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How to get into Social and Community work

Emma Kelly, a Law student and blogger from our MEDIA programme looks at the skills you need to get into social and community work. 

Emma Kelly

1.         Do your research 

Social and Community work is a wide-ranging industry, offering opportunities to work in a range of employment fields. From working for housing charities, in the criminal justice field or as a social worker; there are various important jobs that are integral to the development of a fair and just society, and one that protects vulnerable groups. Therefore, it’s important to know which employment sector you are aiming to get into!

2.         Develop the essential skills 

Employers in this sector tend to be on the lookout for some integral skills while interviewing, so being able to provide evidence that you possess these skills will give you a head start on job applications or in the interview stage. 

–           Thinking critically and creatively: being able to demonstrate that you can think on your feet and problem solve effectively is a skill that employers will love. 

–           Great communication skills: working in this area will entail lots of communication, both verbally and written. Therefore, it’s important to demonstrate that you can communicate effectively with different groups of people, both over the phone and face-to-face. As well as evidencing that you can effectively make written referrals and briefs! 

–           Resilience: work in this industry tends to be emotionally challenging, and you will likely have to deal with families or individuals in crisis, it will be important to interviewers that you can demonstrate resilience and that you are not afraid of a challenge. 

3.         Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! 

The greatest ways to gain experience in the social and community work sector is through volunteering. You could volunteer with victim support organisations, homeless shelters or mental health charities. Charities such as Age UK, Bernardo’s or Home-Start are consistently looking for volunteers. Volunteering is a fantastic way of demonstrating to future employers your dedication to working in this sector, as well as building important contacts for the future! 

4.         There are various routes 

As wide-ranging as the Social and Community work industry is, the route into the industry is even wider. There is no one set pathway to secure a job in this industry. There are various undergraduate degrees in social and community work, Master’s, apprenticeships, and graduate programmes to choose from! From doing a straight social work degree at undergraduate level to applying for graduate programmes such as the “Think Ahead Programme”. There are various ways to secure your route into the industry! 

5.         Keep an eye on job openings

Once your qualified, you should be on the lookout for the right job! Keep your eye on sites such as Indeed, LinkedIn and MyFuture for job postings.

Search jobs by industry and sector in MyFuture

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How To Get Into: Media & Communications

Daniel McGibbon, a blogger from our MEDIA programme, shares the top tips he has learned about breaking into the media and communications sector.

MEDIA blogger Daniel
  1. There is no one route into the industry.

The beauty of entering the media and communications sector lies in its lack of a standardised process. There is no established set of hurdles to clear to get a job. In the points below, I’ll explore some of the vast array of opportunities, methods and avenues to enter the sector. The door is open to anyone with the drive to succeed!

2. Writing experience is invaluable

Having experience in writing is crucial when beginning a career in media and communications – the clue is in the name! Make sure to jump at any opportunity to gain writing experience. Whether it’s proofreading or article-writing as a university or school commitment, these are invaluable experiences to boast about when developing a professional CV. 

3. Build a portfolio

Employers seek people who are accustomed to writing and purveying concise, engaging information. Practicing your skills through something as minimal as a regular blog post shows not only an ability to write, but a commitment to your passion. Find inspiration through reading industry professionals’ work or using resources like The Associated Press Stylebook and develop a portfolio of writing to showcase your ability to potential employers!

4. Find an internship

It’s not a simple task to land a permanent job in media and communications without having some prior, relevant experience. This is an initially daunting thought but it’s a lot more achievable than you might think. 

Everyone must start somewhere, and local work experience, summer internships and similar temporary positions offer an invaluable introduction to the sector! Whether it is assisting at a local radio station or getting accepted to a short-term internship with a media organisation, all relevant experience will make you an attractive candidate for a permanent job. It’s as simple as reaching out and asking if they’ll take you on board for some work experience.

It is important to remember that these experiences are largely unpaid. Whilst big corporations are attractive, they typically exist in cities with huge living expenses that make unpaid positions untenable for someone starting out. Make sure to focus your energy on sustainable experience.

5. Look for an apprenticeship

Another entry point to media and communications exists in the shape of apprenticeships or long-term internships. This avenue offers fantastic experience of how a career in this sector operates daily. This can consist of positions anywhere from television production to online content creation. Check out sites like Idealist for some inspiration.

6. Put yourself out there

Ultimately, there are any number of valid and legitimate ways to enter media and communications, you just have to take the first step and look for openings! Write and read about your interests, ask around for work experience, and most importantly APPLY FOR THE JOB! There are vacancies out there waiting to be filled, it’s up to you to make yourself noticed and prove you want the job.

Want more information on breaking into the media industry? Explore careers by sector area on our website.

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employability Student blogger

How Many Employability Skills Have You Collected?

Kirsty King, a blogger from our MEDIA programme examines some key employability skills and how you can build them up during your time at university.

During your time at university, there will be lots of opportunities to collect different employability skills. Some of the ways in which you can gain these skills could range from joining a club or society or completing a career development programme, to becoming a student ambassador or volunteering. The skills gained in your chosen activities will all add up and help you to reach your full potential in your future career.

Read on to find out some of the key skills that employers look for and how you can collect these at Queen’s…

Leadership

Employers like to see that you have experience of leading individuals or groups. At university, you could develop this skill by nominating yourself for a leadership position in a club or society, become a course, school or faculty representative, or even run for a part-time or full-time leadership position in the Students’ Union. This year, I have been on the committee for the QUB English Society, which has been a great way of learning how a society is run. It has also given me the opportunity to plan a range of events with other committee members.

Interpersonal

Having interpersonal skills means you have sensitivity and the ability to engage with and motivate others. A good way of developing these skills could be through volunteering as a peer mentor in your subject area. As a peer mentor myself this year, I have found the experience of helping first-year students with their transition to university very rewarding.

Communication

It’s important to be able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing in a professional environment. You could develop this skill by writing for the university newspaper or getting involved in student radio. By taking part in the MEDIA Programme at Queen’s this year, I have learnt about how to communicate effectively in written blogs and social media posts. Furthermore, by presenting some segments on Queen’s Radio shows this year I have developed my oral communication skills. 

Problem Solving

Employers like to see that you can cope with complex situations. By taking part in a study or work placement at home or abroad during your degree, you will face challenges which you may not have encountered on your course, and therefore will have to use your own initiative. Last year, I took part in an Erasmus Study Placement in Belgium, during which I had to solve a number of issues which came with living and studying in a different country. Now, I feel more confident in my ability to problem-solve.

Teamwork

Being able to work in a team involves flexibility, adaptability and creativity. To develop your teamwork skills at university you could join a sports club, music group or any other team activity that interests you. During my time at Queen’s I have been a part of the Ladies’ Rugby Club, which has taught me the importance of teamwork and community spirit.

I hope this has given you an insight into some of the ways in which you can collect employability skills whilst at university. Why not check out the QUB Careers websiteMyFuture, or organise an appointment with a Careers Consultant to find out what opportunities are out there for you!

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What Can You Gain from an Erasmus Study Placement?

Kirsty King, a blogger from our MEDIA programme, sat down with fellow Erasmus Study alumna Rose Winter to exchange travel stories and memories.

Kirsty in Belgium

This time last year I had just packed my bags and jetted off to Belgium for an Erasmus Study Placement. Now looking back, I can safely say I’m a different person to the one that set off twelve months ago.  

I sat down with fellow Erasmus Alumna (Slovenia), Rose Winter, to chat about our experiences and think about the skills that we developed on our foreign adventures. The good news: we agreed that these skills will help us to stand out to any employer.If you are considering Erasmus, don’t miss the upcoming information session. Register here

Let’s talk: Organisation

Before you’ve even set off on your adventure, you will be developing your organisation skills, whether that’s by looking for accommodation, planning travel arrangements or doing other paperwork. While this may seem overwhelming at first, your ability to organise will stand you in great stead further down the line, believe me.

Rose says: “On my placement I had to study more modules each semester than I would normally study at Queen’s, and some of these were Master’s courses. This meant I had to have good time-management skills to get all my work done.” 

Like Rose, I also had to study more modules than I was used to, which meant I had to organise my time well too! While this may sound difficult, you’ll soon get used to the different size of workload, and what’s more, I’m definitely better at multi-tasking now.

Kirsty (centre) with friends in Belgium

Let’s talk: Resilience

Going abroad doesn’t come without its challenges, and things might not always go to plan. That’s where resilience comes into play.

When I landed in Belgium, one of the first things I had to do was register at the city hall. I didn’t get off to the best start when I turned up at the wrong city hall, but don’t worry, with the help of the Tourist Information Office I soon found the right one. Another new experience was having to open a Belgian bank account, which did take a while to set up but was worth it in the end!

Rose tells me: “When registering my accommodation in Slovenia, the police didn’t think my property existed. It was only when I told them the names of my housemates that they realised where I was staying was a real place!”

What Rose and I have both found is that when we ran into difficulties abroad, we showed resilience and were able to solve the problems we were faced with.

Let’s talk: Independence 

Travelling away from home means you have to work things out for yourself. This may seem like a tall order, but you’ll soon discover you’re able to figure out a lot more than you thought.

Rose says: “Going to university in a different country means you have to deal with new situations on your own such as getting used to a different teaching and assessment style – this gives you a lot of independence.”

I definitely agree. Since going abroad, I feel like I now have the confidence to ‘get on with things’ on my own, without having to ask for help every time I try something new!

Rose (right) with friends in Slovenia

Let’s talk: Communication

When you go abroad, you’ll meet A LOT of new people – flatmates, classmates and more. There’ll always be ways to meet others – you just have to find the right way for you! 

Rose explains: “There was a social group at my university that organised day trips and events such as beer pong and quizzes – it was a great way to meet other students.”

My host university in Belgium told us about the Erasmus Student Network, a group which organised loads of trips and events for Erasmus students throughout the year. These fun get-togethers were where I made some great pals! 

Rose and I both agree that going away by yourself really pushes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to get to know new people. And you never know – these people might become your best friends!

Let’s talk: Confidence

Heading to a new country by yourself for the first time sounds daunting, right? But imagine how you’ll feel when you take this jump – capable of anything, that’s what! 

Rose says: “Going away by yourself and being faced with a completely new system gives you the confidence to adapt to new environments more easily.”

Since going abroad, I’ve definitely found it much easier to say ‘yes’ to new opportunities, when in the past I would have been hesitant. Giving new opportunities a go will boost our employability – and we have Erasmus to thank for that!

Register here for our upcoming Erasmus Information session  

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“How I’m developing my career USP”

At Queen’s, you’ll find lots of opportunities to develop your skills, create your own brand and discover your own personal USP (unique selling point), that will ultimately get you hired in the future. Here, Lucy, Lauren and Daniella from our MEDIA programme reveal the different tacks they have taken to improve their employability and their career confidence.

‘I’m building an online brand’

Lucy Roy

“In the year of 2020, we have seen that anything can happen!  This year has meant that not only have we as students have had to adapt our ways, but so too have employers. The increase of webcam interviews has meant recruiters will be researching candidates’ online profiles more than ever before. So, there is now more pressure to demonstrate an online presence to potential employers and recruiters.  

But developing an online presence doesn’t have to be difficult! It can be as easy as gaining a social media following, constructing an online portfolio of works or starting a LinkedIn account. 

Discover how to use LinkedIn effectively

Not only is LinkedIn free to use, it is also a great way of making connections with professionals in your sector.  

There’s also a handy job search engine with plenty of job listings waiting for your application!  

Not to mention, you can upload your CV and create content for potential employers to view when they’re exploring your profile. 

So why not create an account? Simply add a professional photo, a summary of yourself, your skills and employment history and there, you have an online presence!” -Lucy Roy 

‘I’m volunteering online’

Daniella Timperley

“For a lot of young people, volunteering is a great way to gain skills for employment and gain independence. This has been a little bit tougher to do during the COVID-19 lockdown with a lot of charities closing their offices and working from home. I personally am a really dedicated volunteer of Women’s Aid and have been for over six years. I’m used to attending events and public speaking which both haven’t been possible. I’ve found a way that I can use my other skills to still positively impact the charity from home as I am a broadcast production student and have experience making short films. I decided I would produce short videos for the charity’s social media to compliment and promote their campaigns. For their autumn campaign, I made a short film called ‘Walk A Mile In Her Shoes’ where I emailed staff and volunteers to take a video of their shoes walking outside in their gardens or on their walk for example so that I didn’t have to come into contact with anyone and I could still edit together a really powerful piece to push their campaign forward and encourage more engagement. This really benefited my skills and working remotely under the extreme circumstances of the pandemic, but still being able to produce work.

Daniella contributed virtually to the ‘Walk a Mile in her Shoes’ campaign

If there is a cause or charity you volunteered with before the pandemic and you haven’t felt connected or felt there was no way you could contribute, then think deeper and approach them. Maybe they don’t know how you could be helpful but see it as an opportunity to progress your career and enhance and gain skills. For me, this was producing short videos because that was something related to my degree and I knew I was capable of it but whatever degree you are in, think about what skills you have or need for that career and approach a charity that could really do with your help remotely through these tough times. This could also be as simple as an online fundraiser for a small local charity that is struggling to stay afloat. So get involved and make a difference in your community from the comfort of your own home so you can develop your CV.” -Daniella Timperley 

‘I’m attending career-enhancing events’

Lauren Watt

 “Cinemagic, Belfast’s Film and TV Festival, hosts a CineFocus Jury event every year. If you like to watch films and appreciate the cinema this type of event is for you. Do you tend to discuss and review the films you watch? The CineFocus Jury event is for you! I recently took part in the event. The event is for 15 – 25 year olds which means it is the perfect event for students in university. You have the opportunity to watch movies from all over the world. Review, comment and judge them with forms that you send in. Ranking the films as you review them you decide what will be shown at the festival.

It is an interactive and challenging experience based on your critical skills and experience with film. You can add it to your CV as an experience.

It is pretty easy to do, you email and apply for the event. With a small fee you receive the details to sign and receive the link to go onto the online Cinemagic Festival online. You create an account; login and the event should be added to your screen. It’s as simple as that.

Cinemagic is a great site for events along the media sector. It’s also a way to connect with others in the industry and join events where they host meetings with professionals in the media sector. It’s a great place to gain valuable insight. So be sure to check the website out!” – Lauren Watt

Career advice with Dermot O’Leary courtesy of Cinemagic

For more ways to develop your employability at university, check out Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills website.

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Five Ways To Enhance Your Employability At Uni

Pick up a hobby

Find something you’re interested in! Blogging is a great way to improve your employability, as regular articles will show off your content-writing skills to employers. On the other hand, playing a team sport will demonstrate that you understand how to work in a team. You could even try a hobby that is a bit more ‘out there’ – pushing the limits of what is considered the norm will give employers a reason to look twice at your CV!

Write, write, write

Queen’s has its own newspaper and other platforms which provide plenty of writing opportunities – get involved with these to hone your content and copywriting skills to stand you in good stead for graduate jobs. There is always a reason to improve your written communication, and journalism also contains elements of research. Ask around and find out what you can contribute, and don’t forget to keep a record of what you do to show employers later on!

Learn a language

Having a second (or third) language under your belt can help you to stand out in a competitive jobs market. Business in all forms is increasingly international so mastering a well-used language such as Spanish or French will often give you an edge. What’s more, the hard work and dedication that learning a new language entails is bound to impress employers. There are plenty of online resources and apps available to help you to become bilingual!

 Take a short course

There’s no better way to improve your graduate employability than by embarking on a short course to improve your skills. Short, online courses from providers such as FutureLearn and Coursera are available in a range of subjects, so if you want to discover what’s involved in a particular role or brush up on soft skills there will be a course for you. It doesn’t have to be related to your career – any course taken demonstrates to employers your initiative and organisational skills!

 Become an ambassador

Being a student ambassador is the perfect chance to demonstrate your drive and commitment, all without doing too much strenuous work. MyFuture often advertises opportunities for student assistants in the university and students’ union in a range of areas. Often these jobs will pay, so it can be doubly worth your while applying. Lots of companies also have university ambassador schemes, which you can apply to as well!

For more on developing your employability at Queen’s visit our Degree Plus site and find out how you can get an award at graduation on recognition of the skills you have built up.

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My Goals Before I Graduate

Student blogger Dara O’Donnell from our MEDIA programme shares her pre-graduation career game-plan, including leveraging the power of LinkedIn to make vital contacts.

As a final year Film Studies and Production student here at Queens, it has been a whirlwind to say the least and not how I expected to be partaking in my last year at university. For the most part, the switch to online learning was daunting and difficult to get to grips with, being in a practical field that relies on hands-on work and lots of group collaboration. Nevertheless, we adapted quickly and moved on. Personally, I look forward to the exciting times ahead, albeit uncertain, that is to come of final semester and graduation of 2021.

Facing the world of work

Before the pandemic, being a nearing graduate was just as nerve wracking an experience as it seems to me now. With levels of unemployment rising and general anticipation in the air about our future, it is easy to get lost in it. However, it is not all despair, there have been lots of promising opportunities presenting themselves for graduates, surrounding this new world of remote work, affording the chance for people to gain experiences of remote internships for global companies, without having to say those emotional goodbyes to friends and family.

Deciding my path

Like most graduates, I am not 100% clear on what path I want to take for my future career. What I do know is that it belongs somewhere within the creative industry. Therefore, in realising this and approaching the new year, I am taking it step by step to apply myself and achieve some goals before I graduate, setting myself up for the best possible future.

My goals

Some of these goals include; creating an engaging LinkedIn profile that will showcase my personality and ultimately attract potential employers and building a solid creative portfolio to advertise my creative skills. When restrictions lift, I am excited to get out there and film more projects and overall work to improve my creative ability, expanding skills and networking with other like-minded people in the field.

Even in these daunting times, I am optimistic and anxiously looking forward to the future and the wide and many possibilities that are presented after graduation.

Read more from Dara:

How leverage Queen’s online careers portal MyFuture.  

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How to Volunteer at Uni – and Make it Count!

Thought about volunteering but don’t know where to start? Órla Mallon from our MEDIA programme has collated this handy guide. Read on and prepare to feel good.

Órla Mallon is a third year student studying Liberal Arts, with a main pathway in English Studies. She is participating in this year’s MEDIA programme, and hopes to go into a career in the media industry.

Volunteering is a fantastic way to make a difference during your time at University – and Queen’s has an opportunity for everyone. You can develop a range of skills, communication, organisation, problem solving, adaptability and much more. The invaluable skills you can gain will look great on your CV and will show potential employers that you can take initiative and work hard for something you’re passionate about. Being a volunteer also gives you a chance to give back to your local community and make new friends! 

Here are seven different volunteering opportunities available – but remember the list doesn’t end here. Check out the QUB Volunteer page, or Volunteer SU website for more options. 

Raise Funds for Charity

Charities such as Nexus NIGuide Dogs for the Blindand Action on Hearing Loss (and many more) are always in need of local fundraisers. Not only could you be helping raise funds for charity, but you can demonstrate your organisational and communication skills.  Or, if you know any other worthy causes, don’t be afraid to get involved to raise some cash!

Volunteer with the Elderly


Sometimes older people need a hand sometimes – and it is so easy to be there for a chat. If you consider yourself a good communicator, or you want an opportunity to develop those skills, there are many roles available with Parkinson’s UK or Age UK, or, become a helpline operator onHourglass NI. You could also lend your hand to those suffering with Dementia or Alzheimer’s through The Alzheimer’s Society

Be part of Local Conservation Efforts

If you have a passion for environmental issues, and especially if you want a career within the environment sector, this is a perfect opportunity! Belfast City Council often runs conservation programmes, as well as opportunities with the National Trust.

Help in a local Charity Shop

There is a charity shop on almost every street in Belfast – and they are often looking for volunteers! OxfamCancer Research UKBritish Red Cross and Marie Curie are just to name a few. Check with your local charity shop to find opportunities and develop your interpersonal and communication skills while you’re at it. 

Join the Fight to End Homelessness

Volunteering with Simon Community NI might just be one of the best things you ever do. They are Northern Ireland’s leading charity in the bid to end homelessness and aim to provide a roof over everybody’s head. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they have issued an urgent appeal for emergency staff, demonstrate your ability to take initiative and volunteer now!

Promote positive Mental Health and Wellbeing

Northern Ireland charity Mindwise aims to support people living with severe mental illness, through a wide range of methods, including providing housing, navigating the criminal justice system, supporting vulnerable people, and creating resource centres for people to socialise. Many of their volunteer opportunities involve facilitating or teaching a class – so if you have an interest in music, photography or gardening, this would be perfect for you! Mindwise also provide Safeguarding Adults training, and First Aid training, skills that are valued in any workplace. 

Homework Clubs!

This is just a short list of all the potential ways you could make a difference while you’re at Uni, so keep looking for opportunities to create positive change! 

Volunteering can count towards your Degree Plus award. To find out how, visit the Degree Plus site.