Somewhat contrary to the views expressed by certain journalists, some recent research findings suggest that users of Higher Education Careers Services are increasingly happy with what they are offered.
Recently graduate research project Futuretrack found that, although 44.4% of final year students never visited their careers office, 84% of those that did said it was very or quite helpful (36.7% very; 47.3% quite) and only 3.1% said it was not at all helpful.
Meanwhile GTI Media, looking at the networking efforts of students and graduates, found that 54% of those surveyed had networked with employers or professionals working in their area of career interest. Of these, 46% said that the contact had been arranged by their careers service. This represents a rise of 23% of over the last six years.*
An Underused Resource?
The question would seem to be why less than half of final year students use the service in the first place. While Paul Redmond, current AGCAS President has justifiably pointed out that many students simply do not need to seek out detailed careers advice, there is still a feeling amongst Advisers that their services are underused.
Many graduates who received careers advice after completing their course wished they had done so earlier. But careers advice needs you to make a positive step to engage with it, and one that is surrounded by some uncertainty and not obviously enjoyable. Hence another great truism that the average person spends more time planning their annual holiday than their future career!
Misunderstandings also abound. Some students are reportedly not aware that they can ask for careers advice. Advisers note that some believed that they could not ask for help unless they had decided what job they wanted to do, whereas others said they thought the careers service could only help those who had not yet made a careers decision.
At this point, the debate clearly becomes absurd as all University Careers Services will work with both groupings.
Or is that terms like ‘careers service’, ‘careers office’, ‘careers advice’ are just too boring to catch the imagination? At the University of Cumbria we have found that our new Career Ahead Award – which talks more directly about the skills you can gain from engaging with careers has had a very enthusiastic reception from students and staff alike.
*Incidentally an interesting insight from the GTI survey, was that although 97% of respondents realised the importance of increasing their employability, they mainly looked to the internet and email as their main way of communicating with employers – suggesting that students still underestimate the value of social media as a source of employer contacts.