People: in focus - C&PM's careers guru, Mark De Freitas, on jobs, interviews, and bread making
14 October 2016
Mark De Freitas, C&PM’s new careers consultant, wasn't sure what do to after he finished his degree in History and Politics all those years ago. He began in supply chain management – specifically yogurt, then he taught English abroad for two years. He then trained in Law and practised in construction for twelve years before joining UCL Careers. C&PM spoke to Mark to find out more about him, his advice for students, and the crucial support UCL offers students to kick-start their career.
What interests you about working with C&PM?
I started working with C&PM and The Bartlett last month after working with other students at UCL for about four and a half years. I’ve been really excited about working with C&PM. As a lawyer, most of the work I did was generally in civil engineering, such as gas platforms, sea defences, and power stations.
Tell us about your main interests outside work.
I am interested in a variety of things. Something I find most relaxing is, on a Sunday morning – and sometimes on Saturdays - I bake bread. I’m capable of baking a cake, but with bread there’s something very satisfying about making something with your hands, especially if you have a desk based job. There’s also the fact you have to wait for the dough to rise and there’s a set routine to it.
Just like developing a career.
Many students at C&PM think their course will directly lead straight to a career. I know that other courses at UCL have few connections with industry by comparison.
Yes, but it’s worth saying that students who study a postgraduate course with a specific vocational orientation don’t always have to follow that particular route. Something like 70 to 75 percent of jobs are open to graduates of any discipline. Something specific to the UK graduate jobs market is that employers look closely at the transferable skills students might bring.
What is the most important advice for students to know about developing their career?
People tend to do better in their area of interest, regardless of what that interest might be. One thing that can really help is to start talking to people in industries about the nature of their job. They should look to engage with recent alumni that are working for particular employers and find out more about the sector. The sooner they start doing this, the easier it is to find the right career.
What do students forget when thinking about developing their career?
It varies from one student to another, but the aspect employers repeatedly mention is commercial awareness. By this, they mean that candidates need to have a thorough understanding of the employer’s business and sector. Students should read related journals to gain a better understanding of the sector and the effect the overall economy might be having on the industry.
Of course, the big story of the year is Brexit. Employers are likely to ask candidates about the implications of Brexit for the construction industry, such as inward investment to the UK and implications for staff mobility. One way that students can put economic developments in context is through the free access they have to the Financial Times. FT.com is a fantastic resource.
What would you say are the most important resources at UCL Careers to help students with their career?
We have a whole range of resources but students don’t often appreciate that the most helpful resource is the other students around them. For example, one of the best ways of looking at CVs is to get together as a group of students and jointly review them. This is such a mutually supportive thing to do.
In terms of advice, we have three types of appointment. Students can book CV and application reviews, as well as guidance sessions, online. We also have practice interviews, which we try to schedule with the adviser for a particular department. This time of year is very busy with incredibly high demand for one-to-one appointments. We take on additional advisers to try to meet this and last year there were over 10,700 individual appointments. In any case, students should not treat these appointments as the only available careers support.
All students have a My UCL Careers account through which they can book events, such as group workshops and sessions with employers. In a typical year, there will be over 1000 employers on campus. Not just at careers fairs, but also through individual employer presentations and skills sessions. For C&PM, we are running half-hour sessions, three times in the same evening, where I am really looking forward to taking questions and drawing upon the wide-ranging experiences of students.
Start building your career by logging in to your My UCL Careers account now.