Student story: I’ve sorted my summer

SharikaHi, I’m Sharika and I am a second-year English student. Alongside my studies, I work as a Student Ambassador for the Widening Participation team at Queen Mary. The aim of Widening Participation is to encourage students from disadvantaged social backgrounds to consider pursing higher education. Not only is this an incredibly rewarding job which gives me the opportunity to make a positive impact on the local community, but being a Widening Participation Ambassador has also allowed me to gain a plethora of transferable skills through working in a diverse range of environments.

This summer, for instance, I am involved with a number of exciting projects. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I worked at the Experience University Week: Creating a Language. In this summer school, a group of Year 10 students learned all about linguistics, and then they constructed their own languages. Through this event, I gained experience working with young people, and at the same time, I was able to learn about linguistics myself! Next week I will be giving a speech to 60 Year 7-9 students at a celebration event (every one of the students has read more than 25 books in the past eight months!). I will be talking to them about reading, English degrees, and about my university experience. Later this month, another Student Ambassador and myself will be delivering a joint-lecture to Sixth Form students. Both of these opportunities will hone my public speaking skills. Moreover, I am currently in the middle of preparing for both of these events and already it has taught me a great deal about how to adapt my communication style to effectively interact with people from different age groups. Furthermore, in July, at the Verbatim Summer School, I will be working with young care experienced students thinking about coming to university.

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Student blog: How to Occupy Your Summer Holidays

Billie cropBillie Robinson, 2nd year English and Linguistics student

While at uni, most of us have a break of around 3 months over summer (some have even longer), and every year I find myself asking the same question – what shall I do this summer? While many use their break as an opportunity to work, others go abroad, and some admittedly find themselves rather lost. As I now approach my final year of university, I’m realising how valuable this long period of free time is and how we really should use it to our advantage. So, if you, like me, want to do something productive with your summer holidays – I thought I would outline a few options that may interest you…

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I Know What To Do With Your Summer: Work Experience

Graduating from Queen Mary last year, I realised the coming summer would probably be my last extended break for quite some time. Weeks and weeks of unadulterated lounging, followed swiftly by letting the hours trickle by in a pub garden. A fortnight or two later, when playing Mario Kart on the N64 has lost its attraction, I also began to realise that this time was a golden opportunity and that I wouldn’t be getting a free pass to develop in this manner for quite some time. So, brushing the biscuit crumbs that had collected themselves in a small pool above my chest, I decided to get some work experience. And it was probably one of the best decisions I made while still, fleetingly, a student.


But why work experience? Why not simply dive straight into a paid role? Well, for me, the prospect of volunteering or work shadowing allowed me to dip in and out of multiple sectors, try my hand at different things and build my skills in a way that meant I could apply to a range of jobs. I took placements with museums, charities, media outlets and more; finding out what I enjoyed and what I didn’t along the way. This is what surprised me the most, discovering that the field of journalism was most certainly not for me after having believed it would be my field of expertise for years prior. Furthermore, I realised I had developed attributes that my degree couldn’t teach me: organisation, people skills, time management. These may sound like buzzwords, but once you’re in the world of work, they’re all you have to rely on.

So, what can you do to gain work experience? Luckily, as a Queen Mary student, you have a wealth of services at your fingertips. Here at Careers & Enterprise, we run qmjobonline, a jobs board which is great for finding a host of different positions. You can filter out everything you don’t want and search for full time, part time or flexible work. It really takes no time at all and is even how I found my current role. The best part? The jobs are approved by real people here in the team, so we cut the rubbish before you have to.

Alongside this, we run a number of schemes here at Queen Mary which can help you to build those essential skills. QProjects places students into roles with charities working just one day a week for three months, meaning that you can develop your potential flexibly around your schedule. There are a number of posts lined up for summer and you can join our mailing list here.

So, no matter what year you’re in, if you’re about to start your summer then consider undertaking work experience. Not only will you gain a range of skills, you’ll have fun and can even get paid for the opportunity! I know what you should do with your summer, and trust me it doesn’t involve bourbon biscuits or a joystick.

Sean Richardson

Employer Engagement Assistant, QMUL Careers & Enterprise Centre

Get help before the rush

Here at the Careers & Enterprise Centre we’ve noticed it’s got very quiet since Easter. Which is not surprising – we know students will now be thinking of exams and worrying about coursework and grades. And maybe just enjoying the sun!

We also know that after the exam period we tend to get a rush of students feeling a bit worried about future job prospects, thinking about what to do over the summer that might help their career prospects or looking for summer work.

So why not get ahead of the rush and come in to see us now? A 20 minute appointment with a Careers Consultant to take a look at your CV, or discuss options with you, would not take much time out of your day. You’ll feel better for starting the process and having a plan for when exams finish. Then you can really concentrate on getting the best marks you can in your course. And enjoying the summer sun!

Enjoying the summer

I know what you did this summer

To commemorate the period during World War Two when Queen Mary College was evacuated to King’s College, Cambridge, eight students are invited to spend four weeks at King’s College during the Long Vacation Term.  In addition, one student is also invited to spend four weeks at St John’s College, Cambridge. This year, Martyna Sikora, a 2nd year Maths student from Queen Mary took part in the scheme and here she tells us how she found the experience.

One big reason that I wanted to take part in the Cambridge Long Vacation Scholarship was that I wanted to work on something very specific – a new forecasting mechanism called prediction markets. I had become fascinated by it while reading about different applications of probability and economics. I soon found a project involving just what I was looking for, at the Institute for Manufacturing which sits within Cambridge University. Following advice from my academic advisor, I contacted the Institute to ask for a possibility of a meeting. Luckily, after a call from a PhD student, I was offered an opportunity to work at the Institute with him provided I got the scholarship. I was therefore even more determined to submit a strong application to the scheme! So I had my academic advisor and the QM Careers service  check it over for me before I submitted it, and I’m sure that was a key reason my application was successful and I got the funding!

The scholarship included: accommodation at King’s College; money to cover travelling expenses to and from Cambridge; together with maintenance during the 4 week period (to buy food etc). Furthermore, I had reading rights access to the Cambridge University Library and borrowing rights at King’s College Library. However, I spent my time mainly at the Institute for Manufacturing working on my project with my supervisor, the PhD student. As a result, I gained experience doing professional research and working mainly unsupervised. This scholarship also enabled me to get an insight into what an academic career might be like and to gain organisational skills. Every Friday I met with my supervisor to discuss the progress of my research and my ideas about designing a prediction market and at the end of scholarship I had to present my results among people working in the Distributed Information and Automation Laboratory. Consequently, I improved my communication and presentation skills.

Kings College organized various activities for Queen Mary students. We had the chance to go to the roof of King’s College Chapel, discover the history and interesting traditions of this place and talk to PhD students about their careers. Apart from this, we went to see a play during the Shakespeare festival and I even tried punting a few times. I also took advantage of having a Cambridge Student Card and went to see other colleges including Trinity College, Clare College and St John’s College.

Applying for this scholarship was a great idea. Although I was spending my time studying, it was on a project that I found really interesting and I learnt many new skills while I was at Cambridge. The best bit for me was being able to spend time in the Institute for Manufacturing, working with people who were interested in the same things I was. So I can’t recommend enough to anyone thinking of applying for the scheme to do their research beforehand: contact different departments at Cambridge and get talking to academics. They’ll most likely welcome the extra help on their projects, especially if you can show them how enthusiastic you are about their work.

It’s summer time and the weather is fine!

Summer has finally arrived, and the sun is here too. As well as taking a well-earned break from your studies this is the perfect time to dust off those career ambitions. In honour of this, here are the Careers & Enterprise Centre’s ‘top tips for summer’…

1. Develop your skills

Employers really value candidates who take ownership of developing their own skills and who can self-learn. Use your initiative and learn a skill that could really assist you in your future career, perhaps coding or a foreign language.

For inspiration check out the following course providers: Codecademy, City Lit, Free:Formers and Coursera.

2. Learn your rights with regards to work experience and internships

Too many students embark on full or part time unpaid work without researching the law. Only charities are exempt from paying the national minimum wage. Voluntary work with charities is highly recommended for students who do not have enough experience to get a paid internship, those that go on to intern for someone other than a charity must ensure that they are paid appropriately.

3. Compile a targeted list of employers

Put together a list of employers to target in the upcoming academic year. Recruitment for graduate roles begins in August, so it pays to think NOW about who you would like to work for or intern with.

Get curious about companies beyond the big names. Lots of you will find great roles with companies which are not JP Morgan or KPMG. Use the summer to take a look at the other organisations out there; there are a huge number of start-up companies and SMEs with innovative and exciting roles available.

4. Update your CV

The summer period is the perfect time to refresh your CV with the skills you have gained from your course and other activities (both work and extra-curricular) throughout the year. Need some inspiration? Take a look at this CV guide.

5. Create a professional social media presence

When selecting new skills and recent experience to update your CV with, ensure that you also bring your professional social media profiles up-to-date. LinkedIn in particular is an ideal tool for cultivating and maintaining professional connections and a good way to keep an eye on internship and graduate opportunities that are available by following organisations that you have an interest in.

6. Seek advice

Remember – Queen Mary Careers and Enterprise Centre is open all summer to assist you with job searches, applications, interviews and more. Plus, telephone and Skype appointments are available for those that are not on campus over the summer.


Shannon Diggory

Employer Engagement Assistant, Careers & Enterprise Centre