For a successful career, you need this

First, a short quiz.

Which of the following are not businesses?

       The University of Manchester


       The Whitworth


       Elsevier Publishing

       The Big Issue


       Church of England

Hopefully you answered “none of them” because that is the correct answer. They are all businesses. In fact, last year the Church of England was recruiting a business analyst.

Whether you’re a Masters or PhD, whatever you do next – work for a charity, enter the pharmaceutical industry, or work for the NHS, become a teacher – you will be working for a business. Even if you are doing a PhD, your supervisor will be managing budgets, generating income, managing outputs (publications, public engagement, teaching), supervising personnel (you, other PhDs, TAs, possibly other staff), planning, prioritising, and generally trying to keep their research, the school, faculty and university healthy and competitive.  These are business activities.  You need commercial awareness.

This understanding of the business systems and processes of an organisation is called ‘commercial awareness’.   Commercial awareness is something highly sought after by many, if not all, employers yet something many applicants struggle with.  As a researcher moving into industry or a non-academic environment, you need to understand the drivers for research, as well as the costs and benefits of engaging in research.

Developing commercial awareness from scratch be daunting – luckily help is at hand in  the form of this event next week, open to Masters and PhDs:

Keep seeing the term commercial awareness when looking at work experience opportunities but got no idea what it is? Come along to PwC’s skills on Tuesday 16th February from 12:00 – 14:00 in room 2.218 of University Place and you’ll be able to gain an understanding of what commercial awareness is and how to evidence it in your applications. Sign up for the event in advance via CareersLink event ID: 3073.

Upcoming Careers Events just for PhDs


Henry and Matilda. These career cats have got it sorted: I do all the work…

These guys might think it’s still time for hibernating, but there is truth in the old cliche (and I cringe to type it, really, I do) that the early bird gets the worm.  With this in mind, the Careers Service is offering a whole suite of activities just for PhDs to help get your career planning off to an early and successful start.

For all PhDs:

Central Careers Service events, fairs, and activities such as the Third Sector and Media Clubs are open to all students from every faculty.

You can book guidance appointments, interview simulations and applications advice appointments. Doing field work in the Arctic or achival research in Antananarivo? We do email advice, as well as guidance over the phone or via Skype.  You can also talk to one of our Information Specialists at anytime (well, during opening hours) without an appointment.  Find out more about accessing our personal career support services and which type of support might be useful to you on our Get Advice pages.

Monthly newsletters with news (obviously), events, advice and information.

And don’t forget to put Pathways 2016 in your diary as part of My Future Month for Researchers (soon to be trending on Twitter as #myfuture4researchers)

For Humanities PhDs – a new schedule of guidance appointments in the SALC Grad School is available for February and March.  A full suite of workshops is also on offer, with more on the way.  This is the current schedule, but keep an eye out for new stuff: Guidance appointments – Workshops for Humanities PGRs

For EPS PhDs – a schedule of upcoming workshops: Workshops for EPS PGRs 2016

Lookforward to seeing you in 2016!

The 12 Myths of Careers – Refresher!

Over the twelve days of Christmas, we busted some of the common misconceptions about careers and the future that have been causing Manchester students anxiety over the academic year so far. If you were too busy with deadlines, exams and New Year festivities to catch any of these myths, here’s a refresher! [Read more…]

Applying for the NHS Scientist Training Programme, 2016

2016 STP – opened 14th January, closes 12th February

conical flasksThousands of scientists and engineers of all disciplines work for the NHS, and the most prestigious entry route is the Scientist Training Programme – and it’s open now!

NB: This blog post replaces our previous posts on the STP.
Some of the resources mentioned in this post may only be accessible by University of Manchester students

ADDED 11/2/2016 by Suzanne (Careers Service)

Just had an email reminder about the closing date but also confirming that the deadline for completing the two online tests is Monday 15th February @ 5pm.  They ask that any remaining application stage related queries are sent to by 13:00 hours on Thursday 11th February 2016 for direct entry applicants (NB. they don’t have any weekend cover if you have questions about the tests, contact them ASAP!). Remember: most questions will be answered in their STP Guide for Applicants 2016. Good luck!!

ADDED 3/2/2016 by Suzanne (Careers Service)

We have created a short presentation for University of Manchester students and grads with some inside tips for applications. Current Life Science students can access it via the LS Intranet (Graduate/no access? Contact for the link).

Tips for applying 

You have until 5pm on Friday 12th February at the latest to submit your online application and until 5pm on Monday 15th February  to complete the two online tests – but get in as soon as possible as applications are reviewed as they come in.

The National School of Healthcare Science website has so much information for applicants it can be overwhelming – and they’re still adding more. If you want the best chance, though, of getting into these super-competitive posts, you’ll hoover it all up and use the advice in your application. The list of STP positions by specialism is a live document, with additional posts being added (it was already on version 6 by 27th Jan now on version 7)!

We have been told that only 3 candidates are interviewed per post, so the competition is red hot. You’ll need some great answers to the essay questions, so set aside some time to do your research, think about your experience and craft your answers – you need to do yourself justice here.

 Online application form

Frustratingly, the online application process doesn’t make it easy to preview all the questions before you start to fill it out – so we’ve had a sneaky peek for you.

Top Tip
As you go through the online form for the first time, you can’t advance on to the next page without completing the mandatory sections. However, you can review and change most of the answers once you get to the end – so long as you don’t press “Submit” of course!

There are lots of mandatory sections, and once you fill in some answers, other mandatory questions may appear.  Be prepared to answer A LOT of questions about eligibility, fitness to practise etc before you even get to the bit where you fill in your education!  You also need to supply the details of three referees, one of whom must be your most recent education supervisor (or line manager, if you have graduated and are in work).

When your application form is read by the people who will shortlist candidates for interview, they will not be able to see the choices that candidates have made. Hence, if you choose two different specialisms your application will go to both short listing panels, who will not know if you have ranked that specialism as first or second choice. They also will not see any candidate names – it is done completely blind.

Essay questions

There are four questions this year, and you only have 250 words per answer. An implicit test here is whether you can write accurately AND concisely.

1.      Your knowledge, motivation and commitment to the Training Programme

In less than 250 words, please state why you have applied for the Healthcare Scientist Training Programme. Give details of your motivation, suitability and future career development or aspirations. Describe what actions you have undertaken to increase your knowledge, experience and understanding of healthcare science and the training programme for your chosen specialism(s).


In less than 250 words, please describe your commitment, interest and enjoyment of scientific practice and technology. Please provide examples of how you seek to develop, improve and adopt innovative processes in your work or studies.


The NHS Constitution* values and behaviours are paramount to the delivery of healthcare services.  In less than 250 words please describe how within your own experience you would display these qualities.

(*Have you read it yet? You can find it here)


In less than 250 words describe occasions where you have worked as part of a team and outline the skills you used to benefit the outputs of that team. Also*, please describe a situation or situations when you have taken the opportunity to lead others and identify how you managed any challenges that arose.

(*This second part is new for this year – don’t just cut’n’paste from any previous applications).

There’s help on completing application forms on our website, including a useful hand-out. We definitely recommend taking the Context-Action-Result approach to structure your answers, to help keep them concise. Always take time to proof read your answers before you submit them (a good tip is to read them backwards to spot typos). University of Manchester students and recent graduates can get assistance from the Applications Advice service in the Atrium and also look out for Appointments in your School.

Online tests

After you submitted your online application, you have two tests to complete before the deadline, and you have to get through each of these for your application to get considered.

The tests are numerical reasoning and logical reasoning, and you can practise here. We guess they’re using logical reasoning tests to find people who are good at spotting patterns and trends (useful for diagnostics) as well as deductive logic. These tests can be very challenging if you’re not familiar with them, so do take time to practice, especially as only one attempt is permitted per email address!  Previous applicants tell us that with practice you can learn how to answer the logical reasoning questions accurately, so it is worth working your way through example tests.

What is the next one in the sequence?

What is the next one in the sequence?

You might also want to check out the psychometric test info on our website, including practice test materials. I’d definitely suggest using a proper calculator when completing the numerical reasoning test and not the one on your phone – and take some time to remember how it works if you are rusty.

You’ll be able to do the STP tests at any time until the closing date but don’t leave it until the last minute: what would you do if you suddenly lost your internet connection or the site crashed with the weight of all the last minute tests being taken? Although they briefly extended the closing date last year due to congestion on the site, it doesn’t mean they will do it again.

Being optimistic …

If you’re one of the lucky ones who gets invited to interview, you might want to check out the interview dates for your specialism and keep the date free – looks like there’s no flexibility, so move heaven and earth to get there if you get invited.

Good luck!

Myth #12: Nobody would want to hire me.

Ask any student or recent graduate you know and all will agree that there seems to be more pressure on graduates to succeed than ever before, with recruitment processes seemingly becoming increasingly daunting. Faced with the prospect of psychometric testing, assessment centres and interviews, it’s understandable if you’re worried that you have little to offer a potential employer.

Think instead about what being a student gives you. Your degree will have armed you with transferable skills that you can talk about in your applications and interviews. (If you’re unsure about these, you can ask your lecturers or a Careers Consultant for guidance.) Consider all the things you’ve been involved in outside of the classroom – from sports, music and societies to part-time work and volunteering. You will have also gained skills and experience from these activities that you can talk about in applications and interviews to show employers what you have to offer them.

And don’t forget, your time at university is only three years of your life. You don’t have to have your entire future sorted out by the date of your graduation. My friend Phil graduated from a History degree in 2010 with no idea what came next, and after a year of “uninspiring” retail work and “waiting for the right job to come along”, he decided to pack his bags and see what else was out there – and hasn’t looked back since:

Phil skydive“After seeing much of Europe and South East Asia, I found myself working in Australia and got a great (and well paid!) job in Melbourne as an event manager, a field I had never even considered working within when I was a student. Travelling not only opened up so many opportunities for me, but it also gave me the confidence to spread my wings and give anything a go, regardless of how relevant it was to my time at uni.

“When I returned to the UK, doors were open to me that had very much been closed before, not because of my degree but from my experiences during the last eighteen months of travelling. The people I’d met, places I’d seen and opportunities I’d been given all played a huge part in finding a career path that I truly enjoyed and felt optimistic about.

“Now I work at STA Travel, mostly helping other graduates explore the world around them. I get a real buzz from it every day and definitely didn’t see myself in this position five years ago, but I wouldn’t change it for one second.”

Myth #11: You need to decide now what to do with the rest of your life.

As students we often fall into the trap of believing that we must decide on our future profession before graduating, and that this decision is somehow a lifelong commitment. You have a wide range of career options open to you and deciding on a single one, especially without experience of any others, is not only difficult but perhaps also impractical.

Career trajectories are not static. They continue to change with the world around us, as you will too. On average, people change their careers three times during their working lives, so it is more than likely that you won’t remain in the sector that you start in. It’s hard to anticipate what things will inspire, what problems you desire to solve, and any curveballs life might throw your way – all of which will impact on your career path.

For example, when I was studying my undergraduate degree, a friend I lived with studied Maths and planned to continue to postgraduate level after graduating and become a teacher, but because she focused a great deal of her energy on her extracurricular activities, she graduated with a 2:2 and was unable to get onto her desired postgrad scheme. However she took this in her stride, and on the back of a summer internship she completed during her second year with a large global bank, she secured a position in their wealth management division, where she has worked happily ever since.

RGB_UOM_CAREERS_LOCK_UPS_DIVE_IN-01So don’t get bogged down with the specifics of a ‘lifelong career’ right now. You have a lifetime to figure out what you want to do, and this will change as you experience new things. For now, focus instead on the immediate future – on what you want to do in the next six to twelve months, and what you can do to make this happen, whether that’s getting some work experience, attending some careers events next semester, or chatting to friends and family (and Careers Consultants!) about what interests you, what doesn’t, and what options you could consider. Take small steps towards your future, remain open to change and you’re more likely to find the role you love whilst making the most of all the opportunities that lead you there.

Myth #10: The Careers Service will tell you what job to do.

Find JobThat would make life a lot easier, wouldn’t it? But sadly we’re not fortune tellers. If anything, we’re like a gym. You can have a membership at the best gym in the world but unless you’re going regularly and putting the effort in, nothing is going to change. The Careers Service is the same. As we said in myth #9, we can recommend industries to you and help you work out what skills you’d like to use or what kind of environment you’d be happiest in, but ultimately you have to make the decision about what you’d like to do and what sort of work you’d enjoy.

We know it’s not easy, and no one is expecting you to commit to one job role or sector for the rest of your life and have it all mapped out. Take it one step at a time, make use of the help we can offer and chat to your family and friends, and just figure it out what you might like to do over the next twelve months and make it happen. If you’re stuck, our ‘I don’t know what I want to do’ web pages can be a good place to get started.

Myth #9: You need to know what you want to do in order to use the Careers Service.

Thought sml 600px wide

We don’t all know exactly what we want to do with our futures. Even some of the Careers Service staff still aren’t entirely sure themselves! In fact, most people have an average of three different careers during their lifetime, so it’s not unusual to be uncertain about what to do after you graduate.

What you can be certain about is that the Careers Service is here to assist you no matter where you are on your path to employment, even if you have yet to take your first step. So here are just a few ways you can start to take advantage of our wide range of services:

  • Book an appointment with one of our Careers Consultants – Even if you’re clueless about the future, our consultants can offer insights into career options and give sage advice on steps to take towards finding or getting that first job after graduation. If you don’t fancy a formal appointment, you’ll be able to find them out and about on campus throughout the semester.
  • Explore what you like and what you don’t by getting some work experience – The best way to figure out what you want to do is by trying new things and seeing what works for you and what doesn’t. You can find hundreds of internships, volunteering and placement opportunities on CareersLink, and there’s advice on finding (and funding!) work experience on our website. If you’re in the penultimate year of your degree, keep an eye out for the Summer Experience Internships programme launching in February, whilst those of you graduating in 2016 and eager to stay in Manchester might be interested in the Manchester Graduate Programme opening in April.

Myth #8: LinkedIn is just about showing off.

The abundance of less than flattering display pictures on there is alone enough to debunk this myth. But it is not uncommon for students to be unsure about what Linkedin is for, even if they use it themselves. The social media site has been built with recruitment in mind and can be a very powerful tool for any student or graduate in search of work. Unlike Facebook, Twitter and what have you, Linkedin is about selling your professional self as opposed to being a hub for friendly banter with chums and posting pictures of cats.

Recruiters routinely hire through vacancies posted on LinkedIn as this infographic shows:

LinkedIn infographic

When not being used to advertise job vacancies, LinkedIn is a useful networking tool through which you can secure internships and job roles simply through starting conversations with employers and growing your network of connections. Former University of Manchester student Tom Canning used LinkedIn to secure an internship (warning: this post does contain strong language).

It’s well worth spending some time over the vacation period on getting your LinkedIn up to scratch so that you can start using it as the careers magnet that it is in the New Year. We’ve got advice on using LinkedIn on our website.

Top tip: If you’re struggling for connections, get adding people you know on your course and imagine what your network will look like in 5 or 10 years’ time when you’re all off doing different things. Connecting with family friends and neighbours could be useful too – you never know who they’ll know!

(Image Source:

Myth #7: Networking is senior professionals in suits schmoozing over canapés.

networking resizedNetworking strikes fear into the hearts of many, but really it isn’t nearly as bad as it seems. It’s not all CEOs and industry virtuosos swapping success stories over champagne and canapés (although sometimes it can be).

In reality, networking is about making contact with people who can offer information, advice and support, and can tell you about what’s going on in their industry. It’s an opportunity to learn from others, ask questions, and help other people out, too. Meeting a Careers Consultant is networking. Anyone you meet in industry or even at university becomes part of your network – and you become a network for them too.

Typically people find out about interesting (and less well-known) jobs through the contacts they make. Many jobs are never advertised as the recruitment process can be expensive and time consuming, so companies often recruit internally or take on people they know of.

But networking is not going around asking for jobs, though. It’s a means of gathering information, discussing ideas, and getting your name and skills out there. It’s a good way of finding out whether a job or career is right for you by talking to professionals who do the job and who can give you tips on finding opportunities.

You can find information about good opportunities for networking, including via social media, on our website, or you can download our pdf guide to Getting Connected.


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