Octane: Develop your employability skills | The Careers Service Octane: Develop your employability skills – Oxford University Careers Service
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As well as your technical and academic skills, there are other skills that any employer looks for when deciding who they want to work with, be they academic researchers, government, business, non-governmental organisations, public or private sector. While there are many lists of these ’employability’ skills, at Oxford we focus on the key eight skills – based on the Confederation of British Industry (CBI)’s report, Future Fit. We call this the Octane framework.

We recommend that you consider your current set of Octane skills, and find opportunities of improving them while at Oxford.

You’ll develop some of these skills within your course, but employers like to see them also developed through extra-curricular or co-curricular work. The Careers Service offers lots of ways of developing these too.

We describe the skills – and ways to prove or improve them – below.

Business Awareness

“Understanding what makes organisations successful, including the importance of innovation, and satisfying customers and other key players.”

Developing the mindset

These ideas are ways to start thinking about business awareness. You’re unlikely to use these as evidence of business skills in a written application, but they might be things you reference to demonstrate an ongoing interest.

  • Read about business in the FT, Economist etc.
  • Subscribe to sector based magazines or other publications.
  • Attend an insight day or employer presentations.
  • Take part in consulting case studies run by The Careers Service, advertised on CareerConnect.
  • Read business related autobiographies.

Short-term activities

These are all quick ways you can boost your business awareness, and mention in applications.

  • Budget for a complex travelling trip, or for a summer project.
  • Take part in a college Telethon fundraising event.
  • Raise funds for charity with a student society.
  • Attend the Building a Business course at the Saïd Business School.
  • Compete in Management Consulting case competitions.
  • Participate in online investment competitions.
  • Get involved in relevant student societies, such as Oxford Entrepreneurs, or the Oxford Guild.
  • Work part-time in your college bar.
  • Negotiate with a local business to give a discount to members of a student society you belong to.
  • Do a Micro-internship.
  • Consult for a local organisation (even if voluntary) or student society.
  • Suggest ways to improve efficiency at work, resulting in time or cost savings.
  • Sign up for the Enterprising Oxford newsletter, engage in their events at SBS and across the University.

Medium-term commitments

  • Volunteer regularly, for example via OxHub.
  • Join The Student Consultancy to get an insight into a local business.
  • Manage the budget for a student society, college club, newspaper, event.
  • Apply for an internship – for example, through our Summer Internship Programme. There are lots of different opportunities out there – see our page on finding work experience for tips.
  • Participate in Insight into Business – our termly programme designed to raise commercial awareness and demystify business.
  • Sell a skill! If you’re a member of a band for example, organise some gigs that will provide remuneration.

Long-term commitments

  • Organise an event that has to turn a profit, such as a concert, ball or a college bop.
  • Start your own business or social enterprise! Our Entrepreneur in Residence offers one-to-one business mentoring, no matter what stage of development your idea is at.
Communication

Building rapport and feeling confident engaging others through listening, observing, writing, and presenting.

Developing the mindset

These ideas are ways to start enhancing your communication skills. You’re unlikely to use these as evidence of communication skills in a written application, but they might be things you reference in conversation at interview.

  • Debate ideas with friends – in person, on facebook and on whatsapp.
  • Initiate conversations with strangers. This can help you gain confidence in networking. Our Careers Fairs are great places to try this out.
  • Watch TED Talks about better presentations.
  • Write essays, and present your ideas in tutorials.
  • Arrange a couple of information interviews.

Short-term activities

These are all quick ways you can boost your business awareness, and can refer to in applications.

  • Deliver information to others in your own subject area – for example in a dissertation, or in a presentation on a research topic.
  • Write an article or review for a student publication, or for a national special interest magazine.
  • Take the Springboard course for female students.
  • Enter an essay competition.
  • Join societies, especially ones that involve debating.
  • Make publicity materials for a society or event.
  • Be responsible for social media for your Common Room or a student society.
  • Persuade guest speakers to attend a society event you are helping to organise.
  • Support college admissions with outreach work – for example by helping out at Open Days.
  • Visit schools to encourage students to apply to Oxford.
  • Secure corporate sponsorship for a club.
  • Create a YouTube presentation that explain an aspect of your course to people not doing a degree in your subject.
  • Take part in a college telethon fundraising campaign, encouraging alumni to donate.
  • Take part in Media Training if you are Research Staff. Research Councils sponsor these TV & Radio .training workshops at Oxford University.

Medium-term commitments

  • Create your own website / blog or twitter feed on your research for lay audiences.
  • Mentor students in years below you, or volunteer to tutor local schoolchildren.
  • Train with and volunteer for Nightline.
  • Write a regular blog on a subject of interest – or record your own podcasts.
  • Apply to become the Oxford brand ambassador for an organisation you wish to join as a graduate.
  • Take part in formal debates with the Oxford Union or the Oxford International Debating Society.
  • Devise a marketing campaign for a student society, campaign or a college event.
  • Get involved in drama or team sports.
  • Learn a new language.

Longer-term commitments

  • Get really involved with any of the medium-term activities above!
  • Run a campaign about something important to you.
  • Consider ways to increase your leadership skills (below) – as being an effective leader relies heavily on communication.
Creativity

Being curious and innovative. Creativity is not just about aesthetics – it’s about disruption, variation and risk-taking.

Developing the mindset

These ideas are ways to start becoming more creative. You’re unlikely to use these as evidence of creativity in a written application, but they might be things you reference in conversation at interview.

  • Get into a creative mindset by trying to find a new route to lectures each day.
  • Brainstorm ideas with friends.
  • Talk to people who do things you don’t do.
  • Attend a lecture on a subject different to your own.
  • Try something new! Try art, music, dance, poetry, or creative writing – either on your own or with a society. You might find a new hobby…

Short-term activities

These are all quick ways you can boost your creativity, and you could refer to in applications.

  • Take up a new sport, learn a new musical instrument, join a choir, take up dancing… Try a new hobby, and see if it sticks!
  • Arrange to travel to new places, in new ways.

Medium-term commitments

  • Develop your own website, or offer to build one for a student society. (There’s no need to code it – but you could do this too if you like).
  • Approach a charity with a suggestion of how you might volunteer a specific skill.
  • Think of a unique fundraising event for a charity.
  • Work, travel or volunteer abroad. Our Summer Internship Programme offers lots of opportunities to do this.
  • Make something new happen in your college, department, or in a society.
  • ‘Up-skill’ yourself. Take a course at the Oxford Language Centre, or a free computing course at IT services.

Long-term commitments

  • Found a new society.
  • Apply for Laidlaw internships. These give you funding to do research of your choice, in leading institutions worldwide.
  • Turn a creative hobby into a semi-professional activity. Get published, exhibit, or get paid for performance.
Initiative

Analysing facts and situations and being proactive in developing new solutions or approaches. Initiating an activity rather than “joining in”.

Developing the mindset

These ideas are ways to start taking the initiative. You’re unlikely to use these as evidence of initiative in a written application, but they might be things you reference in conversation at interview.

  • Suggest activities to do with your group of friends, and make it happen. Don’t just be responsive.
  • Use social media to network.
  • Arrange a couple of information interviews.
  • Solve minor problems in your department/college in conjunction with staff. For example, issues which affect your mail room, catering, or welfare support.
  • Know when to seek help or advice!
  • Read about people who have taken the initiative.

Short-term activities

These are all quick ways you could take the initiative, and you could refer to in applications.

  • Solve a problem, or make something new happen in your college, department, or in a society.
  • Organise your own work experience by making a speculative application.
  • Take part in Oxford Entrepreneurs‘ 3 day pitch

Medium-term commitments

  • Volunteer – for example with Nightline, or with local community initiatives through Oxford Hub.
  • Learn, or teach yourself, a new skill that might be helpful in your career – for example coding.
  • Join The Student Consultancy and solve a real business problem for a local organisation.
  • Create a new speaker series for your department or a society.

Longer-term commitments

  • Apply for Laidlaw internships. These give you funding to do research of your choice, in leading institutions worldwide.
  • Start a campaign about something you care about, and get others involved.
  • Start your own business or social enterprise.
  • Set up a society, journal or club.
  • Set up an Oxford student arm of a professional organisation or a charity.
Leadership

Motivating, influencing, and guiding others including by providing vision and demonstrating integrity.

Developing the mindset

These ideas are ways to start thinking about leadership. You’re unlikely to use these as evidence of leadership skills in a written application, but they might be things you reference in conversation at interview.

  • Suggest activities to do with your group of friends, and make it happen. Don’t just be responsive.
  • Read leaders’ biographies.
  • Listen to shows and podcasts, such as Life Scientific, Desert Island Discs, and In our Time.
  • Attend lectures from people who are leaders in their fields when they visit Oxford – at the Union, in your department, at the Oxford Martin School and with societies.
  • Get inspiration from TED talks and other leaders and speakers.

Short-term activities

These are all quick ways you can start developing leadership skills, and you could refer to in applications.

  • Gather a team together to enter a competition, or a charity run.
  • Become a “parent” for Freshers in your college or department.
  • Organise a holiday for yourself and a group of friends.
  • There aren’t many short-term leadership activities you can do: most require commitment. However, in order to be a leader, you normally must get heavily involved in a team activity! See opportunities for developing teamwork skills in the last section, below.

Medium-term commitments

  • Be the student representative for an organisation that recruits or campaigns at Oxford.
  • Take leadership training or accreditation.
  • Propose and facilitate gatherings of researchers from different disciplines to brainstorm new ideas.
  • Join the Oxford University Officers’ Training Corps, which builds leadership skills.
  • Supervise others during a part-time job or vacation work.
  • Volunteer with youth organisations, such as the girl guides, scouts, or even a cycling proficiency group!
  • Join The Student Consultancy and become the team leader.

Longer-term commitments

  • Take a position of responsibility in your Common Room – or, if you’re Research Staff, Oxford’s Research Staff Society
  • Run a student society, or take responsibility for one aspect of a society such as Sponsorship or Finance.
  • Take on role of Captain of sports team, or stand for president of a society
  • Produce or direct a play.
  • Organise an event, such as a ball or conference.
  • Become the editor of a large publication.
Planning

Scheduling workflow, planning resources, managing your own time, multi-tasking, and meeting objectives.

Developing the mindset

These ideas are ways to start planning effectively. You might use these as evidence of planning skills in a written application if you haven’t been involved in larger projects. Either way, you’re likely to be asked about how you organise yourself at interview, so these are useful things to do!

  • Set time aside to plan when starting a major activity.
  • Make revision timetables.
  • Make monthly and annual budgets, and stick to them!
  • Research different methods of planning – including the different tools available, and consider which suits you best. For example…
  • Use a diary or calendar.
  • Keep a “to-do list”.
  • Control your emails.
  • Download and use notification apps on your phone.

Short-term activities

These are all easy ways you can develop your planning skills, and can refer to in applications.

  • Plan an expedition, travel, or volunteer abroad.
  • Organise an away-day for a society, or an inter-university match for a sports club.
  • Co-organise the support for admissions interviews in your college.
  • Organise an away day for sports club etc.
  • Arrange your own travel itinerary on vacation – such as inter-railing.
  • Craft solutions to contingencies you might encounter (eg. finding resources for college events, securing bridging money between research contracts).

Medium-term commitments

  • Get involved with any extra-curricular activities while at Oxford – from membership of societies to part-time work. The ability to simultaneously juggle multiple activities and get a good grade is really effective evidence of an ability to plan.
  • Define responsibilities early when starting a collaborative task.
  • Volunteer to organise your Common Room’s annual elections.
  • Coordinate aspects of the Freshers Fair or other OUSU events.
  • Plan fieldwork or a research project.
  • Get involved with community projects.
  • Organise speaker series for society.

Longer-term commitments

  • Organise a campaign, ball, conference, or other large event.
  • Become the editor of a student publication, such as a newspaper, website or yearbook.
Self-Management

Accepting responsibility, being resilient and appropriately assertive. Reflecting, taking feedback, and developing yourself.

Developing the mindset

These ideas are ways you might manage your own development effectively. You’re unlikely to use these as evidence of self-management skills in a written application, but they might be things you reference at interview.

  • Learn from your mistakes!
  • Take control of your personal development by setting goals, and work out routes to achieve them.
  • Learn how to manage stress, for example with relaxation techniques.
  • Manage your time with active use of a diary.
  • Identify when and why you procrastinate, and find ways to avoid it. For example – schedule time into your day when you do nothing.
  • Set up and track career plans.
  • Focus your use of social media to further your career goals.
  • Take part in Springboard – a holistic development workshop for women.
  • Book one of our regular MBTI sessions through CareerConnect. Knowing your personality type, and how it affects your work, is a useful first step to self-management.

Medium-term & long-term commitments

  • Do anything that requires commitment, to demonstrate sticking power.
  • Do something that require training to complete, such as running a marathon.
Teamwork

Respecting others, co-operating, collaborating, negotiating, persuading, and contributing to discussions or joint projects. Successfully achieving a joint goal.

Developing the mindset

These ideas are ways to start thinking about and researching good teamwork skills. You can’t use these as evidence of teamwork skills in a written application – as they don’t involve teamwork! – but they might be things you reference at interview.

  • Remember that how you perceive yourself is not always how others perceive you.
  • Research Belbin and other team effectiveness models.
  • Read business articles on teams and teamwork.
  • Analyse great teams eg. In sport, F1 Pit crews, sky roadrace.
  • Go to a taster class in dancing, singing, or a sport.

Short-term activities

You’re unlikely to use these as evidence of teamwork skills in a written application if you have examples from other lists – but they might be things you reference at interview.

  • Have fun with a low ropes course.
  • Tackle an Escape Room game.
  • Play collaborative board games, or bridge.
  • Turn tutorials into team exercise; review others work, allowing each other to provide positive .feedback to jointly improve your skills.
  • Work with other “parents” in Freshers week to help new students.
  • Sign up for the Springboard programme.
  • Take part in our annual “Civil Service Policy Game” – advertised on CareerConnect. It’s a team activity used in the Civil Service Fast Stream selection process.
  • If you’re a researcher – invite others from different disciplines to hear about each other’s work, or brainstorm potential collaborations.

Medium-term commitments

These are all good ways you can get teamwork experience, and can refer to in applications.

  • Join a sports team. There are dozens of student-run sports clubs, and many more for individual colleges. See Oxford University Sports for initial ideas.
  • Get involved in a choir, orchestra or band – or help produce a play.
  • Get involved in sub-committees in your Common Room or in a society. For example, volunteer to be part of the team that runs your college ball.
  • Choose to do group project work, if the option is offered on your course.
  • Join The Student ConsultancyOxAid, the Oxford Strategy Group, the Microfinance Initiative, or Oxford Biotechnology Roundtable – for consultancy work within a team.
  • Get involved with one of OUSU’s Campaigns. They promote many good causes, from mental health to racial equality.
  • Join the University Officer Training Core (UOTC)
  • Volunteer with a youth group, or a local community organisation.
  • Participate in employer competitions that require teamwork.

Longer-term commitments

  • Stand for election to a committee in your Common Room or with a student society – and contribute to their collective decision-making.
  • Become part of the student team that runs Oxford Hub.
This information was last updated on 20 December 2017.
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Recent blogs about Octane: Develop your employability skills

EXPERIENCE THE CLASSROOM

Blogged by Julia Hilton on April 20, 2018.

Insight into Teaching provides students with the opportunity to spend three days in a school with a full programme of lesson observation, perhaps a chance to try out some teaching and join in with activities, and a pre-placement seminar to get the most out of the placement.

Placements take place over 3 days in 9th week of Trinity term and are available in a range of subjects in secondary, primary & further education, in state-maintained and independent schools across Oxfordshire and elsewhere in the UK. This year the dates are Tuesday 19 to Thursday 21 June.

Applications open in 1st week of term and close on Sunday 20 May (end of 4th week) at midnight.

If you are thinking about a career in teaching then spending time in school is extremely important, not only to help you to decide whether teaching is for you, but also to enhance your teacher training application – whether you are considering a PGCE, School Direct, Teach First or another route into teaching. A participant on the programme last term said:

‘I really enjoyed interacting with students in the lower school, particularly helping students who came to the math’s clinic one lunch time. It was nice to feel useful. I previously was sure I wanted to teach sixth form but I enjoyed this aspect so much I am rethinking this.’

Literary Agency Work Experience – Carole Blake Open Doors Project

Posted on behalf of Blake Friedmann. Blogged by Polly Metcalfe on April 20, 2018.

The Carole Blake Open Doors Project, is a programme specifically aimed at encouraging candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds to enter the publishing industry.

The Carole Blake Open Doors Project will offer ten days of work shadowing at Blake Friedmann’s book agents to a selected applicant over a two-week period, including funding for travel and up to twelve nights’ accommodation in London. The programme, which will run twice a year, will include close mentorship with Blake Friedmann’s book agents, the opportunity to attend selected meetings with editors and clients, and the chance to be involved in every aspect of day-to-day life as an agent. It is intended that candidates will come away from the project with varied knowledge of working for a leading literary agency, the beginnings of new and essential relationships in the publishing industry, and some excellent experience to include on their CVs.

“Carole offered me my first internship in publishing at Blake Friedman. She was a formidable figure, yet warm and funny. She was deeply encouraging to me as one from a diverse background based on my age, class and race – though it was our mutual love of a great pair of shoes that really sealed the deal!  An unforgettable, truly phenomenal woman.” – Valerie Brandes, Founder & Publisher, Jacaranda Books, and former BFA intern

Carole Blake and the Blake Friedmann team have always placed great value on diversity and openness, in the company’s client list as well as its hiring practices. We aim to build on this foundation and be proactive about drawing from a wider pool of talented applicants who are passionate about books and ambitious about getting a job in publishing.

Read an account of taking part in the project from our first Open Doors intern Ada Igwebu. 

Applications are now open for the Carole Blake Open Doors project and the deadline is 18 May.

Resources and opportunities for early career researchers

Blogged by Rebecca Ehata on April 19, 2018.

The Early Career Blog: Specialist careers advice for PhDs and postdocs

Have you had a look at our blog for early career researchers yet? This joint initiative with Cambridge has over 40 posts dealing with topics such as networking, academic applications and getting funding, making it a great resource whether you’re set on staying in academia or looking for fresh pastures. A new post on the blog looking at Non-academic employers’ perspectives on researchers will be of interest to any ECRs who are toying with the possibility of a move beyond academia.

You can browse the range of posts already available at any time, and don’t forget that you can send suggestions for further topics by tweeting them to @EarlyCareerBlog!

The Researcher Consultancy is back!

Following the successful pilot of the Researcher Consultancy in Michaelmas and Hilary terms, we’re delighted to announce that a new round of the programme has now launched! Whether you’re considering consultancy as a longer-term career move, you want to develop key employability skills such as self-management, team working, business and customer awareness, problem solving and communication, or wish to boost your understanding of the commercial sector and gain hands-on experience of tackling real-world strategic problems, this may be a perfect opportunity for you. Whatever your career plans, including further research and academia, participants can benefit significantly from the programme.

So how does it work?

Participants volunteer some of their own time to work in small teams, over a 4-month period, to address a strategic issue or business opportunity for a client organisation. Our clients list includes start-ups, businesses, local and international charities, community organisations, University departments and Government agencies.

Want to know more?

For more information see CareerConnect or contact Lili Pickett-Palmer. The closing date for applications for the Spring-Summer programme is 30 April 2018.

Careers in the Heritage and Museum Sectors

Posted on behalf of Heritage Pathway. Blogged by Polly Metcalfe on April 18, 2018.

Careers in the Heritage and Museum Sectors hosted by Heritage Pathway

  • When: Thursday 17 May, 15.00-17.00
  • Where: 3rd Floor Seminar Room, Radcliffe Humanities Building, Woodstock Road
  • Book: Booking is essential for this event

The ‘Heritage Pathway’ is one of seven training pathways offered to graduate students and Early Career Researchers in the Humanities Division. A year-long programme of workshops, site visits and networking opportunities provides the skills and knowledge required to engage successfully with partner organisations in the heritage sector, whether through commercial or research-based collaborations.

Three speakers reflect on their own career paths and offer top tips as to how to develop your career:

  • Emily Knight (Assistant Curator of Paintings, V&A)
  • Dr Danielle Thom (Curator of Making, Museum of London)
  • Dr Jane Eade (Curator, National Trust)

Trinity micro-internships have now launched!

Blogged by Rosanna Mills on April 18, 2018.

It’s the time of year to be thinking about work experience, and to help you on your way our Trinity term Micro-Internship Programme has now launched! If you have a busy academic schedule but you are still looking for work experience, or want to gain some professional skills and extra points for your CV, then look no further. This programme is open to both undergraduates and postgraduates, and here are some of the placements on offer in weeks 9 and 10:

  • Conduct research with the University’s Heritage Partnerships Office for the Hidden Objects Project
  • Gain insight into an independent consultancy and the world of politics with BlondeMoney
  • Hands-on scientific research and analysis with Adapt Immune
  • Assist with the pre-production stage of a film with Daria Martin – Fine Art Films
  • And much more!

Keep an eye out for our sector lists over the coming days!

In brief… What are micro-internships?

2-5 day work experience placements each term during weeks 9 and 10, exclusive to Oxford students (matriculated students are eligible to apply). Although voluntary, host organisations must reimburse local travel and lunch expenses on production of receipts. Full programme information can be found on our Micro-Internship Programme webpage.

How do I apply?

You can view and apply to all micro-internships on CareerConnect, submitting a one-page CV and 300-word personal statement. The deadline this term is midday, Thursday 3 May (please note that this is earlier than usual due to the bank holiday).

Can I get help with my application?

Absolutely! Please see our Internship Office Application Support Document and Employer Feedback on Student Micro-Internship Applications. Up until the deadline, we will be running Application Support Sessions for CV and personal statement advice – view and book on CareerConnect.

Any questions? Get in touch by emailing micro-internships@careers.ox.ac.uk

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