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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.



What career skills were you shouting about in 2015?

By uczjsdd, on 6 January 2016


Are you sick of 2015 countdown lists yet? No? Good, because here’s another one.

Have you heard of Coursera? It’s great. It allows you to take free online courses in pretty much anything, and those courses are taught by university experts. In fact, UCL careers consultants helped deliver a course in Employability Skills in 2014 and 2015.

And now the good people at Coursera have put together a handy list of 2015’s most coveted career skills. When you complete a course you receive a certificate, and get the option of posting said certificate to your LinkedIn profile. By assessing courses with the most certificates posted to LinkedIn, Coursera have worked out the top 10 skills people most wanted to show off to recruiters last year. It’s a nice measure of what’s hot with employers right now, with ‘digital marketing’ coming out on top, and ‘data science’ featuring heavily in the top 10. Check out the full list here.

And to be notified when the employability skills course runs again, visit the course page and add it to your wish list.


S Donaldson, UCL Careers Consultant

Interview advice for really really ridiculously good-looking men

By uczjsdd, on 10 December 2015


Are you hot? Like Justin Bieber hot? Then good luck getting a job. Recent UCL research has shown that for certain types of role being terribly good-looking makes you less likely to be hired. At first I was delighted to have a totally plausible reason for all of my past and future employment rejections, and if we can extrapolate from these results, and I believe we surely can, all of my other rejections too.  But then I realised this only applies to men.

So guys, if you think your Bradley-Cooper-esque looks are holding you back, here’s something light as we go into the Christmas break – a tongue-in-cheek Guardian article about how to combat hunk discrimination.

If you’re after more serious interview advice, (male or female, good-looking or not so much) check out UCL Careers’ online interview resources and our careers library resources in Student Central. We also run workshops on interview skills, some with employers, so keep an eye on our events pages. And if you have an interview coming up you can book a practice interview with one of our careers consultants to get tailored advice on how to maximise your chances of success.


S Donaldson, Careers Consultant, UCL Careers

How to tackle psychometric tests

By uczjsdd, on 7 December 2015


Psychometric tests are one of the hoops some of you will have to jump through to get a job. Large employers often use these tests as a quick and easy way of cutting down the huge volume of applications they receive. So how should you tackle them? Well, firstly, don’t panic. Secondly, do prepare. And thirdly, don’t panic some more.

1) DON’T Panic

Easier said than done, right? Employers tell us that lots of people do panic. They assume they’ll fail and so they opt out of the recruitment process at the psychometric test stage without even sitting the test. And a few employers have told us that women self-select out a lot more than men. So stop doing that people! Especially female people! If you take the test you may pass and get through to the next application stage, or you may fail and not progress to the next stage. If you don’t take the test you’re certain not to progress. So give yourself a chance and take that test.

It’s quite common for employers to test verbal and numerical abilities (though not all will test both), and sometimes logical thinking too. The numerical tests can seem scary, especially if you’ve been studying a humanities degree for the past few years. But if employers are accepting applicants from all academic disciplines (and many are) then they’re clearly not looking only for maths geniuses. And some tests are designed to be extremely difficult, with too many questions for the assigned time. So people can often think they didn’t do very well and then find they passed.

2) DO Prepare

Saying that, you should probably panic a bit…but just enough to make sure you put appropriate time into preparing. Psychometric tests aren’t a walk in the park. If you’re out of practice working with graphs and numbers then you’re likely to be slow and perhaps even bad at numerical reasoning tests when you first look at them. Similarly, even if you think you’re good with words, verbal reasoning tests aren’t always straightforward, and may be harder than you expect.

But with practice you can improve. Employers often offer the chance to take practice tests before the real one. Always take them up on this. And as a UCL student or recent graduate you can try a range of practice tests through UCL Careers. These tests provide feedback on how you compare to others in terms of speed and accuracy, helping you to gauge your ability and see if you’re improving. There are also handy hints and tips to be found on careerstagged – just sign in with your UCL login and search “psychometric tests”. Always tap these free university careers resources first  – they’re great and just for you – but if you’ve exhausted them and still aren’t confident, there are websites out there that offer the option to buy more sample tests.

Another way to ensure you’re prepared is to find out as much as possible about your target employers’ tests. Psychometric tests can vary greatly, so it’s worth investigating which provider your target employer is using, and then focusing your practice on the same types of tests. It’s also useful to know whether your potential employer negatively marks their tests for incorrect answers. This information isn’t always readily available, but if you can find it, it will help you work out how to balance speed versus accuracy in your answers.

3) DON’T Panic….again

Preparation and practice will bring your performance up to its optimum level. But of course there is a peak point for every individual, past which they’re unlikely to improve. If you’ve put in the work and still not made the grade, don’t feel dejected. Different employers use different tests and different cut-off points – some much harder and higher than others – so one rejection shouldn’t put you off all employers with psychometric tests. And not all employers and roles require the completion of these tests, so think about other routes into your chosen career or employer – maybe with the help of a one-to-one appointment with a UCL careers consultant. Another bit of good news is that there may well be a trend emerging of employers moving away from psychometric tests; this year Barclays scrapped theirs completely in order to make the recruitment process faster and more enjoyable for everyone involved.


S Donaldson, Careers Consultant, UCL

Image from Boaz Arad

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

6 networking tips that work for me

By uczjsdd, on 2 November 2015

network 2 Image from Andy Lamb

Networking is important. It just is. But it can also be painful.

The below networking tips have helped me, so hopefully they’ll also help people who are a bit like me. But are you like me? Do you feel social awkwardness acutely and do everything in your power to avoid it? Do you enjoy spending time with humans, but also hate meeting new ones? Do you cringe at the thought of entering a room packed with strangers, with the aim of ‘selling yourself’? If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the above, these tips could ease your pain:

1) Have a purpose

Have a reason for being somewhere that isn’t simply ‘networking’. There’s nothing I find more excruciatingly awkward than milling about with a glass of wine surrounded by people I don’t know. I just end up leaving early. But if I’m actually doing something, then I find it much easier to talk to strangers, get to know people, and pick up useful contacts.

You could see this as a ‘planned happenstance’ approach to networking – put yourself out there, get involved with things, and the networking is likely to just happen without you really noticing. For me, this has meant signing up for a course where I’d meet people in a certain sector, or volunteering at relevant events. Sometimes these events have included one of those dreaded ‘networking sessions’, which always feel far less awkward if I’ve been part of the team organising them.

2) Latch on to a good networker

Like it or not, it’s not always possible to ‘have a purpose’. Sometimes attending actual networking events is part of life. And it can yield results. I find networking events more productive and less terrible if I attend with a natural-born networker. The intense schmoozing might make you feel uncomfortable at times, but the good networker will ensure they (and, because you are together, also you) talk to lots of key people, and their social skills should make the whole affair less awkward for everyone.

3) Don’t bring the whole gang

While attending a networking session or signing up for a course with one other person (hopefully a fantastic networker – see tip 2) can give you the confidence to talk to new people, bringing a big group along is likely to be counterproductive. Enjoying complimentary drinks with friends at conferences or networking sessions is fabulous in its own way, but you probably won’t get much networking done!

4) Be curious

Networking events can inflict a pressure to be interesting. But it’s better (and easier) to concentrate on being interested. Sure, you should try to swot up on relevant topics and issues to do with your particular sector/company of interest, and it’s sensible to have a short elevator pitch about yourself prepared. But in reality, most people quite like to talk about themselves, and they like people who let them do it. So if you ask lots of questions and seem genuinely engaged you’re likely to build rapport, and in turn networks.

5) Don’t expect too much

Network 3Image from Sean MacEntee

…or at least not too much too soon. Networking is great for your career. But if you go into each networking event expecting a promotion, you’ll be often disappointed. And if you harass everyone you meet for a job, you’ll be often avoided.

Asking questions people can easily answer (a la tip 4) is a good start. If you come away from an event having learned about someone’s career path or what it’s like to work in a particular company, then you’ve acquired valuable knowledge for your career thinking and applications. And remember networking can be a long game. Although it might not be immediately obvious how someone can help you (or how you might help them!), building your networks is likely to pay off in the end.

6) Follow up

When you meet someone at an event try to follow the link up within a week. I have a friend who likes to send a small gift to new contacts. Although it works wonderfully well for her (it’s how she and I became friends), most people can’t pull it off without seeming creepy, so a brief email or LinkedIn request should suffice. It can be nice to remind them of the conversation you had, and perhaps even send them a link to something they might find interesting. This keeps the contact warm, increasing the chances they’ll remember and think well of you, and decreasing the chances you’ll feel awkward when you contact them in the future.

S Donaldson, Careers Consultant UCL.

Originally published on The Careers Group’s Get Hired blog.

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

Getting your voice heard could land you a job

By UCL Careers, on 3 July 2015

This post orginially appeared on the UCL Careers Researchers blog

New research published in Psychological Science has shown that written job pitches pale in comparison to the spoken wordPhone.

When scientists at the University of Chicago asked people, some of them professional recruiters, to evaluate student job pitches, they responded better to videos and voice recordings than to the exact same speeches written down. Using identical words, when evaluators are able to hear a person’s voice (importantly, both with or without a visual video recording) they rate that person as more intelligent, thoughtful and competent.

Speaking to The New York Times, Professor Nicholas Epley, one of the co-authors of the study, explained these results by saying that spoken words “show that we are alive inside – thoughtful, active….The closest you ever get to the mind of another person is through their mouth.”

So what does this mean for your job hunt? Well, it means that networking is EVEN more important than we’re always telling you it is. And that although online professional social networks can be a great way to identify useful contacts, they’re no substitute for actually meeting someone, or at least chatting to them on the phone. And you know when you’re invited to call for more information while applying for a job? Well maybe you should do that. Put together some intelligent questions to which you’d actually like answers, and use it as an opportunity to introduce yourself and what you have to offer – it could mean that they’ll pay more attention to your written application when it comes in.

– S Donaldson, Careers Consultant, UCL Careers