Deciding which career to pursue can feel a bit overwhelming for many students but support is widely available, especially at SOAS. National Careers Week (NCW) is a celebration of careers guidance and free resources in education across the UK, aiming to provide a focus for careers guidance activity for all students. In light of NCW, I spoke to a few members of the SOAS Careers Service to discuss what they do, how COVID-19 has impacted job searching, and careers advice they wish they could give their younger selves.
Introducing the SOAS Careers Service
I sat down with three members of the SOAS Careers Service and asked them to give me a brief overview of their role and what they enjoy about it.
Philippa Hewett, Head of Careers
Philippa tells me that she really likes the way SOAS Careers Service uses data to plan their work. She tells me that she enjoys navigating students’ next steps after SOAS, particularly “where their career thinking is on a continuum from ‘I am not ready to think about this yet’ through to ‘I have a confirmed job or further study’.”
Luke Brockway, Employment Engagement Manager
Luke’s responsible for “meeting with employers and telling them how great SOAS students are.” He particularly enjoys “playing a small part in helping students navigate one of the biggest transitions of their lives – from the structure of education to wide-open opportunities of work.”
Jo Cooper, Careers Service’s Information Manager
Jo has worked at SOAS for almost 8 years and is responsible for managing and developing all printed and digital careers information and resources. The part of her role that she enjoys the most is “researching and curating careers information to make it bespoke to the SOAS community.”
What makes SOAS Careers Service special?
The SOAS Careers Service supports all students in finding job, internship and volunteering opportunities through SOAS CareersZONE. As well as mentoring opportunities via SOASConnect and also provides an abundance of careers-related resources on MySOAS Student.
When I asked these three valuable members of staff to describe what makes the SOAS Careers Service so special, they all mentioned the welcoming and highly qualified team who have years of experience between them. Philippa especially highlighted that SOAS Careers is “one of the few UK universities which offer careers support to graduates for life.”
Who can access the SOAS Careers Service?
All three members of staff agreed that many students think that the SOAS Careers Service is only available for those who already have a career in mind. Jo tells me that many students are under the impression that SOAS Careers Service only do CV checks; she mentions that they offer many other services, including:
- Advising on what to do if you haven’t got a clue
- Helping you find out more about the sectors and roles you’re interested in apply to
Further elaborating on broader misconceptions including the current graduate recruitment market, Luke mentions that recruiters are “currently seeing a boom in graduate vacancies, with many organisations unable to fill the positions available!”. He highlights that “now is the best time to enter the job market for many many years, but you will still need to submit quality applications.”
How has COVID-19 impacted career searches?
They all acknowledged that students have been more anxious amidst uncertainty. Luke tells me that although virtual recruitment processes can prove to be a challenge, they can also be perceived as an opportunity. He mentions that the SOAS Careers Service is “moving back to an offline world, but hybrid recruitment and working practices are here to stay. There are advantages to this [for example] virtual interviews can feel less intimidating, and you can stick notes on the wall behind your screen to help you out.”
All three staff members also highlighted how SOAS Careers moved its entire service online, in response to pandemic restrictions. Thankfully, they can now accommodate both virtual and in-person appointments, but the plethora of online resources still remains available to all students. Jo tells me that SOAS Careers Service “has lots of resources on MySOAS Student to help with [students concerned about gaps in their CV], including webinar recordings about the context of COVID-19 and employability.”
Advice from SOAS Careers Team
As it’s National Careers Week, I finally asked Luke, Philippa, and Jo to give one piece of careers advice they wish they could give their younger selves.
“I sent off so many awful applications when I was younger – what a frustrating waste of time! Look carefully at the skills, competencies, and experience the role requires, which will be listed in the job description and demonstrate clearly that you match each one using CAR (Context, Action, Result). Research the organisation and role thoroughly, and specifically outline why you want to work there [for example] I saw the CEO talk passionately about Sustainability on a Youtube video and felt that this company fits my values.”
“If you start thinking early you will give yourself more time to reflect and make good decisions – and remember that the Careers Service is there to help you think through possible choices.”
“Try out different sectors [and] jobs by doing some work shadowing, or internships. You will get to experience the good and bad bits of a job, and will know if it’s for you, or not.”
SOAS Careers Service
SOAS Careers Service provides a range of services to assist you in developing your career or continuing your studies and to support you throughout the job hunting process while helping you to develop valuable employability skills along the way. Check out their newsletter sent directly to your inbox each week, visit their Instagram page for more information on services offered to students, and take a look at their page on MySOAS Student for important resources. Special thanks to Luke, Philippa, and Jo for sparing their valuable time for this interview.
Sinem Ishlek is a SOAS Digital Ambassador, currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Global Development. Her main interests include Human Rights Law and Public Policy.