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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Claire Guy is an Employability and Careers Consultant at the University of Exeter.
For many international students, understanding what UK employers are looking for can be difficult. In my experience, many UK students don’t understand it too well either. That’s why UK universities, including the University of Exeter, have qualified, experienced careers practitioners providing a wide range of information, advice and personalised guidance to help you with your future plans. We support you to present yourself in the very best light and really shine in your job applications.
Like many things in life, creating a career plan and implementing it is a much more complicated process than most people realise. The modern world of work is more complicated than it ever has been. The graduate job market is competitive with large numbers of students and graduates applying for opportunities. One of the challenging things about applying for graduate roles is that there are many misunderstandings or myths about what employers are looking for, and often students spend their time and energy on things that employers don’t value that much instead of focusing on what employers are actually interested in.
So what are UK employers looking for?
The UK is fairly unique in that most graduate employers are not very interested in your degree subject. There are of course some exceptions, such as employers who look for engineering degrees or those seeking a graduate with a statistics based degree. But on the whole, the biggest proportion of graduate employers will welcome graduates from any subject/discipline.
This means that they are not looking for specific technical knowledge from a university course, but are instead looking for students who can be shaped and trained by the organisation, who have the potential to grow into a role. The way that they judge potential is to assess whether you have the skills that they think are important. You will know what skills each employer is looking for because they will tell you in the role description or job details. Each employer is looking for a slightly different set of skills so it’s very important for you to pay close attention to exactly what they are asking for.
What skills are important in the UK?
In a recent 2021 report by the Institute of Student Employers, employers ranked the skills that they felt graduates were lacking. The lower the score the more concerned employers are about this skill.
Understanding what skills employers want, the skills they struggle to find in graduates and the specific skills needed in the career / industry or role you are applying for puts you in a great position to impress employers. The next step is where you can really create a brand for yourself as an international student, which will make you stand out.
Highlighting your skills as an International Student
You are a unique breed of student. You’re a risk taker, a pioneer, a brave adventurer and explorer of new worlds. This is wonderful! It’s important to be really clear with employers about the skills you’ve gained as an international student. Here’s a really great list to start you off by Study International 10 Reasons Why Employers Love Graduates Who Have Studied Abroad
Let’s think about the chart above and some of the skills that employers are struggling to find in graduates.
Career management. If leaving your home, family and friends to pursue an education which will lead to gainful employment isn’t good career management, I don’t know what is! You could provide even more evidence of your intentions for a strategic career plan by taking part in the Exeter Award or our Professional Pathways programme.
Commercial awareness. You can find out more about Commercial Awareness from Bright Network. (Top Tip – it is really helpful to search for a definition of any skills that employers are asking for- this will really help you to explain how you have that skill!). Essentially commercial awareness is your understanding of how the industry you are considering works, and how it is affected by what is going on in the world. As an international student, you are in a unique position to talk about an industry from a UK perspective but also from the viewpoint of your home country. You may not know much about it at the moment, but I bet you could call on friends or family members at home to help you find out more. This will allow you to impress employers with your international commercial awareness! We are experts on commercial awareness within Career Zone and can teach you how to improve yours (search for upcoming workshops on Handshake). Our Sector Research pages are also a great starting point.
As an international student, you have a lot to cope with- living far from your loved ones, managing your finances, and navigating the visa regulations (don’t forget there is a lot of help available at Exeter from International Student Support). I am convinced you have the resilience of a rubber band (i.e. a lot!).
The reason you get rejected may not be the one you think
I hope I have convinced you that you have brilliant skills- my final point is one that applies to all students, revealed by the Institute of Student Employers in 2021.
This chart shows that it is not a lack of work experience, or your grades that lead to an application being rejected. It’s actually your ability to write an application in the style that UK employers are looking for. Just like learning to write in English, or learning how a UK essay is written, the process of writing a tailored UK job application is a technique. Very few people write in this style naturally. It’s an approach to writing that we can teach you. Once you understand how to do it, your success rate will increase. That’s why we run regular workshops on tailoring your applications (bookable via Handshake) provide online resources and also 1-2-1 appointments where you can get feedback on your application before you submit.
If you want to understand more about what UK employers want, why not get involved in the many opportunities we provide for you to meet them? Come along to a careers fair, employer-led event or form a more personal relationship with a professional through our Career Mentor scheme– these are brilliant ways to really gain understanding of how to impress UK employers as an international graduate.
Last summer the Career Zone was lucky enough to secure a small research grant from the Centre for Social Mobility. We knew that students from underrepresented and disadvantaged groups often face barriers in developing their employability, and that the current global pandemic may have created even bigger gaps for these students. Research from the social mobility charity – UpReach (July 2019) highlighted the challenges students from less privileged backgrounds face; ‘(they) have more limited access to careers advice at school, are less likely to have completed professional work experience and lack useful social networks.’
With the funding secured we therefore had a fantastic opportunity to research and to focus on particular underrepresented groups of undergraduates – those in receipt of Access to Exeter bursaries, BAME, Disabled, Care Leavers /estranged and mature students. In particular we wanted to find out from these groups:
The challenges and barriers they faced with the development of their employability and career plans
How the Career Zone could further develop support to better equip these students to overcome these barriers and challenges – and to encourage them to engage with our range of services.
So how did we do it?
We wanted to make the online experience as engaging and creative as possible, so rather than the traditional focus group format we used the Lego Serious Play® methodology. Participants received individual packs of Lego® to enable them to build individual and shared models which represented the challenges they faced, plus the support that would enable them to overcome barriers with their employability.
The use of experiential methodology centred on liminality research (Hawkins & Edwards 2015, 2017). Experiencing liminality in a workshop through “hands on” activities e.g.,/building representations of “monsters” would offer the students the opportunity to explore challenges, barriers, try out new ideas and identities and reflect on their experiences both individually and with others.
In addition to playing with Lego® (!) students also completed questionnaires and polls asking about the range of employability support they had engaged with to date, plus they all had opportunity to receive a Personal Employability Report (managed up our charity partner upReach), to help them identify strengths and potential areas of development.
Yana is 2nd year Law student who took part. “I have found it highly enjoyable to participate in Employability Monsters in my first year of Uni. As a mature student, I have encountered numerous difficulties researching and planning my career. This is where Employability Monsters have come to the rescue and taught me how to embrace the challenge and build on my strengths. How? By taking a very creative approach: Lego bricks! Throughout the project, I have met many wonderful people from across different faculties, with whom we shared our struggles and uncertainties, faced the fear of barriers to workplace and inspired each other to discover different paths to success.”
What did we find out?
Working closely with 32 x 1st and final year UG across all our campuses – Exeter and Cornwall – the following key findings/themes emerged from the students in terms of challenges and the support that would help them with their employability:
– the need to further develop employability and softer skills
– finance was a barrier to securing professional experiences eg. internships
– an increased in depth knowledge of the graduate level recruitment process
– to gain advice from both peers and career mentors who have similar lived experiences
– the lack of knowledge of the support available to help them with their employability and career planning
As a direct result of the Project I am pleased to say that a web page is about to be launched – Careers Support | Widening participation student support | University of Exeter which details (in one place!) all the help and support available to students from underrepresented groups – (including funding to set up internships through the Access to Internship scheme. The peer mentoring scheme for students receiving the Access to Exeter Bursary has further developed with final and second year Bursary students “mentoring” 1st years.
The Projects not stopping there though – we’re going from strength to strength! The Team has funding to work with the original participants (some who have now Graduated) plus 100 more undergraduate students this year. So if you’d like to join the conversation and make a difference we’d love to hear from you. Find out more about the Project and how to register here. PS – you’ll get a bag of Lego® and a £10 voucher for taking part!
Emily Worgan is a Final Year student studying BA History and Ancient History with Employment Experience, at the University of Exeter. She talked to us about what it was like living and working in Spain, and the unexpectedly powerful impact it had on her life.
Humanities undergraduates can gain work experience across a wide range of sectors as part of their degree on programmes such as ‘with Employment Experience’ or the ‘Humanities in the Workplace’ module. If you’re a Humanities student and want to find out more about work placements head to: https://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/careers/undergraduatestudents/
When I had decided to include ‘with employment experience’ in my degree, I hadn’t expected to be where I am now. I had always been keen to live and work abroad at some point in my life, with aspirations to practice my less than mediocre language skills and push myself out of my comfort zone. However, when I attended a placement fair at university in my second year, I had looked at domestic placements, being anxious about actually deciding to apply for a placement abroad. I looked on Handshake, in newsletters, on websites and more. However, after not finding anything which really excited me, I was introduced to the British Council, an organisation which aims to promote the English language and British culture. The British Council has a program which allows people to be placed in other countries as a language assistant, teaching a range of ages and in a variety of locations.
“Due to the pandemic and Brexit, it was hit or miss as to whether I would or even could carry out my placement, yet, in September 2020, I took my first solo flight to Madrid and then travelled on to Soria to start my experience.”
I had originally wanted to apply to France, as I had taken a module of French and wished to develop my language skills further. However, it was required to have a B1 level of French in order to apply, and I had A2. Therefore, I looked to apply to Spain, where it was not a requirement to know the language to a high level. I have never truly studied Spanish, yet wished to really push myself (which, in hindsight, was absolutely mad!).
The application process was fairly simple and the university was a great support when it came to the personal statement and reference. When the pandemic happened, I was convinced that the program would not continue and that I would have to carry out my ultimate year of my degree instead. However, the British Council decided to continue with the program and informed me that I had been successful in my application in June.
Due to the pandemic and Brexit, it was hit or miss as to whether I would or even could carry out my placement, yet, in September 2020, I took my first solo flight to Madrid and then travelled on to Soria to start my experience.
“…don’t be disappointed if you feel scared or homesick when you first arrive – it is normal… Be kind to yourself and recognise that this is just another challenge to overcome!”
The first night was the hardest and I had considered giving up, however I persevered and day-by-day being away from home became easier. I had amazing support from people in Soria that I had met online and my colleagues were incredibly helpful during those first days. The most important thing to remember when you take on an experience like this, is that it is going to be hard at first but it definitely gets easier. So, don’t be disappointed if you feel scared or homesick when you first arrive- it is normal. Once you get past your first few days, you can be proud that you overcame the panic and then look forward to the amazing experience that you will have. Be kind to yourself and recognise that this is just another challenge to overcome!
Now, over a year later, my experience since that night has been the most incredible of my life. I have never felt so independent, confident and proud. It has certainly been hard – I have had problems processing paperwork, finding somewhere to live and not knowing the language is difficult. However, now I know more, especially in terms of the language, and have incredible support from friends and co-workers here. I have met people from France, the US, China, and Ecuador, not to mention those from all over Spain! I have had several opportunities to visit beautiful places such as Segovia, Léon and Zaragoza, and try new foods and truly experience Spanish culture. I have a say ‘yes’ policy in which I push myself to experience more, despite being anxious. This policy has allowed me to have the best time!
“Now, over a year later, my experience since that night has been the most incredible of my life. I have never felt so independent, confident and proud.”
Working in a primary school in a small village has definitely been a positive experience. Teaching these children and communicating with them has allowed me to make decisions on my future career path. We learn from each other, and every day at work feels like I am in class as well. The staff have been so welcoming and supportive, and many are now my friends. To share my culture and experiences with the children and add to their curiosity has made me very happy! I hope to have had a positive impact on these children’s lives by the end of my placement. I can truly say that I look forward to going to work!
“When I return to University, I know that I will carry this experience for the rest of my life and that if I can get through this, then I can be truly proud of myself.”
So, when I think back to when I had applied to do a ‘with employment experience’, this outcome was not what I had in mind. I had expected to have either a placement in the UK or France, and living normally, without a pandemic. But now, I have lifelong friends, an international family and an experience that has made me understand the importance of independence. When I return to University, I know that I will carry this experience for the rest of my life and that if I can get through this, then I can be truly proud of myself.
Claire Guy is an Employability and Careers Consultant working with postgraduates in the Business School. She is currently developing a range of resources and support specifically for international students.
As an international student, there’s a lot to think about and lots to do. You’ve been saving, planning, and packing for as long as you can remember and now you’re far from home, adjusting to a new style of teaching, possibly even in a language that isn’t your native tongue. Wow – You deserve a huge round of applause for all you’ve achieved so far.
Perhaps you’re looking forward to things calming down with less on your mind, and the chance to focus on your studies. It might surprise you that we are already asking you to think about your future and to start preparing for a career after your studies. It might feel a little overwhelming! But what if I could give you 5 tips which won’t take a lot of effort, but will make a huge difference for your future success?
“What if you could focus your time on the 20% of possible actions that will give you 80% of the impact for career success?”
You may have heard of the 80:20 rule, or the Pareto Principle. Developed by an economist in 1895, the rule demonstrates that 80% of your outcomes come from 20% of your time and effort. Let’s apply this to your time at Exeter and your future career. What if you could focus your time on the 20% of possible actions that will give you 80% of the impact for career success? Here are 5 simple things you can do that bring huge results!
1 Immerse yourself in cultural learning: Employers worldwide are realising that diverse workforces are great for business. They want to employ people who think differently and approach things from a range of perspectives. Diversity brings a huge range of benefits such as increased innovation, creativity, and happier employees. International students like you naturally bring culturally diverse perspectives but you can add even more impact, when you combine this with combine this with cultural intelligence. Cultural Intelligence is the ability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations. It’s about crossing cultural boundaries and thriving in multiple cultures. Someone who has cultural intelligence is not just an observer of different cultures – they are able to culturally adapt and work together with people across a variety of cultural contexts. This cultural intelligence will impress UK employers, employers in your home country and anywhere else in the world you choose to go! The University of Exeter is a proudly international institution, with staff and students from more than 130 countries giving you endless opportunities to interact with different cultures. We know that this can feel scary and that it can feel more comfortable to make friends with other students from your home country but if you make the effort to interact in and out of class with a range of people you will really reap the rewards. Imagine applying for graduate roles and being able to talk confidently about your cultural intelligence and diverse perspectives! Say yes to as many opportunities to mix with others as possible.
“The University of Exeter is a proudly international institution, with staff and students from more than 130 countries giving you endless opportunities to interact with different cultures.”
2 Develop skills outside of your studies: Whether you plan to work in the UK after your studies, or return home, employers will want to hear about the skills you have developed whilst you were a student at Exeter. In fact, if you plan to remain in the UK to work, it is important for you to know that many UK employers value skills over and above your academic achievements. In fact, growing numbers of graduate employers are removing academic grades from their entry requirements as they have found that skills are a much better predictor of a graduate’s ability to perform well in a job than their academic grade. Employers don’t mind where your skills come from so you have lots of options: pick from volunteering, joining a society, taking part in a sport, getting a casual / part time job, or doing an internship. If you have limited time available, you might want to be strategic about which skills you need to develop and focus on activities which target those skills. Carrying out a “skills-gap analysis” will help you be strategic- a) study a career profile or search graduate vacancies that interest you and b) make a list of the skills needed. Then c) assess your own skills. Focus on developing the skills that you need for the career(s) / vacancies that interest you, but which aren’t very strong yet! Don’t forget to be mindful of your visa in terms of how many hours a week you can do certain activities. If you are considering taking up volunteering or unpaid work please refer to the International Student Support pages to check what is considered as volunteering or voluntary work.
“Whether you plan to work in the UK after your studies, or return home, employers will want to hear about the skills you have developed whilst you were a student at Exeter.”
3 Be informed: If you plan to stay in the UK after your studies to work, you will need to understand how the job market works in the UK. There are likely to be differences between the UK and how things are done back at home. For example, the graduate recruitment cycle in the UK starts early. This means that jobs which start in June / July or August open for applications in the previous September and close between Nov-Jan. So, if you want a place on a graduate scheme, you will need to be ready to apply almost a whole year before your course finishes. It may be that CVs, application letters, video interviews and other parts of the application process are different from what you may have experienced in your home country. That’s why Career Zone is available for you, with lots of virtual help as well as help in person. We can help teach you all about working in the UK, as well as helping on a practical level. You may find our bespoke programmes, India Career Ready or China Career Ready helpful too.
“If you plan to stay in the UK after your studies to work, you will need to understand how the job market works in the UK. There are likely to be differences between the UK and how things are done back at home.”
4 Build networks: If you follow the advice here so far, you will meet a lot of new people! Keep in touch with them, you never know when you may be able to help them or they may be able to help you. The people you meet now are the ones who are or will be in a position to help you out professionally in the future. You are connected through your shared experiences, which means they are much more likely to want to help you, especially if you have been helpful in the past. Students often feel that they don’t have much to offer anyone at this early point in their career, yet doing small, helpful things can really have an impact for others. Promoting projects and events that other people are organising or involved in, introducing people to one another, or sharing your experiences can be so useful for your peers. Sharing that you were rejected for a role you really wanted because you didn’t complete an online test within the required 5-day period for example, might help someone else to avoid the same mistake. The more helpful you can be, the more you’ll be seen as a valuable connection. LinkedIn is a brilliant tool to keep in touch with your network.
“Students often feel that they don’t have much to offer anyone at this early point in their career, yet doing small, helpful things can really have an impact for others.”
5 Improve your English: If you follow tips 1-4, your English will already have improved a lot! It’s worth knowing that UK employers expect very good spoken English from international applicants, so if your English still needs some improving, INTO at Exeter offer lots of support.
Jonathan Fairclough is an Exeter alumni, and current Head of Operations for Givaudan Ashford UK. He talked to us about the fascinating world of flavour and fragrance careers.
Hi I’m Jonathan, I work in the Fragrance and Flavour Industry which I joined right after graduating from Exeter in 1997, where I studied Chemical Engineering. Today I work for Givaudan as the Head of our site at Ashford, and lead the Operations team, producing Fragrances and Oral Care flavours that go into many of the products that we use at home each day.
We purchase thousands of raw materials from around the world, and use them to manufacture products that have been developed by our perfumers, ensuring that all quality standards are met, and that they are shipped to our customers to meet their requirements.
Tell us about Givaudan and the flavour and fragrance industry.
Although we all experience the results of the fragrance and flavour industry every day, it’s an industry that’s often overlooked. From your mint flavoured toothpaste to your lavender laundry soap, your chocolate flavoured protein drink or your strawberry gum… consumer products in cosmetics, beauty, food and beverages can be differentiated through the variety of their scents and tastes. Consumer product manufacturers don’t generally produce them in-house, but work with suppliers which are experts in the field of Fragrances and Flavours, and with 25% market share Givaudan is the global leader.
“This fascinating industry has existed for over centuries and uses synthetic as well as organic ingredients combined with bio-chemistry and neurosciences which are key for creations.”
This fascinating industry has existed for over centuries and uses synthetic as well as organic ingredients combined with bio-chemistry and neurosciences which are key for creations. In the recent years Givaudan has expanded our offerings adding active cosmetic ingredients to our portfolio as well as nutrition, health, and natural ingredients.
We’re also investing further into new technologies (for example, artificial intelligence) and adjacent industries to expand our portfolio.
What’s the process a company goes through with you if they want create a new flavour or perfume with you?
It would all start with a customer brief for a given product idea destined for a given market segment. Our sales professionals would collect the brief and build up the team to work on it. The team is composed of perfumers and evaluators (for fragrances and beauty), or flavourists and food technologists (for taste and wellbeing solutions) along with marketing professionals, lab application, regulatory, and pricing experts. Once our creations are ready we submit them to the customer and it can take sometimes up to two years to know if we’ve ‘won’ the project. Before we can launch the manufacturing process, there is a phase called ‘testing and sampling’ in collaboration with the customer. We own the formula, produce the material and deliver it to our clients.
“Once our creations are ready we submit them to the customer and it can take sometimes up to two years to know if we’ve ‘won’ the project.”
What kind of companies use Givaudan, can you name names?
Unfortunately we can’t name customers because it’s very confidential. But we can say that we co-create solutions with most global consumer product manufacturers in beauty, cosmetics, food and beverages.
How has your career evolved at Givaudan?
I feel very privileged to have been able to grow my career within Givaudan, starting as a chemical engineer improving our processes to manufacture ingredients, moving into management and developing from the maintenance manager to Head of Engineering, broadening my skills into other areas of Operations and Supply Chain as the Planning manager and lead for Continuous Improvement, and now Head of the Site. Givaudan has enabled me to develop, grow, learn, be recognised and valued, while having a lot of fun along the way.
“Givaudan has enabled me to develop, grow, learn, be recognised and valued, while having a lot of fun along the way.”
What kinds of roles are there at your company? What kinds of students are you looking for?
We have two distinct divisions: Taste and Wellbeing, and Fragrances and Beauty. In each division, we recruit professionals with a background in chemistry, food technology, food sciences, but also professionals in sales and marketing, and sciences and research (R&D), Regulatory, Logistics and IT, Procurement, Finance, HR for the corporate functions.
Our Givaudan site in Ashford is a Fragrance and Beauty site, where we also have our Oral Care Global Business Centre. At our Ashford site we have our Science and Technology department, we usually take placement students for each of the S&T departments on a yearly basis. In the last year the student/graduate recruitments for our Ashford site have been:
Oral Care Consumer Marketing Insight Student
Oral Care Marketing Graduate
Sensory Science Student
Malodour Research Student
Neuroscience Research Student
Junior Laboratory Technician Student
Our Milton Keynes site is our main UK site for Taste and Wellbeing. The main activities on our Milton Keynes site are product creation and application, customer care and sales. We have less student opportunities on our Milton Keynes site, we take two Food Technologist students each year that work in our application labs.