Case study

Head of careers — Jenny Longstaffe

With the government's increased emphasis on careers guidance for young people, Jenny's role continues to develop. Find out more about her work and how she hopes to progress her career  

What degree did you study?

I completed a BA (Hons) in English Literature at the University of Durham and then spent a few years working and looking after my children. I completed the Postgraduate Diploma in Careers Guidance in 2018 through a blended learning route, which required one day in university every alternate month, six assessed careers interviews, six assignments and one portfolio.

How did you get your job?

I had taken seven years off work to look after my children and move around with my husband's job when I decided that I wanted to pursue a qualification in careers guidance. After graduation, I had worked as a receptionist at St Andrews careers centre and knew supporting people with their future was what I wanted to do.

I was looking for some temporary work while I completed my careers qualification and found a job as a learning support assistant at a local independent school. On my first day I found out that the head of careers position had become available and I submitted the job application.

What's a typical working day like?

A typical day might begin with a pastoral meeting to discuss sixth formers, followed by teaching a careers lesson to children in KS4 (age 14-16) as part of their PSHCE curriculum. Next I might give two guidance interviews and complete notes on these, before talking with one or two students about their UCAS applications or subject choices.

 I also have a large administrative workload, which involves organising work experience for Year 10 and contacting and hosting external speakers to talk with the students.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Speaking to young people about their worries and dreams for the future is a real privilege, and one-to-one guidance brings the greatest rewards for me personally. Good guidance can really enlighten students and building good relationships with them can boost their confidence and reassure them that it’s okay to not have everything figured out.

What are the challenges?

Secondary schools can be lonely places to work and everyone is stretched and struggling. My position is unique and as other colleagues have an increased workload, more pastoral issues come to me.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My degree in English enhanced my understanding of others and improved my written communication skills, which is a large part of my job. The postgraduate diploma taught me about careers-related learning, as well as the skill of delivering good guidance, and made me conscious of the social and economic role of good careers provision.

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

My role has developed as the new framework from the Department for Education (DfE) changes and I aim to offer more guidance at my school, as well as delivering staff training to encourage a whole school agenda in careers.

My ambition is to work freelance as a career consultant and guidance practitioner in other schools across the region.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • Work towards the careers guidance qualification and start looking for jobs as soon as you begin the course. Most employers are happy to consider you if you have started on the course so part-time/blended learning options are worth considering.
  • Make sure you network. The profession is relatively small and you can be quite proactive in making opportunities happen and getting to know other guidance professionals in your area. As new DfE guidelines emphasise the importance of careers, there are going to be more opportunities in this sector and schools will need convincing of the value of careers.

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