Employability: Making the Most of Your Career Development


John Neugebauer & Jane Evans-Brain

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    For Ruth Davidson, John Neugebauer, Sophia Davidson and Bethan Evans-Brain.

    And to all those who, having worked so hard to achieve their degrees, now embark on their career journeys. We hope this book will help you.

    About the Authors

    Dr John Neugebauer FCIPD is a Visiting Research Fellow at Bristol Business School, University of the West of England. He has had international and UK experience as an HR executive and has researched managerial careers and taught with the Open University, Bath University and Bristol University. He is an external examiner at Plymouth Business School and Bristol University Dental School. Prior to his academic career, he was Head of HR for a national organisation. He is a qualified coach, and has had extensive experience working and consulting in private sector (national and international), public sector, and third-sector organisations.

    Jane Evans-Brain is a human resource business partner in a large national organisation, and has over twenty-eight years HR experience in recruitment, learning in the workplace, talent development, training, employment law, assessment centres and change management. Jane also has experience of external consulting.


    We record our thanks to those at organisations who discussed employment with us, including: Jane Hadfield at North Bristol NHS Trust; Patrick Goh, Head of Global HR People & Organisation Development, Tearfund; Reverend Sam Rushton, Diocesan Director of Ordinands and Adviser for the Licensed Ministry of the Church of England, Bristol Diocese; Dr Jenny Chen, Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management; Helen Hammond of Elephant Creative for sharing her specialised experience on social media and job search; Dr Tilly Line, Senior Careers Consultant, Employability and Enterprise Team, University of the West of England; Sarah Harper, Goldman Sachs; Professor Julie McLeod, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience), Oxford Brookes University; at RHP Group in south-west London, Executive Director of Corporate Services, Amina Graham, Chloe Marsh and John C. Neugebauer; Allie Whelan, Director Leap UK; Jenny Body, first woman president of the Royal Aeronautical Society; and Brian Staines, former Head of Careers Guidance at the University of Bristol.

    We also wish to thank the many people in their early careers after graduation who gave so willingly to contribute to the additional research for this book. Their data has been recorded anonymously in the book in order to preserve confidentiality. However, those who have given permission for us to acknowledge their contribution are: Aamer Chaudhry, Abdi Omar, Alex Barnes, Alison Barnard, Amber Cunnington, Andrew Piggott, Charlotte Walker, Donal Kelly, Emily Skew, Fahad Rahman, Fiona Robertson, Gareth Neugebauer, Hannah Christie, Hugh Willan, Iestyn Davies, Jo Taylor, Kate Skew, Katie Holmes, Kerry Fey, Laura Evans, Laura Riches, Mike Hindle, Mims Harrison, Owain Davies, Peter Harry, Pippa Bell, Rachel Manse, John C. Neugebauer, Rebecca Francis, Rita Kurucz, Sarah Graham, Sophie Pearn, Steffan Lewis, Stephen Taylor, Stuart Christie and Tom Skew.

    Our thanks also to Matthew Waters, Commissioning Editor at SAGE, copy-editor Solveig Gardner Servian, and Molly Farrell and Lyndsay Aitken at SAGE for their patient support and guidance while this book has been prepared.


    We have sought permission to use material from other sources, and this permission is shown where appropriate.

    Myers Briggs: The Myers and Briggs Foundation, www.myersbriggs.org/more-about-personality-type/permissions/

    HESA statistics have been used with permission, though the HESA wishes to point out that it cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived from the data by third parties.

  • Appendix A: Percentage of Graduates Employed by Subject Area 2012/13

    Subject areaEmployed (%)Unemployed (%)
    Medicine and dentistry91.01.3
    Subjects allied to medicine87.83.4
    Veterinary science87.75.4
    Architecture, building and planning81.36.2
    Business and administrative studies78.77.7
    Mass communications and documentation77.39.8
    Engineering and technology75.87.7
    Creative arts and design74.98.6
    Social studies74.27.5
    Computer science71.911.9
    Agriculture and related subjects70.06.0
    Biological sciences68.76.8
    Historical and philosophical studies64.47.4
    Mathematical sciences64.38.2
    Physical sciences63.68.0

    Source: Higher Education Statistics Agency, 2014a (Used with permission)

    Appendix B: Sample CV, with Annotated Comments

    This CV is genuine and was submitted with a covering letter (see Appendix C) as part of an application for a summer internship. The candidate was successful. We have retained the key details of the CV, but changed the names and locations to retain confidentiality.

    What Makes This a Good CV?
    • Short and to the point (two sides).
    • Sets out both paid and voluntary employment and shows how the skills learned were relevant for further organisational life.
    • Summarises key skills and shows how these were relevant to further organisational learning.
    • We have a sense that we know the person – at least on paper!
    How Could the CV Be Improved?
    • This CV did not include a personal statement. Normally we would like to see this, but it is implied in the covering letter (Appendix C) which clearly sets out the candidate’s aspirations and links those clearly to the organisation to which she is applying.
    • Later in her career we would see more detail on competences and skills as the candidate’s work knowledge is developed.

    Appendix C: Sample Covering Letter

    This is a genuine covering letter, seeking a summer internship in a major UK financial services institution. In this case the enquirer successfully obtained a summer internship, which led directly to a place on the graduate HR programme with the same organisation on graduation. Whilst the letter is genuine, the name, university and employer have been anonymised for reasons of confidentiality.

    What makes this a good covering letter?

    • It is relatively short, and is to the point.
    • The writer’s research and interest both in a professional career and passion for the organisation shine through. The writer has made the effort to do an individual letter, not simply send off a generic enquiry.
    • The writer then intelligently reinforces how her own background, work experiences and competences could be of benefit to this employer.
    • The writer gives a sense of her own objectives from an internship (in this case, these aims could arguably have been more specific).

    Appendix D: How I Got Where I Am Today – Summaries of Graduate Work Search Experiences

    How I got started in MARINE ENGINEERING

    Whilst studying, to what extent did you intentionally use other non-education experience to prepare for future employment?

    Casual employment? Not relevant to my later career

    Work placements/internship? Often helpful – worked during my studies

    Travel? Often helpful – worked at sea during my studies

    Volunteering? Sometimes useful

    Clubs and societies? Sometimes useful

    Assessment challenges? Finding work to apply for; Understanding what employers were looking for; Deciding which job to accept

    What do you do for continuing professional development? Yes, I need to constantly develop interests and learning

    Do you have a mentor? Yes, but I don’t find it helpful

    Main achievements to date? Gaining employment; Gaining Engineer Officer of the Watch licence; Retraining as a Marine Engineer – very interesting studies

    Key Frustrations? Lack of progression in some roles; Poor management; Lack of knowing which career direction to go in

    How I got started in CLINICAL SCIENCE

    Role Now: Clinical Scientist; First degree Physiology and psychology; MSc in Physiology (sponsored by NHS)

    Whilst studying, to what extent did you intentionally use other non-education experience to prepare for future employment?

    Casual employment? (especially care assistant) Often

    Work placements? Quite often

    Travel abroad? Sometimes

    Volunteering? Sometimes

    Clubs and societies? Sometimes

    Assessment challenges? Feeling of heading nowhere [before I got the clinical scientist traineeship]; Not hearing back from applications; Dealing with disappointment/rejection; Time taken to complete applications

    What do you do for continuing professional development? Training, conferences, self-directed learning

    Main achievements to date? Getting the funded MSc; Balancing work, study and life; Learning to deal with difficult situations in a mature manner; Think about doing a PhD later

    Key frustrations? Poor management and organisation; Lack of support from more senior staff; Poor feedback and advice

    How I got started in LAW, AS A SOLICITOR

    Whilst studying, to what extent did you intentionally use other non-education experience to prepare for future employment?

    Casual employment? Sometimes

    Work placements/internship? Often

    Travel? Sometimes

    Volunteering? Often

    Clubs and societies? Quite often

    Assessment challenges? Finding work to apply for; Time taken to submit applications; Assessment centres (group exercises); Group exercises (psychometric tests)

    What do you do for continuing professional development? Training through internal and external training

    Do you have a mentor? Yes

    Main achievements to date? Gaining a training contract; Qualifying as a solicitor; Becoming an Associate with my current employer, despite not coming through a ‘traditional route’, i.e. a red-brick university and with a city law firm for my training

    Key frustrations? Maintaining extra-curricular activities; Finding a positive perspective, despite setbacks, for the next interview

    How I got started in MARKETING

    Whilst studying, to what extent did you intentionally use other non-education experience to prepare for future employment?

    Casual employment? Often

    Work placements/internship? Quite often

    Travel? No

    Volunteering? Sometimes

    Clubs and societies? No

    In addition to these, I found the following very important: Good working relationships with key agencies; Networking; Continuing to attend University business evenings with national speakers – helped to stay focused and continued with networking; Short-term contracts, despite low pay, gave very valuable experience prior to successful selection for my current role

    Assessment challenges? Experienced a wide range of interviewing styles and assessment centres (including group exercises, psychometric assessments and presentations). The main problem, however, was finding roles for which to apply and having the time to complete good-quality applications

    What do you do for continuing professional development? Yes, but new employer is very keen on both general and specific training support

    Do you have a mentor? No

    Main achievements to date? Achieving dream job against strong competition; Establishing new practices in new employer which have been valued and reflect both MSc training and personal experiences from earlier short-term contracts

    Key frustrations? Length of time preparing applications; Not hearing back on applications; Over two-year period with a very fragmented job record, wondering whether career plans would ever work out

    How I got started in SOCIAL WORK

    Whilst studying, to what extent did you intentionally use other non-education experience to prepare for future employment?

    Casual employment? Never

    Work placements/internship? Never

    Travel? Quite often

    Volunteering? Often

    Clubs and societies? Sometimes

    Assessment challenges? Time taken to complete applications; Understanding what interview questions required; Psychometric assessments

    What do you do for continuing professional development? I keep a log of training I’ve done (although not entirely up to date) and try to sense check it now and again – [from my earlier career] having to apply for my Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) upgrade helped with this!

    Main achievements to date? I am undertaking voluntary work in order to get enough experience to be accepted at university to study social work – complete change of career

    [Previous employer]:Achieving senior management position

    Getting my Chartered status with CIPD in Human Resource Management

    Getting my redundancy approved (previous employer)!

    Key frustrations? Uncertainty about future career direction; It’s taken me a while to get focused on what is really important to me, thus far when there have been setbacks I’ve tended to get upset then carry on regardless

    [Previous employer] – Seeing unfair practices (people getting promotions/bonuses etc. because their face fits); Blanket application of policy and procedures dictating illogical and wasteful actions instead of using discretion and appropriate decision making; Line managers that don’t stick up for you

    Appendix E: Example of Reflective Learning/Action Learning Log


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