The Oxford Careers Network (OCN)
What is the OCN?
The Oxford Careers Network (OCN) is a database of former Oxford University
undergraduates and postgraduates who have volunteered to share their experiences of employment, further study and gap year activities with you. Read their case studies and contact volunteers for more advice and information.
Use the Network to find out about:
- Employment sectors
- A particular job
- A specific organisation
and seek inspiration on:
- What you could do with your degree subject
- Gap year activities
- Options for further study
Don’t forget about us when you leave, either, and add yourself to the Oxford Careers Network – future students are depending on you!
Log into CareerConnect, and select the Oxford Careers Network tab.
Knowledge, expertise and insights from people like you
Every volunteer on the Oxford Careers Network was once an undergraduate or postgraduate at Oxford. They have already faced the often bewildering array of choices and decisions, and have embarked on their chosen careers. You can learn from their experience: their successes and their mistakes.
“I am just amazed at how helpful (some) people are, across a wide range of companies, from fine-tuning my CV to individual company preferences, preparing me for the various selection processes, and taking time to tell me almost whatever I want to know about them and their firms (one of them has spent at least six hours over the past week helping me).”
They describe details of: a typical day in their job, the best and worst aspects involved, a brief description of their career path to date, any further study they have undertaken since leaving Oxford and any gap year activities. OCN provides you with behind the scenes information about a company or occupation, as well as creating valuable opportunities for networking as many members are happy for you to contact them via email.
These volunteers represent a huge variety of roles and occupations, from the legal sector to journalism and from medicine to music.
So what do students ask?
Often it’s information that company brochures and recruiters don’t really provide: what is it actually like to work at a particular company, or what qualities do they really want to see in applicants? The volunteers on the Network won’t be able to get you a job, but they can often offer advice about work experience, or recommend further contacts within their organisation.
Of course we can’t guarantee this level of success every time, but you can increase your chances of a helpful response by doing plenty of preparation before approaching a volunteer. Many of your basic questions can be answered by information already available at the Careers Service or through careers advisers. However, if you’ve exhausted all the resources, and still have questions or want to network, the Oxford Careers Network can be an extremely useful tool in the ever competitive job market.
And once you’ve got the career of your dreams, why not help future Oxford students by becoming a volunteer yourself?
Using the OCN Effectively
In any job search, successful networking can make all the difference. Networking is a powerful way of building professional relationships. It is a process of developing contacts and creating ways to acquire new information. There are two basic goals to networking: greater visibility and increased information.
Many people hesitate to contact others, for fear of imposing or asking for help. This is where the Oxford Careers Network (OCN) can be of such benefit: it is composed of alumni from a wide variety of professions, who have volunteered to share their knowledge and experience, and who will welcome hearing from you!
Do your homework first!
There is little point in asking simple questions that could have been answered by reading information freely available on websites, at the Careers Service or by talking to careers advisers. Do some research first, for example, by exploring some of the many resources offered by the Careers Service, and you will be able to make much more productive use of your contact with graduates.
How to write
To protect the anonymity of the Alumni we have not disclosed their names to you. We recommend therefore, that you begin your message with “Dear Oxford Graduate”. Please note that as the messages are sent in plain text and not HTML, so any formatting you have applied may be lost when the message arrives. We also recommend that you print off any messages before you send them as the system does not keep a copy of the text.
As you explore various career options, using the network may help you overcome some common obstacles.
- Volunteers can tell you what it’s really like (from their perspective) to work in a given field or organisation now. They can also tell you how the field has changed, and what they see for the future.
- You may feel that you lack relevant work experience to accomplish your goals. You might ask specific questions about the education and experience needed to pursue a particular field.
- In many fields few jobs are ever openly advertised. A large percentage of jobs are “discovered” and filled through word-of-mouth between professional colleagues. You might be able to obtain “insider” information on an organisation, such as who is in charge, what the culture is like, what kinds of people have held jobs you’re interested in, what it takes to succeed in a particular position, and what changes and new directions might be on the horizon.
- Most job hunters ask personnel representatives and receptionists for information about opportunities. Often, however, these individuals do not know about the total range of jobs available, the existence of jobs not advertised or the feasibility of non-traditional jobs. Contacting Network Alumni may allow you to get this information from people who have it.
Who can use the OCN?
To use the Oxford Careers Network (OCN), you must be registered with the Careers Service. For full details and to log on please go CareerConnect.
Volunteers on the OCN have made their details available to assist students and recent graduates of the University with their career search. The information they provide is for the personal use of registered users, and should not be used for commercial activities.
Employers looking to recruit students and recent graduates of Oxford University should visit the section of the website for employers.
I find the idea of contacting alumni for advice daunting. How should I phrase my enquiry?
Remember that alumni on the Oxford Careers Network (OCN) have volunteered to be contacted by people just like you. Indeed, many have benefited from the scheme themselves in the past. Do some research first, to avoid asking questions easily answered elsewhere. Give them brief, relevant background information about you, and then politely and unambiguously ask your question.
How quickly can I expect an answer from an OCN volunteer?
Volunteers are keen to be contacted by you, and should usually reply within a few days. If your query requires a long answer and they don’t have time to give you a detailed reply straight away, we ask them to let you know when you might expect a full reply. Obviously, if the contact is on holiday or away from work for other reasons, there may be an unavoidable delay in your query being answered.
How many alumni can I contact?You will be able to contact up to ten alumni each month, every month. Our new system will let you know how many contact opportunities you have left each month. Don’t forget that you can still read the profiles of the alumni on the OCN and these can give you a real sense of what it is like to work in that particular sector. Please note that our OCN members are also able to set the number of messages they are prepared to receive each month. This is so they can adjust the number if they know they are going to be exceptionally busy or away for a while.
Will the contact or contact’s employer know who I am?
Not unless you choose to give your personal details as part of you enquiry. The Careers Service will treat your personal details in the strictest confidence.
Can I get the name and contact details of volunteers on the network?
No; not unless they choose to let you have them in their reply to your enquiry. The Careers Service has made a commitment to alumni on the OCN not to divulge their personal details to third parties.
What help can I expect to receive?
You can expect a reply to your initial enquiry which may answer your question fully, refer you to other resources or initiate a more prolonged interaction. The level of help beyond this will depend on the person you have contacted, their workload at the time, and how suitable they feel they are to help you. Remember that they are there to offer advice – not to organise work experience (although they may suggest good strategies for getting it) or work permits, or to get you a job.
Where can I find out more about networking?
Have a look at our information sheet on networking entitled “Networking and Informational Visiting – Talking to People About Their Jobs” or come to 56 Banbury Road and watch our video (c.20 minutes) called “Can I have a few minutes of your time?”
How do I go about joining the OCN later on?
Registering to join the scheme is simple: click the menu option Join the Oxford Careers Network as an alumnus. Follow the links to the online registration form, choose the level of involvement you can offer, click save and we will make sure your profile is available for students to read.