Insight from Your Fellow Student: Working in Sustainability

As part of our Student Insight blog series, Charis McCarter, MSc Environment, Politics & Development (graduated 2016) takes an honest look at how she’s secured a job in the sustainability field.


Charis & the team at 2 Degrees Ltd

It seems rather surreal to be writing a piece for SOAS Careers when half a year ago I couldn’t even find a job!  I do (thankfully) have an awesome job now, but the process of getting here wasn’t easy.  For any of you looking for jobs right now and feeling disheartened; there is light at the end of the tunnel!  I know you’ll have heard it from your mum/dad/sibling/extended family/boyfriend/girlfriend/dog, but keep trying!  Hopefully my account of life post-university will reassure some of you that you will find a job… Just maybe not as quickly or as easily as you may have envisioned!

SOAS fostered in me my passion for the environment, but it also made me scrupulously critical of almost ALL organisations trying to address environmental (and developmental) issues.  That left me in a difficult position when I left – I had simultaneously opened my skillset to a range of jobs in the environment sector, and closed myself off from them by being so critical.  That combined with a crazy competitive job market anyway meant that it took me 2 months after I submitted my dissertation to find something that ticked my boxes in the right field.


Charis demoing the M2030bee tool at the launch event at the Shard (which she worked on as part of her internship)

And even then, it was in the form of an internship.  Not exactly what I had envisaged after doing a Masters and having two years development experience in Uganda.  However, that internship paid off – I was offered a full-time job in the same company as an Assistant Engagement Manager at the end of it. I now help to source high-impact innovations that will help to reduce energy, waste and water in our client’s buildings for the Innovation Gateway.

While I am very fortunate to now be doing a job in the sustainability field, with a bunch of like-minded conscientious people, my journey here hasn’t been easy… So here are my top three tips for making your job search post-university that tiny bit more bearable:

  • Try an intern while you study.  Get in touch with a few companies that you like the look of and offer them your time and skills for a set amount of time each week.  This will give you an insight into the company, whether you like the type of work you’re doing, and access to a network of interesting people in that field.
  • Use your dissertation to explore a topic you’d like to work with/in in the future.  So many of my friends have got jobs because they highlighted the knowledge they had gained through writing on a specific topic.
  • Use SOAS Careers as much as you can!  I took my CV and cover letter to them several times and received invaluable advice about how to improve my applications, and they were super helpful even after I had left SOAS in giving advice. Make use of all the resources on offer by coming to the Careers Learning Zone (SL62, Paul Webley Wing) or contacting the team on


Charis & the team at 2 Degrees Ltd

Charis McCarter

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



What’s on this Week: Third Sector Week


Passionate about making a difference? Keen to change the world for the better? Then this week is all for you! We’re taking a look at careers in the third sector – both if it’s your first time stepping in to this rewarding industry or if you’re looking to go back in to this sector after a break.

Not quite sure if this is the path for you, or want to explore more about what working within the third sector will look like? We’re open every day in SL57 and would love to talk your next steps through with you.

Here’s what’s on for Third Sector week:


Mon 6 March, 5:30 – 7pm, B111, Brunei Gallery: Working in the Third Sector:

Wed 8 March, 10:30 – 11:30am, Careers Learning Zone (SL62), Paul Webley Wing:  Career options (with IFMR LEAD) for Students with Passion in Addressing the World’s Most Pressing Development Issues:

Wed 8 March, 1:30 – 2:30pm, S118, Paul Webley Wing: CVs for the Third Sector:


See you there!

Alexis Fromageot

What’s on this Week: International Development Week


Passionate about changing the world for the better? This week at SOAS Careers we delve into every aspect of working in International Development: a rewarding and challenging sector.

Not quite sure what your next steps after SOAS will be, but know that you want to help change the world? Don’t even worry – pop by SL57 and we can talk through it all with you.


Wed 1 Feb, 1:30 – 2:30pn, S118, Paul Webley Wing: Schwartzman Scholars:

Thurs 2 Feb, 1 – 4pm, Cloisters, Paul Webley Wing: International Development Fair:

See you there!

Alexis Fromageot


How to get in to Humanitarian Aid and Organisations


A sobering record was set by the United Nations humanitarian appeal launched in early December. $22.2 billion, the largest sum ever, is needed in 2017 for 93 million people affected by natural disasters and conflict in 33 countries. The Global Humanitarian Overview 2017 provides a more detailed, sobering insight into funding trends and the significant increase in needs over more than a decade.  This is one sector where the growth in demand does not signal a buoyant economy and satisfied shareholders.

If you are considering a career with Humanitarian organisations, how can you research this area and what can you do? Work in this sector is diverse ranging from education to governance and human rights to healthcare. Where do your interests lie?  What you would actually do within humanitarian organisations is equally varied as are the routes into the sector.  There are many different skills and knowledge sets needed so thinking about where your strengths and work interests and practical considerations such as location and the type of working lifestyle that you want can also be a useful starting point.

The size and structure of organisations involved in some way with the humanitarian sector vary considerably from Governmental organisations such as DFID (the UK’s Department for International Development), International organisations which include the UN and its agencies and NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations) and charities.  If your interest is in research in a broader context, then academic institutions and ‘think tanks’ such as the Chatham House (known more formally as the Royal Institute International Affairs) work on international and development topics.

Whilst working as a project manager or specialist practitioner in the field may be the first type of work which springs to mind if you are just starting to explore options; there are other possibilities. Humanitarian organisations, like many others, have infrastructure needs such as finance and logistics. Generating income through fundraising  (across a spectrum from individuals to corporate and grant making organisations), educating and informing audiences through communications and media and working in policy and research are all roles that can  in varied ways to enabling charities, non governmental organisations and others deliver.

You can find lots of information on the different roles and employers within the International Development section of Occupational sectors on MySOAS Student. Also in this section are links to a large number of job vacancy sites such as BOND (British Overseas NGOs for Development) and Eldis. Looking at current job vacancies even if these are targeted at more experienced staff can give you a great insight into the nature of opportunities. LinkedIn can be an additional useful resource in this respect, not only because you can begin to network with those working in the sector but because you can follow organisations (could be useful for vacancy posts), look at the backgrounds of people working for them and also join interest groups to further your knowledge and contacts.

Being able to articulate an informed interest in the sector will be crucial to securing opportunities. Volunteering and internships can enable you to build an insight into this multifaceted area. Think carefully about the contribution which you want to make and where your talents, knowledge and skills might best be used. Your overriding driver may be because you want to make a difference – passion and enthusiasm is important but refining your thoughts about the part you can play is important.

How do you want change your world?

Claire Rees, Careers Consultant

What’s on this Week: Humanitarian Aid & Organisations Week


This week at SOAS Careers we delve in to everything to do with working in the humanitarian aid sector! Come and hear more about the realities of working in this rewarding sector, with great advice from people currently working with a range of employers.

Don’t worry if this doesn’t appeal – you can still pop by for the usual support!

Mon 5 Dec 5.30 – 7pm, B111, Brunei Gallery: Working for a Humanitarian Aid Organisation:

Wed 7 Dec, 1:30 – 3pm, S118, Paul Webley Wing: Careers in Not For Profits:

See you there!

All set for tonight’s UN event?


Excited for tonight’s event with the United Nations at SOAS University of London? So are we!

Get involved by following our Twitter as we have a live takeover from the #changeyourworld photo competition winner, who’ll be tweeting all the gems and insights from tonight’s event!

Follow us here:

What’s on this Week: Assessment Centres & Selection Methods Week


This week at SOAS Careers is all about Assessment Centres and selection methods!

Come along to our whole host of events designed to support you as you navigate your way through your upcoming assessment centres, as well as our one-to-one appointments every afternoon. Don’t miss out!

Mon 14 Nov 5.30 – 6.30pm, B111: Applications & Interviews with PwC:

Wed 16 Nov 1.30 – 3pm, S118: Succeeding at the Fast Stream Assessment Centre:

Wed 16 Nov 6 – 9pm, Venue TBC: Serving the World: Working for the United Nations:

Thurs 17 Nov 12.30 – 1.30pm, SL57: What I Wish I’d Known with Samir Farrag:

Thurs 17 Nov 5.30 – 7pm, KLT: Problem Solving with Teach First:

Look forward to seeing you there!

Alexis Fromageot

#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

3 days left to enter #changeyourworld & have tea with the UN!

It’s been awesome to read about all the projects you’ve been involved in for the #changeyourworld photo competition! Get inspired by taking a look at some of the incredible photos we’ve had so far.

Taken in the Nkomazi region of South Africa, this one is with a non-profit called Imagine Scholar:

Here’s one one taken during an ongoing community development workshops in Cambodia called The CAM Projects:

Taken in Bangladesh, this picture is in a Shelter House as part of an immersion program:

To be in with a chance of winning this unique opportunity to have tea with the Chief of Outreach at the UN after his talk at SOAS, you just need to upload a photo of a time that you have changed someone else’s world, in the past year. This could be during a great internship, volunteering or work placement that you’ve been involved in, or anything else that has led to you changing another’s world.

To enter, upload your photo with a brief explanation, to our Facebook or Twitter page and tag it with #changeyourworld, or else email it directly to us at

All entries must be in by Friday 4th November and the winner will be announced in our Wednesday newsletter the following week. The winner will be decided by a panel of judges from SOAS, and all runner up images will be displayed at the UN talk.

To register for the talk click here, and to enter the competition just upload your photo with #changeyourworld.

Alexis Fromageot

#changeyourworld: Your chance to have a reception with the UN!


SOAS Careers is excited to announce that on Wed 16 November the UN is coming to SOAS to deliver a talk about Working for the United Nations! There’ll be a talk and Q&A session with the Chief of the Outreach Unit in the Office of Human Resources Management of the United Nations Secretariat in New York, John Ericson.

We’re giving one of you the chance to have a personal reception with John Ericson after his presentation. As we encourage you to #changeyourworld, we’re asking you to show us a time that you have done so!

To be in with a chance of winning this unique opportunity, you just need to upload a photo of a time that you have changed someone else’s world, in the past year. This could be during a great internship, volunteering or work placement that you’ve been involved in, or anything else that has led to you changing another’s world.

Get inspired by taking a look at last year’s winning entries, from Florence and Georgina!


Florence’s photo was taken in Sierra Leone. She travelled there with an ex-child soldier from Rwanda, who wanted to go and meet with child soldiers from Sierra Leone. The aim was to see how to best help those suffering following the civil war. They visited a ‘ghetto’ of ex-child soldiers, built on a rubbish heap by the port. Deep in the slum they found ex-rebels, who lived in this tunnel. They spoke about their experiences and the group discussed ways to help.


Georgina’s photo was taken in Chile at a march calling for the liberalisation of abortion laws. She spent the summer researching the effects of restrictive abortion laws on maternal health at the Human Rights Centre in Santiago, thanks to a scholarship from Santander. The results of the research will be presented at a special hearing at the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in Washington D.C.

To enter your photo, upload your picture with a brief explanation, to our Facebook or Twitter page and tag it with #changeyourworld, or else email it directly to us at

All entries must be in by Friday 4th November and the winner will be announced in this newsletter the following week. The winner will be decided by a panel of judges from SOAS, and all runner up images will be displayed at the UN talk.

To register for the talk click here, and to enter the competition just upload your photo with #changeyourworld.

Alexis Fromageot