Can your dissertation help you get a job?

The dissertation will likely be the most thorough and in-depth project you will have ever done and perhaps will ever do in the future. In a congested graduate labour market where degree subjects are very similar between universities the dissertation is one way to stand out from the crowd.

What is a dissertation?

An undergraduate dissertation is essentially an extended piece of research and writing on a single subject. It is typically completed in the final year of a degree programme and the topic is chosen based on a student’s own area of interest. It allows the student to explore a narrow topic in greater depth than a traditional module. The typical length of a dissertation is between 10,000 – 12,000 words.

Work that is truly your own

 

The dissertation as more than academics

Carrying out the dissertation can be more than just academic research and can help develop and demonstrate skills that employers value along with the opportunity to work with professionals within your area of interest. This blog will explain some of the main benefits of carrying out the dissertation and the potential opportunities to improve your employability before graduation.

 

Valuable insight into an area to see if you like it beyond academics

 

Have a clear purpose and keep it relevant!

In your final year of study it’s easy to see the dissertation as a huge task to clear however you can, but this would be a mistake. Firstly, consider how you could relate your research interests to an occupation or profession or a part of their practice.

Creating an in-depth insight into the work of a particular organisation or profession can be a great way to demonstrate your skills and knowledge around the area and can provide a strong counter-argument to experience.

 

Most research seeks an explanation or new knowledge of a concept and, importantly, its practical applications”  

 

The collaborative approach: connecting with employers

Meeting with professionals has two obvious benefits to your dissertation and employability.

Firstly, working alongside professionals can give you an industry-related opinion on where to take your research and potential access to participants and practices within the industry. This can only strengthen the credibility of your work.

Secondly, using any contacts made as part of your research are also introductions to you as a future professional. This is an opportunity to get an insight into a particular profession or company and particularly what qualities they would look for as a graduate entering the profession – LinkedIn can be an invaluable help with this.

Also…

This is also a great opportunity to discuss creating a mentoring relationship and/or shadowing work to help prepare yourself for graduation. An employer could also see this as an opportunity to consider recruiting you in the future.

There could be an opportunity for an interested party to use the outcomes of your research.

Lastly, this can be a way to get access to other professionals and organisations in order to create more opportunities.

 

Access to the hidden jobs market and a head-start in securing advertised employment

 

Skills, Knowledge and Experience

Job-Specific

Enhanced insight into the particular functioning of a profession and associated language

 

Research

Planning             Proposing            Research methods             Enhanced sourcing techniques

Using software and IT        Report writing        Editing            Applying theory and practice

 

Employability Skills

Problem-solving               Using data               Communications            Project management

Decision-making              Organisation            Initiative               Critical thinking

Prioritising                        Time-management

 

Why not come to see the Careers Team to discuss further? Drop into Careers Express in the Hub on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays (10.30-12.30), or book a 1:1 career consultation by contacting the Careers Team at careers@hope.ac.uk

No idea about your career? Handy tips to get you started

The future depends on what you do today’ – Mahatma Gandhi

Whether you are in your first year or your final year, it is never too early or too late to start considering your career options. But instead of trawling through page after page of job sites waiting for your ideal job to jump out at you, it’s time to take some positive action. Take a look at these tips to get you started on your career journey.

#Tip 1: Reframe your perspective

Some people know what they want to do from an early age. And that’s great. For them. But if you are one of the many students who do not know what they want to do, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Advice such as ‘follow your dreams’ and ‘find your passion’ can lead to frustration and inertia as you wait expectantly for a ‘lightbulb’ moment to happen. The chances are, if it hasn’t happened already, it won’t without help.

So why not take a different perspective. Rather than fixate on how you can shoehorn yourself into a job description, start thinking about your career as the uniqueness you can bring to the world of work. That may sound abstract, but if you can identify your ‘Unique Selling Point – USP’ you can open up a range of career options and approach your career journey with flexibility and fluidity – essential in today’s global job market.

Everyone has a Career USP – you just need to identify yours.

#Tip 2: Getting to know yourself

Choosing a career without knowing the real you is like sticking a pin in a random list of job ads and expecting to find the perfect fit.

Understanding your interests, likes and dislikes, and perhaps most importantly – your values – can help you understand what you want from a career.

A fun way to start developing your self-awareness is to take an online quiz. Try these as a starting point
https://mycareerscentre.page.link/careerassessments

https://www.prospects.ac.uk/planner

https://www.16personalities.com/

A word of caution – an online quiz is just one tool you can use to kick-start your thinking and is most useful when you take a critical standpoint. Ask yourself the following questions

What is my reaction to the results?

How do the results make me feel?

I would/wouldn’t like to do that job – why? What am I basing this on?

#Tip 3: Channel your inner detective

Ever fancied yourself as the next Luther/Sherlock/Holly McStay? Well now is the perfect time to hone those detective skills, by noticing those everyday clues which will help you deduce your career interests.

One simple way that some students do this is to make a note of when they felt a sense of flow, when they were fully immersed in the moment.  This might be during class, playing a sport or spending time on a hobby. Ask yourself What were you doing? What did you enjoy about it?

Similarly, note when you felt disconnected to what you were doing. Perhaps you had to do a presentation in class and felt uncomfortable and nervous. Finding out what you don’t want to do is just as important as understanding what you are drawn to.

Noticing these clues will help you generate themes around the types of environments you thrive in, the activities that give you a buzz. You can then test these themes out in real life.

#Tip 4: Take Action…say Yes more!

As you begin to develop your self-awareness, it is important to start taking action to test out your findings. There is no substitute for real world experience, whether this be a volunteering role, part-time work, placement or internship. Work experience is valuable even if it only shows you what you definitely do not want to do!

One way to get experience is to take advantage of the wide range of support at Hope – from the Service and Leadership Award which encourages you to undertake volunteering during your degree, to our dedicated Placements team who advertise placements and internships here
https://mycareerscentre.page.link/QxGq

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These tips can help you build a picture of what you want your career to look like.  So the next time someone asks you what you want to do with your life, instead of answering ‘I have no idea’ you can confidently say ‘I’m working on it!’.

Why not book onto the ‘No Idea about a Career’ workshop on Wednesday 30 January at 1-2pm in the Employability Hub through My Careers Centre/Events, drop into Careers Express in the Hub on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, or book a 1:1 career consultation by contacting the Careers Team at careers@hope.ac.uk

3 ways to make part-time work more than just money in the bank.

Firstly let’s discuss the myth around the irrelevance of part-time work while studying.

If I had a pound for every time a student or graduate told me that they didn’t put their part-time job on their CV or application because they thought it wasn’t relevant, I would be writing this from the deck of my super-yacht sailing down the French Riviera!

It is relevant, I have not got a clue why people think it isn’t. There are more ways but here are 3 ways to make part-time work more than just money in the bank.

  1. Develop Transferable Skills (also known as ‘soft’ skills)

A cliché? No, they are very significant. Just look at a person specification for any job. Are there any transferable skills within the criteria?  Yes, there is. Through my experience I would say anywhere from 40% to 70% of the selection criteria for the majority of jobs are transferable skills.

Transferable / ‘soft’ skills are skills which can be transferred into different contexts. Obviously, demonstrating that you have utilised a skill to achieve outcomes in the same context of the job you are applying for add more value than an example transferred from a different context   There are the obvious ones Communication, Leadership, Teamwork. (Our SALA focuses on these for that reason).

This Article from the World Economic Forum outlines skills needed to survive in the robot invasion of the workplace. It draws from earlier research suggesting 10 skills you will need to thrive in 2020.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/07/the-skills-needed-to-survive-the-robot-invasion-of-the-workplace

Get as much experience using all types of transferable skills as you can. Keep a journal / reflective log and use these examples when applying for graduate jobs in the future.

You could look up job description person specification for jobs that you intend to progress into after your studies, review the required skills and then make sure you get good examples of using those from your part-time job.

 

  1. Take initiative

A part-time role is the perfect environment to develop your confidence by using your initiative, fully understand the purpose of your role, how it fits in the organisation, what value you add and how you fit within the strategic aims of the company. When you fully understand this, you can use initiative to add further value to the organisation. You could be in any job, understand how processes and functions operate, notice improvements and suggest them to your line manager. If you get to implement them and they are a success, this will be a great outcome for you. A great example for you to use in other applications, and you would have developed confidence using your initiative. I love it when people in my team improve our performance outcomes or make my job easier by bringing in new ideas, processes and functions, would you?

  1. Connect

Connect with every person you can, getting to know them, what they do, and their story.  This builds relationships with people but it can really help you to understand how other people achieved their goals (or not), which in turn can help you understand what you have to do to achieve your ambitions.

You can then connect digitally too. E-meeting people and connecting online without ever meeting in person, is a thing these days, but having a personal interaction before connecting adds extra value, they can place you better, you can make a better impression, plus there is more chance they will accept your connect request on LinkedIn, friend request on Facebook or follow you back on Twitter or Instagram. I would suggest to consider everyone as a contact who can add value to your network and career development. You could be selective with who you choose to connect with on particular social media platforms but Networking and connecting with people and building up an online presence is essential in all sectors today. You will never know where your next opportunity can come from, it could be to add value to your current job or accessing new opportunities in the field you are interested in or accessing opportunities in areas which you would never have considered, that isn’t a bad thing.

Chris Biggs

Senior Careers Adviser

 

3 New Year Resolutions – Careers & Employability

Kick-start 2019 by committing to doing at least 1 thing to improve your future prospects. Here are our recommended top 3 career & employability resolutions.

  • Volunteer

Develop skills and add to your CV whilst giving your time and experience to a valuable cause. Find your perfect opportunity via do.it.org

No matter which course you’re studying, or career area you’re interested in, we’re certain you can find a volunteering opportunity to suit you. Every job will ask for experience and volunteering is a great way to add experience to your CV.

Whether you’re passionate about health & social care, culture & heritage, crime & justice or the environment there are organisations that need your skills and time. Even if you’re not sure what job you want to go into volunteering can give you an insight into a sector and help you develop skills.

& don’t forget to get your volunteering recognised via Hope’s Service & Leadership Award SALA.

  • See a Careers Adviser

You don’t have to know what you want to do when you graduate to see a Careers Adviser, in fact it’s often those who don’t have a clue what they’d like to do that say we’ve helped them the most. Our expertise and services are relevant from the moment you start university and all our support is free of charge.

Drop in to The Employability Hub for Careers Express Mon, Tues or Thurs 10.30-12.30 for a chat and start thinking about, planning for and taking positive action to secure your future.

  • Read your Career & Employability Bulletins

Every week we send advice, event details and handpicked jobs and internships direct to your inbox. Reading your bulletins, booking and attending our events and applying for jobs and internships that appeal will all make you more employable. We’re here to help every step of the way and reading your bulletins is just one way you can commit to improving your employability in 2019!

Making Successful Applications (standard application forms using a personal statement)

Hello,

Welcome to the follow up blog from the recent Making Successful Applications (standard application forms using a personal statement) workshop, run in our Employability Hub. Remember to look out for and book on to further workshops through the events section in My Careers Centre. Click here to see what other events we have on….

We run a great shortlisting activity, the students are the recruiter. We get details of a current graduate level role, the job description (JD) and the person specification (PS), we make a shortlisting matrix and 2 examples of applications for the position.

Using the shortlisting matrix, the students individually score the applications. We then hold a mediation meeting where we compare scores.

In the most recent session we had discrepancies straight away, some students scored low, some higher on the first point. We debated the scores and agreed on a final score for each of the criteria for both applicants.

Highlighting the discrepancies throughout the process led to a discussion about subjectivity within the shortlisting process. Even though everyone who was shortlisting had the same job description and person specification, the same criteria, matrix and scoring key, we had different scores for a lot of the criteria, different people had a different point of view.

As group we decided that this subjectivity is natural and having a mediation process allows for a fairer recruitment process and allows for challenge of unconscious bias. We also discussed that we cannot predict how strict or lenient a potential recruitment team will be with their shortlisting. From this we decided that we should consider things we do know.

We identified:

The recruiter has a particular purpose, aim or objective for the post. Normally found in the job description (JD).

As much as you can, you need to find out and understand what the job is and what its purpose is.

Tips:

Looking on the company’s website, learning about their mission and values, reading case studies of employee’s, the annual reports and strategy documents can all help you gain a sound understanding of the purpose and direction of an organisation or service. You could also look up the company on Glassdoor this is a website which is similar to TripAdvisor but reviews employers.

For many different reasons (we don’t have the space to discuss in this blog), when making an application you do not always know the name of the company you are applying for or have a detailed job description or person specification to help you to tailor your application. In these cases we suggest you research the sector. To help with that we have My Careers Centre, here are links to the relevant resources:

Industry Reports gives you a detailed report on a number of different sectors

Career insights page provides downloads and a number of links to different resources and publications around many different sectors and jobs.

Employer Advice provides videos from professionals and employers across a whole range of sectors.
The recruiter needs someone to complete a certain set of tasks, and have a certain set of responsibilities. (JD)

In order to be able to complete those tasks and perform those responsibilities the recruiter has identified a set of qualifications, skills, knowledge and experiences which they would like the applicant to have. Normally found in the person specification.

Depending on the recruitment process used, recruiters will seek this information in different ways e.g. Competency/Behavioural questions, a CV, or a standard application form (online, digital or paper based). This session and blog concentrated on the standard application form method using a Personal Statement. Look out on the events page to book on other sessions focusing on the other methods.

Tip:

You need to breakdown the person specification by copy and pasting all of the selection criteria into a word document.

You can then start providing evidence for each criterion. Key word here being evidence, do not list or merely mention a skill assuming the recruiter will know what you mean. Remember our discussion about subjectivity. Sometimes you may have been lucky when applying for jobs in the past and successfully been selected for interview by not clearly evidencing your skills. This will not always be the case. You need to control your own luck and demonstrate that you have used a particular skill to achieve a particular outcome, ideally in a relevant context or the next best option is in a transferable context. As with our activity the recruiter will most probably be scoring you against their criteria. If not formally using a matrix on a spreadsheet, they will be informally in a matrix within their mind. So you need to help them find the relevant information in your statement and provide enough evidence to score as highly as you can.

Sometimes you end up grouping the criteria into different paragraphs as you realise you can edit certain paragraphs to demonstrate a number of different skills.

Simple summary:

Find out what the purpose of the role is,

Use the person specification criteria to inform the points you make in your statement,

Evidence and demonstrate how you have applied skills to achieve outcomes,

It is up to you how you present the statement, some people remove the criteria headings and then make the statement read nice with a start, middle and end others keep the headings in. it is up to you.

You will have careers, employability professionals, academics, teachers, tutors, peers, family members etc. provide you with advice on what works best. I say remember that there will always be an element of subjectivity within a recruitment process, there is a load of really good employers who do their best to make sure their process is objective. But we are people and we will act like people. You cannot control or influence forces based on subjectivity. You can influence your own luck, shape your application to the criteria of the job and provide evidence which demonstrates you have what it takes to achieve outcomes within that role.

E-mail careers@hope.ac.uk for any further careers and employability support.

Chris Biggs

Senior Careers Adviser

Liverpool Hope University