All about apprenticeships

  • Did you know there are apprenticeships available in sectors including accountancy, engineering, IT and journalism, for example? Despite what you may think, they aren’t just for ‘learning a trade’.

  • Did you know that some apprenticeships even allow you to work and study towards a degree?

If you decide university isn’t right for you, it could be worth exploring apprenticeships, and there are a range of exciting opportunities available that you might not have previously considered. They enable you to start working and earn a wage while you learn key skills and gain the qualifications that future employers are looking for. 

Degree level apprenticeships involve working a minimum of 30 hours per week and gaining practical industry experience, whilst studying a Bachelors or Master’s degree at a partner university.

A Higher Apprenticeship is available to anyone with A-level qualifications, and provides workplace training, a salary and leads to a national qualification.

You can find a helpful overview of how apprenticeships work on the UCAS and Prospects websites. Prospects has lists of employer who offer apprenticeships in Engineering, Business and Law. If you are interested in applying to any of the employers listed, you could look on their websites for further information about what they offer and how to apply. Also, see here for a helpful overview of industries that offer apprenticeships.

So, where can you find apprenticeships?

The Government portal lists a range of opportunities (www.gov.uk/apply-apprenticeship) but you could also try the following …

www.notgoingtouni.co.uk/apprenticeships-223

www.ratemyapprenticeship.co.uk/search/jobs

www.apprenticeshipguide.co.uk/apprenticeship-vacancies (vacancies are pulled through from the Government portal above, but there is plenty of useful information on the site)

There are also companies that put students in touch with employers – like recruitment agencies. You could find these with a Google search, e.g. for IT and Technology apprenticeships, you could try www.archapprentices.co.uk

There may be funding available, depending on your circumstances. For more information, see www.gov.uk/career-development-loans or www.gov.uk/advanced-learner-loan/eligibility.

If you are considering leaving your course and would like to talk through your options, call 020 7882 8533 to book a 1-2-1 appointment with a Careers Consultant. Also see our updated handout: Changing or leaving your course

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What 2 do with a 2.2

Congratulations to everyone receiving their exam results from QMUL; well done! Some of you might have faced the disappointment of just missing out on a 2.1, and are now left wondering what your future looks like with a 2.2. The first thing to remember is that a 2.1 isn’t a ticket straight into a dream job. Neither, on the other hand, is a 2.2 a life-long barrier to it.  Getting a 2.2 might be a disappointment and it might mean having to re-think your options, but it doesn’t mean automatic exclusion from a fulfilling career.

You have options …

You may be surprised to discover that the vast majority of employers are flexible in the grades they require because they’re more concerned with your personality, skills and experience. Remember, academic grades are not everything and you can certainly compensate for them in other areas.

There will of course be several immediate options that aren’t open to you, but just from taking a quick look at this Target Jobs article, you’ll see there are a number of graduate schemes accepting 2.2 degrees. It could be that when you apply to these schemes, the rest

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How to negotiate a starting salary

handshake-1205055_960_720 (1)Salary negotiations can be a confusing and ambiguous process for any working professional. Thankfully, many graduates will be able to avoid this process completely as it is common for trainee schemes, in particular, to have set and non-negotiable employment terms. However, there are times when a company may ask you to set your own salary expectations. Most typically this will occur either with vacancies within smaller organisations or if you are using recruitment consultants to aid you with your job search. In these circumstances it is best to be prepared for this question should it arise.

Clarify what you can upfront

While detailed discussions around salary are often best left to a point later down the recruitment process, there is no point spending time on a potential opportunity where your salary expectations are clearly out of line with what they are prepared to give. Most companies will be very upfront about the salary, or salary range, on offer and it will be stated on the job advertisement. But if it isn’t, it is wholly acceptable for you to try and pin them down on this. If you are working through a recruitment agency, this is a fairly straightforward discussion for you to have with them. It gets a little more tricky if you have approached the organisation directly, but speaking to (or emailing) HR should bring you some clarity. If they won’t give you a direct figure you can always trying approaching them by saying “my salary expectations are around the x mark – can you let me know if this is in line with what is on offer?”

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Career myths – let’s do some busting!

It’s confusing world out there, with so many mixed messages about careers and the world of work. Let’s look at some of the most commonly spoken career myths and discover the truth behind them.

“The earlier you decide on your choice of career, the better.”

Not necessarily. While it may appear to give you a ‘head start’ over others, that is no use if the choice isn’t the right one. What is most important is that you conduct thorough research to enable you to make the best choices for your future. Getting a range of exposure across a number of industries, whilst at university, may help you discover which is right for you. And don’t forget that these days it is common for people to change careers several times throughout their working lives, perhaps as their own needs and circumstances change.

“Your career should be directly relevant to your degree or university was a waste of time”.

Wrong! A degree isn’t a vocational training programme (although, in some cases, it may carry professional qualifications with it). It’s an academic qualification which shows your ability to learn whilst developing a whole host of useful transferable skills such as research, communication skills, critical thinking etc. Additionally, university provides a unique environment in which to bolster your transferable skills whilst also exploring different career options. This is why the majority of graduate employers do not specify a particular degree discipline from their applicants and prefer, instead, to draw from students from a diverse range of academic backgrounds.

“The best careers are those that pay the most.”

To some people, yes, to most people, no. There are always going to be people who are more money motivated than others and for these people a high salary is going to be important. But let’s not forget that there is usually a big pay-off for a fat pay cheque. These jobs often involve insanely long hours and a lot of responsibility and pressure. If that doesn’t drive you then think about what’s important to you – do you need a job that helps other people/has professional respect/is intellectually challenging? Aligning your career with your own set of work values should help ensure that you find the best job for you in the longer term.

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Not sure what to do after Uni? Got 15 minutes?

If you’re unsure what you’d like to do after your studies, it can often be hard to know where to start with your job search. However, there are some great online tools available which may be able to help you, in just 15 minutes!

Prospects and Target Jobs both have interactive career planners which can help you generate job ideas, compare different career pathways and relate job roles to your skills and interests.

https://www.prospects.ac.uk/planner

https://targetjobs.co.uk/careers-report

You’ll need to register to use these, but the sign up process is very quick (Target asks for a bit more information around areas of interest).

So how does it work?

Both are interactive questionnaires which match the information you provide to occupations and current job opportunities. Prospects breaks sections down into First Steps, Skills, Motivations and Desires, whilst Target Jobs covers similar areas under the heading Interests & Preferences.

On both sites, you’ll be given a number of statements, such as I am able to negotiate with people, for which you’ll need to select a response from the options provided (along the lines of I do this very well or I am not good at this). The idea is to build up a picture of your strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to answer honestly.

Prospects requires you to select your responses from a dropdown box for each statement, whilst Target Jobs has a more colourful interactive design, with a simple scale from 1 to 5, and later a drag and drop system based on your answers. They’re both really easy to use.

Once you’ve completed these sections, you’ll be presented with your results. Prospects will show you your top 10 job matches, ranked by an overall percentage score. For each of the sections you completed, you’ll see how closely you matched with each job role and can then view a full job profile which includes the main responsibilities, qualifications required, career prospects and where to find vacancies.

Target Jobs offers you a list of suggested job roles, with a link to each full job profile. You then need to mark whether you’re interested (or not) in each role, and it will populate a list in order of preference. From here you can save jobs to your library to come back to at any time.

How will they help me?

These tools are a great place to start to get you thinking about your career path, particularly when making your first move after your studies, as they can open your eyes to a whole world of opportunities that perhaps you didn’t know even existed. Importantly, this exercise also gets you thinking about what you aren’t so keen on too.

There’s lots to consider when choosing a career, so it’s well worth trying out both sites – it will be interesting to see if your results vary! Whilst they’re both similar tools, there are differences in the questions asked which might give you more things to consider. Hopefully you’ll find some great careers ideas, but it’s important to remember that the process of questioning and evaluating your own skills and experience can be incredibly useful, regardless of the results.

So what next?

If these tools inspire you to find out more, then feel free to book an appointment with a Careers Consultant to discuss your options further, by contacting the Careers & Enterprise Centre: http://www.careers.qmul.ac.uk/about/book/index.html

The root of all evil? What you need to know about graduate salaries

Bag a degree and grab a big starting salary.  Right? Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Having a realistic expectation of what you will probably be earning after your degree is important.

There are undeniably rich rewards for the lucky few who nab places on top graduate schemes – those who go into investment banking can earn around 40K mark for example. But at the other end, some graduate roles start at around 15K while Mr or Ms Average Grad can reckon on 20 – 22K or thereabouts.

Economies of scale

Now, while the major companies pay top whack, they also often expect blood in return. While a huge law firm could offer its raw recruits 30K, you would be expected to work long hours into the evening and on weekends. It’s not uncommon, for instance, for large law and finance companies to supply free food to their workers – but with the idea that you will be staying in the office for all of your meals! A high salary is not for 9 to 5-ers.  Routinely working 10 or 12 hour days whittles away not just at your free time but at your hourly rate of pay. Who’s better off?  Someone on a standard 35 hour week for 18K or their pal earning 30K for double those hours?  You do the Maths.

Negotiate to accumulate

There is sometimes some wiggle room on salary.  If they claim it is indeed fixed, then suggest a review after three, maybe six, months.  Relevant experience and/or a high class of degree may also put you up a notch on the scale.  If you’re asked to name your price – start high (but not over the top).  You can always come down, whereas a low opening bid will be gleefully accepted. If you’re not sure how to handle salary negotiations, you can always come and have a chat with a Careers Consultant about it.

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Upwardly mobile

It goes without saying, that the figures quoted are just for starters.  You can (and will) move off the financial bottom rung as long as Time’s winged chariot keeps chugging. It’s worth keeping in mind career progression when making job applications. For example, an SME might not offer as large a starting salary as a big graduate scheme, but promotion could happen quicker.

Know your own worth and your value to your employers and be prepared to say it loud at appraisals.  Modesty is not always the best policy when it comes to upping your pay packet. Statistically women are also less likely to ask for a wage increase then men, so speak up girls! Just remember that you wanting more money is not the same as you deserving more – you will need to show your employer tangible evidence of what you have been doing that justifies you being paid more. So perhaps a certain project you worked very hard on, or an extra responsibility you’ve taken on that goes beyond your job description.

Consider this

Startling though it may seem, there is life beyond the Great Metropolis.  Given that the world and his wife (a.k.a. graduates from the entire UK and beyond) flock here, the London job market can be crowded.  So you may prefer to set your sights on new horizons – Leeds, let’s say, or Liverpool, Letchworth, Llanelli, Lancaster and Leith.  Pay may be marginally lower, but rents and mortgages are appreciably easier to acquire and manage.

More to life

Salary may often be the top of graduates’ lists when they are job searching, but there really is more to career satisfaction than a big pay cheque. I’ve mentioned having to work long hours – is a large salary worth having to miss family occasions and friends’ birthdays? And what about other aspects of job satisfaction like autonomy over your work, feeling like you are making a difference, using your skills and feeling appreciated. In job satisfaction surveys roles to do with horticulture and animals often top the lists (florists for example) despite the uninspiring salaries – usually because of the above factors.

Money?  As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, it often costs too much.

Gill Sharp

Careers Consultant, QMUL Careers & Enterprise Centre

What to do if a graduate scheme isn’t for you

If you’ve graduated this year and were not successful in getting on a graduate scheme then don’t despair. According to this recent article in the Guardian, graduate schemes are not necessarily the key to a happy career future. Apparently, a quarter of all graduates will leave their roles within the first year of starting. The reason? Well, a number of things for different people but essentially it seems to all boil down to the issue of not realising what a certain industry/sector/job role would be like until you are in the thick of it. Feelings of being unsupported, not connecting with the goal or ethos of an organisation and not liking the work culture are all quoted in the article as reasons recent graduates have left their first jobs.

Our advice would be that while it might be a scary time, finishing uni and starting work, don’t rush into anything, and don’t assume a graduate scheme is going to be the best thing for you. If you’re not sure what you want to do, or what type of work environment might suit you best, book an appointment to have a chat with one of our Careers Consultants. One great way to find out whether a sector/job would suit you is to do an internship or find work experience in that industry. Not only will you get exposed to the type of work environment but you will get to talk to people in that industry and find out what they think about their job.

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