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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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7 things first year students can do to boost their employability

Our student blogger Maeve McDermott read the TARGETjobs Careers Survival Pack and here are her key takeaways. Number 4, get to know us better!

Your first year of university can be overwhelming. Moving to a new city and navigating a newfound independence, whilst mastering the art of referencing and attending lectures can mean that thinking about your future career is pushed to the bottom of your list of priorities. However, it is never too early to think about ways to boost your employability while still enjoying everything else that comes along with university life, and TARGETjobs Careers Survival Pack is full of tips on how to just that. Act now and thank yourself later and you can save yourself from that final year rush.

  1. Plan your path 

Thinking about your career early on can be daunting, so it’s useful to chart your direction and decide which route you are going to take so you have a structure to follow. Will you choose a sector/industry to work and look for employers in that sector? Or will you be more flexible about the role and sector, and instead focus on the employers you like and seek out their opportunities? Either way is perfectly fine, but it’s good to choose one path so you can effectively plan your career as early as possible. 

2. Clubs and societies 

Joining clubs and societies is not only a great way to meet people and have fun, but to gain those vital transferrable skills. Teamwork and problem-solving skills are part and parcel of being a member of any club or society, be it Brazilian Jujitsu or the Vegetarian Society, and it shows that you’re committed and have interests outside of your studies and your social life! Plus, having a role of responsibility through running events in any clubs or societies can demonstrate communication and organisational skills, which are sure to impress future employers – and can enjoyable too!

3. Part-time jobs and volunteering 

Part-time jobs and volunteering opportunities also give you the chance to build on those transferrable skills. Whilst stacking shelves or picking up litter mightn’t be what you want to do long-term, the ability to juggle work and study can demonstrate a strong work ethic to employers and really help you to stand out. There are plenty of rewarding and interesting volunteering opportunities available through Volunteer SU who are always looking for people to offer their time, and part-time work both on and off campus are advertised on MyFuture.

4. Get to know your university’s careers service

Explore what your careers service has to offer. From consultations to employer events to international study tours, your careers service is bursting with resources to help you boost your employability alongside your studies. Visit the QUB Careers website often and follow their social media to keep up to date with opportunities and events. Careers fairs and employer events are a great way to meet and network with employers directly – something that you can never do too early.

5. Develop a good study routine 

Establishing an effective study routine from the get-go can really work in your favour. Even if your first year counts for very little, having impressive first year grades will come in handy if applying for internships/work experience in 2nd year, as employers will only have these grades to base their decisions on. Plus, it’s good to develop those study skills early on in your university career to avoid the final year panic.

6.Look at work experience/internships

Be sure to check springtime deadlines/exam dates as some employers offer insight days, work experience, or internships for first year students. More and more large companies are offering these types of opportunities and having these names on your CV can look really impressive to future employers and can be a great way to decide whether an employer is right for you. After finishing your exams and assignments, what better way to start your long summer break than gaining valuable experience and building up your CV early on in your university career? 

7. Register with TARGETjobs 

Registering with the TARGETjobs website means you’ll get sent details of careers events, work experience and tips to improve your employability. They also run the Undergraduate of the Year Awards with an award exclusively for first year students, so what are you waiting for? TARGETjobs also run events to introduce students to employers, with some exclusively for first year students and some open to all year groups, such as webinars that can help with your employability. Have a look and see what’s on offer at targetjobs.co.uk/events

Doing just a few things per semester to boost your employability doesn’t have to be overly time-consuming. It’s really as simple as joining a club, volunteering for a few hours or attending an employer event and it can really pay off in the long run. Any effort you put in now will really help you in the future, and your final year self will be forever thankful!

Read more advice from TargetJobs here. 

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Careers Advent Calendar: Giving Back with Degree Plus

Ruth Cummings

The Degree Plus initiative at Queens means that you have the opportunity to earn an extra award alongside your degree. One of the biggest appeals of university for many people is the opportunities it gives you to meet new people and engage in activities which interest you and might help you make further decisions with your future career. And with Degree Plus you actually get credit for doing this!

There are numerous ways you can earn your Degree Plus, here are just a few;

Volunteering opportunities – something that always looks great on your CV, helping people for free! Within the university you will hear about many different volunteering opportunities, one of my personal favourites is Homework Club. Volunteering at Homework Club is the perfect activity if you are considering going into a career in education as it allows you to practise the skills needed to help other, younger students learn. And even if a career in education doesn’t interest you, Homework Club gives you skills in communication and is all round just a fun thing to do on a free afternoon!

Homework Clubs at Volunteer SU

Work experience – Any kind of career placement you do (as long as it’s not already part of your degree) can also earn you a Degree Plus. Personally, I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t do this. Placements are already great things to do as they give you an insight into your aspired career, give you skills that will make you stand out, and help you make contacts which will be highly valuable when you graduate. Once again, this is an activity that most people would want to do anyway and with Degree Plus you rewarded with more than just the experience!

Society Committees – Another example of activities that contribute towards a Degree Plus is joining a society committee! This is something which I highly recommend you do anyway, it’s a great way of meeting new people with similar interests and making friends, and much like everything else it helps you develop new skills to add onto that ever-growing CV. Joining a society committee is about as university as you can get, it’s something that you’ll never have the opportunity to do again, so go for it!

These really are just a few of the opportunities to earn your Degree Plus here at Queen’s. Hopefully it has given you some sort of idea as to what you can do here alongside your degree to make you stand out from the crowd. So, the bottom line is, go and discover a new adventure with Degree Plus! You never know what it might lead to.

You can check out the full activity lists and details of how you apply on the Degree Plus site

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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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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.

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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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5 Essential Resources if you are Considering a Gap Year

Taking a year out after graduation to travel, gain work experience or volunteer while you consider your future can be a worthwhile and fulfilling experience. Here, some useful sites with information and opportunities across the globe. 

1.Gapwork

Provides a search facility about projects in various countries, provides information about visas, insurance, safety issues, holiday jobs, accommodation and more. Includes student reviews.

2.Gapyear

Search facility about projects, including wide range of business and finance placements, message board, blogs & journals, international gap year and placement schemes and more.

3.Prospects

Discover gap year opportunities and ideas.

4.Target Jobs

Gap year options and FAQs.

5.The Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Access the latest country-specific travel advice.

For more post-uni inspiration check out the Explore your options section of the Careers, Employability and Skills site