Student story: My QMentoring experience

iqraEarlier this year, we featured a guest blog from Sandeep Saib, who is part of our QMentoring programme. This week we hear from Sandeep’s mentee Iqra and what she has learnt from the experience.

When I started my first year of University, I realised that the next few years were crucial in building my skill set, knowledge, and experience in order to succeed in the field of work upon graduating. Coming from an unskilled family background, and attending a struggling state school, meant that I had very little insight or training for my future profession as a solicitor. Although I knew what steps I needed to take to reach my goal, I lacked the confidence to get there, as I knew that succeeding in the world of work was more than just academia, and involved a great degree of being able to give more through my personality and experiences.

Upon leaving Sixth Form and becoming independent, I knew that I needed to gain some experience and guidance on specifically building my professional character through my CV, interviews, networking, persona, and work experience, which would set me apart in the job market. Hence why I got involved in the QMentoring Scheme and was paired with my mentor, Sandeep Saib, who works in a Law firm.

In our initial meetings, we discussed my career goals and Sandeep advised me how to gain work experience by guiding me through the process of writing to a company, or a professional, and doing well in application processes. One of the first things we focused on were video interviews in which Sandeep helped me prepare for an interview with a Law firm. This really helped me understand more about interviews and the recruitment process – one of the main lessons I learnt was how to sell myself to an employer by targeting what I could specifically bring to their organisation. This has certainly stayed with me and helped me succeed in interviews for other ventures and projects, not limited to just the legal industry.

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Guest blog: From Law to Tax Consultancy

Ross Markham0561Ross Markham, 29, is a Consultant in Deloitte’s Global Employer Services. He joined Deloitte in September 2014 having studied Politics and then Law. He advises organisations who have a global footprint on all aspects of their internationally mobile employees.

  • Explain your background to coming to Deloitte

In the final year of my undergraduate degree, I secured a vacation scheme at Latham & Watkins, a leading-US law firm. I really enjoyed this experience, and decided to pursue a career in Law by undertaking the GDL and LPC degrees. During the LPC, I undertook a tax module, and seemed to be the only person who enjoyed it! The College then held an alternatives careers to law fair, at which Deloitte were in attendance and spoke about the transferability of legal skills to a career in Tax. I was really impressed by the similarities between careers in Law and Tax (i.e. prestigious clients, opportunities to travel, working alongside market-leading practitioners) and so applied for the graduate scheme. My law background really held be in good stead throughout the application process, as I was confidently able to talk about tax legislation and case law, which underpin everything that we do in Tax.

  • What skills gained from your Law studies have you found to be most transferable to Tax?

I use my legal skills on an almost daily basis, whether it is analysing employment contracts, drafting policies, interpreting legislation or liaising with HMRC to resolve a dispute. Being a lawyer by training has also given me strong attention to detail, which clients really value.

Furthermore, being able to construct a sound and structured argument, and then being able to verbalise or write that argument, is a really useful tool to convince others and bring them around to your way of thinking.

  • What have you accomplished?

I have been on a six-month secondment to one of the world’s largest insurers, where I worked with their in-house team to stabilise their Global Mobility program. I was also on a pitch team alongside a Partner and Director where we won a leading client for a major project.

  • What is the most exciting part of your role?

I work in a small consulting team, where we work on a variety of projects advising organisations with international employees about the tactical and strategic implications of having a global footprint. This means that I work with clients from a range of industries and with varying problems. Consequently, no two days are the same – I could be advising a Financial Services company on the soundness of their employment contracts one day and running a strategy workshop in the Netherlands for a Consumer Business client the next.

  • What has surprised you most about working at Deloitte?

Not a surprise as such, but it is genuinely been a pleasure to work alongside the most eminent people in their fields in the world. This means I have never stopped learning and genuinely find what I do interesting.

Student story: James Alao

james-alao2

James Alao, 3rd year LLB student

In a recent interview I had with a partner at a city law firm, I was asked, “What percentage of the information that you learn in your degree do you think is relevant to working in a law firm?” After I’d given an estimate, he responded, “Very little.”  He went on to explain that the skills and knowledge needed to be effective in the workplace are not necessarily the same as those you gain from being a good undergraduate student.

How then are students supposed to gain the skills and knowledge employers are looking for? The simple answer is work experience.

During my time studying law at Queen Mary I have been fortunate enough to get involved in a range of work experience opportunities. One of the most useful experiences was my time as a student adviser at the Legal Advice Centre. The experience provided me with a number of skills and insights that were vital in helping me understand what solicitors do, confirming my desire to practice law and ultimately enabled me to secure a training contract.

It is hard to watch Suits and not want to be a lawyer. The reality is, you won’t know that you’ll enjoy a career until you’ve experienced it first-hand. I have friends who have wanted to be lawyers for as long as they can remember. However, after being on a placement they realized within a week that the job was not for them. Work experience is just as important in helping you decide what you don’t want to do as it is in confirming what you wish to pursue.

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Student story: Entering the legal world through the Legal Advice Centre

Daniel Rees Alexander Halford, 2nd year LLB student (left in image below)

halfordWhen I started studying Law at QMUL last year, I had been ‘out of the game’ for quite a while. I spent time abroad after graduating from my previous degree before working a year in Greggs in my sleepy Welsh commuter town.

I needn’t have worried about being older than everyone else on campus – everyone on the Senior Status degree was my age or older. Though I was the oldest in my Pooley flat by a couple of years, the other flatmates were second years from the States and people who for some reason or other hadn’t gotten sucked into university at eighteen.

But shovelling pasties is a little easier than getting through a contract law case. I tried to expand my comfort zone, mooting and making a last-minute application to the Legal Advice Centre. I went to see a panel of barristers talk about their experiences and dropped by the Law fair. On the networking side, I had a strong desire to be talked at, to hear stories, but didn’t really have enough stuff to talk about myself.

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Graduate story: Gaspare Chirillo, Law

GaspareI am Gaspare Chirillo and I have recently graduated from Queen Mary. I have completed a Law degree with a first class and, also, I have been a recipient of the Principal’s Prize for outstanding academic achievements. In addition, during my third year, I have been awarded the Draper’s Scholarship by the Law School; thanks to it, I will undertake an LLM in American Legal Studies in the USA. Particularly, in order to secure this scholarship, I have received great support from the QMUL Careers & Enterprise Department and would like to share my experience.

My time at Queen Mary has been a great ride which equipped me with all of the skills and experiences that I believe would be significantly helpful for my future career. Thanks to the quality of the well-structured law degree and the excellence of the academic body, I have gained a significant knowledge of the legal and commercial field. Moreover, I have been supported by the Careers & Enterprise Department throughout my law degree, which I feel has made me more employable and has helped me in obtaining important results.

Since the first year of the LLB, I have relied significantly on the Careers service which is available to all students of all degrees. I attended many 1-2-1 sessions with Careers Consultants and learnt many skills, including how to make a job application stand out tips

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Graduate story: From lecture theatres to that dream job …

Tips and tricks to make yourself more employable

Emma Biliri, LLM Graduate

emma-biliriAsk yourself this; would you employ you? If the answer is yes, no need to read any further (but don’t say we didn’t warn you!). For me, the answer was a no – I had the grades, I was passionate, but who isn’t in our generation?

It has been 3 years since I graduated with an LLB degree from QMUL and 2 years since completing my LLM.  I have since worked in numerous firms as a contractor and for the past year I am an Assistant Vice President of Information Security at Barclays.

What my journey from starting at QMUL to where I am now has taught me is that you are not the only one competing for that dream job – there are hundreds out there! Getting it, however, is not as hard as you think … 

Network, Network, Network

You are probably already tired of receiving emails inviting you to different networking, panel or career events. Do not ignore them; invest in a nice suit, polish your shoes, do some research and go to as many as you can. Listening to what people of the field have to say is priceless. It gives you a perspective of the ever changing corporate world, and gives you the rare chance to shake hands with the people who could one day be reviewing your CV. Talk to them, ask them questions and tips. Don’t worry about looking over zealous – they were in the same position. When you graduate, having the card or the LinkedIn connection of the firm’s associate you met at one of these events could take your application a long way.

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To be, or not to be (a lawyer)?

Doing a law degree but not sure if you want to be a lawyer? Well take a look at this post written by our previous law Careers Consultant on whether law is the right career choice for you.

School of Law

Since January this year I’ve been the careers consultant for laws at Queen Mary.  That means that as well as running appointments with students from a whole range of degree subjects, I also run appointments during certain times specifically for law students.  It doesn’t mean that if you come and see me, you have to want a career in law.  This is something I’m keen to emphasise, as on quite a few occasions now I’ve had slightly sheepish law students coming through my office door with their head hung low, announcing… “I’m so, so sorry, but I really don’t think I want to be a lawyer”.

Well, my very clear message to law students not wanting to pursue a career in law is that this is absolutely fine and a perfectly valid decision.  A law degree may well have a very natural connection to a career as a solicitor or barrister.  But, there are some very important things to bear in mind when it comes to deciding what you want to do immediately after leaving Queen Mary.

You Need Passion and Commitment

First, a career in law may be the obvious or “natural” choice for a law student, but it is by no means the easy option.  Securing a training contract or pupillage is notoriously hard, and all the more difficult if you have to “pretend” that it is what you passionately want to do, when really you are not so sure.  Even if you secure a training contract (and I’ll be specific about this branch of the legal profession purely because there are around ten times more training contracts than there are pupillages), the next three years (and beyond if you stick at it) will be no walk in the park.  Pouring over solicitors’ accounts during the LPC, cancelling dinner plans during the corporate seat of your training contract (and meticulously reviewing thousands of pages of commercial contracts instead) can test the commitment even of someone who has “always wanted to be a solicitor”, never mind the person who followed this route purely because it was the obvious choice.

You Have Transferrable Skills

Secondly, not pursuing a career in law does not mean that you are “wasting your degree”.  Law is one of a number of highly regarded academic degree subjects which, in addition to giving you knowledge of the law, will have enabled you to develop an impressive collection of transferrable skills including attention to detail, critical analysis, working under pressure, summarising, persuading, writing – to name but a few.  It is these skills, rather than your in-depth knowledge of the Unfair Contract Terms Act (by way of random example!) which are going to appeal most to the average employer.

You Have Time

Finally, if you decide not to pursue a career in law immediately after graduating, this does not necessarily rule out the option to do so a bit further down the line (this applies to non-law students too).  I know of several graduates who decided to just “get a job” after graduating, whether in retail, sales, marketing, the army(!) or pretty much any other field, so that they could get on with earning money and building up their skills and experience for the first few years after university.  Some of these graduates had an interest in a legal career while at university but were not yet ready to commit.  Others thought that the law definitely wasn’t for them.  Fast forward a few years, and some of these graduates are now happy and successful barristers or solicitors.  They used the first few years after university to really think about their career decisions, and were then able to use the skills they developed in their job after university as their main selling point to legal graduate recruiters.

You may now be convinced that just because you study law doesn’t mean you have to become a lawyer, but don’t know where to turn to work out what on earth you should do instead. You may also be thinking that it’s crazy of a law careers advisor to be telling law students not to do law!  That is certainly not what I’m trying to do.  The law can offer a truly wonderful career to graduates who are genuinely suited to it.  My point is rather, do not do it for the sake of it.  Really examine whether or not it is right for you – including by doing lots of work experience and, importantly, reflecting on this experience afterwards.  If it’s not for you, that’s ok – there are so many other rewarding careers among which you could find a perfect fit.

Katherine Dudnikova

[former] Careers Consultant, Careers and Enterprise Centre