Graduate story: Emmeline

Emmeline Wilcox, 2016 History graduate

emmelineIn my first week of university I remember sitting in the History department’s freshers welcome lecture. The department had asked those who had just graduated what advice they would give to the incoming freshers. One piece of advice cropped up over and over again: take full advantage of what the university has to offer. I am ashamed to say that I did not do this – especially when it came to the careers service. I did get involved with the Students’ Union and I did have a part-time job throughout my degree, however I rarely even thought about my career. It was all too easy to become wrapped up in my degree and not to think about my future.   

Following the end of my third year exams, I was offered a temporary position in the careers department as an admin assistant for the QConsult programme. QConsult was based in the Careers & Enterprise Centre which opened my eyes to how outstanding our careers service is. The staff are incredibly friendly and they really are on your side, working tirelessly to make sure that Queen Mary students are given the best advice and opportunities. One of the things that struck me most after working in careers office is just how much everyone loves their jobs. Because of this, they all strive to make sure that each student they encounter is given the best experience.

The QConsult programme in particular is a very unique and exciting opportunity and I would thoroughly recommend all students to apply. One of the best things about this programme is that students are recruited on ability, rather than experience. This means that the programme provides an invaluable opportunity for students to get out of the ‘no work experience’ cycle: you need work experience to get a job, but you need a job to get work experience. The feedback from students on the programme has been so positive and I am very proud to have been part of it.

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Personal statements for Masters degrees – Top Tips

Emily Hogg, Application Adviser

  • Read the university’s requirements: unlike UCAS applications for undergraduate degrees, there is not a centralised system or universal application procedure for Masters courses. Instead each university has its own requirements, and these might be slightly different. Some courses will ask you to answer specific questions; others might specify a word limit. Make sure that you know what each course requires, and you follow the correct guidelines.
  • Don’t simply reuse your undergraduate personal statement: after two, three or four years of an undergraduate degree, you should have learnt new things, acquired a different perspective and be able to articulate your goals and ambitions in a different way than you did when you were at school or college and applied for your first degree. For this reason, it’s more effective to start a new statement than simply try to update your old one.
  • Explain why you want to study the course: in your personal statement, you should explain your motivation for undertaking this particular course of study. Admissions tutors want to know that you are committed and enthusiastic about studying for the Masters, and that you have a detailed and realistic understanding of what the course will cover.
  • Show how the course fits into your wider goals: a good way of showing your motivation is to explain how the Masters will fit into your broader ambitions. Will it provide you with knowledge or skills you will use in your career? Will it allow you to pursue an intellectual interest you care deeply about? Will it build on the knowledge you gained in your undergraduate degree? What are your long-term goals and how does the Masters fit in?

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First year opportunities

_mg_6911_27399972986_oAs a first year student, a career might seem a long way off, but it’s important to start thinking about gaining work experience in your first year. This will improve your chances of gaining further work experience or internships in the future, and give you a taste of what it’s like working in a particular company or sector.

At last week’s ‘What Employers Want’ event, led by Accenture, we heard that demonstrating work experience on your CV can make the difference when it comes to shortlisting candidates. This is the case with most employers – they want to see that you’ve taken the initiative to get involved and demonstrate your interest in their sector.

The majority of internships are for students in their 2nd year (or 3rd year if it is a 4 year course), but there are a growing number of opportunities available specifically for first year students. These are called insight weeks, which can last anything from 3 days to 2 weeks. Some organisations also offer insight days, where students have the opportunity to spend a day finding out about the company and sector. It is worth noting that not all internships will specify which year of study you must belong to. Some placements with charities and media companies are open to all – for example, Cancer Research, Oxfam and the BBC.

Before you spend a lot of time on an application, make sure you check to see whether you are eligible to apply. See our list of first year opportunities below, but remember that this is not a full list of every single opportunity available. If there is a particular employer you are interested to find out more about, visit their website and see what opportunities are available.

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Upcoming events Oct/Nov

We’ve still got plenty of events to come this term, covering a wide range of subjects and skills. Read on for some highlights, and visit for the full list of upcoming events.

History Futures: The School of History’s flagship Careers event

Wednesday 26th October: In one afternoon, this is a fantastic opportunity to explore careers in the worlds of Museums & Heritage, Public Affairs, Media, Government & Politics, Business & Finance and Charities/Not for Profit, with QM History alumni and other invited guests. Confirmed so far we have guests from the House of Commons, Sky News, Marks & Spencer, Tate, Royal Academy, The Sun & more.

Postgraduate Law: How to network and engage with potential employers

Thursday 27th October: Make the most of in-person employer networking opportunities by getting over your networking fears.  Learn why it’s important, how to introduce yourself, what to talk about and how to follow up.  You will be trying out these skills throughout the workshop. Please note: This session is for Postgraduate Law Students only and takes place at the Centre for Commercial Law Studies in Holborn.

How do Employers recruit?

Tuesday 1st November: Come along to this workshop to find out how employers and recruiters shortlist your applications. You will hear about what they are looking for in your applications, screening techniques used and specific skills you will be tested on. You will gain tips about how to do well in this process and hear about new industry trends employers are using in their recruitment. 

SBCS Careers Forum – Careers Sessions

Wednesday 2nd November: An afternoon of talks, workshops and networking for students to interact with employers and SBCS alumni. Explore career options with your degree, find out about job and work experience opportunities and discuss the skills and knowledge you need for successful work and further study applications.

UG Law Programme: Interview Skills led by Orrick Law Firm

Thursday 3rd November: Have an interview but not sure how to prepare? Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe shares what they are looking for from applicants attending interviews and how best to make the most out of that important meeting. Learn tips in advance to prepare you for your interview and find out what a law firm is looking for in a future trainee. There will also be an opportunity to ask any questions at the end, directly to the Recruitment Manager.

The value of volunteering

There are many reasons to volunteer, like wanting to help others, keeping up a hobby, making use of spare time, meeting new people etc. Often people forget that volunteering can also be an important step to getting that desired job or place on a postgraduate course.

Volunteering can give you structured opportunities to establish, improve or maximise general workplace skills like time management, communication or more specific skills that an industry demands – see Prospects’ Job Sector information to identify some of these. Volunteering can introduce a range of scenarios that you could use as examples to help answer competency questions for job applications and is a great addition to your CV, showing an employer that you have gained valuable work experience and taken the initiative to get involved in different things outside of your studies.

Work experience through volunteering can be vital to being accepted on a postgraduate course especially if the degree is more vocational or it’s a change in career direction.  For example it is likely that an IT graduate wanting to do an Masters in Social Work would need to build up practical experience of working with vulnerable people. Volunteering can also be an information-gathering exercise to know more about the area you are hoping to study as a postgraduate.

Remember that there are some practicalities to consider before you start volunteering like commitment, location, financial support and application processes. There are many different ways to volunteer – for example, being a member of a society committee, being a course rep or helping out at your local community centre.  Here is a brief list of places to look for volunteering opportunities to start you off:

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Start Up, Stand Up


Vana and Jessica Anne with students

Last week our Enterprise team held a successful ‘Start Up Stand Up’ event, which focused on female entrepreneurs. It was an informal networking event where local entrepreneurs talked about their experiences setting up their own companies and answered questions from students looking to develop their own ideas.

The evening celebrated some of the amazing female talent that London has to offer, and our 2 guest speakers were:

Vana Koutsomitis: Apprentice Series 11 finalist, and founder of DatePlay:

Jessica Anne: Founder of Jessica Anne Styling:

Both of our speakers encouraged women in entrepreneurship to dream big. Vana and Jessica’s top tips were:

  • Search for resources & find accelerator programmes when setting up a start-up

Our programme at QMUL, InQUBEate, has just kicked off and over the next 8 weeks we will support the development of 15 businesses. Each week we will look at a different topic, for example, customer discovery, market research and pitching.  The businesses on this cohort range from a robotic device that will aid the rehabilitation of stroke patients, a social enterprise app that addresses food wastage in restaurants, an LGBT fashion brand, an app that links schools with supply teachers and a safety indicator device for cycling.

You can next apply for this programme by e-mailing with an outline of your business idea by 14th December at noon.  You can also get feedback on your idea by booking an enterprise appointment on 020 7882 8533.

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How to stand out from the crowd

One way to get yourself noticed by employers is to ensure you have the skills that they look for. This could mean sharpening your Excel skills, gaining some basic knowledge of HTML, or maybe doing an introduction to business, marketing or accounting. It’s a great opportunity to build your CV, prove your interest in a particular career area, or try out a new subject. It also shows that you have the initiative and dedication to learn something on your own accord.

Read a few job descriptions for the type of roles you are interested in applying to and see what employers skills they look for. Are there any areas that you feel you can develop to boost your chances of getting selected?

If you attend careers events (see our calendar) you could also ask people working in the area you are interested whether they feel there are any skills that would be particularly useful. These might not necessarily be what you might expect. Journalists for example are required to take more of their own photos to accompany a story, so basic photography skills can be really valuable. Likewise if you are interested in marketing, some basic knowledge of HMTL or data analysis could also be beneficial.

There are a number of free courses that you can do online, many of which often require only 2-4 hours a week of your time:

There are also a huge number of free tutorials available via youtube.

If you would rather learn in a classroom environment, there are a huge number of colleges and adult education centres that offer evening, weekend and short courses in a range of subjects. You might like to browse for opportunities in your area.