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Career planning

How to use the careers development services at Queen’s

BSc (Hons) Human Biology student Hannah Badger on how Queen’s careers team can help you find your purpose and follow your passion.

Where can I find it?

The Student Guidance Centre (situated beside Elmwood Hall) houses a number of services to support you throughout your academic journey. This includes the Careers, Employability and Skills team at Queen’s. They’re a team of people united in the goal of helping you find your ideal career, improve your employability and assisting you in gaining the skills employers want.

What is the SGC Hub? 

On the ground floor of the Student Guidance Centre is The Hub. Here you’ll find the student assistants who can show you how to use MyFuture, inform you of skills workshops and fairs and assist with any careers-related queries. Additionally, you can find lots of takeaway resources from CV checklists to sector specific information (from the University and industry). The ground floor of the SGC is an open area and students are welcome to come in to relax or study when presentations aren’t taking place.

Who can I speak to? 

Every student in the University has access to a careers advisor who they can meet for careers-related help and advice. Face-to-face support can come in the form of a CV check or careers consultation. Most students receive this face-to-face support through appointments booked on MyFuture. However, throughout the year, careers advisors go to locations across the University, such as the McClay Library, to offer on-the-spot CV checks. Your subject-specific careers advisor will also send you a newsletter every month informing you of relevant opportunities.

Meeting Employers

A number of large careers fairs are held throughout the year in Whitla Hall, allowing students to interact with employers. These fairs usually have a theme, whether that is work experience or placement, graduate recruitment or global opportunities. The opportunity to speak to employers directly is invaluable. From my own personal experience I’ve discovered companies, got specific details of recruitment processes and found opportunities I didn’t know existed – both in Northern Ireland and further afield.

Smaller careers fairs also run over the course of the semester – usually they’re subject/area specific and held within your school. The companies that attend would like graduates with your specific knowledge and experience. The larger fairs can be a little overwhelming, but the mini-fairs are less daunting.

Gaining Experience and Skills

Development Weeks are another aspect of university life promoted by the CES team. Each year, you’re given three weeks to take part in workshops or skills enhancing experiences that you may not have the chance to take part in while you’ve got scheduled class. There’s an extensive range of programmes and with little difficulty you can find several programmes of interest to you. The majority of activities are also Degree Plus accredited!

Online Access to the Service

The careers service can also be accessed through the Careers, Employability and Skills (CES) website or MyFuture. The CES website is loaded with information from sector relevant careers resources to room bookings for Skype interviews. Additionally, MyFuture can be used to browse upcoming events, sign up for workshops, book careers appointments and apply for jobs.

For those of you on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, CES has their own account which they use to advertise and promote various opportunities throughout the year as they arise.

It’s been a long journey from the start of my degree until now. My final semester. The decision between further education or employment has become very real. It can be difficult to get your head around it all – there are so many options out there – but your careers advisors are there to help.

As a way of a final note, all of the resources, help and guidance you receive is for FREE so why not see what Careers, Employability and Skills can do for you.

Categories
Alumni

Alumni inspiration

“Nothing can stop you if you, if you accept challenge and adapt.”

Azhar Murtaza

ALUMNUS AZHAR MURTAZA IS THE DIRECTOR OF VEGAN DRINKS COMPANY BORN MAVERICK. HE INITIALLY PRESENTED HIS BUSINESS CONCEPT TO ENTERPRISE SU AT QUEEN’S, WHERE HE RECEIVED MENTORSHIP AND GUIDANCE TO LAUNCH HIS BRAND. 

As the director of Born Maverick, Queen’s alum Azhar Murtaza, from India, has faced his fair share of challenges. Food technologists questioned whether a vegan brand had sustainability in Northern Ireland, then there was the issue of how to package a vegan drink when your brand values are based around ecofriendliness. Shunning plastic bottles in favour of compostable and biodegradable sachets, Azhar has proved the doubters wrong, building a successful, ethical beverage brand and scooping accolades including Student Invent Finalist; Queen’s Dragons’ Den Finalist and a Belfast Business Idea Awards 2019 Top 5 finalist. 

Accept and adapt to challenges

He urges graduates of 2020 to lean into change in order to cope with challenges. “Change is the only constant and being able to adapt to those changes is what defines us,” he says. “That principle has got me through all the challenges that were thrown at me, right from the moment I landed in Belfast to study a Master’s at Queen’s. Nothing can stop you if you are willing to accept and adapt.” Like many graduates, Azhar wasn’t sure where his career path would take him, but hoped a Master’s from Queen’s would help him pursue his passions. “I chose a university which would allow me to explore different aspects of my interests in science, business and art. I wasn’t sure where I was headed, but all I knew was that I would accept the challenges and give it my best.” He adds, “We are all in the same boat right now, plans and dreams on hold, as a result of the pandemic. But we are all in this together and we will prevail if we are willing to accept the challenge and adapt accordingly.”

Develop networking confidence

While at Queen’s, Azhar blended his love of biotechnology and business to begin to shape his career path. “I was helped a lot by Enterprise SU in defining my own career growth. As an introvert, I would usually have taken a step back from presenting myself and my ideas but through mentoring sessions and workshops, I was able to develop my confidence to put myself out there and present on various platforms.” Rather than being solely purely goal-orientated, Azhar developed softer skills that he has carried with him into his career. “I learned that winning is a by-product: being able to express yourself and to utilise your network is what matters. I was reaching finals of various business competitions but never able to cross the line into first place. However, those competitions were putting me in front of the right bunch of people. Ultimately, I gained contacts and experience worth more than any prize money.” It was while he was competing in the Queen’s Dragons’ Den final that he was offered an opportunity with Invest NI. “I lost the competition, but Invest NI offered me a place on their programme and Born Maverick Vegan Beverages Ltd was born.”

Innovation in action

The company owns the Púr brand of vegan drinks made with whole grain and finger millet, and are developing vegan non-alcoholic popsicles, fortified with vitamin D, and in flavours including Gin & Tonic, Prosecco, Irish Whiskey and Coffee. “Both these product lines have been formulated with the help of food scientists at CAFRE using Innovation Vouchers from Invest NI,” says Azhar, whose ideas keep on coming. “I am also working on a R&D project developing vegan eggs from mung beans along with Campden BRI and I am in an ideation phase of developing vegan prawns from seaweeds. In the coming years, we aim to represent Northern Ireland in food innovation on a global platform and lead consumers here towards living an ethically healthy life,” he adds.

Advice for new graduates

While Azhar acknowledges that this year is particularly challenging for graduates, there is still space for innovation, creativity and strategy. “These are challenging times and quite different to when I was about to graduate myself, but there is still scope for constant innovation.” He urges graduates to seek support from Queen’s, Invest NI. Catalyst Inc and Belfast City Council who are at the heart of innovation in the region. “Patience and perseverance pay off eventually,” he adds. “As a student, I made sacrifices to help me achieve my dream, like working nights at KFC and Tesco’s to free me up to attend workshops and business meetings during the day. I found out that there is so much support available within Northern Ireland for innovative small businesses. Reach out to Enterprise SU, The Graduate School and Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills team.” He adds, “I wish you all the best as you graduate this year. I am sure this phase is going to help many to reflect. Now is the time to rebuild, restructure and plan according to your goals. As they say, when going gets tough, the tough gets going. There is a world of opportunity if you are willing to explore beyond your immediate circle.”

For more inspiration download our Grad Guide 2020