Marketing your postgraduate experience
Tips and resources on documenting what you have gained through your postgraduate study, and on ‘selling’ your postgraduate experience in an interview.
Curriculum Vitae (CV)
A description of your postgraduate education should hold a prominent place on your CV. In a UK-style CV it should be described in detail, but you don’t need the same level of detail for a USA-style résumé. How you describe your postgraduate degree will depend on whether the subject of your degree is relevant. Your CV should be targeted to the job you are applying for, so you need to present evidence that you possess the job qualities sought, from the perspective of the employer’s needs.
If your subject is relevant to the job
If your subject is relevant to the job, then give titles and descriptions of the courses you have taken, describe the subject-specific knowledge and technical skills (if appropriate) you have gained, and give a detailed account of your dissertation topic, including the title (assuming this is relevant to the job). You will also want to mention the skills used and developed during your postgraduate study.
If your subject is not relevant to the job
If your subject is not relevant to the job, then draw attention to the skills you developed during your studies and to how you developed them, without subject-specific detail. You may have developed an ability to critically analyse texts through writing a review of literature, for example; or your cross-cultural communication skills may have increased through group projects with students from different countries; or you may have acquired strong presentation skills through assessed presentation of dissertation work. For your dissertation, give only a general outline of the topic and focus on the approaches you used to conduct your research, any methodologies that could be of interest to the employer, and project management or other skills developed.
For further information on preparing an effective CV, see the Careers Service website.
Update your online profile
LinkedIn is a useful tool for informing your network about the new skills and experience you have gained through your postgraduate studies. If you don’t have a profile on LinkedIn, consider creating one. If you already have a profile, update it with the skills you’ve developed throughout your studies, give details of the projects you’ve been involved in, and demonstrate your research skills by describing your independent research project (dissertation). If your subject area is related to the career you want to pursue, then add information on your new areas of knowledge and expertise.
The Careers Service offers advice on using LinkedIn and has an example of a student profile that you may find useful.
You will want to talk confidently about the value of your postgraduate degree at job (or further study) interviews. In your CV, you presented what you have gained from your postgraduate study from the perspective of what your employer will be looking for; in a job interview, you will need to do the same.
If your interview is for further study (possibly a PhD) or for a job related to your subject area, then obviously you will want to talk about the knowledge gained through your postgraduate degree as well as your academic skills.
It is very common for non-academic employers to use competency- or skills-based interviews, and even if the subject of your postgraduate degree is not related to the job you will still be able to demonstrate its value to the employer. The interviewer will ask you a series of questions based on the skills and qualities required for the job. You will be expected to give examples of occasions when you have already demonstrated these competencies.
Examples of the type of questions asked include:
- Explain how you have been able to develop strong working relationships.
- Describe a situation when you have had to persuade an individual or a group to follow a particular course of action. What did you do and what was the outcome?
- Give an example of an occasion during which you needed to draw on your leadership qualities. How did you lead and motivate the group effectively? On reflection, how could you have improved your performance?
- Tell me about a time when you used your creativity to solve a complex problem.
How to answer competency questions
To answer these types of questions, you should be able to draw on examples from your postgraduate studies as well as other types of experience. A useful structure for answering this type of question is the STAR approach.
Situation: Provide some context by describing the situation. Set the scene but keep this part of your answer concise.
Task: Outline the objective/goal you had to achieve.
Action: Describe what you did, what your role was and what input you had.
Result: Describe what the outcome was, whether you were successful in meeting your objective or goal, and what skills you developed as a result.
For further information on how to prepare for and perform well at interviews, visit the Careers Service website.