Final year student? No career plans yet? Don’t panic!

With Easter now a dim and distant(ish) memory and exams drawing closer by the day, final year students from all degree disciplines will be starting to focus on the big event that is graduation day. And yet this day of celebration – of marking years of hard work and commitment – may appear a little less joyous if uncertainty remains over “what happens afterwards”.

The truth is that for every undergraduate who has their career plans all sewn up, there will be others who, perhaps, haven’t got around to thinking that far ahead yet. Such is the reality of university life that whilst we know it is a good idea to start planning for the post-graduation years early, the pressures of studying, of meeting deadlines, of needing to juggle part-time work with study, means that longer term career plans are not always priority number one.  So what can you do about it?

Don’t be shy!

At this time of year it is incredibly common for our careers consultants to be meeting final year students for the first time. We know that these students can find it intimidating to admit they are feeling a bit stuck this close to graduation, but we are here to help and we work non-judgementally. We can promise you that you won’t be the first (or the last) student to meet us in these circumstances. An appointment can be a really useful opportunity for you to talk things through and discover your options, whether you already have a vague idea of the area you want to work in, or whether the whole job market still baffles you entirely. A careers appointment is often a first step in the right direction.

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What 2 do with a 2.2

Congratulations to everyone receiving their exam results from QMUL; well done! Some of you might have faced the disappointment of just missing out on a 2.1, and are now left wondering what your future looks like with a 2.2. The first thing to remember is that a 2.1 isn’t a ticket straight into a dream job. Neither, on the other hand, is a 2.2 a life-long barrier to it.  Getting a 2.2 might be a disappointment and it might mean having to re-think your options, but it doesn’t mean automatic exclusion from a fulfilling career.

You have options …

You may be surprised to discover that the vast majority of employers are flexible in the grades they require because they’re more concerned with your personality, skills and experience. Remember, academic grades are not everything and you can certainly compensate for them in other areas.

There will of course be several immediate options that aren’t open to you, but just from taking a quick look at this Target Jobs article, you’ll see there are a number of graduate schemes accepting 2.2 degrees. It could be that when you apply to these schemes, the rest

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It’s Results Day!

Today is the day, undergraduates (excuse me, graduates now!), when you find out the results of all your years of hard work. And here at Careers we wanted to say congratulations! No matter what your result, you should feel proud of what you have achieved.

If you have a job lined up already well done you! And if you haven’t, don’t panic. We can help. We are open throughout summer, so you can come in and get your CV looked at and talk to a Careers Consultant about what you want to do next. Even if you didn’t do as well as you hoped to in your degree, we can still help you to figure out your options. Take a look at our website to book an appointment: www.careers.qmul.ac.uk/book.

Oh and as a graduate of QMUL you’ll still have access to our services for another two years. Because we’re just nice like that.

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An uncertain future – finishing your degree and not sure what to do?

If you are approaching the end of your degree and you don’t have a clear idea about your future career, then here are a few words of advice and reassurance.

You are not alone.

Your friends may all be sorted with jobs or be going on to postgrad courses, but it is very common for graduates to take quite a while to establish themselves. Even when the economic climate is not as tough as it is at the moment, a significant proportion of graduates find themselves unemployed or under-employed in non-graduate level jobs. Quite a few of those who do get graduate jobs will end up feeling dissatisfied with their career choice and may seek to change their career.

Research on people who graduated in previous recessions shows that they often have a lot more difficulty at the start of their careers, but that they catch up eventually if they take the right approach.

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Resist the ‘lazy’ options.

Many graduates slip into postgraduate study almost by default. Doing a masters can be a great idea if you are passionate about the subject or you know that it will definitely open access to particular career areas. However, if you undertake further study as a delaying tactic, you could be sending a message to future employers that you lack motivation to work.

Similarly, just carrying on with the same job you have had through your studies can be a bit of a trap. Unless you are taking on new responsibilities, you might be better off trying to find something different. Varied experience will give you opportunities to develop a range of different skills.

It’s very easy to take a less than ideal job as a temporary measure and then find that you are still doing the same thing two years later. Keep reviewing your development. If you are not expanding your skills, move on. Changing jobs more frequently is one way in which those who have graduated in previous recessions have caught up more quickly.

This principle applies particularly to job hunting. Any method which seems to make things very easy is probably not that effective. Good job hunting requires persistence, adaptability and creativity.

Don’t worry about false starts.

Changing career direction is increasingly common for graduates in their first few years of working. It is even possible much later on in your career. If you’re not sure what to do with your life right now, don’t hang around waiting for a magic answer. Be ready to seize whatever opportunities come your way, even if they are not your first choice of career direction.

Whatever you do, put effort into it. Show initiative. Show an interest in the work. Look for ways in which you can add value to the organisation you are working for. Make suggestions. Volunteer for extra responsibility. Even if you decide to change direction at some point, you will have learnt a lot of valuable skills and will have gained some concrete achievements to put on your CV.

Treat everything you do as a learning experience.

People who eventually end up with successful and satisfying careers tend to be quite optimistic. That doesn’t mean that they assume everything will go smoothly. Instead, they take the attitude that whatever happens — even if things go wrong — it’s an opportunity to learn.

If you don’t get the job or the promotion you want, work out what went wrong and do something different next time. If you’re unhappy in your work, figure out what would make you happier and try to move in that direction. Whatever you do, ask yourself the question ‘What have I learnt from this that might be useful in the future?’

If you treat your work in this way, you will be more curious. You will ask more questions, meet more people and uncover more opportunities.

Not everyone has to have a ‘plan’.

Many successful people didn’t have a clue at the start of their careers where they would end up. Real careers are a mixture of luck and effort. Taking the right attitude can increase the likelihood that you notice the lucky breaks when they arrive.

Keep an eye on our events calendar and blog posts for more advice for finalists graduating this summer.

Tips for after graduation

Whether you are in your first year or final year it’s never too early to start thinking about what you want to do when you graduate. This article by The Independent has some excellent advice on life after university including:

  • The need for patience and a thick skin. It can take several applications and interviews to get a job so staying positive and not taking rejection personally is key.
  • Getting a part-time job to keep you going while looking for a more permanent position.
  • Making sure your CV/applications are as good as they can be (come and see our Careers Consultants to double check they are!)
  • That make sure not only your online presence is suitable (no embarrassing Facebook pictures or inappropriate tweets!) and that you make the most of social media in your job hunt.
  • To remember that as a graduate you are not expected to know it all. You are allowed to make mistakes and take time finding your way to the career that’s right for you.

And the point I think is most important – seek advice. If you’re not sure what you want to do or how to do it then you don’t need to struggle alone. We can help with any questions or issues you may have, even if the question is simply ‘I need a job and don’t know where to start’. All you have to do is gives us a phone (020 7882 8533) or come and visit us in the Careers Centre (Queens’ WG3).

Important note for students graduating from QM this year

We hope your exams went well, and wish you all the very best for the future.

Whatever your plans, and before you leave Queen Mary, please be aware of the following (and tell your friends!):

Important Survey

Early in 2012, we will need to get in touch to find out what you  have gone on to do, whether that’s a job, further training, work   experience or travel. The UK government requires all university  departments to conduct this destination survey.

Results affect department rankings, and also (anonymously) inform future students about what they can do with a QM degree.

Please help us locate you later on by taking a minute now to update your contact details.

Then please complete the survey when we call and email you in Jan/Feb 2012. This is really very important to us, even if the job you are in at the time is not where you planto end up.

Continuing To Use QM Careers After You Graduate

If you would like feedback on your CV, a practice job interview, help finding vacancies or deciding what to do next, Queen Mary Careers offers appointments all summer (Queens’ Building,  WG3).

You can continue to use these services for free until July 2013 by joining the QM Careers  GradClub and entering promotional code   QM2011UL.

Keep In Touch With QM – Become A Careers Ambassador

If you’ve secured a job or career path and would like to share your experiences with current students in the future, we would love to hear from you.

Please get in touch via careers@qmul.ac.uk about becoming a Careers Ambassador for QM.

Many thanks – and enjoy your summer!

Emily Huns

Head of Service
QM Careers