Careers Taster Scheme 2017

On 15th March the Careers Taster Scheme 2017 drew to a close, marking the end of almost two months of eye-opening career experiences for 138 Queen Mary students.

For those unfamiliar with the scheme, now in its second year, this is how it was structured:

  • 8 businesses took part, each hosting an afternoon insight session at their offices.
  • 138 competitively selected students chose their preferred employers, with each attending 3 – 4 insight sessions between January and March 2017.

Why do it?

How do you really know what it’s like to work at PwC? How can you really see if a digital marketing team would be a good fit for you? You can read a job description from back to front, you can scan a company’s website all day long, but to get a complete picture of what it’s like to work there, you need to visit. Employer insight sessions breathe life into your career choice.

How does it work?

The Careers Taster Scheme aims to widen student career choice by providing employer visits across different sectors.

Each CTS session lasted for between two and four hours. Employers presented to the attending students, giving them an overview of how the company works and how they might fit in. Often the employers would use a number of different speakers to highlight the variety of job roles available. In most cases the employer also incorporated an interactive game designed to illustrate the work they undertake – Liberty Specialty Markets did this particularly well, using a game to highlight how they price complex risks. Perhaps most importantly of all, students were able to see the office space in person, and in most cases were given a short tour of the premises.

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Guest blog: A role in the construction industry

james_purdie_-_photoHello, my name is James Purdie and I am currently working through the graduate scheme at Turner & Townsend, working as a Cost Manager based in the London office. I joined Turner & Townsend in August 2015 after completing my degree in Quantity Surveying at Edinburgh Napier University. I had taken an interest in working in the construction industry during a work experience placement at high school and a family history in this field which gave me an opportunity to see the many different roles available.

My first role upon joining Turner & Townsend was working on Crossrail, based at Tottenham Court Road Station, helping manage the costs of design changes, cost estimating and reporting of periodic cost analysis. This was a great opportunity for me to immediately gain valued experience straight out of university, being able to work on the largest infrastructure project in Europe. I am currently a member of the Cost Assurance team performing audits for clients in the UK rail sector. This involves producing reports which help our clients understand where they may be exposed to overpaying contractors and giving them a better understanding of the way the project information is being captured and managed.

In addition to my day to day role, I am also involved in some of the broader initiatives at Turner & Townsend. For example, I am involved in our YPF (Your Professional Future) recruitment team where most recently, I have taken part in a delivery focussed exercise with graduates from another organisation in the industry, discussing the possibility of a combined service offering and identify opportunities for our combined service. 

My advice to people interested in developing a career in the construction industry would be to obtain as much work experience as possible; even aiming to gain a week in the summer break can give you contacts with organisations and promote your interest in the industry which future employers will recognise. I would also recommend aiming to gain experience in a variety of different roles to allow you to understand how they all connect on a particular project and also help you define where you would like to work in the industry.

For more information about a career in the construction industry, see the Prospects website.

Guest blog: From Law to Tax Consultancy

Ross Markham0561Ross Markham, 29, is a Consultant in Deloitte’s Global Employer Services. He joined Deloitte in September 2014 having studied Politics and then Law. He advises organisations who have a global footprint on all aspects of their internationally mobile employees.

  • Explain your background to coming to Deloitte

In the final year of my undergraduate degree, I secured a vacation scheme at Latham & Watkins, a leading-US law firm. I really enjoyed this experience, and decided to pursue a career in Law by undertaking the GDL and LPC degrees. During the LPC, I undertook a tax module, and seemed to be the only person who enjoyed it! The College then held an alternatives careers to law fair, at which Deloitte were in attendance and spoke about the transferability of legal skills to a career in Tax. I was really impressed by the similarities between careers in Law and Tax (i.e. prestigious clients, opportunities to travel, working alongside market-leading practitioners) and so applied for the graduate scheme. My law background really held be in good stead throughout the application process, as I was confidently able to talk about tax legislation and case law, which underpin everything that we do in Tax.

  • What skills gained from your Law studies have you found to be most transferable to Tax?

I use my legal skills on an almost daily basis, whether it is analysing employment contracts, drafting policies, interpreting legislation or liaising with HMRC to resolve a dispute. Being a lawyer by training has also given me strong attention to detail, which clients really value.

Furthermore, being able to construct a sound and structured argument, and then being able to verbalise or write that argument, is a really useful tool to convince others and bring them around to your way of thinking.

  • What have you accomplished?

I have been on a six-month secondment to one of the world’s largest insurers, where I worked with their in-house team to stabilise their Global Mobility program. I was also on a pitch team alongside a Partner and Director where we won a leading client for a major project.

  • What is the most exciting part of your role?

I work in a small consulting team, where we work on a variety of projects advising organisations with international employees about the tactical and strategic implications of having a global footprint. This means that I work with clients from a range of industries and with varying problems. Consequently, no two days are the same – I could be advising a Financial Services company on the soundness of their employment contracts one day and running a strategy workshop in the Netherlands for a Consumer Business client the next.

  • What has surprised you most about working at Deloitte?

Not a surprise as such, but it is genuinely been a pleasure to work alongside the most eminent people in their fields in the world. This means I have never stopped learning and genuinely find what I do interesting.

Guest blog: Life as a Patent Attorney

stephanieI am training to become a Chartered (UK) and European patent attorney at Kilburn & Strode LLP at our offices near Holborn.  I have a background in physics and previously worked in research and peer review publishing before joining the profession.  

Patent attorneys work with individuals and companies to help them protect their innovations and developments, principally in the form of inventions. The role is unique, and not only requires a technical background usually in the form of a science or engineering degree, but also specialist legal knowledge and a commercial mindset. It takes a number of years of on-the-job training and several professional exams before one can become a registered patent attorney. Most trainee patent attorneys work in private practice, however there are other options such as training in industry or in a government department. Ultimately, a patent attorney aims to provide a service to a client or to an employer by advising on, obtaining, and maintaining intellectual property rights. This involves a good understanding of the client and their business such that balanced measures can be taken in light of commercial decisions.

To train, you will usually need an undergraduate degree in a scientific or engineering discipline, and many firms require a classification of at least a 2:1. This strong grounding can help ensure you have the adequate analytical skills required to quickly understand relevant information across a wide range of technologies. There is no requisite legal knowledge as this is built upon during training.  

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Guest blog: Becoming A Teacher – The Facts


Thinking about going into teaching? It’s a fantastic, noble career with great prospects for those who stick with it. Let’s look at some of the facts.

You’d be in demand

Teachers are like Tangfastics – there are never enough to go round. If you’re a teacher wannabe, the laws of supply and demand are working in your favour. In today’s dismal graduate job market, that’s nothing to be sniffed at.

The problem – or, in your case, advantage – is particularly strong in scientific fields. Statistics from UCAS show that the numbers of people applying to teach STEM subjects – that’s Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths, ICT etc. – fell between 2016 and 2017. And, of those that are in current employment as STEM teachers, only six in ten possess relevant post-A Level qualifications. So if you’ve got a science degree, you’re already at a huge advantage in the teaching field.

It’s rewarding…

You don’t need an article to tell you that teaching is one of the most rewarding careers out there. Nurturing, tutoring and half-raising humans – humans who will go out into the real world and make up the next generation – is the one of the greatest callings there is.

Teaching gives you the change to make a difference – hopefully a positive one. In many cases, you are responsible for large portions of a student’s education; their future prospects, views and ideals rest in your hands.

Education offers numerous other, obvious benefits. For those who enjoyed the rigour and structure of school life, going back to it can be a relief from the chaos of the outer world. And in no other profession will you get a two month summer holiday, reliably, year on year.

… but its also really hard

Despite all these benefits, record numbers of teachers are leaving the profession. In 2016, schools reported that a record 9.5% of staff had departed in the last year. But why?

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A career in genetic/genomic counselling


Are you are studying a pure or applied science degree that contains genetics modules?

Would you prefer to work with people rather than test tubes?

If the answer is yes to both of these questions, then you might like to consider genetic counselling, or genomic counselling as it is now known, as a career.

I am a Freelance Careers Consultant but was a Genetic Counsellor for eight years from 1999 – 2007. I will attempt to describe some of the aspects of the job as well as the skills and the type of personality that would suit the role. Advice about training, entry requirements, pay etc. can be found on the Health Careers website.

A Genetic Counsellor supports families and individuals that are affected by, or at risk of, genetic disease. In the past, the role mainly focussed on families with single gene defects such as Huntington’s disease, Cystic Fibrosis and inherited cancers. However, as our knowledge of genetic disease increases, the future role will increasingly focus on supporting individuals and families affected by multigenic/multifactorial disease and disease susceptibility; hence the name genomic counselling.

The role involves an element of education e.g. explaining why the risk of having a child with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is 1 in 4 to a couple that have both been found to carry the CF gene mutation. It also contains a significant amount of counselling e.g. helping a woman that has been found to carry a mutation in one of the breast cancer genes, to decide whether prophylactic mastectomy is the right option for her.  

As a Genetic Counsellor, your role is not to advise people on the best option; it is to offer unbiased information, outline options and support individuals and families in their personal decision making. If you have strong opinions about issues such termination of pregnancy or prenatal testing, for example, genetic counselling might not suit you; you will need to withhold your own views in an attempt to support people making choices that will impact on their life. To help improve your skills in this area, you are taught a ‘non-directive counselling approach’ as part of the training.

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Guest blog: Busting the myths of working in a startup

clickmechanicphoto-minAustin Tran is the marketing assistant at a London based digital startup, called ClickMechanic, which enable users to quickly and easily get their car repaired, since their founding in 2012.

Here, Austin busts some common myths around working for a startup…

  1. You need to have a degree in Computer Science
    It’s true that many startups are tech focused, and there is certainly a shortage of developers (though not just in the startup world). However, scaling a business requires not just building a great product, but actually selling it. There a multitude of roles available in startups where you will pick up new skills along the way.
  1. You will just pour coffee
    Working in a startup can be intense, the team is relying on you to perform in order to grow the business. This means that you’ll have much more responsibility at a startup than in a corporate environment. You’ll be asked to job straight in from day one, often to do things that you don’t know how to. Whilst this responsibility can seem daunting at first, this is often one of the main reasons given for high job satisfaction in startups.
  1. Work-life balance
    Since you and your team will be trying to achieve great things with few resources in a fraction of the time it should take, you should be prepared to graft. Prioritisation is key to managing your workload, but the occasional late night or day at the weekend to finish a project is inevitable. The saving grace is that working hours tend to be more flexible, which can suit those who prefer to work late than face early mornings!
  1. Your job title is your destiny
    When you’re hired by a startup, you’ll be given a job title; don’t think this is all you’ll do. You’ll be tasked with whatever needs doing rather than what fits under your role. This means one day crawling through spreadsheets and another out delivering flyers! The variety of work in a startup can save you from the boredom that leaves you banging your head against your desk at the end of the day.
  1. You get Google style perks
    The startup world is associated for great benefits, with offices branded as campuses, and free massages. These tend to be the exception rather than the rule. Most startups aren’t flush with cash, and so your perks are more likely to be free beer in the office on a Friday evening than free health insurance and gym membership.

In conclusion
Working in a startup certainly isn’t for everyone, you need to be prepared to be taken outside of your comfort zone, work hard and learn fast. You’ll end up working harder for less pay than some of your friends in corporate jobs, but your work will be varied, you’ll learn a whole host of new skills and get to share in the achievements of your company. It can be an incredibly rewarding career choice, especially early on in your career.