What’s on this Week: Masters Students Skills & Employability Week


This week at SOAS Careers we take a look at how best we can support all of our Masters students! Come along to our wide range of events designed to help you make sure you make the most of your Masters – from those just starting out, to career changers.

Don’t worry if you’re not a Masters student – you can still pop by for the usual support!

Mon 28 Nov 6 – 8.30pm, Careers Service (SL57): Global Skills Project: Selling Yourself on Paper: http://bit.ly/2gxNOH6

Tues 29 Nov 11 – 12pm, S209: MBTI Workshop: http://bit.ly/2gOha4p

Weds 30 Nov 1 – 2 pm, S118: Mastering your Skills as a Masters Student: http://bit.ly/2gnvYDF

Weds 30 Nov 2 – 3pm, S118: Marketing your Masters as a Career Changer: http://bit.ly/2gnrg91

Thurs 1 Dec 6 – 8.30pm, Careers Service (SL57): Global Skills Project: Selling Yourself in a Presentation: http://bit.ly/2gOkexM

See you there!


Guest Blog: Why work at a Start-up?

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


Deciding what to do after University is a daunting decision and one that many students can take a long time to decide upon. The usual path for most students is to take the corporate option however one option that often gets overlooked is considering a career in a startup.

Here are 5 unique challenges and opportunities within a digital start-up:


Feeling your work have a real impact on the business is a wonderful feeling: one that drives people, helps them cope, or just brightens their day. The application of your skills and knowledge is satisfying and being able to see a positive change in the business from it is incredibly uplifting.

2- Freedom
The flexibility of work life whilst being part of a close knit team is a great asset to startups. You won’t be shackled to a desk in stuffy clothes: You will be , in some cases literally, bouncing ideas off each other. It allows plenty of in-office fun which you definitely wouldn’t get as part of a large corporation.

3- Learning
There is almost constant learning as you expand your range or master your depths. It is always a fresh challenge to figure out the latest software and master it. As your confidence grows, people will come to depend on you. You will be a sought after individual as a master of a field.

4- Creativity

Finding interesting pathways to success is a key aspect of being an entrepreneur, so long as corners aren’t cut, then it will generally work out. Thinking outside the box and defying expectations are great ways to gain credibility as an innovator. My personal advice is that a collection of novel ideas is better than one generic view.

5- Responsibility
Having the opportunity to be part of something incredible comes with responsibility. You are trusted to perform because you want the business to do well, not for your next paycheck. You gotta believe, Que the X-files.

Whether you are starting a business with friends, or just looking for exciting opportunities; it’s an awesome place to be.

Guest blog by: Austin, Marketing assistant at ClickMechanic. The business has been operating since 2012, with huge growth and success, as they offer the digital solution to car repairs. A walk back from the garage in the rain has been transformed to feet up on the sofa with your car fixed right on your drive.

Guest Blog: What’s Ambitious Futures all about?

Guest blog from Katie McCallum, who was the Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee at SOAS for 2015/16.

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


For the past 15 months I’ve been a Graduate Trainee at SOAS with Ambitious Futures (AF), a programme for University leadership and management. “What is this?” I hear you ask. My best attempt at explaining AF is that it’s a programme of work that involves a whole host of different elements: three work placements (where you get your work experience), a Leadership and Management qualification (where you get your knowledge), and learning sets (where you get your buddies and pastoral/professional support). You may think that’s a lot to squeeze into 15 months, and you’d be right, but that’s been one of my favourite things about AF; it’s full on and it’s varied.

Each of these elements has proved valuable in preparing me for the next step in my career, and they all work together to give a really well-rounded set of skills and experiences.

For me there are three main reasons that Ambitious Futures is a worthwhile scheme to be part of, which should definitely encourage you to apply!

  1. Learning sets are huge fun and professionally valuable: Throughout the scheme, every six weeks or so, we met as a small learning set of seven trainees and a facilitator. This time was dedicated to working through any issues or concerns we had in the workplace; we talked about relationships with managers and colleagues, difficult tasks we had been set, work/life balance, and a whole host of other topics. Not only did we learn from each other’s experiences but we also had the benefit of a facilitator who had been in the industry a lot longer than us, and was able to bring a different perspective. Learning sets is where the majority of our friendships were forged, ones which will last beyond the scope of AF.

  2. A second placement at a different University: My second placement at the University of Oxford necessitated a commute between London and Oxford, which was a learning experience in itself. There aren’t many other graduate schemes out there that allow you to spend time working in an entirely different institution; my time at Oxford was a chance for me to get out and see how other Universities function. I had the opportunity to build relationships with new people and adapt to a totally different environment.

  3. Building networks of trainees and colleagues: Throughout the scheme there were countless opportunities to build networks with the other trainees as well as colleagues at a number of different Universities. Whilst ‘networking’ may be a bit of an overused buzzword, it essentially means that I’m leaving this job really well-connected with a number of potential future employers, as well as a group of peers that I can continue to go to for advice, whether professional or personal.

To wrap up, beyond having 15 months of University work experience behind me, Ambitious Futures has given me a professional qualification, experience at two different institutions, and a group of great friends and contacts. If you want the opportunity to develop new skills, make new friends and get to know what working in a University is like, then AF is for you!
For more information and to apply, visit the Ambitious Futures website. But be quick as applications close on Wednesday 21st December.

Katie McCallum, SOAS Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee (2015/16)

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


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.

Alice Moon, PhD. Careers Consultant

What’s on this Week: Postgraduate Study Week


This week at SOAS Careers is all about supporting you with Postgraduate Study!

Come along to our whole host of events designed to help you with funding, applications and everything else related to Postgraduate Study. Get involved!

Mon 21 Nov 5.30 – 7pm, B111: Working for Adam Smith International with Zane Kanderian: http://bit.ly/2fji9HQ

Tues 22 Nov 10 – 12.30pm, Careers Service (SL57): Mock Interview Session with SOAS Alumni: http://bit.ly/2gdVMSY

Tues 22 Nov 12.30 – 1.30pm, Caeers Service (SL57): What I Wish I’d Known with James Thorpe: http://bit.ly/2g8Xe7V

Tues 22 Nov 3 – 4.30pm, Careers Learning Space (next to SL57): Teach First Leadership & Development Presentation: http://bit.ly/2gdTDHe

Wed 23 Nov 1.30 – 3pm, S118: Post Graduate Opportunities & Funding: http://bit.ly/2fx0JFi

Thurs 24 Nov 12.30 – 1.30pm, Caeers Service (SL57): What I Wish I’d Known with Aji Unni: http://bit.ly/2fjhjLu

Thurs 24 Nov 5.30 – 7pm, KLT: Financial Planning and Wealth Management with CII: http://bit.ly/2gBneOr

See you there!

Something for the Weekend: Assessment Centres & Selection Methods Week


Great to see you all getting involved with our full range of events for Assessment Centres & Selection Methods week – which has included the Civil Service Fast Stream, Teach First, diplomats talking about working in South East Asia and the United Nations!

Don’t worry if you weren’t able to make it to an event – handily we’ve recorded them, and will be putting them up on the Careers pages on Moodle soon!

To see you off to the weekend, here’s a quick look at the emotional roller-coaster of post-grad job hunting as told by ‘Gilmore Girls’.

See you next week for Postgraduate Study Week. Get booked on to our full range of events here!

Alexis Fromageot


Assessment Centres: Be Prepared!


One of the great things about an assessment centre is that it gives you the opportunity to show your strengths to an employer in a number of different settings. Finding out more about the different tasks and exercises that you might be asked to do and thinking about how you can prepare will hopefully enable you to let your skills shine through and minimise your chances of making basic errors.

The exact nature of the tasks that you will be given to do an Assessment Centres depends on the skills and knowledge that the employer is looking for.  Typically, the Centre could include both individual and group exercises so that the recruiter can see how well you work with others as well as your ability to organise your own work. If you are undertaking a group task, you will usually be observed by the assessors who are looking for positive (and negative) evidence of how you interact with other candidates and contribute to the team in order to finish a task. In preparing for these types of exercises, consider the qualities that make a good team player.  Loud, over-competitive behaviour where a candidate dominates a group, demanding that their opinions are heard is hardly conducive to creating a productive working relationship. On the other hand, you need to ensure that your contributions are heard.

If you are the type of person who prefers to think through an idea for a while before offering suggestions, you may need to step outside your comfort zone a little and get your thoughts ‘out there’ a little earlier because you may run out of time.  You may find it helpful to start with ‘breaking the ice’ and, if the other candidates haven’t met earlier in the selection day, you could always encourage everyone to introduce themselves.

In an individual or group exercise, it is really important to make sure that you are clear about what you need to do. It sounds obvious but if you are nervous and keen to get on with the tasks, it is very easy to make assumptions and rush to start. Are you being asked to make recommendations based on a case study and then present them to the assessor? Is the group being asked to reach a consensus decision or put forward a number of alternatives?

There are lots of resources to help you with your preparation for an Assessment Centre. The Successful Applications section of MYSOAS Student Careers Service provides many links to useful resources and some exercises to help you practice. We also have a range of books on topics such as making presentations and case studies in the Careers Service in SL57 – just come by to take a look at these. Keep a look out too for workshops and skills sessions throughout the year on Assessment Centres; these are advertised on MYSOAS Student Careers events calendar.

Good luck!

Claire Rees, Careers Consultant