#MyUniStory – Making the most of opportunities as an international student

StudyChatIn today’s study chat, Amara shares her discussion with Cynthia Ochoga, the President Elect of the Student Union at the University of Salford. Cynthia shares from her perspective as an international student and offers advice on managing the opportunities and challenges within Higher Education to maximise your experience. Enjoy!

APH: Can you tell us about your educational and professional background? 

CO: My educational pursuit began at Home Science Nursery and Primary School, Ikoyi Lagos. In 1998, I moved on to Queens’ College Lagos for my secondary school education.

In 2006, I attended the University of Lagos where I undertook a diploma in Cell Biology and Genetics. By second year it became apparent to me that science was not a field I wanted to pursue and then left Nigeria to Middlesex University (MDX) Mauritius campus in 2010 and studied Psychology and Counselling. In 2014, I went to Oxford Brookes University and did a conversion to Law degree (GDL) as my 2nd degree and in September 2015, I came to University of Salford for my MSc in Media Psychology and I’m half way through it at the moment.

I have worked in a number of different roles too. My first job was a three-month internship at Action Health Incorporated. In 2010, prior to moving to Mauritius, I followed my passion in journalism and worked as an intern at a radio station in Nigeria.

While studying at MDX, I was elected president of the International Students’ Society for Mauritius campus. I also joined AIESEC, an international youth development organization and rose to become Vice President of External Relations which I did simultaneously with my role as President. In the final year of my undergraduate degree, I worked for a month with the Mauritius Institute of Directors as part of a team that delivered an international conference.

After graduation, I went to Nigeria to participate in the NYSC programme. Since then, I have worked with BBC Media City as a research assistant for Mozfest 2015. I have also worked in a customer services role for Doddles Parcels in Manchester. I recently resigned to take some time out to prepare to take on my new role as the President of the Student Union at the University of Salford.

You started out your Higher Education journey in the Biological sciences, what spurred the switch to Psychology? Was it a smooth transition?

#CareerFocus – Production Scientist

2. My Career StoryIn May, we are sharing career stories from within our network of aspiring professionals! Our goal is to celebrate the variety of careers within our network as well as educate recent (and not so recent) graduates on keeping an open mind when it comes to career options! In this article, Emmanuel interviewed Eleanor Williams, a Production Scientist (Scientist II) on her career journey as a scientist in the Biotechnology sector.

Can you tell us about your educational background and career journey to date?

I did my degree in Forensic Biology then I continued further into a master’s degree in Molecular Biotechnology then stayed on and worked as a research assistant at the University of the West of England, before moving into a role in industry. I now work as a production scientist, in the manufacturing side of things making reference standards for cancer research.

How did you get into this field?

I never really loved science that much even though I did well at it throughout school, and it wasn’t until I did my A level biology that I developed more of an interest in the sciences.

You are currently a Scientist II. What does this mean?

When I applied to join my current company, I started out as a Scientist I and was promoted to Scientist II. What this entails is that I do some similar work to what I did as Scientist I but with more responsibilities; delegating work to junior members of the team and liaising with external organisations more. Hopefully after this, I will be able to progress further as a Senior Scientist.

#PhDchat – So you want to do a PhD?

PhD-DegreeAs academics, we routinely come across students – undergraduate and postgraduate – enquiring into how they can get into a PhD programme. Our advice is always the same, do your research! In today’s #studentchat, Mohammed shares some advice for undergraduate students contemplating undertaking a PhD.

Research is fun! Contrary to popular belief, it is much more than hours on end based in a laboratory carrying out monotonous work. It is a much more wholesome and rewarding experience but it is not without its challenges.

I have been fortunate to be involved in research prior to undertaking my undergraduate degree. Now you may wonder, why burden oneself with extra work, isn’t working towards a first or a 2:1 enough? A decade ago, the answer to that question would have been yes. However today it is almost impossible to get into a PhD programme without some form of research experience under your belt. With this in mind, I encourage other undergraduate students to look out for opportunities to carry out some type of research from the beginning of their studies. You may be thinking, “I don’t want to do a PhD, let me get out and make some real money!” There is absolutely nothing wrong with that and no one should do a PhD if they do not really want to do it.  However, for those interested, remember that research in itself can equip you with a range of transferable skills that are highly sought after by different employers.

#UniAdvice – Developing Self Awareness for professional success.

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Image – Geralt

‘What are your two greatest strengths? How do you think your greatest weakness will impact on your performance in this role?

I  was at a job interview. On the outside, I worked to project the confident, cool and collected interviewee. On the inside, I was on my knees begging ‘Please have mercy on this graduate in the wilderness of graduate employment for those of us without experience!’ I answered the technical questions with flair (at least I thought so). I talked about my dissertation, latest news in the sector…I could already see my staff ID card in the horizon. Then the question above was posed and I just went blank.

Thing is, up to that point, I had thought that interviews were only to test if an individual had the subject knowledge to do the job. ‘We are looking for an accountant, you are an accountant, you’re hired!’ However, prospective employers are also searching for an individual who is a good fit for their organisation. S/he has the knowledge and experience but…Is s/he a team player? Can s/he persevere through rejection? Is s/he inspirational? How does s/he manage conflict? Is s/he empathetic?

#UniAdvice – How I got my first graduate role!

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Image – Geralt

You’ve worked so hard to graduate with a good degree. You can recite your CV and personal statement verbatim. Yet, getting into your first graduate position seems like getting a camel through the eye of a needle! Worse still, you seem to be caught in the ‘Catch 22’ of ‘No work without experience and no experience without work’. In today’s article, Zohra shares her journey to landing her first graduate position with one of the world’s top pharmaceutical firms.

APH: Congratulations on getting first graduate role, please can you share your educational background?

ZA: Thank you. I recently achieved a first class BSc (Hons) degree in Pharmacology from Kingston University. Prior to this, I studied Biology, Chemistry and Maths at college.

You shared with the Aspiring Professionals Hub about how a lack of experience seemed to be a giant hurdle towards getting employed. How were you able to break through this barrier?

Does Intercontinental Relocation Mean Restarting Your Legal Career or Training?

Legal Careers Moving across countries or continents occasionally pose career defining questions and challenges such as the equivalence or transferability of qualifications or certifications. In today’s post, Lola Adekanye shares her experience of a transatlantic legal career and offers practical suggestions on nurturing a legal career across continents.

So, for some good reason you have to be uprooted from one jurisdiction to another in the course of your legal career journey, tossing your plans to go to law school and chart a path on the bench or at the bar up in the air. This is the picture of my career journey thus far; I started my career in England, then I relocated to Nigeria and subsequently to the U.S. While, some lawyers change their career paths completely from law to a different field or discipline. This choice has its own challenges as one would still need to qualify and be employable in the new location and when properly weighed, this was not a very attractive option for me.

In the course of obtaining two law degrees in England,  professional law certificates both in Nigeria and  New York and another law degree in the United States, I have come to the conclusion that a transatlantic legal career can be rich and fulfilling with proper planning.

The two major deterrents to transitioning lawyers or law students are qualifying in the new jurisdiction and employability given the lack of familiarity with the legal systems and structures in the new jurisdiction.

Qualifying  – Legal studies and the process of qualifying to practice law in most jurisdictions is notorious for being grueling and very demanding and the entry requirements vary distinctly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so it is important to adequately prepare by conducting appropriate and extensive research.

In addition to research, obtaining first hand information about the jurisdiction is fundamental. Having the right information early on will put you on the right path and save time. The qualifying requirements to sit a Bar entry exam varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and are usually very specific. For instance some jurisdictions require that a law degree must include specific courses. Thus, current law students are in a good position to prepare to meet those requirements while they are in law school while practicing attorneys can manage their schedules to start making plans to meet the requirements. Practicing attorneys may also find that in some jurisdictions, experience counts as an alternative entry or admission requirement to exam.

A clear road map for qualifying puts things in perspective for lawyers who consider changing career paths due to the challenges of transitioning into a law career in a new jurisdiction. It turns out that changing to a new career path would require a considerable amount of studying which may take equal amount of time or perhaps more time than it would take a transitioning lawyer to sit the qualifying Bar exams.

Employability – My legal counsel during my undergraduate studies enlightened me to the comforting fact that a law degree equips you to function in a variety of capacities order than litigation. This would require that you  obtain at least basic substantive knowledge in another field or additional soft skills in addition to core legal skills such as drafting and research. This is even more true as clients directly or indirectly demand an integrated service of their attorneys and law firms.

 The ability to apply business skills or orientation, operational knowledge, language skills and science knowledge to legal representation is an advantage to landing a job or finding a role within other non-conventional legal positions.

On that note, if you are a current student or aspiring lawyer, it might also be worth considering a combined degree as it can be of great benefit. For anyone studying outside the U.S, taking a minor in another course of interest during their undergraduate year while you major in law would be the way to achieve this. While for students studying in the U.S, going for first degree in any course in order to qualify for admission to law school to earn a Juris Doctor which is a law degree equivalent to a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) in other jurisdictions is advisable.

Finally, keep an open mind to a host of alternative practice areas to litigation.

Lola Adekanye obtained her Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Securities and Financial Regulation from Georgetown University. She operates as a Legal Counsel as well as a Business Risk and Compliance Consultant. Lola enjoys writing as well as sharing her experience in developing a legal career as well as business strategy and international education.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please share and subscribe to our network! If you have an article you would like to share with our readers, please get in touch – info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com

#PhDChat – 5 Common CV mistakes and how to overcome them!

4. CV Mistakes

Have you applied for positions you believe you have ALL the requirements and skills for but never seem to get past the first hurdle – an invitation to interview? In this article, Dr Jeff McGarvey, identifies common mistakes made on CVs by applicants for job opportunities in his laboratory. Although this article is directed at science graduates, many of the points Jeff addresses are relevant to non-scientific disciplines.

I recently advertised an opening for a microbiologist position in my laboratory with very specific requirements including: minimum education of a BSc. (MSc. preferred), experience working with pathogenic bacteria (Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria etc.), and molecular biology experience (DNA extraction, cloning, PCR, DNA sequencing, etc.). After 3 weeks, I received about 35 CVs from candidates wanting the job. While the majority of CVs were well written, there were a few that did not serve the candidates well. Here are a few of the most common problems I encountered.

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