Part-Time Jobs

March 29, 2012

Since I’ve come to Manchester I have managed, through skill and panache, to get no less than ten part-time jobs. I have been in my current job for nearly a year, so it was in a space of under two years that I somehow managed to get these ten jobs. Of course this means that I haven’t actually spent much time in several of these jobs, but that I have managed to get so many means that there are a lot out there. A lot of people ask me how I have managed to get so many jobs, and how it has been having a part-time job throughout my university life, so I thought that here would be as good a place as any to detail my experiences. Mostly this is advice that I wish I had given myself in the past.

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What kind of biscuit are you…?

March 27, 2012

So, you’re in the interview.  You’ve got your smartest outfit on, the interviewers are friendly and, if you’ve done your preparation,  you’ll have dealt with the “are you a team-player” and “ give me an example of a time you…….” type questions without breaking a sweat.  Even being asked about your weaknesses and a time something went wrong holds no fear for you.  Then, completely out of left-field,  “If you were a biscuit, what type would you be?”   Erm…. what?

That’s a real question a student told us they had been asked at interview.  Other examples include asking for your favourite film or comedian or what one item would you take to a desert island with you? Or how many tennis balls would it take to fill this room? The general reaction to being asked this type of question is, what on earth has this got to do with the job you’ve applied for and how do you answer?   Do Hob-Nobs get hired and Custard-Creams get shown the door?  Will the boss only like you if you can bond over your favourite Michael McIntyre quip? How big is a tennis ball anyway?!!

Start by remembering that’s there probably not one “right” answer. Also,  your actual answer is not really what’s being assessed, you are.  The recruiter doesn’t care whether your desert island item is a beach-ball or a canoe. They’re looking broadly at two things, how do you react and how do you arrive at your answer.

How to react – you’ve just been hit with something you couldn’t anticipate. The interviewer knows that whatever you say now is not something that you’ve prepared and practised over and over.  Firstly, don’t panic when, as it inevitably will for a moment, your mind goes blank.  Take a breath, maybe a sip of water.  Say something along the lines of “That’s a really interesting question, let me think for a moment”.  This doesn’t mean minutes of silence while you mull over all the options.  It’s just time to settle the nerves and start to think clearly so you don’t just blurt out the first thing in your head.   You are showing the recruiter that, when faced with something out of the blue, probably in a situation you find stressful,  you can think on your feet and respond calmly and professionally.

Your answer –  Bourbons!! Great, question dealt with. However, you’re only half-way there.  If you blurt something out and don’t give them a reason for your answer, they’re certainly going to ask for it.  The recruiter is looking at your decision-making process and how you deliver your response.   Demonstrate to them that you considered options and alternatives in a logical and thoughtful way,  no matter how strange the topic, and reached a decision or found a solution that you can back up with reasons.  Show them that you can communicate your choice, and how you arrived at it,  in a clear and structured way.  “My favourite biscuit would have to be a Hob-Nob.  They’re not too sweet and they don’t fall apart when you dunk them in your tea.  They’re not too expensive either, which is important on a student budget”

What’s the point? –Yes, they could ask directly about your problem-solving skills, how you cope under pressure or make decisions.  You could just as easily respond with a ‘best-practice’ answer that you’ve polished and perfected to be exactly what you think they want to hear.  By forcing you to respond to an off-the-wall question, they see the real you in action.  You have to demonstrate the skills, not just talk about them. If you can demonstrate the skills in interview, that’s a good indicator that you’d use those skills as an employee.  By answering one seemingly random question,  you can show a potential employer a lot about yourself.

Finally, don’t have nightmares.  These questions are not routinely trotted out at every interview.  Most of you will probably never be asked a question like this.  You don’t need to spend hours making lists of your favourite things in every possible topic.  Prepare for an interview as much as possible (the Careers Service can help with mock interviews if you want some practice) and don’t worry about being asked something crazy.  Should such a question come up,  you’ll now recognised  it for what it is, understand its purpose and how to approach answering it.

For the record – I’d be a Ginger Nut.

Careers Service over Easter – open as normal

March 26, 2012

The Careers Service is open as normal during the Easter vacation only closing for the bank holidays.

The Quick Query service for application, CV and other advice is on daily 2.30 – 4.30. Bookings are taken at the usual times – you can ring up to book a time from 9.30 or you can pop in from 9.10.

It’s normally fairly quiet during Easter vacation and onwards into the  exam period, but don’t leave booking appointments until the last minute as it can still get booked up especially if you wish to see a specific adviser.

Into Summer…

It’s often busy towards the end of May and in June as final year students prepare for the Graduate fair and make plans for the next step in their career.  We run a series of events in early June aimed at all year groups so watch out for these if you want to get a head start on preparing for the year ahead or need to catch up!  They will be advertised in Careerslink nearer the time.

Which ever year group you are in good luck with your exams, and please don’t wait to visit us until you are on the way to the station cases in hand never to return!

My Career in… Library and Information work

March 19, 2012

Library and information work is a hugely varied field, many jobs now involve teaching and learning rather than the more traditional library roles.

Steve is an Information Skills Co-ordinator at The University of Manchester Library.  He is responsible for the planning, delivery and evaluation of Library information skills training and development, alongside the support provided by subject specialists.  He works with colleagues across the Library and with partners in the University such as the Faculty researcher development teams.

What are you working on at the moment?

We are currently developing new training sessions on blogging for researchers and raising research profiles using social media. We are also about to commence our regular training programme for this term, including sessions on reference management, literature search strategies and tips and techniques for keeping research up-to-date and managing ‘information overload’.

One of the key developments we are working on with colleagues is the launch of the new Learning Commons.

So how did you get to this point in your career?

While studying History at Durham University the support I received from the university library got me interested in the role of academic librarians. After graduating and working in temping jobs for a couple of months I decided to look into how to become a librarian. I got some information from my university Careers Service and began applying for posts as a graduate trainee. In the meantime I also did some voluntary work at a local public library to gain some experience and improve my understanding of the job.

I got a one-year post as a graduate trainee library assistant at the University of Westminster, I enjoyed the job so much that I decided I wanted to become a qualified librarian. I gained a place at MMU to do my postgraduate diploma (I intended to complete the full Masters degree but found a job shortly after completing the diploma stage and somehow never got around to it).

My first professional posts were in business information centres, providing a ‘commercial’ information service to small business and later to the financial services sector.  Although I learned a lot about information sources, enquiry-handling and research skills I realised that this wasn’t what I wanted to be doing in the long term and moved to the Department for Education and Employment before getting into higher education with a two-year post at the London School of Economics, created to develop the services offered to researchers.

The LSE was a fantastic place to work with the depth and range of its collections, and one highlight was helping Simon Schama to track down an obscure nineteenth century parliamentary paper for some research he was doing for his television series.

Having decided I wanted to stay in academic libraries after the post came to an end, I moved back to Manchester to take up a role at Manchester Business School after which I moved into a new role at the Main Library where I have worked since in a number of different posts.

What are the highs & lows?

  • The highs in all of the jobs I have worked in have been helping people find the information they need for a project, or showing people how to use a particular resource and seeing it make a big difference to their research. 
  • The lows were working for a commercial information service in the City of London and trying to negotiate contracts for research with bankers, lawyers and management consultants, all of whom where much better at driving a hard bargain than a newly-qualified librarian!

What training or experience are essential to get in? 

Formal qualifications are not necessarily required to work in a library but if you are interested in becoming an information professional the usual route is to acquire a CILIP-accredited qualification in ‘library and information studies’, either as a first degree or a postgraduate qualification.

Opportunities for graduate trainee posts and library qualifications can be found on the CILIP website (CILIP is the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals).

What about attitude, personality or interests?

  • The stereotypical image of librarians as quiet, shy and introverted is far from the reality. It is essential to enjoy working with people and being confident about getting out and talking to colleagues and customers.
  • The profession is changing rapidly with technological innovations and internet-based services and the ability to be flexible, to adapt and to keep developing new skills is essential.
  • Ultimately, whatever kind of library you work in, the most important thing is to enjoy helping people.

How have you found opportunities in this field?

A lot of library jobs are advertised through Lisjobnet, the main source of information for library jobs. Many posts will also be advertised in national and local newspapers and in sector-specific publications and websites (eg for HE positions).

What advice would you give someone considering a similar career?

  • Although getting a qualification in library and information studies is not always essential, it will help your career development greatly (and will also give you an excellent overview of the possibilities of the profession).
  • It can also help to get a ‘graduate trainee’ post, usually for one year, prior to applying as these posts are aimed at graduates interested in the profession and will generally provide a lot of experience and training opportunities.
  • It can pay to do some voluntary work at a local public library or other library service if you are thinking of pursuing a career in librarianship.

Other blogs in this series: Transport planning consultancy Painting video editing traditional chinese acupuncture graphic design veterinary nursing Development planning Freelance work Youth Work Event management Social media  Careers guidance

Scholarships in naval engineering, science and technology

March 16, 2012

£3000 bursaries available for science, engineering and technology students interested in a career in  UK naval defence

UKNEST (UK Naval Engineering, Science and Technology Forum) is offering 3 undergraduate sponsorships, which include:

  • £3000 bursary per year 
  • An industry mentor
  • Access to one of their member organisations in support of your studies (eg projects) 

Bursaries will be offered as follows:

  1. One to a 2nd year student
  2. One to a third year student
  3. One to a final year student 

To qualify you have to be a member of either IMarEST (Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology) or RINA (Royal Institute of Naval Architects) but don’t worry, student memberships are available from as little as £12 and these organisations offer a range of benefits if you are interested in a career in this field, with access to job vacancies and other scholarships.

More information is available on their poster at: UKNEST ScholarshipPosterA4

To apply:

Send an essay of 500 words that sets out your understanding and desire to work with the UK naval engineering, science and technology sector. Include:

  • Your contact information
  • A CV
  • Your IMarEST or RINA membership number
  • Your university, your degree and what year of study you will commence in autumn 2012
  • A reference letter from an academic that confirms that you are on track to successfully complete your studies

Email your application to by 31st August 2012 at the latest.

Read all about it! Skills for assessment centres.

March 15, 2012


Just bought a load of new books to help with those tricky issues of how to behave at assessment centres.

Books on working with other people, managing teams, managing time, leadership, business writing etc

Plenty to have a read through.

Everything you wanted to know about work experience & internships

March 12, 2012

Is it suddenly on your radar that summer isn’t far away? Do you have this vague feeling that your CV is a bit bare and there should be more on it? Then read on.

Aside from your degree, work experience is the number one thing future employers will be looking for on your CV.  A scary thought perhaps, if the best you have so far is a few days from when you were at school. But the good news is that everything you do counts, and there are many ways to get it, including casual vacation work this summer, a professional summer internship, industrial placement, work shadowing or a few weeks informal work experience. They need not be related to your degree. Even part-time work can count toward your work experience, its about what skills these experiences give you and how you talk about them that matters.

The key is to do something now, while there is still time before the end of your degree!

If you haven’t yet seen the work experience section of our website, you will find lots of tips and advice there, with links to where you can find advertised vacancies in CareersLink and other jobsites.

You can also get instant advice online at the National Work Experience Campaign website, which is live until the end of March 2012. 

If you would like to ask your burning questions to a real person face-to-face, then come along to one of our work experience talks taking place on  14th and 21st March. You can also speak to someone in the Careers Service, including our information team whenever we are open (Monday – Friday 9-5), an applications advisor if you need some advice on your CV for an internship, or a Careers Consultant if you want to discuss what kind of careers you could go into, and what kinds of experience would boost your chances.

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