Greg Dimmock, a master’s graduate in English from Fitzwilliam College, shares his top careers tips to new master’s students
It’s a question that can strike both excitement and fear into the hearts of any master’s student: “So, what are you going to do next?”
Before I had discovered the joy of a Fitzbillies brunch or fallen into the Cam whilst attempting to punt (I assure you I can punt fine now) I had faced that question at least a million times. It was there at every meet and greet, every society’s induction and every welcome formal. I hadn’t even started my master’s and I was already made to think about finishing it.
At first my answer to this question was simple: “I am going to do a PhD that continues my research into boredom’s significance in contemporary literature.” But after a month or so of studying, I swiftly realised that my research into boredom was, ironically enough, kind of boring – should have seen that one coming, am I right? And so my answer to this question changed from a confident declaration to an awkwardly anxious shrug: “I don’t know.”
But, fear not! This story, like every good fairy tale, has a happy ending. Soon after I realised that a PhD would not be suited to me, I decided to pop along to the Careers Service and, like a valiant prince rescuing a princess from a tower (I think that comparison says a lot about the type of person I am), the wonderful people there were able to assuage my nerves and point out that I had plenty of time and ample resources to help me decide what my next step should be.
So, for anyone reading this who feels like I once felt, or anyone who knows for sure what they want to do at the end of Easter term, this is a short welcome guide to what the Careers Service can offer master’s students like you over the forthcoming year.
Firstly: don’t panic!
If it’s good enough advice for hitchhikers travelling around the galaxy, it’s good enough for you. You have just arrived at one of the best (definitely the best) universities in the world and you have undoubtedly worked hard to get here. Enjoy it! Immerse yourself in as many facets of Cambridge life as possible – Baking Society? Yes Please!
As a master’s student you can often fall into the trap of thinking you don’t have time for anything else other than your course. That’s simply not true.
Although it may not seem like it, a year is a long time. Plus, any interesting or extravagant extracurricular activities that you can brag about in job/research applications are only going to make you stand out among the boring masses who did not want to go to Quidditch Society.
And, rest assured that Careers Services will have plenty of events over the coming year that you can fill your time with. You name it, they have got it! So, take a deep breath. You have time. Everything is going to be tickety-boo (a phrase I am determined to make popular again).
Don’t know what to do? That’s fine
There is a definitely a misconception that as a master’s student you must know what you’re going to do next because you have simply done a master’s. Nonsense! The reasons why anyone would subject themselves to another year of late night library outings and last-minute cramming are as varied as the flowers in Cambridge University’s Botanic Gardens (a recommended revision space for the next year, by the way).
So, if you are looking for ideas, or already have a few ideas, the Careers Service have resources that can help you find some inspiration and help you get to know yourself and potential career sectors better.
If you know what you want to do, they are there for you, too
There is also a misconception that the Careers Service is only for those people who are unsure about what they want to do next. Again, nonsense! If you have a clear idea of what you want to do post-graduation, then they can provide support to help you maximise your chances of getting your dream career. This includes advice on how to get better at interviews and how to perfect your CV and job applications.
On the Careers Service’s website there is also an extensive database of Vacancies & Opportunities that you can browse and, hopefully, find openings that are right for you. Look through all the sectors and cross out the things you are definitely not interested in, highlight the things you might be open to exploring, and, crucially, apply for the things that excite you the most.
You can also access GradLink to get in contact with alumni who are currently working in a field you are interested in. These are valuable ways to get advice from those with first-hand experience, as well as make contacts in that sector.
Pop by the Careers Service
I know what you are thinking: “Greg, I am going to be in the library 24/7 over the next year, researching and writing my thesis. Why on Earth are you recommending me another library?”
Well, my fellow master’s students, the Careers Service’s library has over 1000 careers-related resources, including books, employer career guides, sector-specific magazines, journals and exclusive interview feedback. And they provide in-house takeaway materials such as event brochures, sector-specific quick guides and psychometric testing resources, as well as commercial publications.
All of this can help you be the best prospective applicant you can be. Plus, you get to meet the wonderful librarians who are just delightful. Win win.
Stay connected and keep up-to-date with events
Over the next few weeks you will sign up to a lot of email threads. Be it your department’s daily schedule or that obscure society’s weekly roundup that you only put your name on out of politeness.
However, I am willing to bet my student-loan debt (please someone take me up on this) that none of them will be as useful as connecting with the Careers Service on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn, as well as subscribing to sector-specific emails via CamCareers.
By doing so, you will be find out about, and keep up to date with, what’s on at the Careers Service. They hold 15 major events in different career sectors throughout the academic year, where you can meet employers and professional organisations and ask them questions regarding your interests. Just make sure you ask good questions. Nobody enjoys an awkward, “So tell me about a typical day with your company.”
If you can’t make the events (life as a master’s student is of course a wall of deadlines) recordings of previous careers talks are also available on the Careers Services website, so there’s no need to stress if you have missed a previous event or information from the past term.
Book an appointment
In my experience, perhaps one of the best and most useful aspects of the Careers Service is their personalised appointments with expert careers advisers. These appointments can take the form of a Quick Query, a 30-minute appointment (booked up to 5 working days in advance) or an Interview Practice Session.
All of these options are incredibly informative and, if you are like me, the advice and feedback you receive during them will be unbelievably helpful in aiding you in getting the career you want.
And finally: the Careers Service is here for you now and for life!
It is easy to think that once you leave Cambridge, the university hands you a degree and pats you on the back and shows you the door. That’s definitely not the case. Whatever stage you’re at, if you are a new arrival or a new graduate you can still:
– Talk to a careers adviser at the Careers Service – over phone or Skype appointments.
– Get tailored information on your career interests via CamCareers emails.
– Go to their events.