Case study

Careers consultant — Amy Haines

Amy works as a part-time careers consultant at two universities. Find out how she uses her skills and experience to successfully manage two very different roles

How did you get your job as a careers consultant?

Alongside studying for a degree in English language and linguistics at the University of the West of England, I was a student ambassador, peer mentor, vocational mentor, study rep, vice president of a student society and a volunteer. I also worked in admissions. I enjoyed the working atmosphere, so on graduation searched for graduate jobs in universities.

My first role was in widening participation (WP) at Bath Spa University, raising awareness of higher education (HE) to under-represented groups through events with schools and mature students. I gained insight into the university's careers department and found I was interested in how they supported students' career development.

After careful research and shadowing, I decided to undertake a distance learning PgDip Career Guidance (QCG), while applying for the role of graduate opportunities officer within the careers service at Bath Spa University. This part-time role gave me a unique opportunity to combine relevant work experience (supporting the employability award and working with final year students through drop-ins and events) with studying towards my QCG, which was partly funded by Bath Spa University.

By the time I graduated in 2016, I had gained good experience of delivering careers group work and appointments, and was keen to secure my first qualified position. Part-time careers consultant jobs came up at Bath Spa University and BPP University - I applied and was offered both positions.

What's a typical day like as a HE careers consultant?

Despite having the same job title, the roles at Bath Spa and BPP are very different. Bath Spa University specialises in creativity, culture and enterprise, and I'm part of a centralised team supporting students across courses. In addition, I deliver curriculum-based sessions for education students on key topics such as alternatives to teaching. I enjoy collaborating with colleagues to provide a quality service to students, while supporting each other in our professional development.

At BPP University, I work with law students. I'm the only careers consultant at the Bristol campus, as my colleagues are based at other sites. I'm responsible for the whole service: appointments, workshops, advertising opportunities, developing employer relationships, the employability award and employer mentoring scheme. I enjoy the variety and using my initiative to provide a great service.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Supporting students to understand the broad options available to them and how to get there is very rewarding. I also enjoy organising events, for example a LinkedIn day at Bath Spa University and networking events at BPP. You never stop learning and developing in career guidance, which is why I was attracted to it.

What are the challenges?

Engaging students can be a challenge - when they are having the best university experience, they don't necessarily want to think about a time when it will be over.

When first starting out, another challenge is the feeling that you should know everything about every job and sector, which is impossible. I soon discovered that you build up this knowledge over time and that using the guidance techniques I learned on the QCG is much more valuable.

How useful was your degree?

I studied for a degree in English language and linguistics because I enjoyed it, not because I had a career in mind. However, the transferable skills and experiences I gained while at university were invaluable. The PgDip Career Guidance (QCG) was directly relevant to my work as a careers consultant and I took every opportunity to implement learning from the course in my part-time role as graduate opportunities officer.

What's your advice for getting into careers advice?

Do your research into the opportunities available and give it a go. Help friends to improve their CVs, search for jobs or research different options and see if you enjoy it. Do some shadowing if you can - this will look great on your CV.

It's worth taking the Qualification in Career Development (formerly the Qualification in Career Guidance (QCG) or Qualification in Career Guidance and Development (QCGD) in Scotland) to prepare for the role and open up opportunities as it's widely recognised.

Employability is becoming increasingly important for universities to remain competitive, so there are more opportunities in HE than in other sectors.

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