As careers consultants, we are used to dealing with everything and anything! People who use our service have very different backgrounds and very different future ambitions and that can lead to a huge range of very different questions or predicaments. However, listed below are perhaps some of the most common things we hear and some helpful hints that we may give to people in that situation.
“I’m stuck. I don’t know what I want to do at the end of my course.”
This statement is usually followed by a look of embarrassment. People who say it often feel like they’ve failed in some way, that they are the only person without a career plan. In reality, however, not only is this probably one of the most frequent things we hear but it is also an encouraging sign that the student is starting to think seriously about their options rather than just jump head first into wrong decisions. We can help students to start their research by suggesting the kind of things they need to be thinking about and by signposting them to useful online tools such as www.prospects.ac.uk/links/pplanner which may help them to generate some initial ideas.
“What jobs will be open to me with a degree in ‘xyz’?”
One of the biggest myths in the UK higher education system is that you need to study a certain degree in order to enter a certain career. Of course there are cases where this is true (predominantly specialist scientific/tech careers) but in the majority of cases graduate recruiters do not demand a particular degree discipline. And, even if they do, it is often quite possible to get there through conversion courses, through further postgraduate training or through acquiring experience or knowledge in the area. So rather than asking “what jobs can my degree in ‘xyz’ get me?” think more along the lines of “what jobs am I interested in?” Graduate recruiters tend to be more interested in the skills that you have gained whilst completing a degree (research, planning, using initiative) and the level of learning potential that it represents rather than the specific knowledge gained through your degree course. So don’t put limits on the option you believe you have. Think instead about what careers you would enjoy doing and use websites like www.prospects.ac.uk and www.targetjobs.co.uk to expand your awareness on the types of careers that exist.
“Will I get a job straight after graduation?”
Understandably, this is an area of concern for a large number of students but it is a really tricky question to answer as it depends on so many different variables. So let’s focus on the things we do know for sure. Firstly, and as a general rule, students with a 2.1 or higher find it easier to access more opportunities, due to grade eligibility for many positions. Secondly, more and more recruiters are favouring candidates with good quality, relevant work experience or internships. And thirdly, the quality of job applications varies dramatically from student to student, often regardless of their career potential. Luckily for current students, the graduate employment picture is an improving one, with many companies increasing the number of vacancies available. What we advise is that students put themselves in the best position possible to take advantage of the opportunities that graduation will bring them, by getting a strong degree classification, building up work experience (and networks) along the way and producing great applications – with our help, of course!
“What can I do to improve my CV/application form?”
As career consultants we do a lot of CV and application form checking and this is a skill you really need to get right if you are going to optimise your chances in the graduate job market. Also it is a subject area where a little help goes a long way so, no matter how good you think your applications are, we are always really pleased when students do come and seek our support. Of course, the specific advice that we give you will depend upon the methods of application in use and, of course, the quality of the initial application that you present us with, but we can provide guidance to help make sure you are bringing out the unique skills that you have and to make sure that you are tailoring these to the requirements and competencies that the employer is looking for. With CVs, much of the battle is making sure you present the most important information in a way that is easy to access in the brief 5-10 seconds it is reckoned that recruiters spend looking at them. A final piece of advice here: never underestimate the time it takes to make quality applications so make sure you book an appointment well ahead of any deadlines so that you have time to make adjustments and further drafts.