Careers Advisor Q + A

We asked a careers advisor what the role entails and what their tips and tricks are

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A good careers service is one of the many aspects students consider when choosing which university to go to. Students want to know what support is on offer and how they’re going to secure graduate jobs, often before even starting their studies. 

With all this pressure, navigating the world of advising students can be tricky, and developing your own style to connect with clients is crucial. 

To discover more about the unique way careers advisors can approach their work, we spoke to Graham from the University of Reading Careers team. 

To you, what does being a careers advisor encompass? 

To most people being a careers advisor would mean talking to clients (students and alumni) 1-2-1, running a workshop for a group of clients or creating content for the University intranet. Those are certainly big elements of the role, especially when you factor in the preparation needed to create and organise the workshops and write or film online content. But it’s probably less than half of the job because we aren’t just advisors to the client, we are also advisors to the University, and every careers advisor is allocated to a number of Schools in the University, helping to ensure that employability skills are woven seamlessly into their various curricular, and monitoring to ensure that this delivery is successful. 

What are your top tips for careers advisors? 

Careers advisors talk to a huge variety of clients so it’s impossible to be an expert in everything that we are asked, so the top tip is not to try to be that type of expert. Instead, be the type of expert whose expertise is helping your client find things out for themselves. It’s the equivalent of teaching someone to fish rather than giving them a fish – you are helping your client grow and become ever more self-reliant. 

Is there a particular approach to advising you find most effective? 

The most important approach is to be a listener. By listening to the client you can understand where they are coming from, what they are really concerned about and decide how best to proceed with them. This can be really difficult if you have 10 or more 30 minute appointments in a day, but a pause, a reset and focus on listening to your new client really maximises the service you can give. It also adds infinite variety to your job, because all our clients are individuals. 

What is the area of careers that you have found students struggle with the most? 

It’s really difficult for clients to explain their motivations and their strengths because these are innate or taken for granted. People who are naturally good at explaining things, or getting along with teammates, or systematically solving problems just don’t notice themselves doing it, or value their ability to do it. Likewise, people who want to work in finance, or be a doctor, or an engineer, often can’t explain why they want to do these things. But when we are choosing a career, or persuading someone to recruit us, talking about our motivations and strengths is exactly what we need to do. 

How does the University of Reading’s careers team provide further support?

As well as excellent careers support through 1-2-1 appointments and workshops, the University of Reading Careers Service runs a mentoring scheme (Thrive), a research project programme (UROP), and an internship programme with local, smaller employers (RIS). All these activities are brilliant for helping clients work out what they want to do with their career – they aren’t just there for those lucky few who already think they have that figured out. 

Key takeaways

  • Aim to weave employability skills workshops into other studies, making it convenient for the client.
  • Don’t try to be an expert in everything – become an expert in helping your client find the answers they need themselves.
  • Never underestimate the power of listening to your clients.
  • Something that clients struggle with the most is to discuss their own motivations and strengths.

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