Case study

Career development officer — Rose Lowry

Rose discovered that her passion for developing others was a perfect match for a job in careers advice. Find out how practical experience and further study have helped her become a higher education careers adviser

How did you become a HE careers adviser?

I wasn't sure what I wanted to do after my geography degree but, after reflecting on my previous experience as a duty manager in the Students' Union Shop at my university, where I assisted with the recruitment process as well as making significant contributions to the training of new student staff, I recognised I had a passion for developing individuals.

It was actually during a careers appointment that I realised this, which was very fitting as I then understood that I could channel this passion into careers work in higher education (HE).

I entered the Career Development Service at the University of Leicester as a career development assistant where I provided frontline information and advice at our reception desk, as well as being trained to conduct appointments and workshops to coach students through the recruitment process. I then embarked on the Postgraduate Certificate in Career Education, Information and Guidance in Higher Education (CEIGHE), which helped me achieve a promotion to my current role as career development officer.

What's a typical day like?

A typical working day includes a number of one-to-one appointments with students ranging from first year to final year and all those in between, including postgraduates and distance learners who we help over Skype/telephone. These interactions can consist of looking over applications, conducting mock interviews and helping students explore their career options or create action plans to achieve their dream career.

I also facilitate workshops on a range of topics including LinkedIn and understanding interview skills, as well as running mock assessment centres.

What do you enjoy about your job?

As the careers service I work in is a generalist service for the whole student body, (rather than department/college specific), I get to help a diverse range of students on a daily basis and witness them develop and progress.

What are the challenges?

The main challenge of the role is getting early engagement with the students.

How relevant was your geography degree?

Although the actual subject matter of my degree wasn't particularly relevant, I learned many valuable transferable skills such as planning, analytical thinking and problem solving, which help when evaluating student engagement data.

Studying geography in such a diverse city as Leicester also expands how you view the world, which can be useful in widening other people's perspectives and working with a diverse student population.

How has your role developed?

My role has developed in a number of ways as we introduce new initiatives to keep up with the changes and challenges faced in HE, as well as the changing landscape of graduate recruitment. I've also attended training enabling me to be a licensed in-house Sprint trainer. (Sprint is a development programme for undergraduate women, which focuses on personal development as well as professional.)

I aim to complete the CEIGHE postgraduate certificate over the next academic year and then progress to converting it to a PgDip.

What's your advice for others interested in becoming a HE careers adviser?

It sounds obvious but use your university careers service, whether you're a current student or graduate. They will be a great source of information as well as a ready-made network of useful contacts willing to share their own experiences. And, of course, it's in their nature to want to help you.

It would also be a good idea to get experience of supporting the student population in some form, such as peer mentoring or being a course representative. Also, make sure you keep up to date with the latest trends in graduate recruitment by reading Higher Education Careers Services Unit's (HECSU) quarterly Graduate Market Trends journal.

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