Category Archives: degree

So your degree result was disappointing?

panic button

If you’re reading this you may be feeling that your world has turned upside down because the degree result you were expecting didn’t happen. Maybe the result was a complete shock, or maybe you have known for a while that getting a 2:1 was not going to happen.

In this post I am going to signpost you to some useful advice on how to pick yourself up, take stock and get a game plan together.

Firstly, the University of Cumbria’s Careers and Employability service is open throughout the summer, so make an appointment with one of the careers advisors. This can be a face-to-face, telephone or skype meeting.  We can talk through your options, help you put together a plan and help you market yourself positively to a potential employer. To make an appointment email:

Secondly, there are some really useful articles online which are definitely worth reading. ‘How to job hunt if you get a 2.2′ in Target Jobs  provides lots of information on a wide range of sectors and organisations who have a more flexible approach  to degree classification.

The Guardian suggests graduates target smaller companies and those who focus on extra-curricular skills. Smaller companies are often less bothered about degree grades and may, in fact, offer you the chance to gain a wider range of experience and responsibility more quickly.

Rozina Zazur writing in the Telegraph says graduates should ignore the 2.1 myth as many employers place a higher value of work experience. Remember you are more than your degree and many employers recognise that.

Finally, try and keep firmly in your mind the fact that there are many people who didn’t do particularly well at university but who have gone on to have highly successful careers. One of the most inspirational messages about the importance of failure was given by JK Rowling. Check out her speech to Harvard graduates. It’s definitely worth a watch and you’ll feel so much better.



“Maths makes you boring”: Negative reactions to maths degrees revealed

The questions and comments, as well as the answers the graduates gave, have been visualised here.

The questions and comments, as well as the answers the graduates gave, have been visualised here.

For many prospective students, university is the chance to study in depth something they’re passionate about. While school gives us a broad and varied education, higher education gives us the chance to truly specialise. Some will study purely for passion while others have a definite career in mind. Unfortunately, for some students, their choices can mean they become the butt of other students’ jokes.

Stereotypes exist across a host of degree areas. For those studying Maths, Accountancy and Finance the main preconception they have to deal with is that they’re a bore. Both in the workplace and the classroom there is a long held idea that Maths is boring and that, by proxy, those who study it are too.

To get an understanding of how these degrees are currently perceived, financial broker Spread Co spoke to some recent graduates and asked them to share some of the comments they’d received from colleagues and peers on their degree choice.

Students from a range of courses including Accountancy and Business & Management were interviewed. All of the graduates they spoke to were in full employment but even then had to deal with some quite personal questioning. One graduate was asked “Won’t you want to kill yourself doing that 9-5?”and another received questions including “You just add up, how hard can it be?” While these questions may seem initially harmless, it shows a lack of understanding of the well-rounded individuals these students are.

To help fight the stigma they received, the graduates were also encouraged to respond to their inquisitors and tell them about something they’d done they were proud of. As you would expect, all of the students gave fantastic responses to their critics with one graduate telling how they’d just climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and another telling them that they’d just recently become the youngest partner in their company’s history. The full image campaign can be viewed here.

While there is inevitably more that we can do to dispel myths like these, thankfully for universities, prospective students don’t seem to be put off.  In fact, 2015 saw more applications than ever to courses in the subject area with an extra 2,500 applications, around a 6% rise from 2014’s figures. There was in fact only a 1% rise in overall applications, meaning for Maths and Accounting to see such an increase in applicants is testament to the fact that many students are recognising the value of having such a degree.

With increasing pressure for students in such a volatile job market it seems that many people are choosing more traditional, vocational courses with direct job routes. There are huge benefits to the working in finance too, with starting salaries for accountants for example around £4,000 more than the average for graduates in their first roles from other backgrounds. While studying, courses in these areas also have a much higher percentage of international and overseas students than other courses meaning those studying are exposed to cultures from all over the world. With the business market increasingly more international, this is a big advantage for students.

When deciding on your course of study, don’t pay attention to other people’s perceptions of your subject area. Each course is full of a wide range of people from different backgrounds, with varied abilities and interests bringing a new perspective to ideas.  Accountancy and Finance are the backbone of every business across the globe, from independent start-ups to major corporations, making it a highly desired degree when positions become available. Rather than perpetuating preconceptions, we should celebrate those with the passion and determination to study the subject they love.


Guest blogger – Daniel Yeo – Search Laboratory

The top ten skills graduate recruiters want


A survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters predicts a 10% rise in graduate jobs – but are you ready? Do you have the skills you need to apply for that job? If you are sitting down to write your CV, you might have left it too late to assess the skills you have gained – in fact, you should see your first day at university as the first day of your working life. Plan how you spend your time at university to maximise the skills you need in your chosen career.

The University’s Career Ahead award can help you with identifying and developing those skills employers are looking for, and with new templates, it’s easier than ever!

The skills that you need will of course depend on your chosen career, but there are some things that all graduate recruiters look for that you can start working on from day one:

Business sense 

Students who have started a business, organised an event or created a new university society while at uni gain a great working knowledge of how a business is run. This is one of the top skills that graduate recruiters are looking for, but according to a 2013 Guardian survey, only 1`0% of students thought it was a vital skill – this is compared to nearly 50% of employers!

Get global

Make the most of your time at uni to meet people from around the world so that you develop a greater understanding of other countries and cultures. You could take a summer placement abroad or even study abroad for a year. It is becoming increasingly important for graduates to have an understanding of different cultures and  how industries work across different countries.

A language 

Graduate employers love it if you speak another language, so really highlight this on your CV or application – ‘fluent in Spanish’ looks much better on your CV than Spanish A-level (A)’ as it really demonstrates what you can offer the company. Remember though to make sure that you brush up on your languages before your interview!

A squeaky clean digital footprint

Make sure that your online presence really reflects what you want to do and your future career, this could include setting up a LinkedIn profile and building some connections in your chosen sector. A lot of recruiters will google you – so make sure that all of your online presence is professional and aimed at your future career. If recruiters find dodgy photos of your from nights out, it could influence their decision.

Office etiquette

It’s a good idea to try and get a bit of experience in an office environment while you are a student as a lot of graduate jobs will start in the office. Understanding basic office etiquette such as how to dress, how to answer the phone and so on will set you in good stead.

Driving licence 

While having a licence may not be a requirement for a lot of jobs anymore, if you haven’t learned to drive it’s worth trying before you leave uni. It could open other opportunities further down the line, and some recruiters may be asking “why haven’t they learned to drive yet?” – some may see it as laziness.

Computer skills

All employers these days expect graduates to be computer literate – we’re talking things like working with spreadsheets and word processing, using the internet and being aware of instant messaging and conference calling – all of these skills will be important to recruiters. Of course, having skills in programming and software development are a bonus that some recruiters look for, but even having really good numeracy and analytical skills are important.


Uni really is the perfect time to join a team, and it could help you land a job! Think about it – what demonstrates teamwork better to an employer than the fact that you have been part of a team for the last 3 years?! You will always see ‘working as part of a team’ on a job description, and you need to be able to prove that you can work in a team beyond the group work you do as part of your degree. If you can use an example where you have built a team yourself – even better!!


Working on your confidence will only help you when it comes to building up your network. Go along to networking events relevant to your chosen career and talk to people! Not only will you meet people already in your career that can give you advice and guidance, but you will be working on building your confidence too.

Positive mental attitude

If you’re still at uni, it’s worth thinking about how you can build up all these skills. But if you’re in your final year and haven’t ticked them all, don’t worry. Whatever experience you’ve got to your name, a positive attitude is still the most important thing you can bring to your first job.


Things you get involved with at university and in your own time might not seem directly linked to what you want to do in the future, but you never know when those skills might come in handy!

This post was adapted from this article on the Guardian website.

Ups and Downs – Why stress can be a good thing


Being at University can be a difficult time for any student… assignments, going out, personal development, being away from home, money…. and a plethora of other worries. If you add juggling two full time businesses and being on placement to the equation, then life really does become a balancing act.

That’s the situation I am in at the moment. I am currently on placement as a mathematics teacher in a secondary school (which still has just over 6 weeks to run) and I am trying to run and establish my proofreading and tutoring businesses. This can be quite challenging at times and on occasions it has got too much for me. However, the fact is in life is that you have to be prepared to put the effort to get anywhere.

That has certainly been me the last few weeks… I can’t remember when I’ve had a spare moment to myself! Whether it’s been planning or teaching lessons, proofreading someone’s essay or tutoring people who range from primary school to adult level, I’ve always been doing something. However, there have been quite a few positives which have come out of this.

Firstly, I have found that because I have been pushed to my limits on a regular basis, I have discovered new things about myself and talents that I never knew that I had. For instance, having famously suffered from a lack of confidence my whole life, I finally seemed to have gained some self-belief as I’ve realised that I do have some abilities after all. People who know me on a personal and professional level have noticed the change in my attitude and demeanour. I’ve also learnt that often the only barrier to  success in life is yourself – a lot of the time things would work out if people just believed in themselves and had the mantra of saying ‘I can rather than I can’t’. In the last few weeks, I realised that believing I wasn’t good at things was really holding me back.

Sometimes a considerable amount of stress can actually be a good thing. I have been stressed out quite a lot these past few weeks but my response to this is to calm down and just to work harder. It’s almost as if stress regulates you as a person. The unease I have experienced has also led me to do some productive and really creative things. Proofreading and tutoring work came out of avenues I had never previously thought of exploring. I also realised some important things – that being a freelancer is very important to me and could be a viable full-time career path. After years of denying myself from believing in my talents, I am finally embracing them. I recently received 82 on my dissertation, which has subsequently been published in a journal. This meant that I am now guaranteed first class honours in my degree. This was a watershed moment for me and potentially a huge turning point in my life. It made me realise that the future might just be bright after all if just a few things would fall into place for me.

I’m also trying to get a job, tackle the writing industry and maybe even publish a maths book. I do have quite a lot of potential; I just need to fulfil that in the future.  At the moment, I still haven’t finished my placement, obtained Qualified Teacher Status, officially received my degree, or built up my proofreading and tutoring businesses to the degree I would like to. However, it may just be a case of ‘short term pain, long term gain’. The signs are that the future is bright. Hopefully, I might just fulfil my potential after all.


Sam has his own proofreading business. He charges from £3.00 per 1,000 words. He can help with style and content as well as grammatical and formatting issues. Sam has proofread for 6 years and has proofread pieces of work from Undergraduate to PHD level as well as editing CVs, job applications and personal statements. The business has its own Facebook page ‘Efficient Editing’ which you can contact Sam through. You can also get in touch with Sam by emailing him at Sam is currently on track for a first in his secondary maths teaching degree, where the lowest mark he has achieved is 65.      

Fancy A Career in Human Relations? Read On…

An Interview with Kathy Allison, Head of HR at

How did you begin your career in HR and progress to your current position at boohoo?

Kathy Allison

Before joining boohoo, I worked in the hospitality sector as a People Development Manager at Radisson Blu Hotels. Throughout my time there I looked after Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool properties. My position at boohoo came after a friend encouraged me to apply – they had seen the role advertised and thought it sounded like a good role for me. It was a lengthy interview process but I was fortunate enough to get the job and become the first Head of HR at boohoo.

How would you describe a typical day working at boohoo?

My role is really varied so it is difficult to describe a typical day. I can be doing anything from a full day of interviewing senior candidates, supporting with people issues or attending and addressing director meetings. There is always plenty for me to do!

Do you think you need to have a degree in HR to start a career in it?

My degree wasn’t in HR but I have gained a lot of experience to develop my career in this field. Having said that, I do think it is great to have a HR degree as it provides a foundation and you then have the technical and theoretical knowledge about HR.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to begin a career in HR?

It is helpful to know what industry you’d like to do HR in and then you can gain experience in that area. This isn’t essential though as your skills will be transferable. I do feel that being prepared to understand the HR function from the ground up is a good basis for career development. As with many competitive industries, it is really important that you prove your determination and demonstrate the skills you have that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Do you have any suggestions about how someone could sell their skills when applying for a role in HR?

Have a look at your CV and make sure it is concise. Start with highlighting your key achievements. Don’t make it long, and more importantly keep it focused to the particular role you’re applying for. A one size fits all approach doesn’t always work.

What do you look for in a candidate applying for a job within HR?

Candidates that stand out to me are those who can show how they will benefit the business if they are successful. Being able to work commercially and a real desire to deliver success through people is important. It is also great to see someone with a real passion and persistence to work in the industry.

Note: Thanks to Sasha Jones for providing this interview.  If you would like to know more about careers in HR, a good starting point is the Graduate Prospects website.