Using your MSc to prepare you to step into industry

15 February 2021

Our dedicated MSc Career Coach, Nuo Xu, gives her practical advice for preparing for your future career during your Masters year.

As an MSc Career Coach, I regularly get asked what MSc students can do to make them stand out when searching for roles, and what to do to prepare themselves for those roles. My suggestion is to follow these five practical steps.

Think about what you want to do.
Identifying your target is the key to making your job hunt more productive. A high-quality job application is time-consuming; you can only make a limited amount of quality applications during the recruitment season. Recruiters prefer to hire candidates with a clear career goal and motivation. A simple model can help you identify what to do. Find the sweet spot between what you can do, what you love to do, and what the world would pay you to do. Use your course, societies, internships, and career/networking events help find this. You don’t have to have a clear answer, many of us spend years searching, but it’s undoubtedly beneficial to start thinking about it.

Research and networking.
When you have a job target, thoroughly researching the job requirements, companies, and industry is essential. There is information available through public channels such as company websites or professional databases, but there is also information you can’t find through public channels. The best way to find this is to network with people in the industry. Their insight and sometimes connections to job opportunities could give you an advantage.

Build commercial awareness.
Commercial awareness is in massive demand among business employers. In fact, according to recruiters, commercial awareness is something that the majority of graduates lack. Commercial awareness-building takes time. You can improve your commercial awareness in the following 4 steps:

  1. Read business news from credible resources, like the Financial Times (which all WBS MSc students get free account access to), to maintain general ideas about what’s happening in the business world.
  2. Read professional business analysis reports from professional databases and institutes to learn their insights and analysis logic.
  3. Start to write your comments or business analysis on topics that are related to your areas of interest and share where possible.
  4. Think and act as a business owner. Start your own business. The business can be investing small sums into a portfolio of your own on the stock market or selling small items online. At the very least, try to find a small business like a coffee shop and spend some time observing it. Do an analysis on their customer, business model, prices, etc. Think and share what you would do if you were the owner.

Step 1 and 2 will help build your knowledge. Step 3 and 4 help you to develop skills. Transferring knowledge to skill needs output, practice, and independent thinking.

Build up your evidence and your stories.
When you have a career goal and you know what skills are required, then it’s time to collect evidence to show recruiters that you have them. This evidence could include what you’ve accomplished and especially any problems that you’ve solved during your study, time with societies, competitions, or internships. Use all resources that the university provides to build up your portfolio. A result-driven mind-set can help you to build decent examples. For example, if you joined a society, simply participating in the training and meetings won’t be enough. Your contributions and achievements can be used to demonstrate your skills.

Practice telling your story
Many people may have incredible stories. To tell these well in an interview or job application form, you need to practice over and over. You can record yourself and watch it back. You could also practise telling the story to your friends. Make sure you book appointments with a careers coach for mock interviews and application form checking. We’re here to help you to make your stories more compelling.

All of our MSc students can get access to our bespoke CareersPlus support, including one-to-one sessions, workshops, CV advice, and much more.