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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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 Guest Blog: ‘Tea, Cake and Ambitious Futures’

Guest blog from Tom Fryer, who is the Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee at SOAS for 2016/17.

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

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Few people can resist an email with a subject line referring to both ‘Tea’ and ‘Cake’, but it wasn’t just my stomach that led me to Ambitious Futures. A quick glance around the website and I was instantly intrigued at the prospect of seeing how universities function from a staff perspective – or perhaps it was simply that a graduate programme in the field of Higher Education seemed a tad more interesting than the Foucault reading assignment on my desk. The idea of working on three placements over 15 months sounded like a great way to pick up a broad range of skills. Plus, getting to grips with three projects over such a short period seemed the perfect test of my oft-repeated cover letter claims to tenacity!

A couple of months later, I found myself navigating an application and phone interview, before attending an assessment day run specifically for the SOAS Ambitious Futures programme. The day at SOAS had been carefully planned to try to simulate activities that Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainees are faced with on a regular basis, from negotiations in meetings, to drafting proposals. I know that ‘assessment day’ doesn’t exactly scream ‘fun’, but there was something about the practical focus (none of those damned logical reasoning tests) and constant interaction with other candidates that made the day pretty enjoyable.

One thing that has continued to stand-out across the application, interviews and orientation for Ambitious Futures, is the emphasis on personal development. As part of the programme everyone works towards a management qualification, ILM Leadership and Management Level 3, which is a great opportunity to reflect a little more deeply on management and workplace dynamics. More importantly, this qualification is taught through Learning Sets, or meetings with six other Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainees from other universities in and around London (if Oxford really counts as ‘in and around London’). This seems to be a great way to learn, as we’re all likely to experience similar challenges in our new work, but also it’s an amazing chance to get to know a bunch of other people who are passionate about contributing to the transformative work of universities.

For more information and to apply, visit the Ambitious Futures website.

Tom Fryer, SOAS Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee (2016/17)

Guest Blog: From SOAS Student to SOAS Staff

Guest blog from Harmanjit Sidhu, who is the Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee at SOAS for 2017/18.

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

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Walking in to SOAS three years ago as undergraduate History student, I never expected to wind up working here. My first few student days at SOAS were a blur of places, faces and names. My first few days as a Staff member at SOAS have been much of the same!

There are definite similarities in the student and staff experience (the building obviously, the queue for the cash machine, the strange extremes in temperature in rooms- freezing cold or boiling hot) but pretty much everything else is completely different.
As a student, you never put much thought into the work going on ‘behind the scenes’ and it has just dawned on me how much machinery is working hard to keep the institute running, whilst seeking ways to maximise the student/staff experience.

For me, it seems a career in Higher Education is a well guarded secret, but once you’re in on it, it’s easy to be impressed by the huge variety of roles and people working here. I have already been exposed to a huge number of issues and problems that had never occurred to me while I was a student here, whilst also being exposed to the various departments handling these issues with innovative strategies and ideas.

A recurring theme from conversations with colleagues over the last few weeks has been ‘too much work, not enough resources’. That’s one of my favourite things about the scheme- I am able to lend a hand to various departments who have brilliant ideas but require an extra pair of hands to bring them to life.

My current posting is in the Library, working on a collaborative project with the Research and Enterprise Office and Staff Learning and Development, looking at ways in which we can improve the induction process for Early Career Researchers and also the ways in which we can improve the support offered to this group. (If you’re reading this as an Early Career Researcher, I would love to hear your thoughts on this).

As a Graduate Trainee on this scheme, I will be posted into three different departments on various projects. Two of these will take place right here at SOAS, and one at the University of Oxford. Whilst I am not looking forward to the idea of that commute, it will be a great chance to develop my knowledge of the sector.

SOAS is a fantastic institution- a place where great minds from all over the world come to
share ideas, where students come to the meet the world, where challenges are faced with
innovation and strategy. Working here for just the last few weeks has just reinforced these opinions, and I am excited about the opportunities the next few months will bring!

For more information about the scheme and to apply head here or email me at hs62@soas.ac.uk.

Harmanjit Sidhu, SOAS Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee (2017/18)

#MondayMotivation: Graduate Scheme Week

Focus on the problem

Final year got you toying with the idea of graduate schemes? SOAS Careers is here to help!

This week we’re taking a look at everything to do with those notorious programs. Come by the Careers Zone in SL62 to take a look at the really relevant resources we’ve got all about flying through the recruitment process, and drop by to get insight into how we can best support you.

Take a look as well at the awesome employers we’ve got coming on to campus to talk to you!

Wed 1 Nov, 2 – 5pm, Atrium (Paul Webley Wing): Bright Scholar: https://careers.soas.ac.uk/leap/event.html?id=35&service=Careers+Service

Wed 1 Nov, 5:30 – 7pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): Bright Scholar Presentation: https://careers.soas.ac.uk/leap/event.html?id=37&service=Careers+Service

Wed 1 Nov, 6:30 – 8:30pm, Cloisters, Paul Webley Wing: SOAS’ Dragons’ Den: https://careers.soas.ac.uk/leap/event.html?id=129&service=Careers+Service 

Thu 2 Nov, 3 – 4:30pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): Civil Service Alumni Panel: https://careers.soas.ac.uk/leap/event.html?id=119&service=Careers+Service

Thu 2 Nov, 5 – 6:30pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): PwC: Applications and Interviews Skills Session: https://careers.soas.ac.uk/leap/event.html?id=159&service=Careers+Service

 

Alexis Fromageot

How to Use Your MI5-Levels of Facebook Stalking to Help You Land Your Dream Job

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Are you the one your friends turn to when they need to find out everything about someone via social media? Ever found yourself in a rabbit-hole of click-bait articles?

The good news is that these skills can massively help you when trying to work out if the latest job ad you’ve found is actually The One. With company culture being such a massive part of day-to-day life when you’re in the job, this article will guide you through how to use your stalking skills to figure out if you’ll be a fit for a company.

TL;DR –

  • Check Their Career Page to Learn About Their Mission
  • Check Out Their Other Profiles Around the Internet to See if It’s Consistent
  • Check Social Media to Get a Feel for a Company’s Personality
  • Check Company Reviews for the Truth
  • Check Out Google for Assorted News

Alexis Fromageot

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 careers@soas.ac.uk.

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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.

Insight From Your Fellow Student: Working at the Civil Service

As part of our Student Insight blog series, Ranya Alakraa, BSc Development Studies & Economics (graduated 2016) explores her journey from SOAS to the Civil Service Fast Stream. 

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It was the end of the summer after our 2nd year at uni, our third and final year was in sight, until this point I had never thought about my career. My friend called me and informed me grad scheme applications were opening soon. We dialled in a few other friends and in the middle of this four-way conversation the panic set in. What were we doing with our futures?

We all met the very next day in SOAS to figure out our life-plans; we climbed up to the Career’s Office and collected every possible leaflet or brochure on grad schemes, jobs, internships, CV and cover letter writing. By the end of this we were all a little overwhelmed.

We went back to the JCR and started sifting through all these papers, circling and highlighting things which appealed to us. Another friend spotted us and came over; he saw the air of panic surrounding me and asked me a really good question that I myself had never properly thought about. He said where do you see yourself in the future, what is the ideal job you would be doing? So I thought about it for a few minutes, and I said I would be working in policy somewhere in the government, with a focus on economic development. So he told me he had been doing the Summer Diversity Internship for the Civil Service, and that I should consider applying for the Fast Stream…and so I did!

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A few months later, in December of my final year, I had a job offer as an Economist in the Civil Service Fast Stream, and it was all thanks to that fateful day when we all sat in the SOAS JCR! It was a rigorous application process, but doing it so early on in the year meant that I already had a job offer before the New Year and I could focus fully on revision and those final essays in the Spring term.

A few lessons I learnt from my own experience, I probably should have started thinking about jobs and my career earlier on. Doing internships and getting work experience throughout your undergraduate degree is very useful. Doing research on what is out there is even more important, I hadn’t even heard about the Fast Stream until my friend told me about it! And finally, I definitely did not make enough use of the SOAS Career’s Service which probably could have told me about all the opportunities out there and would have helped me with things like job applications.

Nevertheless, I am now working as an Assistant Economist in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. As part of the Fast Stream I get to rotate after a year to another department, it’s a great opportunity to see how government works from the inside, and how Economics is so crucial to every step of the policy process. I love my job and I can see a really clear future for myself here, but there are plenty of schemes other than the Economics one as part of the Fast Stream, read more about them here!

Ranya Alakraa

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.

5 Simple Tips for How to use Social Media in your Job Hunt

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Checking at least one social media platform plays a fundamental part in most of our daily lives. Increasingly, we use social media to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues, engage with events and for receiving news.

In over five years in Higher Education I can count on one hand the number of students I’ve met who do not use any form of social media at all.

Whilst it’s great for consuming media and news, and for keeping in touch with people, the tools available via social media are fantastic for job hunting.

A few quick tips from me are;

1 – Starting with obvious, get on LinkedIn and start networking. The basics of LinkedIn are having a profile that looks great and shows off your professional credentials. Yeah, the jobs board is ok. But being connected to over 400 million members across the world – that’s the real value of LinkedIn.

Having a profile that looks great, but having no connections to notice it means a lot of wasted effort. It’s like having a fantastic CV that you stick on the fridge door at home; you’re the only person who will see it. Use the Alumni Tool and introduce yourself in groups to start building connections and networking.

2 – Have a look at your Twitter account. What does the tweet at the top of your stream say? How about treating that space as prime advertising, and writing a 140 character pitch for a job/internship, and then pinning the tweet. Once you start interacting with employers and recruiters on Twitter, whenever they look at your profile that’s the first thing they’ll see. Trying to sum yourself up in 140 characters is the challenge.

3 – Following employers on Twitter is great. But if you’re like me and you follow a couple of hundred accounts for various interests, it can be difficult to sift through the noise. So how about setting up dedicated Twitter lists to group accounts by interests. Doing this means that you can filter out a feed of employers that you’re following so you see very specific content. Take it one step further and mute the accounts so they don’t feature in your main Twitter stream amongst the personal interests if you have only one account.

4 – If you’re not sure what type of role you’re interested in, particularly in industries that are evolving so quickly that next year’s job roles don’t even exist, try YouTube for some inspiration. A lot of larger employers (for example the BBC) have a dedicated YouTube careers channel featuring interviews with their employees in various roles. This offers a chance to hear in less than 5 minutes an overview of what somebody does in their job. Not every employer can afford to do this, however it’s a good starting point if you’re exploring what your options are.

5 – Lastly, if you get an interview or similar form of interaction with an employer, check out their social media accounts. It’s more likely to be up-to-date with the employers’ latest news fresh from the Press Team, whereas a website might be a few weeks or even months out-of-date. This might be the difference between only knowing what happened 6 months ago, or also being about to talk about the current situation of the business.

As a final point, it could also be worth taking a look at this social profile checker to take a look at your online footprint as well as this really useful !

Jai Shah, Careers Consultant