Archive for February, 2012

Postgraduate Studies for Early Planners

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Hey everyone, at the end of last year I wrote a general blog about postgraduate study. But here I want to just say a few words to encourage early research and planning if you’re thinking of this option, especially if you’re thinking of doing it outside Northern Ireland. So if the end of your degree is still a way off, what sort of things might you be thinking about already with regards to further study?

Is it for me?

Well, if you can think of nothing other than getting done with University as soon as possible, then maybe not…studying isn’t for everyone. But for many of you, postgraduate study might just be the perfect next step, not just in terms of getting a valuable qualification but also for giving you breathing space and the opportunity to work out where you want your career to go.

That said, studying as long as possible isn’t always the best career move. Postgraduate qualifications aren’t necessary for many careers. In such cases work experience or a graduate job might be better options. The ‘Types of Jobs’ section of Graduate Prospects and the ‘Jobs With Your Degree’ section of Gradireland are a very useful way to check entry requirements for loads of different careers – dip in and see what you can find out.

But with other careers, a postgraduate course may be a requirement or, if you’re intent on one day reaching that top rung of the career ladder, you might well need to start out with a Masters Degree, or PhD, or get one en route. And even when they’re not a prerequisite, they might help you to stand out from the crowd. Last week we discussed networking, and postgraduate study can be a good opportunity to network with others who’ll be working in your field, particularly as classes tend to be smaller and you’ll have more contact with lecturers and academic staff.

But if you’re unsure whether postgraduate studies will help you, check out the above websites or look at job adverts targeted at graduates in your field: they might give you an idea of what employers expect. You can also discuss this with a Careers Adviser through the drop-in service at the Student Guidance Centre, or make an appointment with the Adviser linked to your subject area. Call into the Student Guidance Centre or phone 028 9097 2727.

The advantages of forward planning…

If you’re in your penultimate year (or even before that), starting to think about your postgraduate study options now might bring you some real advantages. For example, I’m in my second year of my Politics course, and I found out recently that if I want to get into politics (in Germany) it’d be really advantageous – if not essential – to get a postgraduate qualification.

Also, if you are interested in studying abroad – maybe in the USA, Australia or closer to home in Europe – you need to start early. From my experience, applying to study in a different country always takes longer than you think it will, and of course, preparing for moving and all the little details that go with it can be complicated. So make sure you get a head start. Starting the process of researching courses and universities in other countries and making contact with them needs to be started ideally in your penultimate year. The ‘Country Profiles’ section at Graduate Prospects has information on lots of different countries around the world, and each profile includes information on postgraduate study. Organisations such as the Fulbright Commission which specialises in information about the USA are also a great source of info.

Next steps

If you’re considering postgraduate study you should start to think about:

What kind of course am I interested in?

There are probably parts of your degree you enjoy most, or feel most comfortable with (ideally they’re the same thing!). So keep a look out for corresponding postgraduate courses. Don’t forget though that a non-vocational Masters or Diploma won’t necessarily improve your job prospects. On the other hand, if you’re feeling disillusioned with your current course, postgraduate study might be the perfect opportunity to do something slightly different.

Which are the leading universities in my field?

The world doesn’t begin and end at Queen’s! As well as considering what QUB has to offer it’s worth giving some thought to applying to other universities because:

  1. They may offer courses which are a closer match with your interests
  2. Their courses may be the best ones in that particular field in terms of teaching, research and reputation
  3. Greater potential for networking, from which you can benefit afterwards. They may also have good contacts with industry leaders – just the sort of people you need to be talking with.

When should I apply?

Check out the relevant postgraduate pages on the Queen’s site, and at other universities. Some vocational courses have early closing dates, such as PGCEs, while others are later.

Oh, and one last thing. There is of course an elephant in the room – I haven’t said a word about funding so far. Well, it’s certainly a thorny issue. But here’s perhaps not the best place to go into that again – if you’re worried about money take a look at the Blog from November for some thoughts on this.

So, whatever you’re thinking, and whichever stage you’re currently at in your university career, now is the perfect time to start thinking about how you can make the most of all those opportunities!

See you all next week!

Support your Career through Social Networking

Monday, February 20th, 2012

So I’ll bet my last pound most of you regularly use Facebook, Twitter and/or other social networking sites to communicate with friends, share pictures and news about events. But have you thought about how social networking sites might help with your career? Today’s blog is all about giving you a few insights into what social media might mean for your career…

Here’s a truism: whatever you do in life, you’ll probably need to network. You’re unlikely to be able to manage without it in graduate-level employment. It’s a vital skill for being successful in working with other people, whether colleagues, peers or customers – or all three – so that’ll be most jobs, then! However, it can also be a crucial skill when you’re busy searching for work, or placements and work experience generally.

At Queen’s we’re busy meeting people all the time, mostly those who study similar subjects and who may well go on to work in relevant fields. Social networking sites can be helpful in seeing how their career evolves and might thus throw open possibilities for you to network or get help in finding suitable jobs or work experience. Don’t forget you are also meeting others, such as employers and work experience providers at careers fairs, presentations etc or even those you meet when doing internships or part-time jobs, and these can also become part of your network and support your career later on.

It’s also worth incorporating social networks into your career research and jobsearching.. Many businesses have their own Twitter account and a dedicated page on Facebook through which they communicate vacancies or information and possibilities about graduate schemes. You might also get a lot of useful information by joining interest groups or taking part in online chats related to your field.

If you’re currently only using private social networking sites, try looking for some that are specifically directed at professional networking, such as LinkedIn, which can be really helpful in maintaining networks with people you were at uni with, as well as others; also for checking out people working in areas you are interested in. And of course, don’t forget the Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills Service has its own page on Twitter and Facebook, which gives you a good place to start and an easy way to keep up to date with careers events and activities.

And now the obligatory warning, which I’m sure you’ve all heard before: employers can use Facebook too – so you might want to think twice before making all those embarrassing drinking pictures publically accessible!Now, of course you might think you have the right to do whatever you want with your free time, and really why should your future employer care? Well, maybe…but is it worth the risk? Employers can and do use the Internet to research candidates – maybe now’s a good time to Google yourself and see what comes up.

In general it’s worth thinking about this aspect, as well as all the positive benefits of social media for developing your career. After all, most social networking sites give you a lot of control about what information should be accessible to others and I would definitely encourage you to explore these possibilities and make a conscious decision on whether or not your social networking accounts should appear on Google, how to separate private and professional contacts, whether (and which!!) pictures should be visible and to who, whether to make your comments accessible, or your private information (on hobbies, relationships…) A lot of sites will also give you the possibility to post the sort of information you might find on a CV, which is worth thinking about.

Right, well, I don’t know about you, but I’m off to create myself a LinkedIn profile – hope this gave you something to think about, and I’ll look forward to you joining me again next week!

Career Events – What’s up, when and where?

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Hey everyone, I hope you all enjoyed the Work Experience Fair last week and got loads of ideas out of it! Today we’re going to talk about how you can find out about the events and workshop sessions offered by Careers, Employability and Skills at Queen’s. We’re also going to look ahead to some of the events coming up over the next few weeks.

Firstly, if you’re a penultimate year student, you’ll have hopefully received your e-shot from your school by now, highlighting career events and info relevant to you. Make sure to keep hold of it as it will remind you of events and useful links that are particularly relevant for you. It’ll be helpful for planning ahead and making life bit less stressful later in the semester.

As always, you can also find this information and a whole lot more on the Careers website. You’ll need to register first though in order to get access to everything (its dead easy to do this), but once you’ve done that you’ll be able to find job vacancies, placements, check out events and so on. You’ll also be able to use the Careers Events Calendar to search and register for particular types of events, or create your own careers calendar by adding reminders. As I’m prone to getting dates muddled up, I always keep an eye on the Careers this Week page, which gives you a handy summary of all the events taking place in the week ahead.

If you read last week’s blog I talked there about a few upcoming events, like Skills for Success workshops and DegreePlus introduction sessions. But take a moment to check out the Calendar – you’ll see there is much more happening then that.

For example, there are some big events taking place a bit later in the semester which are definitely worth keeping in mind – these are great opportunities to meet employers, talk to them about what the work and organisation is like and how to stand a chance in the recruitment and selection process. These events are aimed at a range of disciplines and levels so check them out:

Engineering and Physical Sciences Symposium

11am-2pm, Monday 12th March 2012 in the Ashby Foyer

Life Science, Agri-Food and Environmental Event

12pm–3pm, Wednesday 21st March 2012 in the Great Hall

Accountancy Mini-Fair

11am-1pm Tuesday 6 March

These will be going ‘live’ on the Events Calendar very soon and more details about which employers and organisations will be attending will be available soon. So, get your diaries out and start planning! I hope you found this week’s blog helpful and will join me again next week when we are looking at social media and its applications to careers.

That Certain Something…

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Hey everyone, today’s blog is all about participating in extra-curricular activities so as to give yourself that ‘certain something’ in order to catch the eye of potential future employers. The idea is quite simple. If you were an employer looking at 100+ graduate CVs and job applications, what would you be looking for? What sort of things in an application would make you definitely remember an applicant?

At the moment PwC in Northern Ireland are recruiting for their Technology Consulting graduate programme. They tell us:

PwC in Northern Ireland is an integral and important part of our UK Consulting business.  We’ve established a Technology Centre of Excellence that will deliver specific business solutions for our global clients and we have outstanding opportunities for graduates. To find out more and apply now go to

The closing date for the above opportunities is Friday 24 February, so don’t delay applying if interested. The thing is – what are you going to say in your application about your skills and experience to get their attention?

Of course, developing employability skills isn’t the only reason for getting involved in extra-curricular activities. The other side is that gaining experience outside your studies can help you to find out what you’re interested in and passionate about. It’ll also give you confidence in working environments beyond University and will enable you to put what you’ve learnt during your studies into practice. Oh, and it might be fun as well!

Work experience

One of the most straightforward ways to get your foot in the door of your future career is to get some work experience in an area or company of your interest. Even if you’ve no idea what you want to do later on, work experience can help you find out and give you a whole load of transferable skills. There are many ways to get work experience, from year-long and summer placements, to part-time work or voluntary positions.

If that sounds of interest to you, be sure to come along to the Queen’s Work Experience Fair on Wednesday 8th February, in the Whitla Hall from 11am to 3pm. There you’ll find information about loads of opportunities to choose from.

Clubs and Societies

In addition to work experience, being involved in and around Queen’s in clubs, societies and student committees is valuable experience, and will give you a great opportunity to develop those transferable teamwork and leadership skills. It also shows potential employers that you’re an engaged and rounded person. So, if the recent Refreshers’ Fair gave you some ideas, now’s definitely the time to follow them up.


Don’t forget to keep up-to-date with the Careers Service’s workshops and training opportunities to improve your skills and employability. There are a number of Skills for Success workshops coming up:

Time Management, delivered by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Thursday 9th February, 4-6pm, Conference Room 1, Student Guidance Centre

Assessment Centres/Group Behaviour, delivered by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Thursday 16th February, 4-6pm, Conference Room 1, Student Guidance Centre

Interview Skills, delivered by Citi, Tuesday 21st February, 4-6pm, Conference Room 1, Student Guidance Centre

Sign up at Events Calendar

DegreePlus Award

And finally remember you can easily get any extra-curricular activities accredited through DegreePlus. Why not go along to one of the upcoming DegreePlus introduction sessions. There you’ll be able to register as well as find out all about how it works. These are held regularly with the next one on:

Thursday 9th February, 1-2pm, in Conference Room 1, Student Guidance Centre

Right, so I’ll look forward to seeing all of you at the Work Experience Fair on the 8th where I hope we’ll all be much inspired. Join me again next week ….