Case study

Careers information officer — Katie

Being an information officer means a variety of tasks come your way, but that's what Katie loves about the job

How did you get your job?

During my undergraduate history degree, I did some voluntary work in a library and followed this with a one year traineeship as a library assistant in a local law firm.

This one year of work experience was a pre-requisite for my MA in Librarianship. Towards the end of my MA I secured a job as a careers information assistant at the service where I now work.

After 18 months, the careers information officer role became vacant. I applied for it, was successful at interview and here I am three years later.

Make sure you can demonstrate good communication and customer service skills, an interest in IT and social media and knowledge of what the service offers

How relevant is your degree to your job?

My MA was essential for my position. However, I think that my previous experience, working in the careers service as an information assistant, was really important in helping me to secure this job.

The combination of a professional qualification and experience of working in the sector, specifically within the service that I was applying to, made me a good candidate for the role.

What are your main work activities?

I manage the information resources for the careers service and deal with information queries from students and graduates. I'm also involved in marketing the service to prospective students, current students and staff.

There are days when I undertake tasks that are not strictly part of my role. For example, I'm involved in the organisation of events purely because this is one of my skills.

Having the word 'information' in your job title means that lots of things will come your way, because everything is about information. This gives me the opportunity to get involved in different activities, including conferences, networking events, university open days and promotional activities in the students' union.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

Within the past year I have taken on the management of our team of information assistants. Although it can be challenging to balance management responsibilities alongside other work commitments, my MA in Librarianship prepared me well for this role.

I love careers work and I'm considering training to be a careers adviser in the future.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy working closely with individual students, dealing with their information queries and getting them started on whatever their presenting issue is.

Sometimes queries are straightforward (i.e. they want example CVs) and sometimes they appear complex (they want a list of UK companies with in-house legal teams). Nevertheless it's the variety and unpredictability that I enjoy.

It's also nice when a student comes back to say thank you for the information you provided, as it helped them reach their goal.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is managing student expectations.

Also, due to the graduate recruitment cycle and the structure of the academic year, careers services are most busy from September until December. This can put a lot of pressure on all our services, particularly on the front-line staff working within the information team.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

Getting an entry-level position in a careers service will give you some valuable experience for applications.

Make sure you can demonstrate good communication and customer service skills, an interest in IT and social media and knowledge of what the service offers.

Previous experience of working with students is advantageous so make the most of part-time jobs and placements offered by your university.

A postgraduate qualification in librarianship or information studies isn't essential for all roles, but it can be an advantage. Part-time courses are available, which can be done while working in a library or information-related role.