#UniAdvice – How I got my first graduate role!

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?

New Year’s Resolutions 2016: Time to get on the scales or simply just eat it?

It is yet only a few days into the New Year and as usual the “lists” are probably getting longer or even shorter with each passing day or perhaps floating around in your wallet, ironed out by your fridge magnet or like myself, on my little “whiteboard”. I’m sure you know what I’m on about, the fated ANNUAL New Year’s Resolutions conlist!!

New year
New Year’s Resolution – A fantasy or fallacy.               Source: happydiwali2015cards.com

So what exactly have you decided to do? Are your plans or lists achievable or are they the usual 2-3 week strong effort and 11 months and 1 week grumble and regret for even bothering to think you’d do what you wrote?

I’ll tell you mine, well the first and main one!

Projections NOT resolutions – My (Emmanuel) 2015 went as fast as a bullet and my 2015 resolutions list became a distant memory long before spring. So after lamenting on my failures of 2015  my little eureka was to cheat a little ahem! simply change the wording (very easy right?). So, no resolution this year but achievable, meaningful, valuable yet exciting projections that I can quantify or evaluate at the end of the year. This, as a starting point, I was forced to set realistic targets! At least with  target i can have a focus and it trumps an unrealistic resolution which is akin to you dreaming of marrying the queen and becoming King of England…it’ll never happen and you know it 🙂

What else?

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.

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#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.

No Work Without Experience, no Experience Without Work! – The Catch 22 for New Graduates.

354ed3f Dear Aspiring Professionals Hub,

I have just read your article about life science graduates on LinkedIn and would like some advice. I have just graduated with a first class degree and I am struggling to find work as I do not have enough experience! I was wondering what you would recommend as every job I get declined from is because I lack the experience – which no one has yet offered to give me!

I can relate with the frustration in the email above. Getting into your first graduate job may feel like an uphill task especially in today’s employer’s market. Research published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills in 2014 showed that 66% of the 18,000 recruiting employers surveyed rated relevant work experience as being a critical or significant factor looked for in candidates. Experience was deemed to be slightly more important than qualifications. Interestingly and disappointingly, only about 40% offered some form of work placement while only 20% engaged with schools, colleges and Universities to provide work-related opportunities! Candidates with relevant work experience on their CVs will be more attractive than those without, it is a truth we must accept and live with.

If you are still at University – especially a final year student – ensure getting relevant work experience is a top priority. We usually advise undergraduates to undertake sandwich programmes  – where a year of work placement is ‘sandwiched’ in between your studies – where appropriate. Beyond getting the much needed experience under your belt, it can serve to demystify what the world of work is like. If you cannot afford a sandwich year, consider doing some work during the summer break. Most Universities offer some type of work placement module for 2nd or final year students, so be proactive!  However, if you’ have just attended your graduation ceremony and haven’t done this, what should you do?

Evaluate – You will need to draw on your reflective thinking skills. You may not have relevant work experience but what do you have? We tend to underestimate the knowledge we have gained and attributes/skills we have developed during our time at University. Employers know you do not have tons of experience as a recent graduate applying for an entry level position but you must be able to translate what you have learnt during your degree into something that adds value to their organisation. Graduates who are able to articulate knowledge and skills gained from their Higher Education experience will always be ahead of the game. What have you been doing over the last three or four years at University? Have you included the research project you carried out in your final year on your CV? Emmanuel recalls this point as an important aspect of a job interview for a role in clinical research at a point where he had limited relevant work experience. His ability to discuss his project with clarity and enthusiasm impressed interviewers, so if you have not given your project much thought, perhaps this is the time to do so!.

Did you start a society or club? Were you the class representative on your course? Did you work in the student union? Working as a sales assistant in a supermarket can enable you develop customer service, numeracy and time management skills. This article on identifying your skills may be able to help you in developing your skills profile as well as highlighting potential gaps. Talk to your Career adviser, they can help you polish that CV! Compare your CV with the person specifications for the jobs you are applying for.  Do they focus on experience or skills, or both?

Yep, they want experience, so what next? dreamstime_10416210_experience Volunteer/Intern – Yes, I know you have student loans, bills, etc. but do see this period of unpaid work as an investment in your future. We do have to adapt to the world as it and not as we would like it to be, unfortunately the truth is that no one is truly guaranteed a job – first class or not. Use volunteering or an internship as an opportunity to show your passion, develop your skills and network! With a first class undergraduate degree and a PhD, I (Amara) still had to do some voluntary work in a research lab after graduation when I couldn’t find a job. This gave me the opportunity to learn new lab techniques and get some lab management and administrative experience under my belt. Eventually, I was able to get into a postdoc where I had to utilise the knowledge I had gained during volunteering. I know graduation may have seemed like the end of the ‘struggle’ but hang in there. A friend who also graduated with a first class degree in Biomedical Science worked in retail to make ends meet while volunteering in a lab. She was eventually offered a trainee Biomedical scientist role in the same organisation. Believe me, it is easier getting a job when you already have one than when you don’t. Beyond, the experience you gain, volunteering shows prospective employers that you have initiative – a valuable personal attribute.

Who do you know? Who knows you? Networking will play an important role in your job search. Someone who knows your abilities is more likely to take a chance on you. Are you shy and introverted? No excuses, start by taking these baby steps. Cultivate a professional relationship with at least 2 expert recruiters for your discipline. They will share invaluable information and guess who will be contacted when opportunities arise? Do you have a LinkedIn account? Create a professional profile and start expanding your professional network. Will a prospective employer know you are actively searching for a job opportunity if they happen to come across your profile? This is no time to be shy! Start making connections with potential employers, join groups where jobs are advertised on LinkedIn. What about your lecturers? If you have developed a good relationship with them, they may be able to share some of their contacts with you. Are you a member of your discipline’s professional body? Most professional bodies will have a ‘Careers’ section on their website with useful information and tips but most importantly will host a number of events where you can network with other people in your discipline.

Work hard and persevere – Focus on what you want to achieve and keep working at it until you reach your goal. Sometimes it may feel like you are going round in circles and not progressing but keep at it anyway. Refuse to give up and use rejection as a tool for growth. Reflect on every failure and if you can do something better, please implement! Resist the urge to send the same copy of your CV to hundreds of prospective employers, always tailor it to the application at hand. Remember that the first job does not need to be the best one. It may not be perfect but are there opportunities for growth?

Good luck!

HeadshotAbout our writer – After completing a PhD in Microbiology and Food Science,  Amara is developing her career in academia – providing teaching and learning solutions in UK FE and HE Institutions as well as conducting research in Food Microbiology. Amara believes in the combined power of education, mentoring and productive relationships as essential tools for building successful careers.

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