And Now, The End Is Near …

… but only of this particular incarnation of the blog. Today, we’re launching our new University of Manchester Careers Blog, combining the Postgraduate, Graduate, Undergraduate, International and Media blogs. All of these will continue to be updated as before, but now they’ll all be in the same place, with one, easier-to-remember, url:

Each of the old blogs now has its own category on the new blog, so you can filter the content and just get the postgrad posts if you’d prefer (though I’d definitely recommend some of the other posts as well).

So far, I’ve written four posts which you can read on the new postgrad pages, including one with a TED talk which made my head explode with its implications. Any long-term readers, though, may spot that one of them is a recycled version of a post which is on here. I may do a bit more of that, given the natural turnover of postgrads, and the archive of still relevant material on this blog, which readers won’t see if they only read the new blog. However, I’ll make sure most of the content on the new blog is fresh – it’ll be boring for all of us old lags otherwise!

I’ll try and sort out the Feedburner feed and e-mail subscriptions as soon as possible. The new blog allows you to take a direct feed of either each of the categories or all of the posts. However, at the moment, you can only get all the posts emailed to you, so I’ll stick with Feedburner, at least for email for the moment.

Please bear with me in case there’s a slight delay in transferring feeds/emails. I foolishly decided to create this new one-blog-to-rule-them-all just before our busiest time of year – but that’s how I started this blog, and look where it got us, 5 years and almost a quarter of a million page views later.

So, the blog is dead – long live the blog!

Changes Afoot On The Postgraduate Blog

We’re setting up a new “über-blog” for the Careers Service, incorporating our five most active blogs into one new blog site.

This means you will still be able to see all the Postgraduate posts together on one page, but you will also be able to access our international posts, graduate and undergraduate posts and media careers posts on the same site – particularly handy if you’re an international postgrad who’s already graduated and is interested in the media.

Blog posts by email – your views needed
One complication is that it’s going to be more difficult for us to send you just the postgraduate posts by email, for those who have subscribed this way, although it will be easy to send you all the blog posts, and you should be able to choose between daily or weekly updates.

Other Careers Service emails
If you’re a current University of Manchester postgrad, you will still get the monthly postgrad emails from the Careers Service where we tell you about what’s been on the blog along with all the other careers events coming up. (OK, some of your are rolling your eyes and muttering stuff about spam emails, but I know a lot of you read them, because I get a big boost to my blog views every time I send that e-mail out!)

Your views: For those of you who subscribe to postgrad blog posts by e-mail, do you still need the facility to see only the postgrad blog posts? If so, please reply to the email in which you received this post.

If sufficient numbers want just the postgrad posts, I’ll continue looking for a free/low-cost option for sending out “postgrad blog only” emails.

RSS and other feeds
Shouldn’t be any problems here, although the address will change when we move to the new site. You should be able to take a feed for a specific category of posts, so if you use a feedreader, you’ll still be able to subscribe to only the postgrad posts.

The future
Whatever happens with the look and additional content available on the blog, rest assured that there are no plans to make any changes to the type of posts I’ll be writing. It will still be the postgrad careers blog talking about postgrad careers stuff, just in a shiny new package with easy access to all our other blog posts.

Find Out What Alumni Did Next

If you’re a member of LinkedIn, have you noticed the (fairly) new alumni search they’ve introduced?

It’s a way of getting an overview, by university, of where alumni are now (although obviously, it only includes those on LinkedIn who have included their university in their profile). That gives you the impression that you have to be an alumnus of the university you’re searching for, but in practice, it looks like you can filter on any university you wish.

As well as searching by university, the standard filters it offers are:

  • the years they attended that university – this means you can filter out all those with bags of experience, and look at more recent graduates, if that’s helpful
  • location – for example, for the University of Manchester, there are 73,097 alumni on LinkedIn living in the United Kingdom, of which 15,049 are living in London and 10,676 are living in Manchester
  • where they work – unsurprisingly, 1,754 alumni from the University of Manchester “work” there – but that includes all our current students who have been smart enough to register on LinkedIn, as well as those of us who get paid to be here! A more useful search, for example, shows that there are 144 alumni of the University of Manchester on LinkedIn who work for Microsoft, only 44 of whom live in the USA.
  • what they do – this seems the least useful filter, as it only shows a limited number of categories. You can use the search function within the filter but it rejected most of the categories I tried. Oddly, it will let you filter on “Real Estate”, but not education or any permutation on scientist, so I assume it has lumped a large number of jobs into “Administrative”.

Rather than using the “What they do …” filter, I had more luck by using the search box below the filters. “Scientist” then came up with over 2000 University of Manchester alumni, though it looks like that included any mention of “scientist” in their profile, not just their current role.

As well as overall numbers, you also get links to the profiles which match your filters. However, as with everything else on LinkedIn, you only get to see limited information on the people who come up in the search if you’re not already connected to them in some way. This is another good reason to start connecting with people you know (the best reason is below *).

Where you can see profile information, it’s a good way of seeing how they got into the job/location/employer which is of interest to you. This could give you clues as to how to start your career and where it could then lead.

Be warned though, this is not meant as a way of stalking and harassing complete strangers who just happened to go to the same university as you. You still can’t randomly spam people whose profiles pop up, asking them for help with your career.

However, the more genuine connections you have on LinkedIn and the more groups you join, the more chance there is that you’ll find someone who’s a connection of a connection who might be able to give you some advice. Then, you need to approach your mutual connection and ask if they will pass your request on to their contact.

That’s the reason I always advise only connecting with people you know well, and why I ignore all those messages from total strangers who want to “add me to their professional network”. (I also don’t rate highly anyone who just sends that standard automatically generated message, even if I do know them – always personalise your connection requests.)

Have fun filtering – if nothing else, it’s a really good procrastination tool.

* The best reason for postgrads to start connecting right now with people you know on LinkedIn
Lots of students tell me they don’t know anyone to connect with on LinkedIn. What they mean is they don’t know anyone in a position of power who can help their career today. This might be the case, but they do know their fellow students. Postgrads also have friends from their undergraduate degree.

Link to your friends now, while the connection’s still current.

They may not be in a position to offer you a job right now, but imagine what your network will be like in as little as 5 years time. Those friends will be working in companies and universities all over the world, with contacts of their own. Think of LinkedIn as an investment for your future – a bit like your degree, but at considerably lower cost to yourself!

Regulatory Affairs – Getting An Entry Level Position

Working in Regulatory Affairs is one of those “less well known but interesting career options”, particularly if you want to combine technical knowledge with a commercial role.

Regulatory Affairs Officers, Executives and Managers are responsible for pulling together technical, development, quality and safety information on a product, and negotiating with licencing authorities for those products which are regulated. This is particularly associated with the pharmaceutical industry (where critical information needed will also include clinical trials results) but regulated products are also found in the medical devices and chemical industries. The TOPRA (“The Organisation for Professionals in Regulatory Affairs”) website has a good description of what Regulatory Professionals do.

One difficulty, however, is often: how do you get your first post*?

You don’t often see “Regulatory Affairs Trainee” posts advertised, whether at graduate or postgraduate level. I have seen occasional “graduate trainee” posts advertised for the big pharma companies, but only sporadically.

Here are 3 strategies for finding your way into this career:

1. Start somewhere else and move sideways
This is the most common route into regulatory affairs. It’s such a wide role that having an understanding of technical development, or quality, or safety, or clinical trials could give you an awareness of regulatory frameworks and a good foundation to make a sideways move.

For those aiming at the pharmaceutical industry, TOPRA surveyed its members, asking “Please indicate the area of work of your last NON-regulatory job in the pharmaceutical industry”. It’s a really revealing list showing the routes which have led regulatory professionals into their current role. This was a 2006 salary survey in which 127 people replied. At that stage around 17% had entered Regulatory Affairs directly from university, but most had come from research, QA, QC, safety and other regulatory roles before ending up in Regulatory Affairs. Another survey of 200 UK regulatory professionals with between 2 and 5 years experience shows only 10% going into the profession straight from university. (You can see the results on a pdf, from this page on the TOPRA website on career pathways – no date given unfortunately, but the pdf dates from 2010.)

I wouldn’t be surprised if the number going straight from university to regulatory affairs roles continues to shrink. The organisations who traditionally could afford to take a chance and train up new graduates and postgraduates were the big pharmaceutical companies – and look what’s happened to them over the last 10 years. There’s still lots of employment in the pharmaceutical sector but the growth areas are in the smaller companies and contract research organisations who often want some sort of proven knowledge or experience of regulation before taking you on.

Another way of finding out how people got into their regulatory roles is to search LinkedIn profiles. You’ll need your own LinkedIn account to get access to search, and you’ll get more information on individuals’ career paths if you have some sort of connection with them (1st or 2nd degree ie you know someone who knows them; or if you are in the same group). It doesn’t mean you can randomly send out job requests to anyone you find but it could give you some ideas of alternative starting points.

2. Broaden your search terms
I searched the scientific and health jobs we’ve advertised through CareersLink over the past year, using the term “regulatory”, and found we’d advertised more jobs related to scientific regulation than I’d expected. Most of the posts working within scientific product regulation weren’t called “Regulatory Affairs Officers” or trainees. They were often safety, quality, technical or experimental officer roles – but when you read the descriptions, they could give you the experience you’ll need to make the move into a purely regulatory role later.

3. Be prepared to start at the bottom
If you haven’t got the experience needed to go straight into a regulatory affairs role, and someone else isn’t prepared to invest to retrain you, you have to decide if you’re prepared to invest in yourself.

Unless you’ve already got experience in a related role, you’re essentially a career changer, and most career changers have to move backwards to ultimately move ahead in their new career. (I know a bit about this. When I moved from a senior management role in industry to a trainee careers adviser, it took me 7 years to get back to my original salary – but I have absolutely no regrets.)

Regulation involves a lot (and I mean a lot) of admin and documentation. You may feel your PhD prepared you for more than a job generating and organising quality or safety documentation relating to regulatory control, but when you’re a senior Regulatory Consultant on ~£100K, responsible for Western Europe or Asean markets, you’ll look back and realise that investment was worth it.

Further resources
Here are a few other online resources for would-be regulatory affairs professionals:

NB. I wouldn’t recommend relying on either of these agencies (or others) for finding you an entry level post in regulation. Specialist agencies can be great once you’ve got experience. However, they’re unlikely to be very interested in you if you’re looking for a career change (why would a company want to pay an agency a fee to find someone with no relevant experience?!).

* This was partly in response to a question from “Weebz” on our Feedback page (thanks – hope it answers your query) but it’s a question I’ve been asked by several scientific postgrads when they’ve discovered that this sort of career exists.

How To Get That Postdoc

It can be done! Great post from Karl Collins, one of our chemistry PhDs (congrats on getting through the viva) who is off to Germany for the postdoc he really wanted – here’s how he did it and some tips he picked up along the way.

A Retrosynthetic Life

Following a quick twitter exchange with @Nic_Derbyshire, I sent her an email about how I went about my postdoc application.  I thought it would be useful to share my experience, and I have thrown in advice I have received from a plethora of sources as well.   It seems quite a fitting time to post this considering the current discussions about the future of synthetic chemists at In the Pipeline and ChemJobber.  I think the advice here is applicable to applications for postdocs in all scientific disciplines, but take care with respect to industrial job applications – these could have very different requirements and the application process can vary widely.

This is based on my limited experience, that of friends and colleagues, watching my boss go through the process, and advice from academics, postdocs, ex-postdocs and the like.  Please fell free to add any of your own experiences in…

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By Elizabeth Posted in wf

Another great post from our Information Manager, Holly, on how to make speculative applications – particularly important for postgrads chasing specialist posts.

And with that, I’m off on hols for a couple of weeks – see you later in August.

Manchester Graduate Careers

So you’re looking for a particular type of job. You’ve scoured every newspaper and signed up for all the jobsites, and recruitment agencies that you can find. You’ve applied for every vacancy going or there are no jobs to be found and you are out of options. What else can you do? Apply speculatively.

Applying speculatively means sending your application when an organisation is not advertising a job. I probably get asked more questions about this job search tactic than any other! After all you don’t have a job description or a set of guidelines to follow so it can be scary to the uninitiated. So here are my top tips…

Do all organisations accept speculative applications?

No. Some will only accept applications when they are actively advertising a job, this is especially true of public sector organisations such as the NHS, universities and local councils.

For small companies and…

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By Elizabeth Posted in wf

A positive look at the skills and abilities of students who have disabilities or health concerns, from our fabulous Natasha, a Careers Information Officer who embodies everything that’s covered here. (Postgrads: come and talk to her on the front desk – when she’s not away from the office doing her own Masters degree!)

Manchester Graduate Careers

Applying for jobs is stressful at the best of times but for people with a disability or health  concerns it can be even more worrying, with questions about discrimination and how and when to disclose top of the list.

However as someone who has suffered  serious health problems in the past I really believe that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, particularly when it comes to job hunting.  The key is to think about how your disability or health concern will make you a stronger candidate in the eyes of employers.

Here are my top 5 reasons why having a disability or health concern means you’ll have already developed a range of transferable skills employers are looking for:

Adaptability – Coping with a disability or health problem means that you will be adaptable, having worked out individual ways to overcome everyday problems.  Being adaptable will show employers you…

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By Elizabeth Posted in wf

This is really good detailed post on dealing with discrimination at work from Tahira Majothi over at the University of Salford Careers Service.

I’d also add that if you are concerned about whether you will be discriminated against at interview stage, for example for wearing a symbol of your religion, you can also ask yourself: “Would I want to work for someone who would discriminate against someone for wearing a hijab / cross etc?” Frankly, I don’t think they deserve you if they act like that (but you can still challenge them!)

Careers Information @ the University of Salford

Over the past few weeks I’ve seen a few graduates presenting with essentially the same dilemma, “I have a CV which has enabled me to progress to interview but once at interview, the dynamics have changed, or I feel singled out in the workplace, is it because of my age/physical disability/ hijab?…”

The truth is I can’t say for certain that this is down to stereotyping or discrimination, I just don’t know. I’d like to think that employers nowadays are much more informed given the Equality Act 2010, and savvy enough to want a diverse workforce. This not only benefits employers by way of pulling together different strengths, experiences and perspectives but also reflects the diversity of their community and indeed client base.

The Equality and Human Right Commission (EHRC) states that it is not a requirement for an employer to meet someone or interview them before…

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By Elizabeth Posted in wf

Vacancies: PhD E-Tutors, Manchester Leadership Programme

We’re recruiting more e-tutors for our undergraduate Manchester Leadership Programme. If you have an interest in

  • sustainability in its broadest sense, whether economic, environmental or social
  • the challenges which leaders face today in all kinds of organisations
  • teaching and supporting undergraduates, using online discussions and face-to-face contact
  • taking part in novel assessment and teaching methods
  • hearing leaders talk about their experiences (Dame Ellen MacArthur was the hot ticket a couple of years ago – see more guest lecturers here)

then this could be for you.

The e-tutor roles take up an average of 5 hours a week but can vary quite widely with peaks coming at assessment time. You are paid at the GTA rate (currently £14.29 per hour). We specifically recruit PhDs for these roles as you need to be trained and ready to go before the start of the autumn term and be available for the full academic year, including attending scheduled MLP lectures (so wouldn’t suit most Masters).

Some of our recent e-tutors commented:

“I learned how rewarding teaching can be. I thought that there would be aspects I enjoyed about it, but I enjoyed it more than I expected to.”

“From tutoring on the MLP online unit; I have gained a wider outlook on life, have enhanced my tutoring abilities and developed new ones, and have had a lot of fun.”

“In terms of development for postgraduate students, the interdisciplinarity of the programme, an increasingly important factor in the research community, enables eTutors to develop transferable skills in terms of communicating and sharpening positions, both through identifying gaps in student responses but also by taking on board student positions.”

“I have learnt a huge amount of practical skills and now have more confidence in this area that will be useful in the future, and is particularly in demand for academic posts.”

If you want to read more comments from some of our e-tutors, have a look at this blog post from a couple of years ago – “What has being an MLP tutor ever done for me?“.

Further details:

Full details of the posts, including application form, are on the MLP e-tutors webpage.

The closing date is 6th August at 12 noon (we will look at all applications up until the closing date). The interviews are scheduled for 20th, 21st or 22nd August, and if you get the post, you must also be available for e-tutor training on either Monday 3rd September or Monday 17th September.

I’ve also updated some FAQs from previous MLP e-tutor posts – just click below to get some inside info.

Continue reading

NHS Scientist Training Programme

I know lots of postgrads are interested in the Scientist Training Programme vacancies in the NHS in England, so here are a couple of news items I’ve received in the last few weeks:

2012 recruitment round – the competition
7,735 people applied for the 205 posts on offer in 2012, though as you could apply for up to 3 jobs/locations, you can probably triple that to get the number of applications per job. At least it’s better than the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme where they had approximately 12,000 applicants for 150 places.

Interview process
We spotted a document intended for interviewers (link to a pdf) which gave the format of the interviews (but not the questions!) It’s a bit like speed-dating (a format they’ve been using in medicine for a couple of years) so it’s best to have an idea of what you’ve got coming to you before you get there.

Even better than this though, we’ve had some feedback from someone who was offered a place on the Medical Physics strand of the Scientist Training Programme, so here’s what they went through:

Online Application
This is the most important part of the application process and as there are no phone interviews it is the only opportunity you get to “sell” yourself initially. Really think about the answers that you give here, particularly the essay-style questions. Write your responses in a word processor then copy and paste them into the form as the page will time-out if you try and write everything in there directly. The online application process probably takes about 1-1.5 hours. For 2012 intake the applications were open only for a short period so make sure you keep updated on when applications open!

Online tests
If your online application is successful you’ll be invited to take some online tests. These are in maths and verbal reasoning. Pretty straight forward, just make sure you’re somewhere quiet and you’re not going to be interrupted.

If your application and test results are good enough you’ll be invited to final interview. My interview was in Birmingham (All STP positions are interviewed centrally so expect to travel).

The format is almost like a speed dating night! Four different stations, ten minutes at each, move on to the next one when a bell is rung. It’s quite an odd setup and you end up talking to 8 different people but it’s good. If one station doesn’t go too well you’ll be moving on to the next one in a minute or two.

As I mentioned, there are four stations. Two are scientific questions, based on medical physics (or your chosen speciality). I was asked questions on X-ray, image mathematics, nuclear medicine and some general questions on radiation. Definitely worth brushing up on your medical physics before the interview! I was unable to answer some of the questions on nuclear medicine as I’d not studied it at the time of interview but tried my best to figure out the answer at the time and I think that attempt was enough to impress. The other two stations are an HR station (questions about your personality and ambitions etc. Enjoy this station, it’s the nicest one and a bit of a break! Really sell yourself at this point). And the last station is a general science and healthcare station with questions about your experience and also some questions on statistics and processes.

The interview stations can happen in any order.

The upshot of all this was that he was offered the job – but very unfortunately, he didn’t achieve the 2:1 required, so the offer was withdrawn. Unsurprisingly, his most important advice (to undergrads) was “make sure you work hard to get the required grade!!” (Really hope he gets something else soon as he’s obviously good at getting through the whole application/interview process).

We won’t know which jobs are coming up when, though I’d look out from December onwards, but don’t panic if they don’t get advertised until February (as usual).

If you want any further info on the application process (for 2012), have a look at my previous post:
NHS Scientist Training Programme – 21st February, 2012