Why PGRs should do the Bristol PLUS Award

This year we’ve been running new tailored PGR Introductory talks for the Bristol PLUS Award and suggested work experience and intensive skills activities that are relevant to PGRs thinking about academic and non-academic careers. This has seen up-take of the Award amongst PGRs increase by 667%! Below Miquel and Oli talk about what benefits they got from doing Bristol PLUS.

Miquel Perello-Nieto: Computer Science PhD

The Bristol PLUS Award encourages you to be more proactive during postgraduate study. To complete it you must accomplish a set of requirements, involving different skillsets. By participating in the PLUS Award you increase your chances of getting a job by attending workshops on, for example, job hunting, networking, or interview skills.

The workshops

I attended a workshop about creative job searching that offered a set of useful tools to find jobs, and emphasised the importance of networking in this process. I also learnt about assessment centres and what to expect in the selection process, and attended a very useful workshop about enterprise, innovation, and communication for researchers. These helped develop my skills in giving effective presentations of my research, and a clearer mindset for tackling common problems faced by researchers. I am now more confident when presenting my research, and am also more organised when preparing for meetings, taking notes, and summarising afterwards.

The benefits

The Bristol PLUS Award has improved my skills, and is really useful in encouraging a proactive habit for learning and appreciating a set of skills not acquired during a postgraduate degree. I am now more prepared to find a job and make a good impression – the next step is to find a job!

Oli Bell: Medicine PhD

The Bristol PLUS Award allowed me to gain accreditation for work I was already performing, and helped strengthen my applications. It will demonstrate to potential employers that I take career development seriously, and that I am taking strides towards enhancing my employability skills.

I first read about the Bristol PLUS Award whilst browsing the Bristol Doctoral College’s course system. When I attended the introductory talk I had already completed the vast majority of tasks required to complete the award. The mainstay of tasks I completed were in relation to my intended future career path in teaching and research, so it was easy to fit in around my study.

Work experience and workshops 

Throughout the Bristol PLUS award there were several workshops and opportunities available through the Careers Service, as well as the possibility to use external workshops. To develop my teaching skills, I worked as a tutor with the company MyTutor, who offer online tuition for GCSE and A-level pupils in an interactive online classroom. I attended education workshops and undertook the ‘starting to teach’ course offered by the Bristol Doctoral College, which constituted my intensive skills activity. During this time, I gained insight into the challenges of teaching in university, and began to work on techniques in teaching. I also gained skills in lab demonstration, and this will undoubtedly strengthen any future applications I make in this area.

The benefits

The booking and submission process were easy, and fully-integrated online, allowing you to submit from anywhere, and to complete the Award at your own pace. This was very convenient for me as I needed to fit work toward it around my busy schedule.

In summary, I feel the Bristol PLUS award can only strengthen a CV, as it helps you develop core skills that serve to enhance future job applications.

 

Further information:

For more information and to find out how to sign-up for Bristol PLUS next year, read our Bristol PLUS Award webpages.

Intensive Skills for the Bristol PLUS Award – Make it count!

As the deadline for the Bristol PLUS Award looms on the 9 of June, and the last Intensive Skills day has passed, we thought it might be useful to talk about other ways to fulfil the Intensive Skills Activity section of the Bristol PLUS Award.

Your Intensive Skill Activity needs to fulfill the following criteria:

  • gained employability-related skills.
  • participated in an interactive manner.
  • committed for a minimum of 6 hours.
  • reviewed the skills you have gained from the activity/event.

The below are suggestions to give you some inspiration and are NOT exhaustive, we encourage you to find your own activity that is most relevant and beneficial to you!

  • Media & Creative Industries Week – Monday 20 to Friday 24 March. A unique opportunity to meet professionals from the media and creative industries, including some University of Bristol Alumni! Gain an invaluable insight into what employers are looking for, and how to break into your chosen sector! Did you know that if you attend 6 hours worth of these workshops this will qualify as your Intensive Skill activity?
  • Have you considered tutoring? –  Action tutoring recruit on a rolling basis so at this stage of the year where a lot of things seem to be winding down it is an ideal opportunity to gain some valuable experience and tick off those 4 criteria.
  • Try your hand at sports coaching! –  Any type of coaching certificate of qualification can be used including PADI dive certificates.
  • Become a First Aider! – The Red Cross and St. John’s Ambulance run affordable First Aid courses.
  • Workplace training/shadowing – If you want to learn more about the sector you are interested in this is an ideal opportunity! Check out our resources on speculative applications to plan your approach.
  • How about a charity fundraising event? Comic relief is just around the corner, visit their page for suggestions of fundraisers you could run or be part of!

What have previous students done? What haven’t they done!?

Achieved their Pilots license – Learnt a new language – Mentored A-level students – Completed an online MOOC – Been on the Goldney Ball Committee – Led expeditions to the Peruvian Amazon – Had seats on the European Youth Parliament – Edited an online magazine – Organised plays – Taught children to code – Been trained to be part of Nightline and Drinkaware – Led conservation talks for children – Kept elderly people company as a “Chatter” – Volunteered at festivals, farms, and even Volcanology labs!

So what are you waiting for? The possibilities are endless!

Using the Careers Service – a graduate’s perspective

Here at the Careers Service we not only help all manner of students from all manner of backgrounds, through all stages of their career planning and development, but continue to support our graduates for up to three years after they’ve graduated! Natalie, a recent Law graduate, has shared her experience of using the Careers Service, and explains how we were able to help her:

I discovered the Careers Service during the first year of my LLB Law degree, as it was next to my accommodation at the Hawthorns. I used the Service in my first and second years by attending events and seminars as part of the Bristol PLUS Award, which was great for building skills, and later put on my CV.

During my third year I lived at home in London, so didn’t have the time to continue this level of engagement – I did, however, book a twenty minute appointment (conveniently on the day) with an adviser to discuss whether my plans and the steps I had taken to become a lawyer were sufficient and appropriate. This was a unique opportunity to get an opinion not only from an impartial third party (which I had not had before), but from an expert. The kindness and genuine interest shown for my concerns and questions was really reassuring, and exactly what I needed during my stressful final exams!

After University I learnt that the Careers Service is available to students for up to three years after graduating. Seeing as I was slow to begin the next steps to my future career (waiting around one year after graduation), it was again reassuring to know that this support was available. After a few months of travelling I decided to knuckle down. The first thing to consider was my CV, which I had not looked at since secondary school! The next day therefore I went into the Careers Service to have a browse through their available resources. It was great to have access to such a wide variety of up-to-date books, magazines, and newsletters dedicated not only to the art of CV writing, but also to developing interview skills, and finding out about particular sectors and industries.

Additionally, having computers available for use by graduates and undergraduates at 5 Tyndall Avenue was helpful – I often used these to look at the CV page of the Careers website, which provided plenty of useful examples, as well as top tips written in clear, plain English.

The Careers Service also offers accessible workshops and seminars. All of the advisers are especially welcoming, and provide useful advice, offering the opportunity for questions both during and after their events. Attending the CV-writing seminar, for example, bolstered what I had already learnt from the website.

The final step in composing my CV was to attend a drop-in session – a 10-minute appointment bookable at 8am on the day, during which an adviser will look over your CV, cover letter, or application form. This meeting was particularly insightful as the appointment was one-on-one, and the adviser provided honest advice and helpful suggestions, such as the use of ‘action words’ to make my CV more engaging.

For me, the entirety of the Careers Service has proven invaluable, helping me each step along the way. From the days when I didn’t even have a CV in hand, I am now able write this blog having just been given my first ever interview for a vacation scheme with one of the Top 100 Law Firms in the UK…!

So – if you’ve recently graduated from Bristol, and are looking for advice or guidance with any aspect of your career we can help. For more information visit our Graduate page today!

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.

joshua-greenidge

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?

olivia-barcelona2

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.

      steph-student

 

(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.

questions

  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.

smaller-vera

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!