Diversity v Inclusivity: Insurance and the LGBT community

In terms of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans) friendly employers perhaps Insurance isn’t the first industry that comes to mind. However, in recent years the insurance sector has been one of the front-runners in ensuring their workplace is open, accepting and encouraging to LGBT people.

I had little-to-no knowledge of the insurance sector beyond thinking it sounded a bit dry but through happenstance was invited along to a LGBT Networking dinner at The Standard Club (a very swanky office space opposite the Royal Courts of Justice).

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A number of companies within the insurance sector have been awarded positions within the Stone Wall Top 100 Employers

The dinner was attended by some of the big names of the sector, all of whom fell under the LGBT rubric and who were striving within their work to make the sector a more inclusive place.  People such as Angela Darlington, chief risk officer for Aviva and a role model for LGBT and women in leadership; and Steve Wardlaw, a renowned business lawyer and prominent gay rights campaigner who co-founded the LGBT inclusive insurance company Emerald Life (more impressively, a silver medal winning Latin-American ballroom dancer in the 1998 gay games).

The room in which the dinner was held was expansive, featured a huge table that looked like it’d come straight out of a 9-to-5/Big Business-esque 80’s film; three old-fashioned portraits hung on the wall, each of an affluent-looking, upper-class, old, white ‘gentleman’. Not exactly the diverse image they were keen to cultivate in recent years but it did highlight why such diversity and inclusion initiatives were so critically important in challenging historic practices.

If you’ve yet to see Big Business (1988) or 9-to-5 (1980) then you’re missing out!

Any intimidation I felt from the setting was quickly offset by free-flowing wine (poured by a butler!) and the warm demeanour of the organisers and attendees. Together with myself there were four other students in attendance, each of us from a different university, studying a different subject and bringing different experiences to the table.

Before dinner, we were seated together before a crowd of eager-looking business people and asked a range of questions: had we ever considered a career in insurance? Why did we think the technology industry gave the impression of being more diverse than others? What qualities did we look for in an employer?

I thought it best to be honest as I had very little knowledge of the insurance – I’d never been able to afford it frankly. My comments solicited a fair few laughs but actually it seemed that my opinions resonated with the group. Sharing my thoughts was an enjoyable experience (usually, I run my mouth off for free but this time I’d gotten a free dinner out of it!).

After the questions we were seated for dinner and had the opportunity to chat informally with the various people around the table. It was enlightening to hear about the different career paths taken, and how being a member of the LGBT community had impacted their professional trajectories.

Over dinner I was lucky enough to chat briefly with Jan Gooding, who discusses in her role as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer of Aviva and as the Chair of Stonewall, the difference between diversity and inclusivity:

“Diversity doesn’t mean anything without inclusivity. People need to be empowered to bring their true selves to work or any initiative is just paying lip-service.”

This quote addresses what I think is the strength of events such as this one. LGBT networking in this manner empowers young people to have a say in how best to attract them on their own terms. Whilst focus groups, surveys and opinion polls can be powerful tools, bypassing them in this way and creating a direct line of communication between the current heads of industry and the future leaders of tomorrow empowers young LGBT people to talk about what truly matters to them.

Inclusivity is only created, and cultivated, when you empower people to speak for themselves, from their specific standpoint, and allow them to assert what they need to feel included and accepted. Networking events like this ensure that those at the top are able to connect with those at the very beginnings of their career and utilise their input to change systems and structures in order to attract and nurture the best talent.

Additionally, it was particularly potent for myself and the other students to be able to see ourselves amongst people who are at the top of their field. LGBT young people struggle from a lack of positive role models, especially within the top tiers of professional environments.

Attracting and retaining the best talent, LGBT, or otherwise is a difficult task in the increasingly shifting socioeconomic climate but it is affirming that Insurance as a sector has such a strong commitment to ensuring that identity isn’t a barrier to success.


The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce are manifold:

Concealing sexual orientation at work reduces productivity by up to 30%. People who have ‘come out’ in supportive workplaces are more creative, loyal and productive –  Stonewall

Organisations that rate highly in both diversity and inclusion are 70% more likely to have success in new markets and 45% more likely to improve their market share  – Centre for Talent & Innovation

A diverse and inclusive company is 45% more likely to see improved market share and 70% more likely to succeed in new markets – Corporate Leadership Council

Diverse workforces have 19% better employee retention, 42% greater team commitment, and 57% better team collaboration – Centre for Talent Innovation


James Hallett, Volunteering Advisor

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#FridayFeeling: What Does Your Dream Job Look Like?

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Happy Friday! Always wondered what your future job will look like? Put together your time machine to see where you’ll end up…

Looking for more inspiration? SOAS Careers is on hand to support you if you’ve got no idea what you want life after uni to look like, and we can point you in the right direction if you’ve already got a set plan in mind. Head over to the Careers Zone in SL62 and speak to any of us about how to get the ball rolling with your next steps. You can also take a look at some of the awesome resources we’ve put together for you at any time on MySOAS Student.

See you soon!

 

Alexis Fromageot

Postgraduate study for the Uncertain: 5 Questions to ask yourself when considering a Masters or PhD

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Taking time to go deeper into a subject you are passionate about can be a deeply valuable and rewarding experience. Postgraduate study can enable this in the form of Masters and PhD programmes. Many subjects and specialisms are now open to you which were not as undergrad. You will develop skills as an independent learner, and direct your own research. Further study can also help get your work life aligned with your interests, progress your career and increase your earning potential too. However, for success, huge commitment is required in the form of time, money, energy and ideas. In addition, career progression does not come from the qualification alone – experience and insight into the sector are required also.

Postgraduate study is best not undertaken lightly!

Hugely rewarding and hugely challenging – how to decide? Research! Self-reflection into your motivation and expectations, plus research into your options and chosen sector will serve you well. The clearer you are on your decision to study further, the more fully you will be able to enjoy and make the most of the fantastic opportunities presented to you as a postgraduate learner.

Much support is available to help you in the process of decision making, reflection, exploring your options, and making strong applications. Great starting points include…

Here are five questions that all postgraduates-to-be would should ask themselves (ideally, before starting a course):

  • Why? What are you hoping to get out of it?

This is a crucial question, though it might seem obvious. If your motivation is a pure love of subject, it’s great to be clear on that. If you have aspiration and expectation to progress your career, it’s valuable to know this too. What do you hope to develop – particular knowledge? Skills? Contacts and links with your sector of interest? Ideas for further research? Keep these in mind as you research the different programmes and what they offer.

Do your research into your chosen field – are postgraduate qualifications required or simply preferred? Is this for entry level positions or to progress? Get to know people and organisations which interest you, find out all you can about career paths in the sector. This networking and research will be useful whether or not you decide to take on further study.

Is your motivation to buy time before you have to make a career decision because you don’t know what to do? This is not a good reason to take on further study, and only ends up delaying the important question of ‘what’s next and why?’. Book a guidance appointment immediately with the Careers Service. You can discuss your concerns and your options, and figure out some helpful next steps. Also, have a read of ‘Should I do a Masters?’ from Prospects.

  • Are you committed?

There are many benefits to postgraduate study, and the right course can be a pleasure. There are also inevitable challenges. Being aware of the challenges involved in advance will help you be prepared to meet them face on.

Cost: There is significant cost associated with further study, both in terms of institutional fees (from £4,900 per year, check with the institution), and for living expenses whilst you are studying. Part time work and part time study is an option, requiring double the amount of time to complete.

Time: Independent study allows you to direct your own research, and work independently. Your time can be your own, meaning it is down to you to commit to organising your time to study, research and meet deadlines, in the context of enjoying a balanced life.

  • Why now?

Timing is everything. There can be many benefits gained from returning to postgraduate study after a break from your undergraduate degree. Valuable insights and skills can be gained from time working, exploring different roles, getting to know yourself and your interests more clearly. This perspective can then add value to your decisions in terms of what you want to study, as well as informing the themes of your research. Many postgraduates choose to return to study having had time in industry, and then wanting to either progress professionally, or change direction, or both. If unsure of whether to embark on further study, have you considered taking time to work or travel beforehand, and the benefits this could bring?

If you are choosing to do a Masters or PhD directly after your undergraduate degree, are you clear on why this is and what you hope to gain from it? (See question 1). In any industry, a qualification alone will rarely be enough to make progress. It is worth considering how you will add value to your CV – consider using your time to also make connections and gain experience in a relevant work environment whilst studying.

  • Why this course? Why this institution? Why this country?

Be sure to make a fully informed and conscious decision on what and where you choose to study.

All courses have different specialisms and flavours, and all institutions have different cultures, themes and priorities. Be sure to do detailed research. Choose to study with institution and course which aligns with your own research interests and values. Links to industry? Focus on a particular theme? Developing a particular methodology?

There are a multitude of opportunities to study across this wonderful planet. Have you considered all your options? If your research interests lie in different countries, different regions, studying in those regions can bring huge value and opportunity, in terms of deepening your experience of language, culture, and the broadening the range of the people you encounter. There is lots to consider, including visas, cost, and language requirements.

Excellent resources can help you explore:

 

  • Masters or PhD?

This is an important question, for anyone who is considering further study. Be clear on the difference, and the benefits and challenges of each. A PhD is a 3 year minimum commitment to your research, where you will be contributing original knowledge. You will become an expert in your field, and an independent researcher. Masters are often, but not always required for a PhD.

There are some fantastic resources to support you with this question, including a SOAS Careers consultant dedicated to working with the research students, including those considering starting a PhD. Get in touch to book an appointment. It’s also worth watching SOAS’s comprehensive sell-out event ‘Trust me I’m a Doctor – Demystifying the PhD’.

Alice Moon, PhD. Careers Consultant

#MondayMotivation: Postgraduate Study Week

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This week at SOAS Careers we’re celebrating everything to do with Postgraduate Study! Whether you’re currently studying a Masters or PhD, or dream of doing so one day we’ve got an event for you.

Head to the Careers Zone in SL62, Paul Webley Wing to get involved…

Mon 4 Dec, 6 – 8pm: BARBRI International Presentationhttps://careers.soas.ac.uk/leap/event.html?id=175&service=Careers+Service

Tue 5 Dec, 4 – 5pm: Working for Reuters:  https://careers.soas.ac.uk/leap/event.html?id=173&service=Careers+Service

Wed 6 Dec, 1.30 – 2.30pm: Marketing Your Masters as a Career Changerhttps://careers.soas.ac.uk/leap/event.html?id=67&service=Careers+Service

Thu 7 Dec, 1 – 2pm: Make the Most of Networkinghttps://careers.soas.ac.uk/leap/event.html?id=169&service=Careers+Service

Fri 8 Dec, 3 – 5pm: International Committee of the Red Crosshttps://careers.soas.ac.uk/leap/event.html?id=107&service=Careers+Service

Alexis Fromageot

 

#FridayFeeling: Are YOU ready to change the world?

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Is there a charity you feel massively passionate about? Here’s your chance to make a difference to them and help change the world!

SOAS Careers is excited to announce the launch of ‘Change the World’: where we encourage you to get creative with fundraising! Thanks to funding from Santander, this is your opportunity to get creative and raise some serious cash to change the world. You will be given a lump sum of £25 to get the ball rolling with your fundraising. Your task is simple: grow this as much as you can, any (legal) way you can! Get as creative as you like – the sky really is the limit!

All the money you raise (including the initial £25) will then be donated to your nominated charity. SOAS Careers will also match the amount you raise (up to a max of £500). The organisation just needs to have a registered charity number in order to be eligible. You can enter by yourself, in a group or as part of a Society.

You will need to document your fundraising and reflections on your successes and challenges as you go. This can be via blog posts, vlogging or any way you dream up – the more the original the better! Your efforts will then be celebrated at the Make a Difference Awards in February at SOAS. We’ll invite the charity of your choice along so that you can find exactly how your efforts are helping to change the world!

Interested? To enter just submit a proposal (max. 500 words) outlining:
> Which charity you wish to support and why
> Your master plan for growing the initial £25 exponentially
> How you will capture and document your fundraising process.

To get involved, send over your proposal to careers@soas.ac.uk by 11:59pm on Weds 6 December. All the proposals will then be reviewed by a judging panel from SOAS. The lucky entrepreneurs will need to be available on Tues 12 December to collect the £25, so that they can get the ball rolling before the end of term.

Ready, set, GO & get fundraising…

Alexis Fromageot

How To Go About Mastering Your Career

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The holiday season is fast approaching bringing lots of opportunities to reconnect with family and friends.  One of the common questions asked when you meet up with people is ‘What are you doing now? After a term of Masters level study at SOAS (or a year and a term if you are a part time student), there will be much to tell!   The follow up question which is then commonly asked is ‘What are you going to next’ At this point do you:

a) Outline your current plans and talk about recent applications

b) Say that you have lots of ideas and stop there

c) Change the subject

d) Steer the conversation around to what they do and try some networking!

If you answered A: Outline your current plans and talk about recent application

If you are writing your CV, filling out application forms or about to start applying, the Making Applications section of MySOAS Student has lots of useful hints and tips. This includes our handout on CVs for Masters Students, a useful guide to how to present your current and past experience to your future employer.  After looking at our resources on applications, you can book a short guidance discussion with a Careers Consultant to get feedback on your draft CV or form.

When you receive an invitation to interview, don’t forget that the Careers Service offers practice interviews as well!

If you answered B: Say that you have lots of ideas and stop there

It’s great that you have lots of ideas but how might you take these forward?  If you are finding it challenging to make some choices then have a look at the career decision information on MySOAS Student. How much do you know about the sector and roles that you are considering? Check out the ‘Explore Your Future’ pages on MySOAS Student for detailed information on many career areas. You can also use our Careers Tagged database to explore different types of work.

A discussion with a Careers Consultant may also help you think though your ideas and consider what you can do next to make your ideas a reality!

If you answered C: Change the subject

You may not have wanted to enter into a careers discussion in the midst of a social occasions and there is time and place for everything.  On the other hand, if you find that you continually put to one side thoughts about the ‘next step’ after your course as you don’t know where to start or feel that there would be too much to do to sort things out, then come and talk to a Careers Consultant.  Even taking some small steps about what to do after your course can be valuable.  We are used to working with students and graduates who are very very unsure about future plans!

If you answered D: Steer the conversation around to what they do and try some networking!

The holiday season brings lots of opportunities to network and make useful contacts.  If the thought of networking makes you nervous or just brings to mind, people in suits with lots of business cards then you may be reassured by looking at some hints and tips in the career planning section of MySOAS Student.

‘Mastering Your Career’ suggests that everything needs to be organised at all times – we all know life is not like that.  Serendipitous encounters, the job that catches your eye when browsing through a vacancy list and a casual discussion with the person next to you in a lecture (SOAS students have a lot to offer) can all help to life’s rich career tapestry!

May you all enjoy your vacation (it is nearly here!).

Claire Rees, Careers Consultant

#MondayMotivation: Mastering Your Career Week

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Seize the (Mon)day and get involved with SOAS Careers’ Mastering Your Career Week. Whether you’ve got no idea at all what life looks like after SOAS or a set plan – take your lead from the sloth and follow your dreams.

Come by the Careers Zone in SL62, Paul Webley Wing to see how to get going and swing by any of these awesome events…

Tues 28 Nov, 3 – 4pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): Ambitious Futures: Graduate Programme for Leadership Developmenthttps://careers.soas.ac.uk/leap/event.html?id=171&service=Careers+Service

Tue 28 Nov, 5:30 – 8pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): Global Skills Project: Selling Yourself on Paperhttps://careers.soas.ac.uk/leap/event.html?id=61&service=Careers+Service 

Wed 29 Nov, 1 – 2pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): University of Law: GDL Course Talk: https://careers.soas.ac.uk/leap/event.html?id=97&service=Careers+Service

Thu 30 Nov, 5:30 – 8pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): Global Skills Project: Selling Yourself in a Presentationhttps://careers.soas.ac.uk/leap/event.html?id=63&service=Careers+Service

Alexis Fromageot

#FridayFeeling: 21 Things No One Tells You About Working Abroad

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Happy Friday!

With Working Abroad week coming to a close, have a read of the 21 life struggles you’ll only understand once you’ve gone to work abroad!

Keen to get your own adventure started and head abroad after SOAS? Come by the Careers Zone in SL62, Paul Webley Wing and we can get the ball rolling on how you can shape your future out of the UK. Open Mon-Fri from 10am, there are loads of resources on hand as well as the opportunity to have some tailored one-to-one guidance sessions. Work with us on your next steps!

Alexis Fromageot

Insight From Your Fellow Student: The Lowdown on the Boston Consulting Group (BCG)

As part of our Student Insight blog series, Candace Evilsizor, MA Gender Studies with reference to the Middle East (graduating 2017) talks about her new role as an Associate soon to be starting at Boston Consulting Group.

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Why did you decide to work for a consultancy?

As I studied the career trajectory of people with high-level jobs in policy and NGOs, I was surprised to see how many of them got their start in consultancies. While academia equips you to understand the causes of a problem, consulting teaches you how to strategize and implement a solution. I decided to pursue jobs in consultancies in order to develop this skillset.

I also knew I’d enjoy the day-to-day work. As a people-person, I was motivated by the chance to contribute as an integral part of a team. And I love the intellectual stimulation that comes from the constant exposure to new industries.

What is it that consultants do exactly?

They avoid answering that question. J In all seriousness, consultants solve problems with data for clients. Firms often specialize in a certain kind of consultancy, such as strategy, operations or information technology, which differ based on the expertise offered and the clients served.

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a strategy firm. Strategy firms advise businesses how to outperform their competition and break into new markets. They are often hired to work with C-level executives and senior government officials.

I’ve heard consultants work long hours, is that true?

Consulting is a package of extremes. The job involves long hours, lots of travel, and pressure to deliver a quality solution to your client. On the other hand, it pays well and the firm invests in your professional development, accelerating your career.

What if I want to work overseas?

Then consulting is a great field for you! Many strategy firms encourage work abroad via short-term assignments, year-long placements, or even relocation to one of their international offices.

I chose BCG Middle East as a means to expand on the area studies foundation that I gained at SOAS. I was also attracted to the volume of public sector projects here. With Dubai hosting the World Exposition in 2018 and Saudi Vision 2030, it’s an exciting time to work in the region.

What does the recruitment process look like?

My recruitment process entailed an online exam (testing math and business competence) and two interview rounds. Each round involved solving various business cases and discussing my professional and educational qualifications with different interviewers.

The business cases in consulting interviews are shortened versions of problems that the firm has solved for previous clients. They are used to help consultants evaluate the candidate’s quantitative skills and logical reasoning.

Here’s a sample case from Harvard Business School’s Case Interview Guide that I used to practice: “A fast food chain recently bought a bovine meat-processing outlet to supply it with fresh hamburgers and other meats. The shop process is: cows enter at one end of the shop, meat gets processed in the middle, and then the meat gets packaged and delivered at the other end. The manager of the butcher shop cannot not decide whether to have the cows walk or run into the meat processing room. Can you help him?”

As a proud SOAS student, my first concern was for the cows. But this case also requires the candidate to think about supply and demand dynamics. And calculating the exact quantity of meat needed to fill the restaurants’ orders – which determines the speed at which cows should enter the plant – not only reduces the chain’s costs, but also prevents food waste.

I don’t have any prior business experience. Is that a problem?

No, consultancies welcome a broad range of expertise. My professional background is in the development sector, and I studied social sciences at SOAS. If you’re bright, teachable and hardworking, the rest can be learned on the job.

Then what qualifications do I need?

Consulting firms look for strong marks and high standardized math scores. Each firm will have its specific application criteria posted online. BCG requires AAB at A-levels (or equivalent) and a First or 2:1 at university (expected or received).

It’s also important to demonstrate professional achievement and people skills through internships, campus leadership and/or volunteer activities. You need to show that you can motivate a team, overcome obstacles and effect change in your field.

I think I’m a competitive applicant. What can I do to prepare?

The first step is to obtain an interview! Given the large number of candidates, it’s advantageous to meet people within the firm in order to highlight your application. Don’t feel shy about attending networking events or contacting people online.

And although private sector experience isn’t necessary, it’s important to feel confident with business terminology and mental math. I’d recommend finding another student interested in consulting and to give one another cases. Before my interviews, I read that most successful candidates practice at least 30 live cases, including some with current consultants, and I found this a helpful target.

At what point should I talk to the SOAS Careers?

SOAS Careers is on hand to support you with all aspects of your next steps after SOAS – whether you have no idea at all what you want to do, or if you have a definite plan in mind!

Among other things, Careers can provide practical assistance with covering letters, online maths preparation and mock interviews. They proved an invaluable resource when I was preparing my application materials (which are typically due in October) and throughout the interview process. They’d recommend you drop by their new Careers Zone in SL62, Paul Webley Wing as early as you can to work in partnership on your future.

What are you most excited about for your new job?

After studying with such an international cohort at SOAS, I’m thrilled at the diversity of my coworkers at BCG Middle East. Over 50 nationalities are represented in the Dubai office alone! I’m also excited to learn more about the region and to contribute to its public and private sector growth. While I’ll miss my time at SOAS, it’s safe to say that I’m excited about my new role as an Associate with BCG.

 Candace Evilsizor

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.

#MondayMotivation: Working Abroad Week

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Set on making sure that your next steps after SOAS are far, far away from London? We’re here to help! Swing by the Careers Zone in SL62, Paul Webley Wing to get loads of hints, tips and invaluable insights into how to get things going away from the UK.

There are also two awesome events taking place this week, with your chance to explore law applications and living and working in North America. Get involved:

Tues 21 Nov, 5 – 7pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): Herbert Smith Freehills – Applications Workshop: https://careers.soas.ac.uk/leap/event.html?id=91&service=Careers+Service

Tues 21 Nov, 6 – 9pm, Professor Stuart Hall Building, LG 02, Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths: Global Careers Series: North America: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/global-careers-series-2017-18-north-america-tickets-38229729149 

Alexis Fromageot