Were you impressed or disappointed by your university careers service? Watch

Groat
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I recently wrote a blog about university careers services underdelivering, and am intrigued what other people think.

Were you impressed or disappointed by your university careers service? (Blog text below, as I shouldn't post the link out)

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I have spoken to a number of university students and alumni in the past months. One of my favourite questions is “Would you be disappointed if the careers service didn’t exist?” as it jumps straight to whether it’s adding value. The majority have answered this question about careers services with “no”. (LSE seems to be the most consistent counterpoint to this, with students applauding the services there)

Many students don’t bother to visit their careers service as they believe it won’t help. For those who visit their careers service, there is a common thread in what they describe as not working. It is often a struggle to get appointments. Advice is more generic than hoped. Students are leaving with too many unanswered questions and not feeling supported.

I’ve thought for a while on why many careers services often underdeliver. Here are my conclusions:
  1. Careers services don’t need to be the best, so they don’t invest heavily in technology to provide you with the best tools. Students choose universities based on their courses, campuses and opportunity for experiences. I’ve never heard anyone say “I chose Leicester over Leeds because their careers service is better”. You will pay £27,000+ for a university education regardless of whether your careers advisor supports you.
  2. At the current level of staffing, careers advisors don’t have the capacity to invest time into their students. For example, Cambridge University has ~30 minutes available per term for each final year student.* That’s not enough time to understand your career goals, review CVs and applications, practise interviews, help you choose between offers and teach you to negotiate salary.
  3. Careers services don’t connect you with advisors who have first-hand experience of the roles and industries you’re interested in. Careers advisors are often very experienced in their advisory role, and are equipped to ask smart questions. However, many of the students I spoke to want advice from people who are still operating in businesses, as this gives advisors an edge with current trends and commercial topics.

The positive intentions for careers services are there. I have no doubt there are some fantastic careers services and individual advisors. Yet, when students from top institutions such as Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol are saying their careers services are poor, it suggests to me the system just isn’t set up for success.

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*I reference Cambridge as I could quickly find a published annual report with some figures. I ran some quick maths and the calculations below are directionally correct.
  • Cambridge employs the equivalent of 12 full-time advisors (I assume anyone part time works 75%) In a Cambridge term students are there for 10 weeks, 50 working days, or 400 working hours.
  • Multiplying by the number of advisors, this leads to 4,800 hours available for 1–1 support. If you reduce that by 20% to consider non-contact hours (e.g. lunch, admin, preparing presentations), there are 3,840 hours, or 230,400 minutes.
  • Cambridge has 21,000 students (undergraduate and postgraduate) of which ~7,000 are in their final year. This means there are ~10 minutes available for every student per term or ~30 minutes for every final year student.
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J Papi
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Groat
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(Original post by JohanGRK)
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What was good?
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J Papi
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(Original post by Groat)
What was good?
Guaranteed 1 hour per term of meetings + no one complained if you went over it (I once got to 4 hours because I was asking everyone to check my apps)
Ex-recruiters from the field I wanted to go into helping out part time (and clearly labelled as such so that you knew that you should be booking a meeting with them instead of someone else)
Surprisingly good collaboration between the Careers Service, the department and the relevant student-run society (e.g. with regard to hosting one-off networking events, guest lectures)

If I had to caveat the above, I'd do so by saying that:
- There was fairly little career 'guidance' - Career Service events seemed to assume that you knew what you were doing - it was left for students to sort out 'exploratory' events
- I got a lot of help from fellow students so I didn't really need to resort to the Careers Service that often outside the main application cycle
- The best insights/tips about the real world came from more experienced people I met during work experience + academics who had previously worked in industry
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J Papi
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Groat Not sure about a lot of the points made in the blog itself...

  • Not sure that investing in 'tech' helps a Careers Service (beyond basic stuff like there being a system where you can find jobs through an online portal and/or upload your CV prior to a mock interview)
  • Most entry-level jobs don't allow for salary negotiation (or indeed the negotiation of anything other than when you plan to start)
  • Most students don't get more than one graduate offer (and, for those that do, the answer is often quite intuitive)
  • Career goals should ideally be discussed over time with someone that knows your full profile (both in terms of academics, but also in terms of work experience/languages), and who 'gets' you. For me, that was my academic advisor, who I knew from the first year.
  • Oxbridge colleges often have a member of faculty who double up as a careers advisor. Dunno how effective they are at this role given that most of them have never done a day of real work in their lives, but they're there. And I wouldn't underestimate part-time or visiting careers advisors - they're often part-time precisely because they're working or on leave from work (one of ours was an in-house lawyer on maternity leave)
Last edited by J Papi; 7 months ago
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Groat
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Report Thread starter 7 months ago
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(Original post by JohanGRK)
Guaranteed 1 hour per term of meetings + no one complained if you went over it (I once got to 4 hours because I was asking everyone to check my apps) ...
Thanks for this! I like the access to ex-recruiters on a part-time basis.
(Original post by JohanGRK)
Groat Not sure about a lot of the points made in the blog itself...

  • Not sure that investing in 'tech' helps a Careers Service (beyond basic stuff like there being a system where you can find jobs through an online portal and/or upload your CV prior to a mock interview)
  • Most entry-level jobs don't allow for salary negotiation (or indeed the negotiation of anything other than when you plan to start)
  • Most students don't get more than one graduate offer (and, for those that do, the answer is often quite intuitive)
  • Career goals should ideally be discussed over time with someone that knows your full profile (both in terms of academics, but also in terms of work experience/languages), and who 'gets' you. For me, that was my academic advisor, who I knew from the first year.
  • Oxbridge colleges often have a member of faculty who double up as a careers advisor. Dunno how effective they are at this role given that most of them have never done a day of real work in their lives, but they're there. And I wouldn't underestimate part-time or visiting careers advisors - they're often part-time precisely because they're working or on leave from work (one of ours was an in-house lawyer on maternity leave)
Some great points here. My thoughts below:

1 - I wouldn't say finding a job is the most 'enjoyable' experience and so there is a lot of room for technology
2 - If you enter outside the corporate world, which is becoming more common, then there is often an opportunity for salary negotiation
3 - Do you have any data on this? Anecdotally I have seen many people have multiple offers. Or a slightly weaker anecdotal point of people dropping out of final round interviews to keep them focused on their favourites
4 - I agree that it's great to discuss career goals with someone who knows you well, but I think it's equally valuable to speak to someone with new and different perspectives. All the academics I had at university were that - academics - and were not useful at providing career advice. I've heard this time and time again from other students and alumni
5 - Same point as 4, the members of faculty were ineffective for me and others I have spoken with
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Themysticalegg
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Swansea University:
I had a dedicated careers advisor who I could email at any point and I could schedule 30 min+ slots depending on what I wanted to do. (When needed, I could see them an unlimited amount of times if my advisor wasn't available there was a walk-in service.) Time slots could be used for anything career related such as discussions on my career path, mock interviews, and there were some mock assessment centres. There was also a weekly networking event, but I never attended them. Another cool idea was the use of Facebook showing new placements/graduate schemes they found with updates basically everyday bar the weekend. They were happy to review my CVs and cover letters and gave me constructive feedback on them. They also created a spreadsheet showing placements/graduate schemes which gave me a good starting point. (I secured both a placement and graduate scheme whilst at the university and I honestly couldn't be happier with the assistance they provided. (I probably underutilised them to be honest. Although my placement and graduate role was found with my own research, they certainly helped me on the journey to employment.) There was also other events such as a professional photographer coming in to take portraits for Linkedin but I didn't go. We also had access to aptitude tests to practice. :shakecane:

The system my university is extremely simple but effective.
Last edited by Themysticalegg; 7 months ago
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