April Newsletter for PGRs

The Romans called April Aprilis.  No one is sure the exact meaning of the word. Some scholars think that it may be related to an old Italic word meaning “the following, the next”, in a sequence of events. Old folk interpretations link it to the Latin aperire (think ‘aperture’ on a camera) “to open”  – referring the opening of buds and blossoms in Spring.

Either interpretation is apt with Pathways on the horizon – our annual event to help PGRs take the “next” step: many of you may now be wondering what will “follow” your doctorate,  and perhaps on the lookout for “openings” and opportunities.

Pathways 2017

Pathways 2017. Preventative medicine for post-PhD headaches.

Wondering about working overseas? Not sure about industry or academia? Worried about work life balance? Want to know exactly what employers look for on applications and at interview?  Curious about non-academic roles for PhDs in university? This year’s panels will cover all of these topics and more.

You may be especially interested in 2017’s plenary session –“Managing your career in an uncertain world

Registration is now open: http://www.careers.manchester.ac.uk/postgraduates/pathways/

Use your doctoral research skills to find hard-to-find jobs

It could be easy to believe that all the jobs out there are with big graduate recruiters.  In the UK, in 2016 Small- to Medium-Sized Enterprises employed 15.7 million people, accounting for 60% of private sector employment (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/business-population-estimates-2016). Perhaps most significantly,  small businesses accounted for – wait for it – 99.3% of all private sector businesses.  One point three million SMEs employ staff.  Aspiring entrepreneurs are not alone: 4.7 million SMEs did not employ anyone apart from the owner – so maybe it’s time to find carve a niche with your own business? (At Pathways 2016 our 10th anniversary cakes were made by Beth, Dr Beth Mottershead, a UoM doctoral graduate who now runs her own cake-making business: https://manunicareersblog.com/?s=Pathways )

The small- and medium-sized nature of these organisations – generally 250 people or less – means they don’t have the same recruitment budgets and demands as the more familiar “big recruiters”.  For you, the job hunter, tracking them down can be tricky and time consuming.

Here are a few helpful hints to find an SME that might be right for you:

Talk to people.  Given the ubiquity of SMEs in the global labour market – your personal network is likely to contain any number of people who work for or know people who work for SMEs.  They can give you insight into what it’s like working for a smaller company, even if it’s not exactly the work you want to be doing.

The UK Small Business Directory https://www.uksmallbusinessdirectory.co.uk/

Guardian SME jobs: https://www.uksmallbusinessdirectory.co.uk/

On Careers Link, you can search organisations by size: http://www.careers.manchester.ac.uk/careerslink/

Use Linkedin to search for organisations http://www.careers.manchester.ac.uk/findjobs/networking/linkedin/

Do research into specific industries, jobs, products, services that you interested in.  Where are the organisations employing people doing the things you want to be doing? Target them for job searching of speculative applications.

And on that note – speculative applications are an important way to access opportunities in SMEs: https://targetjobs.co.uk/careers-advice/applications-and-cvs/271429-making-speculative-applications-for-graduate-jobs

Marketing your PhD

Try this advice for helping you make your PhD make sense to non-academic employers:

Reframing Doctoral Skills: http://daniellejdeveau.ca/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/reframing-doctoral-skills-for-the-private-sector.pdf

Jobs on Toast, Applying for Jobs Outside of Academia: http://jobsontoast.com/applying-for-jobs-outside-academia-from-phd-to-fellow-professional/

Keep your cool this Christmas

So that’s it, semester one is almost over and many of you are getting ready to head home (or elsewhere) for the winter break. Whether you’re a first year student that’s just made it through your first ever semester at uni, or a seasoned postgrad that knows these winter breaks like the back of your hand, there can be so much going on at this time of year that your future career probably won’t be at the front of your mind. Which is fine… you’ve got your upcoming exams or dissertation to tackle while smiling politely through family dinners and social occasions. Until that dreaded question comes up: what are your plans after university? What do you want to do with your degree?

Cue awkward silence, followed by a muttered response about travelling the world, being snapped up by a major company in London or finally writing that best-selling book.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone in hating that moment – whether you know what you want to do with your future or not. I graduated over four years ago and still get irrationally annoyed whenever someone asks about my career plans. So I thought I’d share my top tips on dealing with this social anxiety and being that cool, calm and collected person with everything under control.


High quality decorations in the Careers Service office: Rodney the Reindeer

What to tell the family this Christmas

Friends and family are bound to ask about what you’ve been up to this semester and what you plan to do next. To handle this question like a pro, I have three tips:

  • Don’t be scared to say that you don’t know what you want to do yet. Many people don’t – so many that we have a whole webpage dedicated to just that. There is no shame in spending some time to work out what you enjoy and deciding what might be right for you.
  • Even if you’ve spent the semester enjoying yourself and making friends, fact is you WILL have developed your skills. It doesn’t matter how you acquired them – are you a better communicator now that you’ve worked with (or maybe even had a few clashes with) people from very different backgrounds to yourself? Have you learnt about time management the hard way, having left your work until the last minute? Don’t panic about what you’ve not done, but focus on what you have achieved. Use these skills as a starting point.
  • Rejection is nothing to be ashamed of. Learning to deal with a set back and turn it into something positive is one of the best lessons you can learn. So don’t fret if you didn’t get that job you wanted; pick yourself up and keep going. If you need further inspiration, check out these celebs, all of whom were rejected before making it big.

Socialising, socialising, socialising

There are so many social events at this time of year, it can be exhausting. And don’t worry, I’m not going to say “any event is a networking opportunity”. You should enjoy yourself and switch off sometimes. But I will say this:

  • Be honest about what you are thinking about for your future. You may find that friends and family have suggestions to help you out – maybe by putting you in touch with someone useful. No pressure.
  • By all means, have fun, but be aware of what you’re sharing on social media. Are you tagged in any pictures on Facebook that an employer may not look favourably upon? Are there photos on your Instagram that you wouldn’t want a potential boss to see? Here are some tips on managing your digital footprint.
  • If you’re exhausted from being sociable in real life, why not spend a bit of time on your professional profile online? Join LinkedIn if you haven’t done already, and put some time into creating a great profile. Get started here.

Don’t freak out about being “last minute”

Got friends that have already secured an internship for the summer, or landed that grad scheme? That competitive panic can creep in….but it’s all part of the plan, right? Remember that:

  • Yes, many of the graduate schemes with big companies close in October/November. But these schemes only account for a small proportion of the UK job market. There will be graduate level jobs advertised all year round – especially in the education sector, media, arts, charities and smaller companies. Look at employers that you might not know much about. There is plenty of time to find the right opportunity for you.
  • There are still summer internships out there – just search on CareersLink for those still advertising. Alternatively, our Summer Experiences Internships programme, in which second year undergrads take an internship either within the Uni or a not-for-profit organisation, is not even open for summer 2017 yet. So nothing to worry about yet, is there?

Exams & Dissertations

Feeling stressed about having to do some work and revision over the winter break? Try to keep on top of things while you’re away from uni to prevent too much stress when you’re back. Here are a couple of things to help:

  • Exam support workshops in AGLC every day between Monday 9 and Friday 20 January. Check out what we’re offering here.
  • While you’re not on campus, remember that the University provides a wealth of online resources to help with things from assignments, dissertations, presentations, or, well, anything really! Search for what you’re after here. I guarantee there will be something to help.

So that’s it for my tips for being in control over your winter break. Of course I have other tips, like don’t eat a full packet of mince pies in one go (speaking from experience, you won’t feel great afterwards). Don’t spend all of your money on overpriced mulled wines (ditto). But above anything else, have a great break and we’ll see you in the New Year!

Where are all the science jobs?

whereareallthesciencejobsIf you’re a science student who loves science, it can sometimes feel like all the jobs are for business students, engineers or computer scientists. This is to reassure you that there are ways of finding science jobs – if you know where to look.

Two alternatives are:

a) Look for science jobs which are being advertised

  • The pros – you know there is a job to be filled
  • The cons – so do lot of other people, so the competition will be high

b) Look for scientific employers and see if they have any jobs

  • The pros – they may have jobs to be filled, but if a job isn’t available now, they may keep you on file; this means that when a vacancy does occur, they may contact you before even considering advertising, so there is less competition
  • The cons – they may not be recruiting when you need a job

Where to look for science job adverts – some starting points

How to look for potential scientific employers

If you want to do cutting edge science, don’t just think of the big household names – think small!

Why? Because science which emerges from fundamental academic research is often based in start-up and spin-out companies, often located around universities, in “incubation centres” (ie. very small emerging companies – may not be too many roles for new scientists here) and science parks (companies which are starting to grow might be a better bet for science jobs for recent graduates).

How can you find these companies which you’ve never heard of? Try these approaches:

  • University of Manchester Careers Service – CareersLink
    • Look under “Organisation Directory” – this is our employer database of organisations who want to target University of Manchester students. Using “Advanced search”, you can filter by “Organisation Sector” – which lists over 400 science employers.
    • Our Which Career – Scientific Work web pages include sources of scientific employers
  • Look in science and innovation parks
  • Research institutes, centres and companies interested in researchers
    • www.jobs.ac.uk/employers – browse employers by type, including those outside academia
    • UK Research Councils – UK government funded research centres and institutes. Check each Research Council for lists of its funded institutes
    • AIRTO – a membership organisation for a number of commercial and government funded research organisations and institutes
  • scienceNetworks of scientists
    • Trade associations often have lists of members, for example:
      • Pharma/bioscience: ABPI (national), BioNow (North West/North East), OneNucleus (Cambridge/London), OBN (Oxford/South)
    • Professional bodies – get involved with a relevant scientific professional body to meet scientists in your field (you might get to know your future interviewer!)
    • LinkedIn – join groups for your field to link to other scientists; search companies, groups or people by keyword, including technical terms.
  • Your contacts
    • Tell everyone you know what you’re looking for, social and online contacts included. You never know who a friend or a distant cousin might know …

What to do once you’ve found a suitable scientific employer

  • The most obvious approach – simply type “Employer-name jobs” into a search engine!
  • Check the employer’s website regularly to see if they are advertising any suitable jobs.
  • See if the employer is attending a recruitment event in the near future.
  • Send a targeted speculative application. If they say they will “keep you on file”, don’t give up hope. When a vacancy arises, that file of recent applications is the first place many employers look before advertising, particularly for specialist posts (I know it’s what I did when I was recruiting in the polymer industry).
  • chemistTry to talk to someone from the employer you want to target.
    • If they’re a recruiting manager, ask how they recruit new scientists, are there any plans for expansion, where would they advertise?
    • If they don’t recruit personally, you can still get a feel for the type of scientific work they do the sort of employer they are, and whether this would suit you.
    • Either way, you get inside information, you should now know whether to look out for job ads and how to target your applications.
  • See if someone from the employer you want to target is going to be on campus – and not necessarily at a recruitment event.
    • If they target researchers, they may be part of university collaborations. Are they giving a seminar or talk on campus? Could you ask the academics involved in the collaboration to introduce you?

Further information for scientists

See our recent post:

Making the Most of Manchester for Postgraduates: Getting Better at Connecting


Yesterday I presented a 1 hour session on Making the Most of Manchester – 6 (and a bit) things postgraduates can do in their own way and their own time to (paraphrase the philosopher H D Thoreau), er,  squeeze the marrow out of living, studying and possibly working in Manchester. One of the 6 and a bit things I stressed the most, much to everyone’s chagrin judging by the nervous giggles, was connecting.  Networking.  Getting to know people.  Making friends.  As the introduction to this excellent video by The Atlantic on “Talking to Strangers” points out “connected communities are critical to the health of individuals and societies.”

Why don’t we like talking to strangers? (see below) Even if we like it, is it possible to get better at it? (yes) Can we learn to like it? (to some extent, it’s important to try) Does is mean you have to be one of those backslapping, gregarious types whose extrovert energy lights up an entire room? (definite no).

Yesterday we looked at some of the reasons people ‘hate’ talking to strangers

  • We are shy or introverted – or both. It’s important to distinguish between shyness and introversion.  Although they are not the same thing, they are also not mutually exclusive either as this insightful article by Susan Cain discusses.
  • Related to shyness, we may have anxiety either mild or acute related to meeting strangers.  The Counselling Service offers workshops and other support if you recognise some aspects of social anxiety in yourself and would like to make some changes.
  • Maybe we’ve had a bad experience with an unhelpful stranger, or we were feeling poorly or unprepared.  Emotion is a powerful teacher; a negative experience makes a strong impression and it’s not surprising that it might lead us to avoid situations where such things might happen again.
  • Perhaps we feel vulnerable because of our language skills.  As I related yesterday, I struggle to communicate verbally in languages where my reading and writing is perfectly fluent.  Intent on making a good impression and not embarrassing myself, I lose the thread of conversations because I’m trying to formulate a perfectly grammatical response to something someone said five minutes ago.  Some advice for becoming a more confident second (third, or fourth language speaker:  “What’s the worst that can happen if you screw up in front of someone? Nothing!” and Great insight for the humorous and the introverted.
  • If it is a formal opportunity to meet strangers, such as a conference, seminar, careers fair, or networking event, we can experience pressure to ‘perform’ to make a good impression.  This always reminds me of Elizabeth’s remark to D’ Arcy at the Netherfield ball in Pride and Prejudice:

“We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the éclat of a proverb.”

Other people report that pressure comes from a belief that connecting with others is all about securing a job.  Seeing networking in that light makes it awkward and unpalatable for many people.

So if it’s not about performing to impress or getting a job offer, what’s the point? Why bother? What are the benefits?

  • Information
  • Ideas
  • Raising your profile, building a reputation
  • Learning
  • Be mentored…or mentoring
  • Work/business contacts
  • Friendship
  • Romance

Yes. You read that last one correctly. And why not?  It’s a completely legitimate if often overlooked benefit of networking. [And, since yesterday, even some (slightly dodgy, for a couple of reasons) data to back it up.]

But what if people are rude and do reject you?

Believe that if people are rude and do reject you, the vast majority of the time, it’s them not you.  Maybe they are having a bad day, received bad news, are stressed, are themselves anxious about meeting strangers. You don’t have any control over how people respond to you, but you have absolute control over how you respond to them. Don’t take it personally, particularly if they are a stranger – how could you take it personally? They don’t even know who you are!

If you can stand the thought of it, and remain objective, try politely to find out why.  Sometimes, particularly under pressure and duress, or anxiety, people may not realise the impact of their behaviour. There are habitually rude people in the world, sad to say.  Who knows how they got into the habit, but you can’t force someone to change their behaviour.  The best response to those people is to be polite and move on.

In situations where it is ‘you’ (maybe you are having a bad day, have had bad news, are stressed, etc.), remember it’s not really you – it’s your behaviour, and you can change that.  Use it as an a opportunity to learn about yourself and grow.

How can you get better at connecting?

1.    In addition to the Talking to Strangers video, watch How to work a crowd by Alexis Bauer, a humorous approach to getting better at networking
2.    Try one of these ‘choose your own adventure’ approaches to learning networking skills
3.    Read and reflect on the resources in this article.  Make a personal plan for how to improve your approach to connecting with others.
4.    Seek advice or use others as a sounding board for your ideas.
5.    Create or take advantages of available opportunities to meet people.

If I could learn to get better at it, you can, too.

Interested in Investment Banking? Seven tips on getting in

Roll of moneyInvestment banks help organisations, individuals and governments to raise capital, often by investing in the financial markets or selling shares. They also provide other services to organisations, for example performing large mergers and acquisitions. Investment banking is a very popular area with graduates looking for a challenging career and high financial rewards, however combined with that there is a great deal of competition for places

  1. Do your homework. Understanding as much as you can about the industry can help you be seen as focused, well informed about the work, and make a better impression on applications and in interviews. A great place to start your research is the Finance careers section on our website. You can also join societies like MUTIS (Manchester University Trading and Investment Society), who a group of like-minded fellow students who organise events and training for students interested in a career in investment banking.
  2. Make contacts. Meet people working in investment banking to help you gain knowledge, and find out about opportunities. Check out the events listed in CareersLink for opportunities to meet and talk to these firms. For example, on 13th Oct (5-7pm) there’s Meet The Professionals: Finance and Consulting – where you can meet employers and alumni. The Big Careers Fair (Day 1, 18th Oct 2016) typically attracts a number of banks and other finance firms, for example Barclays, BNY Mellon, HSBC, Maven, and JLL.
    You can apply to be matched with a mentor working in investment banking, which can be a great way to gain inside knowledge and advice. Read about the Manchester Gold mentoring scheme for more details. You can also use the LinkedIn alumni search as a great tool to find where previous Manchester graduates now work – useful for finding potential contacts in niche firms you can’t meet on campus. Get some great LinkedIn tips on our website about how to use it effectively, and how to make new contacts.
  3. Be clear on the area that interests you most, and why. There are what can seem a bewildering array of roles in investment banking, and employers will expect you to understand what area interests you and why. Following the tips above will help you to do this, as the guides often point out what qualities are required for each role, and the kind of person it might suit. For example, someone who is more introverted, methodical, very good at analysis and understanding detail might be more suited to working in compliance more than trading. A great guide to help you with this is the Unofficial Guide to banking.
  4. Academic grades are very important. Most investment banks will look for a minimum 2:1 degree and approximately 320 UCAS points. If you can demonstrate that you can achieve this, you are highly unlikely to be successful. Banks receive huge numbers of applications, and can afford to select only those that meet their very high standards. Be aware that your first year grades will also be important – if you’re applying for an internship in your second year, these will be used as evidence of the grade you could achieve in your final degree result.
  5. Get work experience as early as possible. Gaining investment banking related experience is very important and will really help you get your foot in the door when competing for graduate positions. If you’re in your first year, some firms offer ‘Spring Internships’ or ‘Spring Insights’ which help you gain some understanding of the industry. In your second year, you should be applying for summer internships. Check the advice on the internships section of our website.
  6. Get interested in finance and how it works. You don’t have to study finance to work in investment banking, but gaining some knowledge of how finance works is important. You could start with following finance and investments news on the BBC website and other media, before working up the Financial Times. Websites like Investopedia have some useful guides to help you understand the terminology used in finance and banking.
  7. Apply early. Investment Banks open for applications early, and some will close before the end of October. Make your applications as early as you can and allow time – they take a lot of effort and only a great application will make the grade. There’s lots of applications advice on the website to get you started.


3 reasons to attend the Graduate Recruitment Fair

You’ve probably heard or seen quite a bit about The Graduate Recruitment Fair happening this month. It’s one of The University’s biggest Careers Fairs and this year there will be over 140 exhibitors attending, offering local and national graduate jobs, further study courses and other opportunities for students graduating in 2016.

Now your exams are over (or almost over) and you can see a long, deadline-free summer stretching out before you, you might be wondering why on Earth you would want to give up two glorious days in June to go and speak to employers. (Especially when one of those days happens to be the day England play Wales in the Euros.) However, as someone who attended the Grad Fair only last year, I’m going to give you three reasons why it’s worth putting in an appearance on at least one of the two days of the Fair.

1. The Fair provides an opportunity to explore what’s out there.

globe girl smallAfter years and years in education, you may feel that you’ve been quite sheltered from the outside “real” world. A lot of the time students aren’t sure what they want to do after University simply because they’re not aware of what is out there to do.

There will be a wide range of employers attending the Grad Fair – some small, some large – working in a variety of sectors, from Finance and IT to Education, HR and Retail. Wandering around will offer a chance to get exposed to the world of work – the companies and industries out there and what they really do – and the range of options open to you.

If you’ve already got an idea of what sort of industry you want to work in or which companies you want to work for, you can find out more about the roles available within these fields or companies and see what the job would involve day-to-day.

There are also a number of Universities attending both days of the Fair, so you will be able to explore postgraduate study options too and find out if this could be the right next step for you.

2. Speaking to employer representatives face-to-face can improve your applications.

post its smallImagine you’re really interested in a Management position with Abercrombie & Fitch. By chatting to one of their representatives at the Graduate Fair, you can find out what qualities a good Manager at Abercrombie & Fitch has and what activities and responsibilities the job encompasses. With this knowledge, you can tailor your application so that your CV and cover letter clearly demonstrate how the skills and experience you have make you the perfect fit for this Management role. Get the name of the employee you spoke to and reference this conversation in your cover letter (e.g. “After speaking to xxx at The Graduate Recruitment Fair in Manchester, I was really inspired by xxx about the role/company…”). This will reinforce your enthusiasm for the job and the company.

Not only that, but approaching employers can help you with your interview technique. To make a lasting impression during your conversations with company representatives, you need to succinctly summarise your previous experience of relevance to the role on offer and explain why you’re interested in this particular job/company. Before attending the Fair, make sure you’re aware of your strengths and the skills and experience you have to offer employers. (Worried you’ve not done enough? Part-time jobs, societies, volunteering and your degree are all CV-worthy. Give this blog post a read.) Rehearsing how you will introduce yourself, your experience and your motivations to company reps at the Fair will increase your self-awareness, providing a good foundation that you can build on when preparing for interviews.

3. You can get practical advice and support, whatever stage you’re at.

tin can smallAlong with a host of interesting and inspiring exhibitors, you will also find The Careers Service at the Graduate Fair. Chat through your options, ideas and worries with us and get practical advice on steps you can take next, whether you’ve got a clear career goal in mind or are still unsure about what you want to do after University.

If you’ve never been in touch with The Careers Service before, use this opportunity to get connected now, as you can access our services, support and events throughout the summer and for up to two years after graduating.

The Manchester Graduate Programme will be another feature of the Fair at Stand 58. This programme is exclusively for University of Manchester students and sources paid graduate-level roles based in Manchester. We advertise a variety of different roles with a range of organisations, from start-ups to multi-national firms, as well as positions within The University itself. If you want to stay in Manchester, are looking to gain some experience in a particular field, or would just like to give something a try, MGP could be the right next step for you.

The Graduate Recruitment Fair is next week on Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 June, 10.30am-4.00pm at The Armitage Centre in Fallowfield. Some exhibitors are only appearing on one day of the Fair, so attending both will ensure you’re exposed to everything on offer. You don’t need to stay for the full day (but you can if you want to).

Register for your free tickets in advance here for faster entry on the day.

How to get good advice at Pathways 2016

(even if [especially if] no one is doing exactly the job you think you might want to do)

Pathways gives you access to the career stories of many individuals doing many different types of work. Some may not been doing exactly the sort of job you imagine yourself doing, or that you might even find remotely interesting. Their stories are still valuable to you. During your academic research, you don’t just talk to and learn from people doing exactly what you are doing – the conversations would have limited potential for you to develop (and depending on your project, might entail you talking to yourself in front of a mirror). A researcher gleans advice, ideas and techniques from people with all sorts of skills and experience.

I’ll stick my neck out here and suggest that you, Reader, don’t necessarily want to be a social researcher for the Department of Work and Pensions (although, if you do, this is definitely the case study for you). I’d like to demonstrate that Anna Bee’s story, moving from academic to social researcher, is a rich source of career information, advice and inspiration. I’ve downloaded Anna’s story from the Vitae website and annotated it with comments and questions of the sorts you could use to make sure you learn the most from listening to people’s career stories. Rather than lessons about a particular career, this is an opportunity to learn how to manage and develop a career, acquire new perspectives on thinking about careers, new strategies for decision-making and job-hunting.

Here’s Anna’s career story with questions and comments .

Managing your career can be fun. Really.

Managing your career can be fun. Really.

Even if, as with Anna, we can’t actually ask the questions of our story teller, this should prompt us to ask some of these questions of ourselves, as well as using them with other people we meet in the process of developing our career pathways.

Keep in mind that these are my thoughts and questions about Anna’s experience on a Tuesday morning in May. Depending on what happens between now and next Tuesday – it’s likely I’d read Anna’s tale from a whole new point of view and take different lessons from what she has to say. Reading Anna’s story may prompt you to have different thoughts and questions – and that’s a good thing!

Don’t forget to register for Pathways.

Other Pathways related blog posts:

Pathways – Career Options for Researchers (about the event)

Pathways – preparing for life after your PhD (how to network at the event)

The Art/Science* of Academic Networking

Once upon a time… role models, stories and finding your own career Pathways

(This article was first published in 2015)

Preparing for your summer internship or vacation job

Exams are nearly over, it’s time to celebrate and look forward to summer.iStock_000018416955Medium Girl ticking checklist

Many of you will have something lined up for summer, an internship, work experience, volunteering, a vacation job or a working holiday perhaps?

Before you head off to meet the challenge there a few things you can do to be prepared.

  1. Have you got the right outfits? Do you know what your dress code will be? Ask around and check you have a few outfits to get started.
  2. Do you have all your paperwork, passport or other ID, visa etc to start work. Ask HR what you will need on day one to get you on payroll!
  3. Do you know how to get there? Nothing worse than turning up late on your first day.
  4. Have you got a bus or train pass? Advance ticketing may be a cheaper option.  If you are driving will you have a parking pass?

While you are there

  1. Get stuck in – it’s only for a short period so be enthusiastic, make the most of opportunities to learn a new skill or make a difference.
  2. Be professional – even if things are not exactly the way you might have hoped this is an opportunity to learn something and get a reference – so be nice!
  3. If you have had a particularly good (or bad) day – reflect a little – what went well or badly, what were your actions, how did you contribute? What would you do differently in future?
    1. The good stuff you will put on your CV.
    2. Store the reflections of what didn’t go well and learn from it, sometimes you can be asked about these examples too and they can be a great way to show you have learned to adapt your behaviour or strategies.
  4. Think about the future, would you like to work here again?
    1. If yes: find out about opportunities for graduate roles
    2. If no: are there other roles or opportunities you could find out about before you leave. Simply talking to people about their jobs can help you decide what direction you want to take.

Make a note

  1. Skills you gained or improved (it’s easy to forget what you did)
  2. Actions you took that made a difference (evidence for your CV)
  3. What you liked or didn’t like. (So you can make informed choices next time)
  4. Contact details of managers and people you worked with. Not just for references,  link with them on LinkedIn and be part of their community so you get the insider info!

Good luck and enjoy it.

From Old Trafford Kiosk Attendant to University Admin Assistant: Presenting part-time jobs on your CV

From guest writer and former Careers Service MGP, Jenny Sloan.

So you’ve managed to bag a few hours every week working in an administrative post in an office? That’s fantastic, you’ve got essential office-based work experience that employers value so highly!

But what if, like the majority of the working student body, you’re slaving away in a cafe, shop or bar at the weekends or holidays? Part-time work is essential in order for most of us to be financially stable during university, but often we underestimate the importance of promoting this work on our CVs.

The majority of students assume that unless you’re trying to break into the hospitality or retail sector, this kind of part-time work is irrelevant to your graduate job search. This is totally false. Every experience can be made relevant (as Bryony and Toby said earlier!). It’s all about dissecting your work experience and picking out key examples to provide evidence on your applications that you have the essential skills the employer is looking for.

I had my fair share of part-time jobs before graduating from university, and each of them have enabled me to develop the essential skills needed for the job I’m in now. Of course, a part-time role in an office would have been perfect as it would have provided me with important office-based work experience and administrative skills. However it’s not exactly easy to find an employer who would put up with me taking a month off at Christmas and three during the summer.

hotdogsInstead I worked for 6 years both as a Sales Assistant in an independent craft shop and as a waitress in an American diner during the school and university holidays. During semester time I also worked as a Kiosk Assistant, glamorously selling beer and hotdogs at Old Trafford.

I didn’t (and still don’t) want to pursue a graduate career in hospitality or retail, but these roles did provide me with transferable skills that I would not have gained otherwise:

  • Commitment: My dedication to the businesses I worked for proved impressive to many employers.
  • Ability to work effectively under pressure: Like the time I had to stay calm and simultaneously apologise profusely to a customer after she complained that her chips were cold, and the chef fired the till across the cafe in anger.
  • Conflict resolution: I worked in the away stand at Old Trafford. Need I say more?
  • Communication: Working in hospitality and retail, you come across a wide variety of customers, each with individual needs and personalities. This allows you to learn how to adapt your communication styles to suit your audience.
  • Teamwork: Likewise, when you work in one of the above sectors where the staff turnover can be very fast, you learn to adapt your working style to suit the different people you work with on each shift.
  • Task delegation: Like organising who would deal with customers and who would sit in the back with their earphones in cleaning cutlery after the staff Christmas party.

No matter where you work or what you’re doing, you’ll always gain something from it. The key is decipher what skills you have and have examples ready to back them up. (Get help with identifying transferable skills on our website. You can also find some tips on sourcing work experience here.)

Don’t be so afraid of getting the “wrong” experience that you don’t end up getting any!

Not got a brilliant job or internship lined up for the summer? Not a problem! You haven’t blown all chances of getting some work experience to stick on your CV and help you when it comes to applying for jobs in your final year.

While “relevant” work experience (i.e. work that is directly related to your ideal career) is great, the truth is that any work experience will provide you with transferable skills and experience you can talk about in application forms and interviews.

At the tender age of 17, before starting University – and long before I knew I wanted to work in marketing – I got a summer job as a Play Assistant at a children’s play centre in my local area. This involved giving up my weekends and some of my weekdays to host birthday parties for children of all ages, monitor a lot of kids as they careered around a play frame to rival Wacky Warehouse, greet incoming customers, bring tea, coffee and cappuccinos to exhausted parents, and wait tables and serve food cooked in the play centre’s kitchen.

I got this job through networking. I’d applied for a couple of retail jobs unsuccessfully and was feeling rather demotivated when my dad checked his Facebook and saw that one of his former colleagues had recently set up his own play centre and was looking to hire part-time staff. I didn’t get the job immediately – I had to attend an interview (whilst recovering from chicken pox and with the only other experience on my CV a volunteer role with The Manchester Museum) – but I’d found out about the opportunity and been able to get my foot in the door through family friends and contacts.

ball pool

Eek, flashbacks…

My play centre job wasn’t glamorous (have you ever tried cleaning baby poo out of a ball pool??) but it gifted me with skills and experience I regularly use to answer questions at interview. It takes excellent teamwork to pull off a smashing birthday party for an 8-year-old boy, his eleven friends and his fretful parents whilst the kitchen staff are swamped with the lunchtime rush, a toddler has spilled baked beans all over the carpet, and there are even more customers queuing at the door to pay in. But now I can tell interviewers how I led my colleagues, prioritised tasks and shared out responsibilities, all while maintaining customer satisfaction and earning a big “thank you” from the 8-year-old’s parents, who were thrilled with their son’s party. This example has next to nothing to do with marketing, but it is still 100% relevant for a question about my ability work in a team.

The key is to turn the basic tasks you do in a job – any job – into insight. What was the purpose of your task? How successful was it? What problems did you encounter and, most importantly, how did you overcome them? What skills did you use or develop? (Get help with identifying transferable skills on our website.)

So don’t spend your summer sitting around moping because you’re not doing an amazing internship or you’ve not got a “relevant” job lined up. Get out there and do something! (You can find some tips on sourcing work experience here.)

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