‘What I wish I had known’ – Raymond Sweetman

The value of volunteering was the resounding message from our fourth, ‘What I wish I had known’ session.  Raymond Sweetman, until recently a Senior Language  Learning Adviser at Kings College London,  spoke about how volunteering enabled him to develop a wide range of skills in addition to those gained through his MA in Japanese and Taiwanese Studies.    His advice to current students seeking to enhance their CV is to try to obtain good quality voluntary opportunities with real substance.  As a former committee member and helpline worker for London Student Nightline amongst other work, Raymond felt that this experience was viewed extremely positively by employers.

Continuing personal development and learning, professional memberships and building networks also featured in Raymond’s tips for current students.  Whilst contributing to a professional interest group may seem daunting to start with, don’t be afraid of making mistakes.  Putting forward ideas that stimulate a discussion can get you known within the group in a positive way. Look out for other opportunities to broaden your professional knowledge through additional courses and attending lectures and talks.  Following  his MA completed part time in 2012, Raymond continued to work and study, gaining  a teaching proficiency certificate and certificate in librarianship and regularly returns to SOAS to take advantage of lectures on aspects of East Asia.

As a Senior Language Learning Adviser, Raymond supervised a team of 6 staff and 20 volunteers focused on helping students develop their language skills.  Support included workshops on pedagogical aspects of language learning, 1:1 tuition to enhance conversational skills and developing substantial book and the multi media resources.  Whilst he is now  moving on from this role, Raymond  still wants to remain in education and find opportunities where he can utilise his experience and academic background in new ways.  He is also using his knowledge and interest in East Asia to develop another career,that of a professional dancer. He is about to spend time in Japan undertaking dance training in a variety of genres.

‘Don’t give up’ and ‘don’t lose sight of your goals’ were strong themes in his talk and he encouraged students to think about combining their interests and future career direction. Nearly 10 years ago, Raymond’s curiosity about East Asia led him to start learning new languages, studying different cultures and ultimately moving into a new career.

Claire Rees, Senior Careers Consultant


Emotional Intelligence and the interview process

Do happy employees create more profit?

Whatever your views about emotional intelligence (EQ), it is fair to say that a lot of organisations are keen to test how candidates can demonstrate it as part of the interview process.

Broadly, EQ is the ability to understand and manage your emotions in a positive way, which is generally considered to be one of the ways of managing stress effectively and fitting in to a variety of teams.

Here’s a link to an interesting page on Good Day At Work which identifies some potential interview questions to test EQ such as:

“What aspects of your work are you passionate about?”

“What makes you angry?”

“How do you like to have fun?”

If you get asked a question like this at an interview, then take a moment to make sure you give a really authentic answer which shows the interviewer what makes you tick, and how it will fit in with the organisation you are applying to join.

Philippa Hewett

UK Graduate Recruitment at 10 year high

The ‘High Fliers Research’ reports that the number of graduate jobs on offer in 2015 is expected to hit a ten-year-high. The research suggests that the biggest increase in job opportunities are likely to be in the accounting, banking, retail, professional services firms, the Armed Forces and the public sector. Additionally, the research also indicates that pay for fresh graduates is set to increase for the second year running, reaching a median of £30,000.

SOAS students can take advantage of the increased opportunities by ensuring that they are fully prepared to participate in the labour market. According to High Fliers research, “Graduate recruiters warn that in a highly competitive job market, new graduates who have not had any work experience are increasingly unlikely to be offered a good graduate job.”

The good news is that a large number of those surveyed said they were providing more than 13,000 paid work experience places in 2015 for university students and recent graduates via internships, vacation work or course-based placements of between 6 and 12 months.

Students should also be aware that there are many more paid and unpaid opportunities outside the 100 top employers survey by High Fliers Research. Students are encouraged to consider Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), local and national charities, volunteering organisations and social enterprises where they are various opportunities to develop the skills and competencies needed to be successful in the labour market and their careers.

At SOAS for example, student can take advantage of the SOAS internship opportunities in partnership with a variety of UK and International businesses, charities and social enterprises. These organisations are offering SOAS students and graduates the opportunity to gain invaluable, paid work experience

For further information, please contact our Internships Coordinator on internships@soas.ac.uk or by telephone on 020 7898 4115.

What I wish I’d known: The Alumni Perspective


The second session in the Careers Service’s ‘What I wish I had known as a Student’ featuring  SOAS Alumni took place on Thursday 23rd January.  We were delighted to welcome Sir Harold (Hooky) Walker to share his experiences of 35 years in the Diplomatic Service.  During this time, he served as ambassador between 1979 and 1991, successively to Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, and Iraq in addition to home postings which included Head of Personnel. Whilst not a SOAS graduate, he completed two short language courses here (in Arabic and Amharic) and has established a valued relationship with the School over many years.

The  very interesting talk, illustrated with anecdotes and examples from his career gave students a fascinating insight into the varied nature of work in the Diplomatic Service.  Politics, policy, trade and administration combine to create a broad set of responsibilities.  The immediacy that social media brings has added increased pressure and demands a rapid response to requests for information and recommendations.  When asked what had been the most satisfying parts of his career, Sir Harold highlighted his time in Ethiopia where the focus on aid and saving lives in a country facing critical food shortages, was extremely rewarding.

Within the Diplomatic Service there are opportunities to become a specialist as illustrated by Sir Harold’s career with his focus on the Middle East but also to develop more broadly based experience through work in many different parts of the world.  Whatever the location, entry to this career demands an overriding interest in international affairs.  In addition, Sir Harold, encouraged students and graduates who wanted to enhance their chances of getting into this work to:

  • show that they had worked helping others in some way at home or internationally
  • widen their horizons through travel
  • develop their language skills
  • step outside the world that they already know

This advice struck a chord with one of the students who said afterwards that the ‘importance of doing something constructive with free time’ was one of the things that she has learnt from the session.  Full information on the qualities and academic background (no specific degree subject required) required for the ‘Diplomatic Fast Stream, the UK Civil Service’s talent management programme can found at (www.gov.uk/government/publications/civil-service-generalist-fast-stream/fast-stream-diplomatic-service).

Make the most of your time at university and seize the opportunities to develop language skills were the two ‘what I had wished I had known’ reflections from Sir Harold which concluded his talk and question and answer session.

Many thanks indeed to Sir Harold, for his time and contribution  which was very well received by students, ‘Very informative’, ‘highly enjoyable’ and ‘very useful’ being just some of their comments.

SOAS, University of London Hosts Civil Service Guest Lecture with Mark Lowcock, Permanent Secretary, DFID

On Tuesday 18th November SOAS students were lucky enough to be given a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear from Mark Lowcock, Permanent Secretary, DFID.

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This guest lecture gave students an insight into what a career in the Civil Service could offer them and it was a great opportunity for them to hear about the experiences of a senior leader.

SOAS DFID Event-Mak 2Mark spoke about his own personal experiences in the Civil Service and reflected on his own career path, as well as his defining moments.

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Mark began his career at DFID in 1985 as Private Secretary to Baroness Chalker, the then Minister for Overseas Development. Swiftly rising up the ranks he then took on a challenging role based in Harare as Deputy Head of the DFID Regional Office for Central Africa and was later promoted to the Head of this department. In 1997 Mark became the Head of European Union Department before returning to Africa as Head of the DFID Regional Office for East Africa. After succeeding in a series of other roles Mark was appointed as Permanent Secretary in June 2011.

SOAS DFID Event-25The evening was a huge success with over 135 students attending the presentation and a very lively, interesting and informative question and answer session brilliantly Chaired by SOAS’s very own Jonathan Goodhand, Professor in Conflict and Development Studies.

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Following the formal part of the evening we hosted a lovely networking and drinks reception, where SOAS students were able to find out more about the Civil Service Fast Stream from two current Fast Streamers; Michael who is based at BIS and Joanna who was a Masters student at SOAS. They were also privileged enough to have the opportunity to speak personally to Gillian Smith, the Deputy Director of Civil Service Resourcing and Head of the Fast Stream.

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If you didn’t get the chance to see the presentation live, don’t worry, we filmed the event and the video will be uploaded to the Careers Moodle for you to access when you wish.