Monthly Archives: February 2017

The road to employment according to a PSC Graduate

We caught up with PSC Graduate Mathias Holmen Johnsen, currently an instructor at the Norwegian National Emergency Planning College. Below he tells us about his journey into the job market and how his professional skill set has developed since he took part in our course. 

“I graduated from St Andrews first in 2013. That was at the end of an M.A. in International Relations and Psychology. I then went straight on to take an M.Litt. in Terrorism Studies, graduating from that in 2014. I’m now a civil servant, teaching courses on various topics related to civil and public safety and security. My work consists partially of course preparation (gathering materials, doing research, making presentations, etc.), whilst I also hold these courses (lecturing, advising on group-work, etc.). I believe my academic credentials and oratorical experience (I was an active member in the university’s Model United Nations society) was most important in securing this position.


This was all offset by my involvement with the Professional Skills Curriculum, which I saw as an opportunity to obtain skills that would be useful for professional life that I would not get explicit training in through my academic activities. The PSC provided a foundation for understanding the context of a professional work-environment. Whilst the PSC is of course limited by its size and time, I felt it provided a very good introduction that was worthwhile to have when I began my career. It is also something I feel I have been able to build upon further in my job.

For example, I have found workplace diplomacy to be crucial to success. It is useful to cultivate the ability to decline requests when you are overworked, voice concerns or raise issues regarding someone else’s project or product, whilst steering clear of general conflict. Doing this and similar things in a polite, positive and productive way is a very important skill that seems to be rather overlooked. My advice to those currently experiencing the job hunt would be this: Your skills can qualify you for unexpected professions, so keep an open mind and do some in-depth research on what sort of jobs are actually available. You might be pleasantly surprised!”

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Employers’ Tip: The STAR Interview Technique

Interviews are often daunting experiences, but remain instrumental to the application process and generally determine why one candidate is successful over another. To try and grasp exactly what employers are looking for from interviewees, the Professional Skills Curriculum Team quizzed several organizations at one of the university’s recent careers fairs.

Police Scotland particularly emphasized the importance of interview styles and recommended using the STAR technique, formulating answers using the following pattern:

describe a SITUATION  explain your TASK – say what ACTION you took – reveal the RESULT.


They believe that the benefit of this method is that it helps you stay focused on giving your interviewer specific examples of your success. Equally, the ‘Result Section’ of your answer allows you to quantify how you personally made a difference to the situation.


This simple acronym is one to keep in mind for when you next attend an interview, as it gives you a transferable structure which can be applied to any question. It also makes it easier to give organised and logical responses, demonstrating to your prospective employer that you have an ability both to provide relevant examples of your competencies and evaluate how projects you have been involved with have progressed from start to finish.



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