Guest Blog: Starting your Career at a Startup

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


Should I consider starting my career at a smaller company?

It may come as a surprise for the majority of you to learn that the percentage of graduates in the UK that end up working for one of the larger, well-known graduates is under 20%. So where are the rest of the job opportunities? 9/10 graduate jobs are currently found in startups and SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises).

Although there are clear benefits to securing a place on a graduate scheme after leaving university (formal training opportunities, prestige, early earning potential), starting your career at a smaller company comes with a host of other benefits which corporates simply can’t offer first jobbers (high levels of responsibility and the chance to have an impact on the growth and development of the business).

To aid your decision on whether a graduate job at a startup or SME could be the right choice for you, here are some questions you should be asking yourself:

Am I good at taking on responsibility and managing my own time?

At a startup or SME you can expect to be given high levels of responsibility from the word go. Working in a small team also means that there’ll probably be nobody else in the company with the same skill set as you or doing the same thing as you. With little time for micromanaging, you’ll really be expected to take your own initiative and ownership over your work!

Am I creative and do I enjoy coming up with new ideas?

At a small company, with often a limited budget, it is common for situations to arise where a creative solution is needed! If you enjoy thinking on your feet and are keen to make proactive decisions to resolve an issue then this could well be the right environment for you to flourish in.

Do I have an interest in entrepreneurship?

Particularly at a startup, you’ll most likely be sitting across or even right next to the founders of the business. This gives you a unique opportunity to soak up all their knowledge and experience. This kind of exposure is especially valuable if you think you might like to start your own business one day.

Am I looking for a chance to develop a wide skill set?

Working as part of a small team usually means that you’ll be involved in several different functions within the company where you’ll pick up a whole new set of skills as you’ll really be expected to get stuck in and contribute. You’ll receive a huge education about how a business truly operates, which is harder to grasp when working in a single department of a larger company.

Am I looking for a relaxed environment and culture?

The atmosphere at a startup or SME is much more relaxed than at a corporate. There is usually no dress code and little hierarchy. You’ll get to know your co-workers quickly and team socials are common. Surrounded by creative and innovative people, it can be an inspiring work environment to be a part of.

This guest article has been written by Sophie Hudson, Head of Community at TalentPool – a recruitment platform matching recent graduates with job and internships opportunities in startups & SMEs.


Something for the Weekend: Creative Industries Week


Been inspired by Creative Industries Week at SOAS Careers? Embrace your creativity with these quotes to jumpstart your creative side!

Not sure how you want your next steps after to SOAS to look? Not to worry – come by SL57 and we can have a chat about where to even start thinking about the future.

Alexis Fromageot

Embracing Career Changes


Not sure how your next steps will pan out after SOAS?

Don’t worry about having to stick to one solid plan, and get inspired by reading about one lady’s journey into law via a whole other career.

Take a look at the Career Planning section on MySOAS Student to get a better idea of you can start shaping your future – no matter where you end up!

Alexis Fromageot





What’s on this Week: Creative Industries Week


Dream of working within the creative world? This week SOAS Careers explores the varied routes in to this broad and engaging sector, with a wide range of great events throughout the week.

Not sure if creative industries is the one for you? Don’t worry – come by SL57 and we still offer our full range of services for you!

Mon 20 Feb, 5:30 – 7pm, B111, Brunei Gallery: A Career in the Commercial Art World:

Weds 22 Feb, 1:30 – 3pm, S118, Paul Webley Wing: The Future of Work:

Thurs 23 Feb, 5:30 – 7pm, G3, College Building: Careers in Muslims and Galleries:

Alexis Fromageot

Something for the Weekend: Reading Week


Know exactly what you look for from movie night? Use your awesome taste in film to get an insight into your dream job!

Need more inspiration when thinking about your next steps? Come along to SOAS Careers in SL57 and we can talk through it all with you – from further study, travelling, internships to longer term work, we can help you get going!

Have  a great weekend and see you next week for Creative Industries Week!

Alexis Fromageot


Guest Blog: Advice on becoming self-employed straight out of university

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


Becoming a self-employed worker straight out of university may sound like a daunting prospect. However, the number of graduates taking this route to work straight out of university is on the rise. Despite being your own boss, there is plenty of support available to you.

The number of self-employed workers is rising

The number of self-employed workers in the United Kingdom is rising, and it has been for some time. There were over 4.77 million self-employed workers in the United Kingdom in November 2016 – over 15% of the entire workforce. This is a 23% increase since 2008 (Office of National Statistics, 2016).

Graduates are contributing to the rise in the self-employed workforce

Interestingly, 87% of graduates with a second class or first class degree have thought about freelancing already and consider the gig economy as a “highly attractive and lucrative career option”. 29% of students who have not graduated yet have considered becoming a freelancer within 5 years of completing their university studies, according to Elance (Elance, 2013).

Why are so many people turning to self-employment?

There is a number of reasons why people are becoming self-employed. Some of the main ones are as follows:

  • If a contract does not go as planned, you can decline future offers from the client.
  • You are in a position to negotiate terms – if there are specific conditions you require, let your client know at the stage of negotiation.
  • Contractors usually earn more money than full-time employees.
  • Working with a variety of clients will help develop your skills.
  • If you are able to have some spare time, you can learn new skills and develop your knowledge. There is an opportunity to become an expert in your field and earn a well-respected reputation.
  • You will avoid the dreaded office politics.
  • You are presented with an opportunity to grow your own business.
  • If you don’t like contracting – don’t worry! If you decide that you no longer want to be a contractor then it is easy to close your limited company (if you decide to operate through one) and look for a full-time role.

If you are self-employed, how do you get paid?

Typically, the self-employed operate in two ways, through their own limited company or through an umbrella company. There are advantages for both of these options.

Being paid through an umbrella company eliminates the large amount of paperwork that a self-employed worker could potentially face if operating through their own limited company (personal service company). If you choose to work through an umbrella company, you effectively become an employee of the umbrella and will receive the same pay as an employee in a full-time position. The umbrella company will make the correct tax and National Insurance Contributions to HMRC on your behalf. You will be entitled to Holiday Pay, Statutory Sick Pay, Statutory Maternity Pay and Statutory Paternity Pay. Whilst an easy way to operate as self-employed, working through an umbrella is not the most tax efficient.

If you are looking to legally maximise your take-home pay in full compliance with HMRC, setting up your own limited company may be the perfect solution. By running your own limited company, you will become the director and can appoint yourself as a shareholder. Then you are able to pay yourself legally with a combination of salary and dividends. It is also the most professional way to present yourself in front of prospective clients. Whilst there is a large amount of paperwork involved, you can select a contractor accountant that will provide assistance with this, making your life easier.

To compare the difference in take-home pay between setting up your own limited company and using an umbrella company, you can request a personal calculation using a contractor calculator.

What should you look for from a contractor accountant?

  • They should be specialists
  • They should be accredited by reputable industry bodies (such as APSCo and Professional Passport)
  • They should be fully compliant with HMRC legislation
  • They should make their terms incredibly clear (for example, is there a tie in period?)
  • Their solution should match your requirements
  • They should offer you extra (for example, an online portal for your convenience)
  • They should have experts ready to answer your calls and emails
  • They should provide continued support throughout the setup and running of your limited company

Finding your first role as a self-employed worker

Finding your first role as a self-employed worker may sound scary. However, there is a lot of support and help available. The number of recruitment agencies is always on the rise and there are specialist businesses that exclusively focus on finding work for the self-employed. Don’t forget to make sure you have an updated LinkedIn profile and you are connecting with the right people (recruitment agencies, potential clients etc.). Have a look on local forums – are there any events that you can attend as a networker?

It is always a great idea to ask the people close to you for advice. Do any of your friends or family members know people that can help you? As a student, your university will provide careers assistance – get in touch with them to find out how they can help and support you.

If you are looking at becoming self-employed straight out of university – best of luck!

This guest article has been written by Andrew Trodden, Marketing Executive at Churchill Knight & Associates Ltd – specialist contractor accountants

Want to earn £50pm vlogging while you look for a job?

‘The Great Grad Job Hunt’ is a project created by The Careers Group, University of London, that follows the process of job-hunting for final year students, Master’s students and 2016 graduates.

Through the use of videos, the project documents real life experiences and peer-to-peer examples of searching for a job. As well as including expert advice; job hunters from around the world can access information – tips and tricks from fellow students, graduates, consultants and employers that will help them score their dream career.

The project is looking for enthusiastic people who will be committed to documenting their job-hunting process on video through the following months. With help from our dedicated team, students and graduates will help each other and use expert advice to help them find a job best suited to their needs.

This is a great opportunity for those who wish to help others and contribute their own experiences for students/graduates who are in a similar position. Students and graduates taking part will receive:
          Life skills useful to any career role 
–          £50 a month for submitting at least 2 vlogs a month
–          Extra support from The Careers Group and Careers Consultants

Don’t worry if you haven’t decided what you want to do yet. We want to document this process also and we will help you with your decision making.

Please note that applications for this round close at 11:59pm on 6th February 2017. APPLY NOW!

Email if you have any further questions.

Alexis Fromageot

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


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.

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:

Tues 22 Nov 10 – 12.30pm, Careers Service (SL57): Mock Interview Session with SOAS Alumni:

Tues 22 Nov 12.30 – 1.30pm, Caeers Service (SL57): What I Wish I’d Known with James Thorpe:

Tues 22 Nov 3 – 4.30pm, Careers Learning Space (next to SL57): Teach First Leadership & Development Presentation:

Wed 23 Nov 1.30 – 3pm, S118: Post Graduate Opportunities & Funding:

Thurs 24 Nov 12.30 – 1.30pm, Caeers Service (SL57): What I Wish I’d Known with Aji Unni:

Thurs 24 Nov 5.30 – 7pm, KLT: Financial Planning and Wealth Management with CII:

See you there!

#changeyourworld: Who’s having tea with the UN?

A massive thank you to everyone who entered our #changeyourworld Tea with the UN photo competition, which closed on Friday. We were completely overwhelmed with the quality of your entries – it has been great to read about the incredible projects you’ve been involved in!

The photos were considered by a panel of judges from SOAS, made up of:
– Co-President Activities & Events, Adwoa Darko
– Co-President Welfare & Campaigns, Ayeaha Abbasi
– Head of SOAS Careers Service, Philippa Hewett.

The judges were all awed at the quality of photos presented. Speaking about the competition, Philippa Hewett said: “It never ceases to amaze me that we are lucky enough to have students who care so much about the world and do such fantastic voluntary work. In my view everybody was a winner, and so I’d like to encourage you to continue sharing your images with us via Facebook or Twitter so we can keep showing how SOAS students really do change the world!”.

As it was such a hard decision to make and as the judges were so impressed with the entries, the Careers Service has decided to professionally print and frame all the runner up photos to display in around the Careers Service in SL57 and the Careers Learning Space beside it.

After careful deliberation, the judges selected this image as the winner:


Zipporah’s photo was taken while working for the Goodwill Foundation in central Bangkok. As, for the most part, funding came from only those who had been directly affected by the charity, Zipporah decided to write a few articles highlighting the need to give. Thanks to these pieces, there was an increase not only in donations, but also in others looking to volunteer. This photograph speaks to the giving and charitable nature of the Thai people, who incorporate daily acts of giving, in a scale that Zipporah found truly awe-inspiring.

The winner will join John Ericson, Chief of the Outreach Unit in the Office of Human Resources Management of the United Nations Secretariat in New York in the Careers Service for a reception after his talk at SOAS on Wednesday 16 November.

Keep an eye out for all the amazing runner-up photos, which will be on display around the Careers Service soon and make sure you register your place for the talk by clicking here.

The Runner Ups:


This photo was taken in the Nkomazi region of South Africa, while working for non-profit Imagine Scholar, and leading a Bollywood dance workshop. 


As a member of the Lions Club volunteer organization in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, this student visited orphanages & juveniles centres every month to donate food, clothing and books to the kids.


Taken in the South Sudan, this photo is of some of the students and teachers from Kuda Primary School. Working for The Long Well Walk, this student ran a crowdfunding campaign to raise support for a construction projection in the area to develop community-led water and sanitation projects in sub-Saharan Africa. As a direct result, 400 students, teachers and members of the community now have access to safe, clean, easily accessible water.


This entry is of the student arriving in Tangier, Morocco, having cycled from the SOAS Dinwiddy Halls in London through the UK, France, Spain and Morocco in June (2500km) to raise money for Refugee Council and other charities.


The Founder and President of a committee for LGBT+ trainees in the European Commission took this photo at Brussels Pride 2016. Supporting an initiative to create a safe, fun, and educational environment for trainees with any sexual orientation and gender identity from across Europe, this initiative resulted in seminars and social activities taking place throughout spring and summer 2016. This ranged from the Brussels Pride march to a successful love bombing campaign targeting the College of Commissioners.


This photo was taken during a visit to the Democratic republic of Congo as part of the student’s reign as ‘Miss Congo UK’. During the trip, she became aware that there was a campsite in which hundreds of refugees from Brazzaville were living in located by the city. The student contacted the ‘Miss Congo UK’ management team back in the UK to explain the situation, and over the course of the next few days helped to raise funds to purchase food, nappies, toys and milk to donate to the refugees.



Taken in Sierra Leone, this is of the sanitation drying area outside the Ebola treatment centres red zone. The student was working on an accountancy project based here – not your usual life as an accountant!


This was taken as part of ongoing community development workshops that the student started in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The ongoing weekly workshops focus on community development, critical thinking and encouraging equality through the medium of various forms of creative expression (street art, alternative music and creative writing). In the foreground this image depicts Khmer orphans, aged 7-10, learning how to create stencils, while the older members practice spoken word poetry in the background. The workshops utilise creative expression to encourage community development in a country where women are often seen as second-class citizens, and creative expression is stifled. 


This picture is of a demonstration, protesting against the government’s plans of privatising waste management services in the city of Pune, India. The student spent 3 years working with a trade union of Dalit ragpickers (garbage pickers). The women are all waste pickers from Pune, belonging to the Mahar and Matang sub castes.

ruwayda-shariffThis student changed a person’s life by buying these Eco-tourism products from family industry every day while in East Africa. The lady pictured asked that the student spread the word of her small-scale business to the ‘Western world’, which the student did via social media.



This entry was taken in Ecuador, following the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake this April, which left hundreds dead thousands more injured. One of the major services effected were schools, and local children had their term start dates delay to allow for emergency schools to be built. To make sure they did not miss out on International Day of Children, the student and a group of friends initiated a campaign, and garnered support from wider society – including lots of mothers and private enterprises. Together they were able to ensure that the Day was celebrated in Pedernales and Muisne, two of the most devastated towns in Ecuador.


Over the last ten years, this student has taken a group of sixth form students on an annual school trip to Uganda and Rwanda. The purpose of this trip is to promote an educational and cultural exchange between the groups of students. The photo shows one of the sixth formers about to meet pupils at one of the schools in Uganda. He was so influenced by the whole experience that he is going again next year, leading sessions with prospective new students to encourage them to go as well. The sixth former will never forget this trip and, perhaps, he will go one better than me by not only studying African politics in the future but influencing it too.


This photo was taken in Kenya, where this student started a group at the age of 12 called “Fab 15” to raise money for those less fortunate. The group focused their support on an orphanage in one of Nairobi’s worst slums. To raise funds for Christmas, the group ran a “Fill-A-Bucket” campaign, where they successfully filled 50+ buckets and raised over 15,000 Kenya shillings. This year, the team aim to fill 100 buckets for the same orphanage, and launch a mentorship program. While the student has started by helping people and empowering them in this village, they’re keen to go further – Kenya, Africa and the rest of the world.


This entry was taken in rural Malawi. The student has been running The Miambe Project for the past 2 years, working on sustainable building and education. This includes constructing buildings made with earth bags, and running distance learning initiatives including an online university programme to support local farmers.  

Alexis Fromageot