Using LinkedIn to develop your network – 4 templates to get you started

linkedin-911794_960_720LinkedIn is an amazing resource. It gives you access to the career history of millions of people around the world, many of whom have similar backgrounds or interests to you. It also makes real the possibility of actually communicating with these people to find out more about what they do now and their career journeys.

All that said, it can be scary and potentially awkward introducing yourself to people you don’t know online.

To help you get started here are 4 easy templates which you can adapt to reach out to people on LinkedIn or via email.

The key principles here are:

  1. Be clear what you’re asking
  2. Get straight to the point

People don’t owe you anything and people are busy but if you can be specific and gracious in your approach there are a lot of people who are happy to oblige (it’s a nice feeling to get asked for your expert opinion).

  1. Contacting Queen Mary alumni

Finding people on LinkedIn who studied the same thing as you (or were in the same clubs/societies as you) is a great basis upon which to strike up a conversation with someone. You automatically have something very concrete in common. So use that to your advantage as shown in this template:

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Hot topics for accounting candidates

pexels-photo-209224At our ‘Working in Accounting’ event earlier this week, Brexit was stated by the panel of accounting alumni and professionals as the hot topic to be discussed at interviews to impress employers.

Interested in a career in accounting? Read on for some more insights from the event …

  • QMUL alumnus Akram Rizvi, who works for Westminster Council as Finance Manager, explained the cost implications of Brexit were vast for the public sector, and the effects on immigration, labour market costs, and changes in laws could potentially lessen investment options in EU banks. QMUL SBM alumnus Roni added that Brexit costs at his employer Acorn will sky rocket.
  • We heard from QMUL alumna Sonia Akhtar, Associate at Grant Thornton, who told us that tax transparency is a hot topic in the tax world, as companies are now under pressure to publish their tax strategy and give full visibility. Sonia studied French & German, graduating in 2015, and her role involves preparing tax returns for her clients. Having languages and a study abroad year, as well as part time work and being a member of the rock climbing society, helped her applications stand out to employers.

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A Day in the Life…

A bit about me

My name is Yun, and I completed my undergraduate degree in Computer Science with Business Management at Queen Mary, University of London, before moving on to London School of Economics to gain my postgraduate degree in Management, Information Systems and Innovation. The four years of studies paid off when I secured my job as an IT Business Management Leadership graduate, and I am now enjoying the corporate life in the Lloyds Banking Group Head Offices.

Yun Seok Lee

What I do on the Lloyds Banking Group graduate programme

There are various graduate schemes available to join, including IT, Digital, Group Ops, Finance, HR, and more. I am on the IT Business Management graduate scheme and this specific scheme consists of four 6-month placements in different parts of Group IT. This ensures you gain the best possible exposure, and fully understand the different roles and teams, and are well experienced to ensure you have the necessary knowledge when you roll off the graduate scheme.

I recently completed my first 6-months in Service Delivery – Infrastructure Projects team in Copley, West Yorkshire, and have re-located to the Bristol Harbourside office (complete with harbour views!) for my second placement in ADM Insurance (Application, Development & Maintenance). The two roles differ in a lot of aspects and I already appreciate experiencing various roles within the bank.

I have gained the right kind of exposure for self-development in my roles. I personally enjoyed the management aspects of IT during university and have, therefore, joined this scheme to further my career in this field, and I have been provided with such opportunities and have enjoyed various aspects of management, including stakeholder, people, time and project management.

But as well as the work, there are other aspects to working in LBG [Lloyds Banking Group]. We are the biggest corporate charity donor in the UK by a considerable margin, and the bank supports its employees to undertake charitable activities. The graduates also have their own charity challenge, and we are currently raising money for BBC Children in Need.

There are also plenty of networking, development and senior leader meeting opportunities throughout the graduate scheme, and I have appreciated time out of the office being a part of these various events and conferences organised by the bank.

What I enjoy the most

I am thoroughly enjoying my life in LBG so far. I have been provided with the perfect opportunities to develop both as a person and as a leader, and both of my managers have also been very supportive and flexible to ensure my own development as a future leader.

But I also enjoy the networking and team working aspects LBG actively provide for the graduates, such as development days and team charity fundraising. Such events bring graduates together and maximises team working capabilities, and the bank ensures that the graduates have plenty of other activities to learn the Group’s values and actively support the wider communities we serve.

What tips I’d give someone applying

Apply with confidence, and just be yourself. Lloyds Banking Group does not just assess you on your academic abilities, but also looks at your personality, your achievements and extra-curricular activities, and other factors. Our aim is to be the “Best Bank for Customers” and “Help Britain Prosper”, so apply and prove you are the perfect fit into LBG and a future leader in the making!

Working at Lloyds Banking Group

Tasleem Patel, a QMUL graduate in Mathematics, Business Management and Finance, tell us what it’s like to work for Lloyds Banking Group.

Tasleem photo

What scheme are you on?

I‘m currently 6 months into my first placement on the Business Management & Operations Graduate Leadership Programme.

What do you do day to day?

I’m working in Brighton on a Customer Operations Change Management programme called CARS (Collections and Recoveries Simplification) which is part of the Group wide End to End Simplification initiative, aiming to simplify the customer to employee journey.

A little bit about the CARS programme: Within LBG [Lloyds Banking Group] there are currently 17 Collections and Recoveries debt management platforms – CARS will consolidate 14 of these systems and simplify the associated processes. It’s an exciting programme as it’s going to have a massive impact on customer experience by delivering a ‘Single Customer View’, enabling any customer to call any agent. It will provide a customer-centric treatment strategy that will make customer contact more effective and efficient.

To enable the transition into a single shared platform a variety of work needs to be undertaken which has been divided into different work streams. I am currently working on the ‘Implementation’ sub team. My time at work thus far has been spent on tracking activities and preparing for the practice migration events in the run up to the actual live migration event. As you can imagine, there is a whole multitude of tasks to complete in preparation for the events. So to give a few examples of task that I do, I have created rotas ensuring there are people available to work in the required roles; I have been preparing an event handbook which has detailed descriptions, including all the information required to understand the activities taking place on events; I have also taken a lead role on the migration events, working up to 14 hours overnight! This has been a great opportunity to showcase my knowledge as there are various senior stakeholders present at these events.

A large chunk of my time has contributed to a big piece of governance work called the ‘Implementation Readiness Review’. This assesses the whole programme’s readiness to hit the target live date. This has involved a great deal of engagement with other work streams on the programme. The document, once complete and signed off by the programme lead, is then approved by various other parties such as Audit, Risk and the central Programme Management office.

Outside of my day-to-day role I am actively involved in the Group’s Diversity and Inclusion Networks; recently I have been working on a project to enable greater diversity in recruitment for the graduate scheme. D&I is a hot topic here at LBG, so it’s exciting to be involved in something that I am passionate about by bringing new ideas to the table that should be implemented in the near future.

What do you like about the Business Management & Operations graduate scheme?

What is special about this specific scheme is that it gives flexibility in offering three different placements over two years. My next placement will be in Group Security and Fraud based in London, a complete contrast to my current placement! The benefit of this is the exposure gained in the different areas in Group Operations giving the potential to build a diverse network. Another element of the graduate scheme is the yearly graduate Charity Challenge, where graduates are teamed up and compete to raise the most amount of money for the chosen charity of the year. For me this has been a highlight as it provides a fun competitive element to the scheme.

Hints and tips for applications:

  • Do your research. As obvious as it seems, preparation is essential! Being prepared will allow you to feel more confident and one way you can do this is by using the Careers service, I would definitely recommend it. I had practice interviews with both Abi and Jeff and they proved to be super helpful- the more interview practice you can get the better.
  • Try and understand where Lloyds Banking Group sits within the industry and what their current focus is.
  • Try to be yourself at interviews and assessment centres, just go for it!

Insight into a career in banking

You often find that no amount of research into an industry is as insightful as hearing about the real life experiences of people who actually work within it themselves. Queen Mary students were given insight into banking and investment roles from industry professionals who were also Queen Mary Alumni.

Attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions and here are a few of the key points that I gathered from some of the responses that were given in regards to pursuing a career in banking.

Internships: Do not underestimate the value of securing an internship. Most banks will hire interns and the majority of graduate roles are filled by their interns. Don’t be selective when it comes to where you apply for an internship or graduate scheme. It could even be a good idea to consider relocating as there may be more opportunities available outside London.

Commercial awareness: as bankers it is important to remain up to date with what is going on in the world of banking and beyond. Employers want to see that you are able to make a valid contribution to their business and that you can actually demonstrate an interest in what goes on within the industry of banking.

Qualifications: financial education is an on-going process – make use of any opportunity to get professional qualifications.

Remain within the market: One of the most damaging things you could do is be out of the market. Make sure you remain in the market as the more gaps on your CV, the more difficult it becomes to get into banking. Employers want to see consistency and that you are actually committed to something. Use work shadowing, placements and temping to avoid gaps and use your network of contacts from previous work experience who may be able to let you know of future opportunities.

Hard work and commitment: a successful career in banking requires a lot of hard work and commitment, be prepared to devote a lot of time and effort into your work.

Managing your reputation: be smart about everything you decide to do. Employers want to know that they are employing people of a reputable character– this includes your online reputation. Don’t be surprised to hear that your future employer may decide to Google you!

For information about future events about finance and other industries see our calendar.

Novlet Levy
Careers Admin Assistant
Queen Mary Careers & Enterprise Centre

Student Story: Getting into the media

Bex CoxBex Coxon, 2012 QM Graduateon Graduated from Queen Mary in 2012 with a BA in English and Drama. A few months on, she is working for the BBC with a view to pursue a career in Media. We caught up with Bex to see how she developed her CV (and herself!) for a career in the media:

You got into working in the media through the BBC Production Talent Pool. What does that involve?

The Production Talent Pool is a scheme run by the BBC that takes on around 100 people and gives them a fast track entry route into a career in Television and Radio Production. Once you’ve got a place, anyone hiring for entry level roles in the BBC has access to your CV. You then just have to wait for the phone to ring. Usually there’ll be a shortlist of PTP candidates for the role and you’ll be invited for a ‘chat’ or interview by them to see if you’re right for the role.

So what is your current job title?

I’m currently a Personal Assistant (PA) to an Executive Producer in BBC Factual. I’m also a Production Management Assistant for all of my Exec’s programmes, so I do odd jobs here and there for Producers, Production Managers and directors like booking meeting rooms, meeting guests and making copies of DVDs/scripts. Day to day, I’m in the office 10am-6pm managing my Exec’s diary and liaising with people such as production teams, talent agents or channel controllers by email or phone to arrange meetings or viewings of his upcoming programmes (that need his input when editing). Sometimes I get to go out on shoots and help with looking after actors or presenters, making teas and coffees; generally helping the day run smoother.

Very busy then! And very competitive – you know as well as we do that media candidates have to really stand out on their CV. How did you make sure your application shone through the competition?

I put a lot of time and effort into my application, as I didn’t have much experience directly related to TV or film. I enjoyed my degree, but most of my time was actually spent getting practical experience outside of my course. I served on the committee of a QM sports team; I was secretary of the QM Theatre Company in my second year and Co-President in my third (and organised an £18,000 Edinburgh Fringe Festival performance run both years running); I volunteered for two years as a steward at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and did regular overnight shifts for the charity Nightline in my final year.

I also completed a 6-month summer internship with an online magazine specialising in mental health and psychology. It was a newly established magazine, and I was asked to interview guests, upload my articles straight to the website, source my own images and go to events/conferences and report for the magazine. I think it’s useful to work for a small team, because you are more likely to be given the opportunity to have some creative input. I had done some travelling and creative writing so I also mentioned that in my application. I fundraised £2000 to go to Malaysia with a charity when I was 17 and organised lots of events for that including a big fashion show. I think events organising/management is always a good skill to include on any application and in whatever capacity. I was also a student ambassador and course rep.

Although I had no direct TV experience, I did have some experience with Youtube and online media. There are loads of editing programmes you can buy/download and teach yourself which I would recommend doing. Photoshop, Final Cut Pro/Adobe Premier/Avid, Excel, Outlook and so on are all programmes that are useful to have under your belt when working in TV/Radio/Multimedia.

You also worked on campus in Ground! Was this experience useful?

Despite fitting it in around everything else, work actually became my relaxing time (where I didn’t have to think about anything else). I started working in Ground near the end of my 2nd year, but I really wished I’d applied as soon as I got to uni! I’d highly recommend getting a part time job while studying – I’m not sure I’d be as confident in facing the world of employment if I hadn’t. Any employment is valuable experience – I operated a mini digger in a church graveyard for my dad one summer – not relevant to what I want to do now, but it certainly showed me what I don’t want to do and that I’m willing to get stuck in and get my hands dirty!

So you had lots of experience, but not directly related to TV. I’m sure lots of students will be relieved to hear that it doesn’t have to be all about direct experience!

While some people who got through did have a great background and experience in TV/Radio/Media production, one had previously been a chef, another primary school teacher – they also had no direct link to TV or Radio.

It’s important to remember that experiences that you think are irrelevant might be crucial to your application! You just have to find the skills in them that can relate to the application. For my job they wanted ‘storytellers’, and I found that experience in storytelling can come in a hundred different forms – including how you write the actual application itself.

But not everyone is successful first time round when they apply to work in media roles. How can people spend time preparing themselves for the application process next time?

Apply for work experience in TV, radio and media. There are tons of placements, and although they’re competitive to get onto they definitely help you decide whether it’s something you want to do as a career. There are also loads of independent production companies out there who are likely to take on work experience/placements/internships – find out who makes the programmes you like and send them an email telling them that you enjoy their work and would like to help out for a week or two – the worst that can happen is they say no or don’t reply. Any kind of media/storytelling experience is useful and shows that you’re creative and ambitious.

Also, watch lots of TV if you want to work in TV, and listen to lots of Radio if you want to work in Radio, and so on! You’re bound to get asked about your favourite programmes at some point, so you need to show that you actually have an interest in that form of media! If you know who you’re going to be interviewed by then make sure you know a bit about them (a simple Google/IMDB search usually gives you some answers!) Come up with loads of programme ideas/formats and try and develop them as far as possible – its cliché but ideas are ‘currency’ in the TV/Radio world and a good idea is a good idea no matter who or where it has come from.

If you don’t get through first time and you know it’s what you want to do, please don’t let it stop you. Try and get some more experience, keep focused and apply next year. There is a lot of work involved, so you have to be able to prioritise – I had to take time off writing my dissertation to prepare for an interview, but it’s about how you make the time up again!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

In 5 years’ time I’d love to be working on shows like Blue Peter, The One Show or Children In Need, either as a researcher or Assistant Producer.  Factual, magazine style shows and documentaries are the programmes I watch the most, so naturally they are where I want to work. I would highly recommend going for jobs in the areas of TV/Radio you watch/listen to the most, you’re already a fan and know a lot about it so it makes sense. My ultimate but unlikely dream would be to become a Blue Peter presenter; I would jump at the chance to be in their shoes even for a day; I can’t think of a more exciting and challenging job. There’s no normal route into a role like that though, so it may always be a pipe dream unfortunately… but you never know!

QM Careers offers a wide range of support for interview preparation and application technique. You can book your appointment by calling 020 7882 8533 or by dropping in – Queens Building WG3.


Student story: Ron likes cakes – a former student’s award winning business

It seems like a long time ago, but the idea for my business started when I was travelling around North America in 2007 after finishing my degree in biology. I stayed at the Californian Farm Sanctuary where the staff looked after sick and abandoned animals taken in from the factory farming industry. Whilst I was there I had to maintain a vegan diet, out of respect for the farm’s ethos. After I left the farm I continued with my vegan diet and when I returned to London I found that I had great difficulty in finding vegan products, especially cake. So I started to bake cakes myself and began to get positive feedback from my family and friends. Following this I decided to set up my own business.

Karen in her kitchen

I set up a basic website in 2009 and starting making orders in my home kitchen. In June 2010, whilst I was in the midst of my MSc in Environmental Consultancy I applied for and won the (KEEN) Knowledge East Enterprise Network test trade funding from Queen Mary and the KEEN live angels pitch. This gave me, and my confidence in the business, a considerable boost as I received positive feedback from impartial people.

After finishing my Masters course I started to work as a contract Business Analyst in order to secure funds to pay off some of my student debt, pay my own bills and to raise funds to set the business up properly. I decided to secure the funds for the start-up myself as I did not want to take out business loans that would accrue interest whilst I was only running the business part time. In July 2012 I gave up full time work and began to look for a workshop business space to rent. In November 2012 I found the new home for Ronlikescakes in North West London, moved in and set forth on the path of running my own business full time.Having shared my journey with Queen Mary along the way the next step was to make sure that Queen Mary students were able to access RonLikesCakes products, so I worked with the Catering department to come up with a range of products suitable for campus.Photo of loaves and cookies

We came up with a great range of fresh fruit mini loaves using juicy granny smith apples, fresh grated carrots and lovely ripe bananas, as well as delicious chewy vanilla, chocolate chunk and raisin cookies and of course not forgetting our amazing dark chocolate rocky roads laced with plump raisins and shards of golden biscuit.

All of the products are of course vegan and some products are also gluten free, so keep an eye out for some mouth-watering cakes on campus!

Read other student business success stories and find information and support about starting your own business on the enterprise pages of our website.