#‎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!

#MayThe4thBeWithYou

 

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Jo Cooper

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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.

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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!!

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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)

What I wish I’d known: The Alumni Perspective

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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 Careers Service Launches New Project with Alumni

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On Tuesday 20th January the SOAS Careers Service launched a new initiative – What I wish I had Known as a Student with SOAS Alumni.

These lunchtime sessions which run between 1:30pm and 2:30pm every Tuesday and Thursday during term time have been designed to give alumni the opportunity to share their experiences of the workplace and to pass on their hints and tips to current students.

The small group sessions give up to six students the opportunity to hear from alumni from many different sectors.

Our first session kicked off with Adam Edwards, a SOAS Development Studies Graduate from 2004. After graduating from SOAS Adam followed a career in temporary contracts on Government projects and has been working in this sector for the last decade. This presented its own set of challenges and is not the career path he expected when he joined SOAS. The opportunities as well as the pitfalls can be traced back to the decisions Adam made as an undergraduate, and this is something that Adam discussed in detail during the session.

The event went down a storm with the students that attended with some really positive comments:

“Excellent presentation. Keep it up.”

“Extremely insightful.”

“Small enough to get some personal info.”

Before Adam left he gave us his top tips for current SOAS students:

  • Check out if there are any professional bodies or associations for the sector that you are interested in working in and join them – you generally get free or reduced rates while you are a student.
  • If you’ve not got one, get a LinkedIn account.
  • Be flexible.
  • If you have language skills, keep using the language whenever you can.
  • Don’t just apply for your dream job, be more pragmatic and give yourself a few more options.
  • Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) structure to explain your extra-curricular activities to potential employers. For more information about how to use the STAR structure, check out the Careers Moodle page.

So what’s Adam doing now and what are his next steps? Adam is in the process of setting up as a consultant in Geographic Information Systems and starts a PhD at Birkbeck in September. He’s also looking to achieve the Prince 2 qualification in project management.
We wish Adam the best of luck for his future ventures and look forward to seeing him at SOAS again soon!

Did you miss out on meeting Adam? Well never fear, we will be running these alumni sessions every Tuesday and Thursday during term time. For more information about these events and to book, visit our events page.

What business skills will you need in the future?

Wouldn’t it be great to know what skills employers will be looking for in the future? As social media and technologies develop, so will the skills required to do these jobs be in greater demand. When thinking about your career, start thinking about what you may be required to know in the future and start developing those skills NOW. 

The inforgraphic below from Top Ten Online Colleges shows which capabilities will be most valued by 2020. For more information see: http://www.inc.com/graham-winfrey/the-most-important-work-skills-in-2020.html

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Calling all Law students – Free Careers Guides!!

Are you thinking of a Career in Law or the legal sector? Then get ahead of the competition by doing some research and come to the Careers Service in R101 to pick up some FREE careers guides.

We have the following publications for you to take:

Targetjobs: Law – How to get hired
Includes tips on skills you’ll need, CVs and covering letters, how to research for jobs, how to look for training contracts and further study.

All About Law – Top Law Firms for Training Contracts & Vacation Schemes
Packed with useful careers advice and information, insights into the different areas of law, and includes a handy kit to track your application progress.

LawCareers.Net – The Training Contract & Pupillage Handbook 2015 – the Essential Law Careers Guide
Includes information on the legal scene, key competencies, application techniques, career timetables and a training contract directory.

The Lex 100 – the Student Guide to the UK’s premier law firms 2014/15
Has information on LPC providers, first year opportunities, and lots of tips on what it is really like to work in a particular firm or practice area.

Prospects Law 2014/15 – Everything you need to know for a successful career in law
Includes information on how to become a solicitor or barrister, comprehensive guides to the UK’s top legal cities, and law opportunities listings.

First come, first served!

“Called careers information, Have you got yourself an occupation?”

Older students might recognise this lyric from the Elvis Costello song “Oliver’s Army”; younger students might wonder who on earth is Elvis Costello?!

Here at the SOAS Careers Service we have a wealth of valuable careers information that we can point you in the direction of to help you get yourself an occupation. For example, on the SOAS Careers Moodle, we have researched 1000s of resources to create Occupational Sector pages ranging from Actuarial Work, Pensions and Insurance right through to Transport and Logistics!

The information on these pages are checked for accuracy, currency and quality by careers professionals – a good place to start your research, rather than going straight to Google. There are also sections on Job Hunting – including where to look for jobs, interview tips, sample CVs, examples of psychometric tests, Postgraduate Study and Funding, Working outside the UK, and loads, loads more. We have even uploaded presentations and videos of workshops that you may have missed.

So next time you are wondering how to become a Charity Officer, Arts Administrator or Trade Mark Attorney – it’s called careers information, and you might just be able to get yourself an occupation!

Careers space even more welcoming!

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We have just got our new screens and chairs in a lovely sunny shade of yellow, which has cheered us all up a bit in this gloomy autumn weather. Do come and see us – you can sit on the comfy chairs, read about Career options, maybe make an appointment to talk to a Careers Consultant, enjoy the bowls of sweets and fresh flowers, and emerge re-energised!

Serving the world: Working for the United Nations

Were you interested in attending our recent event on Working for the United Nations but were unable to attend? Or do you want to find out more about working for the UN?

We are pleased to announce that the film and slides of the presentation are now available on the SOAS Careers Moodle. You will be able to find out about career options, minimum experience required, the Young Professional Programme, Internships and the application process.

There is also a short film of John Ericson, Chief of the Outreach Unit in the Office of Human Resources Management of the UN Secretariat in New York discussing graduate roles, work experience and language requirements.

Happy watching!