Archive for November, 2011

Reflecting back on the semester … looking forward to 2012

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Hi everybody, the teaching period for this semester is nearly over, so this is a good moment to look back on the last three months and reflect on all you’ve accomplished (or not…)

Some of you might have fulfilled all your plans and achieved what you set out to do. Some of you might not have got around to making any plans in the first place. I felt particularly enthusiastic and motivated at the start of the semester, thinking about all the things I wanted to do, from improving my CV to getting some work experience. But university life always tends to go fast – time passed by quickly, and between studying and friends, career issues got somehow put on the back burner. (Memo to self: must look at careers next semester!) Still, no matter what category you consider yourself to be in, there are some things that are worth taking a moment to think about.

Have you managed your time effectively between studying, career planning, part-time work and free time? If you find all this hard to juggle why not take a look at some of these useful time management tips? Making time for careers and improving your employability is important, no matter what stage you’re at, otherwise you could arrive at the end of your studies with no idea what to do next. If you are a Level 2 student, now is a good time to start to discuss your reflections and plans for career development during Level 2/3 with your Personal Tutor. Don’t forget the key message is always ‘the one thing you can’t afford to do is do nothing’.

How are your applications going? Do you still need help? If so, it’s worth going over your application with a Career Adviser.

If you’re still in the mood to do something before the Christmas break, there’s still more time than you think. The Lunchtime Career workshops will continue to the end of the semester:

Interview Skills 1st, 7th and 13th December

CVs 30th November, 6th and 12th December

Applications 29th November, 5th and 15th December

Attitude tests 28th November, 8th and 14th December

There are also various employer and programme presentations, such as the Infosys presentation aimed at engineering and computer science students at 5-6pm, Monday 28th November 2011 or the Washington Ireland Programme information session for all years, all disciplines at 5.30-6.30pm, Tuesday 6 December. To find out more about these and many others just visit the Events Calendar at the Careers website for more information.

And if you’re just starting off, I especially recommend the Careers for the Clueless course, which is due to take place Friday 9th December, 9am to 6pm in the Student Guidance Centre. There is a fee of ₤20 but its well worth it, as it includes refreshments alongside many tips that’ll leave you feeling a whole lot more reassured going into your Christmas break.

And, of course there are lots of career opportunities, activities and events waiting for you next semester, such as:

Work Experience Fair on Wednesday 8 February 2012 in the Whitla hall

Insight into Management course Monday 2 – Wednesday 4 April 2012

More Careers for the Clueless courses – details to be confirmed

Why not also give more thought to internationalising your time at Queen’s through work or study overseas. Check out Add an International Dimension to Your Queen’s Experience

I’ll be back at the start of next semester to keep you up to date with all the things Careers. So, join me again to make sure you don’t miss out on anything! Until then I wish you a very relaxing Christmas break and a Happy New Year – hopefully without too much work. Have a good one!

Postgraduate studies: a real alternative?

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Hi everybody, throughout this semester we’ve been thinking about what to do after completing your degree at Queen’s. So far we’ve considered graduate jobs, work experience and internationalising your Queen’s experience. Today we’re going to fill in the final piece of the jigsaw and take a look at postgraduate studies.

What exactly does postgraduate study involve?

The usual options are a postgraduate diploma, a taught Masters or a PhD, which is research based. Postgraduate diplomas (or certificates) are often to prepare you for entry into a particular career and can take one or two years – normally one if it’s a full-time course.

A taught Masters is a one or two year course and can be in a related or possibly different subject from your first degree. It also normally involves a longer piece of research. In some cases a postgraduate diploma or a Masters may both be available in the same subject – they are much the same regarding the taught aspect of the course; the main difference is in the research aspect. You’ll normally need a 2.1 to get a place on a Masters but a 2.2 may get you on a diploma.

If you opt to go down the PhD road you’ll be taking on a minimum of three years independent research in an area related to your previous studies. You may need to do a Masters first, but in some cases, such as in the Sciences, you may be able to go straight to a PhD. Again, a 2.1 or above is required. PhDs are very different to first degrees or Masters and in terms of your hours it’s not unlike being in a job.

What will it mean for your future?

For some career paths you might need a specific qualification, such as a PGCE for teaching; in other cases, doing further studies may give you some advantage when applying for certain jobs, or may be useful further down the line in your career. So, if you’ve an idea about what job you might want to do in the future, do some research into which course or type of postgraduate study would be most useful.

In some circumstances postgraduate studies might not be the best way to get into your chosen career path, and doing a course might not actually give you much extra. Don’t assume that in all cases doing postgraduate study will improve your career prospects – it may, but then again, it may not. If that’s the case it might be worth considering direct entry to graduate employment.

If you’re feeling unsure about whether postgraduate studies will be useful in your particular case, yup, that’s right…you can always make an appointment with a career advisor to talk through your options!

Home or away?

Of course, check out postgraduate study possibilities at Queen’s; but do consider other universities as well. Is there a university with a particularly good reputation for the course you want to do, or where employment outcomes for its graduates are particularly good? Maybe you always wanted to go somewhere else to see what it’s like (whether it’s in the UK/Ireland, or further afield) or you might be thinking of going to live and work in a different country later on. Useful websites are Graduate Prospects (both the postgraduate course search and the country profiles) and Postgradireland and, as always, there’s a ton of information on the Careers website.

How to pay for it all?

Right, so that’s all well and good – but is there any funding? Well, the answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’: there are funding opportunities out there for you but they’re often fiercely competitive. For Masters courses funding is very limited and many students fund themselves (or should that be their parents??). For PhDs the situation is a little better. The ‘Money Matters’ link in the Postgraduate Students section of the QUB website has more info on this.

But don’t let all this stop you taking a chance and having a go! If you can, squeeze some online research into your timetable so that you don’t miss any deadlines for funding opportunities. If you’re thinking about applying for funding to study abroad, start digging around for the relevant information even earlier (ideally in your pre-final year). If you really can’t afford to fund your studies all is not lost – you could consider doing it part-time in combination with a part-time job; you could take time out to save up or it might even be possible to take up postgraduate study through your employer when in a graduate job.

So what are you thinking – tempted?

Right, that’s a wrap for this week. Next week’s blog will sum up the things we’ve talked about this semester and – before we all head towards our well-deserved Christmas break – give you an idea about what’s awaiting you next term, See you around!

Internationalise your Queen’s Experience

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Hello everybody, I find today’s topic particularly exciting, because I myself have ‘internationalised my university experience’ by coming to study here in Belfast from abroad – it’s certainly one of the best ideas I’ve ever had! So, if you’re interested in the opportunity to work or study outside the UK or Ireland you shouldn’t pass it up, and if you want to know how you could do this – well, you’re in just the right place.

For a start don’t forget the Build an International Dimension to your Degree event this week – it’s from 12.00-2.00pm Wednesday 16th in the Great Hall, and will be a great way to sample some of the opportunities on offer.

Going to a different country and exploring the world is always an exciting experience. It gives you the chance to get to know new cultures, globalise your outlook and perspective and, of course, have fun meeting new people from all around the world. It can also be done as part of your degree. Over 600 Queen’s students do just that every year, and as a Queen’s student you have some especially exciting opportunities for studying or working abroad. How come? Well, Queen’s has well-established connections with universities and other organisations in, for example, North America, Europe and Asia.

So let’s look at just some of the opportunities you have to go abroad:

A great starting point is the Add an International Dimension to Your Degree section of the Careers website. This has information on a range of both study and work programmes such as:

The Erasmus Programme which offers you an opportunity to study in one of 31 European countries for either a semester or a full academic year. And don’t worry if languages weren’t your strongest subject at school, there are plenty of European universities that offer courses in English. Check out the details in the link from the Careers website above, or talk to the Erasmus Co-ordinator in your School.

If Europe isn’t quite far enough away to satisfy your wanderlust then there is also the Washington Ireland Program – this is open to students across Ireland and involves a summer internship in Washington DC in US government, media, business and non-profit organisations as well as pre-and post-departure practical service back home. Last year 4 Queen’s students took part in this prestigious programme – this year, why not be one of them? The application form is available from today and the deadline is 7 February 2012.

And if you looking to go to the USA there’s the Study USA programme which enables you to study business-related subjects for 1 year in a US university. Look out for the information sessions being run over the next few weeks (see the Career’s website’s Events Calendar). The closing date is 5 December.

You could study at an overseas university as Queen’s has formal agreements with universities in Australia and Canada. Additionally, the UK government offers the Study China and Study India programmes, where you can study in China or India over the summer for at least 3 weeks and gain insights into their languages and culture.

And if you’re studying a science, engineering or technology subject why not look at IAESTE? This programme involves a paid summer work placement abroad and there are around 80 countries to choose from.

Okay, so this is really just scratching the surface – there are a huge number of opportunities out there and I’m absolutely certain there’ll be something there that’s perfect for you. As ever, if you feel the need for further advice, don’t forget: you can always chat about the options with a Career Adviser.

I really hope this has got you thinking a bit about just what you might make out of your time at Queen’s. If you do apply for an experience abroad, I wish you the very best of luck!! Next week we’ll return to thinking about what to do after your studies; in particular, postgraduate study, so if you don’t really fancy getting into the work life straight away you should tune in – I’ll look forward to your company then.

Work experience – it’s never too late!

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Hi everybody, I hope you enjoyed your Halloween parties last week and are now well and truly recovered and ready to make a fresh start with today’s topic – work experience.

The idea is quite straightforward: when you’re not too sure what your dream job involves, or you’re a bit at sea about what sort of job you would like to do, why not just give it a go? In certain areas relevant work experience is required, or is a big advantage; in many others though a variety of work experience can be a big help in getting that first graduate job, or even a place on that postgraduate course.

Of course, there are different ways to gain work experience. You could, for instance, keep a look out for summer internships and work for a company full time for two to three months. These are mostly for students in their pre-final year; some are paid, others are not – it depends hugely on the field you are interested in. What’s good about these short but intense placements is that you can complete them in the summer holidays during your studies. And as it’s during the holidays, you could even combine work experience and travelling by taking on an internship abroad!

There are also 1 year placements, again mostly for penultimate year students. Many are for students doing vocational degrees, but not all, and it might be possible to take a break from your degree, do a 1 year placement, then return for your final year.

The thing to remember, whether you do a summer or 1 year placement, is that more and more of the top companies are recruiting their graduates from those who’ve done a placement with them. But even if you don’t do an internship with a big firm work experience of some kind will be a great addition to your CV as well as developing your confidence and useful skills for the workplace.

You can also gain work experience by looking for part-time opportunities while you are studying, either by taking on a paid student job or a voluntary position. The advantage of this, of course, is that you’d be engaged in your work over a longer period of time and could benefit from the diverse experiences on offer. Dealing with that while studying can be stressful, but then your future employer will see you’re good at managing your time and can juggle different tasks at the same time. Having said that, don’t take on too much, especially if this is your final year and you’re working hard to prepare for exams and getting your assessments just right.

Here’s three suggestions for checking out work experience opportunities:

  1. Look at the database of work experience opportunities on the Careers Website – do this once or twice a week as it’s updated regularly
  1. If you’re not seeing the right opportunities for you there, don’t give up – why not try to develop your own placement? You can look online and make contact with particular companies in areas of work in which you’re interested
  1. Use Careers events and oncampus employer presentations to get ideas – these are advertised at Careers’ online Events Calendar.

For example, if you’re interested in international experience, why not make a date to attend the event below? It’s a great chance to talk to a number of organisations offering work and study experience outside Northern Ireland:

Build an International Dimension to your Degree

12.00-2.00pm Wednesday 16 November

Great Hall


Okay, so that’s me for today. If you’re tempted by the idea of gaining work experience abroad, or you’re interested in studying in a different country, then be sure to join me for next week’s blog where I’ll talk more about internationalising your Queen’s experience…