Getting the third degree

iStock_000013630859Small Hire meA friend of mine was recently reminiscing about her graduation 4 years ago.  She was awarded a third class degree and hated her graduation day, struggling to work out what the 3 years were all for and what exactly she had learned. She had felt pretty down about it and wasn’t looking forward to her future career prospects.

Four years on and she is happily pursuing a successful career path in PR – something she had never even thought of when she graduated, and totally unrelated to her degree. To her surprise, people simply aren’t interested in her 3rd Class degree. It seems irrelevant now.

There are many success stories from famous people with 3rd Class degrees – Hugh Laurie, David Dimbleby, er, Carol Vorderman …. what is important with all of these people, is who they are, rather than the degree they got.

Let’s get the facts in; the graduate schemes, run by larger corporations and small numbers of employers, are closed to you for now.  The same might be true of some traditional routes into the professions. Ditto employers with very clear, open, categorical ‘minimum’ degree requirements.

No point in wasting energy here – we need to look elsewhere – focusing on the huge numbers of employers across the UK and globally, that are looking for the right person, not simply the right degree.

It’s useful to think about the reasons you got a 3rd Class – were you unsuited to the subject matter; was the focus of learning unsuited to your strengths or way of learning? Was it too prescriptive when you think more creatively, or vice versa? Now is the time to think about what you enjoy, what interests you – and follow it.

Your search needs to focus on the smaller businesses, the voluntary sector and public sector – here be roles that want people with skills that fit, and have a genuine interest in the work that they do. To start you off, look at Manchester Graduate Programme

You may need to start at the junior level, but if you follow your interests and talents, you will soon progress.

Tap into your experiences so far – your team skills, communication skills, customer focus skills from your part time or volunteer roles, your organisational skills.

Most jobs do not require academic excellence, indeed in many it is a distinct disadvantage. Most jobs require curiosity, interest, willingness to learn, common sense, engagement with other people, enthusiasm and team spirit. The 3rd Class becomes less important the more you can focus on these.

Shift your thinking away from what the 3rd Class doesn’t offer, to what you, as a person, do offer. You’ll be surprised what you find, as will your future employer. Bonne chance!!!

By Bernadette Lyons
Careers Consultant




A 2:2 degree – Triumph not Tragedy

‘Well, I wanted to do a Graduate Scheme in Marketing, but they don’t take 2:2’s, so I’m going travelling. There’s nothing much else I can do’. – 2016 Graduate

badge-686321_640As she said these words, a gloomy silence fell on our little meeting, and we both sighed in an ‘ah well, nothing to be done’ sort of way, gazing wistfully out of the window, imagining what glittering career might have been. That pesky 2:2 went and ruined everything..

‘NO!!’ I started, whipped into a frenzy of frustration, ‘there are loads of things you can do!! And congratulations on your degree’.

Here are a few for starters:

  1.  Don’t underestimate the huge value that a 2:2 degree from the University of Manchester carries with employers. Truly, it is globally recognised as a tough gig, and a 2:2 demonstrates skills such as research, analysis, project management and resilience. BE PROUD, it really is impressive.
  2. If employers state specifically and unequivocally that a minimum 2:1 is required, then don’t spend energy on making applications ‘just in case’. You will not succeed, and it will demoralise you.
  3. Instead, start thinking creatively. To find worthwhile work experience with a 2:2 is absolutely possible, there are jobs (great ones) out there, but you need to draw on that creativity, that resilience, those skills you’ve developed in your degree.
  4.  The 2:2 does not define you as a failure. Positivity is catching – if you can think positively about your achievement, others will too – that includes employers. If you don’t believe me, then try it and see. Email me if I’m wrong and I’ll buy you a bar of choc. That’s how confident I am.
  5. Come and see us/skype us at the Careers Service – I can absolutely guarantee you will leave our 30 minute meetings with a positive plan of action, some steps forward and/or renewed energy.
  6.  Have a look at the Manchester Graduate Programme – it has saved many a soul who felt a bit like things were hopeless, and proved to be a really great stepping stone.

Banish from your speech things like ‘I only got a 2:2’ and start saying ‘I have just graduated from the University of Manchester with a 2:2 degree – how brilliant is that’. Congratulations!


By Bernadette Lyons
Careers Consultant

Doing a PhD? Want experience in teaching? And elearning? Read on!

Manchester Leadership Programme is recruiting eTutors for 2016/17

The Manchester Leadership Programme is keen to hear from current PhD students who are interested in joining our pool of eTutors for 2016/17.

eTutors are responsible for tutoring groups of approximately 25 undergraduate students, leading online discussion groups, conducting face-to-face tutorials and assessing students’ work. Tutors are employed on a semester by semester basis and working hours average 5 hours per week. For those tutoring on the lecture-based courses this will include attending the weekly lecture (Semester 1: Tuesdays, 4.00-6.00pm, Semester 2: Thursdays, 3.00-5.00pm).

Posts are potentially available on each of the MLP ‘Leadership in Action’ 10 and 20 credit academic units (dependent on student numbers).

Interviews will take place on Wednesday 6th July. Successful candidates will need to attend initial eTutor training in the week beginning 26th September 2016.

Type of vacancy: Postgraduate part-time job

Degree required : Any degree discipline, studying towards a PhD at the University of Manchester for the duration of 2016/17 academic year.

Hours and Salary: Payment is on the GTA pay scale, currently £14.02-£16.24 per hour, depending on experience. 5 hours per week.

Location: Manchester

Skills required: Ideally some experience of teaching undergraduates and an interest in elearning. An interest in leadership and sustainable development and a passion for working with students is essential. You should also be a PhD student at the University of Manchester for the duration of the academic year for which you are applying.

Closing date for applications is June 15th

Further particulars of the role and application forms can be downloaded on the Student Development and Community Engagement website (scroll down a bit).

Telling your Story – create impact on your CV and at interview

iStock_000013550480Small Man thinkingWhat is it that makes a CV, application or interview performance stand out and have real impact? It could be the story.

Telling stories is a powerful way to communicate. It allows the author to reveal something unique about themselves; evokes emotion and is something other people can relate to. Story telling is an ancient tradition and is still popular today.

Applied to job hunting, the story is often the magic that links together what the employer wants with what the candidate has done to date, bringing them together with interesting and distinctive examples.

 Try storytelling for yourself

Are there any threads running through your life which will strike a chord with an employer?

  • For example, have you taken apart electronic equipment from an early age, built your own PC, and set up a network for your housemates? Even if your degree is geography rather than computer science, many IT consultancy firms would find your background very interesting.

Can you illustrate your skills with examples beyond your degree?

  • A few degree-based examples are fine, but everyone else on your course could give the same examples.

In your work or social life, what have you done which had a specific end result? Was it quantifiable?

  • For example, “I raised £600 for charity as a team of 5 by organising an end-of-term ball, negotiating £200 of sponsorship from a local pizza take-away”.

Have you had any unusual or distinctive jobs, or had to take on extra responsibility?

  • Have you spent a summer working in a completely new environment, either location or type of workplace?
  • Working in a family business, such as a local take-away or on a farm, could give you real commercial awareness and resourcefulness from an early age.
  • A summer picking fruit at local fruit farm could turn into a short-term business as a supplier to all your friends and family.

What has been your proudest achievement within a job so far?

  • For example, you might have worked in a call-centre, but what about the call you took where you had to deal with a crisis – which got you an “employee of the month” award?

Why do you want to be a [lion tamer?]

  •  What has been your journey of discovery as to why you are interested in doing a particular job or pursuing a particular dream? Who have you encountered along the way to inspire you and shape your thoughts?

How have your international experiences shaped you?

  • Whether you are an international student or have spent time abroad, stories of your global experiences and cultural encounters can provide an interesting illustration of your ability to see others’ perspectives on life.

What makes a good story?

  • It is simple and concise, told from your own perspective
  • It has meaning for you and is told with confidence and enthusiasm
  • It includes a dilemma or experience that the audience can relate to and that captures their interest
  • It often has an element of uniqueness or strangeness about it
  • It finishes well – with a happy ending, a learning point or with hope for the future 

The Art and Power of Storytelling in Workplace Communitiest Put together by The National Managers’ Community (Canada), this resource takes a closer look at our love of storytelling.

By Amanda Conway
Careers Consultant

A quick guide to work experience


Project Leader Intern at ReachOut – Vanessa’s Story

SEI Web Carousel 2016Vanessa is a final year English Language and Screen Studies student here at Manchester and spent eight weeks last summer working as a Project Leader Intern at ReachOut, as part of the Student Experience Internship (SEI) programme.

Vanessa recently joined us to talk us through various aspects of her SEI 2015 experience…

Why SEI?

“I chose to do an SEI because I wanted to earn extra money over the summer, and gain further experience in the field of work that I want to enter. So working hard and knowing more about what it is that I potentially wanted to do was the main goal in doing an internship.”

Interview experiences…

“Having had weekend Jobs since I left High School I’ve been in and out of part-time work, so I know quite a few tricks about the interview process and how to deliver a good interview.

“With this particular job interview however the interviewer was very casual and welcoming, which is not what I expected at all with their being a Project Leader for a mentoring organisation. Whereas I was dressed very smart, I’d even bought my ‘progress’ file that we were told to create in school for future prospects. The interview didn’t even take place in an office or any formal setting; it was in the lounge area of the building, where the organisation is located.”

First few days…

“When I started, I was expecting to be in and out of the office, making some serious phone calls to individuals and companies, being creative with a whiteboard and marker pen and familiarising myself with tea and coffee. Obviously, none of this happened at first. It took my whole first day for the computer system to set up an account for me and personalise an email in my name – this took 14 hours! So, instead of making phone calls, I was preparing folders for summer projects and making a list of all the equipment needed for them.

“However, I settled into the role after a few days and the work load became real. I had to acquire immense multi-tasking skills after the first week or so.”

Main projects/tasks…

“One of my main tasks was to communicate with schools and parents, to get their responses if certain children were attending the summer project or not.

“From this I gained experience in learning how to address parents, school teachers and carers over the phone whilst reading out valid information to them and taking details at the same time. This of course is something that most people can do, but doing it all at once and making sure that no details have been left out is quite tricky, believe me.

“For the last 3 weeks of my internship, I was working with children that lived in a ‘deprived’ area of Manchester on the summer projects. I gained a lot of experience being in the classroom managing and supervising them, alongside both my junior and senior mentors, and it opened my eyes to what it would really be like as a teacher.

“From this I learnt how to prepare myself properly for a full day in and out of the office. This literally meant preparing myself for the time spent working in the office and being out on the summer projects in the schools at different locations – although this was a case mainly of what to and what not to bring!

“I also learnt how to compromise and deal with situations professionally without allowing my emotions to be a part of the judgment or conclusion I make on a situation. Communication was a key skill that I expanded on whilst working with young people. Not only to get them going in the classroom, but it also helps them to develop as young people and to build-up a level of certainty between them and yourself.”

Favourite memories…

“I would have to say that my favourite memory of all was seeing the young people believe in themselves academically and potentially.”

Moving into second year – how has it helped?

“Being on this internship did not just allow me to experience being a leader, but to actually experience seeing others do and become better. To see this as a student motivated me to become even better at preparing myself for the final step – big or small – and to overcome the obstacles I thought I couldn’t, because I now believe that what you do and what you say goes a long way.”

Has Vanessa’s words and insight made you think about doing something really productive with your summer this year? If so, the Student Experience Internship 2016 programme will be launching on Monday 1st February. SEI 2016 will offer 8 week, fully paid, internships either within the University or in local charities/not-for-profit organisations.

You can see how numerous other undergraduate students benefitted from last year’s programme by checking out the website – Student Experience Internship (SEI) programme.


Do you need to plan your career or can you just let it happen?

Choices Some people plan everything – I’m sure you know someone who lives their life by lists and makes a revision time table and sticks to it. We all behave in different ways,  so if you are the type of person who lets life unfold why would you suddenly change your behaviour because you are planning the next stage in your life?

Do you really need to have a plan for your life post University?

Economists, geographers & psychologists will know about models to explain behaviour, there are careers models too that explain how people make choices. Many of these career models talk about planning (a lot) and the steps you go through….Yes and then there is the real world!

I won’t deny that not having a plan (AKA any ideas) can sometimes make things more confusing and it could take a little longer to get your post University life off the ground. BUT it doesn’t stop it happening and it can be a great way to try different things and work out what you want along the way.

Advice for non planners

You may or may not have some ideas what you want to do with your life after university, but you don’t yet have a clear strategy for getting what you want.


  • Be open minded – be prepared to try something out even if you can’t see yourself doing it for ever. Take a chance!
  • Be ready to take advantage of opportunities when they come along. Keep your CV up to date.
  • Think about what you want out of life, what has meaning to you? Money, travel, making a difference, etc.
  • Reflect on the experiences you have already had and think about what makes you excited, happy, challenged.


  • Because you don’t have a fixed plan it can be easy to let opportunities pass you by because you don’t recognise them as something for you. Seize them!
  • If you live in the moment, looking to the future can seem daunting or just not for you. Don’t let it stop you talking to people or exploring options that COULD  be part of your life in the future. You don’t need to decide immediately!
  • Don’t reject options that sound like they need a bit of planning, it may not be your preferred way to work but if the end justifies the means, just do it!

 Advice for planners

You may have some ideas of specific careers you are interested in or have  a goal in sight, don’t let it blind you to other opportunities though.


  • Know yourself – understand what you want in the future so that you can plan a route to get there.
  • Explore different jobs and careers – research the entry routes so that you know what skills or qualifications are needed.
  • Plan to get experience that will help you gain relevant skills or gain insight into a career area.
  • Schedule time to do applications for jobs or courses.


  • Don’t narrow your choices too much, have a plan B.
  • Be prepared to take advantage of opportunities that may not be on your masterplan.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected, sometimes companies don’t give you much notice for interviews. Factor this in!
  • Things don’t always go the way we want them to, don’t give up, be flexible and resilient and try again.

 In conclusion…

Don’t get freaked out by friends who have their life mapped out, that’s just the way they work. You can do things a different way and we are here to support you however you choose to plan (or not plan) your next steps.



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

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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.

University 101: Starting Uni this year – things you need to know

Welcome_Going to University is a unique experience and we hope you enjoy it.  It can be a little bewildering when you first start, meeting new people, settling into a new home and a new city plus getting to grips with your studies. It’s easy to get swept away on a tide of new experiences and before you know it you are graduating and looking for a job.  Woah…. crazy right?

A few things you need to know now to help you plan ahead…

  1. The good news is there are currently lots of graduate level jobs 🙂 There are also a lot of graduates so you need to stand out!
  2. Some jobs you need a relevant degree, others will take any degree, but either way they will want a range of skills. Even a first class degree cannot always make up for having little or no experience.
  3. Yes, employers will train you but they expect you to have developed some skills along the way.

Use your time at university well. This is how you will gain the skills employers want proof of!

Before you arrive:  investigate:

  1. How can you get a part time job?
  2. Can you volunteer?
  3. Can you get involved with sports, societies or other extra curricular activities?
  4. What support can you access – Careers, money advice, welfare advice etc? It’s not just for when things go wrong, it’s to get ahead of the game to make things go better!

Freshers / welcome week

There will be fairs & tours and people all over the campus trying to get your attention. It can be overwhelming, so focus on what you need to find out. Then go and have some fun.

Weeks 1-4

  • Get settled in, work out your timetable and consider your committments so far.
  • Start thinking ahead – future proof yourself.

You may or many not have a clue what you want to do after University, but don’t put off thinking about it.

You might decide you want to go into a job where the main method of recruitment is via internships in your 2nd year.  To get one of these you need experience in your first year.  Even if you change your mind the experience will be valuable so get it anyway!

So in First year do some of these:

Whichever University you choose there are people to support you and help you make the right choice for you. Visit your careers team and have a chat.

 Oh yes and if you are coming to Manchester – invest in an umbrella and some wellies (only partly joking!)



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