Environment, International Development or Media – Events coming up

This semester, our events are targeted at those really “tough to get into” careers – environmental work, international development and broadcasting and journalism.

These careers are so popular that, unfortunately, employers have no need to turn up to careers fairs, trying to tempt you to apply to them – so you won’t see them at our normal recruitment events. They can afford to sit back and wait for you to come to them.

That means you’ve got to be resourceful, to:Journalism event

  • search out the opportunities yourself
  • make sure you’ve got up-to-date information about careers in these areas
  • get great volunteer experience to make you stand out amongst all those other postgrads and undergrads who are desperate to get into these careers.

Luckily, we make it just that bit easier for you by inviting our contacts, alumni, friends, whoever we can get frankly, to give up their time to talk to you about how they made the journey to a full-time career in these sought after sectors.

They won’t be offering jobs, but they will be offering their own personal insights and tips on what they had to do to make it.

Getting into International Development
Wednesday 12th March, 1-5pm, Lecture Theatre B, Roscoe Building – includes talks from international development professionals from Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), Mines Advisory Group (MAG), the British Red Cross, Retrak, CAFOD, Merlin, the British Council and The Gold Foundation, plus the chance for some networking to find out how you can make it in this career.

Careers in the Environmental Sector
Wednesday 19th March, 1-5pm, Lecture Theatre B, Roscoe Building – includes presentations, panels and networking with professionals working in both technical and non-technical disciplines

Insight into Broadcasting and Journalism
Monday, 7th April, 9-5pm, University of Manchester – as well as getting to talk to media professionals (we’ve had all the stars, y’know – even the god-like being that is Gordon Burns, no less), this is a day when you also get the chance to put your skills into practice with some practical news reporting.

Register now through the links above to ensure you get your place.

If you have any interest in these areas, don’t miss out on the chance to attend these events – this is your one chance in the year to get up close and personal with people who’ve made it in your ideal career.

Mentors available for postgraduates

mentoring-altblogpicThere’s just over 24 hours until the application deadline for our careers mentoring programme, Manchester Gold. You’ve got until 5pm tomorrow, Wednesday 26 February to get your application in!

The programme is open to postgraduates as well as undergraduate students so you can apply to be matched with a mentor who is working in your chosen industry or even your dream job. It’s your chance to speak to someone who is currently working in your chosen area and to find out from them how you can succeed.

We have a specialist strand for spring which is especially for doctoral researchers. There are a number of mentors on this strand who are looking to work with doctoral researchers and you can find a list of the mentors on the strand on our website – in the ‘how to apply’ section.

You’ll also find information about how to apply on our website. It’s quite a quick process via your CareersLink account. There’s only one question to answer so if you’re interested, why not have a look and apply today?

UN Virtual Careers Fair

Following on from the info on EU internships, we’ve just been told about a UN Virtual Careers Fair. I don’t normally just reproduce info sent to us, but this one’s too good to miss:


The second Virtual Careers Fair will be held on 10 December 2013. The following international organizations will participate: The United Nations Secretariat (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPs) and the European Personnel Selection Office (EU Careers).

For 24 hours, you will be able to pose questions to knowledgeable staff in these organizations about different careers opportunities. You will also be able to watch videos describing the participating organizations as well as the application process, competitive examinations and competency-based interviews.

To participate no registration is necessary. Please log on to http://careerfair.un.org on 10 December (ICT)/(CET)/(EST).

Please note that no CVs or applications will be accepted as the Fair is for information purposes.

If you want to know when that is, try this link to a time converter (handy website if you have to communicate across time zones).

The link they give is only for the fair, so if you want to know more about careers with the UN, have a look at their very informative website, UN Careers, including info on the Young Professionals Programme, Internship Programme and Volunteer Programme, which are likely to be the ones to check out for any of you without extensive experience.

EU Internships

eucareerspicAs I’ve been looking at internships today, thought some of you might like a summary of internships (they call them Traineeships) offered by various European Union bodies. There are far more EU bodies than I’d ever imagined (34 on this list of internships!), including many which I know would appeal to postgrads from a wide range of disciplines, including science and engineering, as well as social science and language postgrads.

There is an EU Careers site with lots of useful info on different roles and levels. However, I did end up going round in circles looking for details of any current vacancies on the Traineeships page.

Finally I realised that you had to look at the 2 page pdf “Quick Guide to EU Traineeships” to find clickable links to all the different institutions and agencies which had details of Traineeships on their own websites.

The document does have a handy list of who recruits when for the main institutions, ie:

  • European Commission
  • European Parliament
  • European External Action Service
  • European Council
  • Court of Justice
  • Court of Auditors
  • Economic and Social Committee
  • Committee of the Regions
  • European Ombudsman
  • European Central Bank
  • European Data Protection Supervisor

It also gets you to the right pages to find out about traineeships at 23 other EU agencies and bodies, where many of the non-policy/admin/language traineeships are – something for lots of postgrad specialists there.

There do seem to be quite a few with closing dates of 1 December, so don’t put this off or you may have to wait another year for your ideal internship.

  • European Investment Bank
  • European Law Enforcement Agency
  • The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA)
  • Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market
  • European Joint Undertaking for ITER and the Development of Fusion Energy (Fusion for Energy)
  • The European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union
  • EMCDDA, European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction
  • European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training
  • European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC)
  • European Training Foundation
  • The European Institute for Gender Equality
  • European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound)
  • ECHA – European Chemical Agency
  • European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights
  • European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
  • The European Union’s Judicial Cooperation Unit (EUROJUST)
  • European Aviation Safety Agency
  • Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union
  • European Food Safety Authority
  • Joint Research Centre
  • European Medicines Agency
  • European Maritime Safety Agency
  • European Railway Agency

I rather fancy the European Chemical Agency in Helsinki – luckily the working language is English, as my Finnish only stretches to “Moomin”. However, be aware that you will normally need to offer another of the official EU languages in addition to English ie French or German.


Click on the image to get a pdf with clickable links

Internships – your rights

moneyIf you read the press, you might assume that you just have to accept being unpaid if you want to do an internship – not so!

Most of the media focus is on topics that really interest journalists – the media, politics and the creative sector. This is where a culture of unpaid interships seems to be rife (and frankly, it’s always been like this – though that’s not to excuse it).

However, for most other types of work, it’s always been the norm to pay for work done, whether you’re a student, recent graduate or experienced professional.

The exceptions are if the internship is an integral part of your university programme (though most industrial placements are paid), or if it’s a short “insight” type of internship, where you get to see what an industry is like, but aren’t expected to be a normal productive worker. Up to a couple of weeks is fine for one of these insight internships, but much longer is pushing it.

Additionally, you wouldn’t normally expect to get paid by many voluntary organisations for short periods of work, though even in the charity sector, if you’re expected to work significant hours, you should expect to be paid or receive expenses as a minimum.

Want to know more?

This excellent short video from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and Channel 4, makes it clear what your rights are and how to find out more if you feel you are being (or have been) exploited.

Thanks to Tristram Hooley, University of Derby, for bringing this video to my attention (through Twitter, of course!)

“I don’t know what I want to do”

It’s probably the most common phrase we hear at the Careers Service, and something we’re more than happy to help you with, but …

The Big Careers Secret
A careers adviser can’t tell you which job you should do

The idea of a careers adviser being able to pick out the right job for you harks back to the days of a limited number of clearly defined “suitable roles” for a graduate – teacher, civil servant, doctor, lawyer, engineer, chemist. It also dates back to a time when students were prepared to follow a conventional career path, with the promise of a pension at the end of a long, predictable career.

Real students in the University of Manchester Students Union ... I couldn't believe it either!!!Now there are thousands of niche or specialist jobs to choose from, but you don’t expect to stay in one job or with one employer for very long. No-one can know about all those jobs, neither a careers adviser, nor you.

So, how do you choose?

lightbulbIf you haven’t had that “lightbulb moment” where your ideal career revealed itself to you, the temptation is to wait for inspiration, or think you can’t do anything to progress your career.

I’d suggest that a better approach is to:

  • Find a job which is a reasonable starting point – it doesn’t have to be perfect, just something you’re going to learn from and you’ve got the basic requirements for.
  • Learn from the experience – what do you enjoy, what do you dislike?
  • Pick up some skills and achievements along the way – get some good material to add to your CV.
  • Then, find another job which is closer to what you now know you want.

The grand experiment

Treat your career like a grand experiment, constantly testing out your theory of what you might want to do or might be good at, observe the outcome of any jobs you have a go at, refine the experiment and try again.

I can’t claim ownership of this “grand experiment” idea – it’s included in a great blog post from Nathaniel Koloc in the Harvard Business Review called Build a Career Worth Having.

However, it really resonated with me, probably because it matches my own meandering approach:

  • Try a career, find out what’s good/bad about it, step sideways into something else, and repeat until the lightbulb does suddenly go on.

(I really did have that sudden revelation that everything was leading me to becoming a careers adviser – but it’s a long story!)

Start with what you know, and build on it

One simple way to make a quick start is to create two lists

What you“Do want” and “Don’t want” in your career

You don’t have to add specific careers to your lists, although straight away, you can probably add lots of careers you don’t fancy to your “Don’t want” list.

You could add ideas about

  • work environment – outdoors, office, lab …
  • skills used – communicating, planning, creativity, teamworking …
  • location
  • working conditions – hours, pay …
  • purpose – helping others, inventing new products or services, organising people, creating wealth …

and whatever else is important to you for your future life.

pathways2012Whenever you hear or read about a type of career (a post/graduate profile on the web, an employer or alumni presentation, talking to a family friend about the work they do), add to your lists, until you start to build up a real picture of what you want from a career.

You still won’t have a job title, but now when you see a job ad or read about a career, you can review your list and see if it matches more of your “Do want” list than your “Don’t want” list. You can also judge whether you’re prepared to compromise on the rest.

This can give you more confidence that a job might be a good match for you.

It can also avoid you getting lured into a career which sounds great or which impresses your friends, but which is frankly unsuited to what you really want out of life.

Further support

There are lots of other ways to sneak up on your ideal career. If you want to explore this in more detail, have a look at our other online resources:

And, of course, you can always come and talk to a careers adviser. We’ll be very happy to help you find the right questions to ask yourself and others, can probably point you in the direction of resources which can help you – but don’t be disappointed if we can’t guess the ideal career for you.

Should I apply now, or wait?

The main recruitment fairs have been and gone (just the Postgrad Study Fair on 20th November and the Law Fair on 19th November still to go), the employer campus events are starting to thin out, and the whole “Get your career together NOW!” frenzy is calming down a bit.

What if you haven’t done anything yet?

  • Should you still try and apply for jobs right now, to have something lined up for next autumn?
  • Should you just wait and start to look next summer, because all the good jobs will surely have gone by now?

Well, I wondered that too, so I had a look at what we’re currently advertising on CareersLink to find out.

Last week, there were 850 ads for full-time jobs on CareersLink. Of those:

  • 396 ads were for jobs starting next summer or autumn
  • 454 ads were for jobs starting now, or soon. This also includes all the jobs where recruitment is “ongoing”.

So, lots of jobs are still being advertised for next autumn start dates.
If you want to get ahead, there is still time to apply for these “graduate schemes”.

But what if you want to wait? Well, there’s one more bit of info you need – who’s recruiting when?

autumnstartgraphThis shows the size of the organisations who are recruiting right now for jobs starting next summer/autumn.

  • “Small” = under 250 employees
  • “Large” = 250+ employees

and there are a few where it’s not clear (as these organisations aren’t big household or industrial names, they’re more likely to be small than large).

As you can see, a large majority of these “start next year” jobs are for large organisations, including a lot of the ones you’ve heard of. Few small organisations are going to recruit so far in advance.

immediatestartgraphThis the picture for ads for an immediate start date, or for jobs which start before next summer. There are still some large well-known recruiters advertising for immediate start jobs, including some, like Shell, who advertise their recruitment as being “ongoing”, all year round.

However, most jobs are working for small organisations (the majority of these are organisations with fewer than 50 people).

Many of these jobs with smaller organisations are fantastic, working with specialist or niche employers, where you’ll get to see more of what goes on in the whole organisation. You’re also less likely to be in some sort of “training scheme” – you’ll be doing a job from day 1.

So, if you’re in your final year and thinking about whether to apply now or leave it until this time next year, you need to ask yourself:

  • Do I want to work for a large well-known employer, possibly on a graduate scheme?
    If so, you’ve a far better chance if you apply now.
  • Am I aiming at starting with a smaller employer, in a specific job?
    If so, you can probably afford to wait until closer to when you want to start work – but don’t miss out on the 50 or so smaller recruiters who are also advertising a year in advance.

Just the Monday blues – or something more serious?

rainIt’s Monday. It’s dark, gloomy and raining. No-one expects you to be bright and perky on a day like today – but what if it’s not simply that “I don’t like Mondays” feeling?

Doing a postgraduate degree is always challenging, but sometimes life continues to pile on the pressure, until the cracks start to show.

The start of a new academic year can sometimes trigger that feeling that something is about to give, but there are things you can do to make it easier to cope with whatever your postgrad programme, and life, are throwing at you. Here are a few pointers to help keep you afloat.

  1. Should I stay or should I go? Help if you’re wondering whether to give up your postgrad programme.
  2. Managing a disability Support while on your programme, plus some inspiration for those students with a disability who want an academic career.
  3. Looking after yourself: Positive mental health and postgraduates Includes a great new blog from a postgrad with some practical (and entertaining) advice on dealing with mental health issues

1. Should I stay or should I go?
If you think you may have done the wrong thing, starting your postgrad degree, or can’t face the prospect of another year, don’t just sit and worry on your own. Talk to someone, preferably someone without a vested interest in keeping you on your postgrad programme.

Sometimes, the best person to talk to is your supervisor or programme leader, but if you’re not ready to do that yet, get some alternative perspectives on your concerns:

  • The Careers Service – we can listen, help you think through the possible outcomes, whether you stay or go, and help you look at the alternatives, particularly in terms of career prospects. Contact us through our normal appointment service, just letting us know at the time of booking what you want to cover. Just be reassured – you won’t be the first person (or even the first person this week) who wants to talk about whether your course is right for you.
  • The Students Union – their Advice Services include professional advisers and student-to-student support such as Nightline.
  • Your School – seek out other sounding boards in your School. This may be one of your lecturers, an academic adviser (other than your supervisor if you’re doing a PhD), a student support officer (different systems and roles operate in different Schools) or simply other postgrads, post-docs or sympathetic academics or support staff you feel you could talk to.

If you don’t want to talk to someone (yet), have a look at our postgrad careers guide, “How to recover from setbacks” for some tips on finding support, plus links to our resources for doctoral researchers (by year) with some interesting information and resources on “Imposter Syndrome“, a seemingly common phenomenon in academic circles.

If things have gone beyond worrying about some of the practicalities surrounding your postgrad programme, and are starting to affect you more personally, our Counselling Service has a wide range of one-to-one, group and online resources to help – do use them, that’s what they’re there for.

2. Managing a disability
Our Disability Support Office has a strong track record in supporting students with a wide range of disabilities, whether visible or hidden.

If you are concerned about the impact any disability may have on your career plans, then you can book a careers appointment like anyone else – but if you mention that you wish to discuss a disability issue, we’ll make sure that you get to talk to the right person and that you have sufficient time and space to discuss your issues.

Will it damage your career prospects?
judyHaving a disability doesn’t mean that you should write off your career ambitions. In some cases you might need to go about things a bit differently, but that can also be positive. For example, Dr Judy Williams, a senior lecturer in the Medical School has recently written an article in the Guardian about the challenges of being an academic with dyslexia, and how she’s made it work to her advantage. If you’ve been on one of her training courses, you probably didn’t realise that her amazing responsive and interactive training style is a way of really playing to her strengths and minimizing the impact of her disability.

3. Looking after yourself: Positive mental health and postgraduates
Our Counselling Service has lots of self-help resources and one-to-one support to help you keep your mental health on an even keel while you do a postgraduate degree. 

However, it is also useful to hear from other postgrads, at the very least to realise that you’re not alone. I don’t have any data on how many postgraduates have to deal with mental health issues during their postgraduate degree, but I was struck by a point made recently in a new PhD blog, An Academic Follower of Fashion. Jessica MacDonald, a current Glasgow University PhD student who also experiences depression, came up with a great quote:

“Research has shown that mental illness, particularly mood disorders such as depression, may be more common in highly intelligent and creative people and those who would identify as perfectionists. Intelligent, creative perfectionists. Sounds like a lot of PhD students I know.”

It’s a very new blog, so I don’t know how regularly it will be updated, but she’s started out in tremendous form. If you’ve struggled to talk to your supervisor about mental health issues affecting your progress, I’d urge you to read her post, “Having ‘the chat’ with your supervisor“.

Civil Service Fast Stream – application process, 2013

civilserviceIf you want to influence how the UK operates, the Civil Service should be high up on your list of possible careers. Last night, we were lucky to have an in-depth talk on the application process from Michael Tansini, an English graduate from York University who has recently joined the Civil Service Fast Stream.

Here are some of the facts, inside info and application tips we gleaned from his talk, in case you couldn’t make it. The slides Michael used are also at the end of the post.

UPDATE: 11 Nov ’13
The Fast Stream have just published their new guide to the Fast Stream Assessment Centre (pdf)
End of update

The Fast Stream – facts & figures

  • This year there will be approximately 800 vacancies on the Fast Stream. That’s up 200 places from last year and considerably more than the year before when there were significant recruitment freezes – contrary to popular belief, this part of the public sector is open for business.
  • The Diplomatic Service (Foreign & Commonwealth Office – part of the Generalist Fast Stream) is, as ever, the most popular stream, with about 120 applicants per available place.
  • Second most popular for applicants are the Economist places within the Analytical Stream. Last year there were 150 places available, and they recruited around 120 people. The first round for this stream has already closed. They anticipate a second round of recruitment opening in February (NB: this doesn’t happen for the other streams).
  • HR and Technology are popular with the people who prefer to specialise and move around within one department rather than move between departments.
  • Q: Which university sends most applications to the Civil Service?
    A: Queens University, Belfast – more applicants than any other university, including Oxford and Cambridge (bet you didn’t guess that).
  • There are a high number of Oxbridge candidates on the Fast Stream but this is more to do with volume of applicants rather than bias in the recruitment process as is often perceived.
  • Last year there were 14 successful applications from University of Manchester – not bad but could be much better, especially if more good Manchester students applied!
  • If successful it’s possible to defer the start if you want to take a year out after university. It may be possible to take time out in the middle of the programme but that would be an internal departmental decision.

Advice on the application process

  • There’s a step-by-step guide to the application process on the Fast Steam website – the closing date for applications for most streams is 31st October.
  • For most streams, whether you have a 2.1 or a 2.2 matters less than being able to meet the competencies. However, some streams (such as Technology in Business) do require a 2:1 or a postgraduate degree.
  • Once you sign up, you have 7 days to complete the first online tests. Last day to sign in for this year is 31st October, to be completed by 7th November.
  • Don’t be tempted to get someone else to do the online tests – you’ll be retested later in the process!
  • One of the critical exercises is an e-tray, which is now completed at home, rather than travelling to an assessment centre. Don’t be lulled into being too relaxed just because you can sit there in your pjs doing it! It’s really time-critical. There’s a bit more info and a link to the practice e-tray exercise on our post on Recruitment and selection – situational judgement tests.
  • You must be consistent, and be able to justify your answers given in the e-tray exercise. You will fail if you’re not using the information given and applying it consistently throughout the answers.
  • Time management is often a problem with the e-tray, and many candidates don’t complete the exercise in the time given. Failure to complete is worse than completing, but not as thoroughly as you might have liked.
  • The assessment centre is tough. There will be approximately 25 people per centre. You will be tested against the given competencies for the Fast Stream.
  • The average age of those appointed is 28.
    a) If you’re applying for the first time while still at university, without much/any work experience, don’t be intimidated if the other applicants have more life/work experience. You’re not marked against each other but against the competencies so concentrate on demonstrating you meet them.
    b) If you’re also closer to 28 than 21, don’t assume that you’re too old for an entry level role in the Fast Stream, or that you should be considered separately because you’re doing a PhD or Masters.
  • Feedback from the assessment centre is excellent. If you’re not successful, you will get a detailed 6 page report 3-4 weeks after assessment. Use this feedback if applying again (or applying elsewhere).
  • Gov.uk is your friend! Use this to learn about what’s going on in government. Bring this into your answers at interview. You might be interviewed by someone who’s had a hand in shaping the policy or plan you’ve been reading about.
  • When talking about yourself, it’s important to be able to say what you got from an experience, not just what you did. What did you gain/learn? Was there self-improvement?
  • Civil servants must be politically neutral in carrying out their duties. Even if you don’t agree with the policy, the job is to enact the wishes of the Government in a way that works for the public in the best way possible. Once you are in more senior roles, you cannot be a member of a political party. If you’re very politically active, you should consider whether the Civil Service is really a suitable career option.

Slides from the presentation

Finding a job for postgrads

“How to find a job” is a hot topic at the moment, with employers popping up all over campus and at careers events, so I’ve put my “Finding a job” talks for Masters and PhDs online.

Even if you couldn’t make it to the talks in person, you can now see, and hear, what I said with the slidecasts below. You can also ask questions through this blog – just add your question as a comment on this post.

How a slidecast works
slidecastYou can see the PowerPoint presentations below, and you have the option of just clicking through the slides using the arrows, if that’s all you want. Alternatively, pressing the large arrow lets you play the audio soundtrack, either for the whole presentation, or just the slides which interest you.

You’ll see that lots of my slides are either graphs or data, or just a few bullet points, so a lot of the real content (and the inside info, tips and insight into what’s really happening in the job market) is in the audio commentary.

Where there’s lots more info on the postgrad careers website, or the general careers website, I’ve put links in the presentations. These should be clickable.

I’ve split my recent talks into 3 presentations.

The Job Market for Masters


The Job Market for PhDs

Just to point out – this isn’t quite as long as it looks! Towards the start of this presentation are 5 slides plus commentary, one for each large discipline area (biomedical sciences, biological sciences, physical sciences & engineering, arts & humanities, social sciences) on the destinations of PhDs. Obviously, I’d suggest only focusing on the slide which covers your area.


Finding a Job – Job Search Strategies for Postgraduates

This includes how postgrads find jobs, how to find job adverts, using agencies and how to find jobs which are never advertised. It also covers how to get further help and support. For most of the presentation, I’ve combined both Masters and PhDs, but the first couple of slides show how Masters find jobs, and how PhDs find jobs separately. The commentary is the same for each slide, so just focus on the one which is relevant to you and skip over the other

This presentation has quite a lot of links in it which should be clickable – it makes a lot more sense to point you towards our postgrad or general careers resources with further active links if you need them.


Where can I find these presentations in future?
These presentations, along with presentations on CVs, covering letters, applications, interviews and assessment centres for postgrads, are on the postgrad careers website, on my Slideshare page, and will be on our online talks for postgrads page on this blog shortly.


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