Why Finding a Mentor During your Time at SOAS is a Great Idea!

There are a lot of definitions of what a mentor actually is.

My favourite is ‘someone who helps another person to become what they aspire to be’. It fits in with SOAS Careers mission: we don’t mind what you do, so long as you have the tools in place to make an informed decision. And it’s certainly an upgrade on the Ancient Greek definition – ‘a wise counsellor and helper of the youth’.

There are multiple reasons why mentoring is such a good idea for students. I’d like to share three particularly applicable ones today:

Mentoring helps individuals with transitions

Many of you reading this will be approaching the end of your time at SOAS. The transition between leaving university and entering the world of work can be a tricky one. I know I struggled…as a 2008 grad, I sympathise with the whole recession thing.

A mentor can help. Perhaps, like me, they graduated during the last recession. They may even have graduated last year (don’t underestimate the value of a mentor a couple of years ‘ahead’ of you). The right mentor is perfectly placed to help guide you through this period of transition, and can act as the perfect partner to bounce ideas off. Sometimes there’s nothing more valuable than talking things through with someone who’s gone through the exact same thing. 

Mentoring encourages career development

As the name suggests, SOAS Careers are here to help with all things careers. Career development is, however, a life-long process, and so has to be managed by you – it’s necessarily self-directive. Finding a mentor in a sector or job role you’re interested in can be a huge advantage to your career development. The right mentor will offer two things: a) knowledge and b) a network. A mentor will have in-depth knowledge about the work they do, knowledge they will share with you. They will also be part of a larger network, a network they can introduce you to. Their contacts become your contacts, and as a result, your career benefits.

Mentoring encourages and supports disadvantaged & marginalised groups

Spaces where students and mentors from marginalised and disadvantaged groups can meet are crucial. They offer the chance to discuss shared barriers and to share ways to overcome them. And they’re also the place for the transfer of knowledge and the introduction to networks – both of which may otherwise seem out of reach for some people.

There are so many more benefits to mentoring I’d love to go into here, but this post is getting way too long. Instead, why not sign in to SOAS Connect, our e-Mentoring platform, and start searching for a mentor yourself? We have upwards of 1700 SOAS alumni already signed up and ready to mentor SOAS students. We’ve also created a programme within the platform specifically for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students and mentors.

If you’re not sure where or how to start, we’ve created a guide for mentees, found under the Useful Resources tab on the platform. You’re also very welcome to get in contact with me at lb59@soas.ac.uk and we can have a chat about it.

Good luck!

Luke Brockway is the Employer Engagement Manager at SOAS Careers.

Career Insights: Freelance Language Tutoring

Are you interested in starting a freelance language tutoring career?

Being at the beginning of anything is always the most daunting. And your career is no different. If you’ve ever thought freelance language teaching might be for you then this article by Ed O’Neill at UK Language Project should help equip you with a plan for how to get started.

The UK Language Project recruits lots of language tutors every year. They come across hundreds (possibly thousands) of tutor applications each year. The following are some handy hints to help you stand out from the crowd and start accepting your first students.

Elect the language you want to teach

This might be a simple choice of teaching your first language. But don’t miss out on the opportunity to teach a language you studied at University, or another language. The more languages you know and teach the more opportunities will be open to you. A word of warning though. It’s a crowded marketplace, and at least advanced level (C1 equivalent) in the language is recommended.

Make some early decisions

There are many ways to teach these days. From an in-person lesson, to remote learning at a computer using online video calling.

You will need to decide which you feel most comfortable with. Of course there is always the option of keeping everything on the table and opting to take on both online and face to face students. Especially in the early days. The more flexible you are the better.

It’s important to think about who you’d like to teach. We’d suggest deciding on a focus group of people you can help the most. Kids? Teens? Adults? Retirees? Deciding on this will help focus your mind on what’s important for them and select materials accordingly.

Teach for free

As mentioned before, getting started is the hardest part. One way to cut through that difficulty is by doing some free work with family/friends/university colleagues. That way you can gain experience, figure out if you enjoy teaching. And collect reviews and testimonials from these students before you ever teach a ‘paid’ lesson.

Find out more about qualifications for tutoring your chosen language

For teaching English as a foreign language you’ll need a CELTA as a minimum, plus your degree. For other languages it’s more flexible. A qualification will set you apart, but doesn’t need to be top priority if you’re just getting started.

Get your admin act together!

This is an important step. There will be a lot to prepare. You will need to buy, create or download materials for your lessons. If you’re teaching online you’ll need to make sure you have and can use all the necessary apps for video calling. It’s also worth investing in a good microphone so students can hear you loud and clear.

Some other things you might want to consider:

  • Getting set up for tax
  • Deciding how to accept payments and how much you’re going to charge
  • Your cancellation policy
  • How you’re going to organise your diary and routine to fit (e.g. are you fully available or will you only work evenings, or during the day etc.)

Register with some tutoring websites

This is probably the most important step here. With improvements in technology, a large amount of tutoring marketplace websites have popped up over the last few years. They do (pretty much) all your external marketing for you so you don’t have to.

It’s recommended to choose a few you’d like to get on and set up accounts there. Spend some time and effort on these. If your images, bio and general profile ooze professionalism and trust, you’ll be in pole position to start taking on new students.

Take a look at some now while you’re reading this. You’ll be surprised at how little effort a lot of teachers put into their profiles.

Be open to suggestions

When you’re getting started it’s best to just say yes to everything. Perhaps that student wants a lesson on a Friday evening when you’d normally be out with friends. Think about it and take the plunge. . Take every opportunity to gain the valuable experience you need. After the first 6 months or so, you’ll be thanking yourself that you did this.

Ask your students for reviews

You’ve probably heard this before. Reviews make you stand out. And they’re not that difficult to get. Ask previous students who you taught for free. Make sure that all your new students leave reviews.  The sweet spot is 5-10 reviews. More if you can, but the effects diminish after 10 reviews.

Again, you’ll be surprised how little effort tutors put into this essential practice.

Improve little by little

This goes beyond teaching and tutoring and should be something you live by in your daily life. Always look for ways to make your teaching better. Evaluate your lessons, ask for and take on board feedback from students. Make your lessons that went well even better. Adapt or bin the lessons that didn’t go so well.

You can short cut your learning curve just by asking and answering ‘how could I have made that better’ after every lesson.

Moving to the next level

Freelance tutors are welcomed by language agencies and sometimes language schools as well. Often they may need teachers for short term or fixed contracts. It can be more cost effective to them to pay a freelance tutor a higher hourly rate but have the flexibility that they wouldn’t have with a salaried employee.

Their courses are often longer than private tutoring and you have the bonus of being protected from late cancellations as the school will often handle all those difficult conversations.

So that’s it. For more information and a deeper dive into the advice, head over to the the UK Language Project’s ultimate guide on becoming a freelance language teacher.

This blogpost is sponsored by UK Language Project. 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 careers@soas.ac.uk.

15 tips to reflect on your career readiness under lockdown

It’s been a difficult few weeks for our communities.

With schedules, plans, assessments and more disrupted, it can be difficult to remain proactive in thinking about life after lockdown. While it can be difficult to find the headspace for it right now, we believe that the extra time we spend staying home can be an ideal time for reflection on what we want to do after we go back to a more familiar normality. Whether that means figuring out travel plans for next year, igniting a passion to give back to our communities through volunteering, or exploring your future career options post-SOAS, you can spend time thinking about what you really want from life, and really take time to explore your options. 

Suzie Bullock, Careers Consultant at SOAS, suggests 15 ways you can use lockdown to prepare for your future career. Read on for more…

Continue reading “15 tips to reflect on your career readiness under lockdown”

Covid-19 FAQ & Update

Hello all,

We know this may be an uncertain time for our students & graduates, both in the UK & abroad. We’re here to update you on the steps we’re taking to support & protect our students & graduates as best we can during this difficult period, particularly over the summer vacation period until term restarts in September. We’ve made some changes to our appointments and advice over the summer, so read on for more info. 

Read on for more info and answers to some FAQs, and a list of Covid-19 & online volunteering resources. 

While application deadlines for jobs, volunteering, and further study may have been delayed or put on hold, lots are getting back on track with later submission deadlines and renewed recruitment for some sectors. SOAS Careers is still here to help and support you in making career decisions, reviewing applications and offer advice through our sustained online provision of services. 

Please follow the SOAS website for the School’s latest updates relating to the situation surrounding Covid-19. Please follow this blog, our social media, and our website pages for the latest information relating to the Careers Service. 

Our priority is to ensure our students & graduates are supported safely and we are here to help you through our regular careers support, information & service. 


Q. Will you still be open?
Q. What are your opening hours?
Q. How can I book an appointment?
Q. I require a special adjustment in order to have an appointment. Can you help?
Q. Where can I find information about career planning?
Q. Will you still be running your Careers events?
Q. I am writing an application with a deadline coming up. What should I do?
Q. How can I access CareersZONE if I am no longer a student?
Q. How can I access MySOAS Student if I am no longer a student?
Q. Where can I find the most up-to-date information about Covid-19?
Plus Volunteering Resources

Continue reading “Covid-19 FAQ & Update”

Application Advice: Supporting Statements?

Credit_ Christina Morillo.png

Application writing and strategies for your Supporting Statement

As a rough divide, we can say that where CVs are popular for recruitment in the private sector, and application forms dominate when it comes to not-for-profit and public sector roles. If you are well-versed at applying for the latter, you will probably be familiar with the ‘Supporting Statement’ – the section which typically lies at the end of the form asking you to evidence your suitability to the role.

This is the key shortlisting document. Failure to address this section properly is unlikely to see you secure an interview, no matter how relevant your skills or past experience.

To make a stand-out application you should locate and familiarise yourself with the Person Specification document. This is the part of the job description/application pack which lists the skills you need to be bringing to the table. Shortlisting is, essentially, a tick box exercise in which the recruiter will be looking for evidence of each and every one of these criteria points in your statement. They won’t necessarily be cross-referencing back to information in earlier parts of your application form so assume they know nothing at this point and tell them everything from scratch, even if it means a bit of repetition from earlier parts of your form.

The mistake that most people make here is in structuring their supporting statement more as a cover letter – using it to chronologically talk through their career or skill highlights. A much more favoured approach is simply taking each criteria point one by one, and working through them in the same order that they are listed, giving a clear paragraph to each point. Remember that when the criteria points are competency-based (“must have good attention to detail skills…” etc) it is fundamental that you give enough specific evidence, using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) framework to give your answer clarity.

Your job is to make the shortlister’s job as easy as possible. Structuring your supporting statement in the same way that the person spec is structured will do this. It is an approach which may feel a little clinical and lacking in creativity but it will ensure that the recruiter can easily find the information they need in a quick and straightforward way.

Stick to these rules and you should start to see your success rate improve. Good luck!

Don’t forget: SOAS Careers offers 1-to-1 Application Advice sessions every week during term, from 1-3pm Monday-Friday. These sessions are drop-in, so come by and we can check your CVs, cover letters, supporting statements & all other application elements to help you get the best chance of success.

Hannah Morton-Hedges is a Careers Consultant working with the SOAS Careers Service.

Intern Insights: Arzu @ Mayor’s Entrepreneur Competition

Mayor's Entrepreneur 2020 Interns

Arzu is guest writing the blog today, telling us all about her role as one of City Hall’s Mayor’s Entrepreneur Competition interns. Read on to find out more about how she secured this awesome role, her top internship application tips, and to find out how you can win £20,000 for your sustainable business idea!


My name is Arzu Abbasova. I am a final year BA International Relations student and at the same time one of the Mayor’s Entrepreneur Interns for 2020. It has been a while since I started this internship and to answer the questions I am asked about how I got this position and what I specifically do, I want to reflect on the whole process and share some tips alongside.

I saw this opportunity advertised via SOAS Careers Service and, checking the requirements, I decided to apply.

Tip 1: Make sure you change the settings of SOAS Careers Service on Facebook to “See First”- because if you do so you are never going to miss out the new opportunities.

That being aside I was very excited to apply for this position as I believed I was a perfect match. Generally speaking, I can say that the application process was very straightforward and consisted of 2 stages being the CV and the interview. The first stage was filling in the application form where I had to demonstrate the acquired skills with real-life examples and relate them to the job requirements.

Tip 2: Be specific and use the STAR technique, try to bring as many examples but make sure that you really emphasise how they are linked to what they are asking for.

I passed it successfully and got called to an interview which lasted around 20 minutes discussing how I could promote the competition and demonstrating my skills gained from previous experiences. I would say in all, the selection process was competitive because more than 340 people applied for the position and only 28 people got it. To my surprise (and my best knowledge) I am the first student to get the job from SOAS, which also puts great responsibility on me.

I applied for this position 2 years ago but could not pass to the interview stage, so it was my second attempt. I am bringing this up because it is a nice reminder to me (and I believe to the readers too) that if something does not happen at the first go it does not mean that it will never happen. So, developing your transferable skills and working in different environments can get you the job that you initially got rejected

Tip 3: Determination is the key here I would say.

Enough about the application process and time to move to what exactly my job is and what I am doing. To put it in a nutshell, my job is to promote Mayor’s Entrepreneur Competition on-campus, be the liaison between Mayor’s Office and my university, organise workshops and training, contact relevant people at SOAS, produce online content and much more. I am also lucky that the job can be easily fit around my schedule as it only requires 3.5 – 4 hours of commitment each week.

To give more information about the competition itself, the Mayor of London runs an annual Entrepreneur Competition which asks students from universities all over London to come up with sustainable business ideas to help make London a better place to live and work in.

For the first time this year, there are four separate awards focusing on the environment, smart cities, creative industries and health. The students enter their business ideas and the winners from each category get £20,000. By applying, the students gain valuable experience and skills that can help improve future employability, and this also gives them a chance to make a real difference to the way all of us live. Indeed, I totally believe that this is an opportunity not to be missed and would highly recommend SOAS students to enter the competition. In fact, SOAS students with the “Solar SOAS” project were finalists in 2014, and I am very keen to see a winner from SOAS this year.

Additionally, there are free workshops at City Hall which are being offered to all applicants and the first one for this year will be held on the 17th of December. This is also a fantastic opportunity to develop your business idea, get feedback on your ideas, network with like-minded students from universities across London and hear from past winners and finalists. Be sure to sign up via Eventbrite if you’re interested in applying!

As Brian Chesky, the co-founder of AirBnB said, “if we tried to think of a good idea, we wouldn’t have been able to think of a good idea. You just have to find the solution for a problem in your own life.”


Arzu is a final year BA International Relations student at SOAS.

Help! I don’t know how to start my career planning.


So, you know that the SOAS Careers Service exists. You know that you can access it Monday to Friday all year. You know you have access to it as a graduate. But you still don’t know how to start planning…and it’s feeling a little daunting.

First things first, relax. So many of us have been there. Career planning can seem overwhelming and laborious but it really doesn’t have to be, especially with so many resources from us for you to use.

Like most potentially stressful things in life, the trick is the ability to ‘chunk things down’ and start small. These questions are a great place to begin.

What are your career values?

By this we mean, what are the things you need a job to give you, in order to keep you happy and feeling fulfilled? Ask yourself “what are my motivators?”  It could be anything from needing constant challenge, to professional status, to the need to be helping others. It could even be that sweet sweet cash money flow. Your career values will be unique to you but they will change over time, so it is a useful question to keep asking yourself as your career progresses.

What tasks do you enjoy doing?

We have a tendency to jump ahead to the ‘end result’ without actually focusing on what we need to do in order to get there. Job titles only tell us a tiny amount of the story – try and understand what a job involves in terms of the tasks that make it up and make sure you are targeting roles that, on this basis, you will find enjoyable. Do you enjoy writing, working with spreadsheets, dealing with clients, organising and multitasking..?

What industries interest you?

For some people, career choice will always be based around the industry rather than the role. This is fine, of course. It is just a different way of approaching the same issue. Perhaps you have a hobby you can align to or maybe it is about the working environment that that industry creates. Are there any industries that feel exciting to you? Remember to do your research here – the perception can be different to the reality.

And that, believe it or not, is really all you need to get started. Of course, further research needs to happen from this point on, but in answering these question, you have already  started to create your framework of ‘what works for you’.

Want more? MySOAS Student is literally full of info, for all levels of career thinking. You have access to the Graduate Support Network as alumni. You have access to our events on CareersZONE. And, last but not least, we have appointments available every day for you to access.

Hannah Morton-Hedges is a Careers Consultant with the SOAS Careers Service.

Edited by Suzana Marie, Internships & Marketing Extraordinaire.

Alumni Careers: Being an Interpreter @ ICRC


I never thought I would end up with a career in the humanitarian sector, yet here I am, working as an interpreter for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Niger. It’s a complex and challenging environment, but also deeply gratifying.

No two weeks are the same. I was never an office person, so getting out and speaking to people, hearing their stories, writing them up and then seeing the impact we have on people’s lives is a really important part of the job for me.

As a Hausa interpreter, the role predominately revolves around accompanying ICRC colleagues during detention visits. The ICRC visits people in places of detention across the world, ensuring that they’re being treated with dignity.

My role is to act as an interpreter between detainees and our staff. The visits are confidential and we share our findings with the authorities. As an interpreter, I have the opportunity to learn from everyone around me, which is a great way to build up my knowledge and experience.

Some of the places we visit don’t offer communication facilities to detainees, so we help to facilitate contact between those detained and their loved ones. It could be a simple phone call, a Red Cross message or sometimes we offer financial support so people can visit loved ones in the prison.

There have been occasions where we’ve called a family who haven’t heard from their relative in several years. That moment when they discover the whereabouts of a loved one is a really special part of the job.

It’s not all easy however. I arrived here in February this year. It’s not easy to uproot yourself from the life you’ve built at home; leaving your friends and family behind is especially hard. This is the burden of the job. Having said that, the work really brings you closer to your colleagues and they quickly become your second family and a home away from home.

While I got training before I took up the post, the only way to learn really is by doing, and getting stuck into the job. I would say the same when it comes to learning languages. I actually grew up in Niger, in a town called Zinder, so I had a pretty good grasp of Hausa from an early age. My parents are Scottish and Dutch, so growing up in a multilingual environment meant I quickly developed an ear for languages.

I studied Swahili and Development Studies at SOAS (2011-2015), which helped to develop my fluency in Swahili while also giving me a firm grounding in global economics and politics in the developing world. I spent time in Zanzibar and Kenya as part of my degree, which was hugely beneficial. To anyone learning a language, I’d say this is the best way to learn! Get out there, speak to people and really immerse yourself in the language – no book or classroom will help you in the same way.

While I was already able to speak several languages, my degree at SOAS gave me the qualifications and recognition I needed to really launch myself into this career. It was through my studies that I first encountered the ICRC, so undoubtedly the university has played a huge part in helping me get my first mission with this organisation.

Kai Vogt is an interpreter with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Niger. The ICRC recruits interpreters in more than 20 languages. To learn more about job opportunities please visit the ICRC Careers pages or contact Sophie Da Silva for more information on sdasilva@icrc.org.


So, when should you start using the Careers Service?

We live in the Careers Zone, in SL62 in the Lower Ground Floor of the Paul Webley Wing. Come and say hi! 

When should I start using the Careers Service?

As a Careers Consultant, I hear students say ‘Ah, I don’t need to worry about getting a job until I graduate’. Other students are trying to gain some work experience to help fund their course but not necessarily to develop their career.  If this is your view then it is particularly important you read on.  

Students should go to the Careers Service within their first weeks. They should start to think about their career after finishing their course. This is where the Careers Service can help through career guidance consultations. During these, the Careers Consultant will explore your history and help navigate you through your career options, your interests, and your aspirations.

Why should I do it now when I have 3 or 4 years until I finish?

The reason is that alongside your studies, you should be adding experience to your repertoire in order to improve your career prospects. Here too, the Career Service can help with the resources available on hand. Do not forget that you are competing against many other candidates, and so the more experience you have, the more you stand out from the crowd. It’s best to start looking for opportunities for development as you go through you’re degree so that it doesn’t feel like you’re catching up with other members of your cohort once it gets to crunch time. Furthermore, increasingly, employers are looking for other skills beyond academic qualifications and work experience. You should use this to add to your CV. Volunteering, blogs, and part-time work are all awesome ways to demonstrate how you’re able to put your skills into practice. 

Your CV should be assessed by a Careers Consultant early on. They can help you polish it up ready for when you make those first steps into the welcoming arms of work. It can also help you with thinking about what to add in terms of experience, and what to look for to get yourself where you want to be.

So, I’ve have found an opportunity I wanna apply for, and I want to make an application. How can the Careers Service help me?

We can look through your application, help you with writing a covering letter, practice psychometric tests, conduct practice interviews and prepare you for assessment centres. All of this support will help enhance your prospects of success in whatever it is you’d like to do during and after SOAS.

It is important to continually use the Careers Service. Not only is it free, but it can be invaluable to helping you get through the doors and along the corridor of success in your career journey.

Ali Wylie is a Freelance Careers Consultant at the SOAS Careers Service.

On Graduating

SOAS Graduation 2014 Tuesday July 29th

Graduation: a time for celebrations, not comparisons.

Summer has arrived, and with it the abundance of graduation ceremonies that will be taking place all over the country. This is a time for all students to recognise and honour the achievements that you have been working hard towards.

And yet it is not a day without anxiety. Aside from worrying if you will trip when you name is called to the stage, a deeper concern often lays with students who have not done as well as they would have liked to or, worse still, are comparing themselves to fellow students who have done better. The risk is that this day of celebration will turn into a day of regrets. But you owe it to yourself not to let that happen; you’ve just completed an entire degree!

Remember now, everyone’s journey as a student is different. People arrive at university at different starting points and they face different challenges along the way. Degree classification does not tell the whole picture – it does not highlight the brilliance of your dissertation, or the strength and resilience you showed in overcoming the difficulties with a particular module, or the way you were able to bring the team together to deliver a great presentation. (And note that each one of these examples evidences skills that are in high demand in the workplace).

Remember also that graduation day is just the very start of the next phase of your life and, as we know, when it comes to career journey, success is found in how you finish, not where you start. There is no standard correlation between degree grade and career happiness (however you choose to define it) that is applicable to all examples. That person sitting next to you, receiving their First Class Honours, may not have even pondered their next steps yet or necessarily have the transferable skills needed to make a smooth transition into work.

So whatever degree you will graduate with, be sure to wear your cap and gown with pride and remember that this is the first day of the rest of your life.

Congratulations to all of you!

Hannah, July 2019

Hannah Morton-Hedges is a Careers Consultant with SOAS Careers Service.