The response to my last post was, frankly, overwhelming in the best possible way. I expected a response from the careers department at some point, obviously, but I had no idea that I’d be getting encouraging comments and advice from friends, people I’d only met a couple of times and complete strangers. If you liked it, shared it or commented, thank you so much. If you’d like to read the comments, there are a few on the blog post itself, some on my facebook status on which I shared it, but some were private messaged and asked not to be shared.
Following the response from the career department, and the confirmation I could include them on my blog, I’ve decided to document the continuing correspondence on this post (I don’t want it to take over entirely), so please feel free to browse the rest of the conversation following the earlier letter.
INITIAL RESPONSE FROM CAREERS DEPARTMENT
Many thanks for getting in touch – here is the reply you were hoping for! I’m going to attempt to respond to your points one by one:
· Making contact with students is a challenge for us, for the reasons you mention! So being proactive, as you are doing, is definitely a good way forward. We do have a ‘file’ on each student – well, an entry on a database at least – but until a student makes contact with us it will have nothing on it except the basic information which you will have provided to the university in any case. It does tell us what you are studying and how far through it you are, but it doesn’t provide any information on how you are getting on with it. My feeling is that really it’s only our business to know that if an individual student chooses to tell us. I like face-to-face meetings – it helps to see what someone’s reactions are when I’m talking with them – but we’re happy with e-mail and phone and social media too.
· I’d be disappointed if most people consider your degree subject to be useless (particularly since way back in the mists of time I also did a combined major including philosophy!), but I can say with confidence that most employers don’t make that assumption. You will of course need to justify on an application what skills you have developed relevant to the job, and this is likely to involve skills from your degree, but employers will want this information from every student regardless of subject, and students from ‘useful’ subjects who assume that employers will know how marvellously valuable their course has been without actually bothering to tell them (and to be fair, it’s only a small number), simply don’t get through the selection process.
· What you need to do? Continue to develop experience which you can use to demonstrate to an employer that you have what they need. This is likely to be through work experience, but roles of responsibility within clubs, societies, Warwick Volunteers, etc., can all be part of the mix too.
· What can we do? Well, for example: One-to-one discussions with a qualified careers consultant on any aspect of careers. Workshops on CVs and applications which can be followed by individual discussions about them with one of our job search advisers. Workshops tailored for your department(s). Workshops and events tailored for particular sectors of work. A team dedicated to helping students consider what work experience would be beneficial, how to go about finding it, and how to make the most of work experience they’ve already had – the Placement Learning Unit. A whole series of workshops on skills development, including academic skills, with an award to recognise involvement in this if desired. Awards to recognise extra-curricular contribution. A whole team working with employers, who also organise the careers fairs. Vacancy listings. Liaison with departments, and with student societies, on careers matters. Etc. Almost everything we do, and details of how to book, is athttps://myadvantage.warwick.ac.uk
· We can certainly help with helping you think through what jobs to apply to – I’d suggest booking a slot to discuss this. And yes, you can have a CV checked. Book into one of our ‘Effective Applications’ workshops to ensure that the basics are right, and then you can come and see a job search adviser at University House. The graduate vacancy websites also list paid internships (you just set the filters differently) – as well as My Advantage, have a look at www.milkround.com, www.targetjobs.co.uk or the ‘Graduate Job Search’ section of www.prospects.ac.uk. Bear in mind that it is, alas, much easier to find paid internships in some areas of work than others.
· I guess that as a careers consultant, what I think about range of pay between different sectors is largely irrelevant, since this is a decision which each person will make for themselves. But it is important to ask the question and to consider what one is expected to do (or not to do) to gain the pay in question – what the purpose of the job is, what the purpose of the organisation is, how many hours the work takes, what impact the activities you are being paid to do has (positive or negative or non-existent) on the issues you care about, and so on. It is probably also worth pointing out that I know people who have an entirely satisfactory life and cover all their needs on a salary of £17,000 a year (significantly less in a couple of cases) – they don’t live in luxury, but neither are they starving. So it depends what you value and how you want to contribute both in and beyond your working life.
· Anyone who says that a 2:2 isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on is talking nonsense. That isn’t the same as saying that there’s no difference between a 2:1 and a 2:2 – many of the larger and better-known companies will expect a 2:1. But the larger and better-known companies are only a tiny fraction of the total jobs available. A 2:2 from Warwick, particularly if it’s backed up with a range of experiences which demonstrate skills which employers like, is still well worth having. I’ve met alumni in really interesting jobs who left this place with a 2:2. But you’re certainly not the only person to feel that way. If you want to discuss the academic side of university life then your personal tutor is usually the best starting point. The skills sessions which we run can help with particular skills (speed reading, say). If you want to discuss developing employability skills or finding out more about the jobs out there, that’ll be me! And I’m sure that as a careers consultant I shouldn’t be saying this, but I don’t think anyone should worry about being at uni mainly just for the experience. There does come a point where every student has to think about what happens next, but I don’t think it should ever be the only reason for being here.
· Base likes and fears are a good starting point. Developing experience and finding out what’s out there are good next steps, and we can help with all that.
So I hope that’s helpful. I’m happy for you to put my answer on your blog if you want to, but if you want to change round or abbreviate what I’ve said, please check with me first. Similarly, can I suggest to my colleague who runs our blog that she puts your question and my reply on our blog? You’re free to say no, of course, and she probably will want to streamline our dialogue even if she decides to use it at all.
I hope that’s useful and look forward to meeting you or hearing from you again in due course.
MY RESPONSE TO THEM
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I have to say, the responses I had to my email – both from you and people who read the post I put online – was pretty incredibly positive. I think I let a lot of influences (such as sensationalist there are no jobs media) in without necessarily meaning to, and looking at it objectively has really helped.
I’m more than happy to come and meet with you if you feel it would be more beneficial, I mostly sent an email initially because a) it was 00:48am and b) as previously stated, I am rather a coward when it comes to my future. If you think a face-to-face meeting would be more worthwhile, though, I can do that at some point next week?
I think I’ve let a lot of what other students and parties say about my degree affect me too much. The idea of humanities degrees being a joke has got into my psyche enough that I make jokes about it myself (a BA in the Art of Unemployment, BA Hons in Sparknotes, etc) and that’s affected me more than necessary. I guess I need to try and think about it in the mindset of an employer who literally wants to pay me money to do a job, they want to like me, rather than the perspective of a “superior science” student making themselves feel better. That’ll come with time, though, right?
I think the list of possible workshops is something I should fully look at. In honesty, I think the entirety of the MyAdvantage site is something I should set aside an hour or two and just go through – it’s finding that time that concerns me. Whilst I joke that I’m just too busy sleeping in until 11am and procrastinating, I do genuinely find it hard to find that kinda time: hopefully the fact I’m publicly admitting this will help, aha. (I feel like admitting my laziness means it might get pandered to.)
I’ll definitely book onto an ‘Effective Applications’ workshop soon, and use milkrounds etc to have a look at what there is. Whilst it might be easier to find work in some sectors than in others, I guess the huge benefit of knowing terrifyingly little of what I want to do is that I’m, in a sense, not scared to shop arund.
The 2.2 point and the salary/value point were the ones I got an overwhelming response on: testimonies of people being happen in their 15-thousand-something jobs, people passing without honours, and being happy, and I think this is just a chip I have on my shoulder from the idea that, to quote Mae Martin “you can do anything, but it better be great, because your brother is a lawyer and we’re very proud of him”.
My priorities at university, and my priorities about personal/professional gain are definitely something I will want to give genuine thought to over the next two years, because as you said, ultimately I have to decide that for myself.
(I will have a meeting about academic expectations with a tutor though, as I feel like it won’t hurt to know what’s expected etc – again, they’re wanting me to do well as much as I’m wanting myself to do well.)
I’ve posted your response to my blog and will continue to publish our full discourse on one particular post for people to read through if they wish. I won’t edit it at all and, if you do wish to streamline our conversations for another blog, you can always link to that post if you want to offer them the “fuller” version. If there’s any huge change to what I’ve written I’d like to approve it, though!
You can find the full post (forays into the career department) here: https://andykingwrites.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/forays-into-the-career-department/