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.

Careers Appointments By Skype

If you’re a University of Manchester student or recent graduate (postgrad or undergrad), did you know that we’re starting to offer careers appointments by Skype, if you can’t get into Manchester to see us in person?

We’ve offered advice by e-mail or telephone appointments for some time if you can’t get in to see one of us face-to-face. However, these have their disadvantages:

  • You often need a conversation to sort out what the real issue is, even with CV feedback, so e-mail is definitely second best.
  • Phone appointments mean you can have that conversation but it’s often difficult to hear properly, there are no visual clues to pick up on (eg. if you’re shaking your head or looking quizzical) and it’s hard to read a document over the phone!

Skype allows us to see each other, to transfer documents quickly or share screens to show you websites, and if you’re on an inclusive broadband package (or free wi-fi) it’s cheaper than phoning us from another continent.

One further advantage seems to be that if you’ve been away from the university for a while, you can feel a bit isolated as you either carry out your field research or search for a job after graduating. Having a face-to-face conversation, albeit through a screen, with someone who understands what being a postgrad means, can make you feel just that bit less alone.

We’re gradually rolling this out across more careers consultants (bit of a hiccup while the university makes us change our desktop image) so you may not find it available immediately, depending on which consultant you need to see. However, I’m all hooked up and ready to go – does it surprise you that I’ve been piloting Skype appointments for some time now 🙂 ? I’ve even started doing practice interviews by Skype when students have an interview coming up.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • You need to call the Careers Service as usual to arrange an appointment. Tell them you would like a Skype appointment and they’ll see if we have someone who could do this at a time suitable to both of you. Otherwise, we may have to offer a telephone appointment instead.
  • We’re not planning to train you on how to use Skype, so you need to be familiar with it already if you want a Skype appointment.
  • You do need to give us your Skype username (accurately!) so we can send you a contact request before the appointment.
  • We’ve had a problem with a contact request not coming through in time, so we’ll try to send you an e-mail through CareersLink, giving you the careers consultant’s Skype username, so you can send  a contact request to us as a back up.
  • You need to login to Skype a short while before the appointment, and accept our contact request.
  • You should wait for us to call you, in case we’re with another student (quite likely, if we have back-to-back appointments). However, if you’re over 10 minutes late in getting a Skype call from us, try phoning us in case there’s an unforeseen problem (though if it’s a fire alarm and we’re standing outside in the rain, there’ll be no-one to answer the phone either!).

So that’s the latest Careers Service innovation we’re bringing to you. The university has some concerns about whether the network will keel over if we’re all on Skype at the same time. However, if I can Skype my mum in Scotland from my home in a village with a slow broadband connection, I’m holding out that a university which claims to have played such a large role in the development of the computer, can cope!

What If I Want A Graduate Programme Outside London?

Not all graduate jobs are in London – not even all the “graduate schemes”. One of the comments I got on my last post (about graduate recruitment for 2013 already starting) asked about graduate programmes in South Wales.

I know a lot of you also want to avoid moving to London but don’t want to miss out on some really great graduate level jobs, so I’ll reproduce my (slightly amended) answer here:

Are there any good Graduate programmes that run with positions in South Wales? Almost everything seems to be based in London!

Depends on what sort of jobs you want! If you want some sort of “managed programme” for graduates, you probably need an organisation which is fairly large, with either a headquarters or major office/presence in South Wales, or multiple branches across the country where they place graduates. [This holds true for any part of the UK. If you’re lucky, you can find regional publications with this information – like the North West Top 200 Companies I blogged about last year.]

High Fliers research (pdf of their “Graduate Market in 2012” report) found that for the Times Top 100 companies that they surveyed, 41% expected to have jobs in Wales for 2012 – so it’s definitely not a lost cause. Unfortunately, they didn’t say which 41% had jobs in South Wales, but it doesn’t take much to guess that it would include the major accountancy firms, the BBC and the big retailers on their list for starters. [Page 14 of this report has data for other parts of the UK, in addition to Wales. For example, 52% expected to have vacancies in the North West.]

If you can get hold of a paper copy of the TARGET jobs GET directory, it has a handy table at the back with the location of the companies who advertise graduate jobs with them (though that list isn’t online).

If you take the approach that large companies headquartered in South Wales are more likely to have graduate schemes, have a look at all the large organisations in South Wales. Wouldn’t normally recommend Wikipedia (although, let’s be honest – we all use it!) but it does have a page of Companies of Wales by head office location – you could check each one of these out. [There’s an equivalent Companies of the United Kingdom by head office location page – although I was amused to see Cornwall listed separately from England. Must be some Cornish nationalist Wikipedia editors.]

If you still have access to a university library, you could use one of their databases to search for companies in specific locations above a certain size (number of employees or financial measures). The University of Manchester Library has the FAME database (instructions here) which also gets to those multinationals which aren’t headquartered in Wales [or any other part of the UK] but have a significant presence there.

And of course, you have to remember that most graduates don’t go into a “graduate programme” – they go into graduate level work with smaller organisations. This certainly doesn’t have to be second best. Many of the most exciting jobs will be in small fast-moving companies, in the creative sector, in technology, in consulting etc. They can also be advertised at any time of year and are more likely to be looking for talent 2 or 3 months before they want you to start. You do need to be prepared to take responsibility early in these companies, but you avoid just being the latest “new grad” going through the system.

One final caveat – many of these “graduate programmes” for the large high profile employers are advertised once a year, in the early autumn (or even summer), a year before you would start. In another comment on my last post, Tommy asked if he was being over-enthusiastic thinking of applying now for some of these programmes, before he’d even started his Masters in September. My view? He’s the smart one, giving himself the best chance of getting into these highly competitive programmes which will often be full well before the official closing dates.

Pathways – The Panels Revealed

Only a couple of days to go, and the panels and panellists have now been pinned down, barring last minute cancellations and additions (always a feature of Pathways – we just take it in our stride …).

This year, in addition to the titles of the panels and panellist profiles, our Event Manager, Anna, has put together a summary of what to expect on the panels. Personally, I think this is the best way to choose which panels to attend – more so than trying to find panellists who happen to match exactly your career aspirations or your discipline.

There are 24 panels running in total; you’ll be able to attend four panels if you come for the whole day. In response to feedback last year, we’ve reduced the number of panels by avoiding running the same panels more than once. However, we’re still expecting over 60 panellists to attend, so this does mean that you’ll have to prioritise the panels you want to see. All sessions are relevant to delegates from all disciplines, unless otherwise stated below.

So here they are, in all their diversity.

Academic roles for…..
Our panels comprise those who’ve pursued their careers within an academic context including those who have research roles and teaching positions, at all stages of progression. (Separate sessions for Humanities, EPS & FLS/MHS.)

Achieving work/life balance
For many people, their job is only a part of their life plan.  Family, personal interests and other commitments are just as important.  Our panel will talk about how they have managed to achieve a work/life balance, the compromises they may have made to make this happen, the difficulties and rewards of keeping this balance.

Communicating Science
A PhD can take you into a broad range of science communication roles –  from being a facilitator of public engagement and outreach opportunities to those involved in shaping policy.  Our panel can outline just some of these options.

Developing your skills and experience through volunteering
Our panellists have all undertaken voluntary work and will explain how you can make the most of such opportunities to improve your employability.

Industry versus Academia
Our panels will compare and contrast their experiences of working inside and outside Universities – Which have they enjoyed more? What are the benefits that each can offer? How have they moved between the two areas?

I’ve done things that aren’t related to my PhD – so can you!
Whether they planned to or simply have found themselves taking a ‘scenic’ career path, our panellists will talk about the positions they have held which are not related to their specific discipline of study.  A session for anyone who wants to change direction or simply wishes to find out what’s possible with a PhD. 

Marketing yourself and your PhD
How do you articulate the benefits of having studied for your PhD and convince employers that you have the skills they are looking for?  Our panel will draw on their own experiences and of providing skills training to PhD students to discuss how you can ensure you give yourself the edge over other applicants.

Non-academic roles in universities
Enjoy being part of a University environment but not sure you want to pursue an academic, research or teaching career?  Have you ever thought about the wide range of non-academic jobs within universities?  Come along and find out more.

Options for ……/More options for…..
We’ve brought together panellists who are connected by discipline area (separate sessions for Humanities, EPS & FLS/MHS) but who’ve followed a range of different career pathways to give you just a flavour of the options available to you.

Research roles outside universities
What are the opportunities to continue a research career outside Universities?  How do these roles differ? Where do you find them and how do you get them? Relevant for Engineering, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Medical & Human Sciences.

Self-employment, starting a business and enterprise opportunities
If you like the sound of being your own boss or have a great idea that could earn you a living, this session is for you.  Our panellists are a mixture of those who work freelance, have portfolio careers, have set up their own businesses or support others in developing their enterprising ambitions.

Teaching positions in HE, FE and Schools
Whether you want to stay in a University or would consider working in a school or further education college, our panel can share their experiences of following a teaching based career.

What do you do if your career isn’t going the way you want?
Our panellists have faced challenges or obstacles to pursuing their career ambitions.  They will discuss how they managed these situations, the decisions they made, what they learnt from the experiences and pass on their tips on how to stay positive when things aren’t going to plan.

Working Overseas
Panellists will talk about their experiences of pursuing careers in different countries, working cultures/environments and the advantages and disadvantages in comparison with working in the UK.

Working as a Postdoc
Our panel will talk about their experiences of working in Postdoctoral roles – the highs and the lows. Relevant for Engineering, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Medical & Human Sciences.

More info:
We’ve also now uploaded the final (until it changes on the day 🙂 ) Timetable of sessions (.docx file) and Panellist Profiles 2012 (.pdf file), for all those of you who like to get their day sorted beforehand.

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.


Winning Funding For Research

If you aspire to becoming an academic, this is a topic you’ll really need to get to grips with in detail. I won’t pretend I’m any sort of expert in winning research funding – but I do know people who are.

Dr. Paul Spencer, former post-doc researcher, now researcher developer at UWE, has just written a blog post about “How to win funds and influence people“. Recommended for good advice and a very snazzy embedded Prezi from his recent workshop.

Want To Be A Business School Academic?

If you’re a management or business PhD, looking for an academic job in a Business School, you might be interested in Akadeus, an agency which focuses on advertising jobs in Business Schools across the world.

There are only a limited number of jobs on there, but they do include jobs in Europe, North and South America, the Middle and Far East. You can sign up for regular e-mail alerts, as well as registering online so you’re searchable by potential recruiters. Don’t know how successful people have been with this approach (see the recent post on uploading your CV online) but given the international nature of academic recruitment, at least it’s somewhere which focuses on one discipline, but not one location.

There are more general academic recruitment websites on An Academic Career, under “How to find job ads“, but I haven’t included discipline specific sources there. If you know of other sources of academic jobs which are specific to your discipline, let me know and I’ll start to build up a list to include in future.

Many thanks to Prof Julie Froud for sharing the Akadeus resource with me, when I talked to her PhDs yesterday in Manchester Business School.

Queen In Three …

Here’s a Jubilee networking challenge for you, inspired by my other half announcing this weekend that he was three connections away from all the world’s leaders.

I was sceptical until he pointed out that through his voluntary work, he knew the Lord-Lieutenants for two counties. They represent the Queen in their county … and she’s got everyone on speed-dial.

It brought it home to me that it’s really not that hard to find some sort of connection with whoever you want, and that links with the high and mighty may come through social contacts as much as through senior work contacts. Of course, whether those long-range connections could actually put you in contact with the people you’d like to meet is another matter. (I suspect HRM may not be passing on Mandela’s mobile number to me any time soon.)

Even so, it suddenly felt quite impressive to realise that the Queen was one of my third level contacts

  • Me → 1st level: other half → 2nd: Lord-Lieutenant → 3rd: Queen

This also means that if you know me, you’re at least within four contacts, maybe fewer if you have any closer connections.

So, to make this international, how many contacts would it take to get to your chosen Head of State?

Rules are that your contact has to know you by name and would be able to pick you out of a police line-up! Can anyone else beat “Queen in three”?

Graduate (& Postgraduate) Entry To Medicine

If you’re considering going on to study medicine as a next step, whether you’re an undergraduate, graduate or postgraduate, we’ve just released a new online Slidecast (that’s slides with audio podcast) to help you:

  • think through the options
  • understand the funding required and available
  • understand how to apply

Some of the commentary refers to undergraduates and doing medicine as 2nd degree, but the information is also aimed just as much at Masters and PhDs (and even post-docs). There isn’t any difference in terms of your options, funding or application process, other than there is one other possible source of funding for PhDs and post-docs – the Foulkes Foundation. It may seem like a long shot, but I do know of one University of Manchester post-doc who really wanted to progress into clinical research, who gained funding from this source to add a medical degree to her tally of qualifications.

So, over to our medical careers expert, Alex Langhorn, the latest recruit to our growing band of slidecasting careers consultants: