Postgraduate Careers: Reflecting on 2020

Guest BloggerAdvice, Guest Blogger, Postgraduate, Postgraduate Placements


This blog post is aimed at Aston University Postgraduate students


Well, 2020 is nearly at a close, and what a year it’s been! We’re sure this year has presented challenges for each of you in different ways, as it has for us and businesses alike. However, I hope we can all move into 2021 with a positive mindset and make the most of the opportunities presented to us.

Firstly, an introduction. My name is James and I am a new member of the Careers+Placements team here at Aston, having joined in September to help support recent and current postgraduates.

Upon being tasked with preparing this piece, I thought it would be wise (and interesting) to have a look back through some of the other blogs posted throughout the year for reference. In doing so, I began to reflect on some of the messages we sent out and how they have developed, given the unexpected circumstances and impact of Covid-19. Despite the difficulties and challenges being faced in many sectors, there have been lots of positives, so I thought it would be good to highlight these…

How are businesses responding to Covid-19?

Back in January we mentioned the new accounting opportunities on offer from PwC across the UK and, since then PwC have been very busy proactively responding to Covid-19:

Move to virtual

PwC’s innovative Virtual Park has hosted a twice-weekly forum presenting potential applicants the opportunity to experience their office space in virtual reality, as well as a chance to attend the numerous events they have hosted throughout the year in an interactive setting. These have included guidance with applications and insights from senior PwC staff on how they are navigating the current business climate. PwC’s virtual park incorporates their virtual assessment centre, which ensured that they could keep recruiting throughout lockdown.                          

Diversity and Inclusion

PwC ran their first Diversity and Inclusion (D+I) week (hosted in their Virtual Park). This week comprised of talks from inspirational members of the PwC business and interactive skills sessions focussed on inclusion and highlighting its importance to PwC.

Spearheading D+I, PwC also launched their Black Talent in Business Programme, to reach out to black students and encourage them to explore opportunities at PwC, with the chance of an internship or placement and the aim to secure a graduate position after university.

What can you do to become a standout candidate during lockdown?
Student working from home

In the January blog post, we referred to the AGCAS Skills Shortage report, which highlighted the sectors where recruiters were receiving generally low rates of application and were finding applicants lacked the skills they wanted. There are still many skills in high demand that applicants don’t possess, so it’s as important as ever to ensure you’re developing them. In April we published a blog around developing skills from home and since then, our colleagues have identified the following resources to help you develop skills.

Open Learn
Online courses on a range of topics including healthcare, psychology, the arts, languages, business, politics and STEM. These courses range in length from 1-50 hours and are completely self-guided. While these qualifications are unaccredited they do offer certificates of completion. 

Future Learn
Short online courses on a range of topics including IT, languages, law, psychology, engineering, maths, politics, and the arts. These courses usually run for a couple of hours each week. Future Learn (and some other online course providers) may ask you if you wish to purchase a ‘premium’ version of the course so that you can receive a certificate, but this is not necessary; you can still add the course to your CV without purchasing the certificate.

The Forage (Previously known as Inside Sherpa)
Virtual internships on a range of businesses, including Goldman Sachs, Deloitte, Pinsent Masons and Citi bank.

Project Set
Virtual internships in which students work on real-life projects.

Google Digital Garage
Online courses focused on business development, eCommerce, digital marketing, and technology.

The Odin Project
Online training for anyone interested in web development, offering opportunities to learn HTML, CSS, JavaScript and other skills. You do not have to be studying computer science or a technology-related degree to benefit from the training.

What have we been getting up to in Careers+Placements?

The C+P team has been incredibly busy, offering support and services to help you find the right role and make an outstanding application:

We continue to send out weekly Thursday opportunity emails and will continue in the new year, following the Christmas break. These have received some really positive feedback from graduates and we would encourage you read through them thoroughly and apply for roles that catch your eye in a timely fashion, as they can be withdrawn early if the employer receives lots of applications (recent Public Health England roles are a good example).

We also have our new CV360 tool, which is accessible to graduates and gives you a quick and easy way to check your CV prior to an application.

We’ve used Aston Futures to deliver a host of online workshops and employer sessions, which will also continue in the new year. If you’ve missed any of our bespoke evening workshops and employer webinars, you can watch recordings via our PGT YouTube playlist.

We now have even more ways to help you prepare for interviews: in addition to using Launchpad, we now have access to additional interview tools provided by Abintegro, the parent company on CV360.

I think there are many positives to be taken from this year, with lots of businesses doing their best to adapt to the changing world and still offer excellent opportunities to graduates. With numbers of advertised opportunities returning to levels equivalent to previous years, it would seem that the labour market is bouncing back, albeit with a greater degree of home-working and flexibility to remain for many people. With the prospect of a successful vaccine around the corner and the light of a potential move to normality at the end of the tunnel, now is the time to ensure you are in the best position to capitalise and take action.

Take a look at our Career Action Planning video and utilise the Careers+Placements services listed above to be a standout candidate. We look forward to reconnecting with you all in the new year and hope that you have a wonderful Christmas break.


Blog post written by Guest Blogger, James Mileson.