Careers Perspectives – from the Bath careers service

Focus on your future with expert advice from your careers advisers

Monthly Archives: November 2017

Postgraduate Study and Personal Statements

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📥  Advice, Applications, Postgraduate Study

Postgraduate Study and Personal Statements

 

I have seen a few students in quick query appointments worried about their personal statements and I therefore thought I would write a quick guide with regards to writing personal statements for postgraduate study.


Event Alert: For those of you interested in postgraduate study in the humanities and social sciences sector, the faculty is running a great information session this Friday December 1st on applying for postgraduate programmes locally, nationally and internationally, and where to look for funding sources. Book your place through MyFuture.


The slight differences in personal statements

Pretty much all postgraduate courses and institutions will ask you to write some sort of personal statements, but be aware that the word limit may be different from institution to institution and each department may also ask you to answer specific questions. It is therefore vital that you always read through the application instructions on the university website before starting. You don’t want to write a two page personal statement and later realise you only have 4000 characters to use.

There are different application formats with regards to different career pathways, for example some postgraduate courses use UKPASS. However, you should always find specific application instructions on the individual university websites, so these are therefore key to research.  See some great information from University of Manchester with regards to personal statements for PGCE and medicine. Getting into Teaching also has great advice on writing personal statements for PGCE.

What not to do in personal statements

Typical errors in personal statements is not being clear about why you would like to do the postgraduate course, poor structure and bad spelling and grammar. It also shows if you have not done the research needed with regards to the university and the course you are applying for. Even if you are applying to similar postgraduate degrees at different universities the particular universities and programmes would still like to know why you are choosing them.

Typical content for your personal statements

Again, always read the specific application instructions for your chosen programmes, but this is the typical content of a personal statement. See our careers resource for more details.

  •  Why this University? Why this programme?

As said above there needs to a clear reason for why you are applying to that particular University and that particular postgraduate programme. Is it the location, what about particular research interest of the academics in the departments? Have you been to campus before? Does the department have good alumni networks or industry opportunities? What about the subject motivates you? Are the particular modules or course options that interests you?

  • An insight into your overall abilities (academic, work, extra-curricular and more) and how these experiences have prepared you for the course

What have you done so far that will make sure that you are successful studying the postgraduate degree? Have you completed any relevant research projects, dissertation, relevant module work? It is important to connect what you are doing now academically to what you would like to study on the programme. Have you had any relevant work experience or any senior roles in societies or clubs at University? Or perhaps you have had some personal achievements that should be mentioned? These experiences should also include examples of skills that are essential to be successful in the course such as communication skills (presentations, written reports, group work) or relevant scientific techniques, analytical or research skills.

  • A sense that the course links to what you have done in the past and how it relates to what you want to do in the future

It is important to connect your past experiences and what you hope to get out of the course to what you want to do in the future. Where do you see yourself working/doing after the course has finished? The admissions tutor won’t find you in a couple of years’ time to see if you are in the job role you describe in your statement but they would like you to have an awareness of career pathways and an understanding of the reasons for taking the course

  • Last but not least, they want to see motivation and enthusiasm!!

This is key to a good personal statement. Your motivation and enthusiasm should shine through and the reasons should be clear. No need to be too emotional, but a reflective and enthusiastic approach and backing these up with evidence is what they would like to see.

Final piece of advice, have your personal tutor read through it as well! Their academic perspective is very valuable when writing a statement.

I wish you the best of luck in writing your personal statement.

Further resources:

 

Living Successfully with Psychosis

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📥  Diversity, Tips & Hints, Uncategorized

This year I had the privilege of providing career support for Neal who has just completed his MA in International Security. It's not easy to live with a condition like psychosis and yet despite setbacks in his life, Neal recently started as a consultant for Alten. He kindly agreed to be interviewed and this is his story.

From the age of 14, I had started to feel unwell and then one day I found myself climbing on the school roof – I was completely deluded and didn’t know where I was. It was like watching the TV programme Quantam Leap or The Truman Show film with Jim Carey. Medics had no idea what caused this as I had never taken drugs, or alcohol and I was diagnosed as having psychosis. Fortunately, I didn’t suffer from any hallucinations, but I ended up being hospitalised for the next six months. I found myself being one of the first people to try Risperidone – an anti-psychotic drug which had great success. I guess during this time I was incredibly lucky and had a great childhood. I was one of seven children with very supportive parents but it was really hard for my parents to see me so ill. I was taken off the medications but then relapsed again at 16 and then 18. But despite everything, I still achieved 4 A levels ABCC from a State School. I somehow knew that Maths would open doors for the future. It was my best subject and I thought it would impress people. I was really happy to get to University of Bath to study Mathematics and Computing from 1998-2002. I spent my year placement at Motorola and then they sponsored me for my second year and final year which was excellent. Somehow, I had managed to get through university without telling anyone about my psychosis. I didn’t tell anyone because I was so worried about the stigma and how I would be received. I survived because I had the support of a long-term girlfriend and by getting a lot of sleep as the drugs made me feel so tired. I wasn’t sporty so didn’t do much exercise, but looking back realised that probably would have helped me. Anyway, I just paced myself and was glad to have got a 2:2. I was also very fortunate that I didn’t have any psychotic episodes during this time.

It wasn’t until the final week of my final year that I told my personal tutor about my mental health as I had asked him to be my referee for MBDA.  The tutor actually put on the reference – “this student is extremely good at keeping secrets!” MBDA (part of BAE Systems) offered me a job on their graduate scheme and I worked my way up to principal engineer on their missile systems. I had disclosed my disability when I joined and it had taken 11 months to get my clearance which came with certain restrictions on how I could work, but the organisation was always very supportive and wanted me to do well. I worked on some really interesting and diverse projects including an internship for RUSI (a big think tank).

Suddenly out of the blue in 2006 I had another psychotic episode and this time diagnosed as having Schizo-affective disorder with manic type, now labelled as Recurring Psychosis. I guess it may have been kicked started by the fact I had been under a lot of stress outside of work, and also my drug dosage had been reduced yet again. This time I was so bad that I couldn’t even look after myself and I was eventually sectioned 24/7 for six months. In this breakdown and other later breakdowns, I suffered with hallucinations and delusions.  It wasn’t a great time in my life and it was hard for my family who visited me regularly. I have never taken drugs (other than my medication), never smoked and never drank and yet here I was again.

My company were great and they paid me for those six months and then I went back to work. I worked successfully for another five years and I was still on medication but I hardly had any time off. Then in December 2011, I fell ill again and I just couldn’t get well and was sectioned three or four times and by October 2014 I lost my MOD clearance which was devastating as it meant I lost my job. Looking back this time, the doctors believe that I ended up with a chemical imbalance, as I was now exercising a lot and spending a lot of time in the gym and somehow this had diluted how the drug worked.

I was finally put on a new drug which is working really well and appealed to the MOD on my clearance but I couldn’t get it back. So in 2015/16, I decided to take some time out and went travelling.

I thought about what I wanted to do and realised that I had always had an interest in military science and I think my time at RUSI had inspired me on that as I would often attend lectures. I had always enjoyed reading magazines such as Foreign Affairs. It was a friend who recommended the Masters in International Security at University of Bath and so I thought “why not!”. I mainly did it out of interest and really enjoyed it although I found the essays hard though because with my STEM background I didn’t have that much experience. My dissertation was on The Ethical Mandate of Autonomous weapon systems in a UK context. If I ever manage to go back into the Defence industry, then I think my Masters will prove to be extremely useful.

What’s different about being at the University of Bath again for a Masters? Well, this time I decided to disclose my disability and it’s been really great to have support. I saw a Counsellor from Student Services every week who helped me to deal with any stress/anxiety I may have had on the course, although I do know that stress is not related to any relapse I might have in the future. I also used the Skills Centre and had my essays checked. As well as this I have used the Careers Service - a lot! I attended a workshop on Developing Resilience to Support your Career run by Careers and Student Services and found this particularly useful. I attended a webinar on To Disclose or Not to Disclose your disability which included information on where to find disability friendly employers. My personal view from having a mental health issue is to disclose after you get a job offer! However, I appreciate that for every individual this will be different. I also had several one to one appointments with a careers adviser. This was useful as I had thought about going on another graduate training scheme but realised through the guidance interviews that I had a load of experience and needed to find a higher-level role. As well as discussing career options, I used the career meeting to seek advice on improving my CV which was actually a challenge to do as a mature student and so the advice was useful. I eventually decided that my career goal was to be a consultant or chief engineer with a particular technical specialism. My longer-term career goals, well I have even thought about going into politics! I really admire those people going into politics later in life even if I might not agree with their political views. I’ve even thought about doing another degree in my spare time.

So, my advice to anyone who has a disability is to get the support you need but also get involved. This time round I joined the Debating Society and the Philosophy Club as well as took part in activities within POLIS attending extracurricular seminars on campus and also at BRLSI in Queen Square.  Don’t be secretive either about your condition. I don’t publicise my disability but I will talk about it if asked. The way people view mental health conditions is changing and I think high profile people like Stephen Fry help to do this. It’s really important when things get tough to look back at your previous achievements and remember what you have accomplished. Despite my condition, I have achieved a lot – a 2:1 for my final year project and I am very proud of my French GCSE. And just remember there is nothing wrong in being ill for a year – sometimes that just happens, or taking a gap year to recover. Don’t see these things as a fail – it will in the long term help you to do better grade wise. Repeat a year too if that’s the best thing for you. Most importantly, stick to your medication.

After CV checks/applications checks, and support I ended up with two job offers and had to book another careers appointment to help me with deciding which job! I have just started working with Alten – a multi-national software engineering consultancy and currently working for Rolls Royce designing engines for private jets – really interesting work. So as I start on another career journey, I hope my story will encourage you to do the same!

(For information on support offered by Student Services visit the Welfare and Wellbeing Advice Team. Drop in sessions run daily.) 

 

Interview practice - any time, anywhere!

  

📥  Advice, Interviews


Ah, interviews. Sooner or later, we all have to have them - whether it's for a placement, a summer internship, postgraduate study or the graduate job of your dreams. But they are not the most looked-forward-to of events. Or the most thoughtfully timed. Ghislaine Dell, Careers Adviser, shares her thoughts on how to practise for a video interview in this apt blog entry.

Does this sound like you?

"Yay! I have an interview! Oh no, it's the day after tomorrow and I really need some practice!"

Or...

"Oh no, it says that the interview is a video one and I have no idea how that will work let alone how I am going to come over on camera...."

As you know, in the Careers Service we are always very happy to help with interview preparation in our quick query appointments and do offer practice interviews, but there are times when we can't offer practice interviews, you don't have the slots free, or you don't have gaps in your timetables, or actually you really really want to practise using the video interview format.

So, we are delighted to say that we can help you with that as well!

InterviewStream is a video interview platform which offers you the opportunity to build your own video interview from a bank of thousands of questions, take the interview, and review your performance and comment on it at a later date. Or maybe you can send the video file to a friend or a family member for comments? We have also built you a portfolio of ready-made interviews that you can choose from.

Thanks to the generosity of the Alumni Fund, and supported by the MBA Careers Office, all registered Bath students can access this package on an unlimited basis. Simply register using your Computing Services email and take it from there. You'll find fuller details and login instructions on this page.

There is even a handy 'um, like' counter to use when you watch back your interview so you can see how many of those dreaded filler words you are using!

So, have a go! And do tell us if there are targeted interview sets that you would like us to build. Your feedback will be very gratefully received and it will help us build a more useful service.

You can find more interview resources on our Bath Careers page.

 

Introducing the Careers Fair app - Summer Internship Fair

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📥  Advice, Careers Fairs, Internships, Networking, Uncategorized

Introducing the Careers Fair app - Summer Internship Fair


On Friday 17th November we are running our much anticipated Summer Internship Fair in the Founders' Hall from 10am - 3pm. At this event you can find out everything about summer placements, some are also open to all years and all degree disciplines, so there is something here for all students, whatever year or degree discipline. I hope to see you there!

This year we are trialing the use of a new app. You can download this to find out more about the Fair and the exhibitors by searching the App store or Google Play for "Career Fair Plus''. Then, select University of Bath from the list of universities and you'll see the Summer Internship Fair. Download and see for yourself!

Today, browsing through, I found information about 27 different employers, what their target degree disciplines are, what opportunities are available and even how to apply, all in a couple of clicks. In addition, it gives you a direct link to the fair map layout and where the employer is situated. This way you can walk directly up to the employer without having to lose time finding out where their booth is.

You can also find more information about the event and the employers present on our Bath Careers website and on MyFuture - Summer Internships Fair

What are your next steps?

  1. Read the information about the employers on the app or on the above link
  2. Plan which employers you want to see and where they are situated in the fair
  3. Prepare questions in advance - if you are wondering what to ask then we have an excellent previous blog entry and a careers guide - Prepare for the Fair (both cover advice for our main fair in October but a lot of the information is still valid for the summer internship fair).
  4. Bring a CV - just in case
  5. Show up - learn about organisations, explore summer job opportunities and have fun!

See you on Friday!

 

 

The dreaded "Do you have any questions for us?" moment in an interview!

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📥  Advice, Interviews, Tips & Hints

I have delivered a few interview skills talks and workshops recently and one part of the interview students almost always fear is at the end when the recruiter asks you: "Do you have any questions for us?" This blog post written by our Careers Adviser Saiyada Fazal gives you important advice and information about exactly how to tackle this dreaded part of the interview.


It can be all too easy to get towards the end of a job interview and not ask any questions. Because, let's face it, all you probably want to know is 'have I got the job?' and 'how much will it pay?' But the questions you ask your prospective employer are just as important as the answers you give during an interview.

Although job interviews often feel like an interrogation, they're meant to be a conversation between you and a potential employer. Asking the right questions during a job interview can not only help you build a dialogue, but it can also help you evaluate if the job is right for you.

So, lets start with questions you shouldn't ask during an interview:

  • How much will you pay / what is the benefits package / how much holiday will I get / what are my work hours?*
  • What happened to the last person who did this job?
  • Can you explain what your business does?
  • When can I start using the company discount?

The reason for avoiding these questions during an interview is that you want to use the opportunity, to demonstrate your drive to excel in the role and the fact that you've done some homework (researched the company, industry and department). You want to leave the employer with a positive and memorable impression of you as a potential candidate.

A general rule is that you should ask no more than two questions (the employer may have other candidates they are interviewing and you don't want to hijack their time). The best questions are open ended and don't ask for information that can easily be found on the organisations website. Avoid negative or aggressive questions, you want to focus on building a rapport with the interviewer.

Examples of good questions to ask during an interview:

Can you tell me how the role relates to the overall structure of the organisation? with this question you're drawing attention to a preference for teamwork. It looks as though you want to know where you would fit in and how your contribution would affect the rest of the company.

How would you describe the work culture here? this signals that you want to operate at your optimum and understand that for this you require a positive environment. This indicates you're a good self-manager who is aware of how to get the best out of yourself.

What do you think are the most important qualities for someone to excel in this role? this question can often lead to valuable information that’s not in the job description. It can help you learn about the company culture and expectations so you can show that you are a good fit.

In what way is performance measured and reviewed? this question flags up that you appreciate the importance of delivering real results. You will be seen as someone who understands the value of commitment, reliability and returns.

What are the most important issues that you think your business is currently facing? or I have noticed, you recently introduced a new product/service/division/project; how will this benefit the business? these variations both show that you are interested in the job and employer behind it too. It also shows you have researched the organisation which demonstrates motivation.

If you decide you genuinely have no questions to ask, then turn this into an opportunity by saying, "at this stage I haven't got any questions. This is because I spent time looking through your website and read up on current projects. I also spoke to Mr. Smith at the Bath careers fair, who talked to me about the organisation culture and business priorities such as x. Therefore, at this stage I don't have any questions".

* Remember you can still clarify hours of work, salary and holidays by having a separate conversation with representatives from the organisations HR department after your interview.

If you need further interview resources, please have a look at our Succeed in the Selection Process on our website and read through our excellent Interview Guide.

Good luck in your interviews!

 

Being a Final Year Student –Managing your academic work and finding time to apply for jobs!!

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📥  Advice, Finding a Job, Tips & Hints

Being a Final Year –Managing your academic work and finding time to apply for jobs!!


“No one warned me that my final year would be like this!” said a student that I had seen earlier this week. It’s not easy to juggle academic work and job applications deadlines, as well as find time to attend interviews and assessment centres all in the autumn semester. So how can you survive and ensure that you achieve your desired goals without burnout? Here are some tips for getting through the next few weeks.


This blog entry was posted in a previous academic year by Melanie Wortham, Careers Adviser, but is still very relevant for students today.


Setting Goals - Set yourself specific and clearly defined goals, and make sure that these are realistic and achievable. To do this, you first need to examine your present situation and assess what goals are important to you and what action you need to take to achieve your target. You may decide that getting a 2:1 is your priority and therefore you may have to limit the number of jobs you apply for. Decide which are the most important companies for you to target based upon factors such as closing date, location, degree class required, and chances of getting in.  Have a contingency plan or alternative route to your goal in case you have to change your plans, for example, consider taking a relevant postgraduate course, or a temporary job where you might gain relevant experience which moves you closer to your goal.

Avoid Procrastination – It’s very easy just to do nothing or get distracted on lots of other more interesting activities or tasks and then not attempt the important tasks! Don’t put off starting something which will then lead to further action. Many applications to large employers need to be made in the first term of your final year and if you procrastinate you'll miss the deadlines.

Write a To Do List – Writing a list like this takes away a huge amount of stress as these tasks can then be slotted into your calendar at a time when you think you can get them done. However, do take a look at your list and prioritise those things which need to be done earlier. Keep reviewing your list and updating it.

Organising Your Time – If you are finding it difficult to fit everything in, then keep a time log and see where you might be wasting some time, or be able to make more use of time. When applying for jobs keep copies of all the applications you have made and keep a log of the date you applied, result, and a record of all your interviews, plus any questions you were asked, particularly those questions you found challenging. This will help you to keep track of your progress and spot areas where you could improve.

Break down Tasks into smaller tasks – Getting started on a job application is the hardest thing. So if you have a spare half hour, why not start an application or do a bit of a research on the company for that interview. For example, most applications now are online, information can be saved and returned to at a later date for editing. The first part is mainly your personal details which takes a while, but doesn’t require a huge amount of thought as you probably have all this on a CV. You will feel a sense of achievement that you have started. Then tackle those difficult questions one by one as you have time, but remember to keep an eye on deadlines.

Perseverance -  Learn how to take a positive attitude towards failure. Perhaps, you didn’t get shortlisted for interview or didn’t get through the assessment centre this time. Try to ask for feedback from the employer or come and see us here at Careers to discuss how you might improve next time. Talk things over with your friends who may have similar experiences to share and can offer advice to you. Don’t despair as mistakes are a crucial part of any learning process. It is said that the people who have achieved the most have made the most mistakes!

Be Kind to Yourself! Make sure during your final year you do find time to enjoy yourself and relax. Find time to do some sport or go shopping with friends or have a night out. Reward yourself if you get shortlisted for interview or make it to the final stages of an assessment centre.

Help is at Hand – The Careers Service offers support to all students and graduates. We are open from 9.30 – 5:00pm Monday to Friday in the Virgil Building, city centre. You can come in and have a CV or application checked, get support in finding a job or researching employer or discuss what to do next. You can find details about our services and appointment here.

And remember - The secret of getting ahead is getting started. ~Mark Twain