Category Archives: CVs and personal statements

4 Top Tips for Landing Your Dream Job (and why I should know…)

Landing your dream job can feel like the stuff of fantasy, but it doesn’t have to if you take the right approach.

As an ex-lawyer turned career coach with experience in property, PR, teaching and copywriting, I know all too well how important finding the right job is and the frustrations of being in a role which doesn’t quite fit.

I also know how much you’ve invested in your studies, the time you spend thinking about your career and that fulfilment can hinge on more than a pay cheque.

So here are my top tips for securing a job which ticks all the boxes:

  1. Know Your Values

Knowing who you are and what you want is essential to positive change. Before considering what kind of company or organization you’d like to work for, ask yourself what gives your life purpose and meaning, in and outside work. Your values might range from money, work-life balance and family to meeting new people, travel or having fun.

If you’re unsure what drives you, ask yourself what you couldn’t do without in a dream day, what you’re doing when you’re happiest or what you’d love to be paid for. If you’re still struggling, ask yourself what you really dislike and turn this on its head. For example, if it’s working long hours with little time to socialize, it may be that work-life balance is top of your list.

Once you know what drives you, focus on organizations which meet these needs and maximize your chances of fulfilment.

  1. Harness Your Strengths In Your Search

If you’ve got into the University of Bristol, chances are you’ve got strong analytical and critical thinking skills – the perfect combination for identifying your dream job! The most fulfilled people are resourceful in harnessing their strengths, helping them narrow down their ideal workplace, prepare for interview and seal the deal.

If you’re struggling to find the time or perspective to research what kind of organization appeals, reach out to one of our career advisors. They’ll help you move from where you are now to where you want to be. Our applications advisor will also have top tips for how to craft a winning CV, covering letter or application form.

  1. Prepare For Interview

Whether you’re a rising star or a Mensa child, intellectual skill and charm are no substitute for interview preparation. The most common pitfalls are being unable to communicate what an organization does, why this appeals and how your experience and skillset set you apart.

Avoid this by thoroughly reading the organization’s website, articles published by key stakeholders and talking to any contacts you may have. Then identify questions you could be asked and practise your answers with a trusted friend or one of our careers advisors. Ensure you tailor your answers to the skills and experience required in the job and person specification. And if you’re asked a competency based question (tell me a time when…), structure your answer around the STAR acronym – check out this handy video for tips.

Finally, be sure to show-off commercial awareness by reading up on market and organizational developments.

  1. Trust Your Instincts

You can read all you want around the firm but there’s no substitute for face to face gut feeling. If you have a good gut feeling, trust it. If not, ask yourself which of your core values aren’t being met and if this is a deal-breaker. Good luck!

 

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!

#GetCareerReady

The Careers Service’s new hashtag is #GetCareerReady. What does this mean? And how can we help you to Get Career Ready?

Explore – what’s right for you and what are the options?

What does a career mean to you? What job is right for you? Before you can answer these questions you need to know what will suit you. The Careers Service guide has some straightforward exercises to complete that will help you think about this. Look at this online or come in and pick up a copy at the Careers Service.

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Exploring is also about understanding what jobs exist out there. Trying to understand the job market can be incredibly hard, there are 1000s of opportunities and unless you have a very clear idea of what you want to do, searching for companies and graduate roles can be daunting. We run regular talks on how to research organisations and industries, plus we have a number of sector guides on our website to get you started.

Develop yourself

Alongside exploring your options you need to be developing your own set of skills, understanding what makes you unique and learning how to manage yourself. Not much then! So how do you do all that?

The main thing you need to do is get involved in activity as part of your degree, as well as away from your studies. It’s important to be active, not passive, do not expect opportunities to come to you. The more you get involved in societies, volunteering, part time work, sports, initiatives within your school, research lectures and work shadowing, the more you will be developing skills and becoming the “all-rounder” that employers look for.

 Jo Hutchings, the Information, Advice and Guidance Manager at the Careers Service says “in my experience the students who come into the Careers Service who have been proactive in getting involved whilst at university, generally have a more mature attitude, a confidence in the way they present themselves and the ability to take feedback and act on it. These are all qualities, that if I notice them in a short 15 minute appointment, an employer is certainly going to see at an interview or assessment centre stage!”

IMG_1837The Bristol PLUS Award is designed to help all students develop skills at university, with opportunities to reflect on your experiences, to gain a better understanding of who you are and your strengths. This enables you to become more self aware, a quality all employers look for.

 

Finally, competing for jobs/further study

So #GetCareerReady is about understanding what jobs are out there and what might suit you. Once you have started to establish this, you need to get applying to compete for opportunities.

And, it is a competition; you need to be prepared to work hard for the opportunities out there. Put time into your applications, research organisations, understand the roles you are applying for and get feedback before your final submission. The Careers Service is well equipped to give you this feedback and advice through our appointments. We also have a wide variety of taIMG_1801lks to help you prepare for the application process. These are complemented by online advice and practical help with our video interviewing portal, Interview Stream and practice selection tests, Graduates First.

So if you want to #GetCareerReady, come into the Careers Service to find out how we can help you, as one of our recent users said:

“The Careers Service is fantastic. Professional and comprehensive. I can’t flaw the incredible service”

Using Video Resources at the Careers Service

The videos provided by the Careers Service are not a resource to be ignored – hearing from graduate recruiters themselves about what they are looking for in graduates is valuable information. The videos are split into several easy to understand sections; CVs & Cover Letters, Interview Techniques, Assessment Centre Advice, Job Hunting, Self-Employment, & more! Each video focuses on a specific aspect of employment, like ‘How to write Work Experience on a CV’, and features testimonials from the people who see hundreds of CVs and Cover Letters everyday – this is the information YOU need to know to land that dream graduate job!

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In currently trying to land my dream graduate job and facing the prospect of scary assessment centres, I found the videos explaining what tasks and activities I should expect to happen at an assessment centre particularly useful. Assessment centres can vary widely in terms of what tasks they ask you to complete, from presentations and straightforward group tasks, to trying to convince others what celebrities to put in a hot air balloon! When tasks can be as strange as this it is important to understand what key skills employers are looking for: prioritisation, confidence, communication skills, listening skills, persuasion etc. Assessment centres aren’t just about how you compare against others, succeeding in the task is not always about being correct, it is about demonstrating your skills.

Another important tip I learnt from the videos is that you are being assessed outside of the assessment tasks too – from the moment you enter the centre to the moment you step out of the door to go home, your behaviour and how you communicate with others is being carefully analysed, even during coffee breaks! Make sure you have an in depth knowledge of the organisation, as well as their partners and competitors – having commercial awareness will help you stand out over other candidates.

I definitely feel more confident and prepared for my upcoming assessment centre now that I’ve received this advice from employers themselves. Whatever aspect of employment you’re struggling with, I recommend using the greatly informative videos provided by University of Bristol Careers Services.

https://careers.bristol.ac.uk/

Madeleine Dwyer, 3rd year Psychology student 

How to write a winning statement for postgraduate study

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This post is intended to help you get that all-important personal statement right when applying for Masters programmes and other postgraduate courses.  To make sure you get the appropriate tone and content, you need to think about your application from the perspective of the admissions tutor.  I see a lot of statements written in the style of academic essays, offering lengthy thoughts on key concepts in the field, but this isn’t what is required.  The tone and points you make should resemble a job application more than academic arguments.  Here are my tips for keeping your statement in the ‘yes’ pile.

  • First, I’m assuming that you have done your homework and thoroughly researched the course.  Does the teaching style suit you?  What jobs do graduates of the programme go on to do? Have you talked to potential future employers to find out if you need to do the course, or are you satisfied that you want to do it for your own development? Can you fund the course and your maintenance costs throughout?  If you haven’t thought these questions through, then visit our Postgraduate Study pages for advice.  It is also a good idea to telephone or email the course admissions tutor if you have any questions before applying.
  • Now, structure your statement around the following points to make sure you’re including what the admissions tutor wants to see:
  • An introduction that gets straight to the point

Be clear and direct at the beginning of the statement, and don’t waste time discussing the ins and outs of academic debates within the subject of the course.  Go straight in with why you are applying for the programme and get their attention.  It’s ok to personalise this as genuine motivations will really stand out over those applications where people are applying for courses without having thought it through, or just can’t think of what else to do.  Mentioning an inspirational person you met or a life experience that got you interested in this area can grab the reader’s attention straight away.  For graduate medicine, for example, many students have experienced life-changing events that led them to choose to become a doctor.

  • Do you have the academic capability to complete the course successfully?

You need to provide specific evidence here of the skills and knowledge you have gained during your undergraduate studies that will provide a good foundation for a postgraduate programme.  Provide clear examples of when you developed specific skills, such as managing your dissertation, learning about team work in a group project, or improving your problem solving abilities, using the STAR framework to capture what you learned.  Highlight units that you studied that are relevant to this new programme and how they will provide you with useful foundations.  If you are applying for a programme that is quite different from your undergraduate subject, then you will need to spell out how your skills and learning are transferable to this new discipline.  Don’t assume that the tutor knows what you have to offer; they need to see that you can articulate this clearly to them, rather like making a sales pitch.

  • Why have you chosen this particular programme at this particular place?

Just as if you were applying for a job, you must show that you have researched both the institution and the department offering the course and be clear about why you have chosen them.  Are there particular specialists you are looking forward to working with?  Why does the teaching style appeal to you?  Are there individual units that attract you?  If you are applying for a course at your current undergraduate institution, you still have to do this!  Be clear about why you want to stay, as it is by no means given that you will get a place on a Masters just because you’re already studying in the same place, especially if it’s a popular programme.

  • What are your future plans? What will this course lead to?

The admissions tutor will want to see clear evidence that this course is going to help you get further towards the career you have in mind, as this means you are more likely to be motivated during your studies and complete the course.  It’s ok to have more than one job option in mind when you apply and it’s also perfectly fine to change your mind later, but it helps if you can demonstrate a goal towards which you will be working by completing this programme of study.

  • What else do you do that could have given you relevant skills?

It’s important to leave space for a paragraph that talks about your co-curricular interests and activities, as many of these can provide valuable skills and experience you can bring to a postgraduate programme.  Any client-facing experience from shop, café or event work can provide the essential people skills needed for teaching, social work or legal training, for example, so it’s important that you explain specific occasions when you enhanced these skills, again using the STAR framework.

So, when completing a postgraduate statement, it’s important to keep in mind the perspective of the admissions tutor and their requirements.  That way, you’ll hit the right target and stand a better chance of getting that place.  If you need some more inspiration, you can:

Good luck!

Dr Tracy Johnson, Careers Adviser

(Image: http://www.postgrad.com)