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

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#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.

Candace

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

#FridayFeeling: Women Revolutionising the Food Industry

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As student enterprise & start up week comes to a close, celebrate these awesome women who are bossing it in the food industry!

Read on about these 15 badass girl bosses who will give you serious #girlsquad goals.

Keen to start your own enterprise? Come by the Careers Zone in SL62, Paul Webley Wing where we’re on hand to talk ideas out with you and offer practical advice to get things started.

Alexis Fromageot

Insight From Your Fellow Student: Wok’ing Across Britain with FUN:) Healthy Chinese Cuisine Ambassadors

As part of our Student Insight blog series, Eliot Gee, MA Anthropology of Food (graduating 2017) discusses their time interning at Ming-Ai (London) Institute. 

A few months ago, I wouldn’t have expected to find myself standing in front of a dozen British teenagers at 9am on a Tuesday, explaining how to make sure a wok is hot enough to add oil (“Not olive oil; we want just enough neutral cooking oil to keep your protein from sticking”)… but now, it’s another day on the job!

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The FUN:) Project visits schools across the U.K., inviting students to participate in quick, easy, and healthy cooking workshops. Since joining this summer, I’ve found that the work nicely complements my MA dissertation; my research interviews examined how Chinese food is perceived by migrants (specifically, how social and physical wellbeing are linked to food and generational memory), while classroom visits through FUN:) have shown me the day-to-day reality of Chinese food from the perspective of British schoolchildren.

Although South Asian food has been incorporated into the mainstream British taste at both high and low levels of cuisine, knowledge about Chinese food remains surprisingly limited beyond the performative fields of  Chinatown and TV cook shows. Likewise, students’ understanding of Chinese immigrants’ culture and history is limited; most don’t know there was any “relationship” between Britain and Hong Kong. Therefore, it’s been inspiring to see how projects like FUN:) help challenge the negative takeaway association surrounding Chinese food. Offering students the knowledge, taste, and skills to feel comfortable cooking simple Chinese dishes at home is a first step towards broadening their horizons and encouraging more meaningful discussion about the diversity of Chinese cuisine and culture. For example, during our presentation we ask students to guess why Cantonese food might be over-represented in the U.K.

Last year, FUN:) conducted 70 student demonstrations, visiting schools across London and as far away as Wales, Manchester, and Colchester. Cooking in so many kitchens with all different students is always fun (let’s be honest, there are plenty of puns thrown around. The name is supposed to reflect the Chinese word for rice)! Some students have never used a wok before, so even a simple stir-fry is an entirely new experience for them. At recent trip to a special needs school, I helped a boy who was too nervous to initially approach the hot wok… but by the end of an hour, he had cooked a brilliant kungpao chicken to bring home to his family. Compared to my prior experiences teaching language and history in Asian schools, I’ve found it very rewarding to see how hands-on activity can ground even the most “difficult” students and give them something to be proud of. This is in no small part due to the encouragement of their teachers, who are unfailingly friendly and generous with their time, and tea!

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We also stay busy hosting free Teacher Training Workshops that encourage teachers to become “cuisine ambassadors” on our behalf, with the bonus opportunity of a cooking skills competition. FUN:)’s sponsor, the sauce brand Lee Kum Kee, invites the winning trio of teachers to Hong Kong and China, where they learn more about the food culture and exchange techniques at a culinary school. I can testify that this year they ate to their hearts’ content, since I had to edit all of the video footage upon their return!

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Despite its wide reach, the project is very small, which means there is always a range of work to be done. Currently there are only two of us at the FUN:) office! Kelly, the project coordinator and a SOAS graduate, has been with the project for over a year and does a terrific job setting up demonstrations & workshops, and developing lesson plans (among a couple hundred other tasks). Much of my time has been devoted to updating our photo, video, and presentation material. I filmed, edited, and am currently uploading and writing descriptions for a series of cooking skills videos, available on our newly formed YouTube page for students and teachers. We are also rebooting our web presence– website, Instagram, Facebook– to best connect with interested would-be cooks.

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FUN:) operates as part of Ming-Ai (London) Institute, located in North London. A perk of joining FUN:) is that Ming-Ai offers connections to many segments of the British-Chinese community, hosting events at our building that include calligraphy, talks, and language courses. Other projects include spreading knowledge about British-Chinese Armed Forces Heritage, and a MA Program in Chinese Cultural Heritage Management (through Middlesex University). It’s probably no surprise that many people who work here have passed through the SOAS China Institute at one point or another.

Despite being a relatively small organization, Ming-Ai has worked with high-profile groups and celebrities. FUN:) has connections with famous chefs Ken Hom, Ching-He Huang, and Andrew Wong, among others. Recently we helped with the Hong Kong Intangible Culture Festival, hosting Michelin-star dim sum chefs from Hong Kong at the Crowne Plaza to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival, and are initiating an upcoming series of talks, cooking and paper-making workshops as part of a cultural exhibition next month at China Exchange (tucked away in the center of Chinatown).

For anybody interested in British-Chinese food culture, or building connections between the Chinese community and British schools, I strongly encourage looking into Ming-Ai’s opportunities. Both FUN:) and the British Chinese Armed Forces Heritage Project are eager to have students join in either part-time or volunteer capacities. Head here for all the details!

Eliot Gee

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.