Starting your career – top tips from three recent graduates


Our
Careers Network is bursting with inspirational stories from our graduates about how they found their first jobs after university. It’s a great place to start researching your career options! In our online library, you will will find tales of adventure, wise words and even a love story…

Tales of the unexpected

Even if you think ahead, sometimes life doesn’t go to plan. This was the case for Raven Swaine, who had planned to go straight into work after graduating, but instead took a year out.

Having left university without securing a graduate position, Raven travelled and volunteered, building up evidence of skills that employers are looking for. She applied speculatively to companies, resulting in a paid placement with First Actuarial – and six weeks later, a permanent job! So when life doesn’t go according to plan, use it as an opportunity to make a new one.

Memoirs of a graduate

It’s never too early to start thinking about your career. Whilst at university, you are surrounded by experts who can help you get to where you want to be when you graduate.

Jennifer Hoare made the most of her time at university by engaging with the Careers Service early. After completing the Bristol PLUS Award, she applied to graduate schemes, using our interview skills workshops and CV writing resources to help her prepare. Her hard work paid off, and she received two job offers through this highly competitive process! If you want to stand out, start now.

Love story

Craig Simpson met his employer, Newton Europe, for the first time at a careers fair and knew they were right for him. He moved fast, and within a month had a role with them!

To find the right employer for you, Craig advises that you do your research. He started by following our top tips for researching employers. He also attended our careers fairs, using this fantastic face-to-face opportunity to ask company representatives more about what it’s like to work for their organisation. True love could be just a conversation away!

How we can help

Recent graduate Brooke Theis told us that she learned not be afraid to start talking to people about what she wanted, because people want to help. That’s us!

We understand that no two stories are the same, so can help you with your research and questions. If you haven’t already, visit the Careers Service today!

Using the Careers Service – a first year student’s perspective.

In September I moved from my sleepy village in North Devon to the wonderful city of Bristol, and was excited to open my arms to all the city had to offer. I was able to move into my halls a week before the rest of my housemates, and as everyone in my halls knows; I used this time wisely!

One of the first things that I did was to visit the Careers Service. I knew that I wanted to work alongside my academic studies, and I wanted to find something as relevant as possible. Before visiting, I spent a couple of hours looking through their website to get an understanding of what services they provide, and to create a list of questions to ask in person.

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The Bristol Internship Scheme really stood out to me. After reading I could find an internship myself I knew I wanted to apply. I had just got back to the UK after spending the summer experimenting with photography in Vancouver. I knew that an internship in this area would enable me to continue this work, provide me with an income, and compliment my academic studies. The next day I went to the Careers Service and found that applying to the Bristol Internship Scheme was a lot easier than I first imagined. Quite surprisingly after making a lot of calls, I found an internship with a photographer a week after moving to Bristol!

I am now coming to the end of my two month photography internship and it has been extremely informative and a great way to compliment my studies. I was also happy to find out that this work could be used towards the Bristol PLUS Award, so I signed up for an int roductory talk and chose to attend Basecamp workshops and other intensive skills activities leading me to achieve the Award in December.

No-one else on my course knew about the Bristol PLUS Award, and hadn’t thought about using the Careers Service so early in their studies. There are some great reasons for using these services in your first year. Firstly, the activities on offer are really complimentary to first year studies! One of the best things about completing the PLUS Award so early has been improving on my verbal communication skills which has increased my confidence in seminars. Secondly, by completing the Award in your first year you open up a competitive lead by freeing up time in your second and third years to pursue other national or international awards and prizes, experiment by starting a new business, or volunteer or take extra internships. As the graduate jobs market changes over the coming years this is going to be of great benefit and will allow you to make the most of your time at university!

The next step for me in the New Year is to attend more of the application skills workshops at the Careers Service, and apply for the Outstanding Award. I’m also planning to look for an internship for 2017 in the creative industries. If you have just joined the University this September, and have been thinking about getting a New Year’s challenge; the Careers Service is a great place to start!

By Joshua Greenidge

Foundation Year in the Arts and Humanities

Making the most of your first week at work

Whether it is work experience, an internship, part-time job, or your first graduate role, the first few days are crucial in any new job. You will make that all important first impression, and set the foundations for what you will achieve and get out of the experience.

Here are a few tips to help you find your feet and make the most of those early days:

It might seem obvious but…

Plan for your arrival on day one. Make sure you know who you are meeting, where you are going, and plan your journey. Arriving relaxed and on time will reduce some of those first day nerves, and ensure you make a positive first impression on your colleagues.

Do your research

Finding out what you can about your role and the organisation will make the first few days feel less overwhelming, and enable you to get going more quickly. Revisit your application, remind yourself of the expectations and why you were hired, and read up on anything that will help you build knowledge more quickly (e.g. the company website and social media channels).

Get to know your colleagues

Being friendly and engaging in conversation with your new colleagues will help you feel more at ease, and build the foundations for good working relationships. Find out who they are (though don’t expect to remember everyone’s name the first time round!) and what they do. Remember that as well as knowing who to ask now for help, it’s important to start building a professional network to help you get to where you want to in your career.

Learn and adapt to the new culture

Bringing fresh ideas and new ways of working is highly valued, but balance this with taking time to understand how and why things are done. Fit in with your new workplace by observing and mirroring the behaviours and interaction within the team. Is email or in-person communication preferred? Do people make small talk in the morning? Do people take it in turns to do a coffee run? While these might seem insignificant, they are valuable ways to quickly become part of the team.

Be open-minded and flexible

Take all opportunities to learn, gain experience and challenge yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be an active team member, find ways to contribute, and offer help – even if it goes beyond your job description. An open mind will only enrich your experience and set you up for long term success.

The first week in any new job will be exciting, challenging, and at times exhausting. Be patient with yourself, don’t expect to know everything on day one, and treat every experience as an opportunity to learn and develop. Whether temporary or permanent, this new job could be a stepping stone to achieve your career goals. Make it count!

What are Bristol students doing 6 months after graduation?

What are Bristol students doing 6 months after graduation?

Graduands in the procession out of the Great Hall at the end of a summer 2012 graduation ceremony

Every year, the Careers Service contacts all graduates to ask them what they have gone on to do 6 months after graduating – whether they are in employment, further study, going travelling or doing something else entirely. This is part of a national survey, known as the DLHE (Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education) survey. At a national level, the results are used to inform the university league tables (such as The Times Good University Guide) and Unistats.

Locally, we use the anonymised results to help our students to research potential careers. We use the data to determine the types of events that we host during the year to inspire our students to think about their options after graduating. And if you’re keen to see what your career options are with your degree, take a look at the Careers Service website. The information you’ll find here has been obtained from the DLHE survey, which is why it’s so important that our graduates give us as much information as possible about what they have gone on to do.

So when you receive an email from us 6 months after you’ve graduated that invites you to complete the DLHE survey, please remember that whatever your circumstances we’re very keen to hear from you! We need to hear from at least 80% of those we contact and your response will help us gain a better understanding of the graduate labour market, improve the careers advice we offer and enable you to make a more informed choice about life after graduation.

Year abroad – a modern language student’s perspective

When studying a languages degree, it is obligatory to spend your third year abroad.  Despite the fact that many people thought this meant I had a year-long holiday whilst everyone back home was writing dissertations, it actually meant working 40+ hours a week, speaking more Spanish daily than ever before and learning more about the culture than I ever could from a textbook.

What did you do in Spain?

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In August last year, I started a five-month placement at a Spanish language school in Barcelona. In a nutshell, my responsibilities included working as a receptionist, carrying out administrative tasks, answering phone and email enquiries and translating content to go onto the English version of the website. Having never worked a fulltime job before, the first few weeks were perhaps the most exhausting and a bit daunting. Nevertheless, once I had settled and got to know my colleagues, I started to really enjoy the work I was doing. After a month, I was put in charge of the schools Spanish evening course. This was the part that I perhaps enjoyed the most because, whilst it was a lot of work on top of what I was already doing, I really enjoyed having something for which I was solely responsible.

How did you find your placement?

The hardest part was probably finding the job itself. I started looking for an internship early on in my second year, seaolivia-barcelonarching Spanish job sites and lists of placements previous students had been on. Dont be disheartened if you send lots of emails and CVs and receive few replies as this tends to be the norm. One day, whilst thinking I was never going to find anything, I came across the language schools website and found that they offered work placements. Whilst the initial application process took a while, it was definitely worth it. So, keep looking and you definitely will find something!

What were the benefits of working abroad?

Working in another country was a great opportunity to meet and work with people from all over the world whom I might otherwise not have had the opportunity to meet. When working such long hours, sometimes even weekends, it was easy to feel that all I was doing was working. So one thing I would suggest to help adapt to living in a new country is throwing yourself into different activities outside of the workplace. This way you get to know more of the city and the culture.

Having now started to think about future job applications, I think the year abroad was a very valuable experience. Working abroad shows international experience, highlights language skills and shows you can adapt to different working environments.

The Careers Service can help you to research different countries using the GoinGlobal database, as well as providing resources to help with applications.

Taking a gap year – a student’s perspective

Being typically millennial, I opted for the cliché and took a Gap year before commencing with my studies at University. I worked in a local pub for most of it and finally got round to passing my driving test. But most importantly of all, that summer I decided to do Camp America.

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(Me kayaking with my best friend at camp from Ireland, and my campers)

 

 

This experience has made me. It has immensely enhanced my communication and leadership skills as well as my use of initiative. It has helped me to think independently and open my eyes to another culture. It’s difficult to fit such a life-changing experience into so few words, but here is a brief outline…

What was it like?

So I was placed to work at the Girl Guide Camp Birch Trails, in Wisconsin, situated in the beautiful North East of America for three months.

At 19, I was about to find out through working with such a diverse group of people I was actually quite young for my age. Having never really worked with kids before and, having never been away from my family for more than a week, I was completely daunted. The first two weeks were tough. I felt severely homesick and, whilst camp training was fun, I struggled to fight it.

But once the kids came, everything changed! You’re thrown in at the deep end, suddenly you’re alone with 10 little girls, aged 6-9, who rely on you for everything. Quickly you learn techniques on how to keep them engaged. You sing songs with them, master the art of them having sun cream on, bug spray and towels ready for the afternoon swim, and you even know how to stop their homesickness. (You secretly write them letters from the ‘camp chipmunk’ and soon they forget the whole thing).

At camp I was trained to teach canoeing and kayaking, horse riding and archery. I learned the girl-guide ethos and made life-long friends from around the globe.

What did you learn?

From working abroad I had to draw on a range of skills I didn’t even know I had! I learned how to cope with the culture change (you’d think America would not be that different-wrong; sarcasm doesn’t always go down well!). I know the value of teamwork and how to work effectively with others. With such a different mix of people, I had to be tolerant even when exhausted, which has helped me greatly in other work experiences, such as last year when I volunteered in the Czech Republic for three months. I knew exactly what I was in for! I now know how to communicate effectively, to be compassionate and lead!

I could not recommend enough work experience in another culture. It it’s challenging, rewarding and a little scary at first, but it will develop you as an individual so much so that you’ll look back one day like I do now, and be proud that you did it!

Take Action: Take a Chance

We all have that friend who was born knowing what they wanted to do. They spent their formative years planning and preparing for it – confident in the knowledge that it’s the career for them  and it is surely only a matter of time before they land that dream job. But what about the rest of us who aren’t so sure? If you are starting to think about life beyond university and you’re asking yourself “what next?” then you are not alone, and there are things you can do to make the uncertain future seem less daunting.

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  1. Clarify Ideas: Identify your interests and allow yourself to explore your curiosities
  2. Build Resilience: Find ways to break down barriers, rather than feeling trapped  
  3. Positive Outlook: Embrace risk, keep an open mind and seek new experiences
  4. Expect the Unexpected: Be prepared for chance opportunities – e.g. unexpected encounters, impromptu conversations and new events or activities   
  5. Take Action: Keep learning, develop skills, remain open to and follow up on chance events

Sometimes people just fall into a career and that’s OK. Others have a rough idea of what they enjoy, or what motivates them, and try out a few different occupations over the course of their lifetime. Everybody has a different career journey and there is no right or wrong.

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It’s important to engage in a variety of interesting and beneficial activities, and to remain open
and alert to opportunities. If you do this, you are more likely to be able to capitalise on chance events and turn serendipity into opportunity. Recognise, create and use chance in your career planning. Create your own luck, don’t wait for it… When you are actively doing things, unexpected things happen. But when you do nothing, nothing is likely to happen!

The Careers Service offers you opportunities to talk to employers, through fairs and employer presentations; explore your skills and interests through workshops and skills sessions; and reflect on your experiences by doing the Bristol PLUS award.

Keep alert to opportunities, talk to people, take risks, make mistakes and put yourself out there!

Graduate Job vs. Graduate Scheme

This is a busy time for final year students. Your course has started back with a vengeance; there’s that new society role you said you’d do; you’ve committed to another year with your sports team; and it’s crunch time for applying to graduate schemes that start in summer 2017.

So, what is a graduate scheme, and how is it different from a graduate job? A graduate scheme is usually a structured position within an organisation or business. Graduate schemes exist in private, public or third sector organisations across virtually all sectors. It’s likely that if you have spoken to an employer at our Careers Fairs, then they have been talking about their graduate scheme. These schemes are typically well advertised, competitive, and take on large numbers of new grads each year.

Graduate schemes usually have a set length, anything from six months to three years or more. They can involve professional training and with many you will come out with a professional qualification, for example in social work or accountancy. Many graduate schemes also involve working on rotation, meaning you spend time in different parts of the organisation to get a feel for what you like best. One thing to consider is that you may not be guaranteed a job at the end of the graduate scheme – but do well, and this could be a fantastic springboard to an amazing career!

The difference between graduate schemes and graduate jobs can be quite subtle but is important to recognise. Graduate jobs are still aimed at motivated, high-calibre graduates and often include training and support, but are less structured than graduate schemes. They may be with smaller companies or organisations that take on smaller numbers of grads, but they are found across just as many sectors and include a huge variety of types of work and job roles.

You may have to work harder to find out about graduate jobs as they can be less well advertised, so company websites and networking will be important. However, recruitment for graduate jobs may happen later in the year, closer to graduation or all year round, so there is less competition in autumn term than for graduate schemes.

Knowing the difference between graduate jobs and graduate schemes may help you decide what’s right for you when you graduate. But if you’re still unsure, come and talk to us at the Careers Service.

Kickstart your career network

‘Networking’ is something you’ll hear about constantly when you looking for internships, work experience and graduate jobs. For some, talking to strangers about their job comes naturally. Many others see the word ‘networking’ and instantly switch off and go back to their job search. If you’ve made it to here in the blog post, well done!

The thing is, networking doesn’t have to be a scary switch off word. It is a useful tool to help you understand the roles you are applying for, get some insider knowledge for an application or even as a way to find experience.

The Careers Network is our tool for helping you get over the biggest hurdle: where to begin. The Network contains hundreds of case studies and contactable Bristol alumni from a wide range of backgrounds. This is a great place to start as the alumni on there are ready and willing to answer any questions you may have.

What next?

So you’ve found somebody doing a job you want to find out more about. What next? Send them a message!

The message doesn’t need to be long or complex. The most important thing is you ask meaningful questions that will help you understand their career path, role or employer better. Start with a short introduction explaining who you are, ask your questions and finish off by thanking them for their time. If you are a bit stuck on the questions, use these examples to get thinking:

  • I have an interview with X, do you have any pointers that would help me stand out?
  • I am looking to work in X when I graduate. Do you have any suggestions about how to approach companies for work experience?
  • Could you tell me a little bit more about how you found your current job?
  • I’m due to graduate with the same degree as you but am a bit uncertain what to do when I graduate. Was there anything in particular from your course that inspired you to pursue a career in X?

Remember: our alumni are working people. If they do not get back to you immediately, don’t panic! If you have not received a reply after a week consider sending another message, or let us know so we can contact them on your behalf.

If you would like further tips on networking, have a look at our talk to alumni page. If you’re still feeling stuck but want to be proactive, come in and speak to one of our advisers about networking techniques and other ways of searching for alumni.

Why attend a careers fair?

We’ve got eight days of fairs coming up this term but what’s all the fuss about? Here’s why attending a careers fair is an invaluable use of time.

B.Uni Undergrad Prospectus Day 3

Research

Whether you have a clear idea of what career you’d like to have, or have no idea at all, careers fairs are great for picking up a lot of information in one place. You can discover less well-known employers and understand more about what popular companies do. You get to speak to the experts, get a feel for the work culture and ask questions that might not be on their FAQs list.

Information

Aside from the useful material you can gain from one-to-one conversations, there are also a number of free publications given out at our fairs which you can use to make informed decisions about which companies to pursue and how to approach them, and to check statistics and facts.

Networking

Meeting employers face-to-face is the best way of making an impression. With around 300 companies on campus this term, there are plenty to choose from. You can pick up industry contacts and get to know the decision-makers. Who you know is often just as important as what you know in the world of work, so it’s best to make the most of every opportunity to meet employers.

Job Prospects

Companies come to the careers fairs because they are looking to hire Bristol students. They often have work experience and internships on offer, as well as graduate jobs. Although you won’t get a job directly from attending a fair, the conversations you make and the impression you leave may very well be the starting point for your future career.

Click here for the fair dates and to register your interest on mycareer.