What I wish I’d known: The Alumni Perspective

The fourth session in the Careers Service’s ‘What I wish I’d known as a student’ featured a wonderful SOAS Alumni, Leonie Le Borgne, who completed a Masters in Violence Conflict and Development 3 years ago. Leonie had planned to go into humanitarian relief work, but got side-track by a social enterprise opportunity in the Philippines.

Leonie was one of those students who took part in many activities whilst at university. For example, she volunteered at two different organisations at the same time –Tibet Society part of the Tibet Relief Fund and Greenshoots Foundation. It was during her time at GreenShoots Foundation that her boss offered her the chance to do a placement year abroad. Leonie ended up in the Philippines, were she worked with a partner organisation that works to transform the slums. She worked on a project funded by the private sector to build new homes for slum dwellers. Whilst working on that project it became clear that the needs of the people were much greater than initially thought, for example, people had lovely home but no money. After researching and talking with the local community, she helped local farmers set up a social recycling waste management project that helped them to generate income.

On returning to England, she found the Student Hubs job vacancy via the SOAS Careers Service. It was a graduate scheme with a placement at SOAS. She is now a permanent member of the SOAS Student Enterprise team helping students start up social enterprise projects.

One top tip: Leonie says that doing work experience of any type is very important. She was lucky to find something that she really enjoys, but there are loads of other opportunities for students. She encourages students to get involved in internships and to not be afraid to volunteer even if it is just for a couple of hours a week. She was given a great opportunity by her two day a week volunteering experience and now she has a career that she really enjoys.

SOAS Careers Service thanks Leonie for her time and contribution.


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.

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.

“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!

Elvis Costello (1979) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_Costello

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!


Welcome to the SOAS Careers Service blog where you will find careers inspiration, advice and much, much more!

Our aim is to inspire, educate and improve student employability.

We’ll be adding more to our blog very soon…so keep an eye out!