#‎MayThe4thBeWithYou‬ & have your say about SOAS Careers!

Don’t miss your chance to give us your feedback about your experience of the Careers Service at SOAS. All your answers will be taken on board, and will directly help us to improve your Careers Service for next year!

Fill out the really quick questionnaire here: http://tinyurl.com/careerssurvey2016

Or just come by the Careers Service in Room 101 to fill it out!





Jo Cooper


Guest Blog: Student Volunteering Week 2016: Celebration Event at City Hall

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

Monday afternoon, representatives from the charity, government and business sectors gathered at London’s City Hall to celebrate Student Volunteering Week.Veronica Wadley, Senior Mayoral Advisor for Volunteering opened the event. She spoke about the importance of student volunteering to the mayor’s vision for London, particularly in light of London’s status as European Volunteering Capital 2016.

Rob Wilson, Minister for Civil Society, stressed the importance of volunteering to employment in later life, telling us that “social action is linked with enhanced employability skills. You’re 3 times more likely to get a job interview if you volunteer.”

Rob Wilson, Minister for Civil Society

Joy Carter, Chair of Guild HE and Vice Chancellor of the University of Winchester, said that it’s crucial for colleges and universities to invest in student volunteering to make it accessible to every student alongside their studies. She shared examples from her own university where students are encouraged at every opportunity to get out into the local community and give something back.

Jess Tinkler from the University of Southampton receives her certificate from Sara Fernandez

The event brought together all 10 students longlisted for the Student Volunteer of the Year Award. Richard Brooks, VP Union Development for NUS, Sara Fernandez, Executive Director of Student Hubs, and Joe Crook, Student Volunteering Network, shared the longlist and shortlist’s accomplishments with our audience. It was Liam Rodgers of Sheffield Hallam University who was announced as the winner, recognising his outstanding commitment to social action demonstrated by Liam through Upscribe, a creative writing project he founded for homeless people and other marginalised groups.

The other four shortlisted students — Jo, Kathleen, Samuel and Zoe — were also recognised for dedicating their time to causes they care about…

  • Jo Devall from the University of Plymouth is a Volunteer Lifeboat Crewman for the RNLI in Plymouth, and former President of UPSU SAINTS Kickboxing Club.
  • Kathleen Crymble from South Lanarkshire College established the Back to School Bank in East Kilbride in summer 2015.
  • Samuel Wong from Royal Holloway is a Cabinet Office Volunteer Advisor, Project Leader for numerous volunteering projects, and is involved with the local Police Independent Advisory Group and Young Community Leaders Network.
  • Zoe Webber from Goldsmiths University is the President of RE:mind mental health society, and is dedicated to volunteering to help students to improve their mental health.

The longlist with Richard Brooks (NUS), Sara Fernandez (Student Hubs) and Rob Wilson (Minister for Civil Society)

Well done to all of our award finalists, as well as our longlisted candidates. It was wonderful to see them all come together at last, and the mutual admiration among them was clear. In a heartwarming twist, Liam pledged a third of his £1,000 prize money to Kathleen’s Back to School Bank project, saying that reading about it almost brought him to tears.

You can hear an interview with Liam as part of BBC Radio 1’s #1MillionHours campaignhere.

Award winner Liam Rodgers

Yesterday was just the start, however. Over 250 Student Volunteering Week events are taking place this week, involving over 14,000 students from 125 colleges and universities around the country. You can read all about the events on our What’s On page.

Be sure to keep up with what’s happening around the country on Twitter andFacebook. Let us know what you’re up to using #SVW2016 and share your motivations for volunteering using #IVolunteerBecause.

Happy Student Volunteering Week 2016!

The Student Volunteering Week Team

The national SVW team from Student Hubs & NUS coordinate SVW activities for the nationwide campaign, 22-28 Feb 2016


What I wish I’d known… Thomas Byrnes

Food-Security-MalawiIt was a pleasure to host Emergency Overseas Aid Worker and SOAS alumni Thomas Byrnes as part of our ‘What I wish I wish I’d known…’ series. Thomas shared his fascinating insights and experiences gained during five years working for NGOs as a Food Security and Livelihood Emergency Specialist, managing projects in Palestine, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Syria, Philippines, South Sudan and Pakistan.

A key message from Thomas was that persistence, proactivity and more persistence are crucial to entering the international development field. This is reflected in his own career path, working his way up from intern to senior manager.

Whilst an undergraduate at the University of Kent (Intl Politics & Intl Relations, BA), Thomas co-initiated ‘UNICEF on Campus’ – a project raising funds on campus for UNICEF. It was through a contact he made at UNICEF during this project that he found an internship position in Ghana. After graduation he headed to Vietnam to teach English. Here, he made the most of opportunities and also volunteered helping Vietnamese orphans. After these experiences overseas he was passionate about ‘changing the world’ and wanted to get involved at a structural level. Realising that postgraduate qualifications are essential for working in the NGO sector, Thomas joined us at SOAS and gained a Masters in Development Studies.

In terms of job hunting, Thomas had some key advice: “Keep applying! Keep emailing! Email until they say ‘Please don’t email us any more’”. Advertised jobs receive such a high number of responses from applicants, that it may be that your application gets filtered as reaching the requirements yet not actually get read due to the high numbers of applications received. Thomas first got a role through his persistence with Acted, the French NGO. He applied for every opportunity they advertised over two months. He was interviewed for a position in Pakistan, and received an email saying he wasn’t suitable. He emailed straight back with a suggestion: “What about the position in Sri Lanka?”. And they agreed! Essentially, the people carrying out the recruitment process are very busy, solutions help them too.

The essential value of contacts, networks and LinkedIn was also a key message. Research is crucial when making applications, and contacts can be a huge source of information and advice. Don’t ask directly for a job, ask about them, ask how they got where they are, and you can learn a lot of valuable insights. 90% of the jobs in the Aid sector are not advertised online. Volunteering and internships are a great way to gain essential skills and experience, they are also a fantastic way to make useful industry contacts.

What are the biggest challenges?

Having to make really tough decisions. For example, digging a well is undoubtedly a positive thing: clean water will reduce the mortality rate in the under 5s by 80%. When we are investigating 10 villages and building 1 well, however, we are having to choose between people and make decisions that will affect their lives and their childrens lives. There is always a trade off, we’re always working with ‘just enough’, we can never help everyone. We give just enough food that will mean people wont die, but they will still be hungry.

What do you enjoy most?

Knowing that we have delivered tangible benefits for people, which is really satisfying. It is a tough day, standing for 8 hours in a food distribution centre in a refugee camp, but at the end of the day I know in a very real way that 30,000 people now have food because of me.


Thomas is happy to share his valuable insights and experiences with SOAS students, he can be contacted on LinkedIn. He also gave a wealth of information about working overseas for NGOs, which will be shared in a blog post to follow.

Alice Moon, Careers Consultant

Celebrating 20 years of the Careers Service at SOAS!!


The Careers Service at SOAS opened its doors on the first day of the Autumn Term 1995. Before this, current students, graduates and alumni made use of the nearby University of London Careers Service (ULCS). By 1994/1995, it was felt that a stronger careers provision was needed onsite and during this year a dedicated information suite was established, managed by a newly appointed Information Assistant. A Careers Advisor was seconded from ULCS and together they created a new service by contacting companies and organisations at home and internationally with an interest in SOAS graduates.

To encourage students to use the new service, a programme of events was arranged including an Overseas Evening with representatives from the business and voluntary sectors, media and NGO forums, and a JobSearch Week for Finalists. During the year, students had the opportunity for individual guidance as well as group seminars to develop their employability skills. A comprehensive library of information on occupations, employers and postgraduate study was developed further, specialising in resources of particular relevance to SOAS students.

During its second full year of existence, the number of students using the Careers Service grew significantly – some 10,000 visits were recorded, and the provision of professional advice was integrated into the School’s life. The employer database was added to, more events were developed and individual students were prepared for types of tests they would face during psychometric testing sessions and mock interviews.

Over the years, the SOAS Careers Service has continued to develop and grow. The first SOAS Fair was held in the academic year of 1997/98 and was attended by employers from law, business, TEFL and development. Employer contacts increased, and a special promotional leaflet was designed to raise awareness of SOAS graduates to targeted employers. By 2003/04 the SOAS Careers Service, in conjunction with The Careers Group (formerly ULCS), successfully obtained Matrix Accreditation (HE quality standard) for its student guidance and information services.

By 2006/07, the Volunteering Unit was established in partnership with the Students’ Union and together collaborated on the first International Volunteering Fair. With the introduction of a dedicated Employer Liasion Officer, more events were developed, including the World Music Careers Form, the African Forum and SOAS’ first International Development Conference, with keynote speaker Simon Maxwell (then Director of the ODI). The award-winning ‘Take an Alum for Coffee Scheme” was also introduced during this time.

Since then, more Fairs and events have been introduced and continue to attract leading employers and organisations, and our thriving partnership with Santander for the provision of paid internships continues to benefit students, recent graduates and employers alike. The first Student Enterprise Programme was delivered in 2010/11 which included advice sessions, training and a one week Enterprise Boot Camp to improve student’s employability.

We have now grown to a service that consists of 10 members of staff, and are continuing to develop new services and events. Our exciting events programme this year included talks from the UN, DFID and the ICRC and we launched a new alumni event series “What I wish I’d known as a student at SOAS”. We moved to a wonderful new location offering more seating for students and bought lots more resources to support students in their career planning. Looking to the future, we are currently involved in lots more new projects such as a mentoring programme and a microplacements scheme, and will be moving to new premises in 2016. Here’s to the next 20 years of offering careers advice, guidance and information to SOAS students and graduates!!

Jo Cooper (with help from Emily Huns, Queen Mary University of London)

Your Career Lifeline – where are you with your thinking?

FINAL Careers Lifeline 2015-16The Careers Service at SOAS is here to help you with your career planning by offering advice, guidance and information. To help you get the most out of the service we offer, we encourage you to work out where you are within Your Career Lifeline. Within each section, you will see useful tips and advice which if you actively follow will take you forward in your career planning. For example, if you do not know what job you would like to do after you graduate, Discover and Decide by researching occupations with the SOAS Careers Moodle or Careers Tagged. If you do not know where to start with your research, please do ask the Information Officers based at the Information Desk in R101 or email us at careers@soas.ac.uk. We are happy to show you where good quality careers information can be found and can point you in the right direction. Any research you do will help you make the most of your time during one to one appointments with a Careers Consultant.

Jo Cooper

Get started in law from the 1st Year of your degree

9986457286_06455a8e14_bGraduate recruitment at some of the top magic circle law firms in the UK have recently seen a refresh, just in time for Welcome Week, meaning that things are looking a little different this year.

The standout message is that all Vacation Schemes and Training Contract applications will now tend to be submitted in one window, typically opening in the Autumn until the end of the year. The good news is that the firm continue to encourage all students to apply, regardless of degree discipline – and are particularly keen to see anyone with maths skills.

So, what does this all mean for you if you’re interested in a career in corporate law? Crucially, it means that students can get real experience at the firm from their 1st year, and continue to do so every year till graduating, and after, as shown below.

1st years: Apply to specific First year undergraduate programmes

This involves a work experience programme and continuous support network, which is only on offer for 1st year undergraduates.

Penultimate or final year of study/Graduates (complete studies before July 2017)

Starting to look at law as a potential career: Apply for an open day

Opportunity to visit the firm’s central London offices, meet lawyers and trainees and get a feel for the realities of working at A&O.

Considering applying for a Training Contract: Apply for Vacation Schemes (taking place in Winter, Spring or Summer)

Gain real experience of assisting the teams, with the schemes taking place across the year and for varying lengths.

Definitely want a Training Contract: Apply for a Training Contract

Training contracts start in March/September 2018 or March/September 2019.

Second year in a 4 year course: Apply to Open Days

Offers for Training Contracts tend to be made at the end of the Vacation Scheme, or, if applying directly for a training contract, after the interview day.

For any support or information about careers in law, please visit the SOAS Careers webpage or call us on 020 7898 4115.

Alexis Fromageot

Who is influencing your career ideas?

What I wish I’d known: Jan Wilkens (MSc Middle East Politics 2012)

Who is influencing your career ideas?  For Jan Wilkens, currently working and studying for a PhD at the University of Hamburg, the support and encouragement of academic staff plus insights from work experience has had a great impact.

As an undergraduate, Jan really enjoyed his classes on International Relations and was able to get a part time job as a Student Assistant in a research team working for the Professor in this subject.  He supported the team through assisting with research but also taught first year students as a seminar assistant.  This experience, combined with the encouragement from his Professor, began to make him think about an academic career. Whilst studying for an MSc in Middle East Politics at SOAS his dissertation supervisor encouraged him to apply for a PhD as the next step towards working in academia.  Jan chose to go back to Germany to do this for a number of reasons including availability of funding. He was able to secure a job which also enables him to study for a PhD, back at the University of Hamburg with the research group headed by his former Professor.

Jan feels that his current role provides him with very valuable work experience for the future. In addition to teaching, researching and writing applications for grants, he is a project manager for a large scale research project which involves coordinating the research of 8 academics. This significant insight into the ‘business’ of research, how systems work, the politics and funding have helped to confirm his interest in  an academic career as well as providing some solid evidence to include in Post-Doctoral applications. And just in case you wondered if he could fit anything else, he is working on a book project and, oh yes, his PhD as well!

Jan is realistic about his future and acknowledges that sometimes no matter how well prepared PhDs are for moving into a Post-Doc position, funding may not be available so the practical project management skills which he is acquiring now along with his other work experience can be transferred to other roles outside of research.

Work experience can also help you decide what you don’t want to do.  Jan interned on a project with refugees for part of the UNHCR in Syria during his undergraduate degree. Whilst he gained a very useful insight into how an international organisation works and developed further valuable skills including project management, it also helped him realise that this wasn’t the sector in which he wished to work.

So what are Jan’s tips for current students thinking about a PhD and beyond?

  • You don’t necessarily need to go straight onto a Masters after completing your Bachelor’s degree and could use the intervening time to get some valuable of experience related to your future career or area of study. Jan felt that it might be more difficult for students to go onto work after their Masters course then return to study for a PhD.  From his perspective, the intensity of the Masters level study really creates a momentum that can carry through into the Phd and having a break from this along with, perhaps a good salary, from employment, might make the return to being a student more of a challenge.
  • Think carefully about why you want to do a PhD. You may have a real passion and interest in your subject but how will the qualification fit with your long term plans? Don’t use it simply as a way of postponing decisions about your future.
  • Competition is tough for academic and Post-Doctoral positions so start building your portfolio of experience during your PhD, for example, working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant.

Claire Rees

Spring clean your career!

Now the weather is turning towards summer (and exams!), why not take a moment before it all gets too stressful to have a think about the C word. Yes, Career!

Take yourself back to when you were 5 – what were your hopes and dreams? Do you still have them? In fact, do you have a dream for what you want to do after University, or are you just hoping something will come up and it will all be OK?

There is a case for the latter view – Google ‘planned happenstance’ if you want to know more – and I’ll blog about this soon, but today’s offering is about taking some time to think about where you are now in relation to your career thinking, where you want to be, and how you might get there.

So, take a moment and think about how close you are to knowing what you want to do as a first step after University. Whether you do or do not, the SOAS Careers Service is there to help you – so use our resources online or come and see us for a 15 minute Quick Query to help you to define where you are now in your career thinking and to move to your next step towards where you want to be.

How you might get there will be as individual a process as you are, and so coming in to talk to us is often a good idea.

However, here are some useful tips to help you with spring-cleaning your career

1. Review your CV – yes, sounds boring, but really useful to make sure it’s ready to personalise when you find that perfect internship opportunity or graduate job. Here’s some advice on a ‘can’t go wrong’ CV – or come to one of our CV workshops (Mon, Weds. Friday) if you want to find out more about how to personalise your CV to make it stand out.

2. Make a note of your key achievements over the last few months and then add to it on a regular basis. Employers want to know what you’ve achieved and the scope of it, and you can remember those details (for example how much money you raised for charity) if you note it at the time.

3. Think about your contacts or social network – how can these help you to define or find your perfect role? and have you ever Googled your name to see what’s out there on social media about you?

And if all else fails and you sill have no idea, then please do come and see us for a quick consultation soon – it may be the most useful 15 minutes of the spring for you!

Be bold : don’t wait for your perfect job to find you …

Adam Schoch 24.2.15

Today’s Alum in the ‘what I wish I’d known when I was a SOAS student’ series was Alex Schoch (on the right in the picture).

Alex graduated in 2009 with a degree in History & Asian Studies without a really clear idea of what he wanted to do, but a very clear interest in sustainability and clean technology.

He’d heard of Tesla Motors which was (at the time) a small start-up modifying the Lotus Elise to become a battery-powered car, and called them up speculatively to see if they had anything for him. To cut a long story short, due to his interest in the sector and his convincing story, he was hired and became the European Sales and Marketing director by 2014, managing a team which had grown from 4 to 250 people in 35 European locations. Tesla worldwide now has about 1200 people and a market capitalisation of over $50bn, so it’s clearly no longer a start-up!

Alex’s boldness clearly paid off. He’s currently on a sabbatical year, and due to return to Tesla in March to head the division which will explore battery storage on a grand scale.

Alex and the students who came to the session had a really interesting discussion about the relevance of degree subject to jobs in Sales & Marketing (answer: not necessarily relevant); why he chose the degree he did (answer: it was a passion he longed to pursue); how he learnt the technical skills for his job (answer – make sure you spend enough time with the experts to get the gist of what they are saying and have confidence in yourself).

There was also a fascinating discussion about what Alex looks for when he is hiring fresh graduates himself (answer – people who have taken the trouble to research the company thoroughly rather than just rely on the ‘about us’ page on the website; people who can show their passion for the company’s ethical approach).

Finally, here are Alex’s top tips for current SOAS students

1. While you are at University, don’t think you have so many classes and seminars that you won’t have time to do anything else. Take all opportunities to go out and look for clubs, events, activities which will help you to deepen your own interests and may give you some new contacts.

2. Look for roles or sectors which interest you but don’t restrict yourself – you may find that that a similar role in a different sector, or a different role in the same sector would bridge your interests and skills.

3. All work experience is useful – try and make it last at least a month so you can demonstrate you have completed a project or achieved a result as part of your work experience.

Philippa Hewett

What I wish I’d known: The Alumni Perspective

Our alum at today’s ‘What I wished I’d known’ was Sam Mayer. Sam has held analytical, managerial and executive roles in various development organisations including the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Columbian University’s Earth Institute and Grassroots Soccer. He is a leader in the ‘Sport for the development sector’. Sam received his MSc in Development Economic from SOAS in 2007 and now lives in New York. He currently works as a fundraiser, raising funds for Grassroots Soccer, an organisation that using football to engage and motivate young people.

Sam enjoyed his time at SOAS. He encourages students to try to get some work experience, whether paid or volunteering. This will give you some good networks and help you develop your skills. It would also give you some insights into how organisations work and help you decide what sort of work you want to do in the future.

One of the benefits of getting work experience for Sam was that he was able to explore the different aspects of his interests and experience. He was particularly interested in how the public and private sector can work together to impact change in the society. This led him to work in project management, doing analytical work in the real estate sector and then travelling to Africa to work on development projects.

His key advice is for students to imagine themselves five years from now and think strategically about the sort of work they will like to be doing. Whatever the work might be; now is the time to get the skills and experience needed for that job.

Diana Omololu