Careers Perspectives – from the Bath careers service

Focus on your future with expert advice from your careers advisers

First Year PhD - too early to plan for your future?

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📥  Career Choice, Career Development, For PhDs

I was running the Careers Service stand at the University Induction sessions for new research postgraduates. While waiting eagerly for conversations with keen new researchers, my ear caught the following comment from someone walking by: 'Careers? It's a bit early, isn't it?' Ever since, the question 'Is the first year of a PhD too early to be thinking about your career?' has been buzzing round in my head. Typically for someone with an academic background in Arts and Humanities, the conclusion I've reached is yes...and no.

Realistically, PhD researchers come and see us in the Careers Service at all stages of their doctorate, and we will never turn you away or tell you off because 'you should have thought about this earlier'. It's a reasonable point in many ways to suggest that the first few months of a PhD need to be spent settling in to the research and getting to know supervisors and collaborators. However, here are a few reasons why it can be beneficial to engage with your own career development sooner rather than later:

1. Setting a clear line between the present and the future can be a false distinction. In workshops with researchers I've started doing a 'time line' activitiy which aims to help people see how past activities, events and achievements can impact on current behaviour and future descisions. Right from first year, you will be engaging in many activities - the research itself, skills training, outside interests - that will contribute to your career development. All you need to do is consciously articulate - to yourself, friends, supervisors, a careers adviser - what you have learned/developed/achieved and what this means to you. Our Career Planning Timeline suggests career development activities you can be doing right from first year. Many of them are very small steps.

2. For many people, thinking about their career is a process rather than a one-off descision. Starting to consider career options early gives you more space and freedom to have a think, do some research into opportunities, build your networks, and allow some doors to close and your feelings and life circumstances to change. Choosing not to think about 'what next' until the last few weeks of your PhD can lead to panic at a time when you're probably panicking anyway.

3. Thinking about career planning early gives you the opportunity to build experience. A circular argument in some ways - as noted above, you are engaging in career development as you participate in research and other activities. Do make the most of your doctoral experience (and I know the research itself is time-consuming) to engage in a range of activities, such as internships, work shadowing, volunteering, entrepreneurship competitions, consultancy and public engagement, which builds your skills and networks.

4. You're probably thinking about it anyway. Those thoughts of 'What am I going to do after the PhD?' can creep in at unexpected moments. Sometimes (particularly in the middle of an experiment) it's best to push them away, at other times it's best to roll with them and take action. Turn anxiety into proactivity.

5. You're not alone. The Careers Service provides tailored support for research postgraduates, including a wealth of web resources just for you, workshops and 1:1 support.

Next time you see me on a stand, come and have a chat!


Happy Diwali – shining a light on the best graduate jobs…!

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📥  Career Choice, Finding a Job, Graduate Jobs

One of my clients asked yesterday, ‘How do I find the best job?’
This made me think, whilst we have a huge number of employers on campus; all trying to persuade you to start your graduate career with them, how do you decide they’re the best?

To me defining ‘the best’ comes down to whether an employer is right for you! Easier said than done as many organisations look pretty similar and offer much of the same opportunities. Therefore the first step is to clarify what is important to you in your future job and employer. It's a bit like creating a shopping list. You may want to consider the following:



  • What salary package are you looking for? (Important to be realistic here!)
  • Whether you want to work for an SME or a multinational?
  • Are you fixed or flexible in regards to the geographical location?
  • What are the opportunities and challenges within the sector you’re considering?
  • What are your values and how do these fit with a particular company’s culture?

The next step is to break down your shopping list into vital ingredients for your job satisfaction. Use this list of ingredients when evaluating job descriptions and when talking to company representatives on campus. You’ll be surprised just how much you can learn through an informal conversation. It is also worth contacting Bath Alumni working for particular companies, they will not only be able to advice you on making successful applications but also provide helpful insights about the organisation culture. Pop in to the careers service to look at the Graduate Contact list.

Remember job hunting is a two way process: it’s not just about whether you’re right for a particular job but it is also about whether a particular job is right for you!

Ps. I stumbled across this really interesting article from the Guardian on "What employees from around the world look for in a job" - definitely worth a read!

It's only a dissertation, right?

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📥  Advice, Applications, Tips & Hints

Yesterday I saw lots of students for CV checks - par for the course at this time of year. And I have noticed a common theme. With the final years, I hardly ever see any mention of their Final Year Project or Dissertation. It always surprises me that this really important piece of work is left off. I get some quizzical looks from them when I ask what they have chosen to focus on and they will answer me, indulging my curiosity.

Granted, I am a really nosey person and I love hearing about the extended pieces of individual research that our students have got up to. I used to be a researcher and was always fascinated by the research others were doing. So when I've heard about what they have done, or are planning to do, I ask them why they chose to leave it off. And almost always the answer is that the students think employers will not be interested in something so academic, as it is not related enough to the 'real world'.

I would beg to differ.

It is one of your best chances to show off an area that interests you. And for some, that will be a really good match to your desired career and for them, mentioning their research on Change Management in a complex organisation fits very well with their desired career path in HR, for instance. Even for those who don't have so obvious a match, there may well be skills and techniques you will develop that would be useful in your chosen career. A FYP in lab physics might seem far removed from a post in science communication. However, the language that student chooses to describe what they have done is a really good test of those communication skills they are so keen to use in a job.

So don't hide your dissertation or final year Project away. It might even turn out to be the part of your application that clinches the deal.....


Internships for First Years

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📥  Work Experience



In my afternoon drop-ins yesterday the vast majority of questions from new students were around how to find an internship.  Whilst it is generally more common for recruiters to offer internships to second years, there is a shift in recruitment practice with more and more employers engaging first years.

One such way of engaging first years is through Spring Insight Weeks. These are generally shorter than a full internship and usually take place over the Easter break. However this does change depending on when Easter falls. Please do check your academic timetable before committing to any Insight Weeks!

Insight weeks allow first years to explore different sectors and to find out what it’s like working for particular employers. They are also a great way to begin to clarify your career thinking. Crucially, doing an insight week in your first year will help you when you apply for an internship in your second year. The LSE Careers Service have helpfully put together a list of Insight Weeks and opportunities for first years.

There are other ways of gaining work experience, The Huffington Posts article on ‘How to boost your CV without Leaving Campus’ offers excellent tips and advice! The Careers Service also hosts over 150 employers in Semester 1, many deliver presentations on campus showcasing opportunities within their organisations. Why not come along to a few and see what’s out there?

You may also want to consider speculative applications as a way to secure work experience over the summer.  Just because an organisation isn’t advertising opportunities doesn’t mean they won’t consider potential candidates. The key is to approach organisations in the right way: create a strong CV and cover letter, research potential companies and write to a named individual. Usually SME’s are more open to this approach; check out business directories such as Kompas to identify companies in your area. Finally pop in to the Careers Service, we have a host of resources you can take-away and our Careers Advisers can support you with putting together your speculative application.


Do you have a Video Interview coming up?

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📥  Interviews

I am seeing a surge in the number of requests for Mock Interviews in the Careers Service. Therefore I thought this week I would focus on preparing for interviews. The use of Skype or telephone interviews is fairly common; I have however noticed an increase in the use of Video Interviews. UK graduate recruiters using Video Interviews include Accenture, Hill Dickinson, John Lewis, Capco, Microsoft and Schroders.

How is a Video Interview Different?

Rather than a live connection with an interviewer, a set of questions are prepared in advance and put to candidates using specialist software. This in turn records the candidate’s answers and stores it for review at a later date by the recruiter. The questions are recorded by a human interviewer or can be delivered by an avatar. Crucially once your interview starts, you are not able to rewind or re-record; a specific length of time is also allocated for each answer. Graduate recruiters use this medium as it cuts costs and can support international recruitment. It also ensures consistency in the interview process as each candidate is asked the same questions with the same time allocation. From a candidate’s perspective you have flexibility to do the interview when it suits you.

Video Interviews can be daunting and below are our tips on how to prepare and ensure you come across at your best:

  1. Get the tech sorted: if like me you’re a technophobe make sure you do a dry run at least the day before! Practice accessing the video interview software and make sure your microphone and camera works! Remember to switch your phone off and any apps that make a noise.
  2. Looks matter: de-clutter the space around you and make sure you have adequate lighting. The camera doesn’t just see you but also captures the space you’re in. Make sure you dress smart - as you would in a face-to-face interview.
  3. Use your imagination: it is easy to come across quite stilted on video, therefore imagine you are talking to a real person. Create a focal point directly in-front of the camera and ensure you maintain eye contact. Be careful of your body language, for example you may want to minimise hand and body movement which can be quite distracting on video.
  4. Manage time: you will be allocated set time to answer each question so you don’t want to waffle. Make sure you have a clock visible in front of you (but behind the camera).
  5. Use notes carefully: the joy of a video interview is you can have notes to hand to help you trigger key points in your mind. The trick is to use notes as a prompt and not to hide behind then. You also want to keep the rustling of paper to a minimum.

As with all types of interviews, practice helps. You may want to consider using The Interviewer software which allows you to record yourself answering interview questions – you can play back the recordings and review your performance. Just pop into the Careers Service and we will provide you with all the relevant information.

Update February 2016: The Interviewer software is now out of date but check back soon for an even better software package you will be able to use from your own computer.


National Evaluate your Life Day!

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📥  Career Choice

Mark your calendars! October 19th is National Evaluate Your Life Day. Didn't know there was such a thing? Me neither, I was looking for inspiration for my next blog post and googled off-beat holidays you can celebrate in October. This got me thinking… for some of us, our career makes up a significant aspect of our life and personal identity – so when was the last time you stepped back and reflected on how you really felt about your job, your professional development and levels of satisfaction?

Shifts in the job market mean the ‘traditional one career’ for life is a rarity. In fact, according to an article published on the Forbes website, the average worker now changes jobs every 4.4 years. Therefore, choosing and managing your career is increasingly about exploring a variety of options, evaluating your strengths, considering your values and personality. Of course these will evolve over time so there is some merit in stepping back on the 19th October and evaluating our careers.

Self-evaluation is challenging work! However there are some fantastic tools out there that can provide a helpful starting point.

You may also want to consider the following questions:

  • If a miracle happened one evening and you awoke the next morning with your fantasy job waiting, what would it be?
  • What is stopping you from pursuing your dream career? What is in the way?
  • What do you value the most in the workplace?

Have a great weekend and do feel free to book an appointment with a Careers Adviser to continue your reflective journey!


How To Effectively Follow-Up After A Careers Fair


📥  Careers Fairs, Networking

Wow! The Autumn Careers Fair was busy today! It was great to see so many University of Bath students engaged in conversations with recruiters on campus. It might be useful to think about what you learnt from talking to the exhibitors and consider the steps below to progress your career planning!

First up, step back and reflect on what you learnt at the fair. Which companies did you engage with and were excited about speaking to? Was there a company there that you could see yourself working for in the future? Did anything specific stand out from the conversations you had – for example the career progression opportunities, the company culture? Next make a list of the exhibitors you chatted with in a list of preference. Go online, research them further and if you are considering applying for a placement, internship or graduate role then make a note of their application deadlines.

If you exchanged business cards then you must follow up with a personalised thank-you email. You could consider attaching your CV. If you don’t have the exhibitors contact details why not shout-out to an employer and say thanks for their help a few days after the event on Twitter or Facebook? You will also impress the employer with your ability to ‘think outside the box’.

Finally pop in and see us at the Careers Service – it can be helpful to talk through your reflections. We can support you in creating a job hunting plan, help you identify similar employers and guide you through the application process.


“Tell me about yourself” – an innocent ice-breaker or nightmare interview question?

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📥  Interviews

A few days ago I delivered a workshop on Preparing for Interviews; during the workshop I asked the participants to share their nightmare interview question. It seems one of the most commonly asked interview questions ‘Tell me about yourself’ strikes fear amongst a number of us.

On the face of it, ‘Tell me about yourself’ is an innocent question, designed to break the ice and put you at ease before the actual interview starts. Yet I think it is one of the most difficult questions to answer. At the Careers Service we always encourage students to consider interview questions from the recruiter’s perspective; after all there is a purpose behind every question. When an employer asks, ‘Tell me about yourself’ they want to get a sense of who you are – the person behind the interview mask. This is often the first question asked in an interview; employers will note how confident and articulate you appear. Your response will set the tone for the remainder of the interview.

Our tips for a strong answer are:

  1. Be succinct: one way to approach this question is to prepare a 60-second elevator pitch. Remember you do not need to provide a detailed chronology, just a summary of your experiences.
  2. Prepare: you know this question is coming so prepare an answer in advance. Review the person specification and job description, make a note of the qualities the employer is looking for and tie in relevant skills from your placement or other work experience to the job.
  3. Consider your language: the language you use to describe yourself can create a picture in the interviewers mind about who you are as a person. Employers are consciously and subconsciously assessing whether you are the right ’fit’ within their team and organisation. 10 words you must never use to describe yourself makes for interesting reading.

Interviews take skill and in order to perform well, you have to practice. You may want to consider booking a mock interview with a Careers Adviser; you will not only perfect your technique but also get valuable feedback and coaching on your performance.


Autumn Careers Fair 2014


📥  Careers Fairs

The University of Bath, Autumn Careers Fair will be held on Thursday 16th October from 11am-4pm in the Sports Training Village. 

For those of you who have never been to careers fair, you’re in for a treat: over 135 employers all interested in you and under one roof! We wanted to share some tips so you can make the most of the fair.
Check out the list of employers who are attending (available here ) and do a little bit of background research on each company to help you create a shortlist of companies you want to approach on the day.

Don’t ask questions about information that can easily be found on a company’s website! Use the opportunity to glean information about the company that isn’t easily available. Remember you are talking to another human therefore show interest in what they have to say. Ask them about details of their work, career progression, company culture, the sector, routes in and areas of expansion for their business.

Introduce yourself, say you name and remember to smile! Give a quick personal summary (15 seconds) then go for the questions! Make sure you maintain eye contact and write down any useful snippets as they will help with applications and interviews. Remember to thank them for their time!

Get to the fair early and make sure you dress smart! If you are nervous, ‘warm up’ by approaching companies not on your target list. Approach each employer on your own. Nothing is less appealing (or less professional) than a group of friends arriving together and taking turns asking questions.

If there is a queue forming behind you or if the employer is looking distracted, say your thank you’s and move on!

Good luck and enjoy the fair!