Careers Perspectives – from the Bath careers service

Focus on your future with expert advice from your careers advisers

Tagged: self awareness

Exploring Career Stories

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📥  Advice, Career Development, Careers Resources, Tips & Hints

Exploring Career Stories

what's your story

I watched a youtube link today where a student talked about the importance of exploring careers stories in finding out about jobs, sectors, employers and skills needed and how it really had taught him about different career pathways. He emphasized the importance of not just asking people you meet about their jobs, but also ask about the challenges they face in their jobs and consider whether these challenges make you feel excited or bored, and use what you learn in your own career planning and thinking.

It made me think about how I have asked, emailed  and explored the careers stories of random people I have met along my career journey and how this has benefited me. For example, before I decided to become a Careers Adviser I wanted to learn about the job role, its challenges and the pathways into the profession. To increase my awareness and to decide whether this was indeed the career path I wanted to go down, I emailed (this was before LinkedIn) ten different people in careers adviser roles at universities and colleges and asked them to share their career journeys. I was surprised that the majority of them responded positively and gave me a wealth of knowledge I used reflectively and positively in my own career planning.

So, within the era of modern technology, how can you explore careers stories now?

  • Well, my first piece of advice is to do what people have done for generations. When you meet people, may it be at a party, a networking event, an employer event, a hike or a family gathering; be genuinely interested in the career journeys of the people you meet. How did they end up in their chosen career? What were the challenges along the way? What do they enjoy (and not enjoy)about the job they are doing? What qualifications did they study? People generally like talking about themselves so why not take advantage of  that!
  • Secondly, the internet is full of blogs, vlogs, videos and more to explore and  learn from. One of my favourite video links are from icould - here you can explore real careers stories searching by job type, subject and even life events.
  • Thirdly, what about viewing people’s LinkedIn profiles and discover the millions of career journeys different people have taken to get to where they are now. Type in a job role in the search box and see what comes up. Why don’t you connect with them, tell them that their career journey and job role sounds inspiring and ask politely whether they can share their career story with you. A contact for life may happen!
  • If you like to read information, then Prospects may be a good place to go. You can explore hundreds of different job roles and most of them have links to several case studies where you can explore a graduate’s careers story.
  • Finally, what about talking to alumni in jobs and sectors that you are interested in to share their career stories with you? On Bath Connection you can do just that. Those registered on Bath Connection have voluntarily said yes to support you in finding out more about jobs and sectors, and some even are happy to take on a mentoring role.

So go ahead, explore the different careers out there, increase your awareness of what you find exciting and not so exciting, and see how these careers stories can shape your own career journey.

I wish you the best of luck.



Battling nerves before an interview

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📥  Advice, Careers Resources, Interviews, Tips & Hints


It is natural to feel nervous in front of an interview, but sometimes it can all feel a bit too much. Here are some tips that I follow and that I hope can help you battle those nerves.


This is an obvious one but the more you prepare, the better you will feel on the day. Make sure you read the personal criteria or person specification for the job and practise answering questions about the competencies listed. Read through our leaflet for advice on different type of interviews and how to best answer questions.

Brainstorm examples to use, write them down and then practise answering them out loud. Practise with a friend, with your careers adviser or use our Interview Stream software.

In addition, research the company and employer and come up with good reasons why you want to work there.

Be healthy

Get a good night’s sleep! Stay in the night before, watching a feel good movie so you go to sleep with a smile on your face. Being up all night doing last minute cramming won’t look good on your skin and lack of sleep may make you forget all the important points you remembered during the night. Avoid too much caffeine and make sure you eat a good breakfast.

Arrive early

Don’t get extra stressed because a train gets cancelled or a bus does not turn up. Arrive early and instead go for a walk around the area or sit at a café. Getting unduly stressed because of circumstances outside your control won’t help your nerves!

Breathing exercises

If you are feeling your nerves and anxiety are going out of control, try breathing exercises. These can be done in the morning at home, on the train, in the bathroom before you head in for the interview. They work for me, I hope they can work for you. NHS tells you how. Getting into the practice of meditation may also help.

Warm up your voice and body

I feel doing some exercise of the voice and body prepares the whole you for the interview ahead, this has worked for me several times. I have even written another blog post about it. Try it out and see if it works for you!

Be yourself

Don’t try and be someone you are not. Acting or talking like another person won’t be good for your nerves or your confidence. The employer is interested in who you are, not just the skills or the degree you have, show your personal energy and enthusiasm.

If none of this works and you need extra support....

Go and see a Careers Adviser to talk about strategies in how to deal with confidence or nerves during an interview. Together we can look at your experiences and skills to date and support you in articulating them well, giving  you more confidence in your skills and abilities. We also have a lot additional resources for you to read through.

If there are other reasons for why you are feeling anxious or you are feeling low on self-esteem, please go and see the Well-being team. Talk through what is going on in your life that are making you anxious.

We are here to support you!





Do you worry you are not good enough?


📥  Advice, Graduate Jobs, Tips & Hints


Don't rubbish yourself.

During the summer I was privileged to hear the author and careers coach John Lees give a talk on surviving change to a conference of Higher Education careers staff. He is someone who I have admired for the simple truth he brings to the challenging issue of job hunting. His book How to Get a Job You’ll Love is a great read for anyone who is unsure which direction they want to take in their career. We have a copy in the Careers Service if you want to try before you buy. I liked some of his observations and suggestions for coping because they are useful to many of you who are starting your job hunting for placements, summer work and graduate jobs.

John Lees began his talk with reference to Imposter Syndrome. This is a label that is used to describe the feeling that very soon someone will discover that you are a fake. It is common in high achievers and I hear this feeling acknowledged by Bath students.  Thinking negatively is pretty normal for us human beings.  In early times we would be constantly looking for danger so it is an instinct we have.  Unfortunately this kind of thinking can be a great barrier to us moving forward and achieving success. Lees reminded us that people, on the whole, have an unreal view of how good/successful other people are so we need to recognise we may not be the best judge of how we compare to others. Lees advice, when faced with this kind of negative thinking, is to postpone worry. If you want to worry about something make a note in your diary to do it at 5 pm on Tuesday. The likelihood is that by then it will seem trivial.

I talk to many students who express lack of confidence or fear failure both at the start and during this process of making and executing career decisions. This can really hold them back. They tell me they are not as good as other students on their course or worry about how they compare to graduates from more prestigious (to them) universities like Oxford.  Many of us worry about is the “what ifs” in life. We worry about how we will deal with a potential dilemma which might crop up at some point in the future even before we have started anything. These kinds of negative thoughts are great at making us procrastinate and getting on with the task in hand. It’s a good idea to think about whether some of these worries are stopping you from beginning your job hunting.


Lees describes making progress in your career planning by “small step thinking”. He claims we very often keep thinking in circles: moving too quickly to making decisions before we have done the proper research and also not recognising the decisions we have already made. He suggests we imagine we are being paid by someone to research the most suitable jobs for ourselves. This approach will make you us do a more thorough job and be more analytical.

Sometimes we are trapped by things that have gone wrong in the past and we keep rerunning it through your mind so it traps us into taking no action. Lees recommends allowing yourself to review things that have gone wrong only once and then move on. To reinforce this I have just read this comment from a Bath graduate who joined Teach First:

“ … at the end of the day, you find out that you will make mistakes all the time, every lesson, you just got to learn from it, get over it, move onto the next lesson and take it as it comes. It’s important to remember that even those teachers who have been teaching for 30 years aren’t perfect and are learning things every day. You’re always learning and you’ll always make mistakes but it’s how you deal with those mistakes that counts.”

Pretty sound advice I think.

Another powerful tool Lees suggests we use is the one used by Sports Psychologists. Running the movie through your head of you crossing the finishing line in front of the rest of the field is as powerful as the lived experience. So if you have an interview coming up imagine yourself confident and well prepared going into the interview room  and dealing successfully with the questions thrown at you. Another source of inspiration is this TEDx talk by Amy Cuddy where she shows her research into how your body language shapes who you are.  This is inspiring advice for job interview preparation and I heartily recommend watching it. She talks about her own experience of Imposter Syndrome.

When I am giving feedback on a CV to a student they are usually most uncomfortable about the whole thing of “selling themselves”. We go back to the Imposter Syndrome! Promoting yourself to an employer is especially difficult because you need to strike a balance between showing your abilities while at the same time not faking your talent. Lees believes that reality TV has forced extrovert behaviour into the norm and so this is the measure that people are using when judging how they should show an employer what they can do. I particularly liked the way Lees presented his idea of self-projection for the modest. When talking about yourself he suggests using these three statements in relation to yourself to demonstrate who you are, what you can do and where you are going:

I really enjoy…….

I would like to find out more about……

This is what I have discovered …………

You just need to fill in the blanks. This is a great way of constructing a response to that classic interview question: "Tell me about yourself".

There was much more I could tell you from John Lees talk but perhaps I need to save it for another day. Meanwhile if any of the above resonates with you and you want to discuss your worries or concerns please book an appointment with a Careers Adviser. Don't keep it to yourself.


How can you stay employable in 2020?

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📥  Advice, Careers Resources, Graduate Jobs, Labour Market Intelligence, Tips & Hints

Following on from our blog post 'What will the job market look like in 20 years time', I wanted to share this infographic which highlights how employers are starting to think. Career management is a lifelong process and the most successful individuals are those who are constantly adapting, developing new skills  and evolving with the changes in the market place. So what can you do now to remain employable in 5-years time?

important work-skills



Women: Success starts with failure....

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📥  Advice, Diversity, Tips & Hints

Think back to when you were a child... you were probably naturally inquisitive, curious, eager and willing to try new things. As a child when things didn't work out you probably moved on and tried something else. You probably didn't waste time or emotion worrying about what didn't work, you simply tried something else.

Then you grew up and something terrible happened. You decided failure is unacceptable and your ego became your worst enemy. I've been there, when things start going wrong my defense mechanisms kick in and I become focused on 'saving face'. I think this article  by Sarah Rapp provides food for thought and suggests that denial, hedonic editing and chasing losses are the wrong way to deal with failure. If anything, failure is a necessary step in learning and growing. How we view failure and deal with it, to a large extent, determines how successful we will be.


We do not have to look hard to find very successful people who have failed, some of them many times before they found success. According to TIME magazine, failure is the key to success for women. But why do women fear failure? The Huffington Post suggests that when women experience failure, they try to hide rather than acknowledge it. This silence creates the myth that they are the only ones who have failed.

So what can we do to overcome this crippling fear of failure? There is some great advice on Mindtools which is well worth a read. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck identified a certain way of thinking shared by people who embrace their mistakes in the pursuit of success: the growth mindset is resilient in the face of failure and sees it as necessary for learning and achievement. If you immediately berate yourself for a mistake, you’re probably stuck in a fixed mindset. Dweck’s website offers some powerful insights into changing your mindset, but the bottom line is this: to change your mind about failure, all you have to do is… change your mind. Stop beating yourself up. Successful people don’t see failure as catastrophic, they see it as a good data point to guide their next attempts.

It is worth bearing in mind that failing is not the end of the world,  indeed it’s just a beginning of one’s success. Look it as your strength and not as your weakness. Use it as your guide and inspiration in order to do more. The focus of our blog this week has been to provide tips and support to our female students leading up to the Women in Leadership Conference which is taking place tomorrow. We hope the blog has given some food for thought and thank you for reading it.

What do Bath Graduates Do?

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📥  Labour Market Intelligence


We’re in the middle of sending out questionnaires to 2013/14 Bath graduates for the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey and it made me wonder whether current students are aware of the survey and how they can make use of the vast amount of information we collect.

We are required to obtain at least an 80% response rate from our UK full time graduates and we compile downloadable leaflets for first degree programmes detailing What do Bath graduates do? Why not have a look at the leaflet for your course and see if it gives you any inspiration? There may be career paths you didn't know were possible with your subject and companies you had never thought to target. The data we collect contributes to national statistics and is published as What do graduates do?

Six months after you graduate we will be in touch to ask what YOU are doing after your studies at Bath. Your input will benefit Bath students and the University as a whole so please take a minute to complete the questionnaire.


How would I know if I am 'an entrepreneur'?

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📥  Entrepreneurship

So, for the last few days we have focused on articles about entrepreneurship. But I'm sensing there may still be some people reading this thinking 'but how would I know if I have the potential?'

Yes, we ran an article looking at the 'entrepreneurial process', showing it's actually a simple problem identification and solving process. But not everyone who loves solving problems would like being self-employed.

So, there are two questions I'd like to pose today.

  1. do you have to be self-employed to be an entrepreneur?
  2. how do you know if self-employment is for you?

1. Do you have to be self-employed to be an entrepreneur?

Strictly speaking, yes. An entrepreneur is officially defined as

"someone who starts their own business, especially when this involves seeing a new opportunity".

However, companies really, really love people who have the characteristics of entrepreneurs i.e. the entrepreneurial people.

They are the people who will spot an opportunity and make it happen, who take a company in an unexpected direction, or who enable a company to steal a march on its competitors. And because they can't call these people entrepreneurs, they have invented a new word to describe these people: intrapreneurs.

"an employee within a large company who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable new product, service, business, etc., often instead of leaving to start their own company"

So, if you are always coming up with new ideas but want the security of an organisational structure and regular salary, then maybe you should be looking for a company that actively selects for intrapreneurial spirit.

2. How do you know if self-employment is for you?

This is a tricky one. After all, you may never have worked for anyone before so how do you know if you would rather work for yourself? But hints might include the fact that you hate being tied down into a particular way of thinking. What you want is the reedom to pursue your ideas in your way at your own pace. If that sounds like you, then maybe think about the idea of freelancing, consulting independently or setting up your own business.

Maybe you are always inventing things that fill a need no-one else has seen. Yes, you could take that ability to a design company. But if your ability to spot and fill holes in the market is also coupled with a strong independent streak then maybe you should find out a little more about setting up on your own. Enterprise Bath are there exactly for students like you! And that goes for whether what you make is an app, a gadget, a plate, a bag, soup - they have supported all these ventures and more.

If this has made you think even a little bit that entrepreneurship might be for you, why not pop along to a Banter meeting and chat to some like-minded people?


Networking Nightmares

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📥  Networking

As tomorrow is Halloween, we wanted to write a post on an aspect of career planning that could be considered a nightmare. Do you come out in a cold sweat at the thought of talking to someone you don't know? Or worry about how to approach an employer at a careers fair, talk to someone at a conference, get in touch with that friend-of-a-friend who works in PR and who would be a useful contact?

Networking is a word that strikes fear into many of us, myself included. I wanted to share some strategies and resources I've found useful over the past couple of years. The first strategy is regarding LANGUAGE. Whether it should or not, the 'n' word can conjure up images of a super-confident person marching up to a group of six people, introducing themselves and engaging in sparkling and witty conversation. More helpful (and infinitely less scary) phrases might be learning, sharing, communiacting, exhanging ideas, listening and helping others. My guess is you do all of those things on a daily basis. If I come across an interesting article or news item I share it with colleagues who might find it interesting too. Nine times out of ten they respond gratefully, and more often than not they return the favour at some point. Reciprocity is a key principle in effective networking; it's fine to ask a question via a discussion group on LinkedIn, but make sure you have things to contribute too.

The second strategy I've found useful is to ask myself 'What's the worst that can happen?' Usually, the answer is, someone won't respond, and it's most likely to be because they don't have time. I once confidently introduced myself to someone on a stand at a public engagement event, only to reminded that I had had a half-hour long meeting with them the week before. The sky didn't fall down. Mistakes are allowed -  rudeness is not.

The third strategy, rather than beating myself for being reluctant to network, is to remind myself of all the potential benfits. Careers networking has lots of these: you can find out more about job roles/companies/sectors you're interested in, raise your profile, and find out about opportunities that may be coming up (though don't start off by asking for a job; ask someone for help and advice in the initial stages).  As you build relationships with people, you may find that career opportunities and ideas arise. You can engage in career networking even if you don't have a specific career plan in mind; find things that interest you, and get involved with people who share those interests. You never know where it might lead.

Here are some helpful resources on various aspects of career networking:

University of Warwick Blog post on networking for introverts - lovely advice on being prepared (always a good strategy for reducing fear) and on networking in a way that feels comfortable to you.

The shy connector - great advice from Sacha Chua on encouarging people to approach you rather than you approaching them.

The Careers Service Finding a Graduate Job Guide - contains lots of advice on online, written and face-toface career networking.

And specifically for academic networking: check out the Researcher Development Unit's Skills Guides

Finally, if you want to practice on some lovely, non-scary people, the Careers Service will have a 'Careers Nightmare'  stand outside the Library tomorrow between 12-3pm. Come and ask the careers questions you've always wanted to. I'm reliably informed there will be treats.





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!

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!