Best practice guide to working with the Careers Advisory Service
Collaboration to help students
Most students coming to the University of Bath are doing so as a step towards their future career. The placement, which is often an integral part of their course here, gives them a huge advantage as well as the value of a degree from an excellent University.
As such it's vital that academic departments and the Careers Advisory Service work hand-in-hand to help students make the most of their time here. Most students know we exist but only around half make use of us whilst they're here. This means your students aren't all getting the advice they need to enhance their graduate prospects.
For us, posters and emails are not enough to attract students. Despite the driving desire amongst students to gain graduate employment, many still muddle through rather than seek advice! In fact, we have heard that they regard us as the ‘dentists of university’ – and put off coming in in the vain hope that the pain of job-seeking will go away on its own.
Experience has taught us that good exposure to students through their academic programme and departmental staff is the best way to not only get them to use us early enough to make a real difference but often simply to get them thinking about their prospects and what they need to do before they graduate.
The bare minimum
At the very least we'd like to talk to all students near the start of their final year (and that includes new one-year masters' students) for at least half an hour in a dedicated careers talk within the department. That's enough for us to raise awareness of the job market, the application processes they'll face and the support we provide. Referrals to our advisers from your staff when they encounter students with employment concerns are also welcomed.
The careers message gets across best with regular, dedicated, hour-long careers lectures at the start of each year, tailored to particular cohorts of students, and supported by further events throughout the year such as:
- Career-planning workshops or lectures - advice on job-searching, CVs and applications, interviews and selection centres
- Events with departmental alumni - where have your former students gone and how have they used their degree?
- Specific guidance for students going on years abroad or on placement about applying and making the most of their experiences
- Talks and lectures on further study options or 'alternative' careers for students in a vocational discipline such as Pharmacy or Social Work
- Academic skills training run by Careers staff who can help students develop skills such as communication, presentation, group-work, project-management, and problem-solving and transfer them from academia to employment.
All these events are available by talking to your departmental Careers Adviser.
To ensure we have successful, well-attended events that benefit your department, your students, and our staff we'd recommend the following:
- Have a member of staff who deals with all Careers Advisory Service events and liaison so we have a regular contact. It works best when this is a member of academic staff, as this ensures all students – not just those going on placement – are involved in careers-related activities.
- Publicise events well in advance to students and avoid clashes with deadlines, other events and reading weeks. Where possible build us into a programme of talks or events that students are obliged or required to attend.
- Use departmental-orientated student societies to arrange or promote the event and encourage their peers to attend.
- Try and make the event a specific careers event rather than part of a longer 'general' lecture where our message is lost. Doing a very short slot at the end of a regular lecture when students are trying to leave the room is useless for imparting anything memorable!
- Short, well-scheduled, tailored events to particular cohorts work best as the message can be made more relevant to them – for example, for second years focusing on applying for placements, or for first years the importance of building up evidence of non-curricular activities or work experience.