Using Your Subject | The Careers Service Using Your Subject – Oxford University Careers Service
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Ways to use your subject

There are usually more career options which ‘use your subject’ than you might think.

Using your subject-specific skills

Whether you want a career related to your degree subject or not, in the early stages of your decision-making process, it’s always helpful to think more broadly to reflect and have an understanding of what you want from your career. Our pages on Generating Career Ideas may be helpful.

Prospects: What Can I do With my Degree.

There are a number of careers in which you can make use of your subject-specific skills, however, you might be surprised to know that there could be many other roles and sectors that are open to you. For an introductory list of options that directly relate to each subject of study, see Prospects: What Can I do With my Degree

Thinking deeper about ‘using your subject’

Defining ‘using your subject’ is a useful way to crystallize what you’re really looking for and develop options beyond just the basic list above. See if any of the following factors resonate with you (there might be more than one):

  • Analysing further what I developed in my major thesis/dissertation/project
  • Applying the technical knowledge or skills from the course to the real world
  • Continuing to use specific skills or techniques I practised on the course
  • Being around people who I can talk to about academic ideas
  • Making the transition from ‘student’ to ‘worker’ feel more gradual
  • Being in a similar environment as I was on my course
  • Trying out some of the range of skills I’ve learnt to figure out my next step
  • Working in an area of work I understand well and feel confident in
  • Keeping my interest in the subject alive

It’s only the first three factors which relate to the specific academic skills from your course: the others are possible to fulfil in a much broader range of ways.

Using transferable skills

The vast majority of potential jobs and employers do not require specific courses, and are open to nearly all degree disciplines. For them ‘using your subject’ means employing the many transferable skills from your degree, as well as your interests and motivations (which may relate to your subject choice in the first place).

Generating career options

Initial research

To start to generate some more career options, and build up your own list of possibilities, you could try conducting some initial research:

  • Research what alumni have done and use the information to pick a few options which appeal more than others.
  • Talk to tutors and your peers from within your field to learn about what other people have gone on to do, again listening to identify options which might appeal.
  • Take an online career questionnaire or trying career planning exercises – you can learn about these using our advice for generating options.

Mapping options out

Another idea is making a ‘map’ of the different areas which relate to your subject or specific interests. Take each question in turn to help you research the organisations and kinds of work that serve these different niches.

  1. Who is creating new work/ideas? (Academia? Businesses?)
  2. Who is communicating about the new work/ideas? (Marketing firms? Media? TV production houses?)
  3. Who is making the work grow? (Entrepreneurs? Firms? Investors? Government?)
  4. Who is making sure the work is being done properly? (Regulators? Reviewers? Government? Professional associations?)
  5. Who is in a helping role around the work? (Charities? Government? Businesses?)
  6. Who is doing grass roots/front-line work? (Retail? Public services? Small businesses? Individual practitioners?)

An example: using a subject interest in literary fiction

Answers for someone keen on a career revolving around their interest in literary fiction, following investigation using our information pages for Publishing and Creative Arts:

  1. Authors (some of whom have staff), literary agents, new writing festivals and events
  2. Specialist marketing firms, in-house teams in publishing houses, trade press like Bookseller, consumer press and media (from Front Row and Sky Arts and specialist production companies to informal blog reviews), literary festivals
  3. Publisher’s merchandising and licensing teams, rights management, film, theatre and TV companies
  4. Publishers Association (PA), Public Lending Right, Copyright organisations, UK Intellectual property, Society of Authors, IP and entertainment law firms
  5. Lots of non-profit writers groups, creative arts charities, Arts Council England, NESTA, DCMS, literary review and consultancy firms, museums (e.g. Story Museum), public libraries, education and teaching
  6. Booksellers, including e-commerce, independent booksellers, high-street booksellers, book ‘club’ models, e-publishing and self-publishing platforms.

This method generally ensures that you end up with more options than those that seem most obvious at first, but it’s vital to do your research first to build up this list. And remember, each organisation will have a team of people doing lots of different roles – from updating the website, to managing the finances.

What to do with your map

Use your map to explore organisations’ websites to look for job opportunities and learn more about what they do. If you spot something that it particularly interesting to you, whether it’s an advertised role, or an area of work that’s ongoing, you could get in touch speculatively to ask for advice/ work experience to learn more.

Not using your subject

Not using your subject directly is normal for most graduates! Most graduate recruiters in the UK don’t require a specific degree subject – the exception is usually for highly technical roles, which require specific previous technical knowledge and experience. The majority of graduates find work in fields other than their areas of academic study.

Demonstrating your motivation for an industry and transferable skills you have developed through other activities are very important to prospective employers. These can come from many different areas of your life such as work experience, internships, student society roles, working as part of a team, project work, volunteering, JCR/GCR roles, shadowing or information interviewing. If you can demonstrate the skills and attributes they’re looking for, then you’re a competitive candidate.

N.B It’s very important to understand the skills and abilities the industries/employers you are interested in are looking for and this should form part of your initial research. This will give you a realistic view of their expectations and also the opportunity to develop or build on any skills (if necessary) to make you a competitive applicant.

Our resources

Speaking to a careers adviser for further advice and guidance can be helpful to identify which jobs/sectors may be of interest to you.

You can also find out what previous students from your course have done once they have graduated, by looking at our webpage What Alumni Have Done which shows the broad range of sectors Oxford graduates work in.

External resources
This information was last updated on 29 August 2019.
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Recent blogs about Using Your Subject

OXFO L.E.V8 Accelerator

Posted on behalf of Oxford Foundry. Blogged by Mike Moss on 20/09/2019.

OXFO L.E.V8 (Elevate) at the Oxford Foundry is the University of Oxford’s most diverse accelerator. The programme takes in up to 12 high potential ventures a year and is designed to support and nurture early-stage start-up teams affiliated to the university.

Oxford students, staff and alumni can get six months free support to build their venture. This includes mentorship, masterclasses, and access to the Foundry’s global network of investors and partners including Biz Stone, Cofounder of Twitter and Medium, Jenny Tooth OBE, UK Business Angels Association, Professor Bill Aulet, MIT, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, and Robin Saunders, Managing Partner at Clearbrook Capital.

Ventures also get support to build a team – many ventures have met their cofounders through the Foundry, along with leadership and resilience skills support, financial, business, pitching, product-market fit, customer development and legal advice.

To date, the Foundry has supported 19 start-ups who have raised £7m, created 70 jobs and are having a global impact across sectors including retail, medtech, energy, publishing, fintech and more.

The accelerator is based in our Oxford Foundry building on Hythe Bridge street and runs from 18 November 2019 to May 2020.

“The Foundry has accelerated our growth by providing a space devoted to entrepreneurship, giving us access to people with diverse talents and expertise, and to its network of investors. It has been incredible. Such growth wouldn’t have been possible without the Foundry. We are now focused on raising capital and sales and marketing. We want to sign ten new clients by the end of the year.” Jason Lacombe, CEO, Veratrak.

We welcome solo founders and teams and it’s a fantastic chance to be part of a supportive and expert community.  The programme is equity-free.

Apply online on the Oxford Foundry website. Deadline: 30 September 2019.

AstraZeneca and BBSTEM Collaboration Event in Cambridge

Posted on behalf of AstraZeneca and BBSTEM . Blogged by Claire Chesworth on 20/09/2019.

AstraZeneca have joined forces with BBSTEM to provide an opportunity for university students and recent graduates of an African or Caribbean heritage to visit AstraZeneca and learn about their Early Talent opportunities.

BBSTEM is a non-profit organisation campaigning for balance and representation of Black individuals in science, technology, engineering and maths. They are offering this event specifically for University students from 2nd year Bachelors/Masters to Post-Doc, who are currently studying a STEM subject on track to receive a 2.1 or equivalent.

The event will be taking place in Granta Park, Cambridge on Wednesday, 16 October. Apply through the Eventbrite form.

Spaces at this event are limited to 40, first come first served. When you apply you will need to submit a 100 word paragraph about your interest in the pharmaceutical industry and the benefit this day will bring for you.

Mewburn Ellis – Patent Open Day in Bristol

Posted on behalf of Mewburn Ellis . Blogged by Claire Chesworth on 20/09/2019.

Mewburn Ellis are running an open day at their Bristol office on 1 November for students who are interested in finding out more about life as a Patent Attorney. The day will include talks from their current trainees and attorneys, as well as practical exercises.

Primarily these days are aimed at those studying STEM subjects at any level, intending to join us as a trainee patent attorney in 2020.

Book your place now by going to their online registration page.

Places fill up quickly so sign up soon to avoid disappointment.

Inns of Court BPTC Scholarships open on 20 September and close on 1 November 2019

Blogged by Julia Sadler on 18/09/2019.

Qualifying as a Barrister can be a very expensive business; barristers’ chambers don’t offer the same sponsorship opportunities as law firms. However, the four Inns of Court (Middle, Inner, Gray’s and Lincoln’s Inn) offer over £5 million in awards, scholarships and bursaries to aspiring barristers.

Applications for scholarships designed to support your BPTC (the Bar Professional Training Course) year, from all four Inns, open on Friday 20 September and close on 1 November. Previous stats show that roughly one in three applicants are awarded a scholarship on average. Find out more at the the individual Inns’ websites:

Civil Service Fast Stream: 4-week application window opens soon!

Blogged by Hugh Nicholson-Lailey on 17/09/2019.

The Fast Stream application window will open for 4 weeks only, from 26 September to 12:00 (noon) on 24 October for:

  • Full-time positions starting September 2020
  • Summer Diversity Internship Programme (SDIP) for penultimate year students, July-August 2020

The Fast Stream offers the opportunity to contribute to fast-paced work that touches the lives of everyone in the UK. See the Fast Stream career pages and FAQs for comprehensive details of all 15 ‘streams’, check eligibility criteria and learn about the application process. Keep up to speed and hear daily from current fast streamers via social media – this year all brought under one umbrella via the Fast Stream Social Wall.

Oxford’s recently updated Government and Public Admin briefing provides our latest insights and advice about preparing for Fast Stream applications – and offers ideas on other routes into the UK civil service and public sector careers in general.

Check details on CareerConnect for events throughout Michaelmas Term, including:

Week 1:

  • Monday 14 October – 14:15-15:30 Insight into the Civil Service Fast Stream: Hear from a current Fast Stream Generalist, and one of this summer’s SDIP participants
  • Saturday 19 October – 11:30-12:15 Graduate Schemes and Careers With Social Impact Panel discussion at the Oxford Careers Fair, Exam Schools

Week 3: 

  • Monday 21 October – 14:15-15:30 Career lounge on Fast Stream Applications  Careers Adviser-led chat and questions from the audience on application process.
  • Thursday 24 October – 12:00 (noon) Application Deadline

Week 6: 

  • Thursday 21 November – 13:45-17:00 Civil Service Policy Game: Interactive role-play to provide policy advice for Minister’s decision. Booking essential

Week 7: 

  • Friday 27 November –  Civil Service Interview Support: Only for candidates continuing in the process, one-to-one advice sessions: booking essential.

Week 8:

  • Friday 3 December – Civil Service Interview Support: Only for candidates continuing in the process, one-to-one advice sessions: booking essential.
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