The pandemic has impacted so much, including the world of work. The ongoing uncertainty can feel de-motivating; it may feel easier to avoid thinking about careers right now and to put it off until later. However, it could be an ideal time for career thinking and looking at what the Faculty of Arts Careers Series has to offer, (more…)
Experiences of being an international student at university can vary greatly. Despite having been at school in the UK since the age of 13, I still felt the specific pressures of being an international student at university, especially in regards to careers.
My career aspirations became a high priority from the beginning. Due to my student visa only allowing me to stay in the UK for the duration of my degree, I felt that I needed to have a post-graduation plan as soon as possible. I spent much of my first year getting to know what advice was offered by attending a variety of workshops put on by the Careers Service, numerous employer presentations, participating in university societies and volunteering. When I decided to complete the Bristol PLUS Award in second year, I found I had no trouble doing so having kick-started my career planning early on.
This January I will start my third campaign as a DLHE Telephone Researcher. I can honestly say that it is the ideal student job! The work hours fit around lectures, the pay is great and you get some valuable experience.
The advantages of working for the university are the flexibility and understanding around academic commitments. During exam season I could take shifts off on the day before my exams and, in the run up to big deadlines, I was able to request fewer shifts.
After a challenging two years of A-levels, a laborious UCAS personal statement, and a nerve wracking exam results day, receiving offers from universities was tremendously exciting. Once my place was confirmed at the University of Bristol, I felt immense satisfaction knowing the next direction for my life. However, I did not expect that sense of achievement to be so short lived. Within my first few months of University I came across a news headline: “Work experience is key to graduate success”.
The sense of assurance from reaching University was replaced with questions. Where do we start with work experience? How are we supposed to find relevant work experience if we haven’t found a passion yet, or a desired career path? How will I succeed in interviews if I lack the enthusiasm to work in that specific sector? My first term quickly became daunting.
“Being a first year, I had plenty of time to dedicate to this process!”
This all changed for me around May 2016, when I completed the Bristol PLUS Award. Thinking about life after University as a first year, I started with the basics. I knew I was going to need a CV that had value. Looking at my CV of my life so far, I noticed that beyond summer work at a pub and my education, there was little substance. I knew then that I needed to develop this while at university, and I was soon to come across the Bristol PLUS Award. Reading quotes from other students stating that “The award leads to infinite possibilities for the future.” And “The plus is not merely an award, it’s a REward.” I thought I better get myself involved.
The first step was an introductory talk at the Careers Service which laid out the Award criteria. 50 hours of work experience, 4 workshops, an intensive skills activity, report and final workshop, achievable? Being a first year, I had plenty of time to dedicate to this process!
Work experience: I started working for a university bar a couple of evenings a week, and had completed 50 hours before I knew it. This gave me valuable experience as part of a team in a high pressure, busy environment. It also improved my time management and organisation skills, balancing my degree and part-time job.
Workshops: I attended mainly Careers Service workshops including an insightful event with the BBC on what skills they value in employable candidates. In addition I went to practical workshops on CVs and interview skills. The latter introduced me to the importance of body language and the impact it can make in an interview.
Intensive skills activity: I volunteered on open days, introducing the campus to prospective students. This honed many skills such as leadership, creativity and the ability to think on my feet. I had learned via the workshops that these were desirable skills to employers.
“The PLUS Award has changed my view on the world beyond university. It has made something that seemed so large and complex, seem much smaller and simpler.”
Transform and grow
The PLUS Award has changed my view on the world beyond university. It has made something that seemed so large and complex, seem much smaller and simpler. In my second year, I got an internship in the Careers Service. One of my projects was reconnecting with PLUS Award graduates, many of whom credit the PLUS Award as integral to their success beyond university. The best way to get ahead is by getting started, and the Bristol PLUS Award is an exceptional place to start.
By Finn Morgan, Geography BSc
For some, the summer vacation is the opportunity to travel or volunteer in other parts of the world. Some will have been lucky enough to secure a summer internship in their chosen industry, and some will choose to earn money through a job seemingly unrelated to their career plan. If you fall into this last category, and think that your summer job is simply about saving up for the next academic year…think again.
Working in industries, such as retail, tourism and hospitality, offer you an excellent opportunity to develop, and provide evidence of, your employability skills. These skills, which are “the skills almost everyone needs to do almost any job”, were ranked by employers as the most important factor when recruiting graduates (CBI Education & Skills Survey, 2016).
Throughout your summer employment, take the opportunity to reflect on what you do, and look for ways to develop and demonstrate your skills. Doing this now will provide you with practical examples to provide to future potential employers when applying for graduate jobs.
Here are five skills you could develop while working this summer:
Customer service roles are an excellent way to demonstrate how you communicate. Think about all the people that you interact with (customers, colleagues, managers), how you communicate with them (face-to-face, telephone, email) and the purpose of your communication (greeting, explaining, persuading, listening).
Even if it is a temporary job, show your initiative by looking for opportunities to accept more responsibility or make a positive difference. Consider offering to train a new team member, or considerately suggest a new process that could improve sales or business performance.
- Readiness to Improve
Request feedback and act on it to improve your performance. Not only does this show professionalism and a desire to be the best that you can, it will help you to identify any areas for improvement before applying for graduate jobs.
- Problem Solving
This doesn’t have to be something worthy of a global news report! Solving a problem could be implementing a new email filing system that improves the speed of responding to client enquiries, or appeasing an upset customer.
- Team Working
Whether you are working for a small business or a large organisation, it is likely that your summer job will enable you to demonstrate how you work with other people. Think about how you cooperate with others to complete a task and how working together can improve efficiency or business performance.
No matter what job you do, make sure that you get the most from your summer job by investing time in reflecting on your experience, and updating your CV to demonstrate the skills that you have.
In September I moved from my sleepy village in North Devon to the wonderful city of Bristol, and was excited to open my arms to all the city had to offer. I was able to move into my halls a week before the rest of my housemates, and as everyone in my halls knows; I used this time wisely!
One of the first things that I did was to visit the Careers Service. I knew that I wanted to work alongside my academic studies, and I wanted to find something as relevant as possible. Before visiting, I spent a couple of hours looking through their website to get an understanding of what services they provide, and to create a list of questions to ask in person.
The Bristol Internship Scheme really stood out to me. After reading I could find an internship myself I knew I wanted to apply. I had just got back to the UK after spending the summer experimenting with photography in Vancouver. I knew that an internship in this area would enable me to continue this work, provide me with an income, and compliment my academic studies. The next day I went to the Careers Service and found that applying to the Bristol Internship Scheme was a lot easier than I first imagined. Quite surprisingly after making a lot of calls, I found an internship with a photographer a week after moving to Bristol!
I am now coming to the end of my two month photography internship and it has been extremely informative and a great way to compliment my studies. I was also happy to find out that this work could be used towards the Bristol PLUS Award, so I signed up for an int roductory talk and chose to attend Basecamp workshops and other intensive skills activities leading me to achieve the Award in December.
No-one else on my course knew about the Bristol PLUS Award, and hadn’t thought about using the Careers Service so early in their studies. There are some great reasons for using these services in your first year. Firstly, the activities on offer are really complimentary to first year studies! One of the best things about completing the PLUS Award so early has been improving on my verbal communication skills which has increased my confidence in seminars. Secondly, by completing the Award in your first year you open up a competitive lead by freeing up time in your second and third years to pursue other national or international awards and prizes, experiment by starting a new business, or volunteer or take extra internships. As the graduate jobs market changes over the coming years this is going to be of great benefit and will allow you to make the most of your time at university!
The next step for me in the New Year is to attend more of the application skills workshops at the Careers Service, and apply for the Outstanding Award. I’m also planning to look for an internship for 2017 in the creative industries. If you have just joined the University this September, and have been thinking about getting a New Year’s challenge; the Careers Service is a great place to start!
By Joshua Greenidge
Foundation Year in the Arts and Humanities
ID, check. Two copies of relevant documents, check. Clean, well-ironed smart clothes, check. Room in the purse for inevitable free gifts from Barclays, check. Positive energy and attitude, check. “Never be late. Never be just on time. Always arrive a little bit early.” My friend’s advice echoed in my head, as I got on the London Underground and checked the time. I should be there 10 minutes before meeting time.
Upon arrival, the recruitment team took our name and relevant documents, and handed out our name tag for the week before being thrown into a swarm of people we hadn’t met, (or had, depending on whether you’ve done spring weeks or insight days at different firms), and given a briefing about what this week would entail: work experience, better understanding about the industry and Barclays, and networking opportunities. The recruitment team didn’t emphasize it specifically, but how we perform throughout the week – how we interact with others, the questions we ask to the company reps and the way we tackle tasks given – was going to be taken into account to our overall assessment on deciding whether or not we get an offer for the next year’s summer internship.
From that moment on to the end of the programme on Friday, my days were packed with heavily informative sessions such as trading exercises, talks delivered by senior executives, preparation for the assessment, work shadowing, various presentations and skills sessions and networking opportunities. We had to absorb and understand a lot of information, ranging from the simplest basics such as how to present yourself well or business etiquettes to learning about various divisions within the firm and how they work – all of which was extremely helpful. What I had learned about the industry and Barclays prior to commencing the spring week became more consolidated and contextualized in my mind, and overall, everything just made so much more sense. It could be intimidating, entering into a whole new world, where you don’t know the people around you or comprehend exactly what is happening, but more often than not, everyone is friendly and eager to help. I made sure to remember to just be myself, have fun, relax, and be willing to learn while doing my best and being well-prepared. Having fun and giving one’s best are not mutually exclusive!
My spring week ended with a weekend spent with the students I had met earlier that week, finally with a phone call the following Monday, letting me know that I have an offer for an internship next summer! It was a very intense, challenging week, but I did get out of the week all that spring weeks could offer: great experience, a better understanding of the company and the industry as a whole, a network of people that inspired and motivated me and an offer for next year. Oh, and the compensation for the week wasn’t too bad either!
By Jess Ye Seul Kim.
A 1st year Childhood Studies with Management (BSc) student.
Sometimes it seems there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. With the competing demands of revising for exams, writing essays and applying for jobs, good management of your time is essential.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider if you are filling your time wisely. Are you putting off more challenging tasks by cleaning the house, doing the washing up, checking Facebook? My advice…..
- Just start – do something (anything) to get the task under-way.
- If it’s big, break it down into smaller parts and do a little each day so you don’t feel so daunted by it.
- Do one thing at a time. Just because you can do ten things at once doesn’t mean you should. Focusing on one thing at a time means you’ll do better work, finish faster, and move on to other, more enjoyable activities.
- A cluttered desk is not helpful. Clear your desk of everything not related to what you are currently doing. This will help you concentrate and focus your attention.
- Identify your ‘prime time’. We all have a time of day when we are alert and attentive. The secret is to recognise when this is and do the tasks that require energy, concentration and thought when you’re at your sharpest.
- Plan ahead by creating a schedule including study, work, and your personal commitments for the next few months. Then…
- Prioritise: to be effective, you need to decide what tasks are urgent and important and focus on these. You’ll feel a real sense of achievement and satisfaction from ticking completed tasks off you list.
- Work in blocks of time: try a maximum of an hour before taking a 15min break, this way you’ll concentrate better.
- Minimise interruptions by switching off your phone, signing out of social media, turning off alerts and push notifications or asking friends not to disturb you. You can survive without knowing your friends’ latest status update for a few hours.
- Give yourself a reward once you complete a task to keep you motivated.
Some people believe they need the chaos of leaving things to the last minute and the pressure of a tight deadline to motivate them: ask yourself whether this is really effective or whether it’s disguised procrastination.
If you just do it now, you can look forward to some real leisure time later without the pressure of future work hanging over you. Breaking tasks down and scheduling work ahead of time also means you won’t get overwhelmed later on. It’s all about delayed gratification and you might actually find you produce better work under less stress.
An Insight scheme or programme is a brief period spent with an employer, usually in the spring or summer, to gain industry knowledge and explain career opportunities within that business. Activities provide an overview of company life and usually include presentations and seminars, work shadowing and some practical work experience.
Banks, Law firms and Professional Services companies are the main employers offering Insight programmes. Eligibility varies but many schemes are designed for first years whilst remaining open to other year groups. Here are 4 reasons why insight could be an important step for your career planning.
1. Narrow down your career options
It is common to feel pressure to discover your career path while at University. Insight schemes are a great way to narrow down the options. You may discover your future career or rule certain options out. This is all useful experience.
2. Get work experience
As Insight programmes range from a few days to a few weeks you can try out multiple industries to add work experience to your CV. Whether you find a sector you can picture yourself in or not you are still sure to develop transferable skills to boost your employability for any job.
3. Make industry contacts
You are likely to work with fellow students, interns, graduates and more experienced staff. You leave a first impression even in a short time, show yourself to be keen and colleagues will not mind you following up with further career questions.
4. Turn Insight into a job
Employers are increasingly using these programmes to funnel strong candidates through to internships and then graduate roles. If an Insight scheme goes well it could set you on the path to future full time employment!
Rate My Placement is a good place to start looking for Insight opportunities. Our advice is to apply early, many places get filled on a rolling basis. As always the Careers Service is here to answer any questions or help you to prepare an application.
Maxine Robinson, Graduate Recruitment Officer