Case study

Information adviser — Ben Swiergon

Ben believes his research, writing and analytical skills gained from his history degree helped to secure his job in careers information

How did you get your job?

I became an information advisor within the careers department of Oxford Brookes University after using various careers tools and planners to match my skills to the jobs I was best suited for.

For me, applying to jobs in the public sector was a logical step, as it provided the opportunity to combine learning a new job with continuous professional development.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

Graduating with a degree in history from the University of Portsmouth, I knew a career within the discipline was not for me.

As history is not the most vocational of courses, I knew it would be the transferable skills I learnt while studying, combined with my previous work experiences, that would form the core of my job applications.

For my job role, research and writing skills are fundamental. Completing a dissertation and undertaking a course which focused around researching, writing and analytical skills undoubtedly gave me the edge when it came to securing my current position, especially as I was questioned on the award I received for my dissertation during my interview.

What are your main work activities?

The nature of my work is both diverse and flexible. My time is split between dealing with student enquiries, conducting careers information research, producing documentation for both internal and external use, and dealing with employers.

I'm always keen to be up-to-date on the latest recruitment trends and I've had the opportunity to go out and meet employers to find out what they're looking for from graduates.

These insights are invaluable; visiting heavily secretive organisations such as GCHQ provided crucial insights into the types of work they do and the applicants they are looking for.

How has your role developed?

Over time I have had the opportunity to shape and mold my job description as my role has evolved. This has mainly taken the form of using Adobe programs such as InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator to better market the documentation we produce.

I am also beginning to learn the basics of web design, which will be a logical step in completing my understanding of the information research, document creation and distribution process.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Having the flexibility to research new topics, produce relevant information, along with helping students with their journey into the working world are the most rewarding aspects of my job.

Without doubt, the ability to develop as an individual is the best thing about working in the public sector. Universities pride themselves on the development of their employees.

Whether that involves undertaking training courses, studying for further qualifications or learning new skills, structures are in place to make sure you get the most out of your time here.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

Communicating with university faculties, and in some cases employers, can often be the most challenging aspect of my job.

Larger employers tend to have whole teams dedicated to recruitment; in many cases I am speaking to different people within the same department, often reiterating myself, which can be very frustrating.

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

Having experience of a customer-facing role is essential, so picking up work experience throughout your time at university is a must.

Get familiar with application forms; most university jobs use this method and evidencing your skills will be crucial when it comes to securing an interview.

Finally, network, undertake secondments if possible and talk to contacts around the university. It can open the door to further job opportunities, some of which might only be advertised internally.

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