Many students ask about becoming a careers adviser. Our staff come from a wide variety of backgrounds and training routes so there is no one answer or job description that fits all. But you will find there are some common themes…
Two Careers Advisers give their views
What does your job involve?
- One to one advice – both guidance and quick query.
- Designing, delivering and evaluating students performance on Career Management Skills courses ( accredited modules often delivered over 10 weeks, involving group project work) – Similar to lecturing or teaching.
- I qualified in ability and personality profiling with The British Psychological Society and deliver workshops on the subject plus assessment centres etc. I also provide advice to colleagues on specialist areas including law, finance and psychometrics.
- Offering guidance appointments to a range of students & graduates.
- Delivering and planning careers related sessions and events. I also design and deliver activities and events in the Schools (individual subject areas).
- Writing for the web and keeping up to date with careers information and changes in the job market. I also liaise with academics and employers.
What are you working on at the moment?
- Evaluating external psychometric providers with a view to providing access to their services on our website
- Trying to broaden the appeal of finance to those who would not normally want to work in traditional roles, such as banking accountancy. Looking at roles in NGOS and charities – through running sessions for staff and for students to raise awareness.
- I’m relatively new to the role of Disability Co-ordinator for the Careers Service, one which I really enjoy. This entails offering extended guidance appointments to disabled students and graduates, acting as a point of reference for careers service and external enquiries, liaising with the Disability Support Office, organising events and updating information.
- My other areas of interest include teaching, careers related to psychology, working in the public or voluntary sector, the arts, media and publishing.
So how did you get to this point in your career?
- I started in traditional banking and after qualifying got a role as assistant marketing manager for the region. This involved designing and delivering customer service training to new recruits. I received positive feedback from managers, however this more non-traditional banking role had no promotion opportunities so I had to return to traditional banking roles in operations and corporate to get on. However at each stage I sought out opportunities to be involved in training.
- Finally as part of the Banks corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities I worked on a secondment to a charity where I had a chance meeting with the then director of the Careers Service. This resulted in a secondment to the careers service to use my training experience working on designing and delivery of Career Management Skills courses. I soon found myself becoming involved in and enjoying 1-1 interactions with students and gained a contract as a careers adviser.
- I did a degree in English at Leeds then a PGCE and taught English for seven years in 2 high schools. After a brief spell in residential social work I retrained by studying for a PG Diploma in Careers Guidance, working in a local authority careers service for four years before moving into HE.
- Key decision points: deciding to pursue careers guidance from teaching. I had done some mentoring and one-to-one work in teaching and decided I wanted to build on and develop these skills. I was keen to stay in education so it seemed a natural choice. It entailed taking out a Career Development Loan which was manageable at that point in my life as I had no dependents at that time.
What are the highs & lows?
- Really I like all of it – seeing people move on and improve as a result of my input.
- When we understand our personalities there are activities that one might minimise but other people love. I’m not into flip charts and post-its!
- Highs: the satisfaction of helping a student or graduate to move forward in their decision-making. This can take many forms from simple signposting to information and/or opportunities or successfully coaching someone through a mock interview. It’s great to hear back from someone who’s been offered a job!
- Lows: the job is extremely time intensive and there are many demands on our time so it can be difficult to juggle everything we are required to do, particularly at busier times of year such as the first semester. It has been compared to spinning plates at high speed!
What training or experience are essential to get in?
- New universities seem to insist on qualifications – (Qualification in Career Guidance (QCG), or S/NVQ Level 4 in Advice and Guidance)
- Older more traditional universities recruit more of a mix and value skills and experience in certain sectors especially HR & training in any industrial context – it is a people business.
- I came in through the traditional route of training in careers guidance but many colleagues come from other backgrounds such as recruitment, HR or finance. A degree is required, but it is possible to study for a guidance related qualification while working.
- Experience of working on a one to one basis definitely helps as the central part of our job is the ability to be an active listener and to communicate effectively. Strong presentation skills are also very important.
What about attitude, personality or interests?
- It’s not just a case of attitude – it’s more knowing when to change your attitude to the circumstances.
- Sometimes you have to tell people things they may not want to hear, and you need to be able to deal with that with sympathy and empathy.
- You need to be open to new experiences – I found an interest in psychometric testing and was fortunate that the service was able to pay for training and for me to specialise in this area.
- You need to like making things better.
- You need to be aware that often there are no right answers.
- It’s very people centred job so you have to really enjoy conversing and listening to individual’s stories. Everyone has one and it can be endlessly fascinating to engage with so many.
- You need to be curious about the issues relating to the graduate labour market and to have a good memory to retain lots of information. As it’s a job which involves dealing not just with the service users but also employers and academics you need to be flexible and responsive to their needs.
- Sometimes you are doing or saying the same things over and over again so you need a positive attitude and a sense of humour!
- Changes in technology also drive the job to some extent so you have to be adaptable.
How have you found opportunities in this field?
Adviser A (covered earlier)
I made a speculative application to Manchester as I’d heard there was a possible vacancy. (HE vacancies are often advertised on jobs.ac.uk – editor)
What advice would you give someone considering a similar career?
- Use your networks and do some work shadowing preferably in a range of different organisations. Find out if it’s for you before doing a course.
- Keep open mind.
- Do plenty of research into the issues around HE, as there are always changes going on and things can move quite fast.
- Be aware of information relating to graduates’ destinations and student satisfaction.
- Have an interest in helping and guiding people; maybe trying mentoring, counselling or coaching of some description.
- Try and arrange some shadowing so you get a realistic picture of the job. Have plenty of examples to draw on of your communication and analytical skills.
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