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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Erasmus+ Funding for Graduate Traineeships – Application now open for 2017

ErasmusPlus-KA1_traineeships_1Erasmus+ is the EU’s programme for boosting skills and employability through education, training, youth and sport. Queen Mary participates in the Erasmus+ Programme and will supply funding to a limited number of students for a traineeship in Europe.

Students in their final year who are planning on doing a traineeship (internship/work placement) outside the UK but in Europe (see list of Programme Countries) after they finished their studies can now apply for an Erasmus+ grant to help towards their living cost.

This is an excellent opportunity to gain international experience and to give your CV a competitive edge!

Why take part?

There are many reasons and some of them will be personal to you:

  • Gaining and improving a range of skills that are desirable to employers, including communication across cultural boundaries, self-management, independence, confidence, adaptability and self-reliance
  • Developing a global and cultural outlook, a quality highly sought-after by current employers
  • Building up a network of valuable contacts
  • Improving your (existing) language skills

How and when to apply?

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5 quick interview tips

handshake-2056023_960_720So, you’ve been offered an interview – congratulations! But how do you start to prepare? Research from CV Library suggests that 87% of UK workers research the company before an interview, 43% practise common interview questions, and 43% also prepare a smart outfit.

We’ve pulled together 5 quick tips to help you get started:

  1. Do your research – explore the company’s website and find out what they do, where they’re based and who their competitors are. You could take a look at their social media profiles or look at recent news articles to gain an understanding of what’s happening in the sector. See our recent blog from Careers Consultant Gill for further advice on how to research a company.
  2. Re-read the job description – it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the role you’ve applied to. After all, it could be a while since you filled out that application form. Make sure you understand what skills and experience the employer is looking for, as it’s likely you’ll be asked about this at your interview. Don’t forget to re-read your CV too!
  3. Book a mock interview – we run 30 minute face-to-face mock interviews where you can practise your interview technique and answer questions relevant to the role you’re applying to. These run throughout the week, so call us on 020 7882 8533 as soon as you have been offered an interview, and we can book you in. Please note that you do need to have an actual interview lined up in order to book one of these appointments.
  4. Practise common interview questions – try our online interview simulator (middle of top row) and browse a range of commonly asked questions, and read helpful do’s and don’ts. For each question, there’s also a short video from a recruiter outlining exactly how to ask the question.
  5. Make sure you’re prepared on the day – check your interview confirmation and remind yourself of exactly where you need to go (why not go take a look before the day?), who you need to speak to and allow plenty of time in case of transport issues.

For more information on interviews, see the Knowledge Bank on QMPlus – good luck!

Master’s: Balancing work and studies

My name is Natasha and I am currently undertaking MA History – Medieval and Renaissance pathway at QMUL; I also took my BA in Medieval History at QMUL. Additionally, I work part-time for Careers & Enterprise as an Employer Engagement Assistant. Below are my thoughts on working and studying part-time.

Balancing work & studies

After some deliberating, I decided to study for my Master’s degree part-time. I knew that I had to find a way to support myself financially, particularly if I wanted to stay living in London; but I knew that studying full-time and working part-time wasn’t the best idea. I did not see any point in rushing through my studies and not giving it my all as working would inevitably be an obstacle – and even now, balancing work and studies is difficult. It is very important to plan your time wisely: make sure that on the days that you aren’t working, you have a study plan for what you want – and need – to achieve on those days when you are focusing solely on your Master’s. Sometimes this isn’t easy, particularly if you cannot find the motivation, or you have a day where you turn up no results – but persevere and take the time to re-charge your batteries, it is certainly easy to over-do things.


Which leads me nicely to the challenges. Trust me when I tell you that your work/life balance will take a real dip. When I am not working, I use my ‘free’ time to study, and this means that I find it hard to stay in contact and socialise with friends and family. This really is something to be aware of as you, as well as them, will feel isolated. But, by planning your time effectively, it is entirely possible to give yourself a few hours off to let your hair down – and this is essential, particularly for your own well-being.

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National Minimum Wage increasing from April 2017

pound-414418_960_720By law, employers are obliged to pay employees a National Minimum Wage, which is the minimum hourly rate a UK worker is entitled to, depending on your age and whether you are an apprentice. These figures adjust every year based on other economic changes.

National Minimum Wage will increase on 1st April 2017, moving further towards the Government’s promise of a minimum hourly wage of £9 for over 25s by 2020.

The new rates from April will be:

  • £7.50 (National Living Wage) – 25 years old and over
  • £7.05 per hour – 21-24 years old
  • £5.60 per hour – 18 – 20 years old
  • £4.05 per hour – 16-17 years old
  • £3.50 for apprentices under 19, or 19+ who are in the first year of apprenticeship

To learn more about your entitlement, visit

If you are affected by any of these changes, and need further support, visit Queen Mary’s own Advice and Counselling Service:

Student story: Merott Movahedi

merottMerott Movahedi is a senior software engineer at CompareTheMarket, part of the Marketing IT team, responsible for updating and maintaining the content management system of both and He graduated from QMUL with an engineering degree in 2010, and shares his story below.

When I was a child, I wanted to become an adult, finish studies, and go to work, so that I wouldn’t have to study anymore… Such naïve thinking!

Just over 10 years ago, my mum and I left Iran and moved to the UK so that I could build a better life here. I was 17 years old, and I couldn’t even speak English beyond very simple phrases, so the first thing I had to do was learn English. I studied English for about 9 months, before I started my Bachelors studies at QMUL. Following three years of university studies, I graduated in 2010, and immediately started working full-time.

Despite my childhood hopes, working full-time hasn’t meant that I’ve stopped studying or learning. I don’t take exams any more (I hate exams), but I continue to learn new things every day. If you want to be successful, you’ll want to study and learn for the rest of your life, more so than you did during school or university. When you’re a junior on the job, you’ll be mentored and guided by your more senior colleagues. When you become more senior and experienced, you’re expected to mentor and support the new juniors, for which you must learn first. You’ll be expected to share knowledge and help your senior colleagues too.

Knowledge sharing, mentorship, learning and development will always be around, and are applicable to every field of work. Whether you intend to set up your own business, work in a startup, or in a massive corporation, you’ll be continually learning and improving yourself while helping others. At QMUL, you have a massive opportunity to give yourself a head start in that direction.

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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.