It’s Not Too Late: Making The Most Of Your Summer

So you’ve got nothing sorted for the summer and think time has run out? Think again.

The next couple of months could be valuable, nay crucial, in terms of your career plans. Yes, reading, revision, assignments might rear their ugly heads at some point and maybe you have temp work lined up? Perhaps you’re heading off to Ibiza, Malia and all points south? But there’s more, much more, that you could – and should – be doing…

Bog-standard short-term employment beckons? Use it to boost your business awareness and professional credibility. A CV containing something along the lines of “At Waitbury’s supermarket, I learned how the business marketed itself and its products and undercut the competition by doing x, y and z” trumps one that says merely “Customer service assistant, Waitbury’s”. And if you have a day or two off, you may be able to take advantage of the suggestions below…

Nothing on the horizon? A gap in your schedule? Paid internships and actual jobs in your field of interest could be up for grabs even at this late stage. Try the formal route via websites recommended on My SOAS Student and take a look at JobOnline. Or make an informal approach to a local firm: often they need some timely help with specific projects.

If that draws a blank, volunteering won’t boost your bank balance but will enhance your CV and increase your feel-good factor, without necessarily making massive inroads into other activities – a couple of hours a week are all often that’s required. Take a look here for inspiration and check with individual organisations.

No luck or no time? How about a spot of work shadowing? You can arrange this via personal contacts. If that proves impossible, try a smidgeon of informational interviewing: the noble – and worthwhile – art of finding someone in a career that attracts you and asking them a series of targeted, shrewd and perceptive questions to increase your knowledge and employability.

As for Spain, Greece and their continental cousins, enjoy. You deserve your downtime. But don’t neglect the wider careers picture. You know it makes sense!

Gill Sharp, Careers Consultant

 

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#MondayMotivation: How will you spend your summer?

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If internships are proving elusive this summer, there is still plenty you can do to show employers that you have used your summer break wisely – whilst also meeting new people and giving back to the community.

Volunteering is an excellent way to build up skills and experiences which will boost your job applications when you finally leave university. SOAS encourages all students to volunteer during their time at university by exploring the different opportunities open to them in the not for profit sector.

In order to maximise the skills gained from volunteering, it is crucial to reflect on the activities carried out – for example keeping a diary of your volunteering activity. This will enable you to highlight the transferable skills that you have developed.

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There is no definitive list of ‘transferable skills’ to be gained from volunteering. They are simply skills learned in one context that are useful in another and often include:

  • Team work
  • Sales
  • Flexibility
  • Communication
  • Work ethic
  • Leadership.

Employers always define the skills they are looking for from candidates and you need to have clear evidence that you have developed most of the above skills during the recruitment process.

Volunteering activities can be used to show you have demonstrated these skills and to show prospective employers that you are constantly expanding your employability skills both in paid and unpaid work. Many employers view students who give back to the community through volunteering experiences as highly attractive candidates as they are always looking for individuals who have found new and interesting ways to acquire new skills during their studies.

For example, helping in a local youth club may have enabled you to develop strong problem solving skills – ‘As voluntary team leader at a local youth club, I was entrusted with the safety of the children when the parents left. I learnt how to resolve conflicts through mediation. I also needed to adopt a professional approach to troubleshooting by liaising frequently with and actively listening to other team members‘.

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Start your volunteering journey by checking out the various  links below and then book an appointment for a CV Check at SOAS Careers to make your application.

SOAS Careers  offers drop-in appointments on Fridays between 2 and 4pm. Within these appointments we can help source volunteering opportunities, help you utilise your experience as a volunteer to enhance employability through helping you to reflect on what they have learnt and explain how this can be presented best within a CV, cover letter or application. Follow SOAS Volunteering on Facebook and visit the MySOAS Volunteering Page for more resources. All graduate, part-time and volunteering opportunities sourced by SOAS Careers are posted here.

Further volunteering opportunities

Find out more about volunteering

LGBTQ+ Volunteering

  • Stonewall is a charity working to support lesbian, gay, bi and trans people in Britain and abroad. Volunteers are a key part of their work.
  • A Camden-based charity run by LGBT people for LGBT people, who use their creative input, life experiences and skills to enhance the life of people within the community.
  • Switchboard provide an information, support and referral service for lesbians, gay men and bisexual and trans people.

Volunteering for disabled students

  • Can Do is volunteering scheme run by a leading UK disability charity. They welcome applications from disabled volunteers and are happy to discuss individual support requirements.

International volunteering

  • SOAS Careers does not endorse international volunteering due to a lack of resources to properly vet opportunities. The pay-to-partake nature of many of these opportunities can also be problematic in ensuring equal opportunities for students.

Deborah Scott Anderson, Careers Consultant, University of London

Rejection? Brush Your Shoulders Off

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We’ve all been there: hours of blood, sweat, tears and a fair amount of googling synonyms for ‘passionate’ go in to crafting the most meticulously put-together application that proves beyond all reasonable doubt that it is your destiny to take on this job, only to hear back from a generic HR inbox that they ‘regret to inform you’ that you’re not The One. Or worse yet – a resounding silence.

Yep: rejection sucks, but, dig a little deeper into anyone who’s gone on to do anything genuinely impressive (no, the Yodelling Kid doesn’t count) and you’ll quickly see that failure is a temporary – and important – step towards ultimate success. As Michael Jordan humbly puts it, ‘I’ve failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed’.

Never was this truer than when it comes to landing that elusive grad scheme, internship or part-time job for the summer. A lot of the time it’s purely a numbers game – due to the sheer volume of applications you may not luck out first time round and will need to keep trying. Knowing how to deal with this is crucial, and will only help you on your way to future triumphs.

Don’t worry, help is on hand; so sit back and take comfort in this virtual hug from SOAS Careers…

  • Take time out to reflect

Once the initial rage subsides, it’s worth taking 5 minutes to think through why this particular application didn’t work out. Do you need to get more experience under your belt? Could your application have done with being tweaked a little to really showcase to the employer how great you are for that specific role, or have you been going for quantity over quality recently? If you made it through to an interview, could you spend some time nailing your technique to guarantee that you come across as the dream candidate next time round? If you’ve had a few knock-backs, could you start targeting smaller companies rather than just going for household names?

SOAS Careers can support you with all of this and more. Take a look at all the ways we can signpost you to work experience and volunteering opportunities – both great additions to your CV, which will offer you lots more examples to talk about at interview too. CV & Application Advisers are on hand with drop-ins every afternoon between 1-3pm in SL62 to give you feedback, we can run you through a Practice Interview, offer guidance, help with online aptitude tests and lots and lots more

  • Get inspired

Often even those you assumed were born in to success have had to work hard to get to where they are – no matter how effortless it may all seem. Read the autobiography of any great entrepreneur or successful person, and more often than not it is their resilience that has been their Ace card. Identify someone you genuinely admire and dig in to what coping mechanisms they use to bounce-back.

  • Make sure love is all around

As you dive head first into another set of applications, make sure you’ve got friends and family close by, or ready and waiting for your Facetime call. Don’t underestimate the power of their support on your personal well-being, and vice-versa. Make sure you and your close friends are each other’s Number 1 Fans and regularly remind each other how great you are!

  • Don’t be so hard on yourself

There’s no easy way to say it: putting your all into an application and not hearing back would dampen even Mr. Motivator’s spirits. You’ve got every right to be disappointed, so rather than beating yourself up, treat yo’ self (within reason!) and move onwards and upwards.

  • It’s not you, it’s them

As The Beatles forecast, the road may well be long and winding – and it can be all too easy to forget to keep things in perspective. There will always be other opportunities, bigger and better ones that come at the right time for you.

So next time you get that email from what you’d convinced yourself would be your dream company, see the rejection for what it is – a set-back, nothing more, nothing less. Acknowledge it, learn from it and then move on. Don’t let it own you, rather get out there and own it!

Alexis Fromageot, Marketing Manager

How to Own the Easter Break & Sort Your Summer

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So the Easter break hasn’t been the whirlwind of productivity you’d dreamed of so far? Don’t worry here are some quick-fire ways to get you started with lining up a dream summer…

Lots of you will be reading this far from the bright lights of the JCR, and spending the holiday visiting friends and family. It’s time to tap into those networks! Yep, these people are your ready-made pathway into your dream job – where do they work, who do they know, who are their neighbours, friends, great aunts etc and where do they work? You’d be surprised who knows whom, and who can lead you to that game-changing introduction.

Don’t panic: we’re not suggesting you go straight into a Dragon’s Den-esque hard sell with Janet next door – it’s more about letting people know that you’re actively looking for some experience over the summer. As all good Scouts know, it’s always best to come prepared so spend some time reflecting on the following before:

  • What is it you’re looking to get experience in? Are you tied to a particular industry, or open to any exposure to a set job role?
  • What specific skills or knowledge are you keen to develop?
  • Would you consider volunteering, or a couple of days work shadowing?
  • When can you realistically fit in some experience?

Take some time to revamp your CV as well, making sure that it fits in with these intentions. A sure-way to do so is to make sure it focuses on relevant skills that you can already bring to the table.

As with anything, keeping an open mind is the key to success – don’t be quick to immediately dismiss opportunities that don’t quite meet your ideal. Speak to the organisation to find out more and have a think about what you would get out of it. Remember: real commercial experience of how any business works is great acumen to bring with you into any future applications.

Why not mix it up and do a few different things over the summer?

Employers are all humans too – they understand that spending a summer volunteering or work shadowing isn’t realistic for everyone, and that you need to work to earn some money too! Retail, bar and coffee work over the summer are all valuable experiences and let you build up some cash too.

It’s worth considering fitting in some volunteering or work shadowing for a shorter period or in between shifts if you can. Exposure to as many different skills as you can is a definite win for your future applications!

Ditch Netflix: Get out and About

Know that you’re going to be heading back to where you are now this summer? Use the time you’re there to go out and ask around:

  • Tap in to that network, and ask your friends and family if they’ve seen anywhere advertising for summer jobs. Dust off your CV and get it out there!
  • Go on a job-hunting mission: finally a legitimate way to procrastinate (sorry Netflix!). Head down your local street, ask around at tourist hot-sports, hotels, restaurants, leisure centres. Are there any summer schools or kids clubs that are looking for an extra pair of hands?

Remember to keep your head up throughout: job hunting is a pretty thankless task, but it’ll all be worth it when that first pay cheque comes flying in!

So remember…

  • Whether you’re looking for specific work experience or for a summer job, keep your CV polished and tailored to that opportunity. Make it easy for the employer to realise that you are the best person for the job!
  • Keep an eye on Budiriro and other sites for awesome vacancies at organisations that are keen to hear from SOAS students.

Alexis Fromageot, Marketing Manager

Insight From Your Fellow Student: From SOAS to Dakar, or, the NGO Internship Route

As part of our Student Insight blog series, Madeleine Race, MSc Violence, Conflict and Development (2016-7), talks about her move from London to Dakar, Senegal for an internship with community development NGO, Tostan.

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After two years working in the UK charity sector, and an eye-opening three months volunteering in sustainable business development in Uganda, my desire to pursue a more international-facing career with a socially-oriented goal drove me to apply for a development studies Masters. Suffice to say, an intense year studying ‘Violence, Conflict and Development’ at SOAS both satisfied and encouraged my curiosity to know more about the world which turns around us.

Of course, after a year of poring over dusty textbooks (read: napping in the Senate House library) and countless conversations putting the world to rights over a Blue Moon in the JCR, mine and my classmates’ discussions started to turn towards the world of work. Having spent the year tearing apart the complexes and corruptions of the ‘Development system’, how on earth were we going to come to terms with finding a job in it?

It was during one of these conversations that a good friend suggested Tostan, a human rights-focussed NGO which has been working to empower African communities to fulfil their own visions for sustainable and relevant development since the 1990s. Tostan – which means ‘breakthrough’ in Wolof, the primary language of Senegal – works alongside rural communities to equip them with basic knowledge of their human rights and responsibilities, and the leadership skills needed to make positive change. The organisation is especially well-known for sparking incredible social change across the West African region through the movement to abandon harmful traditional practices such as Female Genital Cutting and child marriage.

How lucky I felt to see a job post on their website at the end of the exam period: I applied straight away! I am now halfway through a six-month internship in the Grants Department in Dakar, and learning every day about the realities (good and bad) of work in an NGO headquarters and life as an ‘expat’ in Senegal. Settling in to life here has been at once challenging, invigorating and astonishing. Although there is plenty to critique about the Development sector’s reliance on underpaid graduate labour, the reality is that internships can be excellent gateways and I am looking forward with optimism to seeing where this one takes me. My key advice to anyone considering the internship route, however, is to first reflect and be realistic: Can you afford to do it? City life is expensive the world over. Will it challenge you enough? If you already have some work experience, then you could apply for posts with more responsibility. Will it lead to further opportunities? Smaller organisations can often be more flexible at the end of your contract than larger structures like the UN.

It is important to note that I wouldn’t have discovered this opportunity if it hadn’t been for that one recommendation from a friend, or the support of the SOAS Careers Service. One of the best things SOAS has left me with is a worldwide network of incredibly dedicated and dynamic peers – so my top tip would be to listen to them, take their advice, share your own, and you never know what a small conversation might lead to. The Careers Service helped me to do a practice interview and even specifically sought out a Francophone team member to run through questions in French. This practice interview gave me the small but vital confidence boost I needed to do well in the real thing. Having been out of the professional mind-set for a year, the Careers Service’s tips helped set me on track to think and behave professionally and confidently in the interview. Go and see them today – it’s the perfect excuse to get out of that library!

Madeleine Race

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.

Please also note that SOAS Careers is committed to only advertising paid internships positions, in line with National Minimum Wage regulations. Further information and positions are available here.  

I Bet(te Midler) you’re eager for some more career advice!

 

This week we’re looking at what the multi-talented Divine Miss M has to say that we can apply to our career journey. As a singer, songwriter, actress, comedian, and film producer, Bette Midler is no stranger to success. Known for her quick wit, sharp tongue and eccentric nature, Midler proves that confidence is key! Sadly a great many quotes did not make it in for obvious reasons but below are the some of the most socially acceptable things she’s said and how you can use them to maximise your success!

 

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“I firmly believe that with the right footwear one can rule the world.”

Whilst they might not be the be-all-and-end-all of career success, a snazzy pair of shoes can have a big impact on your confidence and make a great impression. If you can strike the balance between function, comfort and style with your footwear then you’ll really be on top of the world.

 

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“I have my standards. They’re low, but I have them.”

Keeping your standards higher than Bette is advisable (a quick search on the web’ll tell you where her career began) but be pragmatic. Sometimes you need to lower your standards in terms of salary or responsibility in order to get the experience needed to progress. Thinking about things in the long-term will keep you motivated. Jobs that seem mundane are often opportunities to really develop essential workplace skills.

 

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“Cherish forever what makes you unique, ‘cuz you’re really a yawn if it goes.”

Don’t be embarrassed to stand out. Nurture qualities, interests and skills that set you apart from the rest. If you have a niche skillset or ability it might feel like it’s not useful but there will be an opportunity for you out there – fret not! Don’t let what sets you apart slip away – be proud of all you can bring to the workplace.

 

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“People are not the best because they work hard. They work hard because they are the best.”

For most people, The Divine Miss M most of all, success doesn’t come easy! Each and every one of us has a natural talent – something they excel at with ease. It could be maths, or making people smile. It doesn’t matter. Find out what you do the best and work hard doing it.

 

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“A person’s life is a journey, a road. Sometimes you go off the road and sometimes you stay on all the way through. But you are the only one on that road. It’s your road.”

Like a road, there are bumps along the way. Try visualising how far you’ll have travelled in a year, five years or thirty years when the road gets tough and you are feeling stuck. No matter how slow you feel you are going, you are making progress. Each day brings with it new experiences and a chance to develop your skills and abilities, and if you see it like this then you can maximise what you get out it and soon you’ll be cruising along!

 

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“You have to think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, but you have to know that you’re not.”

A healthy dose of confidence can go a long way, yet the line between being confident and being arrogant can be pretty slim. Knowing yourself is an important part of projecting confidence. Know your flaws as well as your strengths, and work to develop those areas you’re weaker in and you’ll be well on your way to being as self-actualised as Bette!

 

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“When I finally did stop and look at my life, I realized that I had done what I’d set out to do. In my pitiful little way, I had climbed the mountain I had chosen. And there I was, on top.”

It’s important to turn around and take stock of all that you’ve achieved – whether that be an academic, a personal or a professional achievement. We’re all success stories in our own way but increasingly people minimise the things they’ve accomplished. Be proud of what you’ve done no matter how small it seems as it’s these small victories that form the foundation of the mountain. Setting long-term goals can help keep you climbing when the incline is steep.

 

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“You gotta have some friends!”

Cheating a bit here, as it’s technically a song lyric but the sentiment stands. Friends will get you through the down days, will be there to celebrate the successes, and above all they’ll keep you sane when work is tough. Find good friends and keep them close!

 

James Hallett – Volunteering Advisor

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