An In-[ctrl-V]-enient Truth

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A student who copies and pastes

Has applications going to waste

They never hear back

Because it’s a fact

That personalisation will win you the race 

At this time of year in SOAS Careers Service we’re speaking to a lot of our students and graduates. A theme that has come up recently is ‘copy and paste’ applications. Whilst copy and paste is a convenient function, it’s not a great approach to writing an application.

The problem with copying and pasting your CVs, Covering Letters and job applications is that you’ll not address the nuances and specific criteria that each organisation expects for a role.

Picture yourself in the recruiter’s chair.

You receive a pile of job applications. Some that vaguely fit the role that you’re trying to fill, but not completely, a few of which at best go in the maybe pile. Applicants might say that they’re interested in the job opportunity, but they don’t clearly link their individual experiences to the job criteria, haven’t highlighted specific examples or even seem particularly interested in the role.

They start ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ as the opening and each share a number of similarities. They all profess a passion for the sector and organisation. What exactly is it that they are passionate about?

They love the recent bit of news about the organisation, but have barely engaged with anything from further back. And again, what is it that they love about that particular press release? They don’t even engage with the role and how it fits into the organisation. There’s a sense that these applications have been sent to more than just your organisation, a bit of a scatter-gun approach.

You then receive a few applications that have had more thought put into them and really address the needs of the role. Instantly you’re much more interested in these applicants. They’ve called to find out who to address their application to which is always a good start. They highlight what their motivation is, by actually saying what the organisation and sector mean to them.

Without using the word ‘passion’, they demonstrate their enthusiasm with much more clarity by using specific examples and precise language.

Their knowledge, skills and experiences are clearly linked to the role they’re applying for. They understand what the role is, and have clearly made the effort to engage with the job description. They haven’t just used examples, but also demonstrated the results of their work. The time and efforts that have gone into composing these applications make it easier to justify shortlisting for interview.

As a recruiter, the basics that you want in an application is a sense that the applicant has made an effort and understands the role that they’ve applied for. After that, it comes down to the applicants who demonstrate the best fit for the role, based on qualifications, experience and their attitude.

Using the copy and paste function is easy, but it’s unlikely to impress the recruiter when the application doesn’t specifically meet the needs of the role. Put yourself in the recruiter’s position for a moment and think about what they want from your application.

Jai Shah, Careers Consultant

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An Open Letter to all of you Graduating this Week

GRADUATION

Dear soon-to-be SOAS Graduate,

On behalf of SOAS Careers, congratulations on completing this stage of your student journey!
The Careers team will be there at your ceremony to congratulate you in person so do come down to SL62 or see us at our table in the Cloisters.
If you already have a job lined up, we’d love to hear about it, and invite you to come back and talk to current students – the feedback we always get is that students really appreciate hearing from their contemporaries about how they decided what to do and how their SOAS experiences helped them.
If you’ve not got anything sorted yet, then do come and see us on your graduation day. Even if you’re planning to take the summer off, we have some useful resources that will help you, wherever you are in your career thinking, and we will work with you to support the next step in your career journey.
We are open all summer, and are happy to work with you in person, on the phone or via Skype, so no matter where you are in your journey, we can be there with you!
Look forward to seeing you soon,
– SOAS Careers Team
Philippa Hewett, Head of SOAS Careers

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.

Survey time for the end of the year! 

SOAS Careers would like to encourage you to participate in the Higher Education Academy’s surveys, UKES and PTES. The HEA Surveys are holistic surveys looking at your engagement and experiences with SOAS as a whole. We have included questions that we believe will provoke thoughtful and honest data that we can use to help improve our service. It would be invaluable to have your insight.

If you are a non-finalist undergraduate student then you are eligible to complete the UK Engagement Survey (UKES). If you are eligible to take part you will have received a unique link to your SOAS email. Alternatively, you can follow the link here and follow the login instructions.

If you are a postgraduate taught student then you are eligible to complete the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES). If you are eligible to take part you will have received a unique link to your SOAS email. Alternatively, you can follow the link here and follow the login instructions.

Nathaniel Reidy, Student Engagement (Graduate Intern)

Need financial inspiration for next year?

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Wed 7 June
2 – 3pm
Careers Service, SL62 Paul Webley Wing 

Financial Support for Students are delivering a workshop TODAY! The team regularly delivers workshops across the UK to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Come along to find out more about the plethora of non-repayable sources that can be accessed to obtain grants in order to avoid: dropping out of education, incurring further debt.

Head here to register!

Alexis Fromageot

Something for the Weekend: Are your social media posts costing you that dream job?

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Photo Credit: HowToStartABlogOnline.net 

Social media got you glued to your phone? There may be more to those selfies you’re uploading, those comments you’re liking and that latest article you re-tweeted…

More than ever, employers are now taking a vested interested in social media posts when analysing how suitable you are for a job.

Head here for more details.

Alexis Fromageot, Marketing Officer

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

Social_media

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

Celebrate SOAS students at Make a Difference

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On 24 May SOAS Careers will be celebrating the achievements of our students at the annual Make a Difference awards, which will be held on the grand staircase in the Atrium of the Paul Webley Wing from 6 pm.

This year we have four categories:

  • Individual volunteer of the year
  • Volunteer team of the year
  • Social entrepreneur of the year
  • Business plan of the year

Winners will be announced at the event.

Come along to hear about the achievements of SOAS students and join Valerie Amos in congratulating them. Refreshments and networking will be available after the event.

Reserve your place here!

Emma Frampton

Insight From Your Fellow Student: Working in Sport & Equality

As part of our Student Insight blog series, Hayley Bennett, BA Politics (graduated 2014) takes an honest look at her role in Kick It Out – football’s equality and inclusion campaign.

Meeting with FA Chairman Greg Clarke to discuss diversity in football for future generations

Hayley (second from right) meeting with FA Chairman Greg Clarke to discuss diversity in football for future generations

When I started my Politics degree at SOAS in 2011 I thought I was going to learn how to change the world and make it a better place. After a couple of weeks it had already hit me – this isn’t going to be as easy as I thought! I had gained a lot of skills in critical thinking and become more aware of the complex political problems in the world but I felt less confident that getting involved in international politics was the right path for me.

I enjoyed pretty much every lecture and tutorial on my course but something was missing. One thing that was definitely missing by the end of first year was money in my bank account so I began looking for part time jobs. I remember frantically checking the SOAS careers page every day but didn’t feel like I had enough experience for some of the exciting opportunities on offer. Looking back, I wish I had at least had a go at applying to internships relevant to my study but I didn’t have the confidence to compete with hundreds of people at SOAS who were in the same position as me. I had to make myself stand out and find something that would differentiate from every other student with a strong academic background.

I remember applying to over 150 part-time jobs and internships in my second year but I would have saved myself a lot of time and disappointment if I had asked for some advice!

With two of Kick It Out's young ambassadors at Brisbane Road

Hayley with two of Kick It Out’s young ambassadors at Brisbane Road

Eventually I came across a voluntary position being advertised on Kick It Out‘s website by chance. Like most people at SOAS, I had always been motivated to stand up for injustice but my real passion was football. The fact that Kick It Out are well known for speaking out about all forms of discrimination really motivated me because of the racism I have experienced throughout my life. I put all that passion into my cover letter and surprised myself by securing an interview.

I was offered a position as Voluntary Administration Assistant over the summer holidays and spent four months doing a wide range of tasks supporting different members of the team.

An Education session with Reading FA player Tyler Blackett

Hayley undertaking an Education session with Reading FA player Tyler Blackett

Volunteering for four months was a massive risk as I didn’t have any money coming in but it really paid off because I was offered a part-time position at the end of summer which allowed me to work whilst finishing my degree. Even if I hadn’t been offered anything paid by Kick It Out I still would have benefited from the volunteering as it had given me a foot in the door in an industry I didn’t really know existed.

Volunteering is a great opportunity to make yourself stand out as a student, but it also allows you to try out different careers and industries before your degree finishes and you have to look for full time work. For me, working part time during my final year allowed me to learn time-management skills and I received several firsts at the end of my degree. You shouldn’t let part-time work or other commitments put you off when you are studying. In the work place there are always competing deadlines and this is something everyone will need to learn.

Since I left SOAS I have been promoted to a full time position at Kick It Out, leading the creation of the organisation’s first ever Education Programme which is growing from strength to strength. It has been an amazing journey with a lot of hard work but I am proud to have been recognised as a Rising Star in Sport by WeAreTheCity and named as ‘One to watch’ on Football’s Black List – an initiative celebrating influential black individuals in British football.

Picking up the Football Blacklist One To Watch award in April 2017

Hayely picking up the Football Blacklist One To Watch award in April 2017

I am working towards a mission of creating and empowering diverse leaders for the sports industry and hope that other SOAS graduates consider a career in sport. My favourite thing about SOAS was its diversity and I would love to see the same appreciation for difference in football. My proudest achievement so far is creating a platform for young people to make a difference in the football industry as volunteers and ambassadors for Kick It Out. If this is something you feel would interest you please get in touch and support me on my mission!

Hayley Bennett

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.