Case study

Careers adviser — Kelly Dawson

Having decided a career in accountancy wasn't for her, Kelly enrolled on a diploma in career guidance and development to become a careers adviser

How did you get your job as a careers adviser?

After completing two summer internships at accountancy firms during my time at university, I decided that working in this sector wasn't for me. Having begun working with my university's careers service while employed as a student brand ambassador for ICAS, a professional body for chartered accountants, I discovered it was something I enjoyed doing.

I later researched routes into career guidance and realised it was a plausible career choice for me, despite having studied an unrelated degree.

Once I'd graduated I immediately applied to study a PGDip in career guidance and development. The employment rates for this course are particularly high with many graduates going on to work in schools, higher education or the third sector. I knew that I would prefer to work in a university and so tailored my experience to this as much as possible.

When I graduated from the postgraduate course, I was lucky that my current employer Abertay University was looking for new careers advisers and I was offered a position.

What's a typical working day like?

Most days will include a few one-to-one appointments with students and lots of email guidance as well. These can range from CV checks and mock interviews to personal statement guidance for postgraduate study applications.

We also run employer events and workshops for students, so are always in the midst of organising something. I deal with some of the social media aspects of our service and publicise local job vacancies to students and graduates. I also have joint responsibility for our skills award, the Principal's Award.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the variety in my job as well as the autonomy it allows - I'm part of the bigger team, but also have my own projects and workload. The knowledge-sharing aspects of this field are invaluable and there is such a great emphasis on personal and professional development.

What are the challenges?

In higher education, it can be difficult to keep up with the broad amount of knowledge needed in various academic backgrounds. It can also be challenging to balance work with building knowledge of the local labour market and engaging with academics in order to provide the best possible service for students.

Is your accountancy degree relevant in any way?

While not obviously relevant, the attention to detail and knowledge of Microsoft Office programs that I gained from my undergraduate studies has been invaluable to the role.

My postgraduate diploma in careers guidance is directly relevant and a desirable requirement of my current job.

What do you want to do next?

I would like to develop and grow in my role, while building robust connections with my allocated academic school. I also hope to develop my career guidance and counselling skills to a higher standard and to look into completing a Masters.

What advice can you give to anyone looking to become a careers adviser?

  • Investing in a postgraduate qualification can be incredibly valuable. Although it was an additional nine months of study on top of my undergraduate degree, it was a great way of taking my career in a new direction.
  • Gaining some industry experience, especially in your area of interest, can aid your route into careers guidance.
  • Use your own university careers service, attend fairs and research the graduate labour market to build your knowledge of academic areas.