Archive for November, 2010

A Time for Reflection…Don’t Look Back in Anger

Monday, November 29th, 2010

 This time of the year as the end of semester approaches it’s good to take stock of how things have gone. Which of these most closely matches you?  

  1. I finished everything l planned and all went well…
  2. Plan? I didn’t have a plan…
  3. I started out with good intentions, but things have spiralled out of control and I’m now thinking “I should have done so much more!..”

No matter what category you fit into here’s some good advice to reflect on.

If you’re doing graduate job applications and have received any rejections do make an effort to contact the company’s graduate recruitment team for feedback. Find out what particular area of the application or interview you weren’t successful with. Even if you receive a standard email along the lines of ‘This organisation is unable to give feedback due to the high volume of applications’ try ringing them to ask (very politely) if anyone could give you any tips for future applications/interviews. After all, you don’t want to make the same mistake twice.

In terms of time management, and trying to fit everything in, consider all the things you didn’t do that you thought you would (or know you should have). Aside from any part-time work and sports or clubs/societies, your degree probably takes up most of your time (or at least it should!) A friend of mine, now employed doing research, gave me good advice for getting through coursework and exams. He set aside one day a week and wrote 3 to 4 pages and by the end of the year found he had finished his work without late nights. Obviously it all depends on your degree, but choose an appropriate amount of time each week (maybe broken up into mornings or afternoons) and get into the habit of doing nothing but your degree work during that time. It will surprise you how much easier things are near deadlines and exams.

Finally, take on board all the feedback you’ve been given by recruiters, Careers Advisers, academic staff etc, or from coursework you’ve handed in – this can help you with how to manage your time better. If you’re struggling to find time during the week to fill in applications, whether for jobs or postgrad study, do spend a few hours at the weekend or evenings each week. You don’t want to miss out on something you’d be interested in and have to wait for next time to apply again. The hard truth is that if you’re not willing or able to give up some of your free time to apply for things you’re not likely to get that graduate job or course. But if you stay positive, get organised and keep applying you will see results.

‘Plan C’ – Graduate Training Programmes and Taking Time Out

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Looking to get your toe in the door, so to speak, and get some graduate level work experience? If you’re looking at job applications, and thinking you don’t have much in the way of work experience it’s also worth looking at graduate training programmes. These can be especially useful if your degree isn’t very vocational as you can sample an area of work within a training context and see what you think. You’ll get the chance to develop some valuable skills and insights which will improve your chances of a graduate job. Programmes typically place you with local companies for a set period, usually a number of months, and also involve a further qualification.

 Two popular programmes are:

 INTRO A 6 month management development programme with 20 weeks working with a local SME (that’s a small/medium enterprise to you) in a business/management environment AND an accredited management qualification. Although you’re not guaranteed a job at the end prospects are good, either with the company you’ve worked with or someone else.

 GAP Also a 6 month programme and designed to improve prospects for new and recent graduates entering the job market. Again, most of your time on the programme will involve a work-based project with a top local employer and you also get the opportunity to take the Graduate Certificate at Queen’s. Check the website for eligibility criteria.

 Have a look at these and other programmes available here and across Ireland – there may be one made for you…See Queen’s Careers’ website for more graduate training programmes.

 At this time of year the amount of work between now and exams/deadlines suddenly becomes crystal clear and the end of your degree suddenly starts to loom into view. What are you going to do – well, don’t panic! Maybe you are utterly clueless as to what you want to do; maybe you don’t feel ready to go into work, further study or training; maybe you just want to take time out.

This can be a very beneficial option if you use your time wisely. There are loads of opportunities to gain work experience here and abroad, travel, add to your qualifications, save for a postgraduate course – or perhaps a combination of some or all of these. You can potentially see the world, gain useful skills and have fun all at the same time.

Whatever you do though, think about it carefully and plan ahead. For example, you don’t want to be landing back home and finding you’ve missed all the closing dates. Consider what you want to get out of the time and how a future employer/course provider might view it. Careful research and preparation will be key to ensuring your time out benefits both you and them.

Plan B: Postgrad Study? You still need to be planning it out.

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

So you’re wading through job applications and probably thinking of Plan B (and maybe Plans C and D as well?!) For many I’m sure the idea of postgraduate study is looking more popular. Maybe you’re not sure if this option is for you, or perhaps you just want to find out more before you make that decision. Well, take note that there will be an event all about postgraduate study as an option organised and run by Queen’s Careers on Tuesday 7 December, 16.00-18.00 in the International and Postgraduate Student Centre (IPSC). Final details and times are yet to be confirmed so watch out for further details so you can book your place.

In the meantime, here are the “three F’s” you should use as a quick guide to considering whether postgrad study is right for you:

  1. Fit for the future – You should pick a course that fits your needs. If you want a career in corporate law, maybe consider a Masters/PhD with both a law and business element; if you want to teach history look at the appropriate PGCE options. On the other hand, many career paths don’t specify particular course choices, so seek advice from Queen’s Careers in the first instance as well as the course providers and even your intended future employers.   
  2. Further afield – Do consider courses outside Queen’s. Although it is daunting to leave the cosy and close-knit community here in Northern Ireland, studying abroad or even across the border can open up your options. If you want to work in London or Dublin, studying in England or Ireland may help you forge connections you could never get studying in Belfast.
  3.  Funding – This can be a bit of a minefield in terms of the options. As always, do the research and apply in good time. Funding for PhDs includes a range of grants and scholarship options; there aren’t loads but Masters programmes are more difficult to find funding for. Possibilities do exist, but with some courses you may have to fund yourself. You could consider doing a Masters programme part-time alongside a part-time job, or it might even be possible to get a postgraduate qualification later when you’re actually in work. Look at the CES portal for further info on postgraduate funding opportunities.

Finally, for those of you with an interest in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office the event of the week is this Wednesday afternoon. Recently featured in the ‘Our Man in the Vatican’ documentary on TV, Francis Campbell will be offering advice on careers in the FCO.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office
on Wednesday, 17 Nov, 2010 at Old Staff Common Room, Lanyon Building
Starting at 14:30 Ending at 15:45
Queen’s Alumnus, Francis Campbell, British Ambassador to the Holy See will discuss his career and career opportunities in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
This event is bookable, so get in early!

Clueless? Need help with your options/choices? Get 1-1 and other support from CES

Monday, November 8th, 2010

 The majority of us don’t know exactly what we want to do. You may be studying subjects as diverse as biology or drama but don’t necessarily want to pursue related jobs. It’s hard to know what you’d be good at or suited to and would want to do after university. Most of us want a personally fulfilling career but the hardest thing to know is often your own strengths weaknesses, skills, and career goals.

See the course option below for one idea about tackling this, but the main message this week is that you don’t have to know what you want to do to use Queen’s Careers. They can help with moving you on with your plans (or lack of them), no matter what stage you’re at. So why not consider seeing Duty Advisers, guidance interviews, or even e-guidance.

If you have a quick query or need help with a CV or application form call in to see the Duty Adviser. Consultations last around 15-20 minutes and are available Monday to Friday 9-5 at drop in. Guidance interviews can be booked in advance through the SGC Reception and give you a longer amount of time scheduled in advance.  E-guidance is also available if you can’t make it in to the SGC.

Now, back to that course I mentioned – Queen’s Careers has devised the perfect one day one-stop shop for figuring out more about what you want to do:

Careers for the Clueless
on Friday, 12 Nov, 2010 at Lanyon Building
Starting at 09:00 Ending at 19:30

The Careers for the Clueless course is a fresh approach to career planning, which has been specifically tailored for non-vocational students who want a lot from their career but aren’t sure what. It takes a student-centred approach and uses a mix of individual and group work, combined with on-line psychometrics. The course is intended to be practical and fun!

Cost: £20 per student (2 meals included, alongside 10.5hrs of training – good value compared to, say, an evening in the pub!)
Places are limited though – first come, first served

 I’ve been to a similar event in the past and it was very rewarding and revealing. The psychometrics tests gave me an insight into my own personality styles. It was scarily accurate! All of the group activities helped me to understand how I work in a team and how to improve my communication and team working skills. The feedback helped me to see my own strengths and weaknesses. It also gave me the confidence to pursue my own career.

Remember, the worst thing you can do is nothing at all, so get involved!

The one thing you can’t afford to do is do nothing…

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Does it feel like you’re applying for jobs and they ask for relevant experience which you don’t have? Now it’s November, Final Years are starting to panic and the fear is ramping up. Queen’s Careers’ message is – it’s not too late. You can still get work and extra-curricular experience and it’s getting to be increasingly important in graduate job applications.

You can get relevant experience in a variety of ways, from extracurricular activities in (or outside) Queen’s to work placements, or even through your part-time job. Consider joining a society at Queen’s related to your field or career area of interest. There are finance, chemical engineering, photography and other societies; business clubs, model UN, debating and mooting clubs…you can still get involved. See a list of clubs and societies here.

Don’t forget that Queen’s Careers has info on a wide variety of work experience options; I nearly didn’t notice it myself – it’s just below the graduate vacancies in the Queen’s Careers site. There are many advertised internships and placements in a wide variety of areas from IT to student marketing and beyond. Also, you can come in and speak to a Careers Adviser to get further advice on what options are out there. 

If you’re currently in a part time job, consider using that as a way to get more relevant experience. You don’t want to be taking on a lot of extra hours in case it interferes with your academic work, but you could try seeing if you can vary your tasks from the usual ones, asking your boss for more responsibility than normal or any opportunities for additional training. It’s worth a try.

Whatever you do though, think about what transferrable skills you need to demonstrate in application forms, your CV, and in job interviews and try and develop them. 

Final Year students have a whole 8 months before graduation; first and second years have got plenty of time to get involved as well – it’s always important to get a head start. Don’t get caught in the trap of not getting the job because you don’t have the experience. Everyone has the time right now.

For example, here’s an event this week aimed at 2nd and 3rd year law students. The winning students get accepted onto a graduate open day in London.

DLA Piper Wednesday November 3rd 6-8pm Council Chamber, Canada Room
‘Commercial Awareness’ – is this the most over-used expression ever, or is it an absolute necessity for a Legal career?

The evening will allow you to hear firsthand how the company works closely together to achieve their clients’ goals. There will also be a practical exercise to test and enhance your own commercial skills. Sign up here at DLA Piper UK LLP.

By the way, “one thing you can’t afford to do is do nothing” was one of the messages at the “What it Takes to Succeed in London” City Event for Queen’s students last Tuesday evening. The event had a ‘full house’ attendance and a significant number of students stayed on afterwards to network in the Canada Room. The speakers, from a variety of major companies, were very positive about the potential of Queen’s students to do well in the ‘City’ and are keen to encourage you to access these opportunities and be successful.