Careers Perspectives – from the Bath careers service

Focus on your future with expert advice from your careers advisers

The good and the bad of networking

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📥  Advice, Networking, Tips & Hints

Recently I have seen  quite a few students on quick query who are struggling with demonstrating their motivation in cover letters or application form questions. It is quite tricky to get right. I am very much a believer that you need to try and talk with someone from the organisation you are applying to and then hopefully you will have learnt a little bit extra about the company beyond the website. This will help you connect with the company and explain your interest in them a bit more personally. I’m surprised that students applying for summer internships and placements don’t make more effort to find out if anyone from their course is currently on placement at the company or in a similar role. Also you shouldn’t forget those who have returned to Bath having worked there. I have been able to point out to some students that I know there is someone who has returned from placement because I’ve met them. However it’s not just a case of getting in touch it is also about thinking carefully what you will ask.

I was talking to one of my regular final year students and he was telling me he had been approached by second years for advice as a result of his placement last year. He said to me he’s very busy at the moment with his own applications and course work so he is more inclined to respond positively to the student who shows they have done their research and asks a specific question rather than the person who is very vague about what they want or appears to expect him to do all the work. It’s a good point to remember in networking that no-one owes you any help. You can win someone over to giving you some advice if  you show you are properly engaged with your research on the organisation and job role. This is really about respecting your contact's time. Think about what you need to know before you contact them and then be specific. There are some useful questions you can ask a network contact in our Finding a Graduate Job Guide on page 7. I hope I don't need to tell you to say thank you and let them know if you were successful. Careers Advisers also like hearing from students they have helped so if you spoken to us do let us know how you've got on.

MOOC your way to career success!

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📥  inspire




For those who are unfamiliar, MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses)  are often offered free by a variety of sources (sometimes for-profit companies, sometimes universities, sometimes a collaboration between the two). Often serving as introductions to key concepts, I have seen students use MOOCs as a way to get a feel for various subjects before deciding on module choices whilst others use MOOCs to satisfy their hunger to learn a broad range of subjects in their own time.

In 2012, the Open University launched FutureLearn, partnering with more than 20 UK and international universities and other institutions such as the British Council, the British Library and the British Museum. Courses on FutureLearn cover a vast selection of subjects, from an Introduction to Ecosystems, Introduction to Journalism, and the Secret Power of Brands, to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Inside Cancer and Preparing for University. The University of Bath delivers MOOCs through  FutureLearn; for example The Make an Impact: Sustainability for Professionals  course is starting in January and will run for 6 weeks. In the USA,  MOOC provider, Coursera offers over 400 courses from top institutions world-wide. Generally MOOCs are  between 4 and 12 weeks in length and require around 2 hours of study time per week.

Other MOOC providers include:

So, should you as a busy student or graduate consider doing a MOOC?
We think so....

  1. Research a Career: A MOOC can help you to explore aspects of a career sector and develop further knowledge that could help you to stand out from a crowd. If you are thinking about Forensic Science for example, then you might consider the Introduction to Forensic Science course provided by University of Strathclyde.  A MOOC can not only help develop your commercial awareness but can also help you make decisions around what modules to study at University or help you decide on your Masters course.
  2. Boost your CV: Studying a MOOC  shows you're motivated, you have a variety of interests and you can manage a busy workload. Use MOOCs to demonstrate to an employer your commitment to pursue a career in a particular sector. You may be an Engineer looking to work in the Environmental Sector, so doing a MOOC in Understanding life cycles and environmental impact may be quite useful.
  3. Professional Development: there are a number of MOOCs out there to help you develop invaluable skills. The University of Washington deliver a MOOC on Introduction to Public Speaking, ideal if you want to improve your presentation skills. You can develop your project management skills, learn  the basics of financial management, develop your assertiveness skills and much more!
  4. Additional Preparation: MOOCs are extra tuition from a different perspective and can be used to compliment your existing study and to deepen your understanding of various topics and concepts.
  5. Network with global learners: by taking a MOOC you will be learning and interacting with like-minded people from across the globe. MOOCs allow discussion of the topic via a forum and most  also have their own hashtag on Twitter for further discussion. Potentially this is a way of finding useful contacts or networking with people already working in the field you are interested in.

You can’t go wrong with a MOOC as long as you view it as an additional tool to help you research potential careers or simply boost your knowledge in a topic that interests you.  Remember though that a MOOC only provides introductory knowledge and is not a substitute for real life experience!

Managing the stress of applications

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📥  Applications

We’ve just put up the Christmas decorations in the Careers Service and whilst it is nice for our team to be thinking about fun things like our Christmas meal together and a break from work, we realise that this time of year is a very stressful time for students. With course work deadlines and applications or interviews to juggle, things can feel very overwhelming. You are also tired and that can make problems seem a whole lot worse than they are. You are not alone and we are happy to discuss your concerns. You should also remember that the University has excellent counselling support for students if you are in need of support because your mental wellbeing is affected.

A few students I have seen previously have booked a quick query this last week or so to have  a bit of a catch up. They haven’t really had a question as such but have found it helpful to talk out loud about where they have got to with their applications and any interviews they are facing. My message is to share your worrying thoughts with us, with trusted friends or family members or the counselling service. A good listener can really help you put things in perspective.

Some of the students we talk to are worried about the impact their job applications are having on their academic work. We would never advocate that you put job applications before your study so if that is a choice you face there is a simple answer. You have one chance at your degree but plenty of time in the future to apply for jobs. We are happy to discuss this with you.

Some of you may have made applications and been unsuccessful. This might be the point at which you seek some help from us to make sure your application is the best it can be and it is also a chance to review whether what you are chasing is really the right thing for you. This is a tough situation to be in but you will find that we are ready to support you and help you consider your options.

We are also seeing students come in who are concerned that they are only starting job hunting now and think it is too late. So much of the timing of your job hunting depends on when the jobs or courses relevant to your chosen career are advertised. Make sure you are clear about the recruitment timetable for your preferred job. After all there is no point in be anxious about something that is not actually a worry. Even if you have left it a bit late to start we are continuing to receive job information from many employers and will continue to do so throughout the year. To get a better idea of job hunting please read our guide “Finding a Graduate Job” and talk to us.

These are just a few of the examples of concerns students have about their careers at this time of year. Please be assured that you will find a confidential, impartial listening ear and helpful support here at the Careers Service regardless of how big or small your worries are about job hunting. Who knows a short chat with us might help you get things in perspective so you can enjoy a short break over Christmas without feeling guilty.


Science careers: options, job hunting and how to succeed!

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📥  Sector Insight

From audiologists to astrophysicists, there are a variety of fascinating careers in science which combine analytical thinking with creativity. Whether you wish to help patients learn to hear or solve the mysteries of the universe, there is something to suit all interests. There are also plenty of vacancies. The number of jobs for audiologists, for example, is expected to jump by 34% between 2012-22. And the current science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) skills shortage means 39% of UK companies are still struggling to fill these roles. Similarly, there is a shortfall of women in science, with 87% of Stem jobs in the UK currently occupied by men. So, if it is your dream to work in science and technology, what are your options? And what will you need to succeed?

Guardian Careers are hosting a live chat with the experts on Thursday 4 December from 1-3pm and will be discussing:

  • How to break into a career in science
  • The best ways to find and secure science jobs
  • How to encourage more women into science careers
  • How to build up your CV for a scientific career

For more information and to participate in the live chat visit the Guardian Careers website. 


How to be more commercially aware

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📥  Commercial Awareness

Many employers love Bath students. They are well-qualified, intelligent, active, have experience - but sometimes they don't do as well in employer selection processes as the employers (or the students) were expecting. When we dig a little deeper, this tends to be because they were lacking in what is termed 'commercial awareness'.

So, what is 'commercial awareness'?

When I try and define it, I find it really difficult to do, so no wonder it is a difficult thing to make sure you develop. It's even more difficult for those of you who aren't interested in 'big business' - maybe you think you don't need to bother with it at all? Or aren't sure how to translate it into your kind of organisation?

So, being as Bath is a fairly sporty kind of place, I'm going to try and explain how to develop commercial awareness with a sports analogy.

Imagine you are a fan of, say, Liverpool FC. (Absolutely no declaration of interest here - just one I picked out of  many).

You probably know, then, who plays for them. Who manages them. How long it has been since they last won a game, or played in Europe, or beat Man U. Who they are likely to beat hands down, and who might be a bit more challenging. You'll maybe know who owns them, and whether the fans like that. Who the shirt sponsor is. Where they are in the league - and, if you are a fairly obsessive sort of fan, how many matches there are left in this season and who has to win which ones for Liverpool to win the Premiership/get into the Champion's League. Not to mention why it is crucial that this or that player is picked for the next match.

So - that is commercial awreness, or business knowledge, whatever you want to call it. It's knowing the organisation you want to work for. But not just that. It's knowing their competitors, and where each stands in the marketplace. Who does what best. What the most recent innovations have been. How effective your organisation of choice has been lately.

You might be reading this and thinking 'Well, I don't know or care about football. What is she blethering on about? It would take ages to find that lot out'.

And that is exactly my point. If you are, genuinely, interested in Liverpool, you'll know this stuff and writing it down would be simple. If you have just decided to apply and you actually support another club, you'll still know some of it but the details might need a bit of work. But you'd know where to look. If you are a football novice but thought the job sounded interesting, you may need intensive help.

Commercial awareness is very difficult to develop overnight.

Start by identifying the general area in which you are interested. In this case - start reading the sports pages, focusing on football.

Identify the key players (maybe the top 6 clubs in the Premiership). Look on their websites. Look at match reports. Who is doing well? Why?

Before this football analogy is completely exhausted - remember, we are here to help you and if you would like a bit of help identifying a strategy to develop your commercial awareness, please come in and talk to us.

Remember -  to make commercial awarenss work for you, simply substitute your organisation and field of work of choice for the sports clubs named here. And start that reading up now - before you get left on the bench.


Is there such a thing as a non-relevant internship?


📥  Work Experience

We're seeing quite a few students coming in asking us about internships. This is great - to have people coming in and asking us about productive uses of their summers is exactly what we want! But some of you are quite concerned that you can't get the 'right' sort of internship, maybe because you're a first year and the schemes you can find are only open to penultimate years.

So I thought I would issue a bit of reassurance.

It does not matter if you are studying, for example, engineering, and can't find an internship with a related company. There are still internships available for first years (just have a look at the programme from our Summer Internship Fair to see the sort of things available).

Yes, these tend to be in finance, or what might be termed 'general management', or in summer camps. But that doesn't mean they are useless as far as you are concerned.

These roles, or organisations, might not be your first, or even second, choice of career or employment sector. But they will still give you very useful experience of using some of the skills that all employers want.

For example, almost every employer wants people who can work well in a team and solve problems. They don't mind that the team of people you worked in was a set of camp counselors in Canada. Or that the problem you solved was how to increase a particular brand's market share. They do care that you had an opportunity to use those skills - and you have a great example to use in one of those competency-based questions employers love to ask you.

You will also learn about the sort of working style and culture you prefer - whether that be relaxed, flexible, likely to change at the last minute, or more predictable and structured. That might make the difference between you applying for a placement in process engineering in a large plant, or a smaller conasultancy that goes into many different companies to help them increase efficiencies in their production.

So go on - try something completely different! You have nothing to lose - and a whole lot of insight and useful skills development to gain!

We are here every day to help you with applications for internships and to answer any of your career questions - click here for times and how to book.



PhD funding fairs – London and Leeds, December 2014

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📥  Postgraduate Study


PostgraduateStudentships is running two PhD funding fairs in December 2014. Please note you need to APPLY to attend and the deadline to apply is 6pm on Tuesday 2 December. There are two fairs taking place:  London – 4 December and Leeds – 10 December.  The fairs bring together more than 25 UK universities with specific PhD funding to offer. Students who have achieved or are expected to achieve either a 1st or a 2:1 in their undergraduate degree or a merit or distinction in their masters degree can apply to attend. The Fair is for you if:

  • You are considering doing a PhD and looking for funding.
  • You want to talk to and network with some of the best UK Universities that are looking for high quality PhD students
  • You'd like to find out more about studying for a PhD, get some advice  and talk to PhD students to understand what it's really like

For more information and to apply, visit the PostgraduateStudentships website.

Please note that PhD funding may be subject to residency requirements or other restrictions.


Time management tips for successful job hunting

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📥  Finding a Job, Graduate Jobs, Work Experience


Applying for a placement, internship or graduate role whilst juggling the demands of your course can be quite a challenge. That old adage "job hunting is a job in itself" really rings true! I stumbled across this really useful article from the Guardian on time management tips for successful job hunting. In particular, I thought the advice from Clare Evans was superb  "Work in short bursts so that you don't get mentally or physically distracted. Give yourself mini-targets for what you're going to achieve in the next hour and then take a break. When you have a lot to do or you're feeling overwhelmed, you need to prioritise. Do important tasks before they become urgent and avoid time-wasting tasks. Get support, if you don't have the skills to do a particular task, ask someone else or delegate to someone who does."

Websites such as Graddiary and Milkround highlight key graduate scheme application deadlines. You may want to have a quick look and prioritse your applications by  closing dates. It is also worth remembering that the quality of your application really matters! Spend time on a few but well written applications as opposed to a scatter gun approach. And always get a second opinion. Do book an appointment with the Careers Service, sometimes a fresh perspective is all you need to get your application mojo!


Common career dilemmas we've heard this term!

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📥  Career Choice, Careers Resources, Finding a Job, Subject Related Careers

Some of us were talking about the most common things we have heard this term from students in our drop-in’s along with helpful hints that we may give to individuals in that situation.

“I am not sure what I want to do”

This is perhaps one of the most common statements we've heard and this is followed by a look of embarrassment. Students in this situation often feel like they have failed in some way, like they are the only student on their course without a career plan. There’s some great advice within this article by the Guardian. Our advice is to stop panicking and to please book an appointment with one of the careers team. We can support you by giving you  space to reflect on what you want from a future role, suggest helpful starting points to research options, signpost you to relevant resources, online tools and share with you what other students from your course have done.

 “Do you have a list of jobs I can do with a degree in x?”

We don’t have that magical list of jobs you can do with your degree.

The reason is that in the UK, you don’t have to study a particular degree to enter a certain profession. Now there are exceptions (predominantly specialist scientific/tech careers) but in the majority of cases recruitment is based around the skills you have to offer.  So rather than asking “what job can I do with a degree in x?” it may be worth asking “what jobs am I interested in?” or “what skills do I want to use in my future role?” It is important that you don’t put limits on the options you believe you have.  Think instead about what careers you would enjoy doing and use websites like Prospects  and TargetJobs to expand your awareness of the breadth of opportunities that are available to you.

“Argh! I think I will get a 2:2, are there any jobs out there for me?”

You can survive a 2:2: while some graduate schemes use 2:1 classification as a way to sift applications this is not true of all employers! I just did a quick search on and counted at least 20 grad schemes which accept a 2:2. Not to mention SME’s and start-ups, who often don't have such stringent requirements. So it is worth exploring alternative routes into the sector of your choice. Check out this amazing list produced by Warwick Careers of employers who consider a 2:2!


Who can I talk to about my career?

📥  For PhDs

When I shared a previous post about career planning for first year PhD researchers on a LinkedIn group, someone requested a follow-up post on who researchers can talk to about their careers, apart from Careers Services. I completely agreed with the comment that effective career planning usually involves engagement with a range of people for the approriate information, advice, encouragement, networks and support. Here are some ideas for groups and people you can access for careers support:

1. Peers. Career planning and job-searching can be isolating businessess, and it can be useful to access others who are going through similar situations. If you're actively job searching, think about finding a 'buddy' who can hold you to goals you've set and motivate you to keep going in the face of setbacks. Attending departmental research seminars and researcher development training sessions can be good ways to meet other Bath researchers. It's also valuable to build connections with early career researchers outside of Bath. LinkedIn groups such as PhD Careers Outside of Academia and The PostDoc Forum will give you the opportunity to connect with researchers and professionals looking to make, or who have recently made, similar transitions to you. Questions around specific career options or advice on how to market yourself can be posted as discussion groups. Also check out relevant Twitter feeds such as ECR Chat and academic networking sites such as ResearchGate.

2. Alumni. An easy way to connect with Bath alumni working in fields or organisations that may interests you is through registering for the Bath Connection, a recently-launched database of Bath graduates who are happy to be connected by current students and research staff with questions about their career paths and areas of work; see our recent post on how to register and make the most of the Bath Connection. The Department of Alumni Relations also has a list of LinkedIn groups for Bath alumni.

3. Employers. We have lots of employers coming on to campus throughout the year; check out the events section on MyFuture to see who's coming soon.  Professional Bodies and Learned Societies often organise careers fairs, events and information sessions relevant to particular areas of specialism and career options. See Directory of the Professions for a list, and check out the web page for your discipline on the researchers section of our website. Connecting with employers via social media, whether by following companies that interest you on Twitter, or joining relevant groups on LinkedIn and posting your career questions as discussions topics, is also vital. Jisc Mail lists are another way to keep in touch with others in your field, and if you're interested in science communication, is a must.

4. Supervisors/academics. Hopefully this goes without saying if you're interested in a career in academia. Academics are busy people, so realistically you may need to take the initiative to open up a conversation about your career development. If you're a research postgraduate, opening up this conversation at key points in your doctorate, for example during an end-of-year review, can be a good way forward. If you're a member of research staff, your SDPR is an ideal time to have a conversation about your broader career development and goals. Make yourself visible by attending departmental research seminars and conferences, and ask for half an hour of someone's time to discuss your mutual research interests.

5. Mentors? There is a lot of discussion around the value of a mentor if you're trying to establish an academic career. One of the best pieces of advice I've ever heard is, rather than asking an academic to be your mentor, which can sound like another role in addition to the seventeen they already have, ask for permission to pick someone's brains occasionally. Most people will happily agree to this, especially if you throw in the offer of coffee.

6. As we noted in another post, blogs are a great way to open up a two-way conversation about people's experiences. This web page has a list of our favourite blogs written by early career academics and researchers who have transitioned outside of academia.

Our guide to accessing employers for researchers has more tips on effective networking and a brief list of career events relevant to you.