UK Careers 101
October 25, 2019
So you have managed to secure admission to a great course at a UK university, just like you wanted. You are here now, getting used to the academic rigour of the education system, the plethora of academic and extra-curricular opportunities and multi-cultural experience. Your hard work has led you to this inimitable, but it doesn’t stop here.
You are here for your professional embellishment and soon enough you will understand that navigating the professional spaces in the UK is quite different from the nuances of your home country. The work etiquette, the vocabulary and the schedules are all very strikingly different. In the deepest of your hearts, you will know that you need to acquaint yourself with these differences if you want to work in the UK.
Let’s get you started with a dictionary consisting of a few keywords, terms and jargons you should know about. They might mean something else in your home country and something drastically different in the UK, so it is better to stay informed about the British connotations. Here we go:
In South-East Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc, a placement or campus placement connotes a full-time job through on-campus recruitment, which consists of a preliminary test, a group discussion and finally, a personal interview. In the UK, there’s no concept of an on-campus placement as such. The nearest your recruiter comes to your University campus is for a careers fair event. In certain Universities, the internship hub or the careers services may have a portal where vacancies are listed, but that’s the extent of on-campus recruitment activities. The actual recruitment takes place in company offices, off-campus.
When this word is used in the UK context, placement refers to a 1-year work experience sandwiched as a part of the degree. These are often referred to as a year-in-industry or placement year or work placement. Under work placements, you are often assessed and receive academic credit for the placement. This route does not lead to the settlement option that comes with a full-time job.
Work experience or work shadowing are often used interchangeably. As a student or a graduate, you can use work shadowing opportunities to get a feel and taste of the job by working under or with the people in the department of your interest. The duration could be anywhere from a couple of days to a fortnight. Work experience opportunities can also come as formal, paid work, but work shadowing is almost always informal and unpaid, with the sole purpose of helping you gain hands-on experience and practical insight into the job.
Quite simply, volunteering is when you commit some of your time on a regular basis for one of the charities and non-profit organisations such as Age UK, Barnardo's, British Red Cross, Cancer Research UK, the National Trust, The Prince's Trust, Oxfam etc. Volunteering acts as a testimony to your proactive approach, problem-solving and communication skills.
As is self-explanatory, a part-time job could be anything, from skilled to unskilled work, that pays you an hourly wage. Remember that as in international student you have a cap on the number of hours you can work per week.
An internship is essentially a shorter period of work experience, lasting anywhere between a week to 12 months, with the goal of imparting or honing specific relevant skills. Summer internships, for example, last for around 3 months in the UK, long enough to understand the job and gain valuable skills. Usually, the commitments under an internship aren’t long-term.
One of the key steps in graduate recruitment, assessment centres present a set of tasks and activities that test your skills and suitability for the job. These range from individual to team exercises like case studies, group discussions, role play, presentations etc.
These tests are either used in the first stage of filtering the candidates or during the assessment centres. These include personality tests and aptitude tests. Common aptitude tests include numerical reasoning, logical deductions, verbal reasoning etc.
When should you start applying for full-time jobs?
One solid answer? As soon as possible. In the UK, graduate jobs begin the September after graduation. The most renowned names in the industry will likely begin their application process up to a year prior to that. Do you know what this means? You need to get started on your applications just as your final year begins. If you are a Masters student in the UK, you need to arrive prepared for the UK. Just as your time here begins, so does the race. If you do not want to miss out on the big names, start applying as soon as you figure out your area of interest. Most graduate scheme applications will have a window from August/September to November/January.
If you miss a deadline, you will have to wait an entire year - and as an international student on a limited time period in terms of the VISA, you cannot afford to do that.
Let us have a look at the application process more closely.
The Recruitment Process in the UK
Applications for roles starting in September next year will roll out up to a year in advance. So for you, the summer before you start your masters, or start your final year will be crucial in order to research opportunities and the skills required for such graduate schemes.
The application period runs from August/September to either November or for some vacancies, January. Make sure you apply well in time. Some recruiters might consider candidates on a rolling basis too. Of course, there are no rigid guidelines here: some recruiters might keep the scheme open throughout the year too.
After the submission of your application, you may be asked to attempt some tests. More often than not, these situational judgement tests or logical reasoning tests are used as the first parameter to filter out candidates.
Once you qualify through the preliminary test, there might be some other tasks - nowadays recruiters assign audio or video tasks as well. These can also be in the form of video interviews, where you answer the questions to a computer.
If you qualify again, the assessment centres usually begin in February. Assessment centres are aimed at evaluating your skills- interpersonal and otherwise- through a variety of exercises like case studies, group discussions, role play, presentations, etc.
Those who qualify at the assessment centre are then called back for a personal interview, which is usually the last step. All the steps mentioned in the process are only indicative - there could be a different sequence of events pursued by different employers.
Resources you should know about:
Careers Service at the University:
Each University has a Careers Hub, Careers Services or Career Cell that caters to the career-related queries and doubts of the registered students. Whether you need advice on your application, vetting of the CV, a mock interview or an assessment centre exercise - the seasoned recruitment advisers are there to help you out.
Universities also organise careers fairs where you can meet with prospective employers/recruiters and chat with them about available opportunities. Such events are a great networking opportunity and can potentially help you materialise the connection into an internship or at the very least, an interview callback.
You will find online repositories of sample tests for psychometric testing. You can use these for a mock test or for practice before your big day. Some of these include Saville Assessment Tests, AssessmentDay, Personality Tests from Peoplemaps, etc.
If you head in prepared into the arena, you are bound to bag a job offer!