A graduate’s best friend in the job market
IN 2013, Ofsted reported that three quarters of UK schools lacked adequate career services.The situation at many universities is not much better. At one high-ranking university popular with straight-A students, there are nine dedicated career counsellors, supporting up to 5,000 graduates a year — 555 students per counsellor. Even if we include all the information, employability and skills staff, that makes 23 staff members supporting 217 students each. No wonder the 20-minute appointments are booked a week ahead and students are encouraged to use online resources instead. The situation is exacerbated by the economic climate, increasing competition for limited graduate positions and a rapidly evolving graduate recruitment process.
Most career services focus on career counselling, introducing career paths based on skills and abilities presented to them by students. They offer essential support in the form of group career information, reviewing CVs and perhaps a mock interview. But what most students in transition into the workplace require is personalised coaching, not general counselling. Whether one is pursuing work post-graduation or changing jobs, career coaches provide the added element of one-to-one mentorship.
According to certified career coach Donna Sweidan, the most common misconception among young people is that a well-done CV is all that is needed to conduct an effective job search. The truth is far more complicated. What most graduates and young professionals struggle with is defining their goals and planning steps to achieve them.
Career coaching and mentoring firms such as ours have found that their job goes far beyond editing CVs and providing interview tips. The coaching often begins by helping clients to recognise their career capital, the value that potential employers put on their experiences, competencies and aptitude.
A consultant recalls one graduate who had experienced skiing on four continents and spent many summers in Argentina, herding cattle on a ranch. Despite this, when asked to describe a time when he worked outside his comfort zone, he chose to cite his final-year group project. “He simply didn’t know what he had,” says the consultant.
Using one-to-one coaching and mentoring, skills development and diagnostic testing, coaches and clients create action plans that detail exactly where clients (graduates) want to be and how they plan to get there.
The results are often life-altering, as recent graduate Oscar explains. Being dyslexic had held him back. “People had low expectations of me and eventua l l y I had l ow e x pecta - tions of myself,” he says. The coaching and mentoring he received helped him to build his confidence and develop his analytical and reasoning aptitude. That push resulted in his being invited to attend the final selection stage for Sandhurst. Later, he was offered a consultancy role with a company specialising in innovative medical devices and solutions in orthopaedics, spinal care and neuroscience.
Career coaches will also help you work on valuable soft skills such as negotiation, active listening and networking.The time and money spent working with a career coach at the beginning of your career or during a transition into a new career can save you years of frustration resulting from a stagnated professional life. Dr Ambroz Neil is managing principal consultant at Alexander Partners, 0203 755 3712, ambroz@alexanderpartners. org.uk, www.alexanderpartners.org.uk
One-to-one mentorship can help young people identify their strengths