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Plan your future with tips from KCL’s careers team

We ask Fiona Richardson – Careers Consultant, Bich Tran – Information Manager (at King’s Careers & Employability), Louise Honey – Careers consultant, Sabrina Duggan – Deputy Head of King’s C & E, Karen Gui – Careers Consultant (with the Dickson Poon School of Law) for some tips.


What is the best career advice you’ve ever had?

“Many people with amazing careers will confess to having had no career plan to speak of, but they seize every opportunity presented to them. Attending a careers fair can lead to an internship, volunteering can lead to a job offer, having the guts to go up to the CEO of a brand you admire could lead to an interview, standing in for your boss at a conference could give the opportunity to meet your next employer, etc, etc. Some people just seem to be in the right place at the right time; grasping opportunities maximises the chances of you being one of those people.” Fiona Richardson

“I would say that the best advice I have been given is “if you don’t know, then just ask.”” Bich Tran

“Don’t do a job for the money as it is likely you won’t have time to spend it!” Louise Honey

“When under time pressure or feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list and at a loss as to what the next step should be, ask yourself, “What am I trying to achieve?” – that usually inspires an effective solution or way forward. This question transfers very well to the subject of career-planning as well.” Karen Gui

Students’ most serious mistake for their careers?

“It’s hard to be competitive in the graduate market if all you have of interest on your CV is your academics. Do other things while you are at university that you can talk about. It doesn’t even matter much what those other things are, go with what your heart, mind and circumstances dictate.” Fiona Richardson

“From experience a common mistake that students often make is leaving things until the last minute…. Getting into teaching without relevant experience is almost impossible. Similarly with large accountancy, banking and finance companies, it would be difficult if you haven’t had relevant work experience or completed an internship.” Bich Tran

“It will always depend on their own circumstances and restraints, but in general most things can be rectified or thought of as a positive rather than a negative. The main thing that will lead to difficulties for them would be having little or no work experience. Employers are increasingly looking for skills developed outside of the academic setting, as these are the things that tend to set students apart from each other.” Louise Honey

“Taking a course/job because it’s what their parents want/friends do – rather than because it’s what they really want to do.” Sabrina Duggan

“Doing what other people say they should do/study without taking responsibility for the decision by doing their own research and thinking on the matter!” Karen Gui

How can students deal with more competition in their fields?

“The short answer to this is, work experience, work experience, work experience is what gives the competitive edge.” Fiona Richardson

“Employers look for evidence from students to show that they are doing more than just attend lectures, eat and sleep. Active participation with the Students’ Union, societies/clubs, sports etc. will help students to stand out.” Bich Tran

“Make sure they are taking advantage of all of the opportunities available to them while at university.” Louise Honey

“Stay competitive. That means you need to be aware of what ‘exceptional’ looks like for your preferred job, and work to be it. You’ll almost always need a good mix of knowledge, professional skills and commercial awareness to stand up against the best; meaning you must do well in your course, you must develop your employability and you must understand commercial impact.” Sabrina Duggan

“By investing time in thinking about and exploring different career options, using the college careers service, increasing self-awareness (can be done with the help of the careers service), thoroughly researching the employer, and learning how to SELL themselves in the best light possible (without lying!!) to the prospective employer.” Karen Gui

When is the best time to go for a careers service consultation?

“Come to careers and employability for a consultation when you feel ready. The earlier you come, the more opportunity you will have to engage with the careers events we run and make use of our services such as Step internships.” Fiona Richardson

“The earlier the better, as this will give students plenty of time to research, plan and take the necessary actions to achieve their goals/aspirations.” Bich Tran

“In your first year!” Louise Honey

“Any time! However, the earlier you make contact the more opportunities you’ll have to use the service to help you progress. We see a lot of people in their final year and they always say they wish they’d engaged with us earlier, so they could have benefited even more.” Sabrina Duggan

“Right at the very start of the first year at university! Even if you haven’t got a clue what you want to do, the Careers Service can equip you with resources and methods to start exploring. It takes time to investigate and think about different career options, so the sooner a student starts, the better.” Karen Gui

What makes students stand out?

“The students who stand out are those with passion. No matter what field you are aiming for, if you can speak enthusiastically about what you have done in the past and what you want to do in the future, and you CV evidences this enthusiasm, then I would make a bet that you are on to a winner. “ Fiona Richardson

“The ones with the most interesting stories – where they had been , who they had met, what they had done and most importantly what they had learnt.” Louise Honey

“Passion, enthusiasm, tenacity, resilience, pro- activity, responsibility (for their own wants and needs) and a great smile.” Sabrina Duggan

“They listened to my advice AND applied it, thereby securing the jobs they wanted!” Karen Gui

What are the main misconceptions? 

“The main misconception that I have encountered among students is that you just need to do well in your chosen degree in order to get good graduate jobs. It helps to do well but employers are looking at a range of factors, not just academic achievements.” Bich Tran

“Yes. You can never really know what a job will be like until you’ve experienced it; however, there is a lot you can do to form an accurate picture of what it might be like. Seek out opportunities to take up part-time work, internships, shadowing, network, attend industry events and talk with people in the know. King’s C&E have a programme packed with ways to engage with employers and CCs work closely with departments to do the same, so make sure you find out what’s going on in your area.” Sabrina Duggan

“Yes! That’s why it’s important to do Vacation Schemes or other work experience to understand the reality of what they want to get into.” Karen Gui

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