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In the job market? Don’t fit in, stand out!

By Shreya Mishra - Posted on 6 July 2022

Shreya Mishra did the MSc in Economics & Finance at Strathclyde and was keen to work in the UK. Here, she gives some advice on what international students can do to stand out in a busy job market. 

The job hunt experience in the UK - or for that matter anywhere - can be daunting. 

With multiple stages including assessments, interviews and case study submissions, we always worry ‘what if they find someone better than me?’ 

Well, guess what - there is always going to be someone better than you, hence the first thing to do is - find what you are best at and hone that to the best of your capabilities. 

Now, before I start sharing my experience of looking for a job in the UK, it’s essential that I share about my background (which is very non-linear). 

I have studied three degrees - undergrad in business administration, post-graduate in broadcast journalism and a master's in economics and finance at Strathclyde. Before moving to the UK, I was working as a journalist for three years in India. 

When I moved to the UK, and looked at every job description, companies seemed to need someone who had studied in a very linear form, and I was rejected from 100s of companies because of my journalistic experience (as they weren't sure how well this would fit in with the job role). I don’t blame them, as a CV can only share a snapshot of your experience. Also, I was applying at a time when companies had taken a step back in hiring due to the pandemic. 

That’s when I turned to ‘networking’ - lots of it - and to my surprise, every opportunity I have received in the UK since then has been via networking. 

My first work placement was with the Fraser of Allander Institute. Even before moving to the UK and joining the university, I had heard about the FAI from a few alumni and had made up my mind to work as a research assistant there. To this end, I connected with multiple people on LinkedIn who had worked there to find out about the selection process, and how I could prepare myself in advance. Guess what? The networking paid off and I got the offer in January 2021 to work there. 

My second work experience was with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), where I worked as a Policy Assistant. The economics department at Strathclyde has a course named ‘Professional Development for Economists’ which is spread across two semesters. During this, there are various guest lecturers who take sessions, and it’s a great way to bridge the knowledge between your university education and real-world. 

We had the Former Policy Director of CBI (Confederation of British Industry) giving the last lecture before the term end and I really enjoyed her talk. Soon after, I wrote her an email sharing my work experience and requesting if there was a way to work in the CBI as a work placement student. To my surprise, she responded. There was previously no such position for a “work placement student’ at the CBI, but it has now been created and I got an opportunity to work with CBI over the summer of 2021. 

You might think that as a journalist I have an advantage as I know how to communicate with people, but I say everyone can network and communicate. And it’s important to know about your industry and its leaders including their personal stories of how they got there - everyone has a story, many of which are ‘non-linear’! 

As I was coming to the end of my master's with a job offer in hand as a Research Executive in Policy, I realised that I missed being in the business of news. I didn’t want to go back to hardcore reporting, but I wanted to be a part of the changing world of news – that is, AI - and that’s where my final move from Glasgow to London with Echobox came in, which was again achieved via networking. 

I get a lot of questions about how to navigate this new job market as an international student. My answer to everyone is: apply to as many companies as you can and bear in mind that you will fail 100 times before getting your first job offer. 

The entire process of job searching while studying for your Masters, will make you more self-aware about what exactly you want to do with your career. I would also say: don’t get anxious when you give assessments and never get underconfident before an interview thinking ‘will I fit in?’ - just focus on standing out in the job application process and presenting your true self. Your confidence and self-awareness will take you to more places than you can imagine. 

Also, keep looking out for reasons to learn; there are so many fields which didn’t exist just half a decade ago, so be the creator of your brand-new career. 

Here are my top tips: 

- As an international student, the UK government has introduced the post study work visa route, which is very helpful to stay in the country and look for job, but before making an application to any company do have a look at list of organisations licensed to sponsor. 

- Always have two versions of your CV – a 1 pager as well as 2 pager and edit the CV according to the job description. 

- Cover letters play a very crucial role in convincing the hiring manager as to why you should be given an opportunity to interview for the position so take time to work on it. 

- Before you apply to a company, reach out to its current employees in the same team on LinkedIn and ask questions about their day-to-day work, company work culture etc. It’s not just the company choosing you, it’s you choosing them too - you don’t want to devote your time to a company which doesn’t align with your values. 

- As an international student and a woman, I always paid close attention to the diversity and gender ratios do keep an eye out on that too. 

- Last but definitely not least, grow your CV with practical experiences through work placements, internships and, if you’re coming to Strathclyde, join the Strathclyde Student Union - they have a lot to offer. 

All the best everyone! 

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