Case study

Careers consultant — Nadine Lewis

Nadine is passionate about coaching and guiding students and graduates in relation to their careers. Find out how she's using her skills to help them reach their potential

How did you get your job as a HE careers consultant?

After completing a degree in social welfare and community studies at Coventry University, I went on to study career guidance at the same institution.

I made contact with the careers and student employability team at an open day and was able to arrange some work experience and work shadowing. I then successfully applied for a paid role as a careers consultant at the University of East London.

I find it very rewarding to build rapport with individuals and empower them to reach their potential

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

A typical working day consists of some one-to-one appointments with students and graduates, running a workshop or project work and providing e-guidance.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The students are what motivate me, I find it very rewarding to build rapport with individuals and empower them to reach their potential. Student interactions vary but can include helping a student to identify his or her skillset, confidence building or support with applying for a job opportunity.

What are the challenges?

Adapting to change can be challenging, whether that be on a service level or an organisational level. In light of the EU Referendum and the Teaching Excellence Framework, the way that we, as practitioners, implement employability will be different.

It's also frustrating that there are limited internships and work experience in some sectors for students. Furthermore, a lack of professionalism or knowing how to sell yourself during the recruitment process can prevent individuals from accessing or securing opportunities.

How relevant is your degree to job?

My undergraduate degree gave me a good understanding of the needs of different groups of service users in various settings, on both a national and international scale.

My postgraduate qualification relates directly to my role as a careers consultant. For example, I studied various theories and models in career guidance and was able to apply these to my compulsory placements and reflect on the interactions through my assignments and portfolio.

The models and theories very quickly became embedded in my work and I'm able to draw upon them when supporting a diverse range of clients.

How has your role developed?

One thing that attracted me to the role was the autonomy to shape it as I saw fit. I'm able to use my creativity to come up with new workshops and design specific resources for the students and graduates I support. I've also been given responsibility for more students and have built up a large database of employer contacts linked to the departments I work with.

In the future, I would like to create a national employability award or module incorporating reflection, employer engagement and skills development, which can be adopted by many universities or charities. I would also like to set up or manage an employability service.

What's your advice on choosing a Masters?

Make sure you research the course in detail to make sure it's what you're looking for to further your career and that if you need accreditation the courses actually offers this. Look into graduate destinations and speak to academic staff and students on the programme to find out if it's for you.

What are your top tips for becoming a HE career consultant?

  • Get experience - this can be through a formal placement (if you're on a postgraduate course directly linked to the job), work shadowing in a HE careers service or work experience that involves providing careers education, information, advice and guidance to clients.
  • There are some institutions that want you to already have a careers guidance or coaching-related qualification and others who will be prepared to fund this. Make sure you research the different types of guidance or careers-related qualifications and what the majority of universities will accept.
  • You can connect with careers services in higher education in a range of ways, e.g. through LinkedIn. Also, attend careers events and training to keep up to date with LMI.

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