For #NCW2019 I pledge to… Give an insight in my career area.

As careers advisers working mainly in schools, our job is rewarding and varied.  Alongside a plethora of administration and continual professional development, we attend parents’ evenings and careers events, deliver group works, address whole year groups in assemblies and conduct work experience visits.

The most rewarding part however, is working with young people in one-to-one interviews.  It is here that we can really make a difference to a young person, so it is heartening to see our role recognised in the Gatsby Benchmarks under ‘Personal guidance – Every pupil should have opportunities for guidance interviews with a careers adviser… trained to an appropriate level.’  A sentiment we couldn’t agree with more!

In a confidential interview, careers advisers create a safe environment and use a person-centred approach that enables clients to identify, explore and challenge their values, strengths, weaknesses, goals and barriers so they can move forward with their lives.  We help young people at all different stages of their career planning; including those who are completely stuck and have no ideas at all.

We’re often asked to see students who are facing disappointment – maybe their dream to be a vet or join the Army has been shattered because of their predicted grades or a medical issue.  Or students with low self-esteem who feel they are good at nothing.  When young people are feeling vulnerable and uncertain, we can enable them to see there are alternative options or pathways which would work for them.  We don’t tell our clients what to do; we aim to empower them so they can make their own informed choices.

Interviews can be anything from 25 minutes to an hour, although as schools are under increasing financial pressure, shorter appointments are more common these days.  We have to work faster and do more with less time, but helping a student reach a clearer understanding of their options and broadening their horizons is still incredibly valuable, especially with reluctant attendees or those who have no idea at all what they want to do.

Another key part of our role is advocacy, particularly on behalf of young people with additional needs or anxiety issues.  This might involve skilful diplomacy and negotiation, including with a young person who is scared and resistant to change.  Sometimes the distance travelled during the course of an interview is a student moving from flat refusal to even talk about an option you know could be right for them, to them agreeing to look at a photo of it.  Seeing a student happily move on to college or work is the best reward.

Generally young people appreciate careers advisers are here to help them, so there are frequent highlights for us:

  • ‘Light bulb’ moments – seeing a young person’s face light up when they realise they can do something they didn’t think possible.
  • The look of relief when they feel listened to and understood.
  • Changes in body language – sitting taller in their chair or a smile when you have provided some positive feedback.
  • A young person leaving the room more confident and enthused about their future.
  • Schools appreciating what we do – when a careers co-ordinator informs you that a student came back from their interview “buzzing”!
  • Someone in an unexpected setting (in hospital as they are inserting your intravenous cannula!) telling you that you were their careers adviser and that you helped them.
  • Parents taking the time to thank us.
  • When a student asks for an interview because their friend said they should come and see you – the ultimate compliment!

We see hundreds of students every year, so can’t possibly know if or how we have helped them all and in some cases the benefits of guidance might only come into play in the future.

Sometimes the gratification is more instant; I recently overheard a young man telling his careers co-ordinator quite adamantly there was ‘no point in seeing the careers adviser because he already knew all his options and it would be a waste of time’. He had the information, but as he still did not know what he wanted to do, he needed guidance and so was persuaded to see me.

At the end of the interview he turned to me and said, slightly begrudgingly, “Actually, that was quite useful, thanks!”


By Natalie Bray and Rachel Bolt, CSW Group Careers Advisers