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!

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.

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.

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:

Uploading Your CV Online – Is It Worth It?

I’ve normally been a bit dubious about the merits of uploading your CV to general jobs sites and expecting employers to do all the hard work of looking for you, particularly in a tough job market. I still think it’s a real long shot if you don’t already have experience or specialist skills which might be in demand. However, it may not be employers who are rummaging through those CVs – it’s probably more likely to be a recruitment agency, looking for the right candidates for jobs they’ve been asked to fill.

I recently met two consultants, Phillipa Kenyon (who covers Cambridge) and Sadia Razzaq (for the West Midlands) from specialist science recruitment agency, SRG, who gave me some interesting insights into how they sourced candidates.

Getting their attention
When they have a job to fill, obviously they trawl their own databases and contacts, but I was interested to learn that they did also use online databases, the ones where you can upload your CV. It does make sense when an agency is trying to source candidates with “hard to find” skills and experience – some good starting points are all those candidates who have at least gone to the trouble of writing a CV and putting it out there.

Where did they look?
Surprisingly (to me), they raved about CV Library, a site which, I’ll admit, I’d previously dismissed (I do like it when my preconceptions are challenged – that’s when you start to learn). They liked the range of candidates with specialist scientific skills on the site, but they also got crucial information, such as expected salary, how far candidates would travel and whether they were willing to relocate. None of these would normally appear on a CV, so the site collects this information when you register – now you can see why it’s so important to get this right when you’re looking for work.

The SRG consultants also looked on LinkedIn and at the Totaljobs database, but were less enthusiastic about other sites such as Monster and Jobsite. Obviously this is only one agency and other organisations will have different preferred sources. Talking to Matthew Rollinson from Search (scientific), he would use both Monster and Jobsite as well as Totaljobs – but his first call would be the candidates he already knows and works with. It just shows that it can pay to cover several bases.

Keep it current
Their strong advice was also to review your CV regularly and keep it updated with any changes. It’s particularly annoying for agencies (and potentially employers) if they contact you with a job in your salary range, only to find out that you’ve now got more experience and are only prepared to move for a much higher salary (plus you’ve also missed out on jobs outside your original preferred range).

What format should you use?
Again I was surprised when the SRG consultants said they preferred plain old Word format, rather than .pdf (which is what I would have suggested). However, they were happy to receive either, but the biggest no-no was telling them to pick up your CV from your Skydrive or other cloud storage account.

Security online
Make sure that any site where you upload potentially valuable personal information is going to take good care of it. If you have any doubts about the security or legitimacy of an online CV database, I’d just try some other sources.

Sometimes websites are just technologically naive. Some years ago, I came across a fairly amateurish environmental jobs site which would let me register as an employer, for no fee and with no checks, and search the CVs which had been uploaded – it’s a good check to do yourself if you have any doubts.

In other cases, professional looking sites may be created purely for the aim of harvesting personal information for identity fraud. These sites may look legitimate, but probably don’t have many web pages or much detail behind the “send us your CV/personal information”

Genuine professional office or someone’s back bedroom?
Dodgy sites may also be cagey about their physical location. At the Careers Service, we do some standard checks on vacancies we’ve been sent before advertising them, and we have been known to use Google Street View where addresses look rather dubious! However, we can’t guarantee that dodgy sites won’t slip through, so if you feel uncomfortable filling in your details online, trust your instincts and keep safe.

Want To Study In The USA?

If you’re thinking of further postgraduate study in the USA, the US-UK Fulbright Commission provides information and a number of scholarships to help you make it happen.

You need to plan well in advance if you want to study in the USA, so if you haven’t already started the process, you’re probably looking at starting a programme in 2013-4 rather than later this year.

  • US Grad School Day – this annual information day in London gives you an insight into US university postgraduate admissions process. This year it’s on 6th March (6-9pm), and registration is now open. If you can’t attend (it’s a bit outside the GMPTE bus routes…) you can register with them and looks like they’re investigating running a webinar, so you might still be able to get the information on offer at the Grad School Day.
  • UK Fulbright Awards – if you’re a UK citizen, Fulbright offer around 30 postgraduate scholarships a year. There have been changes to the process and timeline this year, so even if you’ve investigated these before, don’t rely on out of date information. Applications open on 1st August and close on 15th November, for 2013-14 entry.
  • Fulbright Awards for other countries – the Fulbright awards are administered on a country by country basis. You must apply through your home country process (assuming it exists, though the list does seem very extensive) and the awards and schemes vary widely between countries. The Fulbright international website gives links to each country programme for further details.