Making A Difference To Global Poverty

If you’re wondering if your Masters will ever get you the job you want – or frankly any job where you can make a difference – this is just the boost you’ll need.

Eleanor Carey finished her Masters at the University of Manchester last year and is now working at the Co-operative Group. This guest post shows how getting on to a graduate scheme can help you make a difference.

Guest post: Eleanor Carey 

Hi All,
A quick update from someone on the other side of their dissertation (yes, you will finish it one day!) Whether you are scrambling to finish final essays or getting down to the hard graft of research for your dissertation, I’ve been there and I’m here to share a little of what life is like post-postgrad.

My Masters postgraduate degree
In September of last year I graduated with an MSc Poverty and Development from the Institute of Development Policy and Management which sits within the School of Environment and Development.

The experience of doing the masters was invaluable and looking back I am so grateful to have been challenged and stretched as far as I was. It has certainly made a huge difference to my analytical skills and any employer will value someone who can think creatively, thoroughly, and see connections that others cannot.

Simply having a Masters helped me to get my current position so don’t fall into the trap of thinking that higher education and the world of work are completely unconnected. Your grades do matter as employers will see these as indicative of how hard you are willing to work.

Getting on to a graduate scheme
I was fortunate enough to be accepted on to a graduate scheme with The Co-operative Group and so had just 10 days off between handing in my dissertation and starting here at the head offices in Manchester city centre.

If I had one piece of advice for finding a job after your post grad, I would say start looking early, especially if you are looking at graduate schemes as most will have a September start date and close their application process well before that.

I was hired at The Co-op in late May though others had been hired as early as January. Also, try to find an organisation which is a good fit for you. This might sound obvious, but I definitely went through a stage of panic in which I applied for any and every job I could (not a great strategy and very time consuming). So, make a list of criteria that are non-negotiable. For me, I wanted to stay in Manchester, needed a paid job, and something that would develop my skills.

Think about stepping stones to your future
I would say as well, try to think outside your subject of study. Even if your first job out of your masters is not your dream job, if it is something that can help build your skills or allow you to network with people that you may want to work with in the future, then this can be a good stepping stone. So, once you’ve found somewhere you think might be suitable, do as much research on the organisation as you can. Try to understand their ethos and what they are looking for in a candidate, and think of how you can demonstrate that you match their criteria.

The Careers Service at the University of Manchester was excellent during my application process and I would strongly recommend that you utilise any services, such as mock interviews, that they offer.

Keep building your CV
Building your CV can be tough, especially if you have gone directly from undergrad to postgrad. I have no new pearls of wisdom on this topic. The usual suggestions really are the best: volunteering, part-time jobs, extra qualifications. The aim of the game is to show an employer that you’re not afraid of hard work, that you can balance your time well, that you are willing to go the extra mile to do something that isn’t required of you, that you can work as a team and self-motivate. If you’ve got the chance to learn a language, set up a society, or join a sports team then take it.

Working with the Co-operative Group
Since starting on the scheme I have created, launched, and managed to completion a membership campaign on Fairtrade, assisted in organising an event expected to attract over 10,000 people, managed business development with community co-operatives in the UK and have been involved in looking at our trade with European co-operatives.

As the co-operative ethos encourages giving back to the community and as part of our commitment to tackling global poverty, I am a Global Poverty Ambassador representing The Co-operative Group. As part of this activity, there is a presentation called “1.4 billion reasons” that is being shown around the country which is an introduction to issues surrounding poverty and ways to end it.

If anyone is involved with a group/ organisation/ business in the Manchester area that might be interested in seeing the presentation, please do not hesitate to get in touch on

The graduates also run a charity which fund raises for youth groups in Greater Manchester. In addition, I am involved in the Manchester Gold mentoring programme.

All of this demonstrates that it is possible to get the experience you want and to develop the skills you need if you look for and take the opportunities that come your way. This might mean volunteering some of your time outside of work, or taking on extra responsibility within your role. Graduate schemes are perfect for this kind of broad experience.

My top tip is this: don’t panic 🙂 
This is a very stressful time, handing in essays, writing dissertations, looking for a job and maybe working part-time as well isn’t easy. You’ve probably also got all the mixed emotions that I had this time last year, when you just want it to all be over, but at the same time you feel the pangs of the looming end of your time as a student. Try to set yourself a time limit for job-hunting and don’t let it eat into your study time. This should still be your main focus.

I hope some of this was helpful. If you have any specific questions about The Co-op, graduate schemes, or would like to see the Global Poverty presentation please get in touch.

The very best of luck with finishing your studies and whatever you go on to do next.


What Has Being An MLP Tutor Ever Done For Me?

You’ve heard lots from me extolling the virtues of being a tutor on the Manchester Leadership Programme, so I thought it was about time to change the record, and give the tutors themselves the chance to be heard.

Here are four recent experiences of being an MLP e-tutor, from

  • Siobhan McGrath – now a part-time lecturer in IDPM
  • Kirsty Jenkins – PhD researcher, Classics
  • Rebecca Pohl – PhD researcher, English and American studies
  • Ann Rowan – PhD researcher, Geoscience

The closing date for applications for next year’s new MLP tutor posts is noon, Monday 9th August. Further information on the posts is in this recent blog post and on the MLP website.

Professors John Sulston and John Harris lecturing on Medical Ethics on the Manchester Leadership Programme


Read on and be inspired:

Siobhan McGrath (IDPM)
“As a PhD student, I had the opportunity to run tutorial sessions for students at the Master’s Degree level. As I began to consider the option of becoming a lecturer after finishing my doctorate, I thought that I should get more teaching experience. In particular, I wanted the chance to participate substantively in marking assignments. In terms of my CV and my confidence in performing this task, working as a tutor on the MLP served me well. I also learned about how teaching undergraduates does and does not differ from teaching postgrads.

More importantly, 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. As an MLP tutor, I had the chance to engage with a diverse group of students. I worked on helping them with their academic skills, but I also got to see many of them become more sure of themselves and more passionate about the issues raised in the MLP course throughout the semester. Being able to help students who were unsure of expressing themselves, but had a lot to contribute, was one aspect that stood out for me.

I now have a temporary position as a lecturer here at the University of Manchester and I see my tutoring experience with the MLP as one of the stepping stones towards reaching this position.”

Kirsty Jenkins (Classics)
“I’ve tutored on the online unit of MLP for the past three semesters and have found it challenging, fun and interesting. Challenging because online tutoring involves a completely different way of interacting with students and course material. Fun because no two groups are the same and there’s always something new happening, and interesting because the concept of universities giving something back to the local area is new and exciting, and the course material engaging. 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.”

Rebecca Pohl (English and American Studies)
“Working as an eTutor for the MLP is a challenging and extremely rewarding task. It is challenging because the teaching methods are unconventional, because as an eTutor you are faced with a highly interdisciplinary and intercultural group and it is your job to guide students through a module that is new in form and content to them. All these points, however, are also what makes etutoring so rewarding – initiating, contributing and guiding discussions about topical issues that are directly relevant to students’ lives and futures demands insight, understanding and focus. The online discussions will also inevitably lead to a learning process on the part of the eTutor herself as her own preconceptions and disciplinary boundaries are challenged and stretched and horizons are broadened on the part of students and tutors. The online discussions are forums where ideas can be discussed, productively debated and constructively critiqued as well as an ideal place for the application of theoretic al concepts to more concrete issues.

More specifically, 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. The leadership focus of the programme engenders self reflection with regard to teaching practice which leads to a constant reassessment and in consequence improvement of these practices, particularly in a non-classroom environment.”

Ann Rowan (Geoscience)
“I have really enjoyed being a MLP etutor; it has given me a chance to focus on a subject area completely different to my research. This has not only made a welcome break but I also learnt as much if not more than the MLP students about 21st Century leadership, teaching throws up lots of interesting questions that I would not otherwise have considered. Much of what I have learnt is relevant to any discipline and I think will be very useful in any future career. I have also developed my teaching experience far beyond being a teaching assistant in lab practical classes (which is the only option available within my school). Tutoring a large group of students and marking assessed work was challenging, 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.”

Visit To The Guardian – Guest Post

If you’ve got any ambitions to work as a journalist in the world of newspapers, this one’s for you. My colleague, Louise Sethi, recently visited the offices of the Guardian and Observer – here’s the inside information she gleaned about the changing face of journalism:

Newspapers – “read all about it!”, but for how long?
by Louise Sethi

For me, nothing beats Sunday mornings in bed with the papers and a mug of tea. It’s pure bliss. But, last week when I visited the Guardian and Observer newspapers, I left with a sense that one day newspapers will be a thing of the past. Perhaps not in the next ten years, thank goodness, but after that who knows?

Newspaper sales, or ‘circulation’, continue to fall and this, combined with reduced advertising revenue caused by the recession, is putting newspapers under huge pressure. While, the Guardian and Observer websites attract millions of readers, making money from them isn’t easy. Johnston Press announced this week that it will start charging for some its online content.  Rupert Murdoch’s news corporation has been considering doing this for some time and has proposed putting ‘paywalls’ round sections of its websites.

However, those I heard from at the Guardian and Observer didn’t think this was the answer; they believe people like you and me will simply look elsewhere for their news. I learned that newspapers are currently without a viable business model and are searching for one to secure their future.

From print to podcast

This is nevertheless an exciting time for journalism. I was fascinated by the Guardian and Observer’s new integrated approach to news gathering. Their journalists now write both for the web and the newspaper.  Many also produce podcasts using state of the art audio-visual equipment in the papers’ own studios. All this means that the term ‘print journalist’ is now meaningless.

Continue reading

A Little Something For the Ladies

Or how, in one well-meaning easy move, you can completely undermine your aim and alienate most of your audience…

Lord Drayson, the science minister is in the news today with a debate tonight with Ben Goldacre on the state of science journalism in the UK – it’s also being webcast through the Times Higher website from 7pm.

However, it was Lord Drayson’s recent performance at the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (UKRC) Conference which came under scrutiny from someone I met recently who attended this event. The UKRC works to tackle the under-representation of women in science, engineering and technology, and whilst Lord Drayson had some positive things to say about presenting modern female scientific role models for younger girls, it sounds like he blew it within the first 5 minutes.

Here’s the report from my contact, who, for professional reasons, has wisely opted to remain anonymous:

“Looking forward to the upcoming Drayson vs Goldacre debate on ‘Science reporting: is it good for you?’. I have half-heartedly been following the debate about the state of popular science reporting in the mainstream media on Twitter. But I have to confess I am biased since I heard Lord Drayson, minister of State for Science and Innovation, speak earlier this year. Although the event took place in March (which I realise is the Middle Ages on blog timescales) my blood temperature still rises when I think of his address to the conference  of the UK Resource Centre for Women in SET (Science, engineering and technology).

That day we discussed the ‘leaky pipeline’: the fact that for many SET subjects there are now (almost) as many women at undergraduate level as men but that at higher academic levels the percentage come down to single figures and women are very under-represented in senior management roles in SET based companies. We lamented the lack of female scientist role models.

It was therefore bizarre that Lord Drayson opened the conference by telling us about the day he had fallen in love with his wife (he obviously thought that would go down well with the largely female audience). The irony that his wife WAS a scientist then, but now looked after his children and his racing team seemed lost on him. He also didn’t mention her by name, adding fuel to the role model debate. His comments are, not surprisingly, glossed over in the conference brochure. It will be interesting to see how he stands up in the debate against Ben Goldacre.”


Luckily, the UKRC website has lots of other inspirational case studies and blog posts on how women are being successful in science, engineering and technology (current blog post is from a vet who’s invented a haptic cow – go on, you know you want to click).

If you want to hear what Lord Drayson actually said (which starts and ends well, just dips a little with his lovely anecdote about looking like he was interested in his future wife’s research project while figuring out how he could get her to go on a date with him…) you can download the podcast here. Warning: it took an age for me to download it, but if you’re keen, he starts talking from about 10 and a half minutes in.

Job Hunting in New Zealand

It can be challenging finding jobs on another continent, but it can be done – here’s the evidence and tips on how to do it, particularly if you’re looking for research jobs.

Belinda Bray, who worked with me on the UK GRAD programme, and in the Faculty of Life Sciences on their Widening Participation programmes and the national Researchers in Residence programme, has now headed back to her home country. As she’s from New Zealand, she couldn’t just nip off for the afternoon for a quick interview, so here’s how she did it (and if you’re wondering why you’d want to go to NZ, I’ve included some visual clues).


Guest Post : Belinda Bray

“After living and working in the UK for the past four years, circumstances dictated that it was time to return to my home country of New Zealand. Good news, except that it did require yet another job hunt and this time from a distance. How did I do it?

Well, I have to say the internet is a wonderful thing! I spent many productive hours cruising and viewing any websites that I could find relating to jobs, science (Toxicology being my speciality) and research. Unlike the bigger job markets of the UK and the US there is no really easy way to search for graduate jobs.

Continue reading

Guest Post – Postgrads In The Charity Sector

My colleague, Fiona Christie, has just completed a major research project on work in the charity sector, and I’m delighted she’s agreed to write a Guest Post about postgrads and their experience of this popular area of work. Details of the full report and a link to our download site are towards the end of the post.

Guest Post from Fiona Christie

A magic combination of a postgraduate qualification and volunteering experience hits the mark for individuals wanting to get into some of the most competitive and rewarding fields within the charity sector such as international development, environmental work and human rights. A postgraduate qualification also seems to be commonly held among individuals working in sought after policy and research roles within the charity sector.

These are conclusions I have made from having just completed an in depth piece of research into career pathways for graduates in the voluntary/community sector in which I interviewed over 50 representatives from a wide range of charities. I had not sought to test out the value of postgraduate qualifications for jobs in charities and very few of the HR staff I interviewed from charities mentioned a postgraduate qualification as an essential prerequisite. However, I was struck by the number of individuals working in very popular fields who had a postgraduate qualification and thought that having this had been critical in securing the post they were in. Typically these were individuals with Masters level qualifications in the Social Sciences (I did not encounter any PhD graduates within my research). However, the mix of academic backgrounds was varied and showed individuals with postgraduate qualifications often going into quite specialist and interesting fields. I also noticed considerably high levels of motivation in their work and loyalty to the aims of their employer.

Here are some examples of individuals included in my research to give you some idea: MA in Philosophy, now working as an education officer for a Bio-ethics charity; MA in International Development working as a community fundraiser for an international development charity; MSc in Computing working as a project manager for a Centre for Voluntary Organisations; MA in Politics, working as policy officer for a health charity; MA International Development working in research for an international development charity; MSc History, Science, Medicine and Technology working in business management for a cancer charity; MA in International Politics doing a research graduate internship in international development.

Some of the HR staff I interviewed acknowledged that for certain jobs e.g., a human rights campaigner, it was typical for successful candidates to have a relevant qualification e.g., MA in Human Rights. However, this was not specified as essential. In my view though, in an increasingly competitive market place for jobs it does look like Masters students are getting ahead of their peers who just have a first degree.

I found it was definitely the case that these successful individuals also tended to have done considerable volunteering. The Masters qualification on its own was not enough. Volunteering had many uses – it allowed access to networks in the field an individual was interested in, it gave volunteers valuable experience and it also demonstrated that they understood the volunteering ethos that is critical to charities. The only individuals who had not done considerable volunteering tended to be those coming with very specific skills such as in Computing, HR or other business functions.

If you want to catch a sneak preview of my research before it is officially published it is available as a download via our website.

There are numerous websites which you can use to get more information about charities

Remember you do have to be proactive when looking for a job with a charity or NGO – many may only advertise on their own website. So it does help if you know who or what field you would like to work for. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations is planning on launching a career entry scheme for graduates seeking to go into the sector in the near future. Details are still pending but keep an eye on if you are interested.

From Postgrad To Patent Attorney – Guest Post

Mewburn Ellis are currently advertising several vacancies for patent attorneys and they’re keen to encourage postgrads from any science or engineering discipline to apply (in particular, they could do with some more good chemistry applicants this year).

However, excellent though their Graduate Recruitment web pages are, you don’t always get a feel for how this sort of career would compare with your own experience as a postgrad – which is why they volunteered one of their recent postgrad/postdoc recruits to write a guest post for our blog.

We’ve kept the post anonymous, as our guest blogger has a busy job and lots of training to do, so they can’t really act as an unofficial careers adviser or organise work experience for you. However, if you do have questions about the role, I’ll try and find some answers for you, either from our guest blogger or other sources.

Hope you like the realistic insight it gives you, and inspires some of you to consider this sort of career :

Mewburn Ellis

From Postgrad To Patent Attorney 

“About me
I joined Mewburn Ellis in 2006, after quite a long stint in academia (research Masters, PhD, and post-doc), interspersed with some time in industry. I decided it was time for a change when I realised that the more peripheral aspects of my work (lecturing, writing papers, giving presentations, acting as a referee for scientific journals) interested me much more than the main part of the job (focussing on one research topic for years at a time).

So, I looked around for a job that was a better match for all the things I’d enjoyed most, and soon came across the patent attorney profession, which seemed to fit the bill pretty closely. It’s a challenging career that offers variety, a chance to stay connected with scientific developments, and the opportunity to use communication and language skills.

So, would a career as a patent attorney suit you?
Obviously, the leap from research lab to patent attorney firm is quite a large one, so here are a few thoughts about the transition, based on my experience so far:

  • Don’t worry that you’ll feel like an aged crone in amongst a sea of fresh-faced graduates! At my firm, the intake is evenly balanced between recent graduates and people with post-grad, post-doc, or industrial experience, and that seems to reflect the profession in general. The trainees here come from a variety of backgrounds, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t fit right in.
  • Having said that, you may find life as a trainee takes some getting used to. Not only will you be back at the bottom of the food chain, but in my firm, trainees share an office with their principal (supervising partner), which means that he or she knows what you’re up to (almost) every second of the day. Gone are the days of reporting to your supervisor once a week (if that) and organising your own work in between times! Still, the system isn’t intended to be purely sadistic, but is actually a really effective way for trainees to pick up a wide variety of information beyond the cases that have actually been given to them.
  • Small things can make more of a difference than you’d expect. For example, it’s taken me a while to get used to the fact that my working day is now spent sitting in front of a computer. I never realised how much I’d miss the gentle physical exercise of doing experiments in the lab.
  • More importantly, though, you’ll need to be prepared to work on a wide range of subject matter. My background is in materials science, but I’ve worked on cases ranging from pharmaceuticals through to electronics and software. I’ve had to learn to form a quick opinion on subjects that are far removed from my specialist background, and I tend to use my A level knowledge almost as much as the knowledge gained during my degree and PhD. I’ve actually found it very satisfying to be able to produce useful work in subject areas outside my “comfort zone”, but if you’re the kind of person who has an overwhelming interest in your own particular specialism, this might not be the career for you.
  • Although you’re a highly-skilled scientist, the chances are that you know very little about the law. And that means you have a lot of learning ahead of you! When I was taking science exams at A level or undergraduate level, I always relied on the fact that I could work things out from first principles, if need be. As an attorney, however, you’ll need to have all sorts of detailed knowledge at your fingertips, and there is no substitute for sitting down and learning it! Having said that, I’ve just returned to the office after studying for the Certificate in Intellectual Property at Queen Mary University, and I’ve really enjoyed the chance to start getting to grips with a whole new subject.

After working in the patent attorney profession for almost two years, I can definitely say that I haven’t missed the lab once and I think the same goes for all the other people here who made the switch after working in research.”