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The ‘Hobbies and Interests’ section on your CV July 28, 2014

Posted by Paulette Amadi in : The Careers Group Blogs , add a comment

I have seen hundreds of students for appointments to talk about CVs and if there is one section that consistently causes confusion it is the hobbies and interests portion. The key is to use the space wisely. Or if you can’t, don’t use it at all. The absolute worst is to plug something into the section for the sake of it. This approach usually results in vague or meaningless statements.

Here is one you might be familiar with: “I enjoy reading and socialising with friends.” Snooze. What is this telling your prospective employer about you? It’s so vague that it is dangerous. When I see this line, my inner cynic reads it as: “I read my Twitter feed and I like going to the pub”. Alternatively: “I have no imagination.”

So what to write?

The key is to be specific. If you do really like reading, point out what sort of things that you read. Flag up your passion for historical biographies/technology publications/French poetry, if that is what you mean. Although, there is a find balance here too. A few years ago, the Careers Group published a post on the subject which is worth digging out. The post sets out the various personality types that might come out of this section. My favourite is this: “I like to browse eBay for additions to my extensive novelty snowglobe collection”. The author of that post describes this personality as ‘the weirdo’. The lesson is this: be specific but don’t go mad. Avoid the risk of looking as though you aren’t taking the application seriously.

Can you skip the section altogether?

Of course. If all you are able to come up with is the “socialising with friends” line, the section will likely to more harm than good. On the other hand, it is worth remembering that this section is another opportunity to highlight relevant skills. So if teamwork is key, pointing out that you ‘enjoy singing in a choir, with weekly practices and regular concerts’ can go some way towards showing the employed that you fit that aspect of the job spec. Whether or not you include this section in your CV is down to you but do at least be sure to have thought about it. The section usually comes towards the end of your CV; it’s worth making sure that the last impression counts.

Helene Tyrrell

Application Adviser

Careers & Enterprise Centre

Parliamentary inquiry into the closure of the Post Study Work Visa July 1, 2014

Posted by VivienneWatson in : The Careers Group Blogs , add a comment
File:Big ben i house of commons, londres, 2008.JPG

Photo under free creative commons license by Carlesmari


The government wants to know what impact the closure of the PSW has had on students, universities, and local economies and a committee has been set up to oversee this process. They are interested in hearing from overseas/international students and have asked for written evidence in answer to various questions, but particularly in relation to how the closure of the PSW has impacted your studies and ability to gain experience in employment in the UK and abroad.

You can find further information about the inquiry here: http://www.appgmigration.org.uk/content/parliamentary-inquiry-closure-post-study-work-psw-route

If you are interested in submitting written evidence, please make sure you read the inquiry guidelines here: http://www.appgmigration.org.uk/sites/default/files/APPG_Migration_Post-Study_enquiry_outline.pdf


How do you demonstrate integrity at interview? June 19, 2014

Posted by Paulette Amadi in : The Careers Group Blogs , add a comment

Recruiters, eh?   You’ve mastered the interview basics – and then they give you something so far out of left field that it’s not even in the stadium.

Typically, these brainteasers revolve around ethics, integrity, values and are framed in two different, but equally devious, ways……

Scenario – based

Medics applying for junior doctor posts are used to ethical questions lurking in dark corners, but it’s now becoming commonplace for other roles.  For instance? “You’re an intern helping on a big project with an important client. You’ve realised that one of your colleagues has made a mistake in their report, which effectively gives a better impression of the company to the client than is perhaps true. Your company really needs this contract and you know your manager will be very unhappy if the deal falls through. What do you do?” A ready response may not spring rapidly to the lips.

Evidence driven

“Tell us about a time you showed yourself to be trustworthy/reliable/principled” etc. Do I feel a rabbit caught in headlights moment coming on? Again, if you are not prepared it would be easy to stumble over a question like this, particularly since the answer is not so obvious.

The Rules

And the greatest indicator of your ethics and integrity? Remaining honest and authentic throughout your application and interview. In other words, be yourself and you can’t go too far wrong.

Gill Sharp

Careers Consultant, QMUL Careers & Enterprise Centre

Presentation Skills April 7, 2014

Posted by Stephen Gurman in : Assessment Centres, Interview , add a comment

Presentation Skills for Law Assessment Days

While you’re busy preparing for exams, I thought I’d write about preparing for presentations, with a light hearted look at what you can learn from some of the stars of country music.

Country music is not particularly popular in the UK, but in the US it’s a significant part of the music scene.

Listening to a few country songs, it seems that these artists seem to be good at understanding their audience and connecting with themes and ideas which they share. Some of the lyrics in their songs contain the everyday, the ordinary and the American dream: open roads, driving a truck, working hard and getting on, food and drink.

Here are a couple of my favourites:

“She likes it when I bring home fresh fajitas
And mix up a pitcher of margaritas” – Doin’ What She Likes, Blake  Shelton.

“I love sleeping in on Saturdays
And I love college football games
I love not acting my age
And good barbecue” – Love Your Love the Most, Eric Church

How’s this relevant to law careers?

Well, some employers are asking students to give a presentation as part of the assessment progress. That’s when you’ve got to start thinking like a country singer, you’ve got to start thinking about how you are going to connect with that employer and show them that you are the right sort of fit for their organisation.

You won’t be singing (hopefully) and the presentation is unlikely to be about fajitas and barbeque. However, you will need to be alive to the qualities the employer you’re presenting to is looking for. You need to make sure that both the content you are presenting and the way in which you’re talking about it is relevant to that organisation.

How can you do that? Research. If possible, attend an event the firm is running, but if you’ve not been able to do that then looking on their website, using the law directories and reading the legal press can be very useful. Even a firm’s own press releases will give you an idea as to how they like to talk about themselves. Which words do they frequently use to describe themselves? What qualities are they looking for in a candidate?

Other things to remember when delivering presentations include:

Conversations with a Commercial Barrister March 21, 2014

Posted by kdudnikova in : Bar Careers, Commercial Awareness, Legal Career, Pupillage, Reflection, Skills, The Careers Group Blogs, Training Contract, Vacation Scheme, Work Experience , add a comment

Many of the recent law careers blog posts have focused on careers as a solicitor in a commercial law firm. Arguably, this is entirely appropriate, given that there will be around ten times as many training contracts as pupillages available this year. In fact, there are likely to be less than 400 pupillages available in total. Of those pupillages, only a very small number will be in sets of chambers specialising in commercial law. That said, a career at the Commercial Bar could offer a rewarding alternative to students with top academics (and I really do mean top!) and a strong interest in commercial law.  I talked to Anton, a junior tenant at Essex Court Chambers, to find out more….

So Anton, please could you describe your path to the Commercial Bar?

I did several vac schemes in my 2nd year at university.  They were fun but, ultimately, not for me. I didn’t like the idea of being employed, unable to control my working hours, sitting behind barristers in Court etc.

At the same time, I did a few mini-pupillages, mostly at commercial sets, including Essex Court. They tend to be a lot shorter than vac schemes, but you get to sit with several members of Chambers, go to Court and cons (i.e. client meetings) with them, ask questions and work on the cases they are working on. You temporarily become part of Chambers. It’s an intense but satisfying experience.

I could see that being a barrister was a lot of hard work, but – and crucially – you are working for yourself, don’t have a boss, and get a lot more freedom to shape your working (and home/personal) life as you wish. Plus, you get the adrenalin of standing up on your feet in Court, having a lot of responsibility even when you’re junior, and being in charge.

I chose Essex Court because it’s one of the top commercial sets with a variety of work. When I say “commercial” I don’t mean “corporate”. We have people who do employment, banking, civil fraud, international arbitration, art law – you name it.

What was your pupillage like?

Pupillage is like a year-long interview combined with a tutorial. The first few months, at least at Essex Court, is about learning the ropes. You sit in your supervisor’s room, help them with their cases, do legal research, draft documents, discuss how best to argue this or that point in Court, how to achieve the client’s objectives, and so on. It’s amazing how much progress people make in such a short period of time.

Then you “rotate” between a number of other members of Chambers, spending 2-3 weeks with each. Here, the emphasis is more on testing your abilities. It’s a fair system: several people assess your work and it is they (not anyone else) who decide whether you should be offered tenancy.

One of the more amusing cases I did during pupillage was about cows in Bristol. The issue was whether one of the bulls named (without irony) “Tamhorn Rocket” produced semen that was below the quality stipulated under the contract. Vets with expertise in artificial insemination of cattle were called and cross-examined, and Rocket’s performance was measured against the clearly virile “Pedro”. It’s not a typical case for Chambers, but shows the diversity of our practice.

What has work been like since being a tenant?

Varied and interesting. I have done a case about the beer market in an East African country (which involved travelling there to interview witnesses at the brewery), a fraud case where the defendants spirited away $175 million which was then traced into luxury homes in London and Geneva, Ferraris, and huge diamonds, and a case about an oil painting which was alleged to be a fake. Those are just some examples.

The hours are long, but I choose how I distribute them. For example, I don’t like staying in Chambers in the evening, so I take my work home, go for a run, and carry on working at home later if I need to.

In Chambers I have my own room and I love it. The idea of sharing or (worse still) an open-plan office fills me with dread. I like having the freedom of being able to listen to any music I want whenever I want, not being distracted when I have a tight deadline, or monitored when I want to make a private call.

Despite having a room to myself, I never feel lonely: the other juniors are friendly, we frequently go out for dinner/drinks, pop in to see each other, ask for and share advice.

Do you spend much time doing advocacy in Court?

Some. The more senior you get, the more advocacy you do. That’s more or less the norm at the Commercial Bar. But you are always working with other people – usually a team of solicitors, other barristers and, frequently, experts. So you should expect to be talking quite a lot, though not so much in Court, at least to begin with.

What are the main ways in which you think your job differs from that of a junior associate in a top city law firm?

Greater independence and flexibility, more challenging, less admin, and a lot more fun.

Do you have any advice for students considering a career at the Commercial Bar?

It’s very competitive. It’s essential to have good grades, and it helps to have experience (mini-pupillages are very important), determination and patience. If you’re lukewarm about the idea, or if you don’t enjoy a challenge, then it’s probably not for you. But, if you do, it’s a hugely fulfilling career.

Thank you Anton – that was really interesting.

Anton was interviewed by Katherine Dudnikova, Careers Consultant for Laws at Queen Mary University of London.