Careers & Enterprise: Who we are

Whether you need help finding a part-time job, writing a CV or cover letter, or preparing for a graduate scheme, we can help.

Where are we?

queensThe Careers & Enterprise Centre is based in the Queens’ building (pic on left) on the Mile End campus, which is number 19 on this campus map.

We’re in room WG3, on the ground floor, near the Octagon and the Student Enquiry Office . From the main entrance, head down the corridor on the left-hand side and follow the signs.

What can we do for you?

We help QMUL students and recent graduates (up to 2 years after you graduate) with anything careers-related, from writing a CV to exploring your options after graduation. A career might seem a long way off if you’ve only just finished your first year, but whatever stage you’re at on your QMUL journey, come and see us! Even if you’ve never even thought about life after university, we’re here to help you …

Appointments with Careers Consultants

We offer 20 minute 1-2-1 appointments with a Careers Consultant, and these appointments can cover any careers query, including: CV & application feedback, finding and applying for jobs, or deciding what to do after graduation.

Job hunting

Whether you’re looking for part-time work or a full-time role after graduation, take a look at our jobs board, Job Online: www.careers.qmul.ac.uk/jobs. This is updated regularly and

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PhDs & Postdocs – How to apply to a job in industry

Dr Tracy Bussoli, Careers Consultant

Part 2: How to apply to a job in industry

  • Make speculative applications

Not all biotechnology companies and contract research organisations have the resources to run formal recruitment processes in the way that large pharmaceutical companies do. It’s therefore worth approaching them even if they are not advertising a job!

Some of the careers sections on their websites will have contact details of where to send the applications, but others may not. If there are no contact details on their website, look at LinkedIn or do some online research to find an appropriate person to send your application to. Here is some information on how to make speculative applications

  • Target your applications

To work out which companies to apply to, explore the various sectors and organisations to see where your expertise and subject knowledge fits.  If you have immunology experience, you may want to look at biotechnology companies that specialise in immunotherapy. A good place to start searching biotechnology companies for various roles is GolgiCareers or on LinkedIn. Once you find a company that aligns with your research or could use your research techniques, put together a CV and cover letter and send it off.

  • How to improve your CV

You will need to think about using a CV format that allows you to highlight the most relevant skills to the particular job you’re applying for. We recommend that you keep a

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Quick CV tips

CV

We hope you’re enjoying the summer break, and making the most of the sunshine! Perhaps you’ve got yourself a part-time job, an internship or are researching graduate scheme deadlines for the coming term.

Whatever your situation, it’s always good to revisit your CV and make sure it’s as up-to-date as possible. If a job opportunity comes up at short notice, you’ll want to have your CV ready to send.

Here’s a few top tips to help you on your way, and remember you can always book an appointment with a Careers Consultant to receive feedback on your CV.

  • Recruiters don’t spend long looking at a CV, so you need to make sure yours is relevant to the role you’re applying for – this means you will need a different CV for each new role you apply for!
  • Read the job description and demonstrate the skills that are required. You should match your CV specifically to each point listed. Not sure what skills you have? See our post on transferable skills for some ideas.
  • See the following articles for key buzzwords and phrases to avoid (unless you can show evidence of these): 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/you-ninja-antony-ladbrook?trk=hp-feed-article-title-publish

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Too many buzz words could be damaging your CV

One of the challenges with writing a CV that will attract an employer’s attention, is trying to impress whilst being clear and concise. It’s all to easy to fall into the trap of using buzz words and jargon filled phrases, which might sound snappy, but could actually be doing your CV more harm than good.

Phrases like ‘strong communicator’ can be vague, empty and meaningless unless backed up by evidence. Use a specific example of when you have successfully demonstrated this skill – if possible backed up with numbers or percentages – to prove and quantify the achievement.

‘A good team player’, ‘highly motivated’, ‘a good problem solver’ and ‘enthusiastic individual’ are other commonly used phrases that have become cliches that can irritate recruiters rather than excite them.

So how do you demonstrate these skills?

The following articles outline some of the key buzz words to avoid, and offer some suggestions for better alternatives – well worth a look.

http://www.theguardian.com/careers/2016/feb/18/a-results-driven-thought-leader-the-cliches-that-kill-your-cv

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/work/10-overused-words-to-banish-from-your-cv-now/

What else do I need to know about CVs?

Check out our recent blog Help! How do I structure my CV? for more information, and remember you can get your CV checked by one of our Careers Consultants – just contact us to book in a 20 minute appointment.

 

Impress and make impact with your job application

Many students worry about their writing skills when it comes to completing job applications. Applications generally require you to write something – an answer to a question or a cover letter for example, and this can be daunting task, particularly if you don’t study an essay-based subject. But even if you write essays all the time for your degree writing in a job application is different – it requires you to adapt your style and write in a different way. And of course all of this is particularly tricky if English is not your first language.

But there are some simple tips which can help you to be more confident about the way you write in your application.

  1. Don’t go over the top

✖ ‘I would be immensely grateful for the opportunity to work for your illustrious and truly exemplary company’

✔ ‘Your company appeals to me because of its team-based culture, which was highlighted to me when I spoke to a Graduate Trainee at the QMUL Careers Fair’

Avoid language which sounds like you’re just trying to flatter the company. Instead, be precise and specific about what the company does well: highlight their accomplishments and, crucially, show that you care enough about them to have done some research about them.

  1. Base your assertions on evidence

✖  ‘I am a highly-motivated team player who puts her best efforts into every task’

✔ ‘I demonstrated high levels of motivation by exceeding sales targets three months in a row in my part-time role at Laura Ashley’

If you just make general statements about yourself, it can be difficult for the reader to work out how accurate these statements are – anyone can say they’re highly motivated. It is more persuasive to back up your points with examples where possible – examples support your assessment of your skills and prove that you have the skills you say you have.

  1. Write confidently, but not arrogantly

✖ ‘I believe that I have good analytical skills and I hope I can contribute them to the company’

✖ ‘I stand head-and-shoulders above the competition due to my unrivalled business sense and comprehensive understanding of the issues facing your company’

✔ ‘I developed strong organisational skills by overseeing the running of seven seminars during the academic year, including inviting speakers, booking rooms and publicising the events.’

Avoid phrases like ‘I believe’, ‘I hope’ or ‘I imagine’. They suggest that you doubt your own ability. At the same time, avoid overstatement – at this stage in your career, no one expects you to know everything or be completely accomplished, and recruiters are likely to be put off by implausible and grand claims about your abilities.

Instead, clearly state the skills you have and then provide specific examples of when you have demonstrated those skills.

  1. Use ACTIVE phrases, not passive phrases

✖ ‘this role allowed me to collaborate effectively with a team of 5’.

✔‘I collaborated effectively with a team of 5’

The second version of the sentence puts the emphasis on what YOU did and accomplished; the first puts the focus on the requirements of the role. This might seem like a minor point, but it’s surprising how much difference it makes over the course of a whole cover letter or answer to a question. Active sentence constructions emphasise what you have accomplished.

  1. Proofread, proofread, proofread

You must read your application carefully a number of times. Recruiters get many applications for graduate jobs – sometimes a spelling or grammar mistake is all it takes for an application to be rejected when the process is so competitive. So don’t rely simply on your computer’s spellchecker, make sure you print out your application and read it on paper. Often mistakes become more obvious when you’re not reading on a screen.

  1. Get someone else to check it

Asking a friend to read over your CV or application can be really beneficial – sometimes a fresh pair of eyes and a different perspective can help you to make really useful changes. If English is not your first language, a native-speaker friend can be particularly helpful in checking your grammar and phrasing. And remember you can also book an appointment in the Careers Centre to receive feedback on your CV.

CV and Application FAQs

CV length: Many students still think that their CV has to be one page long. In fact, unless you’re applying for a job in the financial sector, or you’re applying for positions in the US, your CV should ideally be two pages long. If you’re having trouble filling up two sides, you can book an appointment with an Application Adviser, who can help you make the most of your work experience. Likewise, if you’re applying for a job in finance or in the US, we’d be more than happy to help you condense your CV onto one side.

CV profile: Students are often unsure as to whether they should include a profile section at the top of their CV. The answer is, it’s up to you, although they’re often helpful in terms of ‘briefing’ your prospective employer on what your key skills and experiences are. Always keep a profile short (no more than a few sentences) and limit it to an overview of yourself as a candidate. Remember you can always tailor your CV profile to the job you’re applying for!

Covering letter, first paragraph: Students often have difficulty with that first tricky paragraph of a covering letter. It requires you to state, clearly and succinctly, why you’re the right candidate for the job, what your key skills are, and why you’re a good fit for the company. There’s more about covering letters here: https://qmjobsblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/tips-for-covering-letters-part-1/ and here: https://qmjobsblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/about-to-write-a-covering-letter-read-this-first/, but if you’re struggling with yours, feel free to book an appointment with one of our Application Advisers.

Interview confidence: A more general question that people often ask is how to be more confident in interviews. This requires a belief in your abilities and your suitability for the job – all easier said than done! Ultimately, this is something you’ll become better at the more interview you go to, but in the meantime, the Careers & Enterprise Centre offers free interview training sessions for all students. We’ll run you through a mock interview and give you feedback on your performance. It might be the confidence boost you’re looking for!

Application questions: Students often struggle to answer the questions which are given on online applications. (These are replacing the traditional CV + covering letter format in many sectors.) The truth is, there’s nothing scary about these questions: all they’re looking for is that you can provide evidence for the skills and competencies the position requires. It’s best to follow a structured approach, such as the STAR technique, when answering these questions. You can learn how to use the STAR technique here: https://qmjobsblog.wordpress.com/tag/star-teqnique/

Psychometric tests: Finally, students who are successful in their initial application often find themselves rattled by the prospect of taking a psychometric/numerical test at an assessment centre or as an online exercise. These are very common and are used across a variety of sectors. The good news is that you’re not expected to revise for these tests (they’re supposed to be testing your general ability). However, it’s always a good idea to practice some beforehand – just make sure it matches the type of test you’ll be given, as they do vary.

The Careers & Enterprise Centre has a subscription to a full length practice test, which you can access by registering here with your @qmul email address.

In addition, some of the following links may be useful:

http://targetjobs.co.uk/careers-advice/psychometric-tests/275677-psychometric-tests-what-they-are-and-why-graduates-need-to-know

www.insidecareers.co.uk/career-advice/how-to-approach-a-numerical-reasoning-test/

www.psychometric-success.com/

Some employers also have example tests on their websties. For example see:

www.pwc.co.uk/careers/student/employability/employability.jhtml

Commercial awareness: how do I show employers I have it?

What is commercial awareness?

Commercial awareness is sometimes also referred to as ‘business focus’, ‘client focus’, ‘business understanding’ or ‘passion for business’. Basically it is about having an interest in, and an understanding of, the business world that organisations operate in.

This includes:

  • familiarity with the company (its customers, competitors and suppliers)
  • knowing what is happening in the industry (and how this impacts the company)
  • an awareness of the importance of business issues such as efficiency, cost-effectiveness and client care
  • an awareness of broader economic and global issues such as the current economic climate
  • an ability to see the ‘bigger picture’ and appreciate  external challenges, pressures and opportunities

Why is it important to employers?

Organisations need graduates who can quickly understand the company and their customers, and be able to make good decisions on how best to develop their business. Students may have learned the theory at university, but need to be able to apply this in practice in the real world!

Recruiters will also want to know that you have a genuine interest in the commercial world and in particular they want to know that you are passionate about their business and the industry they work in.

How you do this will depend on the industry that you are applying to. If you want to get into finance then you should follow the financial news and know what is happening in the financial markets. If you want to get into healthcare or medicine then you should know about the changes taking place in the NHS. Interested in teaching? Then you must be aware of the current trends in education. Thinking about journalism, then you should know about the move to multi-format and web journalism… and so on for each industry…

How do employers look for your commercial awareness?

On an application form and at interview, the following type of questions are designed to test commercial awareness:

  • What do you know about this company?
  • What do you know about our competitors? What are the differences between them and us?
  • Who are our clients? What are our main products/services?
  • Tell me about a recent business story that took your interest?
  • What are the greatest challenges facing our sector in the next five years?
  • What changes have there been in our industry recently?

Business / Finance specific questions:

  • How do you keep up to date with what is going on in business?
  • What is the current Bank of England base rate?
  • How many euros would you get today in exchange for £10?
  • What is the FTSE 100? Did the FTSE go up or down yesterday?
  • What was our share price this morning?
  • If we were to open a new office abroad, which country would you choose and why?

At an assessment centre you could be given case studies or business scenarios, where you would be asked to analyse and make recommendations on how you would tackle particular business situations.

Employers would assess how you interpret data, consider risk and financial implications, offer creative solutions and make sensible recommendations. These exercises could be done individually or as part of a team (where they would also be looking at your team working skills).

How can I develop my commercial awareness?

The first step is to read the company’s website thoroughly. Check the ‘news’ and ‘about us’ pages, as well as the sections for clients, potential clients and staff. Review their annual report. Find out the size of the workforce, the turnover and profits of the company, its share price and key activities which interest you. Know who the organisation’s competitors are.

Keep up to date with business news. The business section of the major broadsheet newspapers should cover most of the information you need. The FT and the Economist will be essential if you are applying for a research/analysis role.

One student told me that she found it initially difficult to follow the FT.  So she would read a financial news story on the BBC website first to understand the background information, and then read the version in the FT to get more in-depth details.

Don’t leave this research until you get invited to interview. You could be asked a question about current affairs from 6 months to a year ago. Try building keeping up with the news into your weekly routine (this could be a good New Year’s Resolution!). Think about how what you read may directly (or indirectly) effect the organisations you are applying to.

Read specialist magazines and industry related blogs and follow relevant people on Twitter to keep up-to-date with developments in the relevant sector. An internet search such as ‘marketing industry blog for graduates’ is a good place to start, as once you have found one you like, it will often recommend or link to others that are useful. You can also ask people from the industry who you might meet at events / through online networking how they would suggest you build your industry knowledge (see our other blog posts about networking for tips on this).

Don’t underestimate your own work experience. You may have done part time retail work to earn some extra money, but this can also be used to gain an insight into business. What are the good and bad points about the business? Who is its target market? Who are its main competitors? How would you improve the company’s image or profitability?