Make the most of your master’s with the MGP

By current Careers Service MGP Toby Manley, who will soon be leaving us for Japan. 

So, you’re coming to the end of your master’s degree, your thesis is a mere binding away from being submitted and you have overcome what initially seemed like an insurmountable mountain of postgraduate work. But what comes next?

Well, after a celebratory drink (or drinks), if you’re still looking to be challenged in new and exciting ways and want the opportunity to apply the skills you developed throughout your master’s, then look no further than MGP. The Manchester Graduate Programme was the path I chose after completing my MA and it has been one of the best decisions of my life. A decision that has secured me my dream job with a major company in Tokyo, Japan.

My MA experience

Before regaling you with why MGP is such a strong next step for master’s graduates, I’ll tell you a little about my academic background. I studied an MA in Intercultural Communication at The University of Manchester, my primary motivations being a love of exploring different cultures and a long-standing desire to work in Japan one day. But also, being conscious of my future, I felt it provided a more universal set of knowledge and skills that would be useful in our ever-globalising world.

Toby (centre), a proud MA Intercultural Communication graduate

In spite of my initial prudence, during my MA I directed little attention to what I would do once I graduated. I attended the odd careers fair, volunteered a little, and even managed to locate the mythical Atrium for a careers consultation. But looking back, I never engaged with these activities with any specific future goal in mind, but just to feel like I was doing something about my future. It was not until I staggered out of my departmental office, free from the burden of my dissertation and in desperate need of sleep that I realised I had no idea what comes next. Fortunately, en route to Starbucks for a celebratory cup of mud, I caught sight of a banner advertising MGP.

Why MGP?

I researched the Manchester Graduate Programme and immediately decided to apply. Many of the roles available are only a year long, and there is a diverse range of opportunities in organisations across Manchester; I saw MGP as an opportunity to apply and build on the skills I’d developed during my MA. It seemed the ideal way to confirm whether I wanted to further my studies with a PhD or pursue a career outside of academia. Moreover, still firmly set on making it to Japan, I realised I needed more business experience if I was ever going to secure a long-term position out there.

The application

The application process for most MGP roles is straightforward: stage one is to submit a CV and covering letter tailored to suit the role you are applying for; stage two is an interview. Most importantly, everyone who applies can get feedback at each stage, which is invaluable if you’re not successful first time round – like I wasn’t. I initially applied for a position in Marketing, but fell down because I paid little attention to the job description when writing my covering letter. In the feedback for this role, I was pulled up for failing to explain how my experiences were relevant to the ‘required skills’ section of the job description. When I came to create a CV and covering letter for my current role, Project Administrator within the UoM Careers Service, I stayed ahead of the game, emphasising how my skills and experiences were relevant. The extra time I invested in tailoring my application paid off and I was invited for an interview.

The interview had two stages: a face-to-face interview with a panel of two, followed by a proofreading and data analysis test. Interviews have always been my favourite part of any application. Donning a handsome suit like a knight readying for a joust and then talking about myself for an hour is my idea of a good time. I spent two days preparing using the example questions resource on the Careers Service website so I felt confident on the day. The interview itself went well; I took my time, making all the points I had prepared, and managed to form a rapport with the panel. However, I fell foul of the post-interview tests, failing to complete the proofreading component and only just managing to get through the data analysis. I left the office feeling dejected, kicking myself for my poor proofreading performance. When I received a call two days later offering me the job I think my first words were “oh my god, really?”. It just goes to show that, even if you’re not that confident about interviews, appearing enthusiastic and smiling really can make all the difference.

And since then?

If I were to sum up my experience of being a Project Administrator in three words, they would be: stimulating, diverse and rewarding. Since day one I’ve been challenged with opportunities that have enabled me to have a genuine impact on the University and its students. I’ve managed my own marketing project, written blog posts and even organised University-wide events, all on top of the day-to-day responsibility of managing the University’s vacancy advertising system, CareersLink.

When I first started, I didn’t feel prepared to transition from the world of academia to the world of business. But ultimately, using the skills I gained from my MA in a business context has given me confidence and experiences that I will draw on throughout the rest of my working life. Indeed, thanks to the opportunities I have taken up since my MA, I was able to secure a spot on a two-year graduate programme in one of Japan’s biggest companies. Ultimately, being able to talk about my valuable MGP experiences made me stand out as a candidate for the role, and the expert advice and support from The Careers Service enabled me to articulate them convincingly. MGP really can make your dreams come true. It’s a fairy careers mother.

Toby enjoying Japan – before he makes to move to work over there

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