Careering through Christmas 5

As with films, if something’s good, it’s worth repeating! So here’s a similar message to one I’ve posted in previous years – (and Guardian Careers had very similar messages in its Christmas Q&A session on making the most of your Christmas to boost your career – plus some great pics of Christmas holiday jobs – from Santa’s elf to bunny-sitter!)

So, exams are over, the end of semester and the year is nigh, the festive season is almost upon us, time to celebrate certainly, and also a good time for reflection – and resolutions. Once the parties are over, presents shared,  Christmas fare devoured, there’s time to sit down and think about where you are heading during your studies and beyond.

Whatever academic year you’re in, it’s good to reflect on where you’re at with thinking about your future, and what you can be doing to further your progress. If you need help getting started,  read the Year by Year information via our website for inspiration on what you should be doing at different stages in your university career.

And specially for PPLS students, take a look at your PPLS careers pages on our website for inspiration on what you can do with your cognitive science / LEL / philosophy / psychology degree.

It’s also a good time for some home-grown career research into different job areas – all those aunts/uncles/cousins/family friends that tend to appear in your homes over the festive period?! Use them for your research! Have a few career-questions to drop into your conversations – eg highs and lows of their job, top 3 tips for getting into this area etc (see our Information Interviewing section for more ideas for questions). You never know what you may uncover.

So, enjoy the rest, relaxation and festivities, and then get down to some serious post-Christmas career-reflection and resolutions, to:

– whatever works for you at this stage!

This is my last post for 2017, so farewell till 2018, enjoy the break, respite from studies, and your festivities, and I’ll look forward to being back in touch with you all in semester 2.

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Marketing Mackie’s crisps, via a Scotgrad internship – a PPLS grad’s story

I’ve just received a fascinating potted history from PPLS grad Harriet (LEL grad 2015) on how she started her career in marketing with Mackie’s, (of crisp and ice-cream fame). Her case-study makes fascinating reading. She talks about:

  • finding her direction, when she realised how broadly she could use her LEL degree, and how important her personal strengths and interests (including good Scottish food and drink!) were to her choices
  • the value of her involvement in student societies (the Triathlon club in her case) for showcasing relevant skills for marketing (despite not having studies marketing) to employers
  • getting a foot in the door via a Scotgrad graduate internship
  • the importance of the type of employer you work for – in her case a small family-run firm, to your job-satisfaction.

…and so many other great insights and advice for current students.

Follow this link to read Harriet’s whole story


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Peak interview season is approaching – time to prepare for interview formats old and new

We’re into interview season for a variety of internships and graduate jobs – so time to get up to speed with some of the changes in interview format, and get prepping!

For a quick overview of the different types of interview and selection activities you may face, how to prepare, and links to all the Careers Service resources to help you – take a look at my Padlet (digital flip chart) on Interviews

For more detail, read on:

Whilst the principle of preparing for interviews will always be the same ie:

Do your research on:

  • the role you’re applying for
  • the company/organisation offering the role, and the sector it operates in
  • why you want the role and evidence of your suitability

….what is changing is the way interviews are conducted and delivered.

Gaming and Video interviews

Unilever, for example (of Dove, Flora, Ben and Jerry’s etc fame), is using gaming and video interviews to recruit graduates, and linking their application process to your linkedIn profile. Unilever claim that their new online recruitment programme uses digital analysis to remove the potential for unconscious bias in the recruitment process. Read more about their approach to recruitment here.

Practice online games via the Pymetrics website. You’ll get an insight into some of the games, and also a personal traits profile which could help you clarify your future direction.

Games and videos are not just another set of hoops to leap through in the competitive world of graduate recruitment – they’re to assess your strengths and behaviours related to the workplace, and give you useful feedback, whatever the outcome of the interview process.

Other companies using gaming include Siemens and Google, and a wide range of recruiters use video interviews in their recruitment process – as a fairer (and potentially less expensive) alternative to initial face-to-face interviews.

There’s a host of other selection activities you may face, depending on the employer – find out more via our assessment centre advice, and practice using Interview Simulator – a programme where you can record your answers to typical questions –  via MyCareerHub (under the resources tab).

So, dont forget your traditional  interview preparation, as outlined above, and expanded on in our Interview Advice, you’ll need all that to succeed. But also be aware of new recruitment methods coming along, and be prepared!

For more on this, take a look at this informative blog post ‘Play games and score graduate jobs!’ from our colleagues at the University of Bath.



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Teaching psychology – there’s a PGDE for that in Scotland! – (and a PGCE in England)

You’ve been able to train to teach psychology in schools in England for nearly a decade now. Scotland followed suit last year, with its PGDE psychology running at Strathclyde university.

So if you’re keen to teach, and don’t want to teach primary or go the academic route to teaching in universities, this may be a career for you, and it’s application time now – via the UCAS UG website. You’ll need:

  • your degree in psychology (must have 80-120 credits in psychology)
  • experience of working with secondary-school-age children, and preferably recent experience in a school (eg via LEAPS volunteering)
  • a passion for teaching psychology
  • an understanding of the Scottish curriculum and where psychology fits in this

This is the 2nd year that the PGDE Secondary Psychology has been offered. It’s a very practical course, with placements in schools and FE (Further Education) colleges forming half of the course 36 week course. Although an increasing number of schools, particularly over the last 5 years, have started to offer psychology, FE remains a major employment option for Psychology teachers, hence the use of FE placements as well as in schools.

Being a psychology teacher in Scotland also includes teaching psychology topics in other curricular areas (e.g. RME (Religious and Moral Education), PSHE (Personal and Social Health Education), social subjects, sociology, philosophy, English, sciences, Business Ed, study skills, support for learning, etc). Newly devised units in non-verbal communication and stress management are also being introduced.

Keen to train to teach psychology in Scotland? Find out more via the Strathclyde university and UCAS UG websites.

Want to train in England? search the UCAS Teacher Training site for courses.

And read our information leaflet  Your Future in Teaching in Schools, plus check out all our resources and information on careers in different areas of teaching via the Careers Service website.


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Experience Works – one philosophy student’s experience of an Employ.Ed internship

In anticipation of our ExperienceWorks campaign, beginning 6th Nov, I’m delighted to share insights from 3rd year philosophy and politics student Iwona, on her experience of  an Employ.Ed on Campus Internship last summer.

Last summer I was an Employ.Ed on Campus Intern, and I’m keen to share my experiences of the internship with you, plus emphasise the broader benefits – it’s so much more than extra cash for summer.

Event and Marketing Intern for the School of Astronomy and Physics, the focus of my internship was to organise an event on Bioinformulation in September (no I had no idea what that was before I started the internship either – I now know that it refers to the knowledge of how to put things together to get, for example a healthy yoghurt, durable paint, effective antibiotic). To ensure the event was a success I had to:

  • quickly gain enough understanding of the subject area to be able to organise and promote the event effectively
  • get to grips with the complexities of how the university is organised and administered
  • identify and research relevant organisations and industry bodies to invite to the event
  • present my findings to academics 
  • contact and progress-chase participants and invitees
  • develop all marketing materials
  • run a promotional social media campaign 

The EmployEd Internship Programme is supported by a variety of workshops including:

  • Project Management,
  • using LinkedIn 
  • articulating your internship skills via your  CV and in interviews.

These are great preparation for moving on after graduation.  

Other things I gained/learned from this internship?

  • insight into how the university operates beyond teaching and handling student affairs, and the many career paths a university offers which I hadn’t considered eg academic support work, event organisers, personal assistants, marketing, stats, IT to name but a few. 
  • experience of an ‘office-based’ role and that this term is not synonymous with ‘repetitive and tedious’
  • confidence in handling workplace situations and working with a wide variety of different people
  • academics are human! ( apart from a hidden super-ability in attention to detail!)
  • new friends and a support/professional network with fellow-interns and university staff
  • The Edinburgh Award – a great way of keeping track of your progress and what you’re gaining from your internship, plus extremely useful when you are looking for examples to give at job interviews!

My advice to all the students who are thinking about applying to do an internship with Employ.Ed?– do it it’s great!

If you’re not thinking about it think about it! you can only gain from it.

Yes, the process of recruitment is competitive, and the recruiting managers take this very seriously so make sure you prepare well and put considerable effort ino your application if you want to secure a place.

And use your Careers Service to support you – many thanks to all the careers staff who helped me through the application process, practice interviews, via workshops and checking in with me after my internship was completed.

EmployEd on campus opens for applications next semester. Explore all our resources for finding internships and work experience via our website.

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Careers in Consulting – including insights from a PPLS student …..

A couple of weeks ago 2 of my fellow career consultants hosted a Careers in Consulting panel event and invited reps from AccenturePA ConsultingBoston Consulting Group and FreshSight (co-directed by PPLS student Andrew) to talk to students about working in consulting and what it takes to succeed.  It was a great event and the employers shared lots of useful insights with the students so I’m shamelessly copying organiser-Rebecca’s post so you can all get up to speed with consulting and what it takes to succeed.

Speaker backgrounds and working in consulting

First off each rep gave an overview of their own background and how they got into consulting and what it takes to succeed.

Caitlin from PA consulting gave an overview of her experience of the recruitment process.  She attended a networking event where she met people from the company (all the consulting firms run these types of events and recommended that you go along to them!) and then progressed to HR interviews, online tests (verbal and numerical reasoning) a management consultant interview (to see if you’re a good fit for the firm), case study session, partner interview and personality tests.

She then talked about the challenges of her role – so far she’s worked on three completely different assignments including organisational change for a retail bank, Scottish Government agile project and a financial crime project for a retail bank and she said she was very much thrown in at the deep end.  All assignments have been different but you get to discover your strengths and weaknesses and there’s lots of variety and challenge.  In terms of the downsides she mentioned there is lots of travel and stressed that you really must be willing to travel anywhere and sometimes at short notice.  Caitlin’s top tip was that networking is really important – go to networking events, be yourself and follow up with people (e.g. connecting on LinkedIn).

Jess from Boston Consulting Group echoed Caitlin’s point about networking, explaining this is really about meeting people with similar interests and that it should be enjoyable (this is a sign you’ve found the right career area!).  Jess then talked about what consulting is (BCG are generalists in terms of industries and functions) and explained that new hires join as generalists and then learn what their interests are before specialising.

Jess also touched on skills that make you a good consultant – you need to be good at dealing with different situations as you’re always meeting new clients in new contexts and she also talked about the value of extra-curricular activities as being a good source of examples of leadership and teamwork skills when the time comes for job applications and interviews.  The people side of the job is important – you’re doing analytical work e.g. looking at and analysing company accounts but then you’re giving clients advice and direction so it’s important to have good analytical skills and also be good at dealing with people.

In terms of challenges Jess stressed that it’s tough – you’re working with very clever people and you are given a high level of responsibility very early on which can mean lots of pressure.  Research skills are also important as sometimes you need to go digging for information but there’s a strong sense of community and it’s a very team focused environment event though it’s competitive.

Holly from Accenture also talked about the value of networking and going to networking events to establish which firms you want to apply for and advised not to panic and blanket apply to lots of firms – it’s far better take the time to find out which company is right for you.

Holly did an internship with Accenture and advised to do this if you can as it’s a good way to get involved and get experience and she pointed out that firms really invest in training you during the internship so it’s a good experience.  Holly also advised students to look at small local consultancy firms and to contact them on a speculative basis to see if you can get experience – let them know what you can do for them.  Her other tip was to consider if your dissertation topic could be a way to get experience especially if you’re unsure what to do your dissertation on – contact companies to see if there are opportunities.

Holly talked about the good aspects of working in consulting including the variety and getting to work in lots of different industries.  You’ll come in not knowing where you want to specialise and you’ll get lots of opportunities to move around.  With Accenture you’ll also get to work with cutting edge technology (e.g. agile delivery) and it’s fast paced.  On the downside the hours can be long – you will spend lots of time at work but it’s a good teamwork environment and travelling is also an issue – you need to be flexible and willing to move around.

Finally Andrew from FreshSight  (and PPLS student) talked about the company and opportunities for students.  FreshSight is a social enterprise matching students to problems with a range of clients including private sector, charities and social enterprise.  Students work in multidisciplinary teams from first year undergraduate students through to PhD students and they recruit 42 students per semester and put them through a professional training programme in consulting.  It’s rewarding in the sense that you’re helping traditional third sector organisations that have existed for many years at generating new income streams and acting in a more business-like way but the challenges can be around giving tough messages to clients that they might not want to hear (but then also providing some alternatives for them to consider too).

Top tips for the recruitment process

Adnan from PA consulting heads up recruitment in the company and had some excellent advice for students on getting through the recruitment process:

  • Do your homework – know what the firm does and be clear about why you want to work in consulting. Think about how you measure up against your peers – all will have done the extracurricular stuff and will have lots to offer but think about what you have done (or can do) that shows you’re committed to consulting as a career and it’s not just a whim
  • Attend recruitment events  – all firms run  – meet people, network, and have something interesting to talk about. You can see attendee lists for events so look at who is going – it’s easy to do your homework
  • Network with your peers too (think long term and where they might be in 10-15 years from now) – use LinkedIn – networking is easier than you might think and isn’t just about meeting senior people
  • Be open and approachable at recruitment events. At the end of recruitment events (Fairs, presentations) senior staff will discuss who they have met.  They are impressed by confident and articulate people who have a good story to tell.
  • Psychometric tests – practice as much as you can because so many good candidates fail these
  • Every day is different, the hours are long and you have to travel a lot (not always glamorous locations!)If you’re looking for a 9-5 job where each day is the same then consulting isn’t for you!

Questions from the audience

Towards the end of the session we asked for questions from the audience and here are a few useful snippets to share with you:

Question – can you explain the different types of consulting?

  • Strategy consulting involves looking at a problem and why it’s there, it’s usually short term work (6 weeks), pulling data together and presenting to clients
  • Management consulting (or managed services) involves working in partnership, giving workshops e.g. moving from waterfall to agile delivery (tip – know and understand what these terms mean!)
  • Operational consulting often involves outsourcing around the world, focusing on the day to day running of the company
  • Tech and digital consulting involves looking at infrastructure and platforms

BUT all the employers advised not to get hung up on the labels as most firms do a bit of everything.  Key things are to look at the firms engagements and areas where they work – look at case studies on their websites.  Think about what interests you but remember you will come in as a generalist but do understand what the firm does.

Question – how do you orientate yourself quickly enough to advise clients when you start a project?

Identify who the key stakeholders are, who is the CEO and their team?  Draw an organisational chart and identify who the most important people are.  Your Partner will also be able to give you some context.  Download company information, commit to learning, try to find out what the problems are – people will often be very willing to talk about this.

Be realistic though because you can’t know everything – rely on your senior team to give you context and knowledge but do further research and use your internal network too

Question – what skills required for the role?

General consulting skills including communication, stakeholder management, technical skills such as digital and analytical skills, know and understand what waterfall and agile delivery are.

You need both arts and science skills – writing and analysis (use your extracurricular activities to demonstrate these in applications and interviews).

Question – how to approach the case study exercise?

Read the case study – you’re working under time pressure on a subject you’re not familiar with. Use background information and intellect to come up with logical conclusions.  Many employers will give you time to read the background materials so use it!  The information provided is there for a reason.  Also use any materials you’re provided with e.g. calculator to check figures and remember you will run out of time by design.

You will need to then present your answer – be prepared to articulate this and don’t think on your feet. Consider the message you want to get across

Want to find out more?

So all in all it was a great event and hopefully my summary gives you an overview of what it takes to succeed.  If you’re interested in finding out more about a career in consulting then start with our sector pages covering consulting on the Careers Service website.

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Get up to speed – there are changes afoot in graduate recruitment practices

The latest finding from the ISE (Institute of Student Employers) 2017 Annual Survey highlight some interesting changes in the selection processes used by employers.

  • The biggest change in selection activities is the increase in the use of video interviewing. Only 6% of employers used video interviews five years ago. The percentage has now increased to 53%. However, this trend does not seem to change the use of other selection activities. CV/application screening, psychometric tests and assessment centres were reported to be used by more employers in 2017 compared to 2016. Final face-to-face interviews are still used by 84% of employers.
  • The good news for students and graduates is that selection processes are getting faster. The average ‘time to offer’ for graduates has dropped from 11 weeks to 9.5 weeks in 2017.
  • Increase in strength-based assessments. Fewer employers used competency-based assessment only (55%) compared to last year (63%). 41% of employers used strength-based  assessments, 38% of employers used technical assessments, and 23% of employers used value-based assessments in 2017.
  • Increase in situational judgement tests. The most notable change in psychometric testing is that nearly half of employers used ‘situational judgement tests compared to 39% in 2016.

Make sure you’re up to speed with these changes – use our recruitment resources via the Careers Service website: these include –

Keep up to date with changes in recruitment practices via our online resources so you’re fully prepared for anything an employer can present you with.

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