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Career tips from an Editorial Assistant at the Royal Opera House

By UCL Careers, on 19 March 2015

This blog post originally appeared on the Develop your Career blog

Paul Kilbey, Editorial Assistant at the Royal Opera House, shares his experiences in Arts publishing.

How did you get into your role?

I’ve wanted to work in publishing for a long time.  I studied music at university but was always more interested in writing about it than performing or composing, so I gravitated towards jobs where I used language.  After a while teaching English as a Foreign Language abroad, I moved to London and was lucky to be able to do a couple of internships, building up my professional experience.  There were then a few years working in and around classical music for startups, and I got my current job in the Royal Opera House’s Publishing and Interpretation team a couple of months ago.  I am also a freelance writer specializing in classical music; I write for a few magazines.

Over the last few years I have written a lot of articles for a number of predominantly online publications.  This has been really important for developing my writing skills, although it hasn’t always been the same as a conventional grounding in journalism or publishing – it has all been fairly off the cuff, and online is totally different from print, both in terms of how it works and also the standard expected.  All the writing made me well qualified for my current role – I’m an Editorial Assistant – but I still have plenty to learn.

What do you do day to day?

It’s very varied, and the workload changes depending on what projects are coming up.  There is always work to do preparing for future productions, although of course it gets busier in the immediate run-up to a show.  I have work to do in a number of areas including writing, proofreading, liaising with advertising clients and also working with publishing software.

What are the best things about working in your role?

My colleagues are very nice, and it’s an exciting place to work, with the rehearsals and performances happening all around us backstage.  And after a few years with very small companies, I am still hugely enjoying the perks of working for a major employer – cafeteria, IT support, payroll department, etc. Most of all, the job is an ideal mixture of my interests – classical music and publishing.  I’m lucky to be able to work in both at the same time.

What top tips would you pass on to a student interested in this type of work?

Firstly, it’s worth remembering that any sort of office experience is good.  Employers want to know that you can be trusted to correspond with people in a professional manner.  I had done very little office work on graduation, and this probably set me back a bit.

As for writing online – there can be huge benefits to doing this, but only if you’re serious and sensible about it, and aware of its limitations.  Blogging can lead to all sorts of interesting things, and so can writing for the many websites out there that will take your content, publish it, and not pay you.  But, unsurprisingly, doing this can also be very unrewarding, both financially and professionally.  You shouldn’t confuse success in these media with professional experience in journalism or publishing per se.  My advice is that if you’re considering writing for a blog or another website, it’s crucial to remember the value of what you’re doing.  This means two things: firstly, that you know what you stand to gain from your writing, even if you’re not being paid (are you gaining useful experience? Exposure? Nothing at all?); and secondly, that you only write things that you’re confident are good enough to merit publication.

Surviving and Thriving in the Sustainability Sector

By UCL Careers, on 16 February 2015

You’ve sent in your application, aced the interview and now you’ve got that all-important first job. What then? Whether sustainability is a passion that’s taken you into education or an NGO, government or private sector, there are some common challenges you’ll encounter. And overcoming these will be essential in allowing you to flourish in your current (and future) roles. 

So once you’ve got your foot in the door, what then? Here are the Sustainability Team’s insights into what’s needed to survive and thrive in your sustainability career.

1. Celebrate the small stuff. Creating positive change is hard. And even small changes often take a lot of time and effort to achieve. So whether you’ve run a successful event, won some funding, or just got 20 more subscribers to your newsletter, make sure you celebrate your wins.

2. Change your mind and keep learning. One of the benefits of this field is that it cuts across a wide range of themes and roles. Whether it’s as communicator, auditor or policy-writer, you’ll find that most roles include lots of different disciplines. Keep topping up your skills and getting any training that’s available. And don’t be afraid to chop and change; there may be indirect routes into what you want to do.

3. Accept that we don’t all speak the same language. Even in a small organisation, you’ll likely find as many views about sustainability as staff. And in most cases, your agenda will be just one of many. Whether you’re interested in environmental auditing or grassroots campaigning, build your communication skills and make your ideas relevant to the people you work with. Learn to meet people where they are. After all, even great ideas rarely speak for themselves.

4. Make friends and collaborate. Creating a more sustainable world really will take all of us. And more often than not, you’ll be relying on the goodwill of others to support your work. So whether it’s by running stalls, through social media, or meetings with that all-important free tea and cake; start developing friends, allies and sense of community around your aims.

5. Keep your interest alive! It’s unlikely that you got into the sector through a love of long meetings about recycling bins.  Whether it’s through books, film, travel or just being outside, find ways to remind yourself why you got involved in this area in the first place. This is a brilliant field to be part of; don’t lose sight of it!

To find out more about the UCL Sustainability Team visit their website, follow them on Twitter and Like them on Facebook.

12 tips of Christmas

By UCL Careers, on 22 December 2014

Roxanne Chand from TARGETJobs gives us her top 12 tips to making the most of your time at Christmas: 

Christmas is a wonderful time of year. It’s the time of year you spend with loved ones and eat far too much food. It is also the best time to start looking for a graduate scheme or internship.

Make the most of your leisure time by researching into the best ways to find that all important graduate job. Write the perfect CV and learn how to handle graduate recruiters professionally.

Here are our top 12 tips to help you…

  1. Many graduates choose to take a gap year. If you want to pay for your gap year travel by working while abroad there are plenty of opportunities available to you. Read ‘Gap year jobs to apply for before you travel’ for our top tips on when and where to apply.
  1. Are you juggling more than one job offer? It’s a nice problem to have, but how do you manage the situation? Have a read of our article ‘Juggling more than one job offer’ to find out how to make your decision and deal with graduate recruiters in a professional manner.
  2. Creating the perfect CV for your chosen career can be tricky. This is why we designed ‘The 6-step guide to perfecting your graduate CV’. A good CV is essential to get the graduate job you want, so check out our 6 steps to help your produce a well-crafted CV.
  3. Social networks are great tools for keeping in touch with your friends and family, but graduate recruiters can use them too. With this in mind, look at how you can maintain and manage your online reputation in our article ‘Social networking and graduate recruitment: manage your online reputation’.
  4. Dress for success at your graduate job interviews. This is crucial. You want graduate recruiters to remember you, not your clothes. Find out what to wear in our article to boost your confidence and create a lasting professional impression at your interview.
  5. Rejection is just a fact of life, but don’t let this hinder your chances of finding a graduate job. Read our article ‘Coping with rejection’ for our confidence boosting tips when it comes to interviews.
  6. Have a read of our quick tips to help you prepare for graduate applications, interviews and assessments. Use our article ‘Application planner: quick tips for graduate job-hunters’ as a handy check list to make sure you’re on the right track to get a graduate job.
  7. Diving straight into work with an employer suits some graduates, but for others it’s the last thing on their mind. Whether you want to be self-employed, take a break, travel or do further study, there is an alternative to getting a job. Read our article ‘After graduate: alternatives to getting a job’.
  8. Innovation, imagination and intuition… creativity takes all three. A successful graduate career involves making both big breakthroughs and inspired evolutions. Have a read of our article ‘Creativity: graduate recruiters like fresh thinking’.
  9. Working abroad can have a great impact on your graduate career. Offering not only work experience but in-depth knowledge of different cultures and work ethics. Take this opportunity to have a read of our ‘Working abroad’ to see if this is right for you.
  10. Interviews for graduate jobs come in a variety of formats: competence interviews, telephone interviews, panel interviews, technical interviews and now, strengths interviews. If you’re going face-to-face (or on the phone) with graduate recruiters then knowing what to expect and how to prepare will give you a head start and keep your interview nerves at bay. Find tips for dealing with tricky interview questions and techniques to help you come across with confidence.
  11. Almost every graduate job-hunter encounters a job application form at some point, particularly if they are applying for graduate schemes and programmes. Take a look at our step-by-step guide ‘The graduate’s guide to job application forms’.

For more advice on how to get a graduate job, internship or placement visit www.targetjobs.co.uk.

This post was written by TARGETJobs for the UCL Careers blog. For further information and to book in to speak to someone visit: www.ucl.ac.uk/careers

Fallen out of love with your course?

By UCL Careers, on 18 November 2014

Broken Heart by Lunabee (Flickr)

Broken Heart by Lunabee (Flickr)

Going to university, making new friends, studying something you love, is a very exciting phase in many people’s lives. But sometimes the excitement fades and students discover that they are not as in love with their course as they imagined they would be. If this happens early, it may be possible to swap onto another course or move from joint to single honours. But what if you are a year or two into the course and the only option, unless you want to drop out completely, is to stick with it? How can you get through the final year or so?

Here are some ‘survival’ tips:

  1. Talk to your tutor – if your course is modular, is it possible to swap one of your modules for one where the content is more interesting to you? This might mean that you give yourself some additional work catching up, so you would have to weigh up the pros and cons of this option. You would also want to make sure that the new module is more suitable for you, so talk to staff in the department or students who have taken the module beforehand. However, you might find that a small change, such as one module makes a big difference to how you feel.
  2. If your course includes a dissertation or final year project, find out if you can tailor this to something that you would enjoy. Or can it be linked to your future career ideas? This would look great on your CV and it may help you to feel that you are doing something that has wider meaning to you.
  3. If you are finding the work too hard, again, you should talk to your tutor to see if there is additional support that you could get. It may be that you could be given additional help by the relevant lecturer or maybe a mentor. Some universities employ PhD students to mentor undergraduates. You won’t be the first person to have asked, so don’t feel embarrassed – your tutor will probably be pleased that you are proactively doing something about your situation.
  4. Can you do anything outside of your degree course that would give you additional interest for your remaining time at university, rather than sitting and worrying about your course choice? For example, joining clubs and societies through the student union that are more aligned to your interests, or trying something completely new might give you an alternative focus. This may help you put things into perspective.
  5. Do any of your friends feel the same way? If so, acting as mutual support for each other may help. It might be that you can work through academic problems that you are finding hard together. Or if the issue is not that the work is too hard, just that you don’t enjoy it, working with someone who feels the same may make it less painful. You could plan time out together once a certain amount of the work is done.
  6. Finally don’t worry that doing a course you don’t enjoy will mean your career prospects will be limited to areas that don’t interest you. About 70% of graduate roles do not ask for a specific degree subject. You should visit your careers service as soon as possible and talk to them about your options. Having an end goal may also help you look beyond the relatively short period of your degree and will give you the boost you need to get through it!

Many people look back on their university years with great fondness and this may be because of their course and the knowledge they gained. But university is more than that –the social life and friends that are made. Try to look at the big picture and even if you don’t like your course, you can still have a good time for the remaining stages of university.

Karen Barnard

Director of UCL Careers, part of The Careers Group, University of London

Top 5 tips on how to ace the Law fair

By UCL Careers, on 9 November 2014

The Law fair isn’t too far away, Norton Rose Fulbright give their top 5 tips on how to ace the law fair:

  1. Have a plan

Law fairs are often very large and can be overwhelming. Know which firms you want to speak to and find out where the firm’s stand is to ensure that you have time to speak with them.

  1. Come prepared

Do your research before you go to the law fair so that you can ask meaningful questions that can’t be found on the firm’s website!

  1. Be Confident

Don’t be afraid to speak to everyone from all levels of the firm. Speak to graduate recruitment, trainees and associates, as this will provide you with a better understanding of the firm.

  1. Bring a pen and a notebook

Note down any interesting things you’ve learnt about the firm. This will come in handy during the application and interview process. Make sure to take note of all important dates and deadlines.

  1. Follow up

Ask for business cards so that you can follow up with any interesting conversations you had or questions you may have at a later date.

The UCL Law Fair 2014 is on Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th November and is kindly sponsored by Norton Rose Fulbright and The University of Law

Make an impact at the Law Fair

By UCL Careers, on 7 November 2014

Now that term is underway and the leaves are falling the Law Fair season has kicked off and will continue nationally until December!  Imogen Burton, Director of Business Development at The University of Law gives her tips…

So what are Law Fairs all about?

It’s a great opportunity Law Firms have to make themselves prominent and attract the best students. It is also students’ best opportunity to meet and talk to Firms before deciding where to apply.

The University of Law will be at Law Fairs with other providers, again to attract students and give an insight into what the courses are all about and the choices that need to be made. For students it’s an opportunity to compare providers but also students can make use of the wealth of careers advice staff manning the stands can offer. The University of Law also has an award winning online resource the Future Lawyers Network which contains employability advice and tips on the whole job application process at www.law.ac.uk/futurelawyers/.

The trick is not to treat the Fair as just a freebie opportunity (and there are many weird and wonderful stress balls, memory sticks and sweets on offer!) but as an important career networking opportunity.

My Top Tips for success are;

Preparation – plan your line of attack. Who is attending? Research your top choices. Think of good questions to ask which will show you have researched the firm

Make an impact – Look smart, arrive early, be enthusiastic and prepared to engage.

Follow up – after the Fair follow up on leads and information you obtain. Firms may keep a note of the names of anyone who stands out and be looking out for them in applications.

Remember the best freebies from a Law Fair are business cards and details of people and organisations to add to your network!

The UCL Law Fair 2014 is on Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th November and is kindly sponsored by Norton Rose Fulbright and The University of Law

Planning on attending the UCL Engineering Fair? Read this first!

By UCL Careers, on 12 October 2014

For those of you who have never been to an employer fair, you’re in for a treat: between 20-40 employers all in one place, each standing next to a glossy banner advertising their company, 45 minutes of queuing just to get in, hundreds of students pushing past you in order to ‘network’, it’s hot, stuffy, frenzied……Engineering Fair 2013

If this image fills your with some dread, you are not alone. However, with the right approach and a little research, the Engineering Fair (and all UCL Employer Fairs) could be a crucial step for you in helping build your career. Read on for some top tips…


All fairs will have a list of employers attending on the event’s website– for Engineering, it is here. Read it! And do a little research on each company to help you choose a handful of key targets to approach. Start with the basics: what do they do? What types of divisions do they have: Chemical? Mechanical? Civil? What skills and expertise are they looking for? Which areas are they expanding into? Have they won any new awards? Do they place graduates mostly on site or in the office, or a mixture of both? What about summer internships? Sandwich year placements? Go even further by finding out what makes them different from their competitor – ie. a particular project(s), sector focus or working culture.

Spefically, you want to be able to target a company that works in the area(s) that are right for you. Whether you are from Engineering, Computer Science, Physics, the Bartlett, Maths, or other – do some research on the companies attending and find out what divisions they have, or what kinds of specialisms they have, which link to your own background.


You may be thinking – what is an interesting question? First clue: not something that can be easily read on the company’s website. Engineering Fair 2013

Second clue: you are talking to an actual human being, who, like you, has thoughts, opinions, a back story, and with the right prodding, can give you a world of information you could never find through desk research. So, ask the questions that will give you insight into what it really means to work at that company.

And a final clue – 9 times out of 10, graduate recruiters will jump at the chance to talk about themselves. Not only does it offer a break from having to listen to student ‘pitches’ all evening, but it allows the opportunity to really reflect on what they like/don’t like about their job, and ideally will remind them of why they are representing this company in the first place.

The key to being interesting is to be INTERESTED. There’s a person in front of you, ask them to tell you their story.


With all the above in mind, you might want to think about your questions in terms of finding out about the following:

  1. Details of the work, job satisfaction and motivation
  2. Career progression and development
  3. Colleagues, culture and environment
  4. The sector
  5. Routes in
  6. Managing the application process
  7. Areas of expansion of the business
  8. New technologies that they are promoting

Good questions could include: ‘what was your route into the sector?’; ‘what was the biggest surprise you found about working at xxx company?’; ‘looking back, what key skills do you think helped YOU to do well in this company?’


‘how would you describe the typical atmosphere in the office day to day? Is it friendly/formal/informal? Are there lots of meetings?’; ‘why did you choose to work at xxx instead of the key competitors?’

Or finally

‘could you give me an idea of some of the areas that most applicants typically struggle with during the application process?’

Engineering Fair 2013Quick tip: read the name badge of the employer to see which area of the business they work in. If this person is from HR, they won’t be able to give you insight into the specific role you are interested in, but they can give you insight into where candidates typically succeed/fail in the application process. If they are a ‘business line’ staff, ie. they do the kind of role that you’re aiming to get to eventually, then you should focus all your questions around gaining insight from them on how they find their day-to-day job, working in that company, etc.


First, try to approach an employer when there are few- or no- other students hanging around that stand. This way you’ll have their undivided attention.

Introduce yourself- say your name.

Give a quick but personal summary (about 15 seconds)– for example ‘My name is xxxx, I’m currently a third year MechEng Student and have been building experience in xxxx. I’m really interested in your company (and do say the actual name of the company), specifically because of what you’ve been doing around xxxx, and was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about what it’s like to work here, and your own experience?’.

Then go for the questions!

To close, thank them for their time, ask them their name (write it down after!), and repeat your name and say you’re looking forward to applying (if you are in fact interested in them).


-Get there early – it will be easier to keep the attention of an employer if you’re the second or third (not thirtieth) student they’ve spoken to that evening.

-Approach each employer on your own. Nothing is less appealing (or less professional) than a group of friends arriving together and taking turns asking questions.

-Dress smart. Showing that you take this event seriously will make a difference. In the words of a top recruiter, ‘first impressions count: your approach may not rule you out, but it certainly won’t rule you in’.

-please don’t just grab a bunch of freebies and walk away without saying anything to the employer.

-if you’re nervous, ‘warm up’ by approaching a few other companies not on your key target list.

-know when to move on – if there is queue forming behind you, or the employer is looking distracted, say your thank you’s, repeat your name, and move on

WRITE DOWN NAMES of key people you talked to. You can reference these conversations with specific recruiters in your applications further on – this shows motivation, interest and that you have made an effort to learn more about the company and the sector from the inside.

-bring a few copies of your CV with you, but only give it to an employer if they ask for it

And finally, try to enjoy it! After all, at the end of the day, employers are all just people, and they are there because they really are interested in you!

Good luck!

The UCL Engineering Fair on Monday 13th October 2014 is kindly sponsored by TARGETJobs Engineering.

How to prepare for a Skype interview

By UCL Careers, on 2 October 2014

This post originally appeared on the Develop your Career blog.

The introduction of integrated webcams into desktop, tablet and smartphone devices together with improvement in broadband speed has meant that a new form of job interview is becoming mainstream. Video chat job interviews, which are commonly conducted using the free cross-platform software Skype, are becoming widely accepted as an alternative to phone interviews. In this article we look closer at several best practices to improve your chances of success.

Plan Your Settings – Unlike phone based interviews, which can be taken discreetlyImage for Skype Interview Prep in many forms, the settings in term of background visual, noise and even lighting conditions should be taken into account. The recommendation is to choose an environment that you control so to help ensure professional looking surroundings, limited or no background noise and sufficient lighting.

Prepare in Advance – Any documents that might be needed (even a copy of your CV) should be handy well ahead of the interview. Make sure that you are ready for the interview at least 10 minutes before the scheduled time. This will give you plenty of time to set up the device, sort out any last minute hurdles, get into the right state of mind and, most importantly, avoid lateness.

Dress Top to Bottom – Webcams feature wide and long zoom meaning that the picture transmitted to the interviewer includes more than your face. It is an all too common mistake to focus only on dressing professionally above the waist while neglecting the bottom part. It is also widely believed that if you want your brain to believe that you are functioning at your best, dressing professionally head to toe helps. With regards to the dress code you can visit the employer’s site or social profiles for clues as to company culture and dress code. Otherwise, recruiters agree that a suit, long-sleeved shirt, tie (for men), little or no jewellery, and a groomed appearance will make a positive first impression on potential employers.

Practice Skype Interview – One of the keys to acing any job interview is demonstrating confidence. If you haven’t any video chat interview experienced, it can be unnerving at first. Therefore you should consider practicing this form of interview before the actual one. A careers consultant might be willing to conduct a mock interview with you. Otherwise, family member or friend can also play the part of the interviewer. Lastly, make sure to switch on the Picture-in-Picture feature in Skype so you can see how you appear.

At The Interview – Look straight-ahead at the camera lens when listening or talking and avoid letting your sight wonder away. Refrain from raising your voice, in fact, try to mimic the tone of voice of the interviewer. The microphone on many devices is incredibly sensitive to background noise, so don’t tap anything, play with your pen or even shuffle papers around. If you are taking the interview at home, make sure no household member interrupts you, whether two or four legged.

Finish in Style – Thank the interviewer for his or her time.

Bio: Written by The Carling Partnership Ltd (CPL). An international search and selection company working exclusively within the brewing and drinks job sectors.