dust. We don’t all look good on paper. Use your about.me page to show off what your résumé doesn’t. Be true to yourself.

Zoë BjörnsonZoë Björnson is the Editorial + Social Media Coordinator with about.me. She is a graduate of Tulane University.

What are the five skills most sought after by today’s graduate employers?

By UCL Careers, on 5 October 2015

This guest post is from the team at WikiJob, the UK’s largest graduate jobs forum.

As a graduate it is important to know what type of skills potential employers are really looking for, aside from the competencies specific to the position. Put simply: if you understand this, you can prepare a stronger application than other candidates.

Your degree is far from the only factor that will determine how suitable you are for a role. Employers and HR professionals will be looking for a combination of transferable skills and evaluating how you have acquired these during your academic studies and work experience. But what are the most important skills for today’s employers –  and how can you relate them to a specific opportunity?

How to Market yourself Event

These are five skills that are among the most valued in the current graduate workplace:


Written and verbal communication – specifically the ability to convey information clearly and concisely – is fundamental to any job role. In your application, make sure that you provide examples that demonstrate how you have used persuasion and negotiation skills. One of the most effective ways to showcase your talents in written communication is via your cover letter, CV and application documents. Be concise, use a clear structure and focus on results achieved.

Analytical Abilities

Analytical skills are crucial in many different occupations; not just data-based or technical roles. Within the workplace, you’ll need analytical skills to review business processes and identify improvements, or perhaps complete market research to explore avenues for growth. Employers may assess analytical or numerical competency through a psychometric test.

Here are other examples of when analytical skills might be needed at work:

> To review large amounts of quantitative or qualitative data, and produce a report or presentation based on the results;
> To solve a problem, evaluate viable solutions and select the right one for the business;
> To apply critical thinking and analysis to tasks in design, marketing, programming or system management;
> To get the most out of Excel for data analysis.


All employers, regardless of the organisation, will look for graduates who can demonstrate the ability to work cohesively with others, solve problems collectively and work effectively in a team. It may seem simple, but your ability to get along with people is a trait you should make clear in your application and subsequent interview. Demonstrate how you can contribute to a team, provide ideas to improve services, or show how a team you were in improved performance after receiving constructive criticism.

Commercial Awareness

Understanding the world of business and how organisations work together is a vital skill in employment, as commerce is increasingly multinational. Commercial awareness means understanding not only how the business operates but how it can be influenced by competitors and suppliers, and how businesses have to evolve to meet the changing demands of customers.

Time Management

Graduate roles often include many different responsibilities, and employers will look for candidates who can address multiple and often conflicting deadlines which routinely arise in the workplace.

As such, ensure that your application addresses how you manage your time well. This could relate to your studies and perhaps a period of work experience or voluntary work. Show how you prioritised to get the most important things done within your deadline.

Are there other key skills which should have made the list? If so, please let us know by adding a comment below.

– James Rice, Head of Digital Marketing, WikiJob

Find out how Skills4Work at UCL can help you gain these skills employers are looking for: http://skills4work.net/

How my arts degree led to a career as a digital entrepreneur

By UCL Careers, on 16 September 2015

This guest post is from Zoe Amar, Director of Zoe Amar Communications
Zoe Amar headshot

Earlier this summer Forbes proclaimed that arts degrees were the hottest ticket for a career in tech. It reminded me of my own journey from a BA in English Literature at Warwick to running my own digital marketing agency, working with clients such as Charities Aid Foundation, The Commonwealth War Graves Commission and The School for Social Entrepreneurs. Careers in digital and communications are popular options for undergraduates, as is eschewing the conventional graduate scheme for life as an entrepreneur. UCL have asked me to share what I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Accept that any career path you choose may be circuitous and involve some risk. After graduating, I was an English teacher for a year before heading to law school then working in the City. But even though I did well in those jobs and learned a lot, there was always something missing. I quit my job as a lawyer and thought long and hard over what I wanted to do next, aided by John Lees’ invaluable book How to Get a Job You Love. It was a bit scary to walk away from a well paid job but without doing that I would never have ended up in a job I love so much. I took a placement doing marketing on a pro bono basis at a national charity which specialised in digital services.  Just a few weeks in they offered to create a new role for me as head of marketing, and after I’d been there for 5 years I left and set up my own agency. I’d say learn whatever you can from every job you have and follow your instincts about what is right for you.
  2. Digital doesn’t mean that ‘soft’ skills are redundant. As the Forbes article showed, digital is evolving rapidly and requires strong technical and analytical knowledge. Yet people skills such as being able to ‘read the room’ and nurture client relationships are necessary to capitalise on the benefits of digital. Much as I love it, digital is just a set of tools. It’s how you use them that counts.
  3. Being an entrepreneur is hard but rewarding. It might sound glamorous but running your own business means taking on a lot of risk and round the clock hard graft. The upside is that it stretches you and is incredibly empowering. It’s also offered me amazing experiences such as working with household names, giving a lecture on digital strategy at Cambridge,  and doing a bit of radio and TV. If you have the opportunity to work for yourself I urge you to take it. I’ve run my own business for the last couple of years and recently blogged about everything it has taught me.

I’d recommend that anyone starting out in their career is open minded and learns everything they can.  Work isn’t one linear path from university to the corner office anymore; it’s a journey. Enjoy it.

Zoe Amar is Director of Zoe Amar Communications. She also writes for The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network about how nonprofits use digital, and is a trustee of a national charity.

To discuss career options, book an appointment to see a Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.