Surrey Careers blog

Official blog of the University of Surrey's Employability and Careers Centre

Sprint 2017: helping undergrad women fulfil their potential!

Sprint Programme

In a study by the Higher Education Careers Unit, 70% of women graduates were earning less than £24,000, compared with 55% of men. Sprint was developed to help to close this gap and support women in achieving their goals and aspirations.

What is Sprint?

The programme consists of four action-packed half day workshops which explore areas such as assertiveness, making an impact, personal power, goal-setting, managing change, exploring personal values, confidence, networking and time-management. Plus, Sprinters get the opportunity to meet inspiring, successful role models in business, as well as coaching and work shadowing opportunities.

70% of Sprint participants said the programme improved their effectiveness in studying. Many women have increased their focus on their studies at university, achieving results such as improved visibility and effectiveness in tutorials, better time management, less study stress, and a boost in confidence and self-esteem.

e-hamill-image“The overall experience of Sprint was amazing. I was able to meet and more importantly get to know a group of diverse and strong women, to share our experiences and lift each other up when we most needed it.”  E Hamill.

The more I read about Sprint, the more I wanted to be a part of it. What really drew me in was the idea of promoting the acceptance of women’s ability and importance in the workplace, in a world where we still face such challenges, a world where less than 10% of the UKs CEOs are women and a world where women are still paid less (9.4%), despite working the same jobs as their male counterparts (The Guardian, 2015). I wanted to be part of a group where I could support my female peers and get support when I needed it, not just emotionally, but also to discuss my aims and aspirations.

Our amazing Sprint programme leader Sue made us feel so welcome and the whole group bonded instantaneously, setting up a comfortable premise for the 3 coming weeks. The focal areas of the workshops varied from ‘Mindfulness’ to ‘Assertiveness’ and didn’t limit themselves to workplace issues, but focused on us as individuals and our personal lives. Inspiring female speakers from all walks of life were invited to talk to us and share their experiences of their accomplishments, but also their experience of sexism, in the workplace.

In our final workshop we worked with our home groups to create a presentation and perform it in front of our peers and a panel of 3 extremely successful women; Amy Phillips (Media Molecule), Katherine Ray (founder of Talentology Ltd.), and Michelle Moody (Capgemini). Our presentations focused on what we thought we had gained from the Sprint workshops, the overwhelming themes being; assertiveness, a sense of community and confidence.”

sylvia-moschona-image-200x“Sprint was one of the best programmes run by the University. It does not care about your grades or your faculty. It cares about YOU and your team! It aims to make you strong, independent and assertive women. And it does!

Sprint recognised the challenges of Uni, work, family and friends. Everyone in the room was the same as you. Everyone wanted to help, because everyone believes in you. We found inspiration from our lovely guest speakers, who gave us life and career advice valuable for our next steps…Every week, every sprinter would be looking forward to the next session. Our exercises and activities during the workshops enabled to enhance our self-growth and self-awareness.” S Moschona

Want to join the next Sprint programme, starting on 1st March 2017?

The next Sprint programme takes place on the following four dates: Wednesday 1 March, Wednesday 8 March, Wednesday 15 March and Wednesday 22 March 2017. All workshops run from 12:30pm-6:30pm, with lunch and afternoon tea provided.

If you want to get involved, sign up here!

Highlights from the University of Surrey Nursing Fair

nursing fair

This year’s Nursing Fair, held on 31st January 2017, welcomed a wide range of NHS Trusts, hospitals and hospices, charities such as Young Epilepsy and Great Ormond Street Hospital, private organisation such as BUPA and Virgin Care, as well as organisations such as the Royal Navy and Army Medical Services to the University of Surrey campus.

170 final year nursing students at the University had the unique opportunity to meet 32 different nursing and health related organisations to discuss potential career paths. The event was a great success, particularly as it gave professional preparation students a better understanding of the vast range of career opportunities available to them.

For those students who already had a clear idea of the career they wanted to pursue, they were able to meet a wide range of organisations in one place and get some great advice about how to get into their chosen field. For nursing student Tracey Cross, the event proved to be an invaluable opportunity to target the organisations she wanted to meet: “I came focused on looking for community and hospice organisations and found them all in the same place. I found what I wanted and felt confident that there would be a job for me at the end of my course. It was fantastic!


The Nursing Fair proved to be equally valuable for those students that weren’t yet clear on the path they wished to take after University. Organisations like Hampshire Hospitals recommended a rotation scheme where students could work in many different areas of nursing. We spoke to nursing student Lucy Carlton: “I didn’t know about the oncology rotation offered by the Royal Free, Royal Surrey, Basingstoke and Portsmouth. I really liked their honesty about the rotation and encouraged me to come and look. I have arranged to visit them now next week.”

The Faculty of Health and Social Sciences were also on hand to support professional preparation students with advice and guidance for how to make the most of the Nursing Fair, as well as hear student’s feedback about how the Careers Fair had impacted their career choice. Jackie McBride, Head of Programmes, said: “The Nursing Fair is an invaluable opportunity to get students thinking about the opportunities available to them. Even if they have a very clear idea of where they wish to work after University, the Careers Fair allowed them to truly consider all of their options.

nursing fair

Feedback from the exhibitors was extremely positive about the quality and calibre of students that they met. Victoria Cooper from Western Sussex Hospitals said:

It was really interesting to meet students from the different nursing branches and to discuss their career aspirations and the opportunities that we have to offer them at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, from the beginning of their careers to continuing professional development opportunities. I look forward to visiting you all at the University of Surrey again soon.”

Sarah Jackson from NHS Guildford and Waverley referenced the challenges facing the nursing sector, saying: “Thank you for letting Guildford & Waverley have the chance to showcase our career opportunities. At the moment primary care is facing a huge crisis due to the shortage of professionals and the rate of retirement, therefore it’s a great way to address succession planning and promote primary care as a future career option. It was also a fantastic opportunity to network with other colleagues and share best practice. I would strongly recommended your careers fair to other providers and health care professionals.”

nursing fair

Thank you to all of our exhibitors that attended the Fair. Our exhibitors were:

  • Army Medical Services
  • BUPA
  • CSH Surrey
  • East Surrey Hospital
  • Elysium Healthcare
  • Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust
  • Great Ormond Street Hospital
  • Guildford and Waverley CCG
  • Guys & St Thomas Hospital & Evelina Children’s Hospital
  • Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust
  • Living Ambitions
  • NHS Professionals
  • Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
  • Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Pulse Nursing
  • Royal Navy
  • Royal College of Nursing
  • Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal Surrey County Hospital
  • Solent NHS Trust
  • Southern Health
  • St Georges NHS Trust
  • Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
  • Thames Hospice
  • The Children’s Trust
  • Virgin Care
  • Wessex CEPN’s
  • Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Woking & Sam Beare Hospices
  • Young Epilepsy


Get connected – using LinkedIn to enhance your job search

It is estimated that 80% of people find jobs through people they know. Engaging with social media as part of your job search is a vital way to build your own network of useful people who can give you tips and ideas for breaking into the sector that interests you. These contacts may even notify you about actual job vacancies. The most effective tool to use for professional networking is LinkedIn. Jeanette Holt from the Employability and Careers Centre tells you more…

What is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is the most popular professional networking website in the world with more than 430 million users in over 200 countries, including 40 million students and graduates. It is now part of the job seeking process so don’t miss out!  When you apply for a job, many graduate recruiters will check out your online presence, so having a good LinkedIn profile is a positive way of managing your digital footprint.

Top tips for creating a LinkedIn profile

To make a start, create a profile, which is like an online CV, which you can easily update. There is a feature to upload your CV as a word document, but you will probably want to make some adjustments to emphasise the key messages you want to convey to employers.

  • Upload a professional looking photo – think about what image you want to convey to potential recruiters. A good LinkedIn photo is one where you are alone and appropriately dressed. Make it relevant and suitable for the career you want to follow. This is a professional network after all, but you are still allowed to smile!
  • Choose a truthful and concise headline. This should include what you are doing now, but also what you are aspiring to do in the future, such as ‘Computer Science student and aspiring Game Designer’.
  • Write a brief summary to include:
  • What you do
    • Who you do it for
    • What results you deliver
    • What you are seeking to do next
  • Add links to podcasts, blog posts, slides, videos and other examples of your work.
  • Complete your Employment and Education sections
  • Add skills that define you. You can get your skills endorsed by others and endorse others’ skills in return.

Be careful and remember that everything you write will be in the public domain, so be truthful, accurate and professional.

How to make the most of LinkedIn opportunities

Make connections:

Now you are set up, you can start by linking with people who you already know. Once you have made a connection, you can view their contacts via their profile page. There are also LinkedIn groups of people with similar interests, so you can join groups that are most relevant to your career interests. You can use the search box to find individuals, employers and groups to connect with.

The LinkedIn Alumni tool is a useful tool to research what graduates with your degree are now doing and to find Surrey Alumni who are working in organisations and jobs that interest you.  You can send individuals and groups a LinkedIn request and if they accept, you can start a conversation with them.  Why not use LinkedIn to research companies and join discussion forums to find out about the key issues facing the sector which interests you?

LinkedIn enables you to increase your network much more quickly than by meeting people face-to-face, but don’t forget the personal touch. Remember social networking is no substitute for the real thing, so still take advantage of opportunities to meet people in person whenever you can. LinkedIn is also a great way to keep up with people you have met during a placement or at a conference and to keep those useful relationships going. You never know when these people will become helpful to you again in your professional development, or when you may be able assist them.

Seek out jobs/placements:

Remember that actual job vacancies are increasingly advertised on LinkedIn – see Many graduates are now attributing their job-hunting success to use of LinkedIn. Why not download the LinkedIn jobs app on your mobile and apply for jobs with just one click using your LinkedIn profile.

Finally, don’t hassle people via LinkedIn. If people don’t reply to your requests, it is best to just accept their decision graciously. This approach to job hunting has worked for many – there is every reason to believe it will work for you too. Best of luck!

This blog post has been written by Jeanette Holt, a Careers Adviser at the University of Surrey since 2001. Jeanette works specifically with students from courses within the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences.

Further Resources

Using LinkedIn to build your personal brand – with Capgemini. Skills session at the University of Surrey on Thursday 16th Feb. Register here.

LinkedIn Café – The Employability and Careers Centre is running some bite-size workshops to help students get started with LinkedIn. Email: for more information and to book a place.

Introduction to LinkedIn Leaflet

LinkedIn – The Ultimate Cheat Sheet

LinkedIn Learning Centre:

Students’ information

Job portal for students and new graduates:

Resilience – an attractive skill for employers and your career
















Career resilience means the ability to overcome barriers and adapt to change or problems in the workplace as they arise.  It is the ability to cope with setbacks and bounce back, being able to boost your self-esteem and try again. Sounds scary or almost superhuman?  In fact, resilience is a skill that can be learnt and developed. Vicky Ransley from the Employability and Careers Centre tells you more…

Why is resilience important to consider?

Resilience is a skill that employers value and seek in today’s graduates.  The need for resilience has grown due to changes in the job market.  Years ago, a good employee could hope to stay with the same company for life, loyalty being a key attribute.  It is now more likely for graduates to work for several different companies throughout their careers.  A career may move through many phases requiring different skillsets, and sometimes, you might have to face challenging or difficult changes in your work environment.  As a university student about to start your career journey, you cannot predict where it will take you, but you can be prepared.  Resilience will help you achieve success and ease the transitions you may have to face.

Resilient employees:

  • remain engaged and focussed, even when things are difficult
  • spot trends and turn them into opportunities
  • don’t get bogged down by the past, but look towards the future
  • are curious – they keep learning
  • are able to evolve with the times.

Sounds scary or almost superhuman?  Don’t worry – you can build resilience.  Resilient people have learnt behaviours, attitudes and work patterns that help them to be successful.  Beverly Jones, President of Clearways Consulting, comments ‘by learning to become more resilient you can bring power, direction and energy to your career.  You can be more comfortable in an environment where nothing stays the same and the old ways no longer work… you can create a more successful career path, and at the same time find greater enjoyment in the rest of your life.’*

How do we develop resilience?









The 5 Pillars of Resilience Model* has been developed by global consultancy The Wellbeing Project, and is designed to inspire individuals to maximise their resilience

  1. Energy

Physical energyenergy levels are crucial to our general health, resilience and stamina.  You can’t increase the number of hours in a day, but you can increase your energy levels and enhance your performance.  Energy management is the new time management, so try to eat well, sleep well and stay fit in order to achieve your best.

2. Future Focus

future-focusSetting goals helps to bring purpose and meaning to what we do.  Try to look at the big picture; think about what success might look like for you in five years’ time.  Remember, you won’t be successful in your career if you neglect other areas of your life, so make a list, write a vision statement, create a vision board or simply a mental wish list.  Even if things are challenging at university or work, you will feel better if you can keep your perspective.

3. Inner drive

inner-driveChoose optimism – positive mental energy keeps us going.  Positive people are more resilient than pessimists and you can work to become more optimistic.  Start focussing on what goes right.  Keep a record of the good things that happen in your day, the things that you are grateful for.  This will help you to remain focussed, motivated and confident in your own abilities.  Inner drive will also help you to deal effectively with inevitable setbacks.

4. Flexible Thinking

flexible-thinkingBeing able to adapt and think flexibly in the face of change prevents us from becoming ‘stuck’ in difficult situations.  Try to identify and challenge unhelpful thought patterns.  Think like an entrepreneur – you will be the owner of your career.  Even if you work for a large organisation, think about the impact you can make.  Look for new ways to add value, learn something new and expand your own skillset.

5. Strong relationships

strong-relationshipsIt’s easy to think that resilient people are fiercely independent.  In fact, research has shown that they enjoy strong relationships and have good support networks both at home and work.  Attend events even when you don’t feel like it.  Join a society.  Get to know your housemates better.  Know that you can draw on your network for support and inspiration during future challenges.

Make a start

Whether it’s a trip to the Sports Park, some positive mental thinking or a gathering with your friends, start to be aware of your resilience levels and develop this valuable skill.  Don’t let disappointing exam results or an unsuccessful application hold you back.  Make it your goal to become a resilient graduate – it will make your future career easier and more enjoyable!

vicky-square-miniThis blog post has been written by Vicky Ransley, a Careers Adviser at the University of Surrey since Jan 2014. With her background in the arts, publishing and education, Vicky specialises in working with students from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, GSA and the Department of Music and Media.

*Kerry Hannon’s article on, ‘6 Key Steps For Career Resilience’.

*5 Pillars of Resilience from The Wellbeing Project:

How to Ace A Job Interview

manager-308474_1280If you’ve been invited for a job interview, congratulations! You’ve passed the first hurdle and your application captured the company’s interest.

The interview is your chance to demonstrate to the employer what you can offer their business, and that you would be the best candidate for the role.

How should you prepare for your interview?

Careful preparation is crucial to success, so here are some tips:

  • Review your application and know what you can offer the employer in terms of your relevant skills and previous experience. This will help with the “Why should we employ you?” type question.
  • Read the person specification and job description, then think of examples you can use from your own experience to match the employer’s criteria. This is good preparation for competency type questions when employers ask for an example of a time when you have used a specific competency. For more help with structuring your answers, click here.
  • Understand the role you are applying for and what you find attractive about it. This will involve researching the job role in more detail and identifying specific responsibilities which appeal to you and why. You will then be able to answer the “Why are you interested in the job?” type question. See the Prospects website for occupational profiles on most graduate level jobs.
  • Research the organisation and sector. Look at different sections of the employer’s website, as well as quality newspapers and business networking sites like LinkedIn. What do they do? Who are their clients? What are their values and ethics? Who are their competitors? What new developments are taking place? What are the key issues facing the sector? Plus, think carefully about how your own aspirations and values match theirs. This will prepare you for the “Why do you want to work for us?” type question.
  • Plan your journey: Leave extra time for cancelled trains/buses or traffic jams. Know the name of the person you should ask for before you get to the reception desk. Make sure you have their contact details in case you need to let them know that you are going to be late.
  • Plan your outfit: An interview is a formal occasion so dressing smartly is safer than dressing casually. For men this usually means wearing a suit and tie, and for women it could mean wearing a suit or a smart top with trousers or a skirt, or a smart dress. You would probably dress differently for a job in the fashion industry to a job in a firm of solicitor’s but the general rule is always to be smarter than you would if you were just going to work.

It’s interview day – what should you remember to do?

At the beginning of the interview, the interviewer may offer to shake your hand. Try to reply with a firm, but not bone-crushing handshake; a limp handshake may give the impression that you are not interested or unassertive.

  • Take a seat when invited to do so. Try to sit up in a comfortable but alert position without folding your legs or arms as this can be seen as defensive. Try not to fidget.
  • Maintaining good eye contact with the interviewer is important and the occasional smile will make you appear friendly.
  • Employers are looking for enthusiasm and this is often conveyed by body language and posture as well as by good positive answers.

What type of interview questions should I expect?

There are different types of questions such as:

  • Warm up questions – for example “Why did you choose to study a degree in psychology?” or “Tell me about yourself.” The employer does not want your life history; be prepared to give a brief and relevant snapshot, delivered in a confident and concise way.
  • Competency based questions – your answers will give employers an indicator of how you have reacted and dealt with different situations. You need to research the competencies for the role you have applied for using the job description and person specification. You will be asked to give an example of when you have used the competency for example: “Describe a time when you had a difficult problem and what you did to resolve the issue.” Your example can be from any aspect of your life, including academic, work experience, or social. Practise structuring your answer using the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action and Result).
  • Strength based questions – this approach concentrates on what you are good at and what you enjoy doing. Strengths based interviews are more difficult to prepare for, other than taking time out to reflect on your strengths beforehand. Questions are asked at a quick pace and your tone of voice and body language will be assessed to sense your enthusiasm. Questions might include – “When are you at your best?” or “What motivates you?”
  • Technical /Specialist questions – these are questions which will test your knowledge, interest and commitment to the job and the industry. Examples include: “Describe the physical processes on X-ray interaction with tissue.” Or “Tell me your views on current legislative standards affecting the Tax profession.” Read up about current trends in the sector, think about the company’s clients and ways of meeting their needs, and increase your commercial awareness by regularly reading a quality business newspaper.
  • Creative/crazy questions – this could be something like “If you were an animal what animal would you be?” Or “What makes you get up in the morning?” The interviewer is trying to find out more about your personality and motivation, so try to think what is behind the question and make a considered response.
  • Difficult questions – often candidates dread questions like “Can you tell me where you feel your skills are weakest?” You don’t want to give an answer, which will make the employer wary of you such as “I tend to miss deadlines on a regular basis” or a weakness which is core to the job. Focus on a real weakness but talk about how you overcame it and always aim to finish on a positive note.

What happens at the end of the interview?

  • Ask your questions! It’s always a good idea to prepare a few questions before you go, such as training opportunities, the organisation’s culture, or how they see the company developing in the next few years. Try not to ask about salary or annual leave at this stage.
  • Thank the interviewer for their time and say that you look forward to hearing from them. Take your cue from the interviewer in terms of shaking hands and remember to give them a parting smile.
  • You may wish to send them a follow up email to thank them again for seeing you and to reiterate how interested you are in the job.
  • If you are not successful, don’t forget that the experience will have been good practice for future interviews and that success often lies just beyond failure. You can ask the employer for feedback by email or by phone. Plus, it’s a good idea to make a note of the questions that you were asked for future reference.

Further help and resources

  • Watch our Interview videos available here and book a mock interview with a careers adviser here.
  • Check out online resources incl. AllAboutCareers, Targetjobs and Graduate-jobs.
  • Check out Glassdoor; a careers community where past and current employees share information about companies including interview questions.

My Professional Training experience at McLaren – by Abdullah Al-Shakarchi

Starting in 2017, cars on the grid will be running the new generation Rain Light product I designed, viewed by millions on television with each Formula 1 event.


I spent my Professional Training placement at McLaren Applied Technologies (MAT), part of the McLaren Technology Group, and the global leader in supplying electronics for motorsport and automotive applications.

In this industry, compromises in performance or size are not acceptable, which results in constantly pushing what is possible. McLaren, in particular, promotes a culture of absolute precision and a focus on winning, employing technology to generate high performance products that are ahead of the competition. This provided an excellent learning environment.

I was part of the Hardware Design team, along with around 20 other engineers. One of the projects I was assigned to was ‘Rain Light’. MAT supply rear safety lights to all Formula 1 cars on the grid, and I was responsible for designing the next generation product which was to be brighter, lighter, more power efficient and easier to manufacture. I worked on initial designs, building and testing prototypes, supporting track testing of the prototypes, and finally building a supply chain and preparing all manufacturing documentation.

Five months into my placement, the Rain Light prototype was tested during a pre-season wet tyre test at Paul Ricard, which was a wonderful opportunity for me to validate my work and enjoy the visibility of the industry. Starting in 2017, cars on the grid will be running the new generation Rain Light product I designed, viewed by millions on television with each Formula 1 event.

My placement experience was exceptionally varied. In addition to Rain Light I worked on various products for Formula 1, Formula E and the automotive sectors, including three phase inverters, DC/DC converters, battery management systems and engine control units. My work involved feasibility studies, design, prototyping, and testing in the lab under high voltage conditions and within a mechanical dynamometer facility. I also got to work closely with both internal production teams and external suppliers.

All the work I did was on active and valuable projects, which is a testament to the trust the business has in its placement students.

The opportunity to do a Professional Training year was definitely one of my motivations for coming to Surrey. The University provides great support when it comes to securing a placement, with CV checking and interview skills sessions organised by the Careers Service, while the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering also gave specific support in terms of suggesting employers and advising on applications.

I hope to pursue further study after I graduate, and later join industry. I’m particularly excited by the on-going evolution to electric vehicles and aircraft, and the autonomous driving revolution, and I hope to become an experienced engineer within these fields.