Careers advice or just lip service?

During University, I went to see the careers advisory service once. Despite all of the posters advertising its brilliance, no one seemed to know where to find it. Eventually I did find it and I was invited in by a pleasant individual who sat beside me and said that they ‘understood my concerns’. They had me complete a tick box exercise (to this day I still don’t know what the results were) and handed me a few leaflets. I felt that they genuinely wanted to help me.

Careers advice is more important than ever. The job for life is a thing of the past and young adults often need assistance in identifying who they want to be. We arguably have access to more jobs and skills than any generation preceding us (even if those jobs aren’t always offered to us) and sound careers advice can help a young mind to make an informed choice on what can be a very complex decision.

So, back to my first experience, I was in my early 20s and coming to the end of my first year. Naturally, as a young student, I already knew everything. I had decided, although I found the content of my Law degree fascinating, it was not the most suitable career path for me and I wanted to see what guidance was on offer. Now I’ll tell you a secret, I didn’t actually know everything. In fact, I was hoping to explore what employers looked for in their new hires.

Their advice, to start off with, was that I go into law. I admit that this was very good advice. Unfortunately, one of the first things I had said on entering the room was that I didn’t want to go into law and that my main reason for coming in was to help me identify what else I might consider. They then asked a few questions about what I wanted from life and where I could see myself in ten years. I was 21, I had barely decided on what I wanted for lunch that day so the idea of 10 years away was slightly lost on me. I know now that a few simple questions would have given us something to build on.

I didn’t feel like I got much out of the meeting. I appreciate that my advisor was possibly at the mercy of policy makers. many of whom don’t remember what it was like to be a young student. Having now spent six years with Chiumento I also know that there are many careers advisors out there who are very capable. All of our consultants have had other careers first and this is incorporated into our carefully structured recruitment process which you can find here: http://www.chiumento.co.uk/about/working-for-chiumento/

Bosses have suggested that students are excellent at remembering facts, figures and concepts but quite often prove clueless about the fundamentals of office life. They often have excellent technical skills but little understanding of how businesses work or of how to think creatively and work collaboratively. Jobs will often be offered based on personality as much as on technical ability. Many people can do the job but far fewer will be the right cultural fit. Perhaps we should be exploring how to create a coherent system that links higher education institutions directly with businesses? CBI director-general John Cridland pointed out that this approach is often seen as beneficial within Europe. (http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/hro/news/1152112/cridland-calls-for-careers-advice-overhaul)

Ultimately a meeting with a potential boss would offer students the opportunity to impress them and potentially secure a role (or at least a first interview) with a company when they have graduated. The students get some genuine practical advice and maybe a confidence boost whilst the business leaders get free access to a potentially fantastic pool of untapped talent and also prove their commitment to social responsibility. Surely it’s win-win?

James Kogan

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