Advising on careers and employability

  • Students rate employability one of the most important reasons for going to university. Yet many fail to take advantage of wider developmental activities on offer while they are here, or struggle to articulate the value of their higher level skills to potential employers.

    Your role in relation to careers advising

    Your advisees' employability and development is something they need to assume for themselves, but your responsibility is to encourage them to become as actively and reflectively engaged as early on in their own development as possible, and to alert them to the range of opportunities available for enhancing their employability.

    Academic Advisers are not expected to provide formal careers advice, but instead act as a 'gatekeeper' to the range of resources and services available through Careers.

    In practice this means:

    97% of students visiting Careers rated staff as very welcoming or extremely welcoming.

    • Asking advisees about their experience and interests and encouraging them to experiment and find out more about themselves through:
      • student-led University activities
      • volunteering
      • work experience
      • developmental activities run by Careers
      • personal reflection using the Graduate/Postgraduate Attribute framework
    • Signposting them to sources of information such as Brookes Union and the Careers Centre
    • Advocating formal work-related learning or placement modules
    • Encouraging students interested in year out or year abroad opportunities to seek information and sources of support, but being aware of how to deal positively with issues such as loss of peer or social networks on return
    • Ensuring your advisees are aware of the value of all extra-curricular and work-related activity for their employability

    Impartial guidance and advice

    Students have a right (as set out by the QAA) to expect that any formal or informal careers information, advice and guidance they receive is completely impartial.

    Bearing this in mind, try to:

    Only a fifth of graduate level jobs require a specific degree discipline.

    CBI 'Learning to Grow' Education and Skills Survey, 2012
    • encourage your advisees to think, and talk, about their plans for the future rather than postpone it (whilst recognising undecidedness as a normal part of the process)
    • advise them to seek quality careers information and to fully test their ideas and assumptions (myths and stereotypes abound about the labour market)
    • make them aware that many key timings are earlier than they think and to seek timely advice

    Ask open, encouraging questions, rather than being directive or close down options, and remain impartial:

    Do say 
    'What interests you? What thoughts have you had about...? How are you getting on with...?'

    Not 
    'Have you got a graduate job lined up for next year? What career have you decided to go into when you graduate?

    Do say 
    'How could you find out more...?'

    Not 
    'Why don't you...? You'd be good at... I think you should...
    Encourage your advisees to research and find out for themselves rather than giving or endorsing information that may be partial or inaccurate.

    Do say 
    'Are there reliable sources of information you could use to check that out? Who could you speak to for help with that?' (See 'Further information' below for ideas.)

    Don't say
    (to an advisee who says 'I can't be a primary school teacher with my degree.'): 
    'Well, have you thought about something else? 
    Or 'There are no jobs in...'

    Do say
    'I think you would be more than capable of going on to the Masters - but I'd advise thinking through all your options and the implications of postgraduate study before you make a decision. The Careers Centre can help you with this.'

    Don't say 
    'The next step for you is obviously to go onto our Masters programme.

    Further information

    For you

    For your advisees