Case study

Employability development officer — James Pritchard

The skills James developed during his sociology degree, combined with his extracurricular work, helped him secure a job in higher education. Find out how his skills help him work with students

How did you get your job?

After graduating with a degree in sociology from the University of Warwick, I worked in similar roles at another institution before getting a job as an employability development officer at Loughborough University.

I was able to enter higher education (HE) employability thanks to the skills I gained during my degree and extracurricular roles - in my second and final years I was a voluntary student careers rep, acting as the link between careers and sociology departments. This involved managing a Facebook page to provide students with updates, giving lecture shout outs to promote events and attending strategy meetings with the wider team.

I also secured a paid summer internship with Warwick Careers, with responsibility for a project exploring social media strategy. This experience alongside my degree helped me build evidence of my various skills such as report writing, delivering presentations, communication and teamwork, using IT and working analytically.

How relevant is your sociology degree?

I find that the content from my degree is relevant to my job. I had an interest in education and employment, so chose academic modules accordingly, studying concepts such as widening participation, labour market developments, economic sociology and social change. These modules relate closely working in the HE sector where the shape of the economy, diversity and responding to change are central themes for employability.

Understanding these social/economic contexts helps me to inform students and keep my own knowledge up to date.

What's a typical working day like?

A typical day involves one-to-one appointments with students, helping them to write effective job applications. I also deliver skills presentations and support events such as large careers fairs.

Creating content is a key part of the role, including weekly newsletters tailored to specific groups and targeted emails, promoting relevant job opportunities and events. I measure their effectiveness by analysing usage/sign-up data to find out what works best.

What are the challenges?

A key challenge of my role is trying to accommodate for the various needs of students - I can't take a one size fits all approach, as students' career interests are so varied.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

I'm open to different possibilities - my current role develops lots of transferable skills. The route towards becoming a careers consultant is appealing as I find helping people very rewarding.

I'm also interested in strategy and leadership, and like the idea of working in areas such as human resources, communications or policy, which have plenty of opportunities in the HE sector and beyond. I'm confident that my degree in sociology gives me a solid grounding for the future.

Do you have any advice for other sociology students?

  • Make the most of the careers service. All universities have one and they're a great way to find out about entry into different careers, and what steps you need to take whilst still studying.
  • Don't be afraid to apply for jobs that you wouldn't typically associate with sociology. Across many sectors, graduate roles are open to all degree disciplines - so the 'sociological mindset' could be precisely what helps you to stand out.

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