Presentation or death?

microphone“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” (attributed to Jerry Seinfeld)

Most of us dread public speaking of any sort and yet it is something we can’t avoid as often we’re required to make presentations to our peers or even to a prospective employer. How can we overcome the fear? Well, as with most things in life, practice makes perfect: the more you do it the better you’ll become. Therefore avoiding it is not helpful as sooner or later you’ll have to do it. Conquer your fear now! Start now taking the steps that are going to lead you to become a confident public speaker. Take small steps like asking a question during a lecture. Take inspiration from the people around you who you consider good speakers: what do they do? Can they give you any tips? Public speaking is a performance, you don’t actually need to be yourself when delivering a speech, you can emulate somebody you admire.

Be prepared

Become familiar with what you want to say. This sounds quite obvious but it’s the main point. The more you are confident about what you’re going to say, the better you’ll do. Even if the nerves take over your brain or your body, if you know what you’re talking about you’ll go on automatic mode and deliver. Prepare your script in advance and practice. Practice in front of a mirror or with a friend. Look out for voice tone and little mannerisms that will get in the way of your message. Many years ago, when I was a trainee teacher, my supervisor videoed one of my first classes and I couldn’t believe how much I run in front of the room, from one corner to the other while speaking. You would think my students were watching a tennis match, their heads turning left and right very quickly to follow my movements! If you have the chance to video or record yourself while practicing, do it. Yes, it is very embarrassing but also very useful.


I find particularly useful to be in the place where I’m going to speak the day before or at least sometime before the presentation. I go to the exact place where I’m supposed to be delivering my speech and visualize what will happen. I mean visualize my surroundings and delivery, not my audience in any state of undress as it is so often suggested. In my visualization, the audience is always interested in what I have to say and yes, they’re fully dressed. I also make myself familiar with the “machinery”- where are the lights, how to turn on the equipment and make it work, etc.  If this is not possible, I try to at least be at the venue a few minutes before to take everything in and to actually see the audience coming in, making eye contact, smiling, maybe chatting if appropriate so that they are not strangers when I start speaking. Most audiences are friendly; they want you to succeed so try to connect.

Be human

Let’s assume your audience can read. It’s not particularly interesting for them hear you read slides, they can do that themselves. If you put all the information in your slides and read from them; then what’s the point of your presentation? You might as well just print out the information and disseminate it. Your audience wants to see the human.  A good presentation is about you being there delivering a script. Don’t let the slides replace you.

 Have three “take away” ideas

The average adult attention span is 5 minutes! What three main ideas do you want your audience to retain? People are more likely to remember information that come in threes so don’t overbear them- if possible trim your script down to the three main ideas you want them to retain and work around that.

Repeat yourself

Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you’ve just told them (see what I did there? Three things!). This helps the audience to remember the most important points of your message. Think of the most memorable speeches in history like Martin Luther King’s – he repeats the word “freedom” twenty times, the word “dream” eleven times and “I have a dream…” eight times in a period of only a few minutes. Repetition helps to retain the message.

Have a contingency plan

There will always be things out of your control that can go wrong. Think them through beforehand so that you’re prepared. Do you have a backup of your presentation? Perhaps you can email yourself a copy. What can you do if you can’t use your slides due to a technical issue? Can you have backup handouts? Make sure to have a plan B.

If you need support, there are resources available to you at The University. You can find workshops and online resources on My Learning Essentials. Recently they advertised two workshops that sounded really useful: “Speaking out in groups” and “Group work: play to your strengths”. They also have a few short courses online about presentations: “Present like a pro: the art of delivery”, “Present like a pro: visual victory” and “Start to finish: present like a pro”. Keep an eye on what is advertised on My Learning Essentials.

The Careers Service has a Presentation Skills Starting point guide.

Keep in mind though that no amount of reading can replace experience in a practical matter as this. You can’t learn how to swim without getting in the water. So dip your toes first, start today to take little steps towards conquering your fear.

LinkedIn: Use Alumni Search to connect with Manchester Graduates

This is a very useful post, courtesy of our colleague Suzanne Creeber.

The Alumni Search tool will allow you to search all the profiles of all Manchester students and graduates on LinkedIn.

  • Select My Network > Find Alumni from the menu options across the top of the page
  • You can search Alumni profiles using the following criteria:
    • Search the set of Alumni profiles using a key word
    • Search for profiles between specific dates (attended or graduated)
    • You can also search depending on where they live, work, what they do, what they studied and what they are skilled in (the last two can be viewed using the arrow icons at the side of the bar charts). You can also click on the individual bars to search within the results.


Sometimes when you search for profiles on LinkedIn, it only displays limited information and says you need to upgrade to see more.  Here’s how to get round it:

  1. Copy the text in the headline (e.g. Future Leaders Programme at GSK) and the location (St Albans)
  3. Paste this text into Google plus the word LinkedIn
  4. You should find the person’s profile in the results (with their name), and view the full profile in LinkedIn

Table 2

I was required…


 I’m required to write this post as part of my job. How does this sound? Definitely not riveting. You’ll probably think that either I was coerced to write or that this is just something I do because I have to, not because I enjoy it.

Very often I see in application documents “In this job I was required to be organised” or “Organisational skills were vital for this job”. What does this tell me about you? Not much. Just because a job requires you to be organised that doesn’t mean you were actually organised or that you were any good at organising or that you know anything about how to do this. What the prospective employer needs to know is what you have done and achieved, what skills you have gained and how have you done so. This is attained by using active language.

Compare the next two sentences:

“In this job I was required to have good communication skills.”


“Developed good communication skills by dealing with customers’ requests and complaints. “

The first sentence talks about the job you were employed to do, not the job you have done.  It is actually more like a job description. It raises questions: did you demonstrate communication skills? How?

The second sentence tells the reader what skills where developed and also how they were achieved. It is more powerful. It makes you the actor, not the subject. Active language places you at the centre of the action: you are the one doing, developing, organising.

It is perhaps easier to write in a passive voice as it is more formal, less committed, you are not exposing yourself. However application documents (CVs, cover letters, personal statements, application forms) are about you so you must find your voice and proclaim your achievements. Use active language!

Personalise your LinkedIn invitation emails

LinkedIn logo

What if somebody you don’t know throws a business card at you and says “Do you want to network with me?”  and then walks off again? Would you go after them? Would you pick up their business card? Probably not.  So let’s not do the LinkedIn equivalent by using that generic template: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”. I know I’m guilty of not personalising all my invitations and that is because it is so much quicker to just click on what is already there. This is probably  fine if you know well the person you’re targeting.  However, personalising the email invitation will have better results if you don’t know them well or if you don’t them at all. People will feel that you are really trying to connect with them and not bulk –inviting everyone.

So how do you tailor a LinkedIn invitation?
The “techy” bit

You can tailor your invitation from your desktop or the LinkedIn mobile app.
Tailoring invitations to connect from the desktop:
1. Move your cursor over the Down arrow in the top section of someone’s profile.
2. Select Personalize invitation from the dropdown menu.
If the above option doesn’t exist, you can tailor your message by clicking Connect in the top section of their profile.
1. A prompt will appear that contains a text box to personalize your invitation message.
2. Please note this prompt will only appear if you don’t have Personalize invitation in the dropdown menu.
For details on how to tailor invitations on iPhone iOS6 and above or on Android please check the following link:
LinkedIn informs that:
– Invitations sent from the People You May Know feature in the mobile app can’t be personalized.
– The ability to personalize invitations is currently not supported on iPad.
– You may need to upgrade your LinkedIn app to the latest iOS and Android versions to be able to use the mobile app feature.
The social bit
What words to use will depend on who is the person you’re trying to connect with and what you want to achieve.
1. Find some common ground. You might have met them at a conference, they might be an alumnus of the same university, you might be members of the same LinkedIn group, you might have connections in common etc. Whatever you have in common should be used as an opening line.
2. Tell them why you wish to connect. Mention a blog post or comment they made on a group discussion that you found interesting or compliment them on an achievement you might know about.
To sum up, be on LinkedIn the courteous and well-mannered person you are offline – personalise your invitation emails.


Three quick tips to spruce up your LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn logo





  1. Customise your public URL

When you set up a profile on LinkedIn, the default URL you get is a not so readable mix of your name and what looks like random numbers and letters: eg. Joebloggs/35/777/25a. So how can you change it?

  1. Go to your Profile
  2. Hover on your given URL
  3. Click on icon next to your URL that reads “update your public profile settings”
  4. A box entitled “Your public profile URL” will open on the right hand side
  5. Click on pencil icon next to your URL to edit
  6. Write your chosen URL

Vanity URL










The customised URL is available on a first come first served basis so it is possible that the one with your name is already registered, depending on how common your name is. So what to do if your vanity URL is already taken? Then you can go for a variation. Let’s take Joe Bloggs as an example. Ideally he would have If already taken, then the following variations also work well:

  • Firstname- surname- city you work in- eg. joebloggsmanchester
  • Firstname- middle initial/name- surname- eg. joembloggs

 What are the advantages of having a customised profile link on LinkedIn? Well, it is easier to remember and it will look more professional on your email signature, business card or CV.


  1. How to insert bullet points in your profile

Bullet points are a great way to organise information in your LinkedIn profile. It makes it more readable. However, LinkedIn doesn’t offer a “insert symbol” tool. In order to insert a bullet point in your LinkedIn profile, type  bullet point where you want it to appear.  Please see the example below:


Once you save your changes the code will become a bullet point.

  1. Use the upload feature to showcase your work

You can enhance your LinkedIn profile by adding media showcasing your work. This feature is of obvious use if you are a creative person or want to work in a creative industry but the creative types are not the only ones who can benefit from this. For example, you can upload presentations (eg. PowerPoint) or photos of your volunteering activities.

LinkedIn has an “Add Media” button in most sections of your profile which makes it easy to display images, videos, etc.

add media button

LinkedIn – Get involved in groups

LinkedIn logoThis week I want to stress how and why you should be joining groups on LinkedIn. Groups are an important networking tool that will show up in your profile. There are many groups on LinkedIn (over a million!), focused around sectors, professions, themes, industries, etc. Recent graduates and students may find useful to join alumni groups. The University of Manchester has The University of Manchester Alumni Association  group which, at the time of this post, has 24 461 members.

You can find groups by using the search field at the top of your LinkedIn page. Another useful way of finding relevant groups would be to view what groups the leaders/influencers in your chosen sector or your connections have joined.

Groups can be open or closed. You can join open groups immediately whereas closed groups will require an authorisation from the group administrator.

LinkedIn closed  groups

Why should you join groups?

  • You can get advice and ask questions to people with similar professional interests
  • You can make yourself more visible by starting relevant discussions or commenting on ongoing discussions
  • You can send members of the group direct messages
  • You can find job opportunities posted by other members

LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 groups which is a lot considering you probably wouldn’t have the time to take advantage of those many groups.

If you use general terms when you search you will end up with general results. There are over one million groups on LinkedIn so you must be focused on what you are looking for. Consider my line of work as an example. When I type “careers” I get 14 020 results! If I type “university careers” the results are trimmed to 782 and finally if I search “university career services” I get a more manageable and focused 317 results.

If after joining a group you decide that after all it’s not relevant for your interests and goals,  you can leave the group by following a couple of easy steps. You just need to click on the group you want to leave in your profile page and then click on the “Member” button on the top right hand side. When you hover on this button the word “Leave” appears instead of “Member”. Click and you’re out.

How to use LinkedIn to find an internship

LinkedIn logoSummer is a great time to get some work experience and many students secure internships for this period. If you haven’t done so yet there is still time to try. LinkedIn can be a very useful tool in achieving that internship.

Showcase your experience and achievements

Following from my last post about where to start with LinkedIn, now you have set up your profile and started to build your network by connecting to people you know. Make sure that your profile is accurate and detailed including education, volunteering activities, part-time work, extra-curricular activities or academic projects. Use your headline and summary to announce to the world that you are looking for an internship. So instead of “Student of XYZ” you can use something like “Aspiring XYZ looking for internship in ZYX”.  Ask for recommendations or endorsements from your university tutors if you think they were impressed enough with you to do so or managers from your part-time jobs.

Top tip: Turn off your Activity Broadcast if you are changing or updating your profile. If you don’t, every time you make a change your connections will be notified which can be irritating.

notify network



Develop your network

In my last post about LinkedIn, I advised you to connect with people you know: family, friends, former colleagues, classmates, even neighbours could be a useful connection. If you are a more eager student you might have met employees from companies you are interested in at Careers Fairs and Insight Days who you can connect with if they accept your invitation. In this case, make sure to write a customised invitation explaining who you are and where you met. Don’t ask for an internship on your invitation. Start by building a conversation with something like “Dear Mr. Brown, It was great speaking to you at xyz last week. I would like to connect with you to learn more about [company].” Do not get discouraged if they don’t reply. People are busy so you just have to keep trying and contact new people.

 “It only takes 50 trusted connections to make an impact on your network so get connecting. You can use LinkedIn University Pages to find out where people from your university ended up and connect with them for advice and introductions” says Darain Faraz, a spokesperson for LinkedIn.

Be proactive

It is important to learn as much as possible about the sector you’re interested in and keep up to date with the companies within it. Visit pages of companies where you would like to do an internship.

In Company pages, companies:

  • reveal their culture
  • announce recent developments and projects
  • inform on how to contact them
  • update on who are their current employees and who have they hired recently
  • post jobs

You can also keep up with the news in your industry by using LinkedIn’s Pulse (under Interests on the top bar above your profile) and joining industry groups (more on this next week in my next post about LinkedIn).




Be realistic

Don’t expect to find a dream job or placement after just a couple of weeks on LinkedIn. You are supposed to build your network before you need it. At this point, your network is probably of a modest size because you are just starting.  Networking won’t necessarily produce instant results. You need to keep working on it.  Do this step by step, do not neglect your account but don’t spend every minute of the day on LinkedIn either, especially at a time when you should be revising.

Darain Faraz advises that “Just 9 minutes a day spent making new connections or honing your profile on LinkedIn is all it takes to make an impact. Working this into your daily revision schedule is a great way to get benefits without committing hours of your time”

Stay positive and do the best you can with the time you have.

LinkedIn- where to start

iStock_000013296501Small Network of people You will have heard about LinkedIn and many of you might even have a profile on LinkedIn. However, we often hear that students and recent graduates don’t know what do with their LinkedIn accounts. Over the next weeks we’ll make a series of posts about how to improve your LinkedIn use and make the best of its features.

So what is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is a professional networking site where you can search for jobs, research professionals and companies join groups and network. LinkedIn is not Facebook. Photos from your holidays and details about your diet are best left out of LinkedIn. Instead use a professional looking profile photo and it is best not to link to your Facebook profile from your LinkedIn page. Keep LinkedIn for professional interactions only.

So how does it work?

You sign up for an account and set up a profile. When you’re writing your CV you must be concise and that means that sometimes certain details are very summarized or left out because they don’t fit in. That is not a problem on LinkedIn where you can elaborate on details about that volunteering opportunity you took abroad or a course you have made to improve your IT skills. Take time to write a detailed profile where you outline your education, past and present work experience, skills gained, volunteering, etc.

As with your CV, proofread your profile to make sure there are no typos. LinkedIn does not have a spell checker so you must be careful. Ask a friend to proofread it before you post it online.

When you’re happy with your profile, then you can start connecting. To start with, you connect with people you know: colleagues and former colleagues, companies you have worked for, volunteering contacts, friends, family, etc. This will be the start of your network.

In the coming weeks, we’ll give you a series of tips and advice on how to make the most of your LinkedIn account from how to make it look more effective to how to put it to good use.

Interview nerves- what can you do?

 interview queueAre you anxious about an upcoming interview? Do you think your nerves have held you back at interview on previous occasions? Everyone has been there. I certainly have been there. And you know what? We’re not alone. You might have heard of the recent “car crash interview” delivered on radio by the Green Party Leader. Ok it was on the radio but it’s not that different from what we go through at a job interview. When asked to explain how she would deliver some of her party’s main policies she stuttered and went silent for long periods of time. She later admitted that her mind went blank. Is this familiar?

First let’s get one thing clear: it is normal to be nervous/anxious before/during an interview. Actually it is a healthy response to an important life event and can help you to keep sharp and focused if it is in the right dose.

Many things can happen at interviews that are out of your control. I remember this interview I attended a few years ago – when I entered the room I found out the panel included four interviewers plus two more on Skype from Russia. I had not been told this in advance and I was already feeling a little anxious to start with. One of the interviewers, who was just across me on the table, never made eye contact. In fact, he kept his eyes down on a notebook all the time while scribbling and never talked to me. The Skype connection was not good and I kept being interrupted by the call breaking up. Was I rattled by it? Of course I was. Those were 30 excruciating minutes! I couldn’t gather my thoughts, couldn’t remember my well thought examples of a time when I had done this or that. All I could think of was why was that person ignoring me – was that deliberate to unsettle me? Had he already decided I wasn’t suitable for the job? This interviewer was probably just taking notes but I didn’t think of that then and the more I dwelt on it more nervous and distracted I felt. Needless to say I didn’t get the job.

And how do you move on from a disastrous interview? You just do. You reflect on what went wrong and why and focus on what you can do to make it better next time. For all the bizarre things that are out of your control, there are equally many that you can do to prepare and settle your nerves.

What can you do

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Research the company thoroughly. Write down the answers to likely questions and then say them out loud. This will help you to organise your thoughts and also to remember. Are you dreading a particular question? Then work on it, think it through and prepare an appropriate answer. If you are not sure how to do this you can always ask us at the Careers Service for advice. You can also have a simulation interview with a careers consultant. Prepare in advance not only your answers but also other mundane aspects like “what am I going to wear?” and “how am I going to get to the interview place?” Don’t leave these details to the last minute.
  2. Get a good night’s sleep. Eat something even if your stomach is turning with anxiety. Your brain needs fuel to work properly and you don’t want to faint during the interview.
  3. Take deep breaths. Once you get there, find a quiet place and take a few deep breaths. This will help you to relax and calm down.
  4. Shake your interviewer’s hand with confidence while making eye contact. Keep in mind that you are on the shortlist. These people want to meet you, are interested in what you have to say and that’s why they have invited you for an interview. Consider the interview for what it is: a conversation between two or more people. And it is a two way street: they are interviewing you to decide if they want you to work with them but you are also deciding if that is the right place for you. You will have the opportunity to ask questions as well.
  5. Sit slightly forward on your chair to engage with the interviewer, make yourself comfortable. Use the language you usually do but keep it professional. You can take a CV to occupy your hands and refer to if needed but don’t fiddle with it.
  6. Listen properly. Don’t try to put an answer together before you listen to the question fully. If you are not sure, it is ok to ask for clarification. You don’t need to rush into an answer. This is a conversation, remember? It’s ok to pause for a couple of seconds to gather your thoughts.
  7. If you don’t know the answer to a question stay calm. Maybe you didn’t understand the question. Ask the interviewer for clarification. If you have some knowledge about the situation tell them what you know. Or you can buy a little time by saying “That’s an interesting question. Can I consider it for a bit and get back to you later?” But if you feel you won’t be able to answer the question at all,  be honest and apologise “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that question”.
  8. If you get a difficult question and feel you haven’t answered particularly well don’t let that set the pace for what follows. Focus on answering well the following questions. A positive attitude in such a situation will show your determination and ability to deal with pressure.

If everything goes wrong, what is the worst that can happen? You won’t be offered the job and that’s it. It hurts but keep it in perspective. Don’t dwell on it. There are more jobs out there and next time you’ll be more knowledgeable. Approach the next interview with renewed enthusiasm and a positive attitude.

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