As the weather begins to chill and the leaves start to change color, every St Andrews student recognises the change of season—internship season that is! Although many summer internship applications won’t be due until closer to spring, positions are beginning to open and it’s crucial to start early. For undergraduate students who might be entering a sector of the job market with which they are unfamiliar for the first time, it can be difficult to know where to start. How should you maximise your CV as a student? Where can you find leads for job opportunities? What if you’re still trying to figure out what you want to do? Well, the University of St Andrews Career Centre can be an excellent resource to guide you through the entire journey.
To begin, the Career Centre website is your hub for exploring your options. Whether you are an undergraduate or postgraduate, you can navigate your options on whether to continue your studies, finding summer work, and explore opportunities for work shadowing. The website also acts as your notice board for career event dates, and exploring your degree options if you’re still unsure about where you see yourself working.
What if you want more hands-on assistance? The first step is to say “hello”. You can drop into the Career Centre by booking a 15-minute Quick Query through the website. These slots open at noon the day-of and are ideal for quick questions. It’s recommended if you’re asking for job-search advice because you can bring in your printed CV and cover letters for review.
Exploring Your Job Options
The Career Centre offers tools so you can explore your career path to help you find a job which is fulfilling. Again, especially if you’re just starting out, the website can be an invaluable resource. There, you can click on the “Careers A-Z” tab (under “Career Options”) to explore specialised fields. Here you can read more details about your chosen sector, including education requirements, sector skills, and job descriptions. Explore what looks interesting you that might be worth pursuing and from there the Career Centre can help you network with fellow alumni, find available internships, and connect with employers to shadow their work.
Under the tab for “Vacancies and Part-Time Jobs”, the website also lists regular opportunities for work placement in St Andrews. If you’d prefer to explore internship listings which would be available over break, head over to the “Jobs and Work Experience” sections which not only offers listings for internships and grad schemes, but also case study testimonies from students about how they secured their placement and the work they completed. Furthermore, you can find links to specialty websites (such as GoinGlobal and Vault) which can be used to explore international job opportunities as well, which is well-suited for St Andrew’s large international student population. All of St Andrews’ available job opportunities which are suggested through specialty employers will be posted on the Career Centre database Career Connect.
Not sure how to start? You can see sample CVs with tips on the Careers Website at Careers Centre > Jobs and work experience > The application process > CVs. Here are some general tips for an all-purpose CV (but please note that technical CVs are slightly different):
- “Education”: Always lead with this section, because university is your “full-time job” at the moment. Be sure to list your relevant modules.
- “Work Experience”: list ALL of your experiences – paid or unpaid internships, volunteering, jobs, etc. – and follow the CAR description method: Context (when/where/what title), Action (verbs describing what you did), Result (positive outcome, such as personal development or business success). Focus on the personal skills you have gained from your experiences.
- “Positions of Responsibility”: use the CAR description method again to focus on what you intended to achieve and what you actually achieved.
- “Additional Skills”: List any languages you speak (and your competency in each one), any IT packages you know how to use, and any miscellaneous awards and certificates you have been awarded.
- “Interests and Activities”: Sort your interests into broad categories, such as “Sport”, “Travel”, “Culture”, etc. For each category, put in a line summarising your experiences and mention some desirable aspect (determination, global mindset, independence, time management, and so on) which it helped develop.
- “Referees”: At the bare minimum, you should put “Referees available upon request”. You should cultivate referees as soon as possible. Suitable people would include an advisor, a tutor (if they have their PhD), and your Honours dissertation supervisor. Do not feel awkward asking them to be your referee: it is part of their job.
Many employers will invite their candidates to complete psychometric tests, interviews, and assessment centres. The Careers Centre has resources available to help you prepare for all of these.
If you have a psychometric test, before taking the real one you should try some sample tests. Go to Careers Centre > Jobs and work experience > The application process > Psychometric tests to choose from a wide variety of practice tests. While on that page, you can also check out some of the links to hone your mathematical skills if you will be taking a numerical exam.
As for interviews, there are regular interview workshops to help you get more comfortable doing them. They also provide an interview simulator (available at The application process > Interviews) which will allow you to record yourself answering questions and watch it back to improve yourself ahead of the real interview.
The Careers Centre also facilitates employers to run mock assessment centres, which allow you to make your mistakes and correct them before you are actually being assessed by the company you wish to work for.
Note that the Careers Centre workshops are part of the PSC (Professional Skills Curriculum) scheme, so if you are working toward getting that award on your transcript, you can kill two birds with one stone by coming to these workshops and learning how to get that position of your dreams.
Finally, while you’re in the process of applying for that ideal (but poorly paid) internship or work placement, you may also be interested in finding alternative ways to fund the experience. If so, you should check out the Funding database. It is in the Postgraduate Study part of the website, but it does also have funding opportunities for undergraduates. You can find it at Careers Centre > Postgraduate study > Funding > Funding database.
After the Internship
Once you have finished your internship or other work experience, the Careers Centre highly recommends that you fill out a Case Study at Careers Centre > Jobs and work experience > Case Studies > Student. You will be asked about how you found and applied for the opportunity, why you think your application was successful, and what your experience on the job was. In exchange for completing this survey, you get a certificate on your transcript.
Finally, we’d like to offer a special thanks to Liz Batterham at the University of St Andrews Career Centre for helping us explore their website and offered programmes.