Like any organisation, Careers Network uses a number of specialist terms. Here we explain what we mean by them.

Browse glossary alphabetically


Advice Desk

A bookable appointment which enables you to receive dedicated, tailored 1:2:1 support from a Careers Advisor or similar professional from Careers Network. Advice Desk appointments may be booked on-line through Careers Connect, or by calling-in to the main Careers Network reception.



A bursary is a sum of money you can apply for to support work experience you undertake that is not a requirement of your course. The funding can help towards costs you may incur such as travel, accommodation and utilities. The amount of funding available varies, as does the eligibility of students; visit our internships site to find out more about the different bursaries you can apply for.


Careers Connect

Careers Connect is the main way for you to get in touch with us. It's a system you use for booking your own appointments and event places, viewing vacancies for jobs and work experience opportunities, looking at the employers who have registered with us, sending us queries, and so on.

All students should have accounts automatically created for them, using the same username and password details as their my.bham account.

Coaching and skills workshop

Sessions where you can learn the tools you need to succeed in applications, interviews, and other job search activities. These may be run by careers advisers, recruiters, or employer representatives, and usually involve you getting involved with activities or discussion.

Cogent Life Sciences placements

Cogent SSC is the employer-led, strategic skills body for the science industries. Cogent’s work is closely aligned with science employers’ skills needs. It both responds to the demands of business and connects with government policies. Cogent’s Life Science Placements Service is an employer-led programme which has been developed to increase the number of student and graduate placements currently being offered by industry.


The University is divided into five colleges, which are made up of schools and departments. Our services are mostly organised by college, so when you use Careers Connect it will know which college you belong to and show you appointments and events which have been tailored for your college.

Commercial awareness

Commercial awareness means that whatever your sector you understand how organisations work and the wider area surrounding them. What leads to successes or failures, sector trends, competitor awareness, products, services and customers etc.

Competency-based questions

Competency questions are interview questions that require candidates to provide real life examples as the basis of their answers. A common example of this type of question would be “Give me an example of a time when you have worked as part of a team?”

Cover letter

A cover letter is a letter which is submitted to an employer when applying for a job, placement, internship or similar work experience. The cover letter explains to the employer why you are contacting them. Typically, a cover letter will introduce you, explain why you are writing, what you are looking for, what relevant skills you have and what you would like to happen next. If you don’t include a cover letter with your CV, a recipient is likely to question why you have sent them your CV, before disposing of it.


Your CV, or curriculum vitae, is an overview of your skills, experience and academic qualifications. Overseas, it may also be referred to as a resume. A typical CV in the UK will be of no more than two sides of A4 in length and will include your contact details, a profile, your skills and experience.



The Destinations of Leavers in Higher Education (DLHE) survey asks leavers from Higher Education what they are doing on a particular reference (census) date. The exact dates vary each year but are intended to be roughly six months after graduation. The information may be collected by questionnaire or telephone call. The information is used to help identify the proportion of a university’s graduates who move into graduate-level employment.


Similar to an advice desk session, this is not bookable and students are free to turn up at any time when the session is running, to see a member of staff from Careers Network. Drop-ins are normally tailored - for example they may be dedicated to internships or further study.



Organisations who offer employment or work experience. They may be public or private sector, profit-making and not-for-profit.


An enterprising person shares the same skills as an entrepreneur; leadership, project management, communicative, resourceful, organised, proactive and opportunistic, highly motivated, positive when faced with challenges and seeks solutions to problems.


An entrepreneurial person is concerned with the development of an idea into a business venture start-up and demonstrates skills such as initiative, risk-taking, commitment, problem solving, flexibility and optimism as a small example.


This is essentially courteous and professional behaviour. Terms such as interview etiquette refer to the way in which a candidate conducts themselves in an interview situation. There are established protocols including the way in which a candidate should dress, the way in which they should present themselves to the interviewers, their body language and many others. Careers Network can provide you with guidance regarding interview etiquette as well as helping you to test your etiquette in a mock interview situation.



Fairs are events where a wide range of employers and other organisations have stands and you can visit them to get advice about multiple opportunities.

Careers Network holds fairs in the autumn term and throughout the year, for topics including recruitment, volunteering, college or subject-specific options, work experience and internships.


Insight days

An opportunity to find out more about a certain career and experience the firm's ideas, aims and nature first-hand without the pressure of work experience. You may have the chance to look around and meet people who are doing the job in a less formal environment - a kind of taster session.


A kind of work experience, usually longer-term, ranging from anything between 6 weeks to 6-12 months. The intern is expected to carry out specific work-related tasks with the aim of providing them with professional experience and the opportunity to develop skills related to working in a particular sector or profession. Usually extra-curricular and paid.



"Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be." Eric Parsloe, The Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring.

Careers Network has two extremely well-established mentoring programmes – our mentoring and Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programmes. Visit the mentoring pages to find out more about these and other University of Birmingham mentoring schemes.



A term used by professionals and employers to define the people that you are connected to in your life through family, friends, neighbours, employment, and organisations you are involved in such as sports teams or societies. Your network can help you find work experience, give you insider information on sectors or industries you're interested in, point you towards vacancies and opportunities, and introduce you to key individuals who can help you further, among many other possibilities. Careers Network events which can help you grow your network include fairs, workshops and insight days.



Peer Assisted Study Sessions or PASS is a peer support project overseen by Library Services. They give students an opportunity to work together and discuss their learning; sessions are facilitated by student leaders in higher years. PASS is only available for certain modules.


A kind of work experience, placements are integral components of a student’s programme of study with a minimum number of weeks required. Often placements are assessed, with students being required to submit a placement report. They vary in length with the most common being the sandwich placement which usually falls after students have completed 2 years of an undergraduate programme. They offer an invaluable opportunity to develop professionalism, employability skills and an impressive professional network. Usually paid but there is no legal obligation on the employer to pay.


A presentation is usually a talk given by a speaker - often either Careers Network staff or employers - on a given subject; you will usually have an opportunity to ask questions at the end, but it is unlikely to include discussion or group activities.


>>Progress>> is a tool which helps you log and track the skills you already have and the ones you develop at university, as well as identifying skills you can improve on. With its help, you can gain confidence in talking about your skills, which will assist you in applying for jobs and opportunities. It is accessed via my.bham.


The Personal Skills Award (PSA) is an optional award designed for undergraduate students to develop and enhance your employability. The Modular pathway runs workshops and assessments to help you develop and articulate your skills; it will be included on your transcript. The Activity pathway helps you get recognition for the skills you learn through extra-curricular activities. Many employers value the PSA as a sign that a student has taken the time to develop their employability skills.

PSA can also refer to the Public Service Academy in the College of Social Sciences.

Psychometric testing

Psychometric tests or questionnaires are tools used in job selection, career planning and development. Often they will look at your aptitudes or abilities, personality type, or learning style.



Work shadowing provides students with an opportunity to gain an insight into a working environment, by observing the duties performed by people there on a day-to-day basis. Work shadowing does not require students to undertake contractual duties which would be performed normally by a paid employee, so you should not expect to be paid. 

Typically, work shadowing will be over a short period of time – normally no more than a few days. It provides an invaluable insight into what a job is "really" like (rather than just how it may be described in an advert). It also provides excellent networking opportunities and the chance to impress, which may lead to further, more involved work experience or internship opportunities in the future.


Skills4studycampus is an online e-learning system which will help you with your study skills, encourage you to assess your abilities, and let you practice to improve your weak spots. It has interactive exercises, materials to read, tests and assessments to take, and can help you prepare practically and mentally for your time at university.

STAR method

The STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is a method of structuring answers to questions on application forms and during interviews. It is particularly useful when answering competency questions, such as “Describe a situation when you had to work as part of a team”.


Transferrable skills

These refer to the general skills used in the workplace. These skills may be gained in a variety of contexts such as previous employment, voluntary work, hobbies and interests, and home life and can be transferred into new working environments. Examples of transferrable skills include: problem solving, communication, leadership, decision-making and teamwork.

Transition review

Transition Review is a formal review of academic progress and personal adjustment for first year students and allows you to discuss your progress with your Personal Tutor, discuss the various sources of academic support available and also possible academic and professional development opportunities. It takes place in weeks 4 and 5 of your second term.



Volunteering is offering your time, unpaid, to help others or support a particular cause or interest you have. It can be a way to get experience in a field where paid work experience is difficult to find, or gain transferrable skills.


Work experience

Work experience lasts for a few weeks (we recommend no more than four) and is often extra-curricular and sometimes unpaid. Students develop understanding and knowledge through activities such as observation, shadowing, attending meetings, talking to employees and controlled tasks and overall getting a taste of what it is like to work in different professional environments. Work experience is a great way of making contacts.

If you have a term you would like to see explained, or think would be useful to add to this glossary, please contact us at


Professional Services