Case study

Careers consultant — Kim Bailey

During her English degree Kim developed a range of useful skills, including written communication and organisation. Discover how she uses these skills in her work as a careers consultant

How did you get your job as a careers consultant?

After completing a degree in English studies, my first graduate role was on a higher education (HE) graduate scheme called Ambitious Futures. During the scheme I rotated through three placements in varied areas of HE: research support, careers and alumni relations.

I really enjoyed the role in careers and applied for a permanent position in a careers service upon completing the scheme.

During this time I began studying for a Postgraduate Certificate in Career Guidance, which helped me secure my current role as a careers consultant at The University of Manchester.

How relevant is your English degree?

The content of my degree isn’t particularly relevant to my job, but the transferable skills I developed during my degree certainly are. I chose to study English at undergraduate level because I loved the subject, and I have no regrets choosing this course, as I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I think the most useful transferable skills I developed during my degree were organisation, analytical ability and written communication. In particular, my ability to write concisely, logically and persuasively is useful every day in my role.

As I work with humanities students, my degree does help as I can empathise with students and understand their mind-set.

What's a typical day like?

A typical day might include running a CV workshop for students, meeting with colleagues to organise an alumni networking event, responding to emails and conducting one-to-one career guidance appointments with students.

Occasionally I travel to conferences or to meet employers to learn more about the labour market and improve my own knowledge, which helps me help students.

What do you enjoy about being a careers consultant?

I like helping people, and I find the role really rewarding for that reason. Every time you conduct interview practice with a student and then you hear that they got the job, it really makes my day.

I also like the creativity involved as there are so many ways to present information to students and think about ways to engage them with our services. There are always projects to get involved with outside the normal day so I'm never bored.

I also enjoy that I'm learning something new every day, as every student I talk to has a different story to tell and requires different support.

What are the challenges?

One of the biggest challenges is student engagement. You invest a lot of time and energy arranging fantastic events and workshops only to find not many students attend.

However, I like to see this challenge as an opportunity to find new and innovative ways to connect with students.

Another challenge is keeping up with changes in the labour market and how companies recruit, such as the increase in video interviewing, and how companies use social media to recruit talent.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

I hope to become more knowledgeable in my role and complete the next stage of my postgraduate qualification to help achieve this ambition.

I would like to take on increasing levels of responsibility such as larger projects, which collaborate with other parts of the university, and allow me to develop skills such as budgeting, decision making and leadership.

What is your advice to other students?

Students studying English have so many choices of potential future careers, which can be overwhelming as there are no direct careers paths. I would recommend building your skills outside the classroom, as English degrees don't often have much opportunity to develop team working and leadership skills, which are crucial in the working world.

For example, I first learned about roles in HE and developed my leadership skills through my part-time work as a student ambassador. Without this experience I don't think I would have been accepted onto Ambitious Futures. So if you're interested in finding out more about a role get some work experience and have a go.

If you're interested in a role as a career guidance practitioner, your first step should definitely be to access your careers service to speak to a career consultant/adviser. Talk to them about what they enjoy about their role, and the challenges. You could ask if there are any opportunities to shadow them for a day to see for yourself what the role entails and find out if you would enjoy it. You should also start researching postgraduate courses if you do want to become a careers adviser, as this is one of the main routes into the role.

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