Not sure what you want to do when you leave school? Did you know that one of the most useful resources of careers information is located right in your school?
A school careers advisor can help you explore various career options, provide you with specific industry information and give you advice about particular jobs. In short, a careers advisor can help you with:
- Developing your CV.
- Understanding the job market.
- Searching and applying for jobs.
- Applying for various training schemes.
- Identifying your skills.
- Exploring specific career paths.
It’s important to remember that your school’s career service is there for you, so your meetings should be led by what specific advice you’re looking for.
Why talk to a school careers advisor?
As a trained and experienced careers expert, they will know how to help you decide what career path is right for you. You should talk to teachers, parents and friends, but bear in mind that it's not their job to help you recognise what you really want to achieve in your career and how best to get there.
Lots of things influence young people's career decisions, and according to a recent survey, over half find themselves unhappy in the job they end up in. That's why it's so important to talk to the right person before making your decisions.
This infographic shows the influences on male and female school students, the next steps they take – and whether they are ultimately happy in their working life (right click and select "Open image in new tab" to see a bigger version):
Your school careers advisor is there to talk through some of the uncertainties you have, help you make some really big decisions, and then guide you in the best direction to make them a reality.
What do you want to achieve from your conversations?
Sometimes "I want to find a career" is too broad a target to begin with. This might well be what you’re hoping to achieve, but in order to reach that point, there are usually smaller steps you can take in between to help you realise this goal.
For example, you might want to start out by identifying what your skills are. You career advisor can provide you with different tasks and exercises to help establish what type of careers would suit you best.
If you find that you’re a whiz with computers for example, then your career advisor might recommend that you look into a career in computer programming. Or, if you have a passion for writing, then perhaps a career in journalism, marketing or media could be the path for you?
Try to think of your meetings as a journey rather than a quick fix solution. At the end of the day, the only person who can really decide what career is best for you, is you.
Have questions prepared
Before your first meeting, it will help if you have some specific questions prepared in order to guide the conversation. Of course, a school careers advisor can give you general information about how to find a career, but the more specific you can be, the more practical advice your advisor will be able to give you.
Your questions could be as general, such as:
- What are the best careers websites to explore?
- What do I need on my CV?
- How do I write a cover letter?
They could also be specific and relate to the kinds of careers you're interested in following. These could be questions like:
- What qualifications do I need to become a doctor?
- What’s the average teaching salary?
School careers advisors are really useful when it comes to basic questions like this, but you're basically using them as a glorified search engine. These are questions you could find out in a few minutes if you were left alone with a smartphone. That's not to say it's not worth clarifying – there's lots of conflicting information out there, and it's best to get an expert opinion.
But given that you have limited time in your meetings, the best kinds of questions are those that come out of your own reflection and research.
If you've considered your skills and interests and are thinking about pursuing a career as an engineer, you could ask them about engineering firms who might offer you work experience in the local area, what you can do now to give yourself an advantage when you come to apply for jobs, and talk through whether university or an apprenticeship is the best option for you. A conversation is something you just can't get from Google (not yet, anyway!).
'You'll get the most out of your careers advisor if you plan for your meeting'
Be proactive in following up advice
If you really want to make the most of the advice you get from your career advisor, then you should follow up on any leads, websites, resources or information that you’ve been given. Even if you end up exploring some careers that you decide aren’t for you, you’ll still have managed to eliminate some options from your list.
When it comes to finding a career, it’s often the steps you take throughout the process that help you find what you’re looking for. A lot of students hope that they’ll be able to look through a list of careers and simply choose one that will end up being their perfect job.
Unfortunately, for most people, searching for a career is more of a process rather than a one-off exercise but the more time you spend researching, the better informed you’ll be to make good decisions.
Have regular meetings
In order to make the most of your visits, you need see them regularly. If you’ve been given any specific tasks to do, make sure you have them completed for your next meeting. Your careers advisor will be able to draw conclusions from the exercises you do and will be able to provide you with more specific advice.
The more often you see your advisor, the more you’ll get to know one another, which will help them advise you better on possible career paths. The beginning of the journey is always the hardest part but as you spend more time researching potential careers, you’ll get a better idea of what type of jobs will suit you best.
Remember, if you’re still at school, you don’t necessarily have to have one specific career in mind. Sometimes identifying a general area is a good enough starting point to decide whether you want to study at university, apply for an apprenticeship or look into other training options.