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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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 careers@soas.ac.uk

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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 careers@soas.ac.uk.

 

Guest Blog: Why Volunteering is Selfish (and why you should do it)

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.

This guest blog comes from Kimberly Hovish, Staff Learning and Development Officer at SOAS, University of London. 

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I’ve volunteered on and off in various roles for about 20 years – not because I’m a ‘good person’ (which is what people tend to assume!) but because I’m pretty selfish. The fact is, volunteering helps me by enhancing my quality of life, providing training opportunities and making me more marketable.

Antidepressant qualities

Studies have shown that volunteering increases happiness and general wellbeing and decreases depression.  Volunteering also helps people appreciate what they have through downwards social comparisons. My personal favourite is the feeling that I’m making a contribution to the society in which I live. I currently volunteer with a charity that facilitates community mediations to resolve conflict. Words can’t describe seeing people who entered a room hating each other (with resentments building up over months or years) leaving the same room two hours later smiling and inviting each other over for tea. You know that warm, fuzzy feeling? Yeah, it’s that. I cannot tell you how amazing it feels to know YOU made that happen.

Free training

Whether you want to change careers, get promoted, or learn something new just for the sake of it, volunteering will give you this opportunity – for free! Through various volunteering roles I’ve attended formal training workshops in mediation, mentoring, and solution-focussed coaching practice, all of which have been fantastic learning experiences and didn’t cost me a penny! But the most useful experience I gained was through volunteering at a women’s sexual violence support service in my late 20’s, when my paid work wasn’t progressing much. I received invaluable, ‘on-the-job’ training and experience in: being part of an executive committee; heading up an organisation; managing finances and fundraising projects; spearheading a marketing campaign; chairing meetings; and responding to people in crisis situations (to name just a few things….). No formal workshops could ever have provided me with the real world experience I gained during this time. It was the most challenging role I’ve ever had, as well as the most rewarding, and my confidence skyrocketed!

Sounding awesome in job interviews

You know in a job interview your mind goes blank when you are asked things like ‘Give me an example of when you have dealt with a difficult situation’ or ‘Tell me about a time when you have demonstrated your time management skills’? Volunteering means you will actually look forward to these questions being asked! Difficult situation? TICK. Teamwork? TICK. Time management? TICK. Communication skills? TICK. For instance, when asked in job interviews for an example of time management, I like to use volunteering as proof I can successfully manage full-time work with other commitments. Working alongside other volunteers demonstrates teamwork and a willingness to go the extra mile (especially as you’re not being paid!). Dealing with people’s conflicts, whether internal or external, shows good listening skills, problem solving skills and communication skills. You will NAIL those awkward interview questions with a bit of volunteering experience!

If you’re feeling a little selfish and you’d like to learn more about how you can volunteer and become happier, more skilled and marketable contact Emma Frampton on volunteering@soas.ac.uk. Head to the Volunteering pages on MySOAS Student to find out more about volunteering.

This guest article has been written by Kimberly Hovish (kh37@soas.ac.uk), Staff Learning and Development Officer at SOAS, University of London

SOAS Careers is bringing Volunteering to the limelight & making sure that this year’s Microplacements are better than ever!

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SOAS Careers is excited to announce that two awesome new graduate interns have recently joined the team. Staying until this summer’s Graduation, each intern has taken on specific projects to help transform students’ experience of Careers at SOAS.

Recent Anthropology graduate Emma Frampton has been amping up volunteering provision for SOAS students and recent grads. Having been awed by the great volunteering activity that’s already taking place on campus, Emma’s working on bringing together a real community of students and alumni who are changing the world. She’s particularly enjoyed the chance to liaise between students and professional and academic staff.

Having graduated with a degree in African Language & Culture with Swahili, Rupert Wilkinson has been taking a look at internship provision at SOAS. He’s actively been involved in some of the unique programmes on offer for SOAS students, including Microplacments – a careers education programme for second year Undergraduates from a range of departments, culminating in a two week placement. Rupert’s also taken a look at the Careers events run at SOAS, and how to optimise these for students.

Careers provision at SOAS has massively benefited from the great work both Emma and Rupert have put in so far. Having recent grads in the team has offered an extra depth, as the interns are so much more aware of the immediate issues that are of obvious concern to the student body. The pair have excelled at talking to students, graduates, employers and SOAS staff alike and will no doubt continue to have a real impact on Careers at SOAS.

Emma and Rupert can be found in the brand new Careers Learning Zone in SL62, Paul Webley Wing – and are on hand for any Careers questions you may have.

Alexis Fromageot

Insight from Your Fellow Student: Mastering Your Career

As part of our Student Insight blog series, Zipporah Gene,MSc Development Studies (graduating 2017) shares a candid account of how she landed her new role as a charity account manager.
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We’ve all been there. The deadlines, the assignments, the minefield that is university life.
How in God’s name are we expected to pass exams, study course materials, and plot our future careers?
Unlike my undergraduate years, studying for a full time MA has really amped up the pressure. Three years of naive bliss and procrastination, has given way to a mindless panic-stricken year long dash to the finish line. I’ve woken up in sweats at night wondering what on earth I’ll be doing a year from now. The pressure can be crippling.
Because let’s face it, if you’re studying for your MA, chances are you want more. You’re not satisfied with minimum wage, or a job that may or may not provide career progression. You want it all. It’s that kind of mindset that ultimately means you’ve set everything up with the belief that you only have one year to get everything right.
I won’t even begin to pretend that I’ve got the whole work-life balance schtick in order, but I’ve definitely been given a helping hand, courtesy of the SOAS Careers Team.
Frustrated that I wasn’t getting replies from employers, I booked myself into a CV workshop.
Thank God I did.
After months of self-doubt, anxiety and self-flagellation, I had a eureka moment – the CV that I was sending out needed a lot of work.
It’s easy to get tunnel vision, when your Saturday nights are stuck up in the oxygen deprived heights of Floor A, surviving on a diet of gluten-free energy bars and vegan wraps, so I’ve forgiven myself and chalked it all up to experience. But in hindsight, it is comical how much I tortured myself, when all I should have done was ask for help.
My initial interview was booked on the day (be sure to book early in the morning) but I also popped back in numerous times to get feedback on my CV. After several re-writes, a lot hand-holding and talks on streamlining my job hunting strategy, I’m proud to say that I have a job. Scratch that. I have a career.
SOAS careers has helped me land an internship, which led to a job, which is now the role I can foresee doing for may years to come. No matter how qualified you are of how proficient in your field you think you are, we all need allies and I’m glad I found mine.
They’re a thankless bunch down in SL57 but they know what they’re talking about. So talk to them.
Seeing as how it’s Master’s week, I say, ‘become the master of your career’.
Be sure to follow SOAS Careers on Twitter and Facebook, so you don’t miss out on any internships, vacancies and all things careers related.
Zipporah Gene
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.