Summer is around the corner …

The clocks might have only recently changed, but it’s not too early (or late) to think about getting experience in the summer.

Getting experience really makes a difference.  It looks great on your CV, and is highly regarded by employers.  The skills you develop will make you stand out from other candidates when applying to roles in the future.  Experiencing different jobs and organisations can also help you make decisions about your next steps. In fact work experience is often the best way to find out whether a particular option is right for you. You could discover interesting job roles you had never heard of, or perhaps find that what you thought might be your dream job isn’t really for you at all. The people you work with could also be useful for networking in the future.

Essential for employers: Employers want to see evidence of experience and transferable skills on your CV, as if you can prove you have used your skills effectively in a work related context in the past, it is a strong indication that you can use those skills again in the role you are applying to. In other words, it convinces the employer that you have the ability to do their job. Previous experience demonstrates initiative, drive and the motivation to get involved with activities outside of your degree – all characteristics valued by employers.

Choose wisely to meet your needs: If you don’t have much evidence of a specific skill on your CV, such as leadership or project management, find an opportunity where you can enhance and develop that skill e.g. organising a fundraising event for a charity. Whatever your degree and interests, there will be relevant experiences available.

Be open minded to avoid missing out on opportunities: Experience doesn’t necessarily have to be in the role or industry you are interested in.  Any work experience in sales, for example, will be a useful way to build your negotiation and client focus skills, which are useful in many non-sales roles. Think beyond just formal work experience schemes. It can be gained from part-time work, volunteering, extra-curricular activities, work-shadowing, or even starting your own business. 

Apply with care: Don’t assume that applications for part time or voluntary work don’t require time and effort. Always tailor your applications, as you still need to convince the employer that you have the relevant skills and are genuinely interested in the organisation. Remember, your application may be the first impression they have of you, so make it positive and professional.

If you are not sure where to apply see the Knowledge Bank for information on job hunting and our industry guides. Book an appointment with a Careers Consultant for further tips and to get feedback on your CV when you apply.

Careers Taster Scheme 2017

On 15th March the Careers Taster Scheme 2017 drew to a close, marking the end of almost two months of eye-opening career experiences for 138 Queen Mary students.

For those unfamiliar with the scheme, now in its second year, this is how it was structured:

  • 8 businesses took part, each hosting an afternoon insight session at their offices.
  • 138 competitively selected students chose their preferred employers, with each attending 3 – 4 insight sessions between January and March 2017.

Why do it?

How do you really know what it’s like to work at PwC? How can you really see if a digital marketing team would be a good fit for you? You can read a job description from back to front, you can scan a company’s website all day long, but to get a complete picture of what it’s like to work there, you need to visit. Employer insight sessions breathe life into your career choice.

How does it work?

The Careers Taster Scheme aims to widen student career choice by providing employer visits across different sectors.

Each CTS session lasted for between two and four hours. Employers presented to the attending students, giving them an overview of how the company works and how they might fit in. Often the employers would use a number of different speakers to highlight the variety of job roles available. In most cases the employer also incorporated an interactive game designed to illustrate the work they undertake – Liberty Specialty Markets did this particularly well, using a game to highlight how they price complex risks. Perhaps most importantly of all, students were able to see the office space in person, and in most cases were given a short tour of the premises.

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Student story: How to make the most of your time at QMUL

kamrulKamrul Alom, 2nd year Politics student

Why you need experience:

They often say you need experience to get experience, which I believe is important. In this day and age, this saying has pertinence as many students have upped their games. It’s your job now to match them in the challenge and really stand out from the crowd with real life experience. However, experience can come in different forms – it does not have to be a job or structured internship. For example, many students make the most of the many student experiences available to them; if you were an Events Officer for a society, you can often relate this to jobs requiring organisational skills, media skills and of course event management. During my first year I got involved in a number of work experience opportunities available at Queen Mary – such as the QProjects roles, QConsult and SU roles. One role I undertook was the Public Relations Project Lead (QProjects), where I was able to gain an insight into what PR is really about, and it allowed to me gain new and relevant skills, including relationship management and the ability to project plan events. These kinds of experiences allowed me to stand out from the crowd at interviews and applications, as I had already gained experience and exposure to a number of fields, from PR to Banking, as well as gaining a variety of transferable skills.

A masterpiece does not take shape until you add all the pieces (Nyeeam Hudson):

Again I’d like to stress that it is important to gain any, and as much, experience as you can fit into your timetable (time management is key). Another reason why, is that it fits into the greater masterpiece that is your CV, profile and character. Every experience will undoubtedly add to your CV, regardless of how short, relevant or complicated it was, as well as helping you to learn more about your strengths, skills and what you’d like to do for a career (or not). For me this was my experience at Morgan Stanley (Summer Analyst) and Queen Mary Widening Participation (WP Ambassador), where I realised that I actually really enjoyed working as part of a Bank and giving back through Queen Mary. These experiences had also allowed me to come to see what my strengths and areas of improvement were, which allowed me to develop myself and look to improve my skills. It taught me the different ways to connect and communicate with others, for example the way I would communicate at Morgan Stanley was very different to how I supported classrooms through the Queen Mary Widening Participation scheme. Communication is one area that I’ve come to develop, as I learnt how to be an effective and confident speaker in different situations. In summary, it really shaped the way I am through chances to grow and learn, the way I present myself and my confidence in my abilities. Also, adding to my CV and as a result feeding into the bigger picture, no matter how small each experience was by itself, it played a part in my CV and development.

Student story: CUB Magazine, Queen Mary & The New York Times

Angelica Hill, 3rd year English and Drama student

After spending a year after school at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, I discovered that my passion lay in the words and not in the acting.  I signed up for the English Literature and Drama Joint Honors Degree at Queen Mary.  As soon as I arrived I started writing for the various student publications available: The Print, The Tab, and CUB Magazine. Coming from an arts background, the publication I was most drawn to was CUB.  It gave me the opportunity to write about global cultural events and issues in whatever style I wished.


After writing a few articles during my first year I applied to become the Arts Editor of the Magazine at the end of my final term of first year.  A year later I managed to be appointed Editor-in-Chief for my final year.  I will hand over to the newly elected Editor-in-Chief on March 22nd.

This progression from Contributor, to Editor, to Editor-in-Chief allowed me to first see how a magazine works from the perspective on a writer, and to receive feedback on my writing on a range of different topics, from an array of different people.  Any improvement to writing style can only be good for studies, and it was something fun to do – particularly trying different style of writing to engage in alongside the academic writing I was doing as part of my degree.

Moving on to being an editor, I developed a focus on detail concerning grammar and punctuation, as well as enabling me to see all the different styles of writing the contributors had: what worked, what didn’t.  More importantly, it taught me how best to communicate with those submitting their work concerning changes and content suggestions.  Continue reading

Enhance Your Employability & Develop Your Skills in the SU Elections!

nominations_17_facebook_post3Are you looking for a role where you will have a meaningful impact? Interested in working at a multi-million pound charity and social enterprise? Then look no further than the 2017 Students’ Union elections. There are over 40 positions you can nominate yourself for including full-time paid positions (salary £24.5K per annum) and part-time voluntary positions. Elected students will have a unique experience that gives them an incredible insight into the workings of the University, Union and commercial services, boosting your CV and enhancing your employability.

Elected students set the direction of the Students’ Union, deciding on student policy and running campaigns and projects to improve the student experience. For a full list of the positions available, click here

Becoming an elected Officer at your Students’ Union offers excellent work experience that can be applied to a number of sectors, including the Civil Service, NGOs, the voluntary sector, social enterprise and the commercial sector.

Running your own campaigns and initiatives is a fantastic way to prove your initiative, resourcefulness and creativity to a future employer. You are supported to fulfil your ideas and take responsibility for your own projects, allowing you to stand out from the crowd and develop skills which are highly desirable in today’s competitive jobs market.

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Student story: James Alao


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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QConsult case study: Mats Syversen

matsMy name is Mats Syversen, and I’m a student in my final year of a BEng degree in Materials Science and Engineering at Queen Mary. In October, I applied to take part in a programme called QConsult Commercial run by Careers & Enterprise at QMUL. This is a paid scheme where you, as a student, get an opportunity to work closely with working professionals, as a consultant, to solve realistic business challenges as a part of a team.

The process begins with an online application form, which you need to fill in explaining your motivation and interest in the scheme. If you’re accepted you will be invited to attend an assessment day, before you’re then, hopefully, accepted onto the scheme. If you are unsuccessful, you will still leave with a wealth of knowledge regarding how large enterprises conduct their candidate selection process, giving you the upper hand if you are thinking of applying for a job.

If you are successful, you will be split into project teams consisting of 5 people, with whom you will be solving the project brief together with. In my group I was assigned the role of Project Coordinator, which meant I would be working closely with the client, making sure the deadlines were met, and, most importantly, making sure all the team members were being included and heard.

No prior experience of consultancy is needed, as training will be given before the start of the project, which is why this project is suitable for anyone who’s interested in gaining relevant work experience as well as networking with professionals and other students. During the project, you will receive frequent feedback, advice and support from the Careers & Enterprise team, to make sure you are always on the right track.

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