Guest Blog: Finding career opportunities in unlikely places

Guest blog from James, SOAS student, BA Religion (Graduating summer 2018)

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert


I am just about to start my second year studying religion as an undergraduate and although I love my course, it isn’t vocational and I sometimes worry about where my degree will take me. Like many other students who have chosen to study at SOAS, I want a career in international development, but how? And doing what?

At the start of the summer I worked for SOAS on the alumni calling campaign to raise money for scholarships. When you make these phone calls you cross your fingers and hope for the best. Unsurprisingly, we hear “no” a lot but occasionally you have a great conversation and we were encouraged to chat to alumni about careers and our hopes for the future.

That’s how I first got talking to Tara Carey, the Media Relations Manager for Farm Africa, an international development charity which supporters smallholder farmers across eastern Africa to grow more, sell more and sell for more.

During our chat Tara described what her job at Farm Africa involved and mentioned that they run a volunteer placement scheme in the communication team. When she suggested I send in my CV I jumped at the change, eagerly emailing it over to her before even putting the phone down.

Emails often get buried in people’ inboxes so a week later when I hadn’t heard anything I decided to drop off a hardcopy of my CV at Tara’s office. Looking back now it seems out of character and even pushy but I really think it made the difference. As I was waiting by the elevator to leave, Tara came dashing out to catch me. We had an impromptu interview and she offered me a work placement then and there.

Before I started, I imagined making lots of tea but it’s not been like that. Right from day one I’ve been included in the work. I’ve done research, picture editing and copywriting, I’ve even placed a couple of stories in the media. Throughout the time, Tara and the rest of the team have taught me tons about how a charity works and they have helped me develop a range of new skills.

Prior to Farm Africa I’d volunteered at two other charities but neither placement gave me much of a sense of what it would be like to work there, and I came away still unclear as to what type of job I would like to pursue.

I’d always had an intangible idea about being a writer, but when I became interested in international development I didn’t know how I could combine it. I’d never considered charity communications before but I’ve really enjoyed my Farm Africa placement – it’s a real buzz to see a piece of writing you have worked on appearing in a national newspaper or for an editor to take a story you have pitched. Beyond the skills and experience I have gained, I’ve gotten a new outlook on what my future career could be…

For more information about Farm Africa please visit or follow us on Twitter @FarmAfrica. Farm Africa also has a society at SOAS for more information email:

James, SOAS student, BA Religion (Graduating summer 2017)

Arnie’s 6 rules of success

Arnie in a suit

No matter what your views on Arnold Shwarzenegger (and it does seem to have been Arnie week this week) you can’t deny he is a good speaker.

So here to end the week is his 6 rules of success – if you want to see the video it is on youtube here:

The rules seem to be useful for pretty much any situation, and particularly relevant to Careers – see what you think:

  1. Trust yourself. That probably means you need to get to know yourself first – what makes you tick; what makes you cross; what sacrifices would you make to get to your dream job? If you need somebody to talk this over with, come and see us!
  2. Break some rules. Note this is rules, not laws! This is about working out whose rules they are – so if you want to become an accountant in a charity and don’t have a finance degree, yes you can do it (come and ask us in Careers how that works!).
  3. Don’t be afraid to fail. See the post which started off this week’s Arnie series- there are more failures than successes in life, and failure is one of the main drivers for success if you play it right. How many people do you know who have had it easy and crumble when they hit a roadblock? Failure can be really useful if you know how to deal with it constructively. We can help you with that if you like – come and book a short guidance appointment in Careers.
  4. Don’t listen to negative people. Obviously sometimes they are right – but you will know who are the people who always pour cold water on your ideas just for the sake of it. Ignore them! Find somebody who will listen and give constructive feedback. We are good at that in Careers.
  5. Work hard. Success doesn’t come from dreaming about it or simply visualising what it would feel like – it comes from the hard slog of doing what might seem to be dull repetitive tasks which become the building blocks of  future achievements. OK there’s not much we can do to help you with that one in Careers other than to encourage you!
  6. Give something back.Everybody who volunteers or gives service to others does say how rewarding it is, so why not give it a try? We advertise volunteering opportunities on JobOnline or there are always local opportunities available in your local paper, library etc.

What do you think? We love to get your feedback!

Philippa Hewett


Arnie – a great example of a career-changer!

Young Arnie


Say the name Arnold Schwarzenegger and ask what his job is, and the reactions you get will probably depend on the age of the person speaking.

For some, he is a bodybuilder par excellence, for others he is a movie actor, politician or businessman. And yes, he has been all of those through his career and continues to entertain many of us.

The interesting thing of course is not how he developed all those muscles or his film career, but the fact that he saw beyond his immediate role to think about what his future might be.

Nowadays it is much more usual to expect to change your career at least once in your working life, and sometimes where you start is in a completely different place from where you end up.

If you’re not sure where to start, then come and see us in the Careers Service – we are open all summer!

Philippa Hewett


Careers and the Olympics – how to deal with losing.


Arnie with great quote


After all the fuss about who won what has died down, and that will probably take a while, it’s maybe worth thinking a bit about the losers.

There’s research that says the saddest medal winners are the silver medallists as they came so close to gold, and that bronze medallists are nearly as happy as gold medal-winners, because at least they made it onto the podium.(Prof Richard Wiseman, The Luck Factor,  p 135). No matter which team we supported, there were good examples of sad silver medallists who so nearly made it – for example, the British boxer in the last competition of the Games who thought he had won but didn’t. This is the same sort of reaction we often see when students get beaten to a job and do not see why they didn’t get it, because the feedback they got was so positive.

There are however logically many more losers than winners in the Olympics, so what can you do to get back your self belief after a setback?

Here some tips that might help you in your career thinking as well:

  1. Focus on what you did achieve so far – maybe it is a new personal best, or in the case of Careers, the fact that you got an interview and great feedback.
  2. Give yourself small goals to take yourself to the big goal – so for an athlete it might be correcting an slightly imperfect running style, in Careers it might be  making some new networking contacts in your chosen field.
  3. Give yourself time – Nick Skelton won his first individual Olympic medal aged 58 having previously retired from showjumping after a broken neck. Sometimes your route to the role you want might take time or a slightly different route, but the secret is to keep believing you can get there in the end, and take every opportunity to work towards your goal.

Finally, there’s an old saying ‘there is no failure, only feedback’ which isn’t as trite as it sounds.  Don’t beat yourself up if things didn’t go according to plan – pick yourself up and decide what to do next. It’s your future, so take control of it!

And if you don’t know where to start, have a look at the SOAS Careers website for some ideas or pop in and see us – we are open all summer!

Philippa Hewett







How to use the STAR technique at interview –
advice from
The JobCrowd

The STAR technique is a method of answering competency based questions at interview. A competency based question will normally start with “tell us about a time when you…” and will be related to competencies/ skills listed on the job specification.

So what is the STAR technique? 

As the first part of your answer to a competency based question create a brief context- was this a skill you demonstrated at university, during your internship, during a university play or as part of a sports team?

Then become more specific. What was the task you faced specifically and how did this relate to the people you were working alongside.

This is the most detailed part of your answer. Talk about what you specifically decided to do and why. Ensure you speak as “i” rather than “we” as this demonstrates that you personally have the skills the employer wants you to demonstrate. Feel free to talk about any challenges you faced and how you overcame these.

Ensure the example you use has a positive result. If you can quantify the result in some way, even better. For example increased sales by 15%.

Here’s an example answer using the STAR Technique

“Tell us about a time when you had to juggle lots of tasks simultaneously”

S– Whilst at university I had to submit a weekly essay and also juggle being captain of the football team
T– I knew that I had to be very organised in order to ensure my football team were successful and my studies did not slip.
A– I decided to create a diary attached to my email where I segmented my time. I even planned for time when I would be travelling to the football pitches for training and during these periods planned reading that would be beneficial to my essays for university.
R– My football team climbed 5 places in the universities league and I was able to achieve a 2:1 grade thanks to managing my time efficiently.

Try using the STAR technique next time you go into an interview!

Jo Cooper

Guest Blog: What I Learned From My Internship At A Fast-Growing Startup

Guest blog from Dániel Hegman, SOAS student, BA Politics (Graduating summer 2017)

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert

How did you start working for start-up?

In my first year at SOAS, I was really keen to get some real work experience. So I went to SOAS Careers Service to ask for their advice. They drew my attention to a couple of interesting opportunities that I could do part-time. After looking through them, one stood out – a Brand Ambassador position at a start-up. I liked the fact that the company is based on an innovative idea and that they are  providing a relevant service for students. They are sorting out summer storage for students, amongst many things, in an innovative way. So I applied and became a Brand Ambassador.

What is your work like?

After my successful application, I received marketing training and I was then responsible for running my own online and offline marketing campaigns. For the offline marketing I put up posters in strategic locations around campus and handed out flyers to students. For the online campaigns I researched relevant SOAS societies on social channels and crafted personalised messages for each one to increase awareness. These efforts resulted in me being the top Brand Ambassador in terms of generating sales! This has not only given me first-hand experience in marketing but also boosted my confidence.

After the successful campaigns, I joined the company as a Finance and Sales intern. On the one hand my job is to ensure the financial sustainability of the company by analysing our expenditures and incomes then making sure all the payments go through. On the other hand, I am helping the sales department with market research and contacting potential customers. However, being a startup I am helping out other departments too.

What is the favourite part of your internship?

My favourite thing at the start-up is the friendly atmosphere. The teams are under the same roof, there is no strong sense of hierarchy and everybody is free to sit wherever they wish. As an intern I get to interact with the different departments and I sometimes have the chance to engage with other aspects of the business. On one of our record days, I got the chance to join one of our drivers on his collection route in London. These experiences truly made me understand how the business is run from different perspectives.

On my first week when my father asked me about my internship the following analogy came to mind. I am working on a ship as a chef, responsible for cooking. However, the ship is in a constant storm so I often have to help out on the main deck!

What advice would you give to others?

Definitely give it a shot and try the start-up life for yourself! Life is too short to spend it all in a corporate office. Start-ups are not for everybody but they provide a unique atmosphere where you can grow and feel that you are truly part of the team, working towards a common dream.

Many thanks to LOVESPACE, the student storage company, for providing the internship! Check out their website if you’re interested in future internships or becoming a student brand ambassador.

Dániel Hegman, SOAS student, BA Politics (Graduating summer 2017) June 2016


Guest Blog: How to Use Social Media to Secure a Job

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert


When you think of social media the first things that may spring to mind are connecting with your friends, sharing your recent holiday snaps and watching hilarious videos. What you probably don’t realise is that 95% of The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers use social media in their recruitment process. A recent study also revealed that over 50% of employees look at candidate’s social media profiles before making a job offer.

This is a fairly recent trend which may not have been covered in your college or university employability coaching along with CV and cover letter writing tips.

Recruiters use social media channels throughout the recruitment process from connecting with relevant people in their industry, browsing profiles of people with desired qualifications or skills, advertising job vacancies and researching candidates.

Here are 3 top tips for using social media to secure your post-graduate job:

1. Polish Your Profile

First things first you need to decide which social profiles you would like potential employers to see. LinkedIn is used purely for professional purposes, so this is a must have. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc are more personal, so only allow these to be public if you are comfortable with potential employers seeing the things you post. You can opt to create separate accounts on these platforms for recruitment purposes if you wish, but ensure that all of your professional accounts have a consistent name and profile picture so you can be easily found.

Once you have all of your social media accounts set up you need to add as much relevant detail as possible including your location, qualifications, skills, experience and anything else that you would usually include in a CV. Use these platforms as a way to sell yourself to potential employers by showing them exactly what you have to offer. Make sure you include all relevant keywords so that you are easily discoverable.

Finish off your profiles with endorsements and recommendations. Approach family, friends, Past and present colleagues, employers and lecturers and asks them to contribute. These will sway a potential employer to consider you, much like reading a positive product review when online shopping!

2. Make Connections

Now you have a highly polished set of social media profiles, you should start making useful connections. You should follow/connect with:

 Recruitment agencies

 Local businesses which are of interest to you

 Graduate recruiters

 Directors / Employees of all of the above

 People with similar skills

 Relevant groups

Where possible you should interact with all of the above to raise your profile, to show potential employers that you have good communication skills and are passionate about what you do. Don’t forget to maintain a professional tone at all times.

3. Apply to jobs

And finally… go ahead and apply for jobs!

You can apply for jobs directly through LinkedIn which improves your chances of having your profile viewed. If the application process takes place via the company’s website or email then you can incorporate social media at any stage.

Follow the business and employees prior to interview stage, thank the interviewer after the interview and if you were unsuccessful on that occasion stay in contact so that they consider you for future opportunities.

Guest blog by: Samantha Condliffe (Digital Marketing Exec at Infinities Designer Menswear)

Working as an interpreter for the International Committee of the Red Cross: Workshop on Thursday 2nd June 2016


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work in an area of armed conflict?

Is working for a humanitarian organisation something that appeals to you?

Do you want the chance to do something really life changing using your language skills?

We know a lot of SOAS students are highly motivated and driven to make the world we live in a better place. Whether through influencing policy, contributing to prevailing issues through academic research or embarking on a career within an NGO there is no end to the engagement that we see from our students.

Here at the SOAS Careers Service we’re really keen to expose our students to the amazing opportunities on offer. To do this we work closely with organisations from across all sectors.

One of our most cherished relationships is with Liz Harris a SOAS alum who works for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The ICRC is an independent, neutral organization ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence. It takes action in response to emergencies and at the same time promotes respect for international humanitarian law and its implementation in national law.

Liz is always keen to return to campus to meet our fantastic students and will be running her flagship workshop “Interpreting in War: Working as an interpreter for the International Committee of the Red Cross” on Thursday 2 nd June 2016 at 09:30am.

If you’re studying Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Bahasa Indonesian, Bengali, Burmese, Dari/Farsi, Hausa, Khmer, Korean, Pashto, Sinhala, Somali, Swahili, Tamil, Thai or Urdu/Hindi and would like to use your language working for a humanitarian organisation then apply for a place at this event.

This workshop will introduce you to the work of the ICRC and the principles of consecutive interpreting. You’ll learn about the realities faced by field interpreters through presentations and role-plays with seasoned ICRC staff and an interpreter and trainer from the International Criminal Court.

The International Committee of the Red Cross regularly recruits interpreters who play a crucial role in helping the ICRC to assist and protect civilians and non-combatants in armed conflict.

Applicants for the workshop should send a CV and cover letter to and by today, Friday 27 th May, listing their languages/level, as well as their motivation for attending.

Please note we have not yet received any applications so if you believe that you’ve applied please send your application over to us again.

We’re looking forward to receiving your applications!

Guest blog: Why should I consider working for a startup?

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert


It might come as a surprise to many to learn that the percentage of UK graduates who end up working for one of the well-known graduate employers is under 20%. Our recent research shows that there has been a significant shift in the type of role that graduates seek when they leave university, with over 50% of recent graduates now wanting to work for startups.

So, why are graduates moving away from traditional roles and what opportunities can startups offer to them?

You’ll receive a huge education – Working in a smaller company means that you’ll gain a real insight into how a business truly operates. You’ll also be given the chance to try on a lot of different hats as, being part of a small team, you’ll most likely be required to be involved in all aspects of the company – this is great if you are still making your mind up about what you’d like to do after university.

You’ll have responsibility from the word go Working in a small team means that there’ll probably be nobody else in the company with the same skill set as you or doing the same thing as you. You’ll be given freedom to explore and bring to life your own ideas. It also means that you’ll be an integral part of the team, which is pretty amazing for a recent graduate.

Youll really have an impact  – The high level of responsibility you’ll have means that you’ll really be able to see the value of your own footprint. This is not only very exciting but also incredibly rewarding! And your hard work and successes will definitely not go unnoticed.

Youll learn from true innovators – Working so closely with the founders of a startup gives you a unique opportunity to soak up all their knowledge and experience. Exposure like this is especially useful if you think you might like to start your own business one day.

Youll work in a great environment – Аt a startup up you get to know your co-workers very well very quickly! The atmosphere is relaxed (you can wear what you want and there is little or no hierarchy), but you can rest assured that there will never be a dull moment. At a startup up you are really encouraged to be yourself in order to realise your full potential.

Working at a startup presents you with an amazing opportunity to grow both personally and professionally – a great starting point for those of you straight out of uni. Of course, this does not mean that working for a startup is for everyone… But, to put it simply, if you like the sound of a fast-paced, energetic and creative work environment where you’ll get to try and learn about lots of new things then it’s probably for you!

For more information and exciting career opportunities in startups & SMEs, check out our website 

 Guest blog by: Sophie (Head of Marketing at TalentPool)

#‎MayThe4thBeWithYou‬ & have your say about SOAS Careers!

Don’t miss your chance to give us your feedback about your experience of the Careers Service at SOAS. All your answers will be taken on board, and will directly help us to improve your Careers Service for next year!

Fill out the really quick questionnaire here:

Or just come by the Careers Service in Room 101 to fill it out!





Jo Cooper