Frequently asked careers questions, advice and support for UCL students and recent graduates during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.
I'm confused about making career decisions in these current uncertain times, can someone help me?
Whatever you want to do in the future – whether your career path is clear or not – UCL Careers is here to assist you. Students and recent graduates still have full access to support, however, all appointments and events will be conducted remotely. All face to face activity is suspended until further notice. To book an appointment, please log in to myUCLCareers.
What's the best way to reach out to employers online/digitally?
It depends what you are looking for. If you are looking for a mentor in a sector or role you are interested in then you should try the UCL’s Alumni Online Community. For contacting employers about speculative opportunities you could do some organisation research using the myUCLCareers jobs board and then find specific people in that organisation using LinkedIn. You could also use LinkedIn to conduct your organisation/sector research. Make sure you understand how to get the best out of LinkedIn by using the Career Essentials resources. and reading our blog on utilising LinkedIn to develop networks.
What can I do with my extra spare time (especially if can't get an internship)?
Enhance your skillset
- Attend virtual events, talks, and workshops
- Develop a portfolio: If your interest lies in industries which are more creative, take the time to look into developing a portfolio of work that can be used in future applications. Visit Prospects, Adobe and Creative Bloq for additional information on this.
- Watch a recording / reviewing slides from talks on a range of topics such as CVs and Cover Letters from our Career Essentials programme- a selection of these are also available with exercises in our short e-learning course .
- Read our handouts which provide an overview of different aspects of career planning such as speculative applications, assessment centres and psychometric tests.
- Explore information about, or the language of, a country you are keen to work in in the future.
- In-depth study of a sector or employer that you are keen to work for in the future.
- And if you’re still working on career ideas, you can use your time to research and make use of online tools to generate ideas or explore your existing ideas in more depth. Watch our CareersLab episode on How to Develop your Careers Ideas to help you explore, test and prototype your career ideas. Further resources on this can be found on the UCL Careers website.
Stay prepared and develop your CV
- Brush up your CV. Watch the CareersLab episode 8 steps to a spectacular CV.
- Update your LinkedIn profile. Read our blog post for top tips on creating a positive online presence - and use the Career Essentials resources.
- Take summer classes. Learn a new skill — there are a lot of free courses available online at the moment due to the lock down. Try FutureLearn, The Open University and LinkedIn Learning for some options.
- Start your own project/ business — do an independent research project on the career area you’re interested in or start your own (online) business (make sure you observe any visa restrictions on starting a business).
- Help out friends and family — do they need their accounts doing? Do their chilldren need online tutoring? Do they need a website? Do they need help with social media? Can you teach them to play an instrument or other skill (remotely)?
- Start your own blog/vlog — the world has changed dramatically in the past few months — perhaps you can document that. Books and films will be made about this period of time. You can use your research skills, observational skills and writing skills and even link your writing to your CV or LinkedIn profile.
Seek out alternative opportunities
- Building your network through platforms such as LinkedIn to make connections with employers, follow companies and keep up to date with recruitment news. You may find it useful to watch our Mastering online career networking episode of CareersLab.
- Making use of UCL’s Alumni Online Community to make contact with former students working in sectors you may be interested in. If no opportunities are available take the time to conduct job research by finding out more about their role, what advice they can give and resources that can help you with your planning.
- Completing speculative applications: At the moment employer responses will vary to speculative applications on opportunities that may not be advertised so these will need to be approached with a degree of sensitivity. If approaching organisations directly, ensure you tailor your email to them and above all be flexible- you may have a clear sense of a role you’d like to do but consider alternative positions, which could support them in these challenging times.
- Researching virtual opportunities: Conversely, some organisations are actively advertising for roles that can be completed remotely and there are online experience programmes such as Insidesherpa which simulate a working environment. Research these in more detail and find opportunities online. We’d also encourage you to continue to monitor vacancy sites including the myUCLCareers jobs board.
- Finally, whilst volunteering may not be directly related to the career you are interested in, supporting local shops, community projects and the health service at this time can help you to develop or build on a range of skills which can be applied to future professional roles. Consider this as an option if you’re able to.
Where can I find CV, cover letter, and application form advice?
Whilst the current situation is having a significant impact on recruitment globally, some employers are still promoting remote work opportunities and internships, and further study and scholarships are still open to applications. In these challenging times, it's even more important to ensure your applications make a positive impact. Applications advice appointments are aimed at those who have drafted an application, (CV, cover letter, personal statement etc.), for something specific and want advice on how to improve it before sending it off. To book an appointment, please log in to myUCLCareers.
How can I learn about virtual networking?
You might want to start by looking at the resources regarding using LinkedIn (which can be applied to other platforms too) available on our Careers Essentials page or by watching the Mastering online career networking episode of CareersLab.
My lab based project has been cancelled, how can I gain similar skills?
For a range of ideas on how to gain these skills, have a read of our blog featuring Five Alternatives to Cancelled Laboratory Projects.
What should I do if I have an internship/grad job offer, but the employer is not responding to my emails/messages?
Some employers will still be considering how best to handle their planned summer internships, it may take a little time for decisions to be made and information to reach candidates. Meanwhile, do regularly check for announcements on their website and social media pages, just in case anything is posted there. If you are in a position of having to commit to financial outlay for the internship (for example by confirming accommodation bookings), you may want to contact the employer again to let them know that you are being asked to commit to this and to ask for their advice. In this situation you might also want to book an advice appointment to discuss your situation with one of our Careers Consultants.
How are recruitment practices changing in the current climate?
From the data we have so far – primarily early surveys – employers have mixed responses, often based on their size and sector. It is no surprise that many tech companies, for example, are indicating readiness to move all of their recruitment and selection activities online (if they weren’t already). Similarly, larger organisations on the whole appear to be more confident about pivoting to virtual recruitment – everything from interviews to assessment centres.
Many larger employers have also been able to quickly put together virtual events to continue to engage with students and promote their opportunities – and to help prepare candidates for the recruitment process. You can find details of events promoted through UCL Careers on our social media and on the myUCLCareers calendar.
You can read our Employer Insights blog post to learn more.
What is the impact on graduate schemes?
Larger companies are more likely to be capable of completely on-boarding and inducting new hires remotely.
Some employers are pausing or freezing their recruitment completely while they wait for a clearer indication of the state of business in the coming months – an unknown for all. Offer holders should be hearing directly from companies about what’s going on, and we would encourage you to make contact if you haven’t yet heard anything. We are receiving continued updates from individual employers who are indicating anything from delaying their start dates, to proceeding as normal but with an expectation to have new starters begin completely remotely.
You can read our Employer Insights blog post to learn more.
What is the impact on summer internships?
Results from an initial survey conducted by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) showed that 27% of employers indicated they would be recruiting fewer entry-level graduate hires and 31% of those surveyed predicted less interns and placement students over the summer. However, it is worth noting that there seemed to be a substantial amount of uncertainty amongst the organisations surveyed. From ISE’s research and our own survey of employers that we work with it appears that some companies are cancelling summer internships but others are starting interns virtually in the hope that they might be able to return to their offices during the summer. Still others are offering a reduced (virtual) experience for their interns rather than a full internship. Clearly there is a significant impact on the number of summer internships that are going to be available for 2020 so do think about participating in the alternative ideas suggested if you are yet to secure an internship. Watch our Coronavirus & Careers Q&A episode of CareersLab for some more inspiration.
Are there any alternatives to traditional insights/internships?
There are virtual/remote opportunities out there. Some are for project work for companies and should be paid in line with National Minimum Wage legislation. Keep checking the myUCLCareers jobs board. and other job sites for these opportunities, and apply tailoring your application for the role.
There is also a platform called InsideSherpa that provides free access to virtual work experience programs with world leading companies. The programmes let you sample ‘life-like’ tasks that provide a better understanding of what it’s like to be a junior employee at that company. They take 5-6 hours to complete and are self-paced. By completing programs, you’ll build the skills that top employers are looking for, develop your confidence and improve your practical skills all of which you can add onto your CV and articulate to future employers. There are no lengthy application processes as programs are free and accessible to all students. Simply pick your program, enrol and get started right away.
Also, please see the section on what can I do with my spare time as there are lots of ideas there that can help you build your employability skills and your career planning.
If I can’t get an internship this summer, will I have a chance of getting a graduate role in that company/sector without experience?
While having company or sector specific experience is helpful when making applications for graduate roles, think about how you can develop and market your transferable skills to your target employers (see above points on seeking out alternative experiences and preparing your CV and applications for inspiration).
Although you may not be able to spend time working in your sector of choice over the summer, don’t forget that you can be proactive in trying to network with individuals working in that sector. This will help you to develop your understanding of that sector, and show employers that you have a genuine interest that you have pursued. Do remember that many people will be in a similar situation, and not everyone will be able to use their spare time to develop their skills, industry awareness and network. If you are able to do this, it might be a good way to stand out when it comes to applications for graduate roles in the near-future.
Read our blog, How to Move Forward with Your Career Planning in Challenging Times by Nicole Estwick, one of our Careers Consultants, for more information.
How can I support my Masters applications if I’m unable to gain work experience in the area I’m interested in?
Have a think about how you would have used that work experience to improve your Masters application. Would you have been showcasing technical skills you had acquired, or would you be using it to show your understanding and interest in a certain area? perhaps it would be both.
There might be other ways you can gain similar technical skills, as mentioned above have a look at resources such as FutureLearn, The Open University and LinkedIn Learning for some options, you might find others which fit your specific needs.
Even if you are unable to intern at an organisation, you can still reach out to those in roles you’re interested in to gain an insight into the work they, and their organisation, do. See our tips in “How can I learn about virtual networking?” above.
Finally, do remember that everyone is in the same situation and if your Masters course definitely requires initial work experience then do contact the course provider to ask whether this requirement has been altered or if the provider has any suggestions for alternatives.
I'm struggling with my wellbeing, who can I speak to?
An overview of Student Support and Wellbeing services is available if you on the Student Support and Wellbeing webpage.
- International Students
I have questions regarding my visa, where can I find help?
Please see the Immigration Advice and Covid-19 information maintained by our colleagues in the Student Immigration Advice and Compliance Team
You may also wish to submit a question to them through askUCL.
- Further Reading and Resources
Where can I find up to date careers advice and employer updates that focus on the current situation?
NextStepSupport is an industry-wide, collaborative response to the current crisis. Working with The Association of Graduate Advisory Services (AGCAS) and Institute of Student Employers (ISE), the site is a free, open resource for all students and you can access it now.