Application Form Dos and Don’ts

Applying for jobs usually involves some kind of application form. They might be fairly straightforward and ask you to list all your all your exam grades and previous roles, or they might be a bit more quirky and want you to tell them what kind of biscuit you’d be and why*. What’s going on?

Writing jobs applications can really take the biscuit.
Writing jobs applications can really take the biscuit.

Jenny Woolacott-Scarr, Career Zone Support Officer looks at the dos and don’ts of application forms.

Do…

  • Give clear, concise answers using the STAR technique The R is really important as you need to provide evidence of your successes. I always think of STAR like telling a joke, and R is the killer punchline that everyone’s waiting for, don’t leave it out.
  • Personality counts, so be yourself. They’re employing you, not a robot; show you have a life outside of your studies. It’s unlikely you’ll have a ton of experience, so they’re looking for your raw talent and ability, and life outside your studies shows us who are.
  • Employers love facts and figures. Imagine two students run the same marathon for charity and both include it in their job applications. Student 1 writes “I trained for and ran a marathon.” But Student 2 writes “I trained for and ran the 2022 Bristol Marathon raising over £500 for Cancer Research UK, demonstrating my commitment, resilience and dedication.” It’s the same event, but which one sounds more impressive?

‘Employers love facts and figures.’

  • If there’s a word limit try and write up to it as much as possible, no one wants to interview someone who can’t think of anything to say about themselves or the job.
  • When you talk about your work experience it’s not just what you did, it’s the relevant transferable skills like teamwork, time management and leaderships that employers are interested in. Don’t be subtle, tell them clearly what you can bring to a role and relate the skills you talk about to those in the job description and person specification.
  • Show the company that you’ve researched them, the role and the sector, but go beyond what’s on their website. Employers want you to go the extra mile.
  • Every employer thinks they’re different (and better) than the competition. Evidence you know what sets them apart from the crowd. Dig deep, do they have a new CEO? What are there plans for the company and how can you help them meet their objectives?
  • Answer the question you’re asked – if you try and avoid it they’ll notice. If you’re stuck, think about it from the employer’s point of view, they’ll only ask you a question that’s going to help them decide whether you’re worth interviewing or not. (This is where biscuit style questions come in – how do you react to a question where there’s no right answer? And what thought processes do you go through to get there?)
  • Demonstrate that you really want to work for the company, show your passions and enthusiasm by making your application as good as possible.

‘How do you react to a question where there’s no right answer? And what thought processes do you go through to get there?’

Do and Don’t… I get asked ‘how many job applications should I make?’ We say, do apply for as many as you can, but don’t apply for so many that the quality of your applications suffer, and/or that it impacts on your academic work and/or your own mental and physical wellbeing.

Don’t…

  • Write over the word limit (if there is one). Most jobs will need you to create some kind of reports or documents, and brevity is always appreciated.
  • Poor spelling and grammar could ruin your chances, some employers have a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule.
  • Don’t forget to show your academic successes from Exeter, being at Uni is a huge part of of your life and professional development, and employers want to hear about it.
  • Your voluntary roles might be just as important (or more so) than your paid work, employers don’t care at this stage, they just want you to tell them about your skills and experience.
  • Don’t be shy about ‘selling’ yourself, tell the employer what sets you apart from other candidates.
  • Don’t give generic answers, be specific and keep it relevant. We know it can be hard work applying for jobs and sometimes boring but employers can tell if you’ve copied answers from other application forms.
  • Try not to use the same experience to answer every question – use examples from academic work, work experience (paid or unpaid), Uni societies and sports clubs etc.
  • Don’t undervalue yourself. You’re at a top Russell Group university, that’s already a huge achievement.
  • Don’t get the name of the employer wrong. You might think you’d never do that, but it’s surprisingly common and employers are likely to instantly delete your application.

If you take one piece of advice from me, think about this – what employers know about you is entirely based on what you tell them. So you need to be as clear and direct as possible. Job applications and interviews aren’t a time for subtlety, hinting that maybe perhaps you’d be kind of OK in the job. 

Looking for more info and advice on applications and everything else careers-related? Our ‘Help with…‘ pages are great place to start. And if you need an application form review you can book in via Live Chat on our website, or come in and see us in person in the Forum (Streatham Campus) or the Exchange (Penryn Campus).

*Personally, I’m a milk chocolate digestive; works well in most situations, outside melts easily but retains a robust centre.

Get started with the Career Zone

Chloe Mabberley graduated from University of Exeter in July 2022 with a BA in History, she worked in the Career Zone as a SCP Career Zone Assistant in her final year. We spoke to Chloe about her internship experience and asked what advice she would give students thinking about their careers or considering an internship with the Career Zone and what skills she had learnt to take her into the workplace.

You were recently awarded a First in History. How did you find balancing your studies and an SCP role?

It’s all about time management and learning what to prioritise. Luckily, when you are an SCP or SBP, your employer knows that your studies will take priority sometimes and they are very flexible with shifts and if you need to change or swap shifts with someone. When you have a deadline looming, it’s often quite nice to come to work and think about something else for a few hours. I use planners to help me stay on track of daily and weekly goals, meaning that I never fell behind and could always find time to do university work. Making sure you have a good sleep schedule too. Having a 9am shift twice a week, meant I was up early, and once I had finished work at 1pm I still had lots of time to do essays in the afternoon.

What 3 things would you like to tell students now you have worked in the Career Zone?

“Use the Career Zone website, there is a vast amount of information on there that is incredibly useful. CV advice, Interview help, information about different job sectors, and personality tests to find out what kind of job might suit you if you are feeling lost!”

  1. Use the Career Zone website, there is a vast amount of information on there that is incredibly useful. CV advice, Interview help, information about different job sectors, and personality tests to find out what kind of job might suit you if you are feeling lost!
  2. Make a LinkedIn account early and start connecting with people you know. Make sure your profile is up to scratch and keep it professional. Recruiters often reach out to people directly on LinkedIn, so you never know what opportunities are out there for the taking.
  3. Start early! Trying to figure out what to do after university can be stressful, so the earlier you start gaining experience and looking at your options, the better.

“Start early! Trying to figure out what to do after university can be stressful, so the earlier you start gaining experience and looking at your options, the better.”

What have you learnt about yourself since working in the Career Zone and how has it helped you in your steps towards your future career?

It has helped me to identify my strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. It has taught me that I enjoy working with people and helping others in a role. It has also taught me that I love looking at CVs, applications, and that sort of thing, as I find it really interesting seeing how people sell themselves on paper.  It has given me more experience in customer service, problem solving, attention to detail, communication skills, project management, and many more skills that I can take into the workplace.

I now know that I want a job that involves working in a team and for an employer that values your opinion and input.

What have you enjoyed and gained from the experience as an SCP in the Career Zone?

As someone who has always struggled with not knowing what career path to take, I have really enjoyed helping students who are in a similar situation. When students come to see us in person, looking worried and a bit lost, it makes my day when I see them leave feeling much more confident about their career after I’ve given them lots of resources to look at, or booked them in for an appointment.

When students come to see us in person, looking worried and a bit lost, it makes my day when I see them leave feeling much more confident about their career.”

Have you received any career advice since you have been working at the Career Zone?

Yes, I recently had a CV review with an advisor, and it helped me massively. She showed me how to take my CV to the next level and really impress employers. She also showed me how going into more detail about my degree, achievements, and work experience can demonstrate to employers the skills I have, instead of just simply listing them on my CV. I would definitely recommend having a CV review at the Career Zone.

What advice would you give to students who are writing their CVs or cover letters now?

Use all the resources on the Career Zone website, there is a CV builder that will make your CV for you, an instant reviewer called CV360 that uses AI technology, example CVs, webinar recordings from Career Consultants, and loads more. If you still feel stuck, book in for a review appointment with one of the advisors!

Have you had any other appointments whilst at the Career Zone?

I had a Career Guidance appointment with a Careers Consultant, which was very useful. I had done some research on different sectors I was interested in, but she gave me some more expert knowledge about them and where I could look for opportunities and find out about potential qualifications I would need. I would encourage students to do their own research first before an appointment, as this means you can get much more out of the 30-minute slot and have more of an in-depth discussion with the consultant.

We understand that you are going to take some time out to travel, as you were unable to during the pandemic.  What are your thoughts about what you want to do with your career planning for your return and longer-term?

The plan at the moment is to apply for some graduate roles for the September 2023 intake and see how those applications go. If I’m unsuccessful or don’t find any roles I am interested in applying for then I would like to look for other opportunities in London. I’d like to live there for a few years for the experience, maybe in sectors such as HR or recruitment, but who knows, I’m open to lots of things!   I’d like to end up in a role that enables me to work with people and something that I genuinely enjoy. Seeing the work that Careers Consultants do has sparked an interest in potentially pursuing this line of work or working in a university setting in general.

What would you recommend to any student thinking of taking an internship with the Career Zone?

Apply! It has been great working for the Career Zone during my final year. The internships that the University offers are flexible, well-paid, look good on your CV, and can teach you loads of new skills to bring to the workplace after you finish your studies.

What is the best advice you have been given regarding your employability, career planning?

Do a job that you enjoy! If you’re going to be working for 30 years, you may as well do something you like.

What advice would you give to others who are thinking about their next steps in their career planning?

Start planning early, but if you haven’t don’t let it stress you out too much as it’s not worth it. See rejection as a sign of redirection, sometimes the job just wasn’t meant for you and means you could potentially land the perfect job at your next interview. If you are really struggling or don’t know where to start, contact the Career Zone who will be happy to help you out.

“Start planning early, but if you haven’t don’t let it stress you out too much as it’s not worth it. See rejection as a sign of redirection, sometimes the job just wasn’t meant for you and means you could potentially land the perfect job at your next interview. If you are really struggling or don’t know where to start, contact the Career Zone who will be happy to help you out. “

The Career Zone recruit SCPs in the Spring and sometimes the Autumn term. Find out how you can improve your employability and find SCP internships by visiting the Career Zone or by searching on Handshake.

 

Paid, Unpaid or Voluntary? Know Your Rights

Knowing your rights in the workplace is essential. Find out what you need to know and avoid being scammed.  

A glitzy record company offers an inside track into the glorious world of Artists & Repertoire. They can’t offer a salary, but the experience is priceless. And if you do really well, you might even get a proper job out of it.

Unpaid work is everywhere these days. If everyone is doing it then it must be okay, right? Well, not necessarily. Working for free can be legal in certain circumstances and can offer valuable experience – but often it’s about unscrupulous employers exploiting people who don’t know their rights.

So, what are your rights when it comes to getting paid for the work you do?

Your organisation might call you an “intern”, a “volunteer”. They might call your role “work experience”, a “placement”, or an “internship”.

What’s in a name? Workers, Volunteers and Voluntary Workers

Your organisation might call you an “intern”, a “volunteer”. They might call your role “work experience”, a “placement”, or an “internship”. They might ask you to sign something waiving your right to the NMW.

None of that matters.

You can’t sign away your right to the National Minimum Wage[1], even if you want to.

And it doesn’t matter what your role is called. Many of the commonly used terms have no legal meaning. What really matters is the actual real life detail of your situation.

In legal-speak, if you’re a worker, you get the NMW. If you’re not a worker, you don’t.

But how do you know if you’re a worker or not? Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes not. But here are the basic definitions.

“One important indicator that can determine whether you’re a worker or not, is the question of reward.”

You’re usually a worker if you have things like set hours, defined responsibilities, have to do the work yourself, and have to turn up for your agreed hours even if you don’t feel like it.

voluntary worker is someone who’s a bit like a worker (they have set responsibilities, hours, etc.) but who still works for free. The big thing here is who you’re working for. You can only be a voluntary worker if you’re working for a charity, voluntary organisation or a statutory body of some sort. People who help out at their local school or hospital, or do time in a charity shop are often voluntary workers.

volunteer is someone who has no defined responsibilities, no obligation to turn up or do anything, and gets no financial benefit from the work they do. You can volunteer in this sense for any organisation, not just a charity.

Lastly, there’s work-shadowing. This isn’t a legal term, but if you’re hanging about the workplace (with their permission of course!), getting a feel for what goes on, watching people work, chatting to them about their jobs, etc. but not doing any actual work yourself then you’re not a worker and thus have no right to the National Minimum Wage.

What are you getting out of it?

One important indicator that can determine whether you’re a worker or not, is the question of reward.

Are you getting a payment? Have you been promised some training or a job at the end of your stint? If so, you could cross the line from volunteer or voluntary worker and become a worker.

Once again, it doesn’t matter what your organisation calls the payment or benefit you’re getting – what matters is the detail.

Maybe you get “travel expenses”. If this means you give your bus tickets to your organisation and they give you back the cash you spent on them, then there’s no problem. But, if they just give you a flat rate, regardless of your actual costs, that’s something else entirely. If you’re getting £20 a week for travel but you’re walking to work, then you could be a worker.

The same applies to “benefits in kind” (basically, non-monetary rewards). If the organisation gives you a pair of safety boots to wear on site, or a uniform, then that’s fine. But if you’re working for a music company that gives you free concert tickets or a fashion company that gives you a pair of posh shoes, then that’s a payment, potentially making you a worker[2].

Even promising a paid job at the end of your stint can cross the line and put you in the worker-camp.

Work experience in your course

If you’re doing work experience as part of your course, you’re not usually entitled to the National Minimum Wage, unless the duration exceeds one year.

Our view

As responsible adults, the ultimate decision to do unpaid work lies with the individual student. Only you can decide whether the trade-off of no cash vs. experience is worth it in your particular circumstances.

However, in general, we advise students to take on unpaid work only when you’re:

  • Doing a placement or work experience modules in your course;
  • Volunteering for charitable and non-profit organisations.

We don’t usually promote unpaid opportunities that last longer than three months, even if these are legitimate. You can find out more about our policy on vetting unpaid vacancies here. The benefits of other sorts of unpaid work are questionable, with little evidence to suggest that they improve career outcomes.

I feel like I’ve been ripped off … what do I do?

If you feel like you’ve been scammed, then it’s important to talk to someone about it.

You can always pop into see us. We can’t take action on your behalf, but we can certainly give an opinion on whether you have a genuine grievance. We can also talk to you about what you were hoping to gain from the experience and see if there’s a better way to meet that goal.

If you found this job through Career Zone, it’s very important you tell us. We aren’t perfect and sometimes inappropriate vacancies do slip through. It may also be that the employer hasn’t been honest with us – either way, we need to know to make sure other students don’t get ripped off.

The Advice Unit at the Students’ Guild can help with many problems and should be able to chat through the issue and talk through your options.

If you want to take action, you can report the company to HM Revenue & Customs. They can fine companies and force them to pay you what you’re owed. More information on how to make a complaint can be found here.

[1] When we refer to the National Minimum Wage we also include the National Living Wage because National Minimum / Living Wage is a bit of a mouthful. You can find the current rates for the National Minimum Wage here.

[2] It’s worth noting that, although benefits in kind might make you a worker, they don’t usually count towards NMW. The employer who gives you a pair of £500 shoes risks making you a worker, but the £500 won’t count towards what they should pay you!

10 ways to make the most of your summer as an international student

Claire Guy is an Employability and Careers Consultant for the University of Exeter Business School.

It certainly feels like summer in the UK right now with the longer days and the sun shining. For most of you, classes are over and it feels like you have some time on your hands. How can you make the most of it as an international student? 

1 Relax: You deserve it! After a hard year studying, it’s important to recharge your energy by resting. Catch up on your sleep. Read a book. Binge watch movies. If English is your second language, try and watch / read in English as this is a fantastic (and enjoyable) way to improve your skills. This is especially important if you want to work in the UK after your studies, as employers will expect you to have excellent written and spoken English. 

2 Explore the UK (or at least Devon and Cornwall!): You’ve explored Exeter but now you have some free time. Why not go a little further? The South West has so much to offer. This list from Go South West England has 30+ Awesome Places to Visit in South West England . While you soak up the British scenery, why not learn more about our culture too? Chat to people you encounter – you’ll find most people are very friendly. Even better, invite your UK course mates to accompany you. They can provide a brilliant insight into the typical habits and behaviours of the British including Cockneys, Brummies, Janners and Scousers (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, this list of all the best British regional nicknames will help!).

If you want to work in the UK after your studies, employers will want you to be familiar with UK culture, and be really comfortable interacting with local people. Even if you don’t plan to work in the UK, employers back home or anywhere else in the world will be impressed by your intercultural learning. 

3 Get more out of your part time job. If you are an undergraduate with a part time job, you can work more hours during the summer. These guidelines from International Student Support explain the visa rules. If you are a master’s student, you can work full time from the end of your  final term.  

You may think your part time job isn’t relevant for your future career. Maybe it isn’t right now- but could you make it more relevant? Could you create a learning opportunity for yourself? Mika, a Business Analytics master’s student did exactly this. She had a part-time job as a cashier at Primark, but knew they had a data team. As she was aiming for a data career, she asked her manager if she could shadow the data team for a week. They said yes, and Mika learned so much. She made the most of the experience by starting conversations about possible graduate opportunities. What opportunities could your part time employer offer you? 

4 Find work. The summer is a good time to find work if you would like some. Many hotels, restaurants, and other tourist-dependent businesses employ extra staff on a casual basis. You can find summer jobs on Handshake or other job sites, but often companies simply put notices in their windows and expect people to drop in and ask about jobs. You could create a part-time CV and print off some copies to take to employers. A part-time CV will follow quite a different style and focus to a CV for a graduate role though. Here’s an example of what a part time CV might look like, with a focus on relevant skills. Come and see us if you’d like help with your part time CV. 

Remember that part time work that is completely unrelated to the career area you want to go into after your studies, is useful. This is because employers in the UK love transferable skills, and part time jobs give you lots of them! Don’t work too hard though — you deserve a break after a year of study!

5 Find an internship or other work-based experience: Many international students would love an internship over the summer. The summer break feels like the perfect time to boost your CV while your studies are paused. Finding a summer internship might not be as straightforward as you’d like though, for a couple of reasons: 

  • Internships in the UK are not as plentiful as they are in some other countries. 
  • Many UK internships are advertised and filled well in advance of the summer, often during the autumn term.  
  • UK internships are often competitive with long and complex application processes. 

Don’t give up on the idea of doing an internship, there are still some options! You may still find some internships available – have a look on Handshake or simply search online for “internship” plus the type of internship you’d like- for example “internship banking”.  

At Exeter we run our own internships, our Student Campus Partnerships (internships on campus) and Student Business Partnerships (internships with local businesses). You can search for them on Handshake.   

You could also complete a virtual internship- one of the good things that came out of a global pandemic! Virtual internships are really flexible, can be done from your bedroom (or sunbed) and many large, well known employers are offering them through The Forage. 

6 Learn new skills  The University of Exeter has a premium subscription to LinkedIn Learning and all students can access it for free; just sign in using your University email address and password. Find out more about using LinkedIn learning to learn new skills. There are lots of super courses on LinkedIn that will supercharge your employability, on everything from data analytics to networking.  

FutureLearn partners with top international universities to offer a wide range of online courses. Most courses have an option to access content free for a limited period, and cover topics such as marketing or sustainable fashion.  

7 Explore your career ideas. During term time there’s a lot to think about. The summer is a great time to focus your mind on your career ideas. It’s worth doing this as an international student because jobs and job titles in your home country might not match jobs and job titles in the UK. You can find out more about the kinds of jobs Exeter graduates go into from your degree or find out more about a specific job role using the Prospects website.  

8 Get help from Career Zone. Many university staff are taking a well earned rest over the summer, but Career Zone is still open. You can book appointments, browse our workshops or look through our huge library of digital support.  

9 Have fun. The sun doesn’t always shine in the UK- make the most of this opportunity to enjoy it. After all, you have put a lot of time and effort into your studies at Exeter. You deserve some fun too.  

10 Having fun is so important, it’s also at number 10.  

We hope you enjoyed our list of 10 ways to make the most of your summer as an international student! Which one are you going to do first? 

 

Introducing Ask An Alum

Ask An Alum

Emily Im is a final year student studying BA English at the University of Exeter. In 2020, she took part in Ask An Alum (previously eXepert) where University of Exeter students and recent graduates connect with University of Exeter alumni to ask questions about their careers.

What is Ask An Alum?

Ask An Alum is an information gathering employability programme connecting students and graduates with Exeter alumni.  AAA facilitates a short-term email exchange allowing students and graduates to ask questions and get advice. There are over 500 alumni available during term-time to contact from various sectors and organisations giving you a range of options.

Why did you apply for Ask An Alum?

During my first year, I was thinking of ways I could learn more about the publishing industry and I found information on Ask An Alum in a Careers newsletter. I didn’t have many contacts and only a little publishing experience at the time, so I thought this was a great opportunity to get advice from a professional.

“I didn’t have many contacts and only a little publishing experience at the time, so I thought this was a great opportunity to get advice from a professional.”

How did you apply?

I submitted an application form detailing my interests and which alumni I wanted to speak to and within a few days, I was connected to the Publishing Director of The Borough Press, which is a literary fiction imprint of HarperFiction. It was super quick and easy!

What kind of alum are available?

If you’re a student, you can access the Ask An Alum database via Handshake and on there, you’ll find people who work for Bloomsbury Publishing, Oxford University Press and Routledge to name a few companies. You can also see what they studied while they were at Exeter. I think it’s useful knowing so many alumni have degrees that aren’t directly related to their current jobs and there are multiple career paths you can go down no matter what you’ve done at university.

If you’re not interested in publishing, there are alum who work in law firms, healthcare companies, higher education, marketing, etc. There are so many different job titles—you can even get in touch with CEOs.

“Within a few days, I was connected to the Publishing Director of The Borough Press, which is a literary fiction imprint of HarperFiction.”

What did you ask your alum?

I had so many questions and luckily, she answered all of them. We talked about her career journey since her time at university, what work experience she did, things that I could do to stand out, her daily tasks, her work-life balance, HarperCollins’ blind recruitment process and much more! There’s a useful list of questions on the Ask An Alum website if you need some inspiration on what to ask.

We started emailing around the end of January and were still in contact when the pandemic hit so I was able to enquire about how the publishing industry was being impacted and what it meant for people seeking internships. I didn’t ask for an internship since that isn’t allowed but she did let me know publishing companies had no remote working opportunities available. Times have changed though!

How do you think Ask An Alum has helped you?

It was great gaining a more personal perspective of the publishing industry and learning about the journey she took to get in. She told me things a quick Google search can’t. It was also reassuring to know she didn’t have much experience when she left university and had multiple roles at different companies before she eventually landed at HarperCollins.

“She told me things a Google search can’t.”

What advice would you give to a student interested in applying to Ask An Alum?

Apply! There’s no pressure. Although it’s a professional connection, it feels like a relaxed conversation. The person you’re emailing wants to help you so don’t be afraid to ask hard questions too.

Would you use the scheme again?

Absolutely! I would still love to work in publishing but I’m also looking into other sectors. There’s an unlimited number of times you can apply, and even after you graduate, you can participate in Ask An Alum for up to three years so I know that when I need some guidance, I can come back to this programme.

Discover how you can get ahead with your career and make powerful connections, learn more about Ask an Alum

My Placement at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary

A seal, enjoying a stay at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary

Flo Taylor is a BSC Marine Biology student at the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus. Flo recently completed a placement with the Cornish Seal Sanctuary.

Why did you decide to take a placement module?

It was part of a compulsory Skills and Careers module in Year 1, but I wanted to volunteer at the Seal Sanctuary anyway.

What type of work you did on your placement, and how do you think this has given you experience for your future career?

I was an education volunteer, so I was engaging with visitors, answering questions and telling them about the animals and the charity. I even gave a few talks to groups of visitors about some of the animals.

“I was outside the whole time, which was great, and reaffirmed for me that I don’t want to work in an office!”

It certainly gave me more confidence in talking to and approaching people, and I came away with more knowledge about the animals and how a charity like that functions.

I was also outside the whole time, which was great, and reaffirmed for me that I don’t want to work in an office!

What did you enjoy most about your placement?

I loved knowing that I was contributing, supporting, and representing the Seal Sanctuary, somewhere that is well-known and well-loved. The people there are so friendly and it felt like a little community.

“I loved knowing that I was contributing, supporting, and representing the Seal Sanctuary, somewhere that is well-known and well-loved.”

I didn’t actually have any direct interaction with the animals, but it was wonderful to be able to see them every week, and I did come to recognise all the individual seals (actually quite hard to do!) and some of their individual quirks.

Do you think your placement has benefited the local community? If so, in what way?

My volunteering there will have certainly helped the Sanctuary, and the Sanctuary definitely benefits the local community, so I suppose, indirectly I will have benefited the local community.

The Sanctuary brings many tourists to the local area, and even just to Cornwall as a whole, which in turn benefits local businesses such as restaurants and B&Bs.

“The Sanctuary brings many tourists to the local area, and even just to Cornwall as a whole, which in turn benefits local businesses such as restaurants and B&Bs.”

The Sanctuary also supports and is supported by other businesses such as A&K Wildlife cruises, which operate out of Falmouth. The Sanctuary also brings so much joy to the local community. There are many people who are regular visitors and who know all of the seals as well as I did! So the Sanctuary absolutely plays an integral role in the local community.

Do you have any tips for other students looking for/undertaking a placement?

Perseverance and knowing how to write a concise, well-structured email are absolutely key.

So many places will either not reply, say no, or say not right now, and all of those are OK and should not discourage you. Keep emailing lots of places, and send appropriate follow up emails when you don’t get a reply.

“Perseverance and knowing how to write a concise, well-structured email are absolutely key.”

It’s also definitely worth emailing places even when they don’t have anything advertised right at that moment – perhaps they are about to advertise something and you might get in there early (that happened to me with the National Trust!), or at least you will have made yourself known, so that when they do want/need someone, you’re already there.

Being able to write a good email will make it easier for the recipients to read and make a decision about you. Be concise in what you want/ask for from the placement – how long, why you want it, what you want from them and what you can give back.

If you’d like to find out more about placements you can start your research here

Returning Home and Impressing Employers with your Time in the UK

Going back home after your time at Exeter? We’re able to help you wherever you are via phone, email or video appointment.

Claire Guy is an Employability and Careers Consultant at the University of Exeter. She runs careers workshops for international students and co-ordinates India Career Ready.

As an international student you have worked so hard during your studies. You have adapted to UK culture, developed your language skills, and taken on academic challenges. Surely employers in your home country will be fighting to offer you a job?

While it is true that many employers see the benefits of a UK education, you will not be the only overseas-educated student returning home. The competition may be tougher than you expect. You may need to do more than show your degree certificate and watch the job offers coming in!

Here are our top 10 tips for international students who plan to return home after their studies:

1 Stay connected to the job market in your home country

It can be tempting to focus purely on your studies in the UK and leave your job search until you get home. This might mean a few months between arriving home and starting work though. The job-hunting process often takes longer than you might expect. It’s unlikely that you will get the first job you apply for. Would you be happy with this? Could you support yourself financially while you look for work at home?

Most students would rather have a job waiting for them after finishing their studies. In today’s virtual world, job searching at a distance is possible for international students. You will need to know how and when employers in your country typically recruit. For example, in the UK application season is October to January but in China, there are two periods, September to November and March to May. Employers in Malaysia tend to recruit all year round. What is the schedule in your country?

The following websites contain useful information about employment around the world, as well as country-specific job vacancies.

You should also pay attention to any channels specific to your country i.e. Weibo / LinkedIn

2 Don’t forget connections at home

Your friends and family are a huge source of support- tell them all that you are looking for work. Ask them to help by introducing you professionals who might be able to give advice about working in your country. Tell them to let you know if they see or hear of opportunities.

At Exeter we have strong alumni networks of graduates from most countries. Many of them are keen to support current students too – why not reach out to alumni in your region through one of our groups?

You could also connect with professionals working in your sector via LinkedIn. We have written a super guide about using the alumni networking tool. Have a look at industry-related groups or country specific events too.

3 Make the most of your time in the UK

Most international students would love to find a UK internship. However, internships are competitive and usually need to be applied for months in advance. UK internships mostly run over the summer and so may not fit with term dates if you are a postgraduate student. This means that you may not be successful in getting an internship. The good news is that there are lots and lots of other alternatives to internships which will still help you tell a rich story about your time in the UK.

By getting involved in extra-curricular activities, you can show your ability to fit in, add value to wider communities and work on social issues that may be relevant to employers. At very least, you will have fun and build a network! If you’d like to find out more about ways you can develop during your studies, why not come along to our workshop Maximising Your Time as an International Student in the UK or see our advice on the Career Zone international student pages.

Think about what makes you unique. Your improved English language skills are important but you have so much more to offer.

4 Think about what makes you unique

Your improved English language skills are important but you have so much more to offer.

  • You are a self-motivated, risk taker
  • You can adapt to new environments and learning situations
  • You are culturally aware
  • You have a greater understanding of how Europeans do business

These qualities are so impressive to employers. However, you need to explain them clearly because they will not speak for themselves.

Try asking yourself these questions to reflect on what you have learned:

  • What has surprised you most about the UK?
  • What things have you found most difficult? (Tip- difficulty is where we usually learn most!)
  • What were you hoping to gain or develop by coming to the UK that you couldn’t get in your home country?
  • How was your education at home different to what you’ve experienced at Exeter?
  • How are you a different person now?

5 Be prepared to describe your skills and learning

Employers in your home country might not understand why they should hire someone with a Exeter degree or realise the quality of the education you are gaining. It is up to you to explain to them why you are the perfect candidate and why your studies have made you a great future employee. Would you know how to explain your degree to employers in your own country?

Think about how you will explain your studies so that employers at home can understand it. How was it different to studying at home? Did you experience new methods of teaching? Simulated business projects or work-based assignments? Group work? Critical thinking? How would you describe your course to show your new learning, ideas and professional development?

6 Get ready to describe the University of Exeter

Employers in your country may not have heard of the University of Exeter, so it’s up to you to explain how reputable it is. What facts, figures or league table positions could you include in your descriptions? What might you say about your course, professors or college? Make sure you have something ready to tell employers in your home country when they ask about the University.

7 Have a clear and positive answer prepared to explain why you have returned home

Returning home after studying abroad can sometimes raise questions. Employers may wonder why you didn’t stay in the UK. They may think you were not good enough to find work. Make sure you explain to them that you made the choice to come home. Although some of your reasons may be because of family or friends or lifestyle, try to answer in a way that benefits the employer. Be positive in your explanation, for example:

“I couldn’t wait to bring home my insights into European sustainability in business to Thailand, particularly around the use of plastics. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere other than Thailand and as the world’s 6th biggest contributor of ocean waste there is a lot of work for us to do! I really want to be part of that.”

8 Be realistic

You may not find an employer who wants to pay you a higher salary simply because you have a British qualification. Feedback from some employers around the world is that returning students can sometimes be over-confident and expect better opportunities than home educated students. Sometimes your UK education may really show the benefits when you start to apply for promotions, so be patient.

Talking to Exeter alumni or other professionals in your home country will help you to have realistic expectations.

9 Be prepared for reverse culture shock

Do you remember how you felt when you arrived in Exeter? I bet it was exhausting! Trying to get everything done, learn new things and speak English all the time.

Going back home might feel the same. You will be different and so will your friends and family. Life will have moved on at home. However, they may have little understanding of how your time at Exeter has changed your outlook. Be prepared for things to feel a little difficult and be kind to yourself in the first few weeks.

10 Stay in touch

As a graduate from the University of Exeter, a forever institution, you are not only entitled to all of the fantastic resources that the alumni office can offer, you also have access to the Career Zone forever. All of our graduate Career Zone support and resources are now housed in one central location for you to access from your home country.

For more help with taking your UK experience back home, come along to our workshop on the topic which runs several times each year, and is bookable on Handshake. We run a series of workshops specifically for international students on other topics too.

Should I stay or should I go?

You may not manage to perfectly line up a job for when your course finishes. So, what are your options?

Claire Guy is an Employability and Careers Consultant at the University of Exeter. She runs careers workshops for international students and co-ordinates India Career Ready.

Many international students come to the UK with plans to stay and work after studying. However, you may have already discovered that the UK job market:

  • Is competitive (i.e. well paid jobs in well-known companies receive hundreds or thousands of applications)
  • The application process takes a lot of time and effort
  • Many graduate schemes opened and closed in the autumn term- earlier than you expected!
  • It can take months to get a job.

UK students are often surprised by these things too! The good news is that there is lots of help available from Career Zone to tackle these challenges. We can help you to find less competitive roles, create more successful applications, and recognise the other jobs available for graduates in the UK that are available all year round.

What we can’t do though, is speed up the time it takes from searching and applying to actually starting work. Often that process takes at least 3 months. Once we allow for rejections (and we ALL get rejected) we might be looking at even longer.

As an International Student you’ll have a lot of options to explore

This means it is possible that you may not manage to perfectly line up a job for when your course finishes. Even if you really want that to happen, the reality is that it may not.

So, what are your options?

Keep searching and applying until you are successful. Thankfully, the Graduate Visa is flexible. It allows international students to stay in the UK to look for work. Even if you don’t find a job, you can still stay in the UK. Under old rules this wasn’t an option. However, being an unemployed graduate brings challenges- where will you live while you job search? How will you afford it? How long could you keep searching and applying before you had to take a different approach? One way to increase your chances of getting job offers is to ask for help from Career Zone. There are many ways we can help, including giving feedback on your applications to make them more effective.

Stay in the UK and do a more casual job whilst you continue to look for a professional role. Another feature of the Graduate Visa is that there is no professional level or minimum wage required for a job. This means that you could find a casual job to earn some money while you continue applying for other jobs. Causal jobs are things like administration (office work) hospitality (tourism) catering (food) and retail (shops/sales). These tend to be readily available, quick to apply for, and often have rapid start dates. Come along to one of our short sessions on finding and applying for part time work which are bookable on Handshake.

Apply for one of Exeter’s unique Graduate Business Partnerships. Our GBP roles are full time, paid and with supportive employers in the South West. They are professional roles that tend to last for 3 or 6 months, or a full year. The internships are in a wide range of sectors, including working in Higher Education; Advertising; Arts and Culture; Engineering; and Legal Services. Types of internship vary, but usually cover a variety of roles, such as Marketing, IT, Web Development, PR, Technical, Environmental, Engineering, Market Research, Business Planning, Accounts and Sales. If you want more of an idea about what might be available, have a look at some student case studies.

Consider an off-cycle internship. “Off-cycle” means anything outside of the usual internship cycle i.e. during the summer (May-Sept). These internships are often found in finance and consulting roles and are full time and paid. Simply put “Off cycle internship UK 2022” into your search engine.

Are there opportunities at home that are worth looking into? It’s possible that you may find it “easier” to find work at home. You can write applications and interview in your native language, use your networks, get lots of support from family and friends and maybe stay somewhere rent free too!

It’s worth making some comparisons to help your decisions. How much you can you really earn in the UK?  Try looking at vacancies or job profiles of the careers your considering to get an idea of salaries. Then think about the cost of living in the UK. There’s a big difference in costs like rent and socialising between different UK regions. Find out more in this article on UK’s most affordable cities for new graduates Now do the same for opportunities back at home- how do they compare?

You can find other Exeter graduates working in your home country using the Alumni Tool on LinkedIn. Why not  ask their advice? If you do decide to go home, come along to our session for international students “What every international student needs to know about impressing employers in your home country after your studies” which you can book on Handshake

Look at global opportunities. As an international student you are brimming with cultural awareness, adaptability, language skills and a sense of adventure. Maybe you could take your job search to another country? We provide free access for students to GoinGlobal.  A country-specific career and employment database contains more than 30,000 pages of constantly-updated information, to help you understand how to apply globally.

Whatever you choose to do, the Career Zone is here to help you.

The Career Zone – Helping you Reach your Career Goals

Our range of services can really help you gain crucial experience, and boost your careers confidence. Even if you’re studying at Exeter for a year, we can help you maximise your time at University, and help you on your way to a bright future. We talked to Anda about her experience of using the Career Zone, and how we’re helping her with her career path.

Anda, please tell me a little about your background, you are a European student studying social science at postgraduate level at Exeter – why did you choose Exeter?

I am a European student and a Criminology and Psychology graduate. I study MSc in Social and Organisational Psychology at the University of Exeter. I have chosen to study for my Master’s at Exeter for a few reasons. Firstly, I chose Exeter because it is a Russel Group university and a leading university for research and teaching. I specifically liked the research culture within the Psychology department. Second, I wanted to study Social Psychology, and Exeter is one of the few universities that offer this specialisation in the UK. I really liked the practical aspect of my course, for example, we had an extended research project module and we got to learn and practice advance statistics which I believe is a great skill to have for employability.

Anda, current MSc in Social and Organisational Psychology student at the University of Exeter

“After the one year I have spent at the University of Exeter I can say that the career advice and support I have received at the University were one of the best opportunities for my career.”

In your time at Exeter what was particularly useful to you about the services the University offered?

While I expected to really enjoy my course, I did not expect the Career Zone and employment opportunities to be so good. Now, after the one year I have spent at the University of Exeter I can say that the career advice and support I have received at the University were one of the best opportunities for my career, as it really helped me develop the skills for searching, applying and securing jobs but also offered me the opportunity to apply for internships within the University and get the essential work experience I needed.

You told us that you used Handshake and our webpages to apply for five jobs in the year and actually took four of those jobs on – four jobs in one year! Tell me about that please, how was the application process, how important were the jobs to your career development?

Yes, I have used Handshake and I have applied and worked on two Student Campus Partnerships (SCP) jobs in current research undertaken at the University, one marketing internship through the Pathways to Marketing scheme where I worked as a Data Analyst within a marketing company, and I worked as a Student Ambassador.

I found the Handshake site very useful. When I was looking for jobs, I would write in the keywords I was looking such as ‘research’, and I would check it periodically to find new opportunities. I found it very useful that underneath each job posting the Career Zone attaches a short advice list that summaries all the things you need to consider when writing an application (such as information about how to write a cover letter). All the University internships come with a standardised application form which makes it very easy to structure your answers and learn what employers are looking for at each stage. Therefore, the process of applying to jobs at the University of Exeter is easy because it is streamlined and organised.

The jobs were very important to my career development. Before coming to Exeter, I only had one relevant job experience (for the career that I want) and some volunteering experience. Now, I have three other extremely relevant positions on my CV and I have learned so many useful skills that have helped me develop professionally and bolstered my confidence.

“The jobs were very important to my career development. Before coming to Exeter, I only had one relevant job experience and some volunteering experience. Now, I have three other extremely relevant positions on my CV and I have learned so many useful skills that have helped me develop professionally and bolstered my confidence.”

Could you tell me about some of the workshops and sessions run by the Career Zone that you undertook?  

Before I started applying to jobs, I went on Handshake and booked many sessions that could help me improve my employability skills. I have attended sessions on writing your CV, cover letter and interview skills. I have also attended employers’ events and meetings, LinkedIn workshops, and a workshop about building resilience and confidence. I have also used an interview tool provided by the University which simulated a trial interview with pre-made questions and a video recording option.

I also had the opportunity to be appointed to a mentor through the Career Mentor Scheme and I have received valuable career advice from my mentor.

Lastly, I have applied for and was awarded the Exeter Award which is an acknowledgement from the University of all the extra-curricular activities I have participated in such as training and jobs.

You had also done some online self-evaluation, to assess your strengths and weaknesses, how did that help you?

Yes, I did. I feel like the evaluation tools mostly confirmed what I already knew but I have taken into consideration my results and used the identified strengths in my CV, while I started to work on my limitations in order to surpass them.

“I believe that my course and amazing lectures and as well as the Career Zone workshops and work experience have helped me develop personally and professionally and offered me the tools to reach my career and academic goals.”

You mentioned to us that doing all of this extra-curricular activity gave you extra confidence, that’s great, how do you think this will help your plans for the future?

I gained a lot of confidence in the last year as before coming to Exeter, I found job applications daunting and I was very pessimistic about my employment opportunities. However, once I gained the right skills through the sessions I have attended through the career service and I started to apply for positions that I was actually appointed to I felt better and better about my capabilities, knowledge and future prospects. As a result, prior to finishing my Masters, I started applying for PhD positions because I have always wanted to work in research and academia.

After a few applications, I have been awarded a funded PhD position for the project I was most interested in. I have worked very hard for both my academic and extra-curricular achievements but I am also very grateful for all the help I have received here at the University of Exeter. I believe that my course and amazing lectures and as well as the Career Zone workshops and work experience have helped me develop personally and professionally and offered me the tools to reach my career and academic goals.

We’d love to help you with your career planning, come in and see us in the Forum, Streatham Campus, or in the Exchange, Penryn Campus.

Or you can live chat with us on our website

email careers@exeter.ac.uk

call us 01392 724493 9am – 5pm

Monday to Friday, including Vacations 

My Placement with Carclew Estate, Cornwall

Madeline Howard is a current BA English student at the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus. She took the Humanities in the Workplace placement module and worked with Carclew Estate  – a ruined country house estate located between Penryn and Mylor, which is now a haven for wildlife. 

Madeline Howard, current BA English student at the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus

Why did you decide to take a placement module?

I took the module because I felt that it would be a good way of allowing me to see how Humanities degrees allow for a variety of job opportunities, and not just be an English teacher like everyone suggests! I also felt that it would be interesting to do a module that wasn’t strictly like all of the other ones that I was doing – everything else was very text heavy (as expected!) so it was really good to have a module that was far much more discussion based and had a somewhat more casual structure than that of other modules.

“My placement was heavily based on independent research, looking at what certain rooms at the estate may have looked like prior to the extensive damage to the estate that was caused by a fire in the 1930s.”

What type of work you did on your placement? How do you feel this has given you experience for your future studies/career?

My placement was heavily based on independent research, looking at what certain rooms at the estate may have looked like prior to the extensive damage to the estate that was caused by a fire in the 1930s. The independence I had whilst working was hugely beneficial – it made me trust my own work and judgement more, it allowed me for more analytical skills. I felt a huge improvement across my skill set. Furthermore, I feel that these developed skills are so important to my future studies which I can then point out in my Masters applications and soon after in job applications.

“The placement was also nothing like any other jobs or work experience I’ve had before, so it was really enjoyable to have something that was brand new to me, which again really helped me to gain skills that I didn’t have before.”

What did you enjoy most about your placement?

There were so many aspects of the placement that I enjoyed, but it was in particular the independence I enjoyed the most, but also knowing that there was support if I needed it, and that was really reassuring. I was also able to work at my own pace which did really help me learn more about my own time-management skills but also highlighting areas of work that I am now aware that I need to improve on. The placement was also nothing like any other jobs or work experience I’ve had before, so it was really enjoyable to have something that was brand new to me, which again really helped me to gain skills that I didn’t have before.

How has COVID19 affected your placement?

During the module, Covid-19 meant that it was incredibly hard to find and complete a placement, so unfortunately I had to choose an alternative assessment to finish the module. However, I was still determined to do a placement after the module had ended like I had first agreed to, and wanted to do so. By the time I had started the placement, Covid-19 restrictions had eased and we were back to a ‘normal’ way of living that we didn’t have for the past 18 months. However, my placement was done online which was likely to be the way it would have carried out regardless of the pandemic or not.

“Having your own goals and expectations will make you appear confident, and that is something that is hugely beneficial to finding a placement and future jobs.”

Do you have any tips for other students looking for/undertaking a placement?

The best thing to do is do lots of research and really let your placement leaders and or employers know what you want to do and what you want out of your placement. Having your own goals and expectations will make you appear confident, and that is something that is hugely beneficial to finding a placement and future jobs. Also, do not apply so much pressure on yourself; it’s easier said than done, but finding a placement can be really stressful so it’s important that try and ease yourself when you can. There will always be something out there for you, so do not freak yourself out and cause all of this stress. It’s not productive or healthy for you! Just remember to set expectations, set targets and boundaries and make sure you are doing what you want to do.

Find out more about the Humanities in the Workplace placement module