Case study

Careers adviser — Julia Leng

Julia has some great advice on finding the right job for you, from getting work experience to trying new challenges and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone

What degree did you study?

I studied Language and Linguistics at the University of Aberdeen and graduated in 2019.

How did you get your job?

I completed a co-curricular programme in my final year of university, which saw me volunteer in a secondary school in a class teaching skills for life, learning and work. At the end-of-programme event I gave a presentation about my time in the class. Afterwards, the head of the careers service approached me, told me about the job vacancy and encouraged me to apply. After that I sent in a CV and cover letter, completed two interviews and was offered the job.

Alongside my job I am also studying for a Postgraduate Certificate in Careers Education, Information and Guidance in Higher Education at the University of Warwick. I'm doing this as part of my job, studying online and part time.

How relevant is your degree?

My degree was very science-based so it's not terribly relevant to my job now. I did have a couple of courses in applied linguistics and occasionally employ stylistic techniques when writing social media posts but that is it.

What's a typical working day like?

A typical day involves speaking to students and graduates, either in one-on-one appointments or in larger group workshops. During these sessions I answer any career-related queries, offer advice to help with decision making and/or talk about ways students can best prepare for life after university.

I am part of a collaborative team so I often meet with colleagues to talk about what we’ve been up to and brainstorm how we can incorporate any new information into our practise. I am in charge of marketing for the service so I spend some time each day creating posts for our social media or liaising with students about blogs they have written.

I may also meet with external stakeholders across the university and/or employers to discuss how we can best support our students and graduates going forwards.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The fact that I learn something new every day, be that from speaking to students, taking time on my own to work on social media strategies or chatting to colleagues. There is a lot of room for exploring different aspects of a careers service and for personal development in my role, and my colleagues are keen to support my career progression which is fantastic.

What are the challenges?

With the world of work changing every day it's very important that we keep our advice up-to-date and as relevant as possible. While it's not within my role to know everything about visa regulations, for example, I do like to know enough to confidently signpost students. This requires me to do some research in my own time and try to grasp the main points, which I sometimes find challenging.

What advice can you give to others?

As a linguistics degree is not wholly vocational, it's important to develop your transferrable skills and expose yourself to new opportunities. University is a fantastic time to try different things, meet new people and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Teaching was never something I really wanted to do but I thought it would be good to experience working in a classroom. When I heard there was a need for volunteers to give a presentation at the end, I thought to challenge myself again and develop my presentation skills. Ultimately, this experience opened a door for me and led me to this job which I had never even considered but now absolutely love.

Work experience is very important. If you have an idea of where you might want to work, see if you can spend some time there to really get a feel for what the job entails. I thought I wanted to be an editorial assistant but, after a week in a publishing house, I realised that it wasn't for me. Knowing what you don't want to do (and why you don't want to do it) is just as important for finding what you do want to do.

Reach out and discuss your career ideas with someone. Be it a careers adviser, a family friend or a connection on LinkedIn, you can always learn something from speaking to someone else. Don’t feel you need to figure out your next steps all on your own.

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