Top Tips For Teachers Advising On KS4-5 Options

The advice I wish I’d been given about building a career

It’s fair to say that the level of careers advice I received at school could have covered a wider range of topics. As many will be able to relate, any advice was primarily geared towards following the traditional university pathway. This is all well and good and it just so happened I was university bound, but other advice around soft skills and developing experience was missing.

What I now consider to be the most valuable careers advice has come from what I’ve picked up along the way and the experience and employability skills I’ve developed; both as interviewee and interviewer. Whenever I speak to students at recruitment events I understand that each one has different advice needs and a one-size-fits-all approach is ineffective.

With so many options and opportunities on the table for the 16-21 year old market there’s never been more of a need for detailed, impartial and accurate careers advice.

What five key topics can you talk to students about?

  1. Transferrable skills are just as important as grades – It’s important that your students are able to present clearly and confidently, able to manage their time and workload efficiently, and able to demonstrate leadership and team working skills are all key attributes to employers. Get your students to think more critically and take note of the skills that they develop working on a Saturday in the local supermarket, or by playing in the school/college/university sports team, or by fundraising with a group of other students for a charity event. These skills are exactly what employers want to see.
  2. For school leavers there’s more options than ever before – There are options after high school and/or college other than university. If the cost of university fees and student debt or moving away from home isn’t something a student thinks is for them then help steer them in the direction of apprenticeships or school leaver programmes. Encourage them to study subjects they will enjoy as typically they are much more likely to perform well and get better grades! So many programmes don’t require specific subjects and it’s the grade that counts. They should also attend as many careers fairs and open days as they can and prepare well for them. Research the university or employer in advance and then they have a better focus of what to ask them in person. Look out for regional careers events as these tend to have a larger selection of recruiters and universities – but school/college careers events are just as important!
  3. Work experience is a huge advantage  – Even a few days in the summer holidays can give insight into how a company operates on a day-to-day basis, and helps to shape your students mind-set. Future employers will see from their CV/application that they have taken the time and the initiative to gain this insight. This experience doesn’t need to be industry specific either, and lack of experience isn’t always a barrier to the career you want. The softer skills developed will apply everywhere.
  4. Competition is fierce – For every application a student completes or every CV emailed to an employer, remember that they will receive 10, 50, 100 applications for each role they are looking to fill depending on the size of the company. Just because they’re not shortlisted does not mean they have failed and it doesn’t mean they aren’t good enough. It just means another candidate had something else to offer. This can be difficult to accept the first time but students shouldn’t be disheartened, and certainly not give up. Nudge them into asking for feedback to see if there is anything they can improve upon and think about what other skills they can develop in the meantime. Tailoring each CV to each employer is timeconsuming but worthwhile, employers can spot a generic version at a glance. The school/college Careers Adviser can help them get used to this method. There’s also great resources online to help make school leaver CVs stand out.
  5. Practice, practice, practice! – First job or Senior Manager: interviews are scary. How do they get easier? Practice! The more interviews students attend the more they will come to know what to expect, although no two interviews are the same. Inform students that employers invite them to an interview because they think they are a viable candidate for the job and they want to see what they have to offer. Practice with a group of friends is a great way to build confidence, overcome the initial embarrassment and develop those skills. Set up a mock interview group in the same way you would a study group. Students should use all the resources and practice questions they can find and take it in turns to interview each other. Think of past interview questions you have been asked and share with them, throw a curveball question in there too! Encourage students to engage with employers at any opportunity, if your school/college arranges an employer event that will help develop these skills emphasis how beneficial it will be to attend.

Both students and their influencers need the information to make decisions about their own futures. Being able to speak to FE colleges, universities and real employers both large and small, local and national is crucial to get an understanding of what opportunities are waiting for them.

CEIAG doesn’t stop at the school gates.

About the Author

Steph Hamilton is a Marketing professional with almost 10 years’ experience, specialising in student recruitment and education. She’s developed and worked on a number of campaigns promoting careers options to students and graduates.