31 August 2012 12:13 PM

Summer in the office: A slight pest control issue

We have a slight fly problem in the kitchen, thanks to someone else in our building leaving banana skins lying around. To say this has brought out the team's hunting instincts would be an understatement...

Sadly, our flies seem to be immune to fly papers, and fly spray seems to make them even more excitable, if anything. Sigh.   

Not that that has stopped Rob from doing his best to blast them out of the sky. Just look at that concentration and focus!



He waits. That's what he does.

22 August 2012 10:58 AM

Postgraduate Study: The No-Nonsense Facts

Thinking about postgraduate study? Read this first! There are pros and cons to the postgrad route, and lots of potential traps for the unwary, so make sure you're informed.

The good...

  1. A postgraduate qualification can help you get into your chosen profession - for example, if you want to be a lawyer or accountant, you'll have to suck it up and do the necessary exams. Fortunately, you'll often be funded through these by your employer if you can secure a job with them first, so make sure you explore this option.

  2. If you get to the end of your course and decide you actually want to do something else, a postgraduate degree or conversion course can give you the qualifications needed to make the switch - think law, teaching, psychology or medicine.

  3. If you've got 1st class grades across the board and your whole world revolves around 14th century stained glass, cellular biology or solar physics, you might be one of those people who is cut out for a career in academic research. If you're one of those people for whom the world of academia fits like a glove and you can't imagine being happy working as anything other than a mildy eccentric professor, go for it! 

The bad...

  1. Not knowing what you want to do is NOT a good reason to do a postgraduate course. You'll end up in a pile of extra debt, and it'll be hard to explain to a potential employer why you chose to do the course if you didn't have a good rationale behind it at the time. You'd be much better off finding a job and saving up some money, or doing some voluntary work and building up skills and confidence.

  2. Postgraduate life is not like undergraduate life, so if you're thinking of doing another course just to prolong the student experience, think again. Being a postgraduate student is much more like having a job - more lone working and less socialising! It can be really rewarding, but it's definitely not the same experience.

  3. Postgraduate study costs a lot of money upfront as there are no undergraduate-style student loans available. In fact, there is very little funding to go around. To be in with a chance of getting funded, you'll need to be an exceptional student. It often makes better sense to either try and get a job in the field that will fund your studies, or save up some money and study for a postgraduate qualification part-time while you work.

  4. Sadly, many universities and education providers will try to convince you that their postgraduate courses are the best thing since sliced bread without giving you realistic facts about the tangible benefits of the course or the effect on your employment chances. Remember that they are primarily after your money! There are often far more postgraduate students taking a course at any one time than there are jobs available, but it's not in the course provider's interests to tell you that so they are likely to minimise it. If a postgraduate course promises the earth yet demands suspiciously low entry grades, it pays to do your research and go in with your eyes open.


In summary, there are three good reasons to do a postgrad course:

  1. If you absolutely adore your subject AND you have loads of research ideas, fantastic grades, glowing references from lecturers and the patience to write endless funding applications, by all means don't be put off. If you want to be a university lecturer, this is the necessary route, so go for it!

  2. You've known for ages that you want to be a clinical psychologist/solicitor/maths teacher and while you have good work experience and knowledge of the field, you have to do the course to get into the job you want to do. Generally speaking, if you are this organised at 21, you're unlikely to rush into anything blindly anyway. We trust you :)

  3. You have secured a job in a field you want to work in, and the employer is prepared to fund your course OR you have secured a job that means you can afford to fund a part-time postgraduate course alongside it.

No ifs, no buts. There are really no other good reasons to do a postgraduate course, let alone put yourself in debt in order to do so. We know it sounds harsh, but it's for your own good...

If you can't decide, why not take some time out? Remember that you can always go back to a postgraduate course in a few years' time, with more money saved up, some work experience and a better idea of what you REALLY want to get out of the experience.

To find out more about careers in academia, click here. To find out about choosing a career and assessing your options, click here.
 


22 August 2012 10:21 AM

5 Things You Need to Know About Engineering Graduate Jobs

Engineering can get a bit of a bad rep, unfortunately, which is a shame because it has the potential to be one of the most satisfying and stable careers out there. Read on to find out five things every aspiring engineer must know:

  1. It's not just for the guys! Watch this film to find out what women who work in engineering have to say - the general consensus seems to be that not only is it not nearly as 'blokey' as you might think, it's also easier to get noticed for being good at your job when you're the only woman on the team!
  2. There are plenty of jobs in engineering companies for non-engineers - think Sales and Marketing, Project Management, HR, Logistics. A graduate scheme at an engineering company can be a great way to get transferable business skill that will translate to a wide range of careers.
  3. It can offer some of the most flexible hours of any professional job - many companies offer perks like flexitime, and some even give you every Friday afternoon off - yes, really! 
  4. Some engineering graduate schemes will consider candidates with a 2.2 - so this industry can be a good choice if you've not quite hit the grade you hoped for.
  5. Engineering can offer the option of lots of international travel if that's something that takes your fancy - definitely worth bearing in mind, we say!

For more information on careers in engineering, click here.

Or click on the image below...

 


21 August 2012 03:30 PM

3 Ways to Top Up Your Summer CV

So, the summer vacation is in full swing, any internships or summer placements are drawing to a close, and it's raining (again) - what's a bored student to do? Far from being a drag, the end of the summer vacation can be a great time to build up your skills and show future employers that you're capable of seeking out opportunities and making things happen. Read on for our Top Three Tips:

  1. Getting a part-time job can be a great way to keep busy, gain useful 'soft' skills such as communication and dealing with customers - and, of course, earn some much-needed cash before the Autumn loan payment kicks in! You can also use even the crummiest job to your advantage on those all-important application forms - click here to find out how.
  2. If jobs are thin on the ground - or if earning money isn't your main priority right now - why not look into volunteering locally? Summer is a great time to give something back to a cause you love. In fact, a lot of employers like to see volunteering on a CV because it suggests you're someone who's well-rounded and socially responsible.
  3. Learn something new! Yes, this may seem like the last thing you want to do after a year of studying hard, but it's a great way to add to that pesky 'Other Relevant Skills' section on application forms. This doesn't need to be a formal qualification - there are plenty of online courses where you can teach yourself a new language, learn some basic programming or brush up on your typing and Microsoft Office skills.

It goes without saying - don't forget to relax and unwind, too! You've got to be ready for the start of the new term and (more importantly) ready to party all night in Fresher's Week!


20 August 2012 04:12 PM

The Perfect Graduate CV: Dos and Don'ts

So, you’ve decided that the whole corporate-grad-scheme-application-form route isn’t for you. You’ve found a couple of entry-level jobs that sound just perfect. They all ask for a CV. You don’t have one. Now what do you do?

Essentially, a CV is a list of your work and educational achievements to date. Note that it’s not a list of ALL your achievements – your future employer doesn’t want to hear about your SATs results or your grade two cello certificate – instead it should be detailed, professional and focussed. Here's a quick rundown of what each section should (and shouldn't) contain:

Contact details
Do:

  • Put your name, address, phone number and email address. And make sure they're all correct. How else will they get in touch to offer you an interview!?

Don’t:

  • Include irrelevant personal information, like your age, religion, marital status, or a photo of yourself, when applying for a UK-based role. This is standard practise in some countries but is considered unprofessional in the UK, and could open the employer up to charges of discrimination based on age, looks, race, etc – so it’s best avoided.

  • Fire off emails from any address containing any the following: random MySpace-style capitalisation (how old ARE you?), the words ‘sexy’, ‘babe’ or ‘hot’, cutesy nicknames, or references to your fondness for all-night benders. If you have any doubts about the professional appropriateness of your email address, it’s not appropriate. Set up an account with a sensible address – you can’t go wrong with something along the lines of firstname.lastname@emailprovider.com.


Personal statement
Do:

  • Keep it short – remember the abstract you had to write for your dissertation? This is the equivalent, so proportionally it should be two or three lines, max.

Don't:

  • Feel like you have to include one for the sake of it. Having said that, it’s quite a good way to summarise your CV for the recruiter – and anything that makes their life easier after reading 100+ CVs is bound to count in your favour. 


Work experience
Do:

  • Start with the most recent job and work backwards, making sure that you list any useful skills or responsibilities.
  • Get the balance right between inserting buzzwords that the recruiter will pick up on when they scan through the CV, and resorting to clichés. Positive, action-filled words like ‘organised’, ‘managed’, ‘coordinated’ and ‘responsibility’ are all great – generic sentences like ‘I have great customer service skills’ are less useful and fill up valuable space. A sentence like this is only acceptable if followed by ‘…because I did x and y while working in job z.’

Don't:

  • List every job you've ever had from babysitting to bar work. If, for example, you've had a succession of bar jobs plus one or two internships, it’s worth listing those first in more detail, then summarising the less relevant bar work in one or two lines – unless, of course, you’re applying to work in a bar!


Education
Do:

  • List your educational achievements reverse chronological order, starting with your degree and working backwards.
  • List your A-Levels in full.
  • Consider putting 'Education' at the beginning of your CV you’re a recent graduate with no work experience but who boasts a shiny new 1st from a top university.

Don't:

  • List all your GCSEs if you're pressed for space. It's fine to put something like ‘9 GCSEs at grades A*-B, including English and Maths’ – this shows employers what they need to know without boring them with the finer details of your GCSE French coursework.

Relevant skills
Do:

  • Include things like unusual software packages you can use, organizations or societies you belong to, positions of responsibility you've had - anything that adds to the impression that you're a nice, well-rounded, professional person who'd be great to work with!

Don't:

  • List mundane things that 99% of people do in their spare time like 'Going to the pub' or try to be funny - the only exception to this is if you are applying for a very select group of industries i.e. certain branches of media and advertising. Tread very carefully here - and if in doubt, keep it friendly but professional.

Final thoughts
Most people put off writing a CV until faced with a job application deadline, but it’s worth keeping a generic version of your CV up to date at all times, which you can then tailor to suit each job you apply for. Warning for the unwary and/or lazy: when we say tailor, we mean just that – NOT rewrite two sentences, stick in the name of the company and press send!


15 August 2012 12:27 PM

3 things graduates need to know about consulting

For many graduates, consulting has a glamourous ring to it – the idea of walking into a different organisation every fortnight and helping to smooth out their business issues. However, it’s notorious for being a highly demanding career path – have you got what it takes?

1.    Commitment

Consulting is not a profession for graduates who aren’t 100% committed to their career – it involves frequent travel and long hours, with often only a day week spent in your base office. If the idea of becoming closely acquainted with a variety of hotel facilities across the UK doesn’t faze you, then a graduate job in consulting might suit you.


2.    Diplomacy and tact
Consultants are often brought in to help organisations that are having difficulties, so an ability to empathise, be tactful and work collaboratively to solve problems is a valuable skill. 


3.    Organisational skills

You’re not going to be based in the same place all the time, so your ability to get (and keep) yourself organized needs to be top-notch.

Still think you’ve got what it takes? Find out more about careers in consulting by clicking here.


Or click on the image below...


13 August 2012 12:09 PM

How to write a 3,000 word college essay in 24 hours

Right. First things first, we do not recommend this as a regular strategy. Don't sue us.

We've all been there, usually for one of the following two reasons:

Scenario A - Your essay has been eaten by your USB stick/laptop/dog/flatmate
Scenario B - It's the night before hand-in and so far your essay exists only as a scribbled reminder on a post-it note

Yeah, we know - it's scenario B, isn't it? You're not fooling anyone. It's OK, we're all friends here.

First it's time for some positive thinking. Take a deep breath. Believe that it can be done. Take another deep breath. Imagine you're in The West Wing or, more aptly, 24. If Jack Bauer can save democracy in 24 hours, you can write an essay in that time, so stop whining!

Step one:
First things first, you're going to need enough caffeine to keep a small herd of elephants awake. Now is the time to stock up on your caffeinated beverage of preference. We recommend the diet versions, unless you want to emerge with an essay and a half-stone weight gain. Some other things you might need include: easy-to-eat, reasonably nutritious snack foods (bananas and cereal bars = good; family-size bars of Galaxy = not so good); lots of water; all your notes on the topic (you do not want to be hunting for that elusive-but-vital-to-your-entire-argument quote at 3am).

Step two:
Open your laptop and write down everything that springs to mind when you look at the essay title - it doesn't matter how inane your ramblings are at this stage, it's just a way of breaking through the panic. Rejoice in the fact that you now have 600 words or so of what journalists would call 'content'. Have some more caffeine.

Step three:
Utilise the power of the JStor abstract. Countless degrees have been built on this wonderful, wonderful gift to humanity from the benevolent online journal powers-that-be. Type obscure things like '15th-century gender studies' or 'history of macroeconomics' into this goldmine of abbreviated quotability and hey presto, you have the makings of a proper academic essay. Do your references and bibliography as you go along, unless you have a particularly masochistic streak. Under no circumstances should you attempt actual research - as in, visiting the library, making notes, actually taking things in. That has its place - this is not it. Desperate times and all that...

Step four:
Smoosh the results of steps two and three together until they resemble something approaching a logical argument. By this time it's probably around 4am, you are likely to be quite hyper from all the caffeine and your judgment may become impaired. Resist the temptation to add jokes, personal anecdotes and acrostic poems into your essay. Try also not to insert smiley faces, doodles, or impassioned pleas to the lecturer at this stage in the process.

Step five:
Go to bed and take a nap. Or at least do something else for an hour or so. Yes, really.

Step six:
As dawn approaches, re-read your essay with fresh eyes now that the caffeine buzz has begun to wear off. Greet your flatmates as they return from a night out. Bribe them into proofreading your essay.

Step seven:
Spellcheck, sense check, etc. You know the drill. Now get printing!

Step eight:
Hand in essay.

Step nine:
Feel elated. Then feel sleepy. Resolve to never, ever do this to yourself ever again.

Step ten:
Collapse into bed. You did it!

 


08 August 2012 10:30 AM

Four things you need to know about a graduate career in law

Every year many hopeful graduates apply for coveted and scarce graduate schemes at top law firms. Known in the industry as training contracts, these demanding but well-rewarded positions often come with a hefty sponsorship deal to help graduates through the final stages of their legal training before they join the firm. If you’re one of these hopefuls, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons! Read on for our top things you must think about before you even start to fill out application forms:

1. Make sure you want to work in law for the right reasons
Do you have a real and genuine interest in the law? Do you believe you will find the role as a solicitor or barrister enjoyable and challenging, or are you only interested in the money and perceived prestige it can bring? Do you enjoy logic, details and intellectual challenge? Are you happy working through piles of paperwork? Can you explain complex terms clearly, to people who have no idea what you’re talking about, without sounding patronising? Be honest about your personality and skills, and you’ll be happier in the long run. But equally, don’t rule out law just because you have visions of brash City boys spending 18 hours a day in the office – there are many different types of law and many different law firm cultures. Don’t assume you won’t fit in because of your gender, background or personality. Which leads on to…

…

2. Research!
If the idea of this makes you glaze over, law is probably not the profession for you – it’s research-intensive! If you’re the kind of person who can pick out vital bits of study texts and speedily interpret them without plodding though the whole book, this will stand you in good stead. Find out all you can about the career paths and firms that interest you. Do you know the day-to-day differences between being a solicitor and a barrister (beyond ‘one of them wears a wig’)? Do you have a specific idea of the geographical area or specialism you want to work in, or are you looking for a company that will give you a broad range of experience? 



3. Work experience
This doesn’t have to be legal, particularly if you can demonstrate decent business experience – for example, if you had a placement year at university. If you can get on a vacation scheme at a large firm, this will help you decide if commercial law is for you – but if you can’t it’s not the end of the world! Voluntary work with legal aid organisations, shadowing a family friend who’s a barrister, or working part-time as an office assistant at high street law firms all count. Good employers will accept that people come from different backgrounds and can bring different things to the table. Having said that, if you turn up for an interview and tell a senior partner that you’ve got no business or legal experience but you want to be a lawyer because you like watching Boston Legal and you want to make loads of money, expect to get short shrift.



4. Be realistic about your prospects
If you don’t have, at MINIMUM, a mid-to-high 2.1 and at least one or two As at A-Level, you stand little chance of making it into a top law firm. There is huge competition for places, and although firms will take your circumstances into account, they do have to have a cut-off point somewhere! Last year there were 4,874 training places available, whilst for the same year 7,064 people registered on the LPC (the last stage of academic legal training) – so you need to be one of the best. Becoming a barrister is even more competitive and is really not for the faint-hearted – there are far more applicants every year than there are training places, and as the Bar is very academic in slant you really do need a First (or a lot of luck and a 2.1) to be in with a chance. The moral of the story is that it is probably not worth forking out the many thousands it will cost you to train in either profession if you’re unlikely to get a job at the end of it and make that money back. The exception to this rule is if you have high grades but just haven’t managed to secure a training contract that pays for your training before you start your legal studies, or if you have good grades but want to work for a smaller firm that doesn’t offer sponsorship. But if you have less than a solid, 65%+ 2.1, you are probably better off pursuing other career paths. Honesty with yourself is the best policy!

To find out more about different careers in law, click here.


The Law Society and the Bar Council websites are packed with useful information and are great place to start researching your legal career.


02 August 2012 03:18 PM

What to expect from summer internships

Summer internships are a great way to work out if a particular career path is right for you – and when you get to the stage of filling in application forms and going for graduate job interviews, they will help you demonstrate your motivation and understanding of the industry you want to work in. Placements in large organisations such as banks, law firms and consultancies tend to be highly structured and place great emphasis on giving you a real taster of life at a particular company.

On a typical summer placement with a large company, you’ll likely get to have a go at some of the following: 
    •    Going along to seminars or presentations
    •    Office-based work such as helping with research on projects
    •    Going to client meetings
    •    Taking part in a business task with other placement students and giving a presentation on this at the end of the placement
    •    Socials – many firms will wine and dine you at least once during your internship!

By the end of your placement, you’ll have a definite idea of whether the company – and the career itself – is a good fit for you. For more info on how to make the most of graduate internships, click here.

Or click on the image below...

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