5 New Year Career Resolutions

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A new year is a new start: it’s the perfect time to think about what you want to accomplish and to set new goals. Why not use January to reflect on your career ambitions and formulate plans for achieving them?

  1. Follow relevant people and organisations on Twitter: use your social media profiles to develop an up-to-date and comprehensive understanding of the field or fields you are interested in. This can be a source of inspiration and interest, increasing your passion for pursuing your chosen career path. Getting to grips with current issues or debates in the industry is also very useful for answering commercial awareness questions in future interviews (e.g. ‘what do you think is the most important issue currently facing our company’).
  2. Reflect on 2017: why not use January to reflect on the progress you’ve made in 2017? What skills have you developed through your course and your extra-curricular activities? What responsibilities did you take on in your work experience? Did you receive any praise from fellow team-members or from an employer? It’s useful to keep an ongoing record of your accomplishments which you can use as the basis for targeted CVs and job applications in future. Think also about your interests. What motivates you, energises you and interests you? Reflecting on the kind of tasks which you find meaningful and engaging (rather than the sort of tasks which you feel you should be interesting to you) can be useful in making decisions about your career path.
  3. Decide what you want to achieve in 2018: think carefully about what you want to accomplish for your career this year. You could start by looking at the person specifications and job descriptions for graduate and entry-level jobs in the area you’re interested in. Where are the gaps in your CV which you need to fill before you’d be able to apply for these jobs? Then look for ways in which you can fill these gaps, such as work experience placements, QProjects, internships and volunteering. Identifying your goals at the beginning of the year can give you direction and focus.
  4. Make a plan: think realistically about how you will achieve your aims. If your goal is ‘find work experience’, break it down into small, manageable steps.
    E.g.: Step one – research organisations offering summer work experience placements. Step two – start an application for one placement, tailoring your CV and cover letter to the employer’s requirements. Step three: visit the Careers and Enterprise Centre to have the application reviewed. Step four: Revise the CV.Decide when you will work on these career development tasks. Why not set aside a regular time each week? Set yourself deadlines to make sure that you complete everything you plan to.
  5. Brush up on your interview skills: practice is the key to successful interview performance. The more familiar you are with articulating your key selling points in succinct and compelling ways, the more likely you are to be a persuasive interviewee. You might not have an interview coming up, but why not record yourself answering common interview questions (such as ‘tell us about a time when you have demonstrated effective communication skills’)? Then watch the interview back – even if it’s embarrassing! Look at your body language, listen to your tone of voice and think about how specific and concise your answers are. Then work on ways to improve your weaker areas. You could also practice with a friend, and take turns being the interviewer and interviewee. This will give you a new perspective on interview questions.
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Join The StartUp 2018 Volunteer Squad!

start up 2018We’re looking for passionate student volunteers on 13th January to join Enterprise Nation at the most exciting start-up show of the New Year at QMUL.

StartUp 2018 is the UK’s biggest start up show of the New Year for over 2,000 keen entrepreneurs. At this one day event, they will hear from inspiring entrepreneurs and experts who will help the attendees start or grow their own business.

What will I be doing on the day?

You’ll be part of a 50 strong squad of volunteers who will get paid to help direct guests as well as meet and great inspirational speakers. You’ll also help stage manage the logistics of our workshops and main stages to make sure the presenters have everything they need. 

What do I need to apply?

In order to apply, you must be able to meet the following criteria:

  • Be aged 18 or over
  • Be available to work for the event day on Saturday 13th January between 8.00am and 4.00pm  
  • Be personable, outgoing and friendly

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Careers terms explained

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Whether you’re writing your first CV, applying for internships or about to start your first job, you might find there are a lot of terms out there that you’ve never heard of before. So here’s our handy guide to some of the main terms you may come across when it comes to the world of work.

Job Hunting

CV – A CV is a tailored document matching your skills and experience to a particular job role. You should keep your CV up-to-date in case you need to send it to a recruiter at short notice.

Cover letter – This accompanies your CV as part of an application. As well as introducing your CV, it explains your experience and how it relates to the role, whilst outlining your motivation for applying.

Job description – Advertised vacancies will have a job description, which outlines the tasks and responsibilities involved with the position. It will include the skills that the employer is looking for, which you’ll need to match in your application, any may include information such as salary range and who the position reports to (line manager).

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Graduate story: Paul Webb, QMSU Volunteering Coordinator

paulwebbI graduated from Queen Mary with a degree in Film Studies in July 2017. I started on a joint programme of Film and Drama but switched to single honours Film after first year. I’d never studied either subject before and quickly realised that I was passionate about cinema.

Alongside my studies I worked as a team leader in all three of the cafés run by Queen Mary Students’ Union – The Learning Café and Ground (Mile End) and The Shield (Charterhouse Square). I started my degree when I was 22 so had lots of experience in catering and hospitality. I luckily managed to secure my job at The Learning Café before I started my course. Moving from Newcastle to London, I knew I needed a reliable source of income. The job was extremely convenient and perfect for a student because my managers worked my shifts around my timetable. I developed skills in customer service, staff supervision, time management, prioritisation and lots more, all of which I still use every day. As a student staff member, I was also able to take part in the QM Skills Award which I completed in second year. It offers lots of brilliant free training sessions in transferrable skills like project management, financial planning and cultural awareness. You can find out more here: https://www.qmsu.org/employability/qmskills/

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Completing application forms – common mistakes

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Application Advisor Melisa sees QMUL students from all subjects, and gives them feedback on their applications, cover letters and CVs. Read on for 3 common mistakes and how to avoid them…

Being too generic: a typical question in job applications is why you want to work in that particular organisation. The key to answer this successfully is RESEARCH! (Google is your friend! 😉) Why do you want to work for them and not for their competitors? What has that company done that made you interested in them in the first place? Imagine you are applying for a position within the banking industry – why have you applied to Barclays and not, say, HSBC?

A good technique to check whether your answer is specific enough is to cross out the name of the company you are applying for and write the name of their competitors instead. Does your answer still make sense? If so, then you are being too generic!

Ignoring the job description and person specification: it is really important that you study these (long!) documents in depth when completing an application form as they contain the key elements that you need to focus on. Once you have read them carefully, make a list of the essential requirements for the job. What skills are the employers looking for? Can you think of specific examples to back up your claims?

Language: Keep it straightforward and simple. Avoid contractions and clichés. Focus on how your experience and skills make you a suitable candidate for the post and explain clearly why the company appeals to you. “It would be my greatest honour to work in this world-renowned company” is something to avoid!

Melisa, Application Advisor

“Why do you want to work for us?” Demonstrating your motivation in application forms

Many job applications will include a question about motivation: a question that asks about why you want to work for a company, or what you think you will get out of doing a particular role.

It’s important to understand that when you write about your motivation, the employer will want specific reasons. Avoid generalisations such as “I want to work for your highly-esteemed company”, or “I have always been passionate about customer service”.

Imagine that you are the employer. What kinds of questions might you have when reading about an applicant’s motivation?

Here are some ideas:

  • Have you read the job description? The employer wants to know that you understand what the job entails and what tasks or activities you would be doing on a day-to-day basis. They may also expect you to show that you understand how this job role fits into their wider organisation, and even the wider sector. Make sure you acknowledge what you would be doing in a job when you talk about why you want to apply for it.
  • Are your expectations of the job realistic? Show that you understand what the reality of doing the job would be like, and that you have the key skills to cope with its challenges. One of the best ways to show that you understand this is by talking about your past experience, and the ways in which it might compare to this new role. Lay out the relevant skills you gained from this experience that you can bring to the job.
  • What are you career goals? Most employers are interested in investing in your future, and so they want to understand what goals you have for your career. Be realistic, and think about what your plan for the next three years will involve. Convince the employer that you will make the most of this job, and explain why it will help you to develop your longer-term career within this sector or company.

Remember, we offer 1-2-1 appointments where we can give feedback on your application. Call 020 7882 8533 to book.

Student story: My first assessment centre group exercise practice

Nadim1Nadim Ahmed, second year BSc Accounting and Management student, recently attended the Grant Thornton group exercise practice. He tells us more about his experience below…

What happened?

We were given an assignment brief which outlined the objectives of the project and the main questions we were required to answer; this was supplemented with theoretical data. Then we were given 30 minutes to discuss the case study together and prepare a short five-minute presentation and discuss our answers with colleagues from Grant Thornton.

How useful was the experience you had?

We were all given one-to-one feedback, and I believe this was very important and has highlighted attributes and skills which I demonstrate clearly and also highlighted areas where I could potentially improve. Overall feedback was very positive and has boosted my self-confidence.

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