The Kickstarter to my Career in Illustration

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Tomoko Nishida undertook an internship for Ying Adviser (Linkelite) as a Creative Marketing Intern.

The UWE International Talent Scheme has been a great opportunity for me. It was formative in kickstarting my career as a professional illustrator. My tasks were realistic and achievable, and I was able to make a real difference to the company. I learned how to conduct business in the UK, and developed marketable skills.

Pale pink Chinese lanterns in the background with the outlines of two pandas in the foreground, with the title Ying Advisers

I was placed at Ying Adviser, a start-up consultancy. Ying Adviser provides information about China and its culture, to businesses wishing to expand their presence in China. Prior to my assignment, their online presence was under-developed.

My brief as a Creative Marketing Intern was to help develop an online brand to their specification. The brand would demonstrate their business’s understanding of China. 

Following a successful video interview: the supervisor and I arranged to meet in a cafe to discuss the placement. She was one of the company’s two directors, and told me the story of their company. We were interested in each other’s culture, and so I was excited to draw Chinese illustrations for use on their website. My working hours were flexible: I would work 3 days per week, for 4 weeks. 

I characterised the company’s directors as pandas. I worked on the general idea of pandas having fun, and provided a range of sketches. I had a lot of freedom to decide what to make and how to make it. The brief specified that I would work in red and greyscale watercolour, to evoke a traditional Chinese style. 

Tomoko talking to other students at the Celebrating UWE Talent Awards

The use of humour was the core theme of the illustration. For example: pandas being fried in woks, or riding paper planes or hugging one another. I had to develop techniques for Chinese watercolour in a short time.  Adding elements of Chinese calligraphy helped me to give my illustrations an authentic feel. I tried to depict humour and a sense of momentum by using strong brush strokes. Combining these new techniques broadened my perspective of painting and brushwork.  

This work experience gave me an opportunity to develop Photoshop skills, which directly improves employability. I have gained confidence in using Photoshop in a professional way. 

Once a week, I would work with my supervisor at her house. The rest of the time, I worked from home. This developed my self-management – a skill essential for any illustrator. I would write a daily report on what work I’d produced, and what my plans were for the next shift. The directors emailed me regular and useful feedback. 

I recognise that I would benefit from pursuing experience in a creative team, to complete my professional profile. It is important to learn from a teacher or fellow professional. 

The creative techniques and organisational skills that I honed during this internship, are already proving useful for my 3rd year personal project, and I have confidence that they will help me toward my dream of illustrating children’s books professionally.


The International Talent Internship Scheme provides you with a paid short-term work opportunity over the summer. Internships are a great way to experience the professional workplace and develop your skills.  

If you would like to find out more about International Talent Internships, then do get in touch on InternationalTalent@uwe.ac.uk.

What Happens After Graduation?

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Opus Talent Solutions share their insights on how to get your first graduate role

You’re finally a graduate. You’ve completed your studies and, as someone’s bound to tell you, the world’s your oyster. Yet oysters can be tricky to get into, even if you’ve done your research and come to the table prepared. 

Finding your first graduate role can be challenging. Whether you have a highly specific career path in mind, or you’re simply overwhelmed by the options available, it’s not unusual to feel a little lost at this stage. 

Fortunately, once you find your feet, the prospect of searching for your first ‘proper job’ will quickly become a lot less intimidating. Ultimately, you need to play to your strengths, be proactive in your search, and be prepared to acknowledge and challenge your weaknesses. 

Focus on what makes you uniquely suitable for the role in question – don’t be afraid to talk yourself up!

Your degree will form a huge part of your CV, so it’s important to highlight the key elements of your studies that will showcase your skills, particularly those that may not be immediately apparent.  For example, a mathematics degree may demonstrate your ability to handle complex problems with abstract reasoning, while pharmacology might imply attention to detail and a methodical approach. 

You probably have a limited work history, likely in unrelated areas to your studies, but if you can write a few lines that show development in each role, i.e. “I learnt how to X, Y and Z, and took on extra responsibility for 1, 2, 3”, you’ll be setting yourself apart from the competition. 

Honesty about your ability and achievements demonstrates that you’re capable, forthright, and confident in your strengths; all attractive attributes as far as employers are concerned. 

From my experience of talking to thousands of grads, I’d say 90% of them never once visited their university careers office… why?! 

Trained professionals are sat, waiting for someone to knock on the door, so they’ll be super keen to impart their wisdom and point you in the right direction. Make the most of them while you still can!

While you’re at it, don’t forget to toggle-on “open to new opportunities” on your LinkedIn account. You can find this under the privacy tab of your account settings. To make it easier for recruiters to find you.

Seek out your ideal opportunities and directly approach organisations – even if they’re not currently advertising for graduates. 

Critically, you should not expect a graduate role to simply fall into your lap. No matter how talented you are, employers also want to know that you are passionate, driven, and independent. Show your initiative by actively pursuing internships and placements.

Your ideal role may not exist at the time you go looking for it. However, this does not mean you can’t create it. By taking control of your search, and being open to a range of options, you give yourself a far greater chance of getting your foot in the door. 

Then you can begin to accrue industry experience, build trust with your employer, and crucially begin to carve out a niche within the organisation. Over time, this may enable you to develop your role into one that is more in line with your ambitions, or use it as a stepping stone to the next stage of your career. 

The confidence, professionalism and sense of achievement you feel after completing a placement is incredible. It gave me an insight into opportunities and inspired me to reach my highest potential.
Eleanor Jayne Elizabeth, OPUS placement student.

The fundamental thing to remember is to tailor your communications to each individual company, showing you’ve done your homework, have a clear understanding of their business, and are serious about making a good impression. 

Foster Connections 

Not every application can be a success. However, every attempt is a learning experience, and a chance to add to your professional network on LinkedIn. 

For example, if you’re turned down due to a lack of available opportunities, or your role is only temporary, encourage these connections to get in touch if something suitable comes up in the future. Similarly, you might ask them to recommend you should they hear of someone else looking for a graduate with your skillset. 

Don’t be afraid to give something new a shot

Remember, this is just the first stage of your career, so don’t lose hope if the perfect role doesn’t immediately materialise. In the meantime, everything you do will increase your experience, enabling you to develop new skills and expand your portfolio.   A varied background demonstrates your versatility, and willingness to adapt. Plus, you may even discover a new calling along the way. 


Why not check out the international graduate scheme offered by Opus Talent Solutions? The two-year intensive training program provides opportunities in London, Bristol, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, New York, and Sydney. 

Confidence, Coding and Challenges: My NMI Placement

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Rob Barclay, Computer Science student from UWE Bristol, talks about his placement year at NMI

Throughout university, we are constantly told by tutors and professors that a work placement offers the most valuable experience of working in the ‘real world’, along with all the invaluable industry knowledge it brings. I’m happy to say that they couldn’t have been more right!  

I was aware of the close links NMI had with our university via previous students having had both fun and successful placements there, so it was highly recommended as a great place for me to get this valuable ‘real world’ experience. I saw that the company was creating real impact within the payment industry, processing millions of transactions yearly. 

How I went about finding a placement

First and foremost I had to show the company I wanted to work there. I sent in my CV and completed an online ‘code challenge’. The final stages of the process was a phone interview followed by a face to face interview.  

I would say that the best tip for an interview is to be as prepared as possible, this shows that you have a genuine interest in the company and learning new skills. I did loads of research and made sure I could really express why I was so keen to seize the opportunity!  

When I was offered the placement I immediately accepted the offer. Like all new jobs it seemed daunting at first. However, the company couldn’t have been more welcoming.  The team made me feel really relaxed along with a buzz that made me feel I wanted to work there.  From being able to dress casually to free fruit, and breakfast on a Wednesday.

What I did at NMI …

I joined the platform team, a group of 6 people; a team lead, four developers and one tester. All focusing on developing the central processing layer which is the fundamental server powering all our products and services. 

After some initial training, I was assigned my first task. This involved setting up the CI (continuous integration) for one of the company’s new flagship products. This is widely used within the software development industry as a whole is not touched at university. This experience has shown that it is necessary to have for my future career.  

I always felt in control of my workload and whilst the work was challenging, I always knew I was only ever expected to work to the best of my ability and I was able to ask for assistance.

Working life at NMI… 

Being surrounded by industry professionals helped increase my coding skills exponentially and complemented what I learned at university. I felt extremely supported by the team. It was also satisfying to be able to work on other projects where I could take the skills that I had picked up in my lectures and practicals, adapt them to the scope of the problem in front of me and create a solution that will potentially be used by thousands of people. It was an unexpected but great experience to know that I was making such a difference from the get-go. 

I have also had the chance to partake in company-wide presentations, cross-team meetings and representing the company to future candidates at UWE careers fair. All helping me increase my confidence and communication; both vital skills required in any industry.  

By adapting to a full-time job, focussed specifically on the field that I study, has given me a massive confidence boost for my final year, and future jobs to come. As previously mentioned, doing a placement is an invaluable experience and I’ve really enjoyed my time at NMI so far.  

I thoroughly recommend anyone considering doing a placement year to just go for it! 


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