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Alumni Clubs and Societies DegreePlus Graduate success volunteering

Six things you need to know about Degree Plus

Emma Kelly, a student on our MEDIA Programme, on why Degree plus is the secret CV weapon every student needs.

1.Employers recognise its value

Degree Plus is an employability award that you gain alongside graduation that demonstrates your dedication to extracurricular activity at Queens University. It adds an extra boost to your CV and is well renowned among employers as it signals to them that you worked hard to develop the skills that are needed for their workplace. 

2.It can give you an edge in the job market

University students are constantly being told that the job market is fierce and competitive, regardless of what field you are in. Unfortunately, the situation has only worsened during the pandemic. Final year students may be feeling hopeless at the prospect of graduating into our economy; therefore, we are continuously looking for something to give us an edge over our competitors. Degree Plus could be that extra something to boost your CV. 

3.Alumni vouch for it

Queens University Belfast alumni Ciara O’Neill graduated with a BSc in Psychology. In her final year, Ciara looked towards Degree Plus as a way of strengthening her CV and received Degree Plus with her degree. Since graduation she has completed a Master’s in Clinical Psychology, worked as a project worker for a children’s charity and is now a senior psychologist. Ciara’s resume speaks for itself; she has done incredible things since her graduation and she credits Degree Plus for strengthening her applications to her Master’s programmes and subsequent jobs.

Ciara felt receiving Degree Plus demonstrated to her employers that she was well-rounded and was more than her First Class Degree. Her volunteering and societies participation were outside the realms of her degree, this strengthened the view that she went above and beyond just completing a degree at Queen’s.  

4.It provides great examples for interviews

When applying for her positions post-graduation, Ciara drew upon the skills that she developed through her experiences with Degree Plus. These extracurricular activities allowed her to develop her communication skills – which is the hallmark of any psychologist – and her Degree Plus experiences provided a great talking point in her interviews. It also demonstrated her flexibility and her ability of time management – skills that are valued by employers in all fields! 

5.You can choose how you earn it

Degree Plus has two routes, verified activities (previously known as route A) and combined experience (route B). Ciara opted for the Combined experience as she met the requirements through her volunteering and participation in societies which she fit around her completion of her Psychology degree. 

6.You might already qualify and not know it

Ciara recalls someone mentioning Degree Pus to her in her final year, she checked the requirements and realised she met them. She didn’t have to do anything extra. “It looks great on my CV,” she said, adding that the formal recognition of extracurricular activities was a testament to the life she lived on Queen’s Campus. Ciara thoroughly enjoyed the time she spent volunteering and in societies – the Degree Plus qualification was just an added bonus! 

If you are a final year student reading this post, it’s important you check the Queen’s website to view the requirements for Degree Plus. Perhaps you might be surprised to see you meet the requirements – there are hundreds of activities which could qualify you for this award. 

To learn more about Degree Plus, join our information session on 6 October at 1pm.

Register here: https://event.webinarjam.com/register/115/10l0lsk0

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Alumni Events Networking

GradFest2020: Valuable lessons from previous graduates

Our alumni session at GradFest2020 gathered together four successful graduates who told Rachael Corridan about the career lessons they’ve learned since leaving Queen’s. Here is what they had to say.

“Every rejection is a learning experience”

Niall McLaughlin, kdb+ developer, AquaQ Analytics

“I studied Chemistry at Queen’s and obtained valuable skills such as analytical skills, great communication skills, problem solving and adapting to new challenges. After graduation, I spent some time working as a chef, this was extremely beneficial as it’s placed me in a high pressure environment where time, teamwork, efficiency and multitasking were all critical to the day to day tasks. These experiences have helped me grow as a person and I now feel fully equipped to handle anything life throws at me. 

“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself; you will get there. I had a non-traditional route to a grad job, which taught me a lot of transferable skills. Take every rejection as a learning experience and learn to be the best version of yourself.”

“Develop your soft skills until you find the right job”

Jack McCloskey, Seagate

“I graduated Mechanical Engineering in 2019. On the back of my placement, I did an employer project with Seagate. After graduation, I developed soft skills through part-time jobs, volunteering, interview skills and travelling until a graduate job eventually came up. There are good and bad points about working in your placement company. You are familiar with the working environment, but you are straight in the deep in working with senior management.”

“Working as part of a team is so important”

Zachery Jordan, First Deriviatives

 “Make the most of the transferable skills you have gained from part-time jobs; it’s so important to work as part of a team and be coherent in the ideas you are putting across.” 

“Explore your options; squeeze every opportunity”

Michael Kelly, IBM London

 “There will never be a graduating class like this one, but the world will not pass you by. Explore your opportunities. I missed the big four application deadlines as I was studying abroad, so I got a job in recruitment with a high basic salary, but it wasn’t the career for me. It served as a launchpad to where I am now. Squeeze as much out of any opportunity.” 

“You don’t just graduate and get picked up by an employer, you have to be proactive; I opened myself to more graduate opportunities by looking in London. Take time to explore your options and find something you love. Throw yourself into everything you are asked to do in the workplace, even if a project doesn’t feel exciting, look at what you can learn from it.”

Skills our grads advised you to develop:

  • Discipline and proactivity
  • Good self-learning habits
  • Good routine
  • Make us of DegreePlus

Want to hear more from our inspiring alumni? Join our Virtual Networking Evening with Guest Alumni Speakers

 When: June 22 at 6pm

Join here: https://event.webinarjam.com/register/54/y1010b7g

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Alumni Events Networking

How networking can land you your dream job

Ahead of our online Career Networking Evening on June 22 at 6pm – 7.20pm, we look at four ways our alumni network can help you navigate the global job market.

1. Our alum understand what makes big bosses tick

You have probably seen the term ‘commercial awareness’ in job descriptions, but what does it mean? And how do you acquire it? This skill is all about knowing what makes an organisation or industry tick. If you can show a prospective employer that you understand what they want to achieve and the challenges they are facing in the marketplace, you’ll impress. 

Alumni in industry can help you read the room in an industry or organisation and get a handle on organisational goals. Take Queen’s Psychology Graduate Tessa Breslin. In her role as Managing Director and Head of Americas at YSC Consulting, Tessa partners with leaders and organisations around the world to enable them to direct their drive and create transformational change. 

Tessa will be joining our Networking event live from New York, so you’ll have the opportunity to get an insight into what drives the leadership of some of the major blue chip client companies she has worked with. 

2 You’ll benefit from their connections

Growing your professional network is a great way to advance your career, industry knowledge and confidence. As a Queen’s graduate, you can draw on the experience and connections of our network of more than 200,000 alumni around the world. Each of those alum will in turn have built up a contacts book of trusted friends, colleagues and clients. 

Since Fergus Boyd left Queen’s with a BSc and PhD in Electronic Engineering, he has worked as VP/IT Director for five-star boutique luxury hotel brand Red Carnation, and VP Digital & IT for millennial hotel chain YOTEL. Prior to that, he held senior IT and digital roles in British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, which both involved leading mobile and digital initiatives and delivering innovation programmes. He is now Chief Technical Officer at MindSauce, a start-up that aims to become the world’s leading platform for global micro-consulting. 

He brings to our Networking event, a unique perspective on the shift towards remote working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

3. They know what employers are looking for

Who better than a recruiter to get an insight track on what employers are looking for? Jordan Hendricks is a Recruitment Executive at First Derivatives, a software and services company.  

With a Master’s in Business Administration (International MBA) from Queen’s and significant global PR and marketing experience, Jordan is well placed to advice graduates on the recruitment landscape and the impact of COVID-19 on the future of hiring. She joins our networking evening to discuss the long and short term impact of the COVID-19 crisis. 

4. They can offer a world view

Our alumni span the globe and their combined knowledge and connections ripple across the international job market. Since leaving Queen’s with a PhD in Analytical Chemistry, Binod Maitin gained significant experience as a Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer at Diageo (United Spirits) and as Head of Analytical Research at the Shriram Institute For Industrial Research. He is now an Independent Technical Consultant at  FlavorActiV and Chief Technology Officer at Trillium Beverages Pvt.Ltd.  He joins our networking event from India to offer insight on his own personal career journey and the evolving global labour market.

Register for our career networking event

Current students can register here:

For more information, visit the GradFest2020 site

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