Case study

Information officer — Rebecca Wray

Rebecca's past experience working in academic libraries helped her progress from an assistant role into her current position as an information officer. She studied a distance-learning Masters to suit her needs

How did you get your job?

I'd been working as an information assistant in the same department when the job became available. Before that, I'd worked in a variety of roles in academic libraries, including both user-facing duties where I helped people with their enquiries and technical duties where I worked on catalogues and databases. I think it was the combination of these skills that enabled me to progress to the role of information officer within the University of Bath Careers Service.

What are your main work activities?

I respond to email enquiries from students or employers and work through any routine tasks on our online career management site. Some days I'll staff our front desk or hold one-to-one information appointments with students, to help them with things like job search or finding resources. Recently we moved our careers resources to a new platform so I've been working on organising and classifying the information. I've also been creating new data analytics reports on the department's activities to help inform what we do.

We recently started making our own videos in-house which has meant learning how to video edit. I also get involved with more general marketing and social media for the department.

I'm involved in the process of collecting graduate destinations data, through Graduate Outcomes and our own internal work.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I love being able to help people, whether I'm giving a student the tools to help them find their dream job or helping colleagues in my team use data to inform their practice. I love the feeling that I have made a difference.

I also love the variety in my role. It's great to be involved in so many different things, as this keeps things interesting but also means I'm always developing new skills.

What are the challenges?

While variety is great, it can also be a challenge! Organising my time to make sure day-to-day stuff gets done while also working on projects to improve the service is an ongoing balancing act. It can be difficult to accept that sometimes you might need to scale down or come back to an exciting new idea because there are more pressing tasks that need to take priority.

My work is also less visible than the work of other members of the team, such as ours careers advisers. Because of this, it can be a challenge to gain recognition or demonstrate the value of the work I do.

How relevant is your degree?

I studied BSc Psychology at Oxford Brookes and I have just finished a distance-learning MA in information and library studies from Aberystwyth University.

Both of my degrees have ended up being very relevant. I am involved with data analysis and survey design (collecting student feedback for example), so the research method skills I developed in my psychology degree have come in very useful.

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

I've only been in my role for two years but it has already changed quite a bit. I'm involved in more in-depth, one-to-one support with students and do a lot more work with data capture and analysis than when I started. With the trend for embedded employability in degree programmes and the growing interest in the value of degrees, I expect my work will continue to change.

I'm interested in paths that are focused on data, but right now I enjoy the mix of technical work and supporting students. I don't think I'd ever want to be in a role that doesn't involve some interaction with end-users.

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters?

I did my Masters via distance-learning while working full-time. For me, the priority was the practicalities of the course - I picked a course where there were no deadlines on assignments or specific remote lectures you had to attend, and you paid by the module as you progressed.

If you're considering a distance-learning course, be realistic about the time you can commit to it and make sure you understand how the course will work in terms of teaching time and deadlines.

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

  • Transferable skills are really important. You might not know the specific systems or policies used but if you have those fundamental skills around understanding information management, attention to detail and customer service, you'll be able to apply those to any situation.
  • Accept you might need to work in other jobs before reaching a professional post. There's a lot of competition for jobs in the information and library sector, so you may find you have to work as a careers information assistant or similar to build up your experience.
  • Make use of professional bodies and networks. Careers people, as well as information and library people more generally, tend to be lovely and very happy to share information and experiences. Professional bodies such as AGCAS and CILIP are a great way to keep on top of professional awareness, and they offer useful training opportunities that can help you build up your experience.

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