Career Planning & Employability

Want to work in the Civil Service?

The Civil Service has a mystique about it, and in some ways rightly so. The service recruits thousands of people every year and gets far more applicants than it has positions available. The work is interesting and varied, they have a dedicated graduate scheme (called the Fast Stream) and the progression opportunities are excellent. Because of all of this, it’s extremely competitive and can be difficult to land a role. They also have quite a complicated recruitment process. Today, I’m going to go through that and give you some tips on how you can maximise your chances.

The thing to research, first of all, is the Fast Stream; their graduate programme is comprehensive in that it exposes you to various different parts of the service, helping you find your place. As a graduate, you’ll need a 2:1 in any degree scheme – that’s your starting point. You can find all sorts of information on the roles and requirements here: read more

Career Planning & Employability

The Personal Profile

A Personal Profile section on a CV is a personal choice whether to include on a CV or not however it is good to keep in mind that a Personal Profile can be powerful. I am sure you have now heard that an employer will be spending very little time looking at each CV that comes in for the jobs they advertise. If we think about where an employer’s eyes are drawn on a CV, it is at the top, under the Personal Details section, where you usually place a Personal Profile.

The Personal Profile is the place to briefly outline who you are and what you can offer and be the first chance to start to evidence that you are a match for the job you are applying for. If an employer can start to feel from here that you are a match to the role, they are more likely to continue looking over the rest of your CV. read more

Career Planning & Employability

Job Hunting Tips: Focus Up!

When thinking about searching for a job, it can be easy to get into the mindset of “I’ll apply for everything I can remotely consider myself doing.” You want a job, and you want to maximise your chances of getting one, fast, so it seems obvious that if you apply for as many as you can, you’re more likely to get a job, right?

Not exactly. We call this approach a scattergun one – you’re shooting loads of bullets hoping one hits. Sometimes this will work, but more often than not, the many applications you send out will be very similar, they won’t be researched, and they won’t stand out from all the other applications that are being sent in for that job. We often get people coming to see us who say “I’ve applied or 50 jobs and had nothing back.” When we ask about those applications, they’ve been sending the same CV to those 50 different jobs, with no cover letter. This is often a waste of time; it is far better to spend time on 10 applications than send 50 of the same application to different companies. That way, you can focus on the quality of your application – you’ll get a better response rate and more interviews, I promise. It would be even better if you focus your job search with some actually really easy tools. read more

Career Planning & Employability

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be – graduating in the 1980s…and lessons for today

As we live our lives in self-isolating, socially distanced bubbles, I started thinking about the parallels between my experience graduating in the early 80s (1982 if you really must know) and the likely experience facing the class of 2020.  

There’s no getting away from it, the times we are living through are like nothing experienced in living memory for the most of us but, pandemic aside, there are some interesting corollaries with my time graduating during an economic downturn. Brace yourself, it won’t be pretty but better days do lie ahead. 

So, what was happening back then in the early 1980s? Well, let me see, there was the Falklands War, we had the worst recession since the 1930s with 3 million people unemployed – and that was probably an underestimate and the mortgage rate reached an eye-watering 17%. There was the miner’s strike, riots, Maggie was waging war on the unions and jobs were difficult to find and I mean really difficult to find. There was one ray of hope at least – breakfast telly began broadcasting for the first time.  read more

Career Planning & Employability

Applications: Cover Letters

Cover letters can be quite tricky. It can be very difficult to know what to put in a cover letter. Do you address every point in the job description? Do you repeat what you put in your CV? How long should it be?

There’s no one size fits all, and the answers to these questions do vary, but there are some principles you can use to help guide you.

Generally speaking, a cover letter does three things. It tells an employer:

  • Who you are and what you want – this can be as simple as “I am a graduate from Salford University, having studied Mechanical Engineering I am seeking a role in an Engineering firm that allows me to develop m skills further while making a significant impact on the company.
  • What specific skills or knowledge you have that’s relevant – here you would expand on things you have put in your CV – During my degree, I was fortunate enough to undertake a placement at Sodia Engineering, where I developed a strong attention to detail, time management etc.
  • Why you want it from that company – this is where you show you have done some research, more than just looking at a company’s website. Look at their Social Media, look at how they’ve been in the news if at all, and how that motivates you to want to work for them. What separates them from other employers in the sector?

An example to give you an idea would be something like this:

You can see here that each paragraph sticks to that formula – they make a point, then move on to the next section. This is the best strategy, keep it short and to the point (no more than one page) and include the three key sections above. It also does need to be set out like a letter; even if you are sending it as an email attachment, they will still expect it to be set out like this. read more

Career Planning & Employability

Job Hunting Tips: Networking

Networking is one of those words that is scary, mainly because we don’t know what it means. Most people imagine it means going up to strangers, selling yourself ad asking for a job, which is understandably intimidating. While that might be one way to do it, that’s not really what we mean when we say networking.

Everyone has a network, and it includes everyone you work with, sure, but also everyone on your course, friends, family; literally, everyone you know is part of your network. Networking really means making those connections, making sure that everyone in your network knows what you do, what you are good at, and what you are looking for when it comes to a job.

A good example might be someone who is part of a student society. They’re going to meet lots of people through that society, whether it’s student radio, the Pokémon society, it doesn’t matter. Who knows what these people will then go on to do? read more

Career Planning & Employability

LinkedIn: A Quick Guide

The world is on hold but your career doesn’t have to be

You’ve probably heard of Linkedin. You may even have a profile but have you really exploited the features to explore your chosen career path? Chances are you haven’t.

Linkedin is often described as ‘Facebook for professionals’ and in many ways this is correct. It is after all a social networking site but one with a certain netiquette in relation to how you use it. Let’s get straight to the point, as a recent, or soon to be graduate you need a Linkedin profile, but you also need to be actively using and exploiting the features it provides. Here are some features of the site that you should be using:

  • Ensuring your profile is rich in keywords:  Keywords = ‘Findability’

What are they? Well, they are the words that crop up frequently in job ads in the field(s) you are targeting. Do your research, look at some job adverts and/or check out the Prospects Job Profiles. These will give you a feel for the common terminology that is regularly used. Your next steps is to ensure these are coming through loud and clear in your headline, summary and skills section. Look on this as webpage optimisation – the more keywords you include, the better your chances will be of coming higher in the search results. read more

Career Planning & Employability

Job Hunting Tips – Specialised Job Boards

General job boards can be really useful if you use them right as we’ve seen (look at our previous post here for some tips). But sometimes, they’re just not enough. Some employers will not use them and only post on websites specific to their industry, especially if they’re niche or specialised employers.

Finding these specific websites can be tricky – a google search can help, but even this won’t necessarily find you the best resources. Thankfully, there is a ready-made repository of these websites which is organised by job.

We’ve shared it before on our social media, but the website Prospects is incredibly useful for this. Below you can see one of the job profiles. These give you loads of information on individual jobs; what to expect from the work, working conditions, salary (which is always good to know) and other useful things. read more

Career Planning & Employability Job Hunting

Job Hunting Tips: Job Boards

Job boards are both the best and the worst when it comes to job hunting. They provide the widest range of potential jobs for job-hunters, literally thousands of job adverts are on these sites, with hundreds added every day.

The problem with this, obviously, is how do you find the jobs your looking for in that ocean of stuff? Most of it isn’t going to be relevant to you, and because of this, using job boards can feel exhausting and pointless.

Fear not! Using a few tips from search engines, you can make online job boards work for you. Take Indeed:

Here we’ve done a pretty standard search for a building surveyor; you can see it has brought up 137 jobs – that’s quite a lot to sift through, and many aren’t going to be relevant. That’s because the search engine looks for everything with either of those two words in the entry. read more

Career Planning & Employability Interviews

Answer difficult interview questions: The STAR Technique

Are you a good communicator? The answer, of course, is yes; you’ll never be asked this in an interviewer and say no to this question. Which is why an employer will never ask you something like this. They’ll ask, instead, “Can you give me an example of a time when you have shown good communication skills?”

This is much harder. So how do you answer something like this? We use something called the STAR technique:





Describe when you used the skill, the situation. Then, what were you trying to achieve using that skill? Next, the action – what did you do, and how did you do it? Finally, the result: what happened as a result of what you did?

This formula can really help to answer these questions, building an answer that demonstrates that you have the skill and experience they are looking for. As an example: read more