Considering a Company’s Values

It’s One Planet Week and there have been lots of events running this week on maintaining a more sustainable lifestyle. This got us thinking about what research you can do to find out how important ethical and sustainable practices are to companies you might be considering working for.  How important is it to you that the company you work for shares similar values and ethics to your own?

In a 2017 survey by Prospects, the three most common factors cited by respondents as the most important when choosing an employer, were opportunities to train or gain qualifications, generous pay and that a company’s ethical values matched their own.

So how can you find out what a company’s values are?

  • Search ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ and the company name
    Most large companies will have information on their website about what they are doing to conduct their business in a way that takes account of their environmental impact, social impact and human rights.
  • Research company values and culture and read their mission statement. These can usually be found on their website
  • See how they treat their staff, look at staff policies on their website if available. Look at employee review sites such as Glassdoor and search on social media and LinkedIn to see what people are saying about a particular organisation

  • Take a look at the Responsible Business Awards website and see who has been featured.
  • Ethical Performance – latest news and information on how companies are addressing corporate social responsibility

  • 2019 Global 100 – an index of the world’s top 100 large sustainable corporations according to magazine, Corporate Knights.


To tweet or not to tweet. Managing your online presence

Social media – great fun, isn’t it? Keeps you in touch with friends and lets you share your experiences (partying, travelling, trying new things) and thoughts (what you really think of the latest Celebrity Big Brother…).

Your use of social media gives an impression of who you are, but don’t forget employers use it too to let you know about their business.

Get the lowdown

Following organisations or individuals you’re interested in on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn is a great way of getting an insight into different companies and being among the first to know when they advertise a new job opportunity. You can pick up lots of snippets that might be useful when applying for jobs or going for interview too.

Join York Alumni Association on Facebook and LinkedIn as your fellow graduates do post opportunities to those pages and it’s a great way to badge your profile to strengthen your personal brand.

There are also some handy tips on using social media in your job hunting from Prospects (don’t be put off by the age of the post – it’s still valid!) and GradIreland.

Showing your professional side

It’s a good time to tidy up your online accounts, when you’re using social media in your job hunting. Ensure your privacy settings lock down any posts, which might not show you in the most professional light. After all, photos of partying and silly costumes are best kept to your close friends – you don’t want a potential employer coming across them.

If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile yet – and it’s never too soon in your career to have one! – take a look at LinkedIn’s guide for students, which will talk you through creating a good profile and then using LinkedIn to find out about employers.

LinkedIn is great for finding out the latest in sectors/industries, as well as hearing about employers. It’s also a useful networking tool, helping you to make contacts and add to your knowledge.

So, if you’re going to spend some time on social media anyway, why not use it for your job hunting too?

“Tell me about yourself” Cracking the interview

There’s some great help and advice on preparing for, and attending, job interviews in our info sheet. It includes thinking about how you’ll answer interview questions using the CAR or STAR technique. Use whichever you find easier to remember, to help structure your reply.

Answering the question 

CAR stands for Context, Action, Result. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Questions starting “Tell me about a time when…” can be tackled effectively by using CAR or STAR –  talking about the situation you faced and what was required of you, what you did, and the outcome or result, and what you learned.  Note that the result does not always need to be perfect!  If it didn’t go quite right, you might still have learned something really useful to apply in a future situation.

10 reasons why interviews go wrong (according to employers)

1. Candidate doesn’t give sufficient evidence of what they’ve achieved.

Prepare some concrete examples of what you’ve done.

2. Poor level of knowledge from a candidate, who has gone for a job in a specialist field.

Are you sure you’re right for the job? If so, gen-up!

3. Ill-defined aims or lack of career planning.

You don’t necessarily need to have your future mapped out point by point, but you should be able to express your initial goals.

4. Unable to express thoughts clearly.

Prep and practise!

5. Candidate doesn’t ask any questions about the job.

The company website might be very comprehensive, but there’s bound to be something it hasn’t told you.

6. Poor personal appearance.

Haircut, clean fingernails, clean interview wear and don’t slouch!

7. Candidate doesn’t show any real interest or enthusiasm for the job.

Employers want to feel you’re committed to the role. If you’re interested, you’ll do a better job..

8. Evasive about unsatisfactory performance.

Be honest and show you’ve learned from any instances from your own experience

9. General lack of confidence.

Tough one to address, particularly if you’re nervous. However, if you’ve been invited to interview, you must have shown something to interest the employer, so take heart from that! Practise answering questions and if you’re well prepared that will boost your confidence too.

10. Overbearing, arrogant and conceited.

No one wants that sort of character working in their company. If you’ve achieved lots – great, but you can be modest about it too!

What do you actually do?! Episode 5: Kate Pyle, Compliance and Corporate Services Manager

Today’s episode of What Do You Actually Do!? explores working in health care. Kate Pyle is Compliance and Corporate Services Manager at St Leonard’s Hospice in York.

Subscribe to our podcast so you don’t miss out on future episodes. You can listen on Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud, or YouTube.

Hello and welcome to this episode of What Do You Actually Do!? My name is Kate Morris and I’ll be your host today. In today’s episode we’ll be talking about the healthcare sector. Today we’re joined by Kate Pyle who works in St Leonard’s Hospice as Compliance and Corporate Services Manager.

KM: So Kate, what do you actually do?

KP: Hi, Kate. I am responsible for managing the non-clinical functions in the hospice that keep us safe. So I matron in high-vis, I manage health and safety, the facilities team… the housekeeping team and catering.

KM: What are the key elements of your role, then? You manage lots of different teams…

KP: Problem solving, probably, and keeping an overview of everything, and making sure that we maintain compliance with the statutory requirements we’ve got, that we can evidence that we’re compliant when we have CQC inspections who are the OFSTED of the healthcare world. So when they come in for an inspection we need to prove that we’re doing the checks on water hygiene, that we are keeping patient bedrooms clean, that our building is safe, and all of that sort of thing.

KM: So you did your undergraduate degree in English… so where did your interest in healthcare and all this health and safety stuff come from?

KP: I fell into it, really. After graduation I was working in event production for eight years which was just fun, but that gave me the ability to project manage, to plan, to work to schedules, to manage a budget, and then various other industries that I worked in until I was temping in Leeds and I was put forward for a role as a project manager for a new hospital that was being built in the centre of Leeds for the commissioning of it. I was supposed to be on a five-week contract and I was there sixteen years… So I think healthcare is just fundamentally important for everybody and to be able to work within it and make a difference for people is really important.

KM: You’ve mentioned that a lot of the transferable skills that you gained from events and maybe from English as well helped you break into that, but what other personal strengths or qualities as a person do you think you need to have, to work in that kind of role that does involve so much problem solving and overseeing so many different teams?

KP: I think the main thing is being able to deal with the emotional side of things. The hospice that I work in now obviously is end of life care, it’s palliative care… and to be able to deal with that on a daily basis… I’m pretty far removed from it, I don’t have much interaction with the patients or their families but what I do, makes it easier for the clinical staff to focus on what they do. But it’s taken me quite a while to “man up”, to be able to deal with that sort of thing. I think a sense of humor is critical, resourcefulness, quick-thinking, and the ability to change your priorities at the drop of a hat, but that’s what I love about it, that’s the unpredictability of my working day which is really enjoyable rather than having a job where you know exactly what you’re going to be facing on a daily basis.

KM: Is there anything that you find challenging about the job? Anything you don’t like about it..?

KP: There’s nothing I don’t like about it. The things I find challenging are the management kind of things, and this has always been the case where I’ll have difficult situations to manage with performance or behaviors that aren’t as they should be, but the best approach for dealing with that is just honesty and straight-forwardness, and no judgement, which I’m developing. Sometimes you can have multiple things happening at once, and it’s just a case of taking a step back and going “actually, what is the priority I need to deal with now?”. And that’s… again, you learn as you go along.

KM: Can you give me an example of what kind of things can go wrong?

KP: You could be in a situation where, in my previous role, I had numerous elements to my role. So I was in charge of procurement, I could be dealing with month-end reporting or a stock-take which requires detailed concentration, when health and safety incidents happen at the same time. Then you’ve got reporting time pressure plus immediate health and safety incidents: patients just trip down the stairs, something has happened that needs attending to, so it’s that sort of thing – just being able to juggle that. And it genuinely comes down to common sense, what’s the important thing to deal with first.

KM: Also the ability to work under pressure and not be swayed by who’s shouting the loudest, being able to think clearly…

KP: Retaining calm under pressure is really key, I find it exhausting to deal with people who don’t remain calm, it adds to the adrenaline and in those situations you do need to have a bit of distance, a bit of calm, and just get things done quickly.

KM: So what do you think a key challenge will be for the sector over the next few years? I’m thinking of students who might want to break into the sector, what should they be thinking about in terms of how to prepare and what might be coming up that they could be anticipating?

KP: I think the main thing that keeps cropping up in our discussions at the hospice is the ageing population and the impact that that has, we know that people are living longer, that this is unprecedented, so we don’t actually know what the health requirements will be of people as they live up to their 90s or into their 100s, and then the pull on resources as a result of that, we know the NHS is massively stretched, the way that gets funded and managed I think that’s a massive issue that needs resolving, and I’m not sure that anyone’s got a clear idea on how to do it. It’s such an immensely rewarding field to work in, and having gone from the shiny event production and advertising world where everything was fabulous and to go to something that’s fundamentally making a difference to people’s lives is really gratifying.

KM: Any sort of final advice for students who might want to break into this sector? Any tips for getting in?

KP: I think any volunteering you can do, any work experience you can do, I don’t know how the NHS postgraduate management scheme works, ’cause I’ve fallen into the job that I’ve done… But just having good transferable skills, being open, being honest, being kind, and having a sense of humor.

KM: We’ll put details of the NHS graduate scheme on our website, but to get into that it would just sort of be a case of writing speculative applications to a hospice or charity..?

KP: The jobs are advertised online on St Leonard’s website, I think for the more senior positions there are recruitment firms that are used as well. Mine was advertised on Facebook, the job was advertised earlier this year (2018), so they use social media to advertise their jobs as well, but there’s a volunteer workforce of about a thousand across all the different areas of St Leonard’s, and I know there’s been people who have been volunteers who then progressed onto having a paid position.

KM: So that’s a good way to check out and that could lead to other things…

KP: It gives you a good taste for what it is that we do, and I think that just generally having that open approach to speculative inquiries, when I first heard about the job I contacted them and said “can I come for an informal visit?” and then you spend time having a look around the site and meeting the key people and just getting a feel for it, ’cause it has to be right for them and it has to be right for you as well.

KM: That’s really helpful, thank you so much for sharing your story today, and see you next time!

KP: Thank you very much.

Thanks for joining us this week on What do you actually do? This episode was hosted by myself, Kate Morris, and edited by Stephen Furlong and produced by both of us. If you loved this podcast, spread the word and subscribe.

Are you eager to get more tips? Follow University of York Careers and Placements on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

This has been produced at the University of York Careers and Placements. For more information visit

Hire me! The art of drafting job applications

Naturally, you’re keen to land that first job, so it’s tempting to send off lots of applications to ensure major coverage. It’s quite quick to write an application and then copy and paste with a few changes, where needed.

However, it’s more effective to spend the time on a few high quality, well-tailored, applications than lots of generic ones. It may take longer, but a personalised, well-researched application will be more likely to hit the mark with an employer.

Preparation is key

Take time to research the organisation and the job, and to reflect on your experience and skills (including your degree and time at York), before you start an application, and check out this guide on what to do.

There’s also a helpful info sheet on what to include in your CV.  (This resource includes a personal profile in your CV, but this is optional so only do this if it works for you.)  Use active words to let employers know what you’ve done and the impact of it – here’s a helpful list.

CV Feedback

We’re always happy to give York grads feedback on their CV – just send it to us via Careers Gateway and one of our Careers Consultants will have a look at it for you; often it’s just a case of a couple of tweaks to make more impact.

Where do I go from here? Exploring career directions

Choices, choices…but if you’re still thinking about jobs after graduation, where do you start?

You may wish to have a job, which draws on and actively uses your degree subject knowledge. Start with Prospects’ ‘What can I do with my degree?’ and click on your subject or the closest one to your programme.

This resource will give you ideas of jobs which are either directly related to your degree or where the subject would be useful.

The information here also covers the sorts of skills you will have acquired through your studies, as well as destinations of graduates from that same subject area.

What are other York grads doing after University? 

You can get ideas by looking at the career stories of other graduates from your department in York Profiles and Mentors (you need a York log in to ask alumni questions direct).

The profiles make interesting reading with alumni covering a range of topics, including what they do, how they got there, the recruitment process, and advice and tips for others.

What’s right for me?

Sometimes a personality assessment can be helpful in identifying your personality strengths and preferences, and how these might relate to your career choices.  The SHL Direct personality questionnaire, for example, analyses your strengths in eight key competencies, helps you understand what these are and how you could use them in answering interview questions.

There are other tests available, some free of charge and others charging for a more detailed profile, eg Team Technology’s personality and careers tests, What career is right for me?, Career choice profile.

These resources are intended to help you think about your next possible steps, so don’t think you have to have your entire career mapped out straight away! As always, we are still available to help you, whether that’s through a chat with one of our staff or a pointer towards information that’s relevant to you and your situation.

A guide to graduate job hunting

Now graduation is over you may have turned your attention to the little matter of job hunting. Here are some handy tips on getting started.

Know what sort of job you want and in what sector?

If you’re not sure what type of job and for what type of company, check out the Get Ideas of the Careers website. Here you’ll find exercises to help you think about what’s right for you. The job sector pages give you background information on a variety of occupational areas and our York profiles give you an insight into the range of jobs York alumni have entered.

Where do I find jobs advertised?

There are lots of graduate level jobs advertised on a host of online jobs sites. Our information sheet, Finding graduate job vacancies, gives a list of suggested general job sites, including Careers Gateway, Prospects, TargetJobs and lots more.

Depending on the sector you want to work in, you might be better checking job sites which are particular to certain industries and services. The job sector pages will give you links to specialist sites.

The things nobody tells you

There are some details, which aren’t often covered in advice to graduates. These include busting a few myths around graduate job hunting (“all the jobs are in London”, “I’ve missed all the opportunities”, “all my peers have got jobs”, etc) and what employers really want from candidates.

Some of these issues are tackled in the job hunting toolkit, along with understanding job adverts and how best to use job sites.

Getting the job

Making applications is only the first stage on, what can be, a long recruitment process. Help with writing a CV or completing a form to sitting aptitude tests and attending interviews is available on the apply for jobs web pages and the info sheets linked from each page go into more detail.

Keeping it local

If you’re keen to stay in York(shire), use the location search field on vacancy sites like  Other specific regional sites include Inspiring Interns (for Manchester and the north of England, as well as London), Graduate Advantage (Midlands), Unlocking Potential (Cornwall); if you’re using national sites, eg Graduate Talent Pool, you can often filter by location.

International work

Whether you’re an international graduate returning home or any nationality looking to work outside of the UK, use the international work resources for vacancy sites and advice.

For international students considering working in the UK, it’s important to read through the information about options and visas on our pages for international students.

Unsure of your next move?

You might feel you’re not ready to start job-hunting yet, and need more time to be sure of your direction.  So, if you need to talk to someone here in Careers and Placements, please give us a call on 01904 322685.


What do you actually do?! Episode 4: John Tomlinson, Producer at York Theatre Royal

Today’s episode of What Do You Actually Do!? explores the role of working in the theatre sector. John Tomlinson is Producer at York Theatre Royal and he is also the Company Director of Stand and Be Counted

Subscribe so you don’t miss out on future episodes. You can listen on Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud, or YouTube.


Hello and welcome to this episode of What Do You Actually Do!? My name is Kate Morris and I’ll be your host today. In today’s episode we’ll be talking about working in the theatre sector.

K: So, John, what do you actually do?

J: It’s a great question, I ask myself that a lot. What I actually do is – the two kind of worlds I go between – so the producer role at York Theatre Royal means that I do a lot of logistics and planning and thinking about what shows are going on stage, who we’re gonna work with, the audience experience, how we connect with our local community and how we can inspire them. So whatever goes on our stages I’ve got an input into. And then the work I do with Stand and Be Counted – we’re an independent theatre company so there are three of us: myself, Rosie, who’s a writer and performer, and Hannah, who’s the theatre-maker and director. So between the three of us we’ve got different skills and under that kind of umbrella of that company name we often work in non-arts projects with the communities, which might be about creative skills for employment, for example, with families… but often we tour the work that we make across the country. So I work as a producer in-house at York Theatre Royal, and then independently at the other company.

K: Does that combination work well? To sort of have the regular income coming in from York Theatre Royal but, I guess there’s a structure around it, and as you said you’ve got to consider the local needs versus having that freedom and flexibility of your own work?

J: Yes, I kind of fell into that really in the sense of working for a venue four days a week so that’s kind of been built in the form of a career that I’ve been working towards. It does give stability in the sense of income, but also it means that I can have a real impact and a real say at a senior level in an arts organisation that I’m very fond of and I understand the big values and the big ethos of the York Theatre Royal. I absolutely buy into all of that. I feel like I’ve sort of worked for the community, so my job is about inspiring them to come to the theatre and say “welcome, come and join us, be involved, see what’s on our stages” but “can we engage with you? How else can we inspire you to be more involved in your community?” Then working still as part of an independent company, means that I understand it as part of an artist point of view, so I absolutely understand how challenging it can be but also how rewarding it is when you make something that can be really special with a group of people that you care about, and if you make a piece of art there’s huge rewards to that, in the sense of your output to the world.

K: So where did your passion and interest for the theatre sector come from?

J: The passion came from the first drama lesson I had in secondary school. I was never really interested in drama, it was always ever football. I’d still choose to be a footballer now if I could… But I was really inspired by a drama teacher like lots of people are… It was because it was a place for me to explore my creativity which wasn’t just singing or dancing or moving, it was kind of a collection of all those things – of ideas that you have and throwing all that together. And I love how you make something with a group of people. I’ve been always inspired by a group of people working together on something and then presenting it to an audience. I love the thrill of doing that. So initially it was always expected that I would go and be a performer in the industry, that’s kind of how it began – and went to sixth form college and university to study drama and media, but I was always very aware of the relationship to a career in theatre is based sometimes on luck, so I was always very aware that I should learn everything about theatre to be a better actor. I was always interested in why do people go to the theatre, and I think that’s the thing that I’ve always had, and I then realised that being a producer was a thing, and then I realised that that’s what drives me, and that’s what I’m probably better at than necessarily being on stage.

K: How did you work out that being a producer was a good thing for you, then? If you had it in your head that you’d be an actor, did you see someone else producing work and then realised that that was something you wanted to try..?

J: Yeah, I think it happened very organically like it happens to lots of producers. I was always the one at college or at university who would go out and speak to the person who’s venue we were going to hire, and I would always be the person who would go out and get props and get costumes, and enjoyed that kind of genuine connection to buying and making things from people. So I was always quite positive at just going at it, picking up the phone, and just asking people for what we needed to happen. And that kind of buzz of when it pays off – when you can get a really great venue that you didn’t expect you could get, and suddenly you’re now allowed to make anything in a beautiful venue. That always excited me, and then I thought maybe there are people who do that but on a bigger scale because who does it then… because it’s not the actors who put it all together, there’s obviously a much bigger team that work. So then I asked the right kind of questions at theatres, and got myself involved in lots of networks and skilled myself up in every area, I think. A big part of being a producer and what makes a good producer in my opinion, is their understanding of everyone else’s skills. So actually if it all works really well you wouldn’t necessarily know that I’ve done anything, but what I have done is I’ve got the right people in the right place at the right time, and they’ve made it all happen. It’s very much an understanding of – I don’t need to know exactly how to do what the sound designer does, but I do need to know enough to know that I’m getting the right person into a project.

K: It’s a really managerial role, then…

J: Absolutely

K: So what other skills or personal qualities would you say you need to have to be good at being a producer?

J: I think you need to be a very good communicator. You need to make sure that the right people know what they need to know at the right time. You need to be good with talking to an audience and championing in artistic projects, and getting people to come and see it. You’ve got to be confident in what you’re doing and why it’s important. Being the leader of that – if there’s an artistic project, you’ve got to be able to manage it in the right way to know that you can’t get a hundred thousand pounds for this project, but we can get ten, what can we do with that? So constantly understanding the different stages of a project which might be this – you start off with a big dream, and then you think about discovering what’s possible, where can we do it, how can we do it. And then designing it. So the main part of a project is: start with a dream, and then discover.

K: So it’s that combination of practical project management skills but that creative vision of what you want to get out of it and keeping that in mind so it’s not just “oh, we have to work to this budget”, it’s how you can stay true to the original idea.

J: Exactly.

K: So, what would say you really love about the role?

J: I love the challenge that in Britain cultural organisations are going through at a particular point in their history which means that they have to connect to new audiences. That’s the way it is. For them to thrive they have to find a way to connect to new people. They have to find a way to connect to younger people and that challenge is really exciting because I know that if you put the right things in place and encourage them to come, they’ll come and they’ll stick with it forever. I think theatre’s biggest challenge is probably the way it talks about itself as an industry, but being part of that and influencing even just one organisation and having good practice and good models means that can potentially pass on.
So, I love working with new people all the time. I thrive on being parts of teams, so while some things I do very much on my own, actually it’s always for a team. I never do it for it, it’s always part of a team and part of a much bigger project. And, I love the variance of it, so one day the priority might be doing a funding application but the next day the priority might be schmoozing really interesting people, and the next day you might be in a rehearsal room and you might be making theatre yourself and having to think differently. So, constantly I’m just switching my brain between different things is what motivates me.

K: Is there anything you don’t like about the role?

J: It can be stressful, it can be pressurised because projects have to make money, or whatever the priority of that project is, it has to make money or it has to make good art. Sometimes when you’re working with people who care a lot it means that you know how hard they’re working, and if it’s not a success you feel the strain because of course you want it to be good, and if it’s not working out it can be difficult. So, there are challenges but all those challenges are outweighed by the good stuff.

K: You’ve touched a bit on it already but I’m thinking about what the challenges are for the future, for students who are thinking of maybe wanting to build a career in theatre. You’ve mentioned it’s an issue now for the industry to look at who its audiences are, spreading the message out wider so it’s less of a posh thing to do for rich people, but something anyone can engage with. Any other key challenges or things people should be thinking about if they want to break into the sector?

J: I think that’s the main one, definitely. I look at what the independent theatre scene is doing and I think that’s the most exciting thing. The future theatre makers are doing some brilliant things and actually they are teaching big organisations how it should be done. Often the university graduate company can come out and they’ve just made a hit show and suddenly they’re on to something, and that’s really exciting. And if we can get more of them into our buildings to just kind of regenerate energy, just get good energy by people making good stuff, that can really help that.
But I do think the biggest challenge to face us as a sector is about diversity. Getting more people in, but also getting more people who are from different communities and how you say, actually, “you’re welcome… you might not be about to buy a ticket for £40 on a Saturday night but what you can give to us is that you can be involved in something in a different way.” So I think that that’s a big challenge, to get more people in and to get the right people in who care, and to inspire people to say actually theatre is for everyone. All you need to make a piece of theatre, well you don’t need anything, you could just do a monologue now if it’s in your head and you speak it, that’s a piece of theatre as long as someone’s watching, that’s all you need. But I think, sport and football is very accessible because you can just go down to the park because it’s there and it’s free and all you need is a ball and two people and you’ve got a game. But in the same way theatre doesn’t necessarily feel as accessible as it should do, when actually when you work in it and when you explore it more and more, it can be even more accessible than that, but people need to know about it, so there’s a big message that we need to send out to the public to say, everyone’s welcome. And the more people who feel that, the better.

K: It sounds like it’s a really opportune time for young or new little theatre group startups to break into it because actually the industry wants to change so they’re bringing fresh ideas. Is there any other tips or advice you’d give to people who wanted to break into the sector? How would they actually get started in that?

J: I would definitely recommend asking their local theatre what they have, what opportunities, how can we get involved? At York Theatre Royal for example we’ve got takeover festival which is run by young people, we’ve got a huge youth theatre, we’ve got lots of opportunities for artists as they’re developing their craft to reach out locally first. Invite your theatre to come and see your work, because it’s our responsibility and our job to go and connect with students.

K: So if they were doing production, actually invite local theatre producers and companies?

J: Exactly

K: Wow, that’s a cool idea.

J: Yeah, get out there and make some stuff, because if you can start making stuff and making mistakes in a safe environment, then you’ll be better for when you go out and do it properly. But also it’s alright to make mistakes. You can go out there and not worry that this one particular show went badly because you’ll become a better artist for making mistakes. I’ve made tons of mistakes and I know that I’ve learned more from that than doing something well. I would say, reach out to people, look at other groups and peers and other companies that you like and ask them, and get involved in as much as you can. So get involved in lots of different schemes, training opportunities and skill up in every area. Again, if you want to be a producer you need to know everything about the whole picture because it’s your job to get a really inspiring team of people together to make something, but it’s also your job to get an audience, so you need to keep thinking about how you talk to the public.

K: And I guess, as you said at the start, your experience as a performer yourself, that I imagine makes it much easier for you as a producer to relate to and even communicate with the performers and understand where they’re coming from and vice versa.

J: Yeah, you have to understand where people are starting from, and if they’re a volunteer on a project and they’ve been at work all day, I have to know that they’re giving up their free time to work on a project with us. I need to give them energy and I need to get them on board with what we’re trying to do. Equally, for a professional artist, you might know that they’ve travelled from London that morning so you have to be just aware of people’s situations and how you can make things easier and better for them. So you’re constantly just thinking of everyone’s different angles and where they start from.

K: Amazing, well, thank you very much for that advice. Thank you for joining us today. We are going to put some links on our website where people can have a look at the work that you’re doing for both your companies and where students can find out more about breaking into the sector. Thanks again for joining us.

J: Thanks for having us. Thank you.

Thanks for joining us this week on What do you actually do? This episode was hosted by myself, Kate Morris, and edited by Raquel Bartra and produced by both of us.

If you loved this podcast, spread the word and subscribe. Are you eager to get more tips? Follow University of York Careers and Placements on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. All useful links are in this episode description. This has been produced at the University of York Careers and Placements. For more information visit

5 Reasons to volunteer this term

By Charlotte Wainwright, Volunteering Project Officer

When you get to university, it can be easy to become bogged down in your studies. On these dreary January days, it can often feel as though your only glimpse of daylight is in the time you spend moving between your lecture theatre and your favourite spot in the library. With the gloomy cold and rain, you’d be forgiven for wanting to spend the rest of your time tucked up under a mountain of blankets, sustaining yourself on hot chocolate.

Yet university is a great time to meet new people, discover more about the city you’re living in and gain exciting and unique experiences that can help shape your life and career. Volunteering offers a fantastic way to do this, giving you a chance to explore your interests and make the most of your time at York. Careers and Placements offer a whole range of volunteering opportunities each term, in schools, health care, arts and heritage, and many other sectors.

So whilst Netflix might seem like an appealing option this evening, here are five reasons why you should get out and volunteer this term:

1. Meet new people and build your networks
Volunteering is a fantastic way to meet new people. Not only will it introduce you to other peers who share your interests, it’s also a brilliant way to meet people living in the community. Whilst it’s often easy to engross yourself in a university “bubble,” volunteering allows you to escape this vacuum and meet a diverse range of people, who all have their unique stories to share. Volunteering is also a wonderful way to expand your networks. By volunteering in a sector you care about, you create an opportunity to build strong relationships, that may help you to gain a job in the future.

2. Gain concrete work experience and skills for your CV
Volunteering provides a great way to develop skills that will enhance your CV and help you stand out to employers. It’s not just paid work that can be discussed in job applications – volunteering can be a fantastic example of work experience, that employers will be interested in talking to you about. Whether you volunteer in a sector that directly relates to your career path or not, you can gain a variety of skills through volunteering – such as organisation, time management and communication – that you can use as examples during job interviews.

3. Explore your interests and learn about specific jobs
Volunteering offers you a chance to discover more about specific job roles or sectors, that you may be interested in working in in the future. By observing the work culture of specific organisations, you can gain a deeper understanding about whether or not a career in that area would be right for you. Don’t worry if you find that a sector wasn’t all you expected – figuring out what you don’t want to do can be just as valuable as figuring out what it is you do want! Volunteering is a fantastic way for you to explore different career paths, to help you decide on the perfect job for you.

4. Make a difference in the community
One of the main reasons people volunteer is to give something back to the local community. By volunteering with a charity or organisation you care about, you can help to make a real difference to a specific cause. Local organisations value the time volunteers give, as it enables them to carry out important tasks that they might not otherwise be able to do, helping them to reach a wider audience. By sharing your skills, you can help support not only the work of the organisation, but those that their work directly affects.

5. Have fun and enhance your personal wellbeing
Volunteering is great way to spend your time, as it enables you to do something you enjoy, outside of your degree. Whether you’re helping to improve green spaces, supporting teachers as a classroom assistant, or even assisting in a museum, volunteering is a fantastic way for you to have fun and improve your personal wellbeing. According to the Mental Health Foundation, “doing good does you good,” helping to reduce stress and improve both your emotional wellbeing and physical health. Not only does volunteering enable you to help others, it’s also a great way for you to help look after yourself, all whilst doing something you enjoy!

You can check out all of our volunteering opportunities on our webpages. Applications close on Sunday 10 February.

What do you actually do?! Episode 3: Stefan Sipika – Lab Production and Process Manager

Stefan Sipika, who is the Lab Production and Process Manager at biotechnology company, Aptamer Group, is the subject of today’s episode of What Do You Actually Do!?

Subscribe so you don’t miss out on future episodes. You can listen on Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud, or YouTube.

You’re listening to the What Do You Actually Do!? Podcast. Each week, we want to bring you an inspiring interview, a useful tip, or encouraging message to help you find your place in the professional world. Hello and welcome to this episode of What Do You Actually Do!? My name is Kate Morris and I’ll be your host today. In today’s episode we’ll be talking about working in the biotechnology sector. We’re joined by Stefan Sipika who works at the Aptamer Group as their Process and Production Manager.

K: So Stefan, what do you actually do?

S: That’s a large question. The Aptamer Group is just a relatively small company, we’re about twenty, twenty-five people at this point and my primary job is managing the flow of work through the lab so when customers come in I write the plan for them, give it to the lab team, manage the lab team, manage the project going out. I do other things as well so people management stuff like that, setting KPIs, I do a bit of science here and there, so I mainly do kinetics experiments, things like that… 

K: So when you say you work with the clients, are you sort of identifying what it is that they want to achieve…

S: We go through a process… the sales guys will contact the customer, work out what they want and then they’ll bring me in to plan the workflow. 

K: So how it’s actually going to happen…

S: They hand it off to me, I look after the customer all the way to the end and then I kinda hand it back to the sales guys for the further work…

K: Can you tell us a bit more about what…

S: You wanna know what an aptamer is…

K: Yea… Talk me through it!

S: So an aptamer is a chain of oligonucleotides that we kind of use like Lego. So everything in the world, every biological entity will interact with another one in a different way. What we can do is we throw a random DNA or RNA sequences, stuff that makes you, at a target – so protein or a small molecule like aspirin or something like that and see what sticks to it! And after we use iterations of Darwinian evolution – so we expose something that targets to the library, wash up all the stuff that doesn’t stick, take that stuff off and make more of it. Eventually you thin down this massive random pool to a specific aptamer.

K: And why would you like to do that?

S: To recognise things, by-markers, it all depends on the customer’s requirements. We make sensors, markers, we can inhibit things… anything that recognises something is useful. Take for example cancer, a particular strain of cancer will have different marks in the cancer cells. If we can find one, it means we can identify it, if we can see it it means we can target it, and if you can target it, it’s much easier than subjecting someone to eight to ten months of chemo or something like that.

K: That’s amazing! So who would your clients be then – what type of people or organisations would contact you?

S: We have customers from small universities, to big pharmaceutical companies.

K: So what would you say are the key elements of your role? You’ve given a bit of an insight there, liaising between the two different parties and seeing a project through. But in terms of practical stuff you’re actually doing?

S: I suppose the stuff I do on a day-to-day basis is the report-writing, communication with people, so that everyone knows what they’re doing. Also communication with the management, sales team, the lab team… and yeah the skills I’ve picked up throughout my career. I lean a lot more into regulatory side of things as opposed to the RND side of things.

K: Do you need to be an actual scientist to do your kind of role? I imagine it’s helpful… I don’t mean that disrespectfully but it sounds like you’re not really sitting there with a test-tube… or are you?

S: I do at times. So when I left university I went on to do a lab role. I got more into the regulatory side of things and started doing more with automation. And then when it came to Aptamer Group, there was a niche there where their processes needed regulating so that’s what I did as I had experience in it. It’s kind of a mixture of a QA officer, which doesn’t need to be a scientist, but having that background helps you understand how you can fix things because routinely people will come in and say “what do you think we should do with this? It’s giving us a weird result – what do we need to do?” and you have to understand it to be able to answer those questions.

K: So where did your interest on the biotech sector come from? Because you did biology as your degree…

S: I did. Yes, at the University of York, and I didn’t do particularly well… You know, I’m not sure my supervisor is here anymore and I’m sure he could attest that I didn’t do particularly well for a variety of reasons. But when I left I got a job over in Harrogate at a research organisation as a low-level lab tech guy and that kind of exposed me to the industry in a way that you haven’t really heard about, I mean coming through academia you hear a lot about academia but not the wider things. Everyone knows about big drug companies, but nobody knows what they do. And working for a research organisation like that taught me a lot of skills that I didn’t have such as dealing with customers, analysing data, making sure it was fine first time… And that’s why I don’t have that curiosity that a lot of scientists tend to have but it’s helped me a lot in the way in which I can focus in results and I can analyse things from a step back rather than get lost in the middle of it. And you learn about the biotech industry, different approaches that companies take, and when I reached the end of my time there I realised that I didn’t want to be part of a big organisation anymore so that’s why looking somewhere like Aptamer Group just cropped up and I took a risk going from a huge company down to a small one. But it’s paid off in ways I wouldn’t even have thought possible and I find myself now in a position I never thought I’d be when I left university, really. I always thought I’d be in a lab for the rest of my time, I never really thought that I’d end up managing people. But I have done because it turns out that the skills that I learnt along the way, that continuous development have got me to a point where I can find into a position that I never thought I could do. And the skills as well that I learnt at University – admittedly my biology wasn’t particularly good – but dealing with people, interpersonal skills, I’m absolutely convinced that got me my first job, being happy to learn, being open to saying “I don’t actually know a lot, teach me and I will”.

K: So it sounds like for you, your experiences have been really impactful in helping you clarify what you’re best at and what you feel you enjoy doing the most rather than having a set plan of what you want to do…

S: Yes, I didn’t have a plan, which sounds terrible, and I’m sure my mum criticised me at the time for it but in reality a lot of the time you can make a plan but if you stick too hard to it, it can fall through…

K: Yeah, I think that can be the downside. I’ve met a lot of students where they’ve had a fixed idea on something, and then it’s even not happened or it’s happened but the reality hasn’t matched their expectations, and they’ve never thought of anything else. So having that adaptability can be a really good thing. But I think perhaps you’re underselling the self-evaluation that you’ve been doing to recognise what you’re good at and move from there…

S: Possibly. I think there’s the term in the industry “continuous professional development” and it is continuous and it comes from the most unlikely sources. My experience doing a podcast with my friend, for example, taught me how to talk to people; sitting in on meetings; jumping at every opportunity that’s presented to me… You’ve got to throw yourself head first into different experiences, because you can have the tendency to sit back and rest on your laurels. And if you find something that you like, great, but it’s not going to get you the next thing. What I’m trying to encourage my staff to do as well is sort of right, you’re here, this is what we’re looking at now for you. Key performance indicators. But, what do you want to do next? What drives you, what are you interested in? Find something that you’re passionate about and just pursue it relentlessly, because that’s the only way that you’re going to grow. And you might find that in ten years you’re nowhere near where you thought you’d be, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I always thought I was going to work in a lab until the day I retired, but now I hate working in the lab. It just sucks up my time, because what I really like, what I’m passionate about, is delivering things to my customers and knowing that we’ve done a good job, that the company is doing a good job, because of my work and my team’s work, the companies work, and that opens up opportunities.

K: So, what do you think are gonna be the key challenges for the sector moving forwards? For students, or people wanting to break into the sector, what do they need to know? What’s on the horizon?

S: Specifically in this country, Brexit, which is always going to be a problem until we actually know what’s going to happen, especially with funding. A lot of funding comes from the EU. It’s not necessarily a massive issue for larger companies, but for small companies that rely on that drip feed of money, and they don’t have external customers, it can be a concern. I think, in terms of technology that’s coming up, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but when you patent a drug, the patent only lasts a certain amount of time, and then you can make a biosimilar, which is something that is kind of like it but made in a different way. And that’s a massive industry now because things are coming along that will be similar to other drugs, and there is a fall away from R&D towards things to this kind of stable work that comes from making something that is similar and a competitor to paracetamol or something like that.

K: So, it’s like doing a cheap cover of a really good pop song?

S: Kind of, but with the hope that you’d undercut the competition and make more money. Considering that trying to get a drug to market is wildly expensive, we’re talking 10 years’ worth of work and probably £10 million.

K: So it’s sort of, in terms of money, it’s an easier win to copy an already proven successful drug rather than invest in trying to develop new ideas?

S: Yes. The other thing that is a challenge for the industry is regulation and it’s always going to be, because there’s a – I can’t remember who gave the quote – but, technology moves fast but regulation moves slow. So, I mean, it’s only in the last couple of years that the FDA and the NHRA, which are the regulatory authorities around the world, have kind of listed digital audit trails, software that people have used for years, they now actually have regulations for. So, a lot of the industry is kind of playing catch up very rapidly. It’s especially caught some of our customers out as well. You know, they need certain things from us that they just weren’t prepared for. And, it’s kind of, the more regulations that come in, the more money you have to spend, the longer things take, and the process just gets longer. But, counter to that, to plug my own company, the great thing about aptamers is that you don’t have to worry about a lot of the issues that come with making antibodies, we don’t make life cells, they can be made externally, synthetically, with no issues, so you don’t have to worry about that side of the regulations.

K: Is AI and the kind of development of AI, going to have an impact on the biotech sector?

S: Potentially. I mean, the automation is always going to be a big thing in the industry, because if you can get a robot or a programme to do something that a person does, you save costs and they can work 24/7 with no breaks. You always need a person there to programme them, but you don’t need a team of seven, for example. The more technology goes into that, the less, I suppose, human work is needed on certain things. But I think automation is kind of a, people always see it was a way to replace jobs rather than a tool to help.

K: So potentially more of a tool to help, in your sector?

S: Definitely, it’s never going to replace an analyst looking at data, for example, because you need to be able to interpret it, but it certainly helps an analyst do their job. And the more work we can plug into automation, the more consistent things will be, just through the nature of using robots.

K: So, any final words of advice for someone wanting to break into the biotech sector, or into sort of, process and production management in particular as a career?

S: I think, in terms of getting in the biotech sector, it’s just learning, like a said earlier. Learn as much as you can and throw yourself at certain situations, because if you don’t open yourself up to them you’ll never find the opportunities you think you will. There’s a tendency, especially in my experience with scientists, to almost stagnate. Like, they’ve got to a position and that’s it and that’s what they’re doing. But it doesn’t move them on. And I think, yeah, someone trying to get into the industry should always be looking for the next available thing, and recommending it to someone and saying ‘hey, you haven’t tried this. Do you want to try this?” In terms of process and production and management, again, management skills are always useful. I personally have never been formally trained with a management degree or anything like that, but I’ve done external training and again that comes from volunteering for things.

K: So it sounds like taking opportunities, not always doing the most obvious stuff, getting a bit of a variety of experience?

S: Yes. The more well-rounded a person you are, the easier it is going to be to find a job, as a general rule. I suppose, as well, it will help you in interviews, it will help you grow as a person and learn what you’re looking for and what you want to do at the end of the day.

K: Wow, that’s fantastic advice, thank you very much for that. We’ll put details of Aptamer’s website, and some bits and pieces about you on our website, and we’ve also got some resources for students who are interested in researching, breaking into different areas of science as a career, but thank you very much for giving your time up today, it’s much appreciated.

Thanks for joining us this week on What do you actually do? This episode was hosted by myself, Kate Morris, and edited by Stephen Furlong and produced by both of us.

If you loved this podcast, spread the word and subscribe. Are you eager to get more tips? Follow University of York Careers and Placements on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. All useful links are in this episode description. This has been produced at the University of York Careers and Placements. For more information visit

What to expect at an Assessment Centre

If you’re going to apply for a graduate scheme, you’re likely to encounter an assessment centre at some point along the way. The very idea of an assessment centre can be hugely intimidating and scary but by understanding what you can expect and why they’re used, it can help to remove some of the fear associated with them.

An assessment centre consists of various different tasks which are used as a way of discovering how you perform in a work environment and how suitable you are for that particular organisation, typically it might test for abilities such as problem solving, working under pressure and teamwork as well as highlighting your personal qualities and whether you would fit in with the company culture.

Some tests you could experience

  • Aptitude test – there are different types but typical aptitude tests measure numerical, verbal reasoning or diagrammatic reasoning. They are usually time pressured.
  • E-tray/In tray Exercises – a scenario or information to read that requires a response. These types of test measure working under pressure, prioritisation, decision making and picking out key points from lots of information
  • Presentations – assesses your ability to understand, research and communicate a topic
  • Group tasks –  working with other candidates to discuss a simulated workplace problem. Assessors will be looking at your teamworking skills and how you communicate in a group situation.

Tips on how to prepare

It may seem impossible to prepare for but there are things you can do!

  • Read all of the information you have been sent. It may include a schedule for the day.
  • Practise aptitude tests and e-tray exercises. Look at our web page on Psychometric tests to access free practice tests. If you’re doing a presentation and you’re allowed to prepare it in advance, practise it in front of someone else, check your visual aids work and iron out any distracting mannerisms or language.
  • Check out the company culture or core values and the behaviours they look for in their employees. These are often listed on their website and in the job description. Try to think of how you can demonstrate these values as well as showing your interest in the role and the company
  • Remember at an assessment centre, you are always being assessed so make sure you are courteous to everyone, co-operative and professional. Put your phone in your bag!
  • Try to relax and be yourself
  • Some of the tests are designed to put you under pressure, focus on trying to maintain your accuracy and speed rather than rushing to get everything done and making mistakes
  • Wear a watch so you can keep an eye on the time during time pressured tasks
  • In the group task, remember it is not who talks the loudest. You are being assessed on how you interact with and respond to others. Listen, ask appropriate questions, raise relevant points, be flexible and keep to the brief. Try to treat your fellow candidates as co-workers rather than competitors.
  • Don’t be intimidated, you’ve got through to an assessment centre so the employer must think you’re capable of doing the job, your task now is to provide the evidence to show this.

We’re holding an Assessment Centre and Interview Experience on Thursday 24 January. Come along to get a feel for what happens at an assessment centre and be talked through some of the typical activities. Two organisations who run graduate assessment centres will be helping us run this event to give you a realistic idea of what you could encounter.

What do you actually do?! Episode 2: Adam Smith – Audience Engagement Editor

Today’s episode of What Do You Actually Do!? explores the role of Audience Engagement Editor. Adam Smith works for The Economist ‘s social media team and it is his job to get people talking about everything the Economist writes about.

Subscribe so you don’t miss out on future episodes. You can listen on Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud, or YouTube.


You’re listening to the What Do You Actually Do!? Podcast. Each week, we want to bring you an inspiring interview, a useful tip, or encouraging message to help you find your place in the professional world.

K: So, Adam, what do you actually do?

A: Thanks for having me, it’s nice to speak about myself for half an hour [laughs] My job title is Audience Engagement Editor like you said, which is a fancy way of saying that it’s my job to get people online having a conversation about The Economist’s writing and our ideas. So that means that I primarily work on social media so I work on a thing called the social media team at The Economist, which does lots of things one of which is the conversational stuff that I do, and that means that I work on all of our social media presences – that’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, a bit of Snapchat, Line which is a chat app in Asia, and LinkedIn, and a few others to get people talking about everything that The Economist writes about because the founding mission of The Economist as a newspaper a 175 years ago, was to have a – are you ready for this language? It’s really ancient Victorian language – we were founded to “take part in a severe contest between an intelligence which presses forward and an unworthy timid ignorance obstructing our progress”. It’s a really fancy, Victorian way of saying that society needs to have an ongoing rigorous discussion about business, politics, and science, and the arts, and everything in society, and you need to bring rational thought to bear on that and good journalism, and we want to take part in that big discussion. So that’s kind of our founding mission at the newspaper, really, based on liberal values. Our founding editor, James Wilson, in 1843, could never have imagined something like Twitter, or something like Facebook. So now, over the past few years, we’ve taken that mission from 175 years ago into the social media space. That’s what I do.

K: So, you’re encouraging that kind of talk. How do you do that? Are you responding to people’s tweets and having a bit of a conversation with them, firing them up..? How does it work?

A: The primary way that we do it is simply by sharing our content. As a newspaper in print each week, we have around a hundred articles, online every day there’ll be a couple of articles. We also every week produce a bunch of videos and a bunch of podcasts. And that’s content that comes from our writers, correspondents, video producers, podcast producers, and most of that content is made with – I wouldn’t say it’s made with conversation in mind – but it’s certainly made to offer something new to that severe contest that I mention. That’s the point of doing anything in journalism, you want to be moving the conversation on in society about something. So all of that content is basically given to us in the social media team, and it’s that that we use to spark conversation. Simply by sharing it, by showing it in the right places online, and in the right ways – including sometimes asking questions… that’s the first primary way of getting the conversation going. And then there’s some more instrumental ways that we do it such as running a Facebook group which is one of my jobs. We actually have two Facebook groups, which is a way of diverting off from the main Facebook activity that we have. We have about 8 million followers. Diverting off those people who really want to have a really detailed and civil conversation, so we make this smaller Facebook group which we much more actively moderate and it’s me, my little face that pops up and says “hi, I’m the moderator and here’s today’s question and here’s maybe some content, here’s an article or something” and “what do you think about this issue: Should American gun laws be tightened up?” and so on those Facebook groups we have a few thousand people, obviously much smaller than the followers on our page which is millions and millions, but that means that we can have a more active and engaging conversation with those people. Sometimes it’s very instrumental in that way, and very active, and so on… 

K: Does anything happen with those conversations? Does that sort of fuel new conversations or investigations? Or is it sort of a one-way street? 

A: For us, currently, it’s more of a one-way street because of the way that The Economist works and has worked traditionally because it’s our custom, really, as a newspaper to be the kind of newspaper to say: “you pay us through your subscription to find out what’s going on in the world and we will tell you that” and that’s literally why you’re paying us.  It’s similar to being in a restaurant where you want to sit down and you want somebody to serve you your food, right? It’s a different experience if you have to go up to the counter and collect your food and then go to the till and pay for it; whereas a lot of newspapers, websites, and magazines, they are using social media to feedback ideas from the audience into the journalism. That’s not to say we won’t ever do that in some form… I can’t see it happening in a mass-scale at the moment because that’s not really what people expect from The Economist. It’s great that other publications do that but currently it’s not something that people expect The Economist to do, they think of us as a box of writers and thinkers who are well versed on what’s going on in the world and will tell them exactly that. It might be that on a small scale we experiment with a little bit of that and we have already done so, actually as I said my job title has the word “engagement” in it and we have done some small scale projects this summer that have been about getting the audience to feed into certain particular stories that we’ve worked on but not very much. So we’ll see, it’s a very dynamic job, really, and not just my job specifically but this job in the media industry in general is changing quite a lot. And the way any publication will answer your question today will be different to how they answer it in two years’ time.

K: So how did you get into the sort of world of audience engagement, because your background is more of like what people would think of as traditional journalism? So how did you break into this and realise this is an area that you’re interested in and want to be involved in? 

A: Because I was being a pretty traditional journalist, as you said, I was covering the politics of science for a newspaper, it’s a pretty niche subject but it was great, so I was reporting on – basically if you think of a political correspondent who hangs around in Westminster and says what the Brexit negotiations are, I was doing that but specifically around science and that was very traditional in the sense that I was finding out what was going on, I was writing about it for the web or for print and that was it basically. And I was really interested in the opportunity that social media and the internet presented us – to have a big conversation in society about that subject because I think it’s really important how science is funded, how science is regulated, who chooses what science is done, and all of those things – bearing in mind that’s five billion pounds a year that the public is spending on science, much of which comes to the University of York, you know, and all the science departments you that have here and the conversation wasn’t big enough – people weren’t involved in the conversation but I failed to convince my editors where I was to try and open up that conversation a bit more, and for us as journalists to be working more than just writing our stories but to be using social media more and having a bigger public conversation about that. I thought well, okay, I can’t do that big public conversation about this one particular niche area. So therefore I should look at how I can be part of the bigger conversation elsewhere. I saw a job at The Economist which was on the then new social media team, which was in 2015 – we were quite late to the social media game. They were basically building a social media team and so I knew that The Economist covered everything – politics, business, science, finance, economics, social issues – and thought “well, if I can’t take a small issue and bring it into a big conversation I’ll just join a big conversation that’s about everything” and so I applied and got that job. You asked how I did I break in but it was kind of just thinking about what I wanted to do and then just shopping around and there was a job that I applied for.

K: So this job now sounds like it’s giving you that opportunity to be involved in that conversation and given that it’s a new team, to really shape things that are happening there. Any other sort of particular elements of the job that you really enjoy or love about it?

A: I really enjoy being in a building full of really really big brains who are debating what the world should be like every single moment of the day. That’s the business that we’re in, and the editorial department is looking at what’s going on, analysing it, talking about it, arguing about it amongst ourselves, and then deciding collectively what The Economist should say about those things. That’s very much a unique aspect of The Economist because we don’t have by-lines in the newspaper, so you don’t know who’s written which article, and that’s usually because no article was written by one person. They’re mostly collaborative efforts and in any case there is a singular unifying voice, which is The Economist’s voice. That presents us with some problems on social media, which is very much often about personal profile and the currency of the individual and the power of an individual writer or columnist or something. So that presents us with some problems on the social media team, or some challenges I should say. But, nevertheless, it’s great being in a big giant room with really clever people who know all sorts of things, about whether an aviation carbon tax could work and how, and why we should do that or not do that, and, what are the implications of gay marriage in one country versus another country. All these different things, and we’re just constantly debating and talking about these things. So that’s the thing that I love the most, it’s being in that environment and talking about all of those things.

And then, another thing that I love is working with the junior people who are on my team and mentoring them. That also presents its challenges and there are some aspects of that that i don’t enjoy, but it’s good, really really good fun, to hire someone junior to develop them, to get them to recognise what they can do, and how great they are, and how great they can be, and build up their confidence and then see them work really well. I just yesterday bade farewell to a colleague who I hired a little over a year ago, so that she can go and work in the newsroom at Reuters news agency. So that’s brilliant and it’s really gratifying to see that.

K: Is there anything that’s sort of less enjoyable about the job, let’s say?

A: I would say it’s more of the same thing, like managing people is always a struggle, sometimes because some individuals are difficult, and I say that in terms of managing the people who report to me – the juniors – but also the people above me who I have to manage as well. That’s especially the case because I’m on the social media team at a newspaper that’s 175 years old, and some of my colleagues have been working with us for 175 years, or it seems like they have, and they have old ways of doing things and old ways of thinking about things and you have to convince them. Some of them you can write off and say, look, I’m never going to convince you that as a newspaper we need to be digital in 2018, I’m never going to convince you of that so I’ll write you off. But most people I think that I can persuade just enough and get them to see the opportunity that social media and digital stuff brings us as a newspaper, bearing in mind that founding mission that I mentioned.

K: That’s interesting because, dealing with people, that’s an issue in any kind of profession isn’t it? So, it’s not like journalism is any better or any worse than anything else in that sense.

A: I think in journalism specifically there are a lot of egos. Again, you would get that in lots of places, so dealing with lots of different people’s egos can be difficult, especially in journalism because the point of a journalist is to know what’s going on in the world and that’s the way that ego often manifests itself in a newsroom, is, “I know about this,”, “well, I know about this,” “well I know more than you,” and we don’t have arguments in that tone that I just said but kind of there is somewhat of a competition sometimes about who knows the best thing and I’m sure that’s not unique to journalism, but that is something that is very distinctive about working with journalists and editors.

K: OK, so you said at the start that your role is different across every different publication and that’s partly because digital is still relatively new and no one knows where it’s going. Are there any other key challenges or things on the horizon that students should be trying to anticipate? I’m thinking about what kind of skills they might need to break into this sector in the future.

A: Yeah, I think that whatever I say now is not going to apply in six months because it changes so much, but that therefore means that the foundational skill is adaptability and flexibility. So, to really know that things change so much in social media and specifically around publishers and how publishers use social media, and journalists and how they use social media. So, number one to be flexible and adaptable. That might be quite hard to demonstrate unless you’ve had enough experience where you can show how you did adapt and did flex from one particular thing to another, and if you worked on your student newspaper, for example, within the course of a year at least you should have done a few different things and changed a few different things in how you operate on social media. And if you haven’t, then as a newspaper you’ve been stagnating and your editor has been making some mistakes. So I think that would be one thing, to be basically make sure that you are adaptable and to somehow find a way to demonstrate that you have adapted to one situation or another.

Then, I think it’s kind of similar, but to know a bit about the social media industry, by which I mean what is Facebook up to, what new products is it building, how are users using it differently now to how they used it a year ago, and how are publishers and social media platforms working together. That’s basically been a huge story over the last few years, the way that publishers and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat work together. Especially in an era of disinformation – what the president of the US called fake news – and the decline in trust in the media, which has been partly accelerated by the publishers’ inability some time ago to really influence how the platforms dealt with news and how they distributed news. That’s changed quite a lot now and I work with people at Facebook and Twitter and the other platforms to make sure that publishers like us are, basically that our content is treated well and that we can influence how those platforms use the content. So I think that it, personally I find it really interesting anyway, this particular thing about what is journalism for in social media when anyone can publish, and how do people receive journalism and news and what constitutes high quality news and what constitutes news that people need for their daily lives and what constitutes news that people need as sort of nutrients for being a good citizen in society and how do we use technology to get all of these things when most of the technology and the social media platforms are built for distraction, you know, oh there’s another nice cake on Instagram. Is that really helping you be a good citizen in society rather than knowing what’s going on in Westminster in the negotiations over Brexit? I’m not saying don’t have cake, but you also need to know what’s going on with Brexit. So these huge conversations that the news industry is having with social media platforms is really important, and I personally would be very impressed if someone, a relatively junior person or a graduate applied to join my team and knew a little bit about what was going on in that conversation between publishers and platforms. There are places where you can go to read about that –

K: I was just about to ask about that

A: Oh sorry, go on.

K: Any tips for where they can start their research?

A: Yes, so there’s an outfit in the US called the Nieman Lab. They’re based at Harvard University and they – there’s the Nieman Lab and the Nieman Foundation – and they report as journalists and thinkers about this space. There’s also a similar institute at Oxford University, the Reuters Oxford Journalism Institute, and they produce quite hefty reports on this sort of thing. There’s also a website called Digiday, which covers these things similarly but less academic and more on the commercial side. And so, to find out what’s going on those things are really helpful. And also, specifically, if you want to look parochially, my team has a blog on Medium called Severe Contest, and that is written by me and people on my team where we say what The Economist is doing on social media and what is mostly influencing our thoughts around this particular space.

K: Thank you very much for joining us today. Enjoy the rest of your time in York.

A: Thank you very much; it’s been great to be here and talk to all of your students.

Thanks for joining us this week on What do you actually do? This episode was hosted by myself, Kate Morris, and edited by Raquel Bartra and produced by both of us. If you loved this podcast, spread the word and subscribe. Are you eager to get more tips? Follow University of York Careers and Placements on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. All useful links are in this episode description. This has been produced at the University of York Careers and Placements. For more information visit

What do you actually do?! Episode 1: Hannah Greig, Historical Adviser

Today’s episode of What Do You Actually Do!? explores the role of Historical Adviser, Hannah Greig, who has worked on notable TV and Film producstions such as The Favourite, Poldark and The Duchess.

Subscribe so you don’t miss out on future episodes. You can listen on Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud, or YouTube.


You’re listening to the What Do You Actually Do!? Podcast. Each week, we want to bring you an inspiring interview, a useful tip, or encouraging message to help you find your place in the professional world.

K: So, Hannah, what do you actually do?

H: I think I describe myself as a professional academic historian, so I have a University job and I teach and research at the University of York and I specialise in 18th century British history. But as part of that work, because of the nature of my expertise, I also consult regularly for film, television, and productions – mostly period dramas, so the kind of things you might see on Sunday nights on the BBC.

K: So how did you break into that?

H: I think it was luck, to be honest. About ten years ago now I did my first job as a consultant for a film called The Duchess. It was set in 18th century England and starred Keira Knightley as the duchess of Devonshire, so that was quite an elite, but into this whole new world for me. And then, after that I started to work quite regularly for BBC productions, so I’ve worked with Poldark for the past five series, other dramas like Death Comes to Pemberley, Gunpowder, that was on last year, Jamaica Inn, I’ve worked for those and then we have a new film as well that’s coming out this year in the US and in the UK called The Favourite which is set in the court of Queen Anne, so another film again more recently. But it was really just on the basis of being an expert in the time period that these dramas are set in, and so I was approached by the productions on the basis of that expertise.

K: So you don’t go out and pitch your services to production companies – they, as part of their research are finding “oh, who’s an expert in this field?” and come to you?

H: Yes, they usually seek out people who have a specialism in the field that they are interested in, and that the drama is set in so I don’t have an agent who is seeking work for me in the industry. I think there are experts who work in that capacity but more often is a case of production saying “well, our drama is set in 1850s France so lets ask around some academics to find out who’s expert in the field” and you get drawn into productions in that way. I often recommend other colleagues for dramas that are not my area of specialism. And, increasingly, I think, productions are seeking out the kind of highest-quality specialist expertise they can find to help underpin their dramas. Because we expect high-quality now, particularly from our television productions as well, there’s bigger budgets attached to them, they’ve got to have a cinematic element to them. That requires a high level of investment in research and pre-production planning, so there’s more space there for consultants to play a role. 

K: So, talk me through the sort of, key elements of the role. When one of these jobs comes in, what happens?

H: Well it varies from production to production depending on the director, the producer, and what it is that they’re looking for but in general terms, I’ll often be speaking to production at least a few months before filming, sometimes years. We’ll be looking at the script during development so whatever points the production feels they want to think carefully about the historical context then they will be sending materials to me. I will read scripts, I’ll do things like look for anachronisms so things that don’t sit very comfortably with me as a historian, I’ll also try to suggest details and elements which might only be evident to someone who’s got a richer understanding of the period. So, how can we work on smaller details to make it feel like a world that is informed by its own time. One of the things that we try and do with visual dramas in particular on television and film is creating a meaningful world when all of the elements come together. Sometimes, it’s the smaller details that can really help.

K: Can you give me an example of that? What kind of small detail?

H: Well, it could be things, simple things like in a market scene you might expect to see some food products or some textiles, but actually if we can make them as precise as possible… So in an 18th century street you might see a rat-catcher carrying traps to catch rats in, you might see people begging on the street who have particular aspects of their characters that tell us something about the time. So, injured soldiers returning from the Napoleonic Wars, or elements like that that help communicate time and place in smaller details, as well as in the ways in which the story unfolds. And I think that my… I always say with the productions that I see my role no simply, you know, being chief complainer or kind of chief pedant in the production, but it’s about trying to make sure that everyone involved in the production can make choices about what they’re doing rather than mistakes. So quite often we identify something as being problematic from a historical point of view but we retain it and keep it in because it’s valuable for other reasons. And I am totally supportive of that as a production choice, but it’s always important it’s a choice, not done by accident. And that’s what I see my role as, it’s making sure that it’s a decision-making process rather than just doing things by accident.

K: I can imagine some people might approach and “uhh you wouldn’t have had those shoes there and oh they didn’t have pineapples back in those days, get it off set” – sort of telling people what not to do and I guess real strong communication with costume departments, set departments, all that kind of stuff so you all understand where you’re coming from and it’s not a last minute thing.

H: Yea, it’s about having the communication skills and making yourself accessible, and welcoming and friendly in terms of how you communicate levels of expertise. And also, I think, to counter the idea that people judge dramas on the basis of just accuracy – is that right or wrong? – we’re very quick now on Twitter and in social media whenever a period drama comes on television we say: “oh, my goodness we wouldn’t have had that” or “that costume is slightly the wrong colour” or “they would never had said that”. And, you know, that might well be the case but that’s not the sum of the kind of decision-making processes involved in making a drama. And I think whatever role you play in that kind of production process you need to recognise that it is a whole product, that there’s a whole story that needs to be told, and a whole world that needs to be created… And history is a part of that- the way in which you can make historical content as rich as possible is to, first make yourself accessible, but also to participate in the process as early as possible. Because if the history becomes useful to the production then it can have a greater value as the process begins to unfold. 

K: Do you get to go on set sometimes, and if so, what’s the best and worst things about being on set?

H: I do get to go on set, which is fun and exciting – I like all of the equipment and the thrill of seeing a world unfolding. I don’t go as much as I used to, or if I haven’t done a drama for a while I tend to be on set more and then I… and then the novelty wears off quite quickly. I mean, they’re very busy places, everyone is working incredibly hard… and actually being on set is not the place where you want a historian saying: “oh, this is wrong” because there’s actually nothing you can do at that point. You’re too late to the game if you’re already on set and spotting things. You need to put that process in much, much earlier. But I like to go on set because it reminds me of the complexity of the process that everyone is involved with. It reminds me about the work that other people do within a drama. And of course it’s just exciting to participate in a different world for a while. And you can’t complain if you’re having a coffee with Aidan Turner…

K: That sound exciting but let’s get to the real heart of this – who’s the best celebrity you’ve spotted on set?

H: Well I’ve been lucky to work on some pretty successful dramas, and so it’s been a great privilege to meet some of the cast and also the crew who’ve been involved in this productions. So from The Duchess we had some pretty big name cast involved like Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes, and I think for a long time my favourite anecdote was the time when Ralph Fiennes phoned me to check a detail, and I was picking up a ready meal… And obviously Poldark has got a very high-profile cast involved, and a film that’s coming out soon, The Favourite, has some three very strong leads – Olivia Coleman, Rachel Wesz, and Emma Stone. I do feel incredibly privileged to see people who are very good at their job working in a way that they work very well. And I’m always very humbled by the time and effort it takes to make these dramas, for all of the cast and crew involved are often on set for 12-hour days for many many weeks, many months of the year. They work incredibly hard and it is a very important creative process for them.

K: And how are you treated on set? Do they sort of see you as a hindrance or a help, I mean, earlier you were saying you try to do it as a partnership, communicating and sharing ideas… but, does it ever feel a bit different to that?

H:  I try to keep out of the way and out of trouble as much as possible, because they’re incredibly busy so I’m usually to be found near the catering and drinking coffee and having a chat to the fireman or something, just trying to keep out of the way. But I think that I’m always struck that media productions are incredibly collaborative and everyone knows what their job involves and they try to deliver it as quickly as possible and so you want to facilitate that rather than hinder it. As I said earlier, usually being on set is the last place where you want to make big historical interventions. Everything should’ve been put in into place prior to that. But it can be useful sometimes if I’m floating around on set to answer questions. I like just having little chats about history with people, and lots of the cast and crew are often interested in finding out more information and it gives them an opportunity to ask those questions informally because there isn’t much time in the run-up to these things.

K: So you said before that the productions that you work on tend to relate directly to your research interest… do you have to have a PhD and be a professional academic to break into this kind of work? 

H: I don’t think you need a PhD and an academic background necessarily but I do think it’s useful to have a specialism. Most consultants are drawn in on the basis of field of knowledge and field of expertise. I think it’s quite hard to forge a career as a consultant without that sense of specialism, because that is really what the production is investing in – it’s that kind of high-level knowledge that they can’t access in other ways. So a friend of mine, a writer, Hallie Rubenhold, who writes a lot of 18th century books, she once described being a consultant as being the icing on top of the cake, it’s the extra thing that you do alongside the other things that you have that mean you’re acting as a historian and a specialist in a particular period of history.

But having said that, there’s lots of opportunities for people with history degrees or arts and humanities skills to work in the media, and lots of students are interested in taking my job – they can’t necessarily have that! They do often go into work in production development and in other research capacities as well.  There’s plenty of scope for clever, interesting people to get work in that industry, and of course now television drama in particular is having a boom in how it’s being funded. And the new opportunities through Netflix and very high budget dramas coming through commercial channels means that there’s a lot of drama content, and a lot of that is historical as well – we have a lot of period dramas being made. They’re very profitable, being made in Britain and then sold around the world, so it is quite a substantial market I think, and a place where students can carve out a career for themselves. But probably not necessarily in quite the way I do, which is turning up every few months and talking a bit about history and then going off again…

K: So would you say your kind of historical advising, consultancy work is pretty niche, and people who are interested in historical drama, maybe documentaries, that there’s other ways they should look to break into the sector?

H: Yes, I think my particular career pattern is fairly niche, but there are these other opportunities and there are production companies of course that really specialise in historical content. So if you think about production companies like Wall to Wall who make things like Who do you think you are? and some of the reality TV shows, history-based television shows as well; there are production companies that really focus in on historical content, so if you have a history degree, then I recommend you just send them your CV and cold call those companies who seem to be investing in that kind of drama.  The producers of Poldark, Mammoth Screen, make a range of other programmes as well, including Victoria. So when you’re watching something on television, see who’s made it, and if you loved it, write to them and tell them you loved it and that you would love to come and ask them if they’ve got any work available, or try and get some experience, and most of the production companies I know work on a basis of cold calling, door knocking still; it is quite an old fashioned way of trying to break into the industry.

K: So what do you think the key challenges or opportunities will be for the sector over the next few years? Thinking for students who might be considering this as a career area, what should they be thinking about?

H:  Well I think it’s seeing how the media industry has evolved in the last few years, to see how bigger budgets are now involved in television dramas as well.  It used to be that the really glossy productions were only possible in film; film had the budgets and you could really do period dramas well, and it was hard to do on television. But that has changed now, and also the nature of television technology means that we can create cinematic quality on television much more readily than we could when I started out in this field. So I think television has lots of opportunities now. I think that actually game technology is one of the places that we’ll see as a big boom. There’s a lot of history based games in development; that seems a very big market – issues of accuracy in storytelling that we have in film and television are evident as well in gaming, so I would expect that to be emerging as a new field of work for consultants and for people with history expertise being drawn into that multimedia platform as well.

K: Great, that sounds very exciting – a whole new podcast that we could do around gaming! Well, thank you very much for joining us today, it’s been really helpful. We’ve got some resources that we’ll be sharing with students to help research this area more and I think you’ve mentioned you’ve got some places you would recommend, so just check our website for details.  Thanks again Hannah.

5 ways we can support you this term

Here are 5 ways you can use Careers and Placements this term to support you whether you’re not sure where to start, you want to find out more or you’re in the midst of applications.

Use our events to explore options and do some research
Our careers events are designed to give you an insight into potential career options. Our programme changes every term and this term, we’re running an event called Careers in and we’re focusing on three different sectors. They are:
1. Advertising, Marketing & PR
2. Big Data
3. Policy & Development
At this type of event, we invite York graduates and contacts working in the sector that we’re focusing on, to come back and answer questions and to share their direct personal knowledge of their role and the industry they work in. We’ll also be exploring work experience options and the types of skills in demand in three smaller events focusing on advertising, marketing & PR (week 4), criminal justice (week 5) and community support & engagement (week 6).

Practice and prepare
You wouldn’t do a 10k run without doing a bit of training and a warm up first. Think about an interview or assessment centre in the same way. This term we’re running an assessment centre and interview experience where you can try some typical assessment centre exercises used by real recruiters. Similarly, if you have an interview coming up, you can book a mock interview with one of our careers consultants or use the application and interview tips on our website. Get some practice to help you approach interviews with confidence.

Try something new and boost your skills
Through our volunteering programme we advertise opportunities from a range of organisations. Whether you’re interested in a specific sector or type of work or would just like to get some experience and develop your skills, there is lots on offer. This term, for example you can volunteer to help run craft and lego clubs, plan sensory sessions for people with hearing and sight loss and work with an advocacy charity to provide support and information for older people.
Deadline for volunteering opportunities: Sunday 10 February

Consider a Placement Year
You can opt to take a placement year between your 2nd and 3rd year of study, providing you with up to 12 months of valuable work experience. You need to find and secure your own work placement however Careers and Placements are on hand to provide support. If this is something you’re interested in, contact us to book a placement appointment.

Think about what makes you tick
Our York Strengths programme is designed to help you uncover what your personal strengths and preferences are. The first stage for first years is an online test which is available now. Complete the test and receive feedback on your top 3 strengths. The next stage is to come to a York Strengths development day where you’ll have the chance to delve a bit deeper. We’ll help you understand what your strengths mean and how you can use them effectively.

What do you actually do?! Podcast Launch

Next Wednesday 16th January 2019 we’ll be launching our brand new podcast, What do you actually do?!

Every week we’ll be releasing a new episode with guests from a variety of jobs and sectors to help give you an insight into, well, what they actually do for a career.

You can listen to the podcast on Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud, or YouTube.

Check out the schedule for upcoming shows:

Date Episode Guest Job Title Sector
16-Jan 1 Hannah Greig Historical Adviser Film/Academia
23-Jan 2 Adam Smith Audience Engagement Editor Journalism/Editing
30-Jan 3 Stefan Sipika Process and Production Manager Biotechnology
06-Feb 4 John Tomlinson Producer / Company Director Theatre
13-Feb 5 Kate Pyle Compliance and corporate services manager Healthcare
20-Feb 6 JT Welsch Lecturer (English and related literature) Academia
27-Feb 7 Cat Schroeter Senior Fundraiser Charity
06-Mar 8 Richard Knight Production Liaison / Former Location Manager Film
13-Mar 9 Laura Hallet Strategic Projects and Change Higher Education (non-academic)

Have yourself a merry little interview

Written by Careers Brand Ambassador, Lindsay Christison.

So you’re curled up on the couch, home alone is holding strong at its 100th showing this season and the Christmas food coma has worn off enough for you to be halfway through a tin of quality street (apart from the toffee pennies because let’s be honest you’re not that desperate yet). Next thing, you get an email. You’re invited to an interview for that job/placement you so optimistically applied to last term.


I give you: A Christmas wish list to boss that interview… *hair flick*

A holly jolly… firm handshake

Well first impressions count right? My first wish is the Goldilocks of handshakes. Strong enough to show I mean business but not so aggressive that their memory of your interview is the red imprint of your hand over theirs.  


^^Tip: Don’t do this either

What I’d ‘Love Actually’ are easy questions

Please don’t hit me with all that ‘If you were a biscuit, what kind of biscuit would you be?’ nonsense…. There is no chance I can show off my Gold DofE with that… Wish number two: Straightforward questions to which I can regurgitate my pre-prepared evaluation of what my part time job has taught me about time management and customer service skills.


Baby it’s cold outside… but can my hands stop shaking?

Wish number three is to release my inner Taylor Swift and shake off those pre-interview trembles… The only trembles we need belong only to a House of Madness. Deep breaths, eye of the tiger on headphones and lucky pants… you can do this!


My only wish this year… is some actually relevant experience

It’s always the case that you’re always busy so you must have experience and skills but how on earth do you apply them to this job? So my fourth wish is the ability to figure out how all of the things I spend my time doing have made me employable… what did I learn? What was I good at? How did getting lost on DofE teach me resilience and how did that annoying customer at the cafe teach me interpersonal skills? Hmm…. maybe I do have experience?


Don’t suffer ‘Home Alone’… get help from Careers and Placements with a mock interview

My fifth wish would be a practice run at the interview. Like pancakes, what if the first one’s a dud? This wish is probably the easiest to grant. The magic elves at Careers and Placements can book you in for a mock interview! They can test you with surprise generic questions or you can work with them beforehand to arrange a sector specific interview.


And finally… A Christmas miracle… on 34th street

It’s worth a shot.

Wish six. A miracle.

*crosses fingers and toes*

fingers crossed.gif

And with all that, hopefully, is the makings of a very merry interview!

Happy holidays everyone and best of luck for those pesky January exams and essays!


Time to take stock


You may remember, we spent the first half of term encouraging you to get involved with all sorts of activities from work experience to volunteering, student societies to attending careers fairs.

Hopefully, you did do one or two things – but there’s no point in just doing! We suggested trying things out so you could build up experiences and develop your skills, as well as to have some fun.

So why not take some time to think through what you’ve been doing and what it’s given you? It’s a good idea to record the activities you do and also the skills you’ve gained. This will make a handy prompt when you’re applying for jobs or further study and you need to give some examples.

Not sure how to do this?

If you need some help thinking this through, try the following resources.

Not had chance to do anything yet?

Don’t worry, there’s still time to get involved. Here are some ideas for things to do next term.

  • Volunteering – deadline Week 5 for applications for Summer Term opportunities
  • Placement Year – for 2nd year undergraduates, who don’t have this as an option on their course. Register interest by 20 Jan
  • Network – Careers in… events. Check the events schedule
  • Enterprise – lots of competitions and events coming up
  • Recruitment – Assessment Centre and Interview Experience will run again in Spring. Check the events schedule

2nd undergrads – putting it all into practice

Don’t forget, if you’re a second year undergrad, you can apply for York Award Gold in the Spring Term. The application asks you to describe the activities you’ve been involved with and what you’ve gained, as a result.

Keep a look out for more information – including the application form and deadline – via the Careers Bulletin, delivered direct to your inbox.

5 actions to refine your business idea

Guest Blog written by Stuart McClure, Co-founder of

adult-bar-brainstorming-1015568(1)Creating business ideas is exciting. Working on an idea that you have thought of is both liberating and rewarding.  However, narrowing your ideas into one cohesive business plan is a challenge in itself, one which if done right can set you on a path to creating your dream business.

Here are 5 actions you can take to refine your business ideas and ensure you have the best launch pad for your next project.

Choosing the right idea

Having focus is important for an entrepreneur. You might have thousands of half thought out ideas and not know which one to focus on. So how do you know which is your best idea? I’d suggest keeping a list of all your ideas. Then, when you’re ready, you should put each potential idea through this exercise.

Take one of your ideas and write the name for it in the middle of a blank A4 page. Then answer the following questions, writing the answers around the outside of the idea:

  • What problem does this solve? How big is that problem? Why are you sure it’s a problem?
  • Has it already been done?
  • What barriers to entry can you create? (What would make it difficult for someone with more resources to come in and compete against you?)
  • What’s the potential market size?
  • What money would you need to invest to start the business and make it profitable?
  • What skills do you need in your team to get it going? How will you find people with those skills? Can you get it going by yourself?

After this exercise you should be able to filter out implausible ideas and be left with your most viable options.

Putting your proposal into one sentence

You need to have a clear picture of what your business offers, who it will help and what is its biggest benefit. You should be able to put all that information into one sentence, like the one in this template:

(“My business is, _(insert name of business)_, we develop _(define your product or service)_ to help _(define your audience)_ _(the problem you are solving  for them)_ by _(main benefit of the business )_”).

Mine looked like this:

“My business is, we are a discount aggregator that brings the sale products from 850 retailers, into one place. We help shoppers save money on the brands they love by finding the best deals across the web.”

This exercise is really useful for the actions below, where you will need to describe your idea succinctly to people (Will they understand it?)

Test your idea

Start sharing your idea with the people around you. Anyone who can spare 5 minutes to hear your proposal. This is a great way to get direct feedback on what’s good and not so good about your idea. Did they understand it? Do they have problems with it? Try to collect feedback from at least 30 people. It would also be an added bonus if some of them are your target customers.

It can be difficult to listen to criticism of your ideas from others, however it’s really important to try to elicit this kind of feedback without getting defensive. It can save you a lot of wasted time and effort. Getting early feedback, no matter how brutal it is, will help you to adjust your plan and give you a higher chance of success.

Tip: Try and get peoples uninfluenced and unbiased opinions. Refrain from interrupting or trying to change their objections with new information. The best feedback is fresh, unaltered first impressions.

Attend regular events related to your industry

You should try and become a mini expert of the industry you’re about to enter. Like a research project, you’re finding out who the major players are, the supply chain, the audience it attracts etc. Don’t try and overload yourself with all the information at once, it will take time and doesn’t happen overnight.

The best way to start is to attend regular events that would concern your business. For example, if you are starting a recruitment company, you want to attend recruitment conferences, business talks and meet ups that involve relevant people in that industry.

Eventbrite is a great tool to find these types of events near you. If you have a niche business and you can’t find events relating to your idea, try broadening your search to general business lectures, Marketing & PR events and so on.

Tip: These events are also fantastic for networking. Set up a LinkedIn and have it open and ready to share with new contacts you meet.

Find a good mentor

Good advice is like gold dust and having the right team around you is a critical part of successfully building your idea. Reach out to your university business professors, the Enterprise team at your university or join the entrepreneur society, try to find people who wouldn’t mind offering you bits of guidance from time to time.

There will be plenty of entrepreneurs and business leaders that are happy to pass on their wealth of knowledge. LinkedIn is also a great tool to keep in touch with these contacts.


IMG_3279Stuart McClure is the co-founder of a company called – a website that aggregates sale items from 100’s of retailers into one website, helping consumers to find the best deals on products they want.

He has 14 years experience in digital marketing and business management and, before starting his company, worked in a number of multi-million pound businesses in senior positions.

LinkedIn – –

Autumn fairs – your views

Over 2,000 students visited our fairs in weeks 2 and 4 this term – and we asked them what they thought.  Thank you to everyone who gave us feedback. We had lots of great comments from students who’d enjoyed the fair, and some concerns as well. Here’s a quick summary, together with our responses:


You said: The fair was too crowded, it wasn’t easy to get around; this could be difficult for students with anxiety; the fair should be in a bigger space. Continue reading

Why Start-Ups and SMEs can be a great place to start your career

Guest blog written by TalentPool , a recruitment platform matching recent graduates with job and internship opportunities at start-ups & SMEs.

When you enter your final year of university and you start thinking about your graduate job, it is easy to end up feeling like big companies and graduate schemes are the only avenues into the world of work. In fact, it may interest you to know that 9 in 10 graduate jobs are in start-ups and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). These companies can offer you a unique and valuable route into your career with great opportunities for development. Here are the top 3 reasons why we think you should consider starting your career at a start-up or SME.

You will be given responsibility

adult-brainstorming-business-1181622At  a start-up or SME the team you work in will be small, so each person’s contribution counts! Far from being kept away from the core of the business until you are more experienced, at a start-up or SME you will usually be given high levels of responsibility very early on. You will be working in a small team, so you will receive lots of feedback and your work will not get ignored among a mass of other tasks. This will allow you to build your skills and see the impact of your work – pretty good for a fresh graduate! ! You’ll get a real insight into how a business operates and get to try your hand at a range of different tasks and projects.

The work is exciting

Working for a start-up or SME means working in a company that is constantly growing and evolving. Your role will probably develop throughout the years you work with the company, so you definitely won’t get bored! In many smaller businesses, due to the close-knit teams, employees from all levels of the company are involved in the big decisions. Seeing the work you do has a real impact on your company’s growth and development is one of the most exciting things about starting your career in this sector.

The company culture

Often at start-ups and SMEs, the environment you work in is more relaxed than it would be in a larger corporate. Dress codes are not as fixed and there is often a less rigid hierarchical structure to the team. Lots of these businesses have socials and team members get to know each other quickly. At a start-up you will be working alongside emerging talent and creative colleagues, making the company culture at a small organisation a very exciting one to be a part of.

Graduate careers: what are the alternatives?


At this time of year there are lots of posters, publications, messages and events about graduate jobs, whether they’re schemes run by big companies or ‘mainstream’ graduate careers.

What happens, though, if you’re not interested in working for a large corporate or don’t want to go into ‘traditional’ work after university?

It’s not to say the role of an accountant, retail manager or management consultant isn’t challenging and interesting, but obviously they don’t appeal to every student or graduate.

4 alternative approaches

alarm alarm clock analog analogue

Not working 9 – 5 to make a living

Work doesn’t have to mean the usual office hours. Flexible working is widely available for ‘typical’ jobs, as well as the more unusual working environments. It could involve compressing working hours – working more hours on fewer days during the week or working from home, giving you more freedom for fitting in work and home life.

Portfolio careers (because one size doesn’t fit all)

Why have just one job, when you can have several? In some sectors (eg the creative industries, consultancy, etc) portfolio careers can be the norm. However, it may be an individual’s lifestyle choice, enabling them to have a variety of roles or test out possible career/business ideas.

Our alternative working web page details both flexible working and portfolio careers, as well as self-employment.

daylight environment forest idyllic

The great outdoors (or somewhere other than an office)

You may not know exactly what you want to do as a job, but you might be clear that you don’t want to work in an office. If that’s the case, you need to check out careers in a variety of environments. Try generating some career ideas, using some of the resources listed on the career planning information sheet. Alternatively, see what different jobs entail with Prospects’ generic job profiles. However, be prepared – many jobs may require you to be office-based, so even if you’re ‘out and about’ for most of the day, you may spend some time in an office!

Small is beautiful

The large companies you see on campus are not the only option.  There are also small/medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and in the UK small businesses accounted for 99.3% of all private sector companies in 2017.* So, it’s unsurprising to know that a lot of of graduates go on to work for these sorts of employers.

There’s more information about working for SMEs on our website.

person holding black card

Want something alternative?

Have a look at the resources mentioned above first and then book a careers advice appointment via Careers Gateway to discuss things further.

Science student?

You might also be interested in our Science careers outside the lab information sheet and 10 alternative science careers.


* FSB –

An insight into the York Students in Schools Programme

colored-pencils-color-wooden-pegs-pens-draw-schoolEvery year we help hundreds of students to volunteer in local schools through the York Students in Schools Programme. We’ve been asking some of our current and former volunteers what their experience was like, so if you’ve been considering volunteering in a local school, read on to find out what it’s really like.

There’s still time to apply to volunteer during next term but the deadline is this Sunday 28 October. Apply online! 

With thanks to our York Students in Schools volunteers – Hannah, Rosie, Alex, Thomas, Aillen, Anh and Rebecca

Continue reading

Going abroad? Check out GoinGlobal!


Students sometimes wish they’d done a bit more research before studying or working in another country – and we have a great online resource to help you do just that!

How do you know about…

  • Business practice and workplace etiquette?
  • Suitable gifts when visiting someone – and which flowers can cause offence?
  • Bargaining when shopping – is it expected or unacceptable?
  • How to greet people?
  • Eating out – and whether or not people share the bill?
  • Conversations and discussions – and whether it is OK to interrupt another speaker?

GoinGlobal can give you the answers to these and many more questions. GoinGlobal features country career guides, a jobs and internships database, lots of information about finding work and business culture as well as practical information such as healthcare and cost of living.

From the home page select Country career guides and choose from a list of 40 countries.

You will be able to access job search resources, information on growth sectors and areas where your skills could be needed, advice on CVs and interviews, and overview of visa requirements and information on living in that country – all compiled by people who live there.

Similarly, the City guides (mainly US cities and around 30 more cities worldwide), provide a toolkit of jobs resources and cultural advice.

Access GoinGlobal from our International work page and see what you can discover.

The York Award: What’s it really about?

Written by Oliver Davies

You’ve hopefully seen or heard something about the York Award on campus this term, but you might still be wondering exactly what it is, what the application is like, and why you should do it. If so, then read on – I’m here to show you exactly what the process involves, and why it’s such a great opportunity for second year students to help you stand out from the crowd!

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What is it?

Open to second years, the York Award is a certificate awarded to you as an individual which officially shows that you’ve been proactive throughout your time so far at York. It shows that you have gone above and beyond your academic studies to enhance your own personal and professional development. Its a really useful addition to your CV which will catch the eye of any potential employers. Its also a great conversation topic in interviews when employers ask you to talk about your top strengths and how you developed yourself at university in anticipation of entering the world of work.

So, what exactly does the application involve?

There are three basic sections which are easy to navigate and help you reflect on your time at York.

The first section asks you to reflect on your top Strengths (you might remember these from your York Strengths development day in first year, things like problem solving, authentic communication, pioneering thinking among others) and explain how you have used and developed these Strengths throughout your time so far at York. You can use any examples from your time here – so if you’ve been part of a society, got involved in volunteering, had a part-time job or got involved with your college activities, write it down! As long as its helped you develop your strengths, then its a great example!

The second section asks you to reflect on other activities that have helped you develop personally,  helped contribute to the university as a whole, as well as demonstrating employer engagement. Again, any example is great. There are no set top answers and it is great to use unique examples personal to you.

The final section asks you to lay down an action plan, and explain how you will be developing yourself, your Strengths and your employability further over the remainder of your time at York. Think creatively in this section, but keep it achievable and something you really will hopefully be able to do.

Your answers to these questions only have to be a couple of hundred words long, so don’t worry about having to write tens of thousands of words, there are no essays here!

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Why do it?

From personal experience, I can truly say that completing the York Award is a great thing to do and a fantastic asset to have on your CV when applying for jobs, volunteering or anything really! It’s a great chance to reflect on your first year at York and give an overview of everything you’ve done.

In my application, I wrote about how I took part in the York Strengths programme, volunteered in an @Work project with the Jorvik Centre, got involved with college sport (Derwent ‘til I die) and worked on the Policy Review Group for YUSU. Everyone has different experiences, but these are just some examples from my time which might spark your imagination!

The York Award has also really helped me in applications and interviews since I completed it as well. I’ve been able to talk about it in my interview for an incredible International Study Centre to the University of Cape Town in South Africa. It also helped in my application to become a Careers and Placements Brand Ambassador, and is (fingers crossed…) going to contribute to me getting a grad job at the end of this year!

If it can help me, then it can help you. It is a really fantastic opportunity. A springboard for going on to do York Award Gold and the York Leaders scheme. A way for you to reflect on your first year, and an excellent way to show employers that you stand out from the crowd. Also, it is vital if you want to apply for the York Futures Scholarship (worth up to 2100 pounds), which can help you access further opportunities to give you a head start in the job market, you need to successfully apply for the York award.


Time is running out – applications are closing Monday Week 4 (15/09), so get involved and apply now!



Spotlight on Placement Years

40908_Placement Year_officeSo you might have heard people talk about doing a ‘Year In Industry’ or a ‘Placement Year’ and wonder what it’s all about?

There are 8 departments here at York who have a Year In Industry programme. They are the Departments of Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Electronic Engineering, Environment and Geography, Mathematics, Politics and The York Management School.

Students in these departments have the option to work for a year as part of their degree. In most instances the placement they do is strongly aligned to their degree programme.

For other Departments, as of last year, there is now the Placement Year programme. Students on this programme, can do a placement in an area that is either related or unrelated to their degree programme.

So it’s now an option for pretty much all York students to work for a year as part of your degree!

What are the benefits?

There are lots of benefits for doing a placement year as part of your degree. Two key ones from talking to employers and previous placement students are:

It provides you with what employers call “CV Gold”. It’s gives you a substantive piece of work experience to add to your CV – you can confidently talk to future employers about your experiences of working in a professional environment, the skills you develop and reflect on the organisational fit, which suits you the most.

It’s also a career taster – you might have a few ideas of where you’d like to work once you graduate – why not find out what you’d prefer now? Alternatively, you might have no idea of where you want to work – why not give something a go now before you graduate? No work experience is bad experience.

What could I do on placement?

venveo-609390-unsplashYou can do a placement in the UK or overseas. It’s down to you to find the placement that’s right for you and we will support you through the process.

There are a variety of advertised roles with a range of organisations – Finance, Marketing, Advertising, Market Research, Analysis, HR, Technical, Corporate Social Responsibility

It can be quite overwhelming to know where to start. Top tips to get started:

1) Take a look at current placement student stories on the Placement Year Padlet

2) Have a look at the reviews on Ratemyplacement – these are anonymous reviews by placement students

3) Refer to the guides on Prospects, to get an understanding of the different types of job roles and typical destinations for your degree area

If the advertised roles don’t interest you, why not contact organisations you are interested in working for directly? This is the ‘hidden market’. The world is your oyster so don’t delay in getting started with your search.

Registration for the Placement Year programme is now open for 2nd year students. If you are looking to pursue this option, register now and benefit from the support available to you.

Blog written by Lucy Brookes, Placement Co-ordinator, Careers and Placements

GUEST BLOG: The Recruitment Wish List – what skills do employers look for?

rawpixel-660716-unsplashGuest blog written by Jessica Ching, Digital Content and Marketing Executive at graduate recruitment experts,  Give a Grad a Go

It can often feel like employers are looking for a very specific person in terms of qualifications and work experience – but in reality, there are a number of other things that employers look for in their graduate hires.

If you can show that you have these desirable attributes on top of your degree, you’ll make your job application stand out from the crowd:

  • Transferable skills – A degree is an important part of any job application; but if you can demonstrate the skills you’ve learnt throughout your education, and relate them to the particular role you’re applying to, you’ll show the employer what you can offer their business. “Soft” or “transferable” skills can include communication skills (an employer favourite!), teamwork, time management or problem-solving skills – and can be demonstrated through your achievements, involvement in extra-curricular activities throughout school and university, and other hobbies or interests.
  • Commercial awareness – Employers across the board are becoming increasingly interested in hiring graduates who can demonstrate commercial awareness (an understanding of the business world). Show you have an understanding of businesses work by reading up on the market, taking an interest in news and current affairs, running your own business venture at university, or organising a fundraising event.

  • Culture fit – As much as skills and attributes are important to employers, they’ll also be looking to hire someone who will fit into their business and work well with their team. The best way to get a feel of the company culture before you apply is to check them out online (LinkedIn, Facebook, even a quick Google search). If you think you’d be a good fit for their company, show the employer your enthusiasm and dedication to the role throughout the interview process!
  • MemorabilityThe graduate jobs market is incredibly competitive – so if you can make yourself memorable to an employer this is a huge plus. They’ll read thousands of very similar CVs – so a unique design or an interesting combination of skills will make you stand out from the crowd.

  • Research – Preparing for an interview and doing your research around a company is looked on very favourably by employers. If you can drop things you’ve read about their organisation, product or service into an interview, you’ll show that you have a genuine interest in their company and the wider industry.

Find the latest graduate jobs on Give A Grad A Go’s website!

Careers fairs – what are the benefits?

LawCareersFairSo, the next few weeks see the career fairs making their appearance this Autumn. Which means lots of employers on campus, showcasing their graduate jobs, placement year offerings and internship opportunities.

Obviously a recruitment fair is not the only way to find work – you can search for vacancies online or even have them sent direct to your inbox, and you can read up on companies via their websites.

So why go to a fair?

Straight from the horse’s mouth (if you pardon the expression!)

You can’t find out about a company and the roles they’re offering any more direct than at a fair. Also, you’ll get a better feel for the culture of the firm and whether it’s a good fit for you.

In your shoes

Often employer reps attending fairs include current graduate trainees, who can give you an idea of what it’s really like to work there. As they were in your shoes only a year or so ago they know what sorts of things are important for you to find out. Their personal insight can tell you so much more than the company website.

Which leads us on to…

Questions their websites can’t answer

You may get a useful amount of basic information from a company website, but what happens if you’ve got further questions? It can be difficult to contact the company and ask them. Speaking to employers at a fair can answer those questions much quicker and more easily.

Make a good impression

Talking with employers in the informal environment of a fair makes it more personal and allows you to show your enthusiasm and interest outside of the pressure of the formal recruitment process.

Don’t know where to start?

If you’re unsure of what to say to employers, the fact that there are lots of other students about, means you can listen-in on some of the questions they ask, to give you some ideas. Plus the format of the fairs means it’s quite acceptable to listen-in without appearing impolite!

All the fun of the fair

Career fairs are usually lively and busy and are actually quite good fun, so why not give them a go?

By the way…

Be sure to do a little reading-up on the companies attending, so you know at least what they do. Employers soon get tired of hearing the opening question of “what does your company do?” – especially when you could have found that out beforehand.

We’ve got more info about preparing for fairs in our information sheet, Making the most of careers and recruitment fairs.

10 things you need to know about Careers and Placements

  1. We’re not just Careers and Placements, we’re also Volunteering, the Student Internship Bureau, Enterprise and we run the York Strengths and York Award programmes

  2. We’re here for everyone. You don’t have to be in a particular year of your degree. We’re here for all York students and are happy to see you whatever career path you’re hoping to take, whether you’re taking your first steps or are further along or even if you haven’t started to think about that yet, you can still join in with all of the activities we have on offer 
  3. York Strengths – our strengths programme helps you identify what you’re good at and how you can develop this further.  It starts with an online exercise in Spring and is followed up with a development day in Summer. First years are automatically enrolled on the programme. Discover the 9 strengths we’ve highlighted in our York Strengths film
  4. IMG_20180927_114948We’re based on campus west, next to central car park and we’re open 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday. 
  5. The outside of our building may look the same but the inside had a facelift during the summer and now looks scandi chic! It’s a great space you can use for study and to browse our reference materials plus there is free tea and coffee 
  6. Come and speak to us! We run a Careers drop-in between 11am and 1pm Monday to Friday or you can book longer appointments online for careers advice and CV, application and personal statement reviews. There are also Enterprise appointments if you’d like to discuss a business idea and Placement appointments if you’re considering taking a placement year as part of your degree. 
  7. 42152_1180x700_Careers Fair digiPopUp_Nouse_V1Every Autumn we run 3 careers fairs. Meet recruiters and find out more about graduate roles, internships, placement years and insight days from over 40 graduate employers all under one roof. To see which companies will be at this year’s fairs, take a look at our careers fairs web page 
  8. We put together a programme of careers related events every term. These take place on campus and some will be in your department. See what’s coming up in the What’s On section on the Careers and Placements website
  9. pound-414418_1920We advertise part time jobs in York and on campus. Go to Careers Gateway and search under the Opportunities tab. Don’t forget to filter your search to part time work while studying.

  10. Last but not least, the website! There is lots of useful information on there including help on the application basics – CVs, Interviews, Assessment Centres plus a detailed look at various job sectors including what you can do at York to develop sought after skills for each sector. Our York Profiles and Mentors pages contain a collection of career profiles from York graduates working in a breadth of industries and many are happy to answer career questions from current students.







More than money. Lindsay tells us all about her summer internship

Name: Lindsay Christison

College: Halifax

Course: Politics (Ba)

What do you want to do after University?

Not 100% sure but probably something in events organisation/ management within a company- like the CPD Unit/training gateway at York

Where and what is your internship?

CPD and Policy intern- Working on a project for the University of York relating to academic research and its impact on policy in the UK and abroad.

What did you get up to?

In general, I was asked to find out how the University helps academics turn their research into real world policy and where this help could be improved. In many ways, I was granted a lot of freedom in the tasks I had to complete. My goal was broadly to help the team kick-start a long term project on policy influence and therefore anything I completed would probably be helpful. I was initially tasked with internet research and received some suggestions on where to look, but also given the chance to use my own initiative and explore further. Later in my internship I was asked to present my findings and suggestions for the university to various members of staff.


Initially, I struggled working with such flexible expectations and the requirement to work out for myself what tasks needed to be completed in order to fulfil a broader and longer term goal. As a result of this style of working I have learned how, in the workplace, large projects evolve greatly in their early stages as ideas and leads are tested and evaluated. This experience will be useful in the future as I now have a greater understanding of the processes behind project work. Moreover, I have learned that I can have confidence in trusting and following my instinct. After meeting with my managers and seeing the benefits of my work for the team, I now have greater confidence in my abilities.

What did you enjoy?

The most enjoyable aspect of my internship has been finding out more about the work the university does outside of teaching students. For example I was able to spend some time discovering what groundbreaking research our lecturers do and gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the academic prestige of our lecturers. (I also appreciated the confidence boost a power suit can bring to you on a Monday morning!)

“I have learned that I can have confidence in trusting and following my instinct.”

What was the application process like?

In all honesty, I applied for an internship, like most people, for the cash and to improve my CV. However, on top of this I really feel like I’ve gained a greater understanding of what the workplace expects of me and what I expect of the workplace. It has given me the opportunity to understand my professional strengths which will be helpful when applying to jobs in the future.

Applying for this internship I was particularly nervous as I knew I would be on holiday during the week of interviews and had to consider how to communicate in my application that I was really excited by the opportunity and if they could please still consider my application (in the office I have since found out I was dubbed ‘the excitable one’ when they were considering applications). However, after an hour of failed Skype call attempts from Majorca I had a quick interview and received my acceptance email the following day. The Student Internship Bureau really helped out here as they evaluated my application before it was sent to my employer which meant the interview didn’t need to be very long; this was greatly appreciated after an hour of nervous waiting in a 35 degree hotel room.

“After an hour of failed Skype call attempts from Majorca I had a quick interview and received my acceptance email the following day.”

Any reflections on your internship?

Working with the CPD unit and Research and Innovation team at the University has been absolutely brilliant and I cannot recommend enough, taking on a summer internship. The whole team have been so friendly and not once judged me for the amount of biscuits I bring into the office.

I feel like I couldn’t have had a more informative and yet friendly toe-dip into the world of work.

Find out more about the Student Internship Bureau by clicking here.

GUEST BLOG: Chinese students: Advice from graduates in China

This post was originally published a few years ago – but the advice from our Chinese graduates is still good if you’re thinking about your return to China:

Seven million new graduates will enter the job market in China this year. If you are a Chinese student at York you might already be thinking about the move back home at the end of your course – and considering how you can make the move from education into employment successfully.

Through our Graduate Profiles database we have collected some interesting insights from former Chinese graduates who have already successfully returned home to find work.  Here’s what they say:

Continue reading

3 benefits of taking some time out after your degree

Graduation was the climax of the last few years of your life and now it may feel like you’re in a headlong rush into employment. Taking some time out after your studies can be a great opportunity to have fun, build skills, reflect on your university experience and prepare yourself for your next steps. The time you spend doesn’t have to be a year-long, it could be as little as a few weeks – enough time to pause, find inspiration and gain skills.


pedestrians-400811_1920This has probably been the busiest year of your degree. Library, revision, lectures, seminars, exams, dissertation and in the background, the nagging feeling that you should really have a plan for what happens next when you finish University. It’s OK to pause, in fact it’s good to pause. If you’re not sure what you want to do next then taking some time out will allow you to try different things whether that be volunteering or work experience related to a career area you’re interested in, or travel and work overseas. All experiences will teach you something, it may be that you definitely don’t want to work in a certain career sector but this is still useful! You don’t need to have all the answers right now, but by allowing yourself some headspace, you’ll be able to stop, gain some perspective and figure out what is important to you.

Find inspiration

airport-2373727_1920If you’re taking time out, use it wisely and have a plan. When it comes to securing a  longer term job, employers will want to know how you spent your time out and what you gained from it. You may be considering travelling and experiencing different cultures or you may decide to stay closer to home and and use work experience or volunteering to get an insight into different career sectors or you could combine the two. The point is through your experiences, you will learn more about yourself. You can only know what you do or don’t like, by trying things.

Gain skills

You might think that unless you’re in a graduate level job, you’re not gaining useful skills but the good news is many skills can be transferable. On our website we have a list of skills that employers look for when recruiting. Whatever you do during your time out, you’ll likely be adding to your skillset and fulfilling some of the employer wish list, for example, if you plan to travel, learning a language is a great skill to have and the communication and intercultural skills you’ll develop will be a great addition to your CV, not to mention the self management and planning skills you’ll also acquire. See your gap period as an opportunity to gain experience before entering permanent employment. Short term work can help you identify what really interests you and where your career motivation lies, and it doesn’t have to be ‘casual’ work. Check out the graduate-level internships on Graduate Talent Pool for quality work experience.


Once you’re ready to take the next steps – whether it’s a graduate job or further study – Careers and Placements is still here to help. As a starting point, our web resources have plenty of info and advice about job hunting, further study, making applications and going for interview.

Further info:

Check our web page – Taking time out

Read our information sheet – Taking time out

Graduate internships – Graduate Talent Pool

Look at our information sheet on Working outside the UK, this has links to lots of vacancy sources plus volunteer overseas programmes

GoinGlobal is available on our website and includes country profiles, job search resources and cultural information for 41 countries

We’re still available for you. Check out how to set up your lifelong careers service

Graduating this year? Here’s how to set up your lifelong Careers Service

It’s been a tough few years, full of ups and downs, but you’ve made it! You’re graduating from the University of York! The end of a very important chapter in your life, but not the end of your careers service.

We offer all of our graduates a lifelong service. That’s right. If you want a career change at 92, we’ll be there to help you through it. You’ll have access to the full shebang. Appointments, mock interviews, online resources, quick tips and guidance. Whatever you need to help you through your career, we’re here.

There is just a quick little admin task we need you to do: upgrade your Careers Gateway status by registering as an Alumni.

Here’s how you do it:

Go to Careers Gateway.

Careers gateway home.PNG

Click on ‘Alumni login and registration’.

Click on ‘Alumnus sign up’

Fill in your credentials and click submit (remember to give your current and most active email address).

Once you’ve submitted your form, we will verify that you were a student here and you’ll receive an email when your account has been updated. You will then be able to use Careers Gateway exactly as you did when you were a student, including booking an appointment and browsing opportunities.

You can update your personal details and email preferences by clicking on ‘Profile > Update Profile’. Click ‘Next’ and ‘Save’ to ensure all changes are recorded.

Congratulations on your graduation! Now a new chapter begins and we’ll be here if you need us.


Job hunting – stay safe online!


If you’re job hunting, you’re likely to be spending a lot of time online – and while you’re focussed on your job hunt or application, it can be easy to miss warning signs that all is not as it should be… Read on to find out what to look out for and how to stay safe.

Protect your identity


Your CV will include basic contact information – your email and phone number; it doesn’t need to include your address, and don’t include details such as your National Insurance number, passport number, date of birth or bank details in your CV. This kind of information is not needed until you have a definite job offer and are sure the opportunity is genuine.

Resist pressure to apply quickly stopsign

Yes, you do need to apply before closing dates, and be aware that some jobs close early if they have enough good applications. But if you are being pressured to apply immediately, this should be a warning sign. Look for the company website to check their vacancies, phoning to confirm if necessary.

Hold onto your money

  • Don’t be tricked into paying upfront for fake security checks, certification or training, or into sending money in advance for interview travel. Reputable money2companies will reimburse interview travel expenses and would certainly not ask you to pay in advance for any part of the recruitment process.
  • If you have a phone interview, you can expect to be given a landline number to call. Make sure you check and do not call a premium rate number (these usually start 070 or 09).

Check emails carefully

  • It might look like an official email address – but is it? Fake email addresses can look convincing – have they changed a letter in the name for example? Several at-sign-1083508__340employers have warnings on their websites about people imitating their email addresses. Equally, the use of a personal email account rather than a company email address is unlikely to be genuine.
  • Be suspicious if you get an email about a job you haven’t applied for, or an email requesting personal information or bank details. Spelling mistakes and poor grammar are also clues to look out for.

Be realistic – don’t get scammed!

  • If the employer is not interested in your skills and experience, or is offering a job paying a large salary with “no experience necessary”, then you should be cautious. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is!
  • Students sometimes ask us about job ads for a book keeper or funds processor, offering high pay for minimal work – this is a money laundering scam using your bank account for clients to pay in money, which you will then be asked to transfer on. There are serious legal consequences – if the worst happens and you are scammed, make sure you report it to Action Fraud.

Further help

  • The SaferJobs website has more information and advice
  • HMRC give advice on spotting phishing emails
  • Recruitment agencies who are members of an industry association such as REC, APSCo or TEAM have standards in place to prevent job scams.
  • If you have any questions come and talk to us in Careers and Placements.