Case study

Careers consultant — Ben Robertson

Ben offers his advice to graduates who want to get into higher education (HE) careers advice

How did you get into HE careers advice?

My route into the HE environment has been pretty varied. I studied history and politics for my undergraduate degree, then worked in financial services before returning to study the Postgraduate Diploma QCG Guidance qualification at the University of Huddersfield.

After graduating I took a number of jobs that involved working with young adults, to develop their employability skills and help them make realistic and informed decisions about their future. Working closely with employers, some particularly high profile, and getting the opportunity to run projects and recruit staff, helped me to secure my current role at Leeds Beckett University.

I see my role becoming more reliant on the innovative solutions that technology has to offer

How did your qualifications help?

The postgraduate qualification was essential for securing my current job. The subject itself was also very relevant, as I use the guidance and group work skills I developed on the course on a daily basis in my current role.

The course provided the opportunity to gain work experience through undertaking a placement. Although my placement wasn't at a university, I did gain several months' experience in a large and diverse further education college and was then fortunate enough to be offered paid employment there.

What does a typical working day look like?

My role is particularly varied. I see students for guidance appointments on a daily basis and I'm also busy writing and delivering specific careers and employability sessions for different degree programmes, teaching on modules, developing careers resources, and utilising social media to engage with our student body.

How has your role developed?

What I've noticed most recently are the rapid changes regarding technology, particularly social media and how important it is for students and graduates to develop an effective online identity to manage their careers.

This is an area that I'm particularly fascinated about, and I enjoy helping students and graduates make the most of their online presence. I see my role becoming more reliant on the innovative solutions that technology has to offer.

My current ambition is to fully establish myself within my current role before converting my diploma into a Masters.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The variety of the role is what I enjoy the most, whether that's working with students on a one-to-one basis, running a centralised careers workshop, or being involved in reviewing the employability of a particular course.

There's even variety in the nature of guidance appointments with students, from delivering a full guidance appointment helping a student navigate their future options to helping them improve their CV.

Working with students and helping them plan for the future is a great part of the job, as is working with great colleagues in such a dynamic and vibrant university.

What do you find challenging about the role?

The variety of career-related enquiries from such a diverse range of students and graduates can be challenging. Providing careers guidance as opposed to just trying to be the expert in terms of the careers information that you provide is really important and a challenge in itself.

Engaging with students can also be a challenge, particularly when running centralised careers workshops, as they might not always turn up.

How do I get into HE careers advice?

Aim to get as much work experience as possible within a HE environment, either through a structured placement as part of your postgraduate diploma or by arranging this yourself.

I took a slightly different route, but gaining experience of working with young adults, employers and teaching staff within an educational environment will also be beneficial.