What do students need to know when moving on from university?

University can be a defining moment in a person’s life, as it could determine where they end up in the near future and how they find and pursue opportunities. This does include:

  • Whether they finish their degree and go on to pursue a career relevant to their chosen subject
  • Whether they decide to change their course during their time at university, thus changing their career path, or
  • Whether they decide to drop out to pursue other endeavours.

But, in order to (with relative success) embark on this journey of discovery, being informed is key, and there are ways universities are putting in more effort to help university students and their graduates succeed in whatever they choose to pursue.

At the moment, I can only speak about the university that I am currently working in, but the amount of careers resources and guidance available to students is astounding. Mostly because, ironically, I never used the careers service when I was at university.

But, I  have found that there are a few things that students should do when thinking about their future plans.


What students need to know

Before thinking about what job to apply for or what companies to research, students need to know who they are and what they’re interested in. Hopefully, what they are studying will have given them some idea of what to pursue, but also getting involved in social activities (e.g. societies) and attending careers fairs/recruitment events, should help inform their decisions.

After figuring out what industry they’re attracted to and/or what job role they are interested in, students should then perform their own research.

They would need to:

  • Find out job specifications, to identify what qualities and skills they would need to have or acquire.
  • Seek out the values of the companies within the industry, the key individuals and the focus and developments within the industry. This will inform decision making, as this will help to keep up to date with what’s going on in the industry and the different companies
  • Do some networking – seek out individuals within the industry on platforms like LinkedIn or use their university’s alumni network. Through this they can gain further insight into the industry, company and roles available within their chosen area

At this stage, students should have an idea of what kinds of things they would like to do in their chosen industry. They may not necessarily know what role they would like to go into, but with guidance and further research they could get an idea. In addition, students don’t have to be in a particular year when they have reached this stage, as people progress at different times. It is just important that when they are ready to take the leap in finding their career path, they  know what they need to do.


How can the careers service help?

The careers service at the university I work for is dedicated to helping undergraduates and graduates pursue their goals. Whether it be about finding a part-time role, figuring out a plan of action or checking an application.

Having access to a careers service means that the students at this university can have help at any stage when thinking about the future. Which means that students should take advantage of the services and help on offer.

These services include:

  • providing one-to-one advice
  • conducting induction talks
  • providing online and print resources
  • organising and attending fairs and events
  • producing online courses

In addition, the careers website is designed to force people to think about where they are out of three stages. Thus, when they have identified what stage they are at, they can click on the relevant link, which then gives them a variety of things to look at associated with that stage.

For example, for those who have no idea what they want to do, there is a link that directs them to the different kinds of opportunites available to them.


Thus, whilst it is important that students perform their own research and explore their options, the careers service is available to help prepare and guide them. Therefore, students should be aware of the services that are being provided to them, in order to ensure that they are at an advantage when moving on from university.

Dedicated resources

From my time working in libraries, I know how important it is to have online resources that have been dedicated to a particular type of information. People don’t want to have to work hard to find information. This includes having to heavily filter down results and work out which resource would actually be of value.

This is why, for those seriously looking for information, normal search engines don’t work. However, I also think it’s important to not get over zealous when creating a platform for people to search for information.

Having come across quite a few library catalogues and portal sites as well as job sites and the research part of a company website, I can see that there are differences in how information is tagged and thus what aspect of a document is searchable. Too little and you can have too much information to sift through, too much and you could miss information.

Getting the right balance can be tricky and it all depends on who the audience is. What kind of information do they need? How do they search for information? What keywords would they use?

I came across a nice portal site that allows you to search with keywords and then further filter by a list of other tags associated with the results (Careers Tagged). However, it only allows the results found, to be filtered down once. The site also allowed you to view the tags associated with each result, so you can search for results within a different tag.

Its a nice portal site that doesn’t make searching for information too complicated as each result would have been curated before being added. However, depending on what is being sought, there is a particular logical order that those not trained in searching for information, may not follow.

It is key to know who the users of the site will be and understand how they think when they are searching for information. However, it is also important that the users do not fully dictate how items are tagged. Thus, training your users or having a simple guide may aid users in fully understanding how they can find information using a particular information resource.

Learning about Careers

When I started thinking about entering the world of careers, I believe that I genuinely didn’t know how varied and interesting the roles within that sector would be although I had a general idea of there being Careers Advisors who helped guide an individual in whatever journey that person wanted to take. But having luckily and gratefully gotten a job in a careers office at a university, I have been pleasantly surprised at how many different roles and areas of work there are.

For example, I am now a Careers Information and Research Officer and I help support the Careers Consultants with booking appointments, I deal with queries from students and sometimes staff via email or in person and I take on information related projects.

I have also learned that the Careers Consultants have a varied role. Where I am based, the Careers Consultants have three different kinds of appointments with students (short guidance, applications advice and practice interviews), liaise with departmental staff, take part in events,  as well as having their own projects.

In addition, there is the events and marketing teams and the jobs and vacancies department that help to make up the careers team.

Each branch has a key role to play and all the roles and areas that make up the careers team will have their specific focus, in terms of which faculties they work with and whether they cater for graduate or postgraduate/research staff.

This made me think of the difference between a careers service and service that aims to get people. For example, the Job Centre will be sourcing opportunities for those who just need a job and do not necessarily need a specific range of skills to apply. These kinds of people are not necessarily looking to pursue a career. A careers team in a secondary school or sixth form/college would be advising students on subjects to take in higher or further education and maybe apprenticeships that don’t need higher/further education in order to apply (literally just guessing here). And a careers team in a university aims to help their students pursue a specific career, providing them with as much information and resources they need to equip them to pursue their goals.

So I have very much learned that there is a difference in what kind of service you provide and what kinds of resources are made available depending on the audience you are serving. Which in turn has led me to think more about who I want to work for/ who I want to help.

In all honesty, I should know that the kind of service provided depends on who it’s for, based on the fact that I have worked for a variety of different libraries/information services with patrons that have very different needs. I assume I was a bit ignorant about the fact that people at different stages of their lives will need different careers advice; whereas, within the library/information sector, I was very much aware that different people would need different things. For example, a patron at public library vs someone working in the finance industry using their own information services, will most likely want very different information.

So in my first 2 weeks of working here, I have learned so much about the different roles that exist within a university careers team and how important these roles are when helping their students find and reach their goals.

Developing a career in Careers

I definitely like to do my research before embarking on a new adventure. And deciding to develop a career as a Careers Advisor is no exception. This is because, I believe that to truly know that I want to pursue a particular role, I have to know that it would provide me with what I had been missing in my previous job. I am all about utilising and developing my skills; progressing in my career and development as a person. Therefore, just getting a job, is not an option for me.

So I set out to find out what being a Careers Advisor would be about. I sought out job roles on sites like jobs.ac.uk and Reed, looked at recruitment companies that seek roles for Career Advisors like Morgan Hunt, and found professional bodies, like The Career Development Institute (CDI), for Career Advisors. By doing this, I was provided with what kind of duties I would be required to do, what kind of skills I would need to have and what the climate for the service was.

I also thought that it would be a good idea to find out what other kinds of information is out there. For example, as well as university and college websites, the National Careers Service provides information to those who need help in finding and aiming for a particular career. CDI, Careers and EnterpriseComplete Careers and Teach First provide information on how to get into the careers service, news and developments in the service and/or information on training and courses. I also found quite a few interesting reports, including reports from The Gatsby Foundation, gov.uk, Parliament, The Careers & Enterprise Company and The Department of Education.

After all that research, I have an idea of what working in the careers service would entail. I believe that I would be prepared to take on any careers related role due to my extensive information skills and my interest in the service.

I do want to say that I know that it can be difficult getting bogged down by getting any job because of financial reasons. However, if a job isn’t just a job for you and you want to have your career as a part of who you are, do your research, find out what different jobs are about and what actually attracts you. There is something out there for everyone and you have to be prepared to seek it out, no matter how many different careers and jobs you have. We are only limited by the limits we put on ourselves.




An actual focus

I change my mind so often about what I want to do, that it’s no wonder people can’t keep up with me. Which is why I don’t like to tell people every single plan I ever have. But I feel like over the past few months, whilst I have been struggling with what I want to do and where I’m going, I should be allowed to change my mind every so often until I find something that I can definitely settle on for the meantime.

blue balloon

I do feel as though I have finally found a focus, something that follows from what I have been doing and thinking about. As I’ve said, I love finding and sharing information and I want to be able to perform different kinds of research and participate in projects. I also love the elements of teaching which is why I completed the TEFL course. However, I know that I don’t want to teach on a daily basis, but would like to conduct training sessions and/or support teachers in their roles.

Therefore, I have been attracted to working in Careers. It would provide me with the opportunity to work with information in the way I want to and has an element of teaching. In addition, I can see myself wanting to conduct research on the ways in which Careers is incorporated in different institutions, how it has developed and if there are ways to improve its integration into education and even other kinds of institutions.

Finally, I am excited about something again and I hope to share my findings and experiences soon.

Intro to digital libraries

Digital libraries comprise of managed collections of information, where the information is stored in digital formats and is accessible over a network (Arms, 2001). Thus digital libraries differ from search engines, such as Google, as the data provided by them are not managed. The results provided have not gone through a process whereby someone has analysed and evaluated the information for relevance, usefulness, authority, subject etc etc. 

Thus, digital libraries are needed to help organise and manage the digital information available. This means, only collating the information that is considered valuable and beneficial to the users who use the libray and need useful information. 

By creating a digital library, information is brought to those who cannot visit a physical library. As long as they have a computer and access to the Internet, they have access to the latest information; as well as unique information that have traditionally been held at only a few libraries and archives around the world. 
Also, information that was “once available only to the professional is now directly available to all” (Arms, 2001). This means that users will have access to new developments in areas such as physics or medicine. And this information is always available, never checked out, or mis-shelved. 

These benefits can encourage users to be creative with the collections. This includes the manipulation of images and data, and bringing together information that may have first appeared to be unrelated but have unique qualifying characteristics. Digital libraries allow information to be presented in new and exciting ways that may not be possible in a physical library. 

In addition, because networks can be accessed on personal devices, such as laptops, tablets and mobile phones, users can personalise their experiences by using bookmarks or downloading documents. And as these devices are becoming less expensive, more than ever, people around the world can access this information.

In terms of management, digital libraries can be expanded and remodelled far more easily than physical libraries and storage of documents is becoming less expensive (although storage of high quality media files is still expensive). And as the technology develops, the costs of the underlying technology falls making digital libraries steadily less expensive. However, supporting collections in digital and analogue format is expensive and publishers charge more for the digital version. Most libraries do not have the money to acquire and process all the materials they “desire” (Arms, 2001). 

Furthermore, receiving digital information is far more easier than acquiring materials in a physical format. This ideally includes getting the latest information from international countries about their countries, as well as providing information to these countries. 
However, those who build and maintain digital libraries, need to consider the economical situation of less fortunate countries when designing digital libraries. “One of the great challenges in developing digital libraries is to build systems that take advantage of modern technology yet perform adequately in less-than-perfect situations” (Arms, 2001).

[This blog post was inspired by ‘Digital Libraries’ by William Y. Arms (2001).]