Cristina

University VS time

The past month has been especially busy! Aside from the usual 8 hours of lectures, I have had to split my time between lab practical (15 hours/week), dissertation writing, course work, job applications, and activities for my society (Cancer Research UK Society). So, I thought I’d write this blog on what I think is important to remember during busy times.

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I might not be the best person at time management, but I always try my best to be efficient and get my work done by planning ahead of time. Every week, I write down a to-do list with important deadlines and assignments, whether it’s turning in a uni project or tasks I overlook as part of being the secretary for CRUKSOC society. Having a set list of goals makes it clear in my mind what I have to do and helps me in dismantling big tasks into smaller ones.

As a student, my  main duty is to study but almost everyone I know (myself included) has additional commitments such as part-time jobs, sport and society activities – so there’s a lot of juggling going on most of the time!

I also know that I’m the kind of person who can’t say no to people and who also naively believes I can multi-task different assignments all at once. This has caused tricky situations where I found myself spending sleepless nights trying to finish my work or, even worse, missing deadlines. I hate that this can make me look unprofessional and/or leave me feeling guilty for not delivering on a promised deadline. I’ve found that it’s important to be honest with myself and know exactly how much work I can take on.

Sometimes (maybe always), I put my personal health and wellbeing in the last place. I would rather sleep less, skip gym and eat ready-made meals to finish my work. But, even if it appears to save time, it is actually counterproductive. Due to lack of good nutrients, exercise and sleep, our body becomes more tired, stressed and less efficient/fast in getting things done. Therefore, it is very important to look after your own health. After all, health is something that you can’t obtain with good grades or buy with money. So, don’t forget to listen to your body and treat it well!

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I hope this short post can remind you that is normal to feel overwhelmed and stressed at times. All you need to do is to learn (by your own mistakes and experience – or by mine!)] how to balance your work and wellbeing.

What does employability mean to me and how the University is helping me become employable!

Employability – a word I heard a lot during my first few weeks at the University.

I was told that Manchester is among the best institutions worldwide for educating/training highly employable graduates (UoM has been ranked 35th in the QS Graduate Employability Rankings, this year). What does that mean?

Indeed, the University organises various Careers Fairs and other events throughout the year.

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Last year, even as a first-year student, I attended “The Big Careers Fair” at the Manchester Central Convention Centre. I met and networked with representatives from L’Oréal, AstraZeneca, P&G, Barclays, Jaguar Land Rover, Sky and many more. It was great – like a whole new world, because for the first time I understood the importance and relevance of adaptability and transferable skills. It didn’t matter (and even now, it doesn’t matter) that I was studying for a scientific degree; I was still a potential employee to most of the employers there at the fair, even though to those who were not science-related.

And that’s what I realised – that University teaches you transferable skills constantly, skills that can be applied to any situation and industry. If I needed further proof that employability is about more than my academic course, I got it  when I met former students at one of the “Meet the Professionals “run by the Alumni association. I encountered people who showed me that I could work in science policy and funding (still fascinated by this title) or as a scientific consultant in a bank, rather than the typical/stereotypical job as a lab technician. They all talked about using the transferable skills they gained during their university career.

What is also important is knowing how to present and talk about your experiences, and usually the first opportunity you get to do this, is on your CV. Curriculum Vitae is the first means to impress your potential employer: it takes 10 seconds to end up in the right pile and not in the trash bin. So, a good CV is essential to get that awesome job interview!

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The University runs CV surgeries appointments, where they can give you valuable advice about how to tailor your CV, from the font size to the content itself.

I have been actively searching for an industrial placement and so I’ve had recent experience of the whole application process – submitting my CV, going to assessment centres and attending interviews. I received great support from the Careers Services (located in The Atrium on the 1st floor of University Place).

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For the first stage of my application, I had to answer competency-related questions, as well as “why are you applying for X?” I received really helpful guidance about what employers were looking for in my answers. , I recently discovered from one of the employers that I ended up in the “right pile” because I demonstrated my eagerness and enthusiasm through my answers and beat at least 300 people who googled their answers. So, don’t slack and tailor your application, it will pay off!

I also booked a mock interview session with the Careers Services again and had the chance to practice my interview skills. It was a very insightful experience, where I was given loads of tips and tricks (for example, how to answer questions with the STAR model: Situation, Task, Action, Result). I also discovered online resources offered by the University, including videos on things like “what to do in an assessment centre”.

The University also offers different workshops (e.g. “how to boost your LinkedIn profile” and coding sessions at the Learning Commons) and resources like career-advice brochures and “Employability Passport”, to track your skills as well as to help you set a plan in increasing your employability.

After being in University for almost two years, I can definitely see all the effort, money and time that have been invested to help us become the most employable graduate employees possible. I can honestly say it’s not something I have seen before, especially where I come from in Italy. Support is definitely here, but you have to put in time and effort too. You can do so not only by developing transferable skills and experience but by learning how to show them off to employers.

Good luck everyone!

6 reasons to travel while at University

By: Cristina Jiang

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

Travelling is a good way to spend your time with family and friends, but it also is extremely valuable in your personal development. In fact, when you travel you gain essential skills and valuable knowledge that will stay with you your whole life. As University is a time to learn and explore, here are the top 6 reasons why you should travel while doing your degree.

  1. Long holidays

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As students, we have about 160 days of holiday in a year, so it’s the perfect time to travel before committing to a job and a family. In fact, when you start working, you will be entitled to only about around 28 days’ paid holiday (self-employed folks out there, I envy you!), Life won’t be as carefree as now, so take advantage of it and go explore!

  1. 16-25 railcard

If you want to travel around the UK, why not apply for a 16-25 railcard? It only costs £30/year and will get you all over the country for 1/3 of the price. Buy “advance” tickets and you’ll get to London for just £14.50 and to Edinburgh for £12.20! What are you waiting for?

  1. Travel around EuropePic2

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sonta

If you are an international student or you just want to explore the continent, this is the time to do it! With over 50+ countries and diversity in cultures, Europe is a fascinating place to explore. Your destination is just a short flight away and for a fairly cheap price. You can find really good deals with popular low-cost airlines such as Ryanair, EasyJet, Flybe, Jet2.com and many more. When flying back home to Italy, I always book my tickets in advance and compare prices across different airlines, to get the best deal possible. Sometimes you can find some really crazy deals, such as Ryanair flights to Hamburg or Brussels for only £9.99. So get booking!

  1. Interrail


“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Pic3Unlike flying, Interrail is an incredible way to see the country as you drive by! You can hop off the train at any moment and explore as many cities as like. All you have to do is purchase the train pass and you’ll be eligible for unlimited rail travel within 30 countries for a maximum period of one month. Backpacking through Europe is an unforgettable experience that you’ll be telling your kids in years to come.

  1. Volunteering

 “You don’t have to be rich to travel well.” – Eugene Fodor

Do you want to travel AND raise money for a charity? You can join one of the Universities’ charities and travel across Europe, while helping others! In the past, our Students’ Union Raise and Give (RAG) society has taken part in a Jailbreak fundraiser. The idea is that you have 30 hours to get as far from Manchester as possible, by any means possible – for charity. Past Jailbreakers have ended up in Berlin, Paris, New York and even Hong Kong!

There are so many ways you can make your travels more meaningful; take time from your summer holidays and volunteer. Spending your holiday in Manchester? No problem, there are countless numbers of charities that you can join, such as Cancer Research UK Society (CRUKSOC), Unicef on Campus and WaterAid Society. Personally, I am a member of CRUKSOC and every year we organise open 5-a-side football tournaments to raise money for Cancer Research UK. Being part of the events does not only mean I’m helping others but also means I can develop and build new relationships. Volunteering has given me the opportunity to also pursue my hobby as a photographer and video content creator as I take photographs and videos of the events.

More info about volunteering at the University here

  1. Global Graduate

“Investment in travel is an investment in yourself.” – Matthew Karsten

Being an outstanding student is no longer enough.  Nowadays, employers are seeking “global” students that possess a wide range of skills, including adaptability, global knowledge and cultural agility. Big companies often look for employees that are flexible to move around the country, to fly for business trips or to work abroad. The Global Graduate scheme is how you can get ahead!

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The programme offers 32 undergraduate students the opportunity to visit one of the seven host cities across the world – Hong Kong, New York, Singapore, Toronto, London, Paris and San Francisco to go and gain experience in the industry. It’s an opportunity to both practice and develop your existing skills, to start building your professional networks and to increase your understanding of your employability. The best part? It’s completely FREE. Want to hear from one of our Global Graduates? Read here for Alasdair’s experience in Hong Kong to find out more.