Session two: Careers Advisers

Student Focus Group session two: Careers Advisers

Session overview

  • 12 November 2018
  • Number of Students: 9
  • CES Staff/Guests: Emily Packer, Alena Tkacova, Pippa Waller (Careers Adviser), Catrin Thomas (Employability Assistant).

Topic 1: How to raise awareness of the role of the Careers Advisers and the support they offer

Main topics of concern and interest

The topics raised in the discussion included the issue of not being fully aware of what Careers Advisers do, who is the Careers Adviser linked to the subject and how to best market the information. It has also been suggested that to make connection with students, especially those with anxieties, offering group sessions to meet an adviser would be beneficial.

Main discussion

Raising awareness of the role and the support it offers is vital as the group argued that not all subject courses have the same level of presence of a Careers Advisor (CA) throughout the year. The group suggested that the initial introduction should be made before the students start their studies e.g. adding information to the Informational Pack (sent to students before they arrive) but also to include flyers in the ‘’freebies bag’’ and to run sessions about the careers service during the Open/Applicant Days. This already takes place and so confirms the importance of sharing the information in early stages. The next stage of introduction was suggested to be made in the Course Introductory Lectures. The group advised that the attendance of these sessions is very high and the first year students are still very engaged. The issue of attendance is further discussed in the topic 3.

Visual advertising was also discussed as an efficient way of introducing the adviser to their faculty. The group felt that a poster ‘’who is my adviser’’ including a photo of the adviser, where they can be found or how to get in touch, would allow students to familiarise themselves with the person - not knowing who they are may be daunting. A similar format of the simple poster should be available online, on the webpage, DLE and the Plymouth App. This could be in a form of a simple poster, profile or a video. This conversation led to a discovery that the Plymouth App now takes a student directly to MyCareer when they click on the C&ES tile. This is potentially a problem as the C&ES webpage itself holds more information about various parts of the service.

Knowing who the adviser is solves one part of the issue however those with anxieties may not be comfortable to seek a one to one support, as advised by the group. The students suggested that holding a small group sessions would offer a friendlier alternative to something what could be potentially too scary. This could be marketed as a ‘’meet the adviser’’ session. Students also suggested that a similar set up could be offered to those students on the same course and similar career interests where the more engaged students could help the less confident ones in a friendly but still professional environment.

Would like to see

  • Careers Advisers attending the Course Introductory Lectures.
  • Informational posters on ‘’who is my adviser’’ displayed around campus, website, DLE and the Plymouth App.
  • A small course group meetings for those with anxieties (in addition to one to one support already offered).

Topic 2: How can we find the best way to communicate opportunities to students (excluding social media)?

Main topics of concern and interest

The discussion about how to communicate opportunities to students was focused on the visual promotion around the campus/online and adding incentives. Additionally, students raised the importance of physical contact with the adviser in sessions and lectures. Whilst the visual advertising raises the awareness, the physical contact is more engaging and gets more interest; students would also welcome more peer promotion and alumni talks.

Main issues highlighted were around the calendar and events/sessions not being timetabled or syncing with the timetable calendar. There was also a concern that the communication from CAs/careers service drops off completely in postgraduate programmes and is overtaken by academics.

Main discussion

The group covered visual advertising and agreed that what already works well are the pop up banners, leaflets, case studies displayed around the campus and on screens. Suggestion offered was to make it eye catching using logos, images and to highlight the main benefits for students. Another suggestion was to put a pop up banner outside the Hub with a title ‘’come and talk to us’’ adding a few bullet points suggesting what a CA can support with.

With regards to online communication the group advised that they would like to receive an email (relevant to their course) about specific career paths/career update/newsletter ideally once a month. There was an acknowledgement that this is already in place in the Business Faculty (sent twice in semester) and would be appreciated in other faculties too. The further discussion highlighted the advantage of advertising any events with incentives e.g. free hospitality or a ‘’tell your friend’’ scheme.

In addition to this students pointed out that they would like the Careers Advisers coming to their lectures more. The discussion on this revealed that whilst some subjects get regular career sessions, others have placements lectures only, which are not attended or desired by those who are not interested in placements. Students agreed that they would like at least 2 sessions each year that are career related (on top of the placements sessions that may already be in place). This should also include Alumni Talks, as advised by the group, students value advice and experience shared by their peers. Student Ambassadors could also be used as a peer to peer promotion.

The main concern about communicating sessions/lectures/events to students effectively was around the fact that they do not appear in the timetable and they are not syncing with the university timetable. The group discussed the difficulty of keeping track of everything that is available. Students would like to see everything in one calendar however acknowledging that this may not be technically possible they would like the events calendar to cross check with the students’ calendar.

Further discussion highlighted that the events calendar should be more easily accessible. The group did not like that the tile on Plymouth App goes directly to MyCareer. An alternative was put forward for the tile to give an access to the events calendar, webpage, as well as MyCareer. Students felt that this would promote the calendar and make it more accessible.

Would like to see

  • Visual advertising highlighting benefits for students and offering free hospitality/tell your friend scheme.
  • Monthly emails about careers updates, events, specific career paths tailored to the subject/faculty.
  • At least two career related lectures (including Alumni Talks) that are not placement related (not everyone is interested in placements).
  • Student Ambassadors promoting career related events/lectures.
  • Careers events in the timetable; alternatively the events calendar having ability to sync/cross check with the students’ calendar.

Topic 3: How can we increase attendance of sessions/events? 

Main topics of concern and interest

The main concern in the discussion was around timetabling sessions without creating gaps in daily schedules and also getting endorsement from lecturers to promote importance. Suggestions also included tailoring the sessions to specific career paths, having events promoting different careers and offering incentives especially for the first year students.

Main discussion

The attendance issue was firstly addressed by the strength of advertising and how well the event/lecture is explained – students would like to see what they will get out of it. The group discussed targeted approach in marketing e.g. ‘’do you want to get into…’’. Incentives should also be advertised such as free hospitality, freebies, scan to win etc. Promotion via academics remains the strongest advertising tool – the discussion confirmed that students tend to attend events that are endorsed by their lecturers. 

Secondly, the timing is crucial – the group suggested that sessions could be strategically placed before or after lectures. Alternatively to share the time with timetabled lectures i.e. two hour lectures could be separated into two sections one of which would be covered by a Careers Adviser. There was also a suggestion of timetabling a 1-1 meeting with a careers adviser.

With regards to gaining interest from students, it was recommended to make career sessions engaging, to bring education through events with things that encompass everyone. Students would like to hear from employers, professionals and alumni to learn from real life stories. Mock interviews were mentioned as a great opportunity to engage with employers and a good way to learn, the group highlighted however that the advert is usually too brief and doesn’t include what roles the company have (what will they be interviewed for) or what skills they will get from the process. Students also felt that to increase interest of such events, the advisers could email the information out as an outlook calendar invitation.

Would like to see

  • Timetabled sessions, avoiding gaps, sharing longer sessions with academics.
  • Incentives to be advertised – free hospitality, freebies, scan to win.
  • Run sessions/events that are focused on specific career paths as ‘’do you want to get into...’’
  • Bring companies, professionals and alumni to sessions, bring education through events.
  • Mock interviews – advertise what roles are available and what skills you’ll develop in the process. 
  • Lecturer’s endorsement.
  • Send events invitations as a calendar invite via outlook.