Whether you have a particular job in mind and want advice to help you get there, or are not sure what you want to do next, the Careers & Enterprise Centre provides a range of support to help you prepare for your future.
See the timeline below for further details on how to make the most of your time at Queen Mary:
Year 1 - Develop your skills and build your work experience
Your first year at university is an ideal time to gain work experience - we recommend around 80 hours which is around 3 hours a week during term time. Having work experience will make it easier for you to gain further work experience in Year 2. This experience doesn't have to be directly linked to your degree subject or paid. The crucial thing for employers is that it demonstrates your initiative and skills such as organisation, flexibility and business awareness. Visit our opportunities for first-years page for information of schemes you can apply to.
Attend the Freshers’ FairJoining clubs and societies is a great way to show on your CV that you have been actively involved with university life. Employers aren’t just looking for academics – they want real people with interests and skills, so do something you enjoy or try something you have never done before. At the same time this will help you develop skills such as communication, teamworking and negotiation. You can also find out about volunteering opportunities on campus and in the local area.
Write a CVCVs help you to focus on your skills and experience. Keep yours up-to-date in case you find a job that you need to apply for at short notice, and so you have a record of everything you have done. See our online CV resources for further information, and with a Careers Consultant for feedback on your CV.
Look for part time work and/or volunteering opportunitiesOften people think that part time jobs are just about making money and don’t add much to a CV. Part time jobs can also give you skills that are important to recruiters such as customer focus, interpersonal skills and time management. If it challenges you (for example if you are a Team Leader at a shop), part time work can count towards your year 1 work experience. Visit the annual Experience Works event where you can find out more about prospective on-campus job opportunities. Find out about work experience schemes including QConsult and QProjects Summer, find volunteering roles through QMSU volunteering, or explore societies such as Enactus, who offer volunteering projects and have links with social enterprise (which particularly impresses employers). You can also download our guide to part time work here.
Get work experienceWork experience or work shadowing can help you work out whether a job or industry is right for you, especially as it gives you the chance to observe others in the workplace and learn about your likes and dislikes. It also shows employers your commitment to the industry and that you have a real insight into what the work involves.
Make the most of your summerSome employers do now offer short internships for 1st years, however there are a number of other ways that you can make the most of your break from university. For example, by volunteering, entering writing or business related competitions, practising your writing by submitting blogs or writing articles and so on… Travel can also demonstrate practical problem solving, organisation and planning skills, as well as cultural understanding and sensitivity.
Reflect on your experienceThink about your course and any extra-curricular activities you have taken part in this year and consider what you have enjoyed and what you have been good at. Have you discovered a passion for writing or research for example? If so, you could use this as a starting point to think about jobs which might suit you. Book an appointment with a Careers Consultant to explore your ideas in more detail.
Year 2 - Build on your skills and work experience and research your options
Use your work experience from Year 1 to obtain more substantial and challenging work experience in year 2. You should be aiming for around 200 hours, which is about the same as 6 weeks full time work during the summer, or one day a week during term time. Not only will this give you a real insight into the world of work and help you make decisions about what you want to do next, but it will also help you develop skills that are valued by employers. This should mean that you have a smooth transition into employment when you graduate.
Apply for internships for the summer
Many internships specify penultimate-year students only. Use the autumn term to find out about opportunities and apply. Some internships have deadlines in November, so keep an eye on early deadlines. Internships are only one form of work experience (and there are not enough to go around).
Attend careers events
Talk to employers, employees and alumni in person to find out more about different jobs and companies to help you decide what to do after university and to find out about work experience opportunities. Keep your eye on our Events Calendar.
Explore on campus opportunities
Drapers skills award, student ambassadors, PASS mentoring, course reps, committee positions in clubs and societies… there are many ways for students to gain positions of responsibility at QMUL. There is also QProjects - a local work experience scheme designed to help current students develop their skills and boost their CV. Again these are additional ways to impress employers with being proactive at university, getting involved on campus and developing your skills for the world of work.
Research jobs and employers
Start exploring the different jobs or graduate schemes that may be available for you to apply to in your 3rd year. Ask yourself what you could be doing now to prepare yourself for these applications, for example, improving your leadership skills by taking charge of a group project. Researching jobs also helps you narrow down what your options might be. Read the QM Jobs blog for news from different sectors and employer visits.
Work hard on your degree
Although work experience is important to recruiters, many jobs will require a 2.1. degree or above so don’t neglect your academic work.
Prepare for interviews and assessment centres
If you have applied for internships, it is worth starting to think about preparing for interviews and psychometric tests in advance as employers often give short notice before being invited to interview. See our resources on how to prepare, including a list of sample interview questions. Careers & Enterprise also offers an online practice psychometric tests and mock interviews – please book in advance.
Consider your skills and interests
It is common that people start their first year with one idea with what they want to do as a career and change their minds a number of times during their studies. The more work experience and extra curricular activities you are involved with, the more opportunities you have to find out about your skills and interests, and also about the world of work.
Make your own work experience
There are many ways that you can create your own experience to develop your skills and build your CV that will make you stand out from the crowd. Try work shadowing through using your contacts, networking (face-to-face as well as online), and by sending speculative letters. Other ideas include volunteering, writing a blog, entering employer competitions, attending conferences and employer open days, as well as keeping up to date with the industry through reading the news and any relevant blogs or journals. You could also join a course or class, or teach yourself new skills by using books and online materials. Consider things like languages, computer skills as well as business related courses like marketing or finance.
Year 3 - Apply for jobs and prepare for the selection process
By now you should ideally have some form of work experience on your CV. If you are worried about this, book to see a QM Careers Consultant for advice. Don't worry if you do not know what you want to do when you graduate. See our section on choosing a career to help you start to think about your options. Researching occupations (for example on the Prospects website) will give you information on the range of jobs available, as well as details of how and when you need to apply.
If you want to work for a big organisation with its own graduate scheme, note that some schemes will have closing dates in early autumn. Check company websites for details about their deadlines and start applying at the beginning of term, or even before term begins. Some recruiters may start sifting applications as soon as they are received, so it can be worthwhile to apply early on. Keep an eye on JobOnline and ask us for feedback on your applications before you submit them.
Apply to SMEs
Most gradates do not start their career on a graduate scheme - in fact, most opportunities for graduates are in small and medium sizes businesses, which are often over-looked by students. Vacancy deadlines are usually shortly before the role is due to start, which means you can apply during the summer term. These jobs can be harder to find, as smaller companies often don't have the budgets to spend on expensive advertising. However the selection process is simper and less time consuming. Working for a smaller company may mean it is easier to get responsibility earlier on in your career and that there is more flexibility and variety in your role. Spending time researching the industry is crucial to help you find suitable organisations.
It is thought that around 30% of vacancies are sources through networks. Networking is all about effective communication with useful contacts. This can be through people you already know e.g. friends, family and colleagues, but networking is also about making connections with new people. As well as attending careers events and fairs to network in person, discussion boards and forums and sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook allow you to network online. Attend one of our LinkedIn Lab workshops to learn to do this effectively (check our calendar of events to see the latest dates). Get first-hand information about what it is like to work in a particular job or industry. Find out about what skills recruiters look for, as well as how and where they advertise vacancies. Uncover work experience opportunities and vacancies that are never advertised. Show employers that you have initiative and are committed to that area of work..
Proactive job hunting
Making a speculative application to a company can be an additional, effective way to approach job hunting. Indeed in some industries like media and international development it is almost expected that candidates will take this approach. This approach may, at the very least, result in a conversation with the employer about the job or industry in general, or about work experience or shadowing opportunities. Learn more about speculative applications (referred to also as applying for unadvertised jobs) here.
Apply for postgraduate courses
For some industries, postgraduate study is essential; for others irrelevant. Ask employers or one of our Careers Consultant for advice on this. Remember you will need an academic reference, so make sure you consider this when thinking about application deadlines. Attending open days is a great opportunity to find out whether a course is right for you. Prepare questions to ask in advance to make the most of the day e.g. 'what do you look for on a personal statement?' 'What do your postgraduates go on to do after graduation?'
Practise for interviews and assessments
Prepare for interviews and assessment centres, especially psychometric tests. Although you may have impressed an employer with your application, make sure you prepare well for the interview so you can continue to make a good impression! See our information and resources on how to prepare, and if you have an interview coming up - book a practice interview with one of our Careers Consultants.
Masters: our range of services
If you are studying for a Masters we know that:
- You have varied reasons for choosing postgraduate study which can range from passion for your subject to developing specific career-related skills and knowledge.
- You may want to start applying for jobs near the beginning of your course or wait until after your final work has been submitted.
- You may have worked in a career before joining us or have limited experience.
- You may want to work in the UK or intend to look further afield.
In short everyone is different and we have a number of ways to help
- If you want to apply for graduate schemes remember that some have closing dates in the autumn so you might need to start career planning early on in your course.
- We have a number of employers on campus - see our events page for more information. Whilst employers may not specifically state that they are looking for a Masters student, the additional experience can enhance your application. Whether you have limited or significant work experience we can help you to present yourself effectively and look for jobs at the right level.
- If you haven’t decided what you want to do after your course, take the opportunity to come along to careers events this year to find out what’s available. Perhaps you need more information on jobs or sectors. We have a selection of detailed information sheets which provide insights and suggestions of where to look for further information and vacancies. Also our blog posts are a great way to get up-to-date information.
- You might need to work part-time or want to gain additional experience. Visit Jobonline or QTemps to view vacancies.
- You’ll arrive with a unique set of experiences and our 1-2-1 appointments with a careers consultant offer bespoke careers support including planning next steps and application support. Find out more about how to book an appointment here. If you have an interview, you can refine your technique with a practise session or use our online interview simulator.