Skills Development Scotland
My degree subject: MA(hons) Linguistics, 2013
My current job (Feb 17)
I currently work as a Trainee Careers Adviser with Skills Development Scotland (SDS), based in East Lothian and Midlothian. SDS is the national Careers Information, Advice and Guidance (CIAG) service and provides a career guidance service for clients of all ages, but with a particular focus on in-school work and 16-19 year olds who are unemployed.
I am on a 2-year contract where I am working towards a Postgraduate Diploma in Careers Guidance and Development on a part-time distance-learning basis through Edinburgh Napier University. I do this whilst working full-time with SDS and have 1 day per week allocated to work on my coursework.
My day-to-day role involves a variety of tasks including delivering 1-1 employability advice to clients of all ages, delivering group work sessions to groups of school students and starting to build up my professional experience of delivering career guidance interviews. I develop the counselling skills and techniques needed for professional competency through my course and have the opportunity to practice these whilst at work. I also have a small number of unemployed young people that I case manage and help to get into work, training or education.
My career history
Prior to my current position, I worked as an Engineering Technician for a small Water and Environmental Engineering consultancy in Edinburgh called Caley Water. This role involved administrative assistance to a small team of 8 engineers and assisting with wastewater and surface water modelling projects across Scotland.
Before this, I worked for a small charity called Teens+ that provides a transitional education programme for 16-25 year olds with complex additional support needs.
My first graduate job was in 2013 working with the University of Edinburgh’s Widening Participation team where I worked with students with little or no background of Higher Education in their family or who attended schools where few people go on to university. This was a 1-year contract after which I worked for 4 months with the Undergraduate Student Recruitment team, travelling across the UK to deliver presentations and attend events and higher education conventions and delivering admissions information and advice to prospective students. I was unemployed for 3 months between this role and starting at Teens+. During this time, I continued to volunteer more at a local homeless project where I continue to volunteer today.
During my time as a student, I had two part time jobs; one working as an Event Security Steward and another as a Student Ambassador, delivering campus tours on behalf of the Student Recruitment and Admissions department at the University.
My degree-skills and my career
In all my roles so far, I haven’t used as much of my subject-specific knowledge, but instead have used some of the other transferable skills I developed during my degree. For example, the communication skills I developed through delivering presentations during my degree are invaluable in my current job as well as during my Widening Participation internship.
My useful experience
I strongly believe that paid work during my degree prepared me for the prospect of full-time work after finishing my degree. I have a wide range of work experience that I’ve built up through paid and voluntary work. I’ve volunteered at a local homeless shelter since the 1st year of my degree as well as having been a volunteer Team Leader for EUSA over Freshers’ Week for 3 years. Through all my roles I have developed a high level of communication skills and the ability to work with a wide range of people.
Making my career decisions
The power of volunteering, networking and taking advantage of opportunities which came my way!
My first job was influenced by my work as a Student Ambassador, having helped the Widening Participation team with some of their events as a Student Ambassador. After speaking with the head of Widening Participation on my way to helping with an event, she strongly encouraged me to apply for the role. Likewise, my extension with Undergraduate Student Recruitment was by chance on the back of my Internship. I stumbled upon my role at Teens+ online and decided it was something different which I wanted to try. However, I realised that this was not for me and began looking for another job to keep me tiding over until I could figure out my next move. My friend worked for Caley Water at the time and recommended me to the Managing Directors, who were looking for a new member of staff at this point. As for my current role, I decided I wanted to get back into working with young people in school and stumbled upon the role with SDS online, which looked exciting given that it also included the opportunity for further study.
Getting into my area of work
In order to become a qualified Careers Adviser, you need to hold a PgDip in Careers Guidance and Development, also referred to as a QCGD (Qualification in Career Guidance and Development). There are 2 universities that offer this course in Scotland: Edinburgh Napier University (ENU) and the University of the West of Scotland (UWS). It’s also advisable to have experience of working with young people or delivering group work or one-to-one services.
My general advice on making career decisions
I would say that your first job, or indeed your second or third job, doesn’t have to be your lifetime career. We live in a world where your ‘career’ has no boundaries and people continually change into new areas of work. It may take some time to get to exactly where you want to be and the reality is that many Graduates have to work in several jobs before they find their ‘ideal’ career.
Once you graduate, you have the rest of your life ahead of you and lots of time to build up your experience and to think about what it is you really want to do and which direction you want to take. Even if your first or second job isn’t one that you particularly want to stick with, you can still keep applying for other jobs as you work until you find the right position for you!