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4 Signs You’re Clients Are Just Not Cut Out for the 9-to-5 Life
August 16, 2019
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So many of us were raised to a subtle beat (or loud gong) that went something like this, “Get good grades. Get into a decent school. Get a solid desk job (with benefits). Be happy.”

Problem is, for some people this formula doesn’t lead to career fulfillment at all. In fact, for some, it’s a formula that ultimately makes them want to crawl out of their own skin or run screaming from that solid desk job (with benefits).

Could this be you or your clients? What are some signs that individuals may, in fact, not be cut out for a traditional, 9-to-5 job?

Here are a few signs, plus what should you do if this becomes clear to you.

1. You Feel Like a Caged Animal When You’re in the Office

Sometimes, it’s not about resenting authority at all. For some who aren’t cut out for traditional jobs, it’s the endless sea of desks that makes them want to run screaming from the building.

I remember my own first corporate job. At first, it was all like, “Oh. Sooo cool. Look at all these important-looking people in these little cubby holes.” By about six months in, I was finding any excuse possible to get out into the fresh air. (“You need someone to go pick up lunch? On it!”)

By a few years in, I’d had enough. I lasted a grand total of seven years before I’d flat-out had it. I needed freedom, and I needed space.

What to Do If You Feel Trapped

If your job truly requires you to sit in one space and stare at a computer all day (and you actually don’t mind the work), you may consider requesting the option to telecommute a couple times a week. This article includes templates and suggestions for starting that conversation.

If your role doesn’t really mandate sitting in one place every day, start planning your day (or requesting to do so) in a way that gets you out and about at least a time or two every day.

Monotony can crush even the brightest spirit. Find ways to break up yours (simple suggestions here. Or, if you know an office is simply a no-go, start investigating ways to apply to a field that has you, well, out in the field.

2. You Don’t Like Working Regimented Hours (or Having a Regimented Life)

Similar to the feeling that a cubicle may give you, being required (or nearly required) to punch in and out each day can make you feel like you have no say in your career or life. And having no say may make you want out, stat.

What to Do If You Despise Set Hours

Of course, there are many roles that simply require you cover a shift. If this is your job (and it’s making you nuts), you may want to consider a new position or line of work. Businesses that run shifts need shift workers. No getting around that.

However (and this is especially true if you’re a top performer), if the imposed hours are arbitrary—done because this is what everyone does and has always done—perhaps you could put together a proposal that shows your boss how you can achieve your goals outside of the current schedule.

Use care with this approach, of course. (Keep in mind that your boss may long for a similar scenario but be too afraid to push it with “the powers that be.”) But if you do it strategically and in a non-pushy manner, you may just find your idea is heard. And, hopefully, approved!

3. Spreadsheets Makes You Crazy

I recently worked with a client who was having a heck of a time finding a new sales role. It was a mystery to me at first, because she has so much going for her. But as we spoke, I began to realize that, while she loves selling, she hates (understatement) all the paperwork and reporting that goes along with it.

In fact, she doesn’t just hate it—she’s terrified of it. Thus, every time she gets into a conversation with a hiring manager (for another sales job), they get as far in conversation as the spreadsheets and then she’s out.

The companies she is eyeing simply don’t want a sales person who can’t or won’t also do the necessary behind-the-scenes work.

What to Do If Paperwork Makes You Pout

Whether you’re afraid of the paperwork (or the technology you need to know how to use to complete it), or simply annoyed about having to do it, here’s the reality: It’s probably not going away.

Whether you’re working for someone else or for yourself, your job will likely require at least a certain amount of reporting, documenting, data entry, or number crunching. I don’t care if you’re on Wall Street or running a landscaping crew, business is business and it requires paperwork.

That said, if you truly abhor it, consider finding ways to delegate, outsource, or get support on the stuff you simply do not want to do. If you’re weak on the technology or tools that power the paperwork, ask for training, or invest in it yourself.

If you’re at the bottom of the ladder and can’t just delegate, see if you can trade tasks with a co-worker. Maybe they hate something you don’t mind and it could be a win-win for both of you.

Few of us adore paperwork, but it’s a part of business. So, either get comfortable with it, or get it off your plate.

4. You Resent Being Told What to Do (by Anyone)

No one likes an unreasonable or overly bossy boss, but the true fish-out-of-water 9-to-5-er tends to cringe when she gets even a whiff of “authority for the sake of being the authority” going on.

If you feel a bubbling rage when asked to attend a meeting you don’t want to go to, or work on a project you don’t think is a priority, this could be a warning sign. If you don’t think you shouldn’t have to arrive at a certain time or put in a request for vacation time at all? The writing’s on the wall.

What to Do If You’re Not Having it with Authority

If you’re feeling super resentful about having to answer to anyone, it may be a clear indicator that you’re meant to be your own boss. This isn’t me saying, “March right in and quit, my friend.” Slow your roll. In many cases, this could be reckless. But if you truly despise working on someone else’s agenda, consider how you might earn a living as the one who gets to make the agenda.

No matter how forcefully or consistently people wormed into your head that the formula for success always involves a 9-to-5 job, it’s just not true.

If you’re simply not cut out for one, don’t spend years pining away for something else. Instead, find strategic, creative, or brave ways to redefine your current role, or create your own.

Life’s too short to be stuck in a job (or cubicle) that you hate. So, make it your mission to find relief, or find the door.

#ResultsDay2019: Has University Become the Default Option?
August 15, 2019
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Thousands of students will be busy thinking about their next move. New research has found that around three quarters (72%) of school leavers across the UK are planning on going to University when they finish school, more than those planning on getting a job (10%), doing an apprenticeship (5%), or taking a gap year (4%).

However, despite the enduring popularity of university, 44% do not believe a degree will equip them for a job, admitting it will only delay entry into the world of work (8%). In fact, one in five (20%) believe that 2-3 years of work experience would better prepare them for their career. 13% of degree hopefuls also reveal their A-Level subjects do not even match their degree.

  • 72% of year 13 students are planning on going to university after finishing school yet almost half (44%) do not believe a degree will equip them for the world of work
  • With record unconditional offers, almost a third (30%) believe it’s easier to get into university than 10 years ago citing reasons such as degrees being less valuable (39%) and universities needing the funding (30% )
  • Just under half (46%) say that there isn’t enough career advice available when it comes to making important decisions post A-levels

With more unconditional offers to universities than ever before, and some universities set to go bust, it’s perhaps no surprise that 30% believe it’s easier to get into universities now than ten years ago. When asked why, students said it was due to the institutions needing more funding (30%), degrees becoming less valuable (39%) and universities worryingly offering more unconditional offers to increase student numbers pre-results day (53%).

These concerns echo those raised in the media in recently months, looking at a possible collapse of the university system as we know it today due to financial pressures.

With these perceived problems in mind, why are students still so drawn to a degree over qualifications such as an apprenticeship?

It may come down to the schooling system and pressures, with 43% saying they chose their A-Levels based on subjects that they would most likely to get good grades in, whilst 28% said there just wasn’t enough careers advice available when it comes to making importance decisions post A-Levels.

Students also believed universities could be doing more to champion alternatives, with almost half (49%) saying they should be offering more degree apprenticeships or creating internship / apprentice opportunities to students in line with their degree subject (41%).

Mark Creighton CEO, AVADO comments:

“A-Level Results Day is a stressful day for sixth-formers up and down the country, with thousands banking on their grades to cement their careers at university. But with so many readily believing that these future degrees won’t prepare them for their careers, why do they insist on going?

“Here at AVADO, the UK’s leading apprenticeship provider, we’re breaking the mould and today, we’re encouraging students to consider alternative options. Not only could you earn money whilst studying through degree apprenticeships, but you even could enter the world of work from the get go and leave that university debt and student life working across tech, HR and digital for innovative brands like Microsoft, Google and MTV.”

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James Eiloart, Senior Vice President of EMEA, Tableau Software, said:

“The fact that nearly half of all young people do not believe university prepares them for a job suggests a worrying disconnect between the education system and the demands of the modern workplace. Addressing this challenge will require action on a number of different fronts.

“Britain is facing a looming skills gap in key areas such as data analytics. We must get away from the idea that universities alone should be responsible for sustaining the talent pool. We believe apprentice programmes have a vital role to play as a viable alternative to university that can deliver the new and emerging skills businesses require.

“We must also consider the skills businesses are demanding and ensure these are reflected in the way courses are taught at university. For example, analytical reasoning, data science and business analysis are currently amongst the top 25 most in-demand skills for today’s workforce – these skills will be crucial for young people as they enter tomorrow’s workplace, whatever career path they choose. Rather than hiving these off into a few technical subjects, we need to look more holistically at how data literacy and other core skills can be embedded into a far broader swathe of university courses.”

#ResultsDay2019: Young People Expect to Change Careers Twice in Lifetime
August 15, 2019
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One in five (23%) young people expect to change careers twice during their working lifetime, according to research from the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT).

Its survey, of 1,001 16- to 24-year-olds in the UK, found that more than one in 10 (14%) expect to change careers three times and 16% expect to change careers once. Just 16% said they expected to not change career at all during their working life.

However, despite the UK workforce changing jobs at an ever-increasing rate today, one in 10 (9%) young people believe they will never change the company they work for, researchers said.

The research also found that many young people aspire to be their own boss, with more than two-fifths (43%) of 16- to 24-year-olds saying they have ambitions to set up their own business during their working life.

Those from a more disadvantaged background were found to be the most ambitious, with almost half (49%) of young people from a lower socio-economic background saying they want to start their own business. This compared to 46% from a middle socio-economic background and 44% with a higher socio-economic background.

Similarly, gender doesn’t act as a barrier to entrepreneurial ambition, with the findings revealing that young women are just as determined as young men to set up their own business (42% versus 44% respectively).

When asked how prepared they feel for the future workplace, respondents predicted they will need to upskill to remain suitable for jobs. The majority (61%) expect to have to upskill during their working life and 55% believe they will have to retrain over the course of their career in order to retain an advantage in the job market. The key skills young people believe they will need in the future workplace are communication skills (42%), problem-solving skills (35%) and tech skills (31%).

Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at the University of Manchester, told HRmagazine he is “not surprised” that young people expect to have multiple careers.

“They are right to say they will change careers at least twice. This is partly because of new technology and AI, which is likely to deskill jobs and make them less satisfying over time,” he said.

“So young people will want to try something different and, for some, this will lead them to want to become an entrepreneur and start their own business.”

HR will need to find new, innovative ways of retaining young employees in order to compete with the lure of starting their own businesses, Cooper added.

“For HR this means if you want to retain young people – in a corporate or public sector body especially – you better make their jobs more interesting and, in a sense, let them develop a micro-entrepreneurial business within your business,” he said.

“You won’t retain them by being process driven which is what a lot of HR is now. So HR faces a challenge to break away from being process driven, to instead find ways to enable people to do something more innovative and creative. This means giving employees opportunities to have experiences both within and outside the organisation.”

Adam Harper, director of strategy and professional standards at AAT, added that businesses need to focus on supporting young people entering employment today. “It’s crucial that we support young people’s ambitions by providing them with the solid foundations and transferable skills they need to succeed in whatever career they choose, particularly when they are looking to start a business themselves,” he said.

#ResultsDay2019: Help Your Students to Fully Understand the Options Available to Them
August 15, 2019
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Young people all across the country will be feeling many mixed emotions from excitement to worry and nervousness.

Remind them that exam results aren’t everything and they will always have options regardless of the outcome!

Save the Date

Today (14th Aug) is vocational results day. A Level results day is the 15th August and GCSE results day is the 22nd August. For Scottish students results day for A Levels and GCSEs is on the 6th August. 

Students can usually pick their results up from school or sixth form at around 10am but this will depend on the exam centre (the school or sixth form).

If you’re a teacher who will be there on the big day, ensure you’re there to offer the young person support. If they did well make sure they know what a big achievement that is! If a student didn’t do as well as they expected to, encourage them not to be too hard on themselves and make sure they understand that there are still plenty of pathways available. 

What if a student didn’t do as well as expected?

If a student is collecting their GCSE or A Level results and didn’t do as well as they expected, try to calm them down and explain that there are plenty of options available to them!  

Students can always consider resitting their exams or follow a different pathway into their career. They might want to consider an apprenticeship or BTEC. If your student hasn’t done as well as you would have liked at A Level then you can help them to understand their options through Clearing. 

Clearing is available to students without any offers or those who choose to enter self-release. There will be a vacancy list with unfilled university offers and is a great back up option.  

What if your student did better than expected?

Congratulate them and ensure they understand the options available! Students might want to consider a different route or may like to apply through Adjustment. Remind them that there is no right or wrong pathway. It’s all about doing what is best for them.

If you work in a school your students might want to consider doing an apprenticeship, A Levels, Vocational Qualifications, BTEC or Traineeship. For College students, they might want to look into a Higher or Degree Apprenticeship, Work Experience or University. 

Sharon Walpole, Director, Careermap

#ResultsDay2019: Overcoming the Myths of Clearing
August 15, 2019
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As of September 20th, 2018, the academic intake year saw a total of 60,100 hopeful students accepted through the UCAS clearing process.

Not only was this figure 150 higher than the previous year, it broke a new record for the number of students in total who had been taken in through clearing.

Unfortunately, despite the incredible number of success stories which have generated from the clearing process, in 2019, there still exists a major stigma around it.

In this article, we set out to quash the myths and provide you with a factual realisation of the benefits of clearing.

What is clearing?

Clearing takes place between July and September. It is designed to help students who need another opportunity to apply, regardless of the reason. Much of the confusion regarding the clearing process is based around who can apply. If you fall within any of the following categories, then you can apply:

  • Your application was not received by UCAS until after the 30th June, as by this stage they will not have been able to submit it to higher education institutions on your behalf
  • You didn’t receive any offer(s)
  • You had paid the full application fee for a course which has either been declined or unsuccessful
  • You either didn’t respond by the due date or declined your offer(s)
  • You didn’t receive the grades, therefore your offer was not confirmed
  • You declined a changed entry point, a changed course of study, or a changed start date
A-Level aftermath

The first major point regarding the clearing process, which is misinterpreted, is that it is only for people who failed their A-Levels. Not only is this untrue, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, clearing does offer an alternative route into further education for those who failed to meet preestablished grade requirements, however, this is one very small dimension to the process.

It is a sad reality that many students will beat themselves up if they don’t get their predicted grades at A-Level. However, once you arrive at university, everyone starts off from the same place. Teaching is designed and geared to ensure that everyone is in the same boat, regardless of your previous experience or learning. Similarly, don’t think because you’ve come through clearing that the rest of the class will be more intelligent — they could have gone through the exact same experience! Once you’re in, you’re in, and there is no looking back.

For students carrying out their A-Levels, there is no denying that you have a lot on your plate. Yes, of course you will receive copious amounts of help from your career advisor at school or college, but, quite frankly, you might not know what you want to do. Often this can lead to jumping into a university course that you didn’t actually want to do. This is where clearing can show its true worth. Rather than devoting the next three or four years of your life to a degree which you are unsure about, reapply once you have had a summer to weigh up your options.

‘But it’s only the courses that nobody wants to do…’

If you listen to the word on the grapevine, you might think that the only courses available through clearing are the ones which nobody wants to do. This, however, is little more than a rumour. Of course, there are a number of subjects which are incredibly oversubscribed from the off-set. However, even for those courses, the grade boundaries will usually be higher, and if the candidates don’t meet the requirements, unfilled places will remain.

All clearing does is match students to courses which are not filled. The credibility of the course isn’t diminished in anyway because it features in the clearing process — you could literally find anything on there, even the course you had initially applied for. Don’t think that because you’ve had one knock back from that course that you are inappropriate for a second shot. Many students find that they miss the cut the first time around, however, they can enter on the second intake.

Edward Brooks is a recent graduate of Northumbria University. After completing his first year at Teesside University in Middlesbrough, Edward began to look at alternative locations for the remainder of his studies. He wanted to be closer to his family in Newcastle. Unfortunately, because he had missed the cut off for UCAS applications, he would have had to wait for another year if he was going to apply using the standard procedure. Thanks to the university clearing process, Edward was able to apply to Northumbria. He details how his process was utterly seamless: “I was a bit stressed at first. I’d heard that clearing can be really confusing and time consuming, but, I got in touch and everything was pretty simplistic — I was on the right course for me, in the right location in a few weeks”.

What else?

The clearing process isn’t difficult, but we do admit, come results day, things might be a bit haphazard. However, there are walk through guides online detailing how to make the most out of the process.

Don’t be fooled into thinking people will think less of you if you go through clearing. Clearing is somewhat of a Pandora’s box, or Narnia style cupboard, in that it can lead you into endless opportunity.

University? Traineeship? First Job? What’s Your Post-Exam Plan?

The following is a news story published by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Opportunities to gain an extra qualification, go to university, get on-the-job experience or start your career if you’ve just finished your exams.

Whether you are looking to gain an extra qualification, go to university, get on-the-job experience or start your career, there are lots of exciting opportunities for your future. Find out more here.

On the Job Experience

Prepare for the world of work with a traineeship

Traineeships are available for 16 to 24 year olds and are an opportunity for you to gain real work experience, acquire new job skills and improve your English and maths, if you need to. They can last up to 6 months and can be tailored to help you get ready for a job or apprenticeship.

Find a traineeship online.

Earn while you learn with an apprenticeship

Apprenticeships provide hands-on experience, a salary and a chance to train while you work.

Find out what you need to do to become an apprentice, what careers are available and what employers are offering them.

Further and Higher Education

Further education

You can continue your studies after secondary school through a range of further education courses, available in different subjects at different levels – ranging from basic English and maths to Higher National Diplomas. Further education also includes technical and applied qualifications, which will provide you with skills and training to specialise in a specific technical job.

Search for further education courses.

T Levels are new courses coming in September 2020

T Levels are brand new, 2-year courses designed with employers that will be equivalent to 3 A Levels. As the next step after GCSEs, they combine classroom theory, practical learning and a 3-month industry placement to give young people the technical skills, knowledge and experience needed to get a job in a skilled profession.

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Continue your studies in higher education

You can find and apply for most higher education courses online. If you don’t get a place on your chosen university course you can apply for other courses through Clearing.

Find out which courses have vacancies through UCAS from mid-August to late September.

Career Opportunities

Find a job with our careers portal

There are a range of great jobs available online, and we can help you find one through our dedicated jobs website.

Visit Find a Job to search based on location, sector, salary and more to find your perfect fit.

Learn about different careers through My Way In

My Way In shares stories and advice from people in work and employers in a range of different fields. You’ll find tips to help you broaden your experience and the number of jobs you have access to as well as information about the industries which are likely to have vacancies in the future.

Visit My Way In to find out more about jobs in sectors you may not know about.

Visit My Way In in Welsh.

Support vulnerable adults with a career in adult social care

Adult social care attracts all kinds of people with one thing in common – a desire to help make a difference every day. If you’re the sort of person who treats others with respect, listens to their needs, understands their emotions, and is warm, kind and honest, then social care could be the career for you.

Check out our Every Day Is Different page to learn more about a career in adult social care.

Discover a career in STEM

The government is working across industry and engineering institutions to support initiatives across the UK to give young people an inspiring first-hand experience of engineering.

Find more resources on the Engineering – Take a Closer Look campaign website.

Embark on a rewarding career in the public sector

There are a host of rewarding jobs in the public sector that you can get involved in. From teaching to nursing – the public sector is looking for people like you.

For more information please visit the following websites:
NHS jobs
Get Into Teaching
Royal Navy
British Army
Royal Air Force
Prison Officer Jobs
Civil Service Jobs

Get careers advice and inspiration

Need further advice on what to do next? Our career services provide free and impartial careers information, advice and guidance.

In England, visit the National Careers Service

In Scotland, visit Skills Development Scotland – My World of Work

In Wales, visit Careers Wales

In Northern Ireland, visit Careers Service Northern Ireland.

Volunteering

Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, gain skills and experience, and contribute to your community. There are lots of ways to get involved.

Visit Do-it.org, a database of UK volunteering opportunities. You can search more than a million volunteering opportunities by interest, activity or location and then apply online.

Learn new things and take part in the National Citizen Service (NCS)

NCS is a life-changing programme open to all teenagers aged 15 to 17 in England and Northern Ireland to discover who they are and what they can do. If you want to boost your UCAS statement or CV, meet incredible people, get your voice heard and have a lot of fun while you’re at it, then NCS is for you.

Find out more information about NCS.

Apprenticeship v University: What Course to Take?

Remember that moment when the school careers adviser leant over the desk and asked: “So what are you planning to do next?” 

It’s a daunting decision when you’re 17. 

A university degree costs tens of thousands of pounds, although the evidence suggests it can boost your earning potential later. 

On the other hand, an apprenticeship lets you earn as you learn, but life gets serious pretty fast. 

Apprenticeships are shaking off a reputation for low-paid drudgery and there are more higher-level apprenticeships coming on stream. But competition for the best opportunities is as fierce as it is for the top university places.

So if you’re leaving school, does it make sense to aim for one of those coveted places? Or are you missing out if you don’t go for the campus experience? Recent apprentices and graduates have shared their experiences with us.

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‘School was very anti-apprenticeship’

When Matt Carpenter left school at 17, a lot of his classmates were aiming for university. He could have joined them.

“I was the only person in my class who didn’t go,” he says. 

Matt Carpenter (r) and fellow Merchant Navy apprentices at sea
At 21 Matt Carpenter (r) is already qualified to drive ships and tankers

Instead, he took up a three-year apprenticeship with the Merchant Navy, spending half his time at college and half his time at sea on oil and gas tankers, passenger ships and bulk carriers.

“School was very, very anti-apprenticeship – even when I had the place, they were very against it. Up until the last day, they were still asking, ‘Do you really want to do this?'” 

For him, the choice was clear: no student debt and pay of £175 a week. Now, at 21, he’s on an annual salary of £37,000 tax-free and qualified to drive the world’s largest ships.

He admits the social life didn’t compare to what his friends were up to, though. “When you’re at sea, you’re quite cut off. There’s no internet. You’re working every day.”

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‘It made me who I am’

Amy De Friend, 25, did a degree in fashion promotion and communication. She now works in recruitment, but doesn’t regret her decision to study first.

“I went to university, because at the time I didn’t know what I wanted to do.” Amy started her degree the first year that fees went up from £3,000 a year to £9,250.

“My parents said: ‘Do you really want to spend £9,000 on this?'”

And at the end of the three years, she discovered that to get into the fashion industry, she would still have to take unpaid internships. So she worked for Carphone Warehouse instead.

Amy De Friend
Amy De Friend says one of the new experiences she gained through university was learning to scuba dive

Amy accepts she could probably have got the recruitment job she’s in now without a degree.

“I wouldn’t say it was a waste of time,” she says. “The experience I had was fantastic, it helped me develop as a person.”

At university, Amy joined a diving club and qualified as an instructor, something she wouldn’t otherwise have tried.

“I don’t think it’s all about getting a job. It’s about what you gain from the experience. It made me who I am.”

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‘I was itching to start work’

Nick Martin, 20, has just been head-hunted for a £22,500-a-year job in sales. He puts that down to his work experience as an apprentice with a telephone networking equipment company.

“Before I got my last job, I went through a lot of interviews. Every single agency and company loved the fact I had done an apprenticeship, because it shows you know what it’s like in a fast-paced office environment.”

Nick Martin cycling
Nick decided he could pursue his ambitions as a semi-pro cyclist alongside an apprenticeship just as easily as through a university team

At 17, Nick was “just itching to get into work”.

The apprenticeship scheme he joined was new and he felt he was a “guinea pig”, often left to get on with things unsupervised, which meant a lot of responsibility very quickly. 

“By the time most people my age come out of uni, I’ll have had three to five years’ experience. On the flipside, I haven’t spent that time getting the extra qualifications.”

“At the time, I didn’t have doubts. Now, to be honest, I think about it a bit more. The main reason for that is a bit of ‘Fomo’ – fear of missing out – missing out on the social aspect of being at uni. You get to live in halls or housing with flatmates. I’m still living at home.”

Then there’s the snobbery. “I still get that feeling from some people – people I know who are at uni who think they’re better – there can be a smugness. But there’s nothing guaranteed. They’ll have a degree, but they’ll still have to find a job, which is hard.”

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‘To learn about something I loved was brilliant’

Jenny Willbourn, 29, joined engineering firm Atkins after gaining undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in geography. The firm has a well-established apprenticeship programme, but she says that wouldn’t have been the right route for her.

“I believe there’s something valuable in academic study – the opportunity to understand a particular area of knowledge.”

Jenny Willbourn at her desk
Jenny Willbourn joined Atkins after studying for five years at university

“To push your communication skills is one thing, but to critically evaluate – that’s a skill that university teaches. I value that as second to none.”

She works in a highly specialised team at Atkins looking at spatial data, including mapping the locations of badgers and bats as part of the HS2 planning process.

“I needed a degree to tell me what the options were and give me the skills I now have. For me, the ability to hone my skills at an academic level was very important.”

But above all, she enjoyed the experience: “To learn about something I loved was brilliant.”

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‘I feel really proud of myself’

Joy Shepheard-Walwyn, 19, had a place at Durham University to study philosophy and Russian. She rejected it in favour of a management consultancy apprenticeship with accountancy firm PwC.

Moving to Leeds on her own just a few days after her 18th birthday was nerve-racking, she says. But PwC has helped provide a community for her in and out of work. She’s joined the firm’s netball team and teaches English to refugees. She loves the work, managing change in the public sector, adult social care, local government and schools.

“I feel really proud of myself in terms of what I’ve achieved.”

Joy Shepheard-Walwyn
Joy Shepheard-Walwyn turned down a university place to take up a PwC apprenticeship

She thinks university can be about putting off adult life a little longer. “My friends are out partying a lot, but I’m earning a salary.” 

“I don’t feel I missed out. I just went it about it a different way.” 

By Lucy HookerBusiness reporter, BBC News

The Role Of Assessment In Guided Career Intervention

Exploring why career practitioners use assessments, as well as how they can select the appropriate tools and effectively interpret client results

By: JoAnn Harris-Bowlsbey

Assessment has played an important role in career guidance since its beginning in the early 20th century. According to the Joint Committee on the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing of the AERA, APA and NCME (Joint Committee on Testing Practices, 2004), the definition of assessment is “Any systematic method of obtaining information from tests and other sources, used to draw inferences about characteristics of people, objects, or programs.” This article uses the term “career guidance” to refer to interventions with young people and adults related to educational and vocational choices. The purpose of the article is to review with career development facilitators and counsellors the purposes, options and guidelines for use of assessment in career guidance and counselling.

Purposes of assessment

It is possible to view the plethora of assessment instruments available in our field in three categories: a) those that support career exploration, b) those that identify career development needs, and c) those that measure accomplishment in areas related to educational or career development goals. Let’s look at each of those separately.

The purpose of the first segment of assessments available in our field is to help individuals find focus for exploration. This segment includes inventories of interests, skills, work-related values and personality characteristics. The number of occupational options is vast, with 974 groups of occupations defined in O*NET (the National Occupational Classification [NOC] system categorizes jobs in Canada), each of which can be broken down into many more defined occupations. The National Career Cluster Framework (Advance CTE, 2019) defines 16 industry-related clusters, which can be divided into 79 groups called pathways.

To find focus for exploration

The Holland classification system (Holland, 1997) defines six work environments, under which hundreds of occupations are categorized by educational levels in the Dictionary of HollandOccupational Codes (Goddfredson & Holland, 1996). It is impossible for individuals seeking to choose an occupation to learn about all of these options. Thus, one very valuable use of assessment inventories is to find focus for exploration.

ACT’s World-of-Work Map (Prediger, 1981) arranges hundreds of occupations by Holland work environments and 26 Career Areas. There are assessments whose results direct individuals’ focus to options in each of these four organizational schemes, allowing them to identify groups of occupations that align with their interests, skills, values and/or personality traits. Career explorers can then identify specific occupations they are interested in and “reality test” (using Donald Super’s term) this manageable set by reading, job shadowing, course work, etc.

To identify career decision-making and development needs

Though it sounds easy to administer an interest inventory, interpret it and shepherd career decision-makers through exploratory interventions, a significant proportion of career explorers have intrapersonal challenges that need to be removed before they are able to follow a logical process to a well-informed choice. Theorists define these barriers differently. Super (1957) describes a poor self-concept or the lack of completing specific development tasks as barriers. Krumboltz (1991) focuses on negative career beliefs. Sampson and his colleagues (1996) refer to negative career thoughts. Dinklage (1968) emphasizes ineffective decision-making styles.

The assessment tools in this category measure such intrapersonal challenges. The results may be used to work with individuals on specific identified problems or, for example, to assign members of a career planning course to different levels and kinds of intervention.

To measure progress in desired learning or attitudes

Similarly, such assessments may be used for research or for program evaluation. For example, a measure of career decidedness may be administered to two matched groups: one that has not had a course in career planning and one that has had such a course. The hypothesis is that the group that has completed the career-planning course will have a higher mean score on career decidedness than the group that did not have the course. Such an assessment could also be used with one group prior to taking the career-planning course and again afterward. The goal in this case would be to measure change in specific career attitudes or behaviours triggered by the content of the course.

Assessments of this kind can also be used to measure the attainment of skills, such as behavioural skills or academic skills. After individuals receive training and retake such tests, an increase in these skills can be measured. Similarly, students’ achievement toward mastering specific standards or goals can be measured by instruments in this category.

Types of assessments

Assessment tools in our field are typically divided into two categories: formal and informal. Formal assessments have these characteristics: a) their content, specific items, scoring algorithms and score reports are developed with scientific rigour; b) this fact results in the publisher being able to state their reliability and validity; and c) the combination of the first two makes it possible to compare the score of an individual to that of another or with those of a group with a high degree of scientific accuracy.

On the other hand, these characteristics – scientific rigour, known reliability and validity, and capability for comparison with others – are not central to informal assessments. They are tools such as card sorts, checklists, career fantasies, questionnaires and structured interviews. They own a legitimate space in our field and are used skillfully by many counsellors. They cost far less to develop and acquire, and they can be administered with far less advance planning.

Scientific rigour includes the careful completion of tasks such as the following:

  • Clearly defining what is to be measured
  • Clearly defining the component parts of what is being measured
  • Developing items that measure the component parts
  • Testing these items with members of the target population and modifying or replacing those that do not function well
  • Choosing a norm group that mirrors the target population for which the assessment is developed
  • Developing norms for various ages or grade levels
  • Designing score reports that can be readily understood by counsellors and those who took the assessment
Methods of administering assessments

Informal assessments are typically administered by a counsellor or career development facilitator face-to-face in an office or classroom setting. For example, students or clients are asked to sort a set of cards, each of which contains the description of a value, into three stacks: those that “highly appeal to me,” those that are “somewhat appealing” and those that “I’d like to avoid.” In a different setting, a counsellor or career development facilitator may ask students in a career planning class to relax, close their eyes and imagine an ideal day at work – its location, work tasks, co-workers, degree of independence, length, concomitant lifestyle, etc. In yet another approach, a counsellor who has detailed knowledge of Holland’s theory may conduct a structured interview around the six work environments. In each of these cases, a trained counsellor is able to help a student or client draw inferences from the informal assessment that sheds light on potential career choices or changes.

Formal assessments are administered in print or digital forms. If they are standard tests in print form with right or wrong answers, they are administered under controlled conditions usually involving standard instructions, specified time limits, security of testing materials and test monitors. Such tests may also be administered in a computer lab, requiring that individuals prove their identity to access items that are delivered through a secure website. Some achievement or aptitude tests are adaptive, meaning that the computer selects items at increasing levels of difficulty until it finds the examinee’s general level of knowledge and then presents items only at that level. This type of test varies both in items used and in length of testing for different students.

Technology has revolutionized assessment in many ways, offering capabilities such as the following: adaptive testing; the use of videos, graphics and audio; administration to large numbers of people nationwide at their selected time; immediate scoring; online personalized interpretation of results; electronic transfer of results to counsellors; and the ability to easily share results, where appropriate.

Guidelines for selecting assessments

Following are some guidelines that may be helpful when selecting assessments to use with clients or students:

  • Define clearly what you want to measure and why. Possibilities for what you want to measure could include interests, skills, aptitudes, personality traits, values, academic achievement, learning style, decision-making style and self-efficacy, to name a few. Reasons for measuring these might include to design career guidance interventions for individuals or groups of individuals, to define segments of your target population to receive different sets of interventions, to measure the effectiveness of your program, to determine whether students have achieved the goals set forth in a specific set of standards, etc.
  • Develop a list of assessments designed to measure what you want to measure. Using a resource such as NCDA’s publication, A Counselor’s Guide to Career Assessment (Wood & Hays, 2019) will be invaluable. It describes assessments designed for various purposes and the 7th edition uniquely gives you online access to expert reviews in order to make an informed choice.
  • Gather as much information as you can about the assessments you have identified. It is essential for you to determine whether each assessment has been developed and tested with individuals like those in your target population. For each, learn about its reliability, validity and theoretical base. Take the assessment yourself and administer it to a few students/clients. Study its score report to see if it is presented in a language and with graphics that will make it understandable to your population. Talk to or read reviews from counsellors who have used the assessment. Importantly, determine if the results of the assessment are compatible with other components of your program. For example, if your school’s occupational information is organized by Holland work environments, use an interest inventory that provides results by Holland types. Last, but certainly not least, assess the quality of the publisher. This involves the credibility of the author, the professional reputation of the publisher, the training offered to assure that the assessment is administered and interpreted properly, and the quality of customer service provided.
  • Determine its practicality for your setting. This criterion includes how the assessment is administered (print or electronic) and scored, how counsellors can get training, length and requirements of administration, and cost.
Guidelines for interpreting assessment

Here are some guidelines for providing interpretation:

  • Provide interpretation as soon as possible after students or clients have taken an assessment. Begin interpretation by reviewing why the person took the assessment and what it was like (eg, “you responded to 60 items by selecting one of five answers – like very much, like, neutral, dislike, dislike very much”). If true, be sure to indicate that there are no “right” or “wrong” answers.
  • Provide the score report to the examinee and explain each section simply and in detail. If you conduct interpretation in a group, use an attractive PowerPoint presentation with a sample score report that students/clients see while having their own report in front of them.
  • Provide an opportunity to students/clients to ask questions, and try to make sure you answer all questions immediately or within a reasonable timeframe.
  • Be sure that you apply the results on the score report to the specific career concerns that the student or client is facing at the moment. This, of course, is the real reason for having taken the assessment. Its interpretation should be used to guide course selection, the tentative selection of an occupation or job, or whatever career concern the student or client has brought forward or your program of services is attempting to support.
Summary

This article has provided a general overview of the purposes of assessment, types of assessment, methods of administration, and guidelines for selecting and interpreting assessments. Understanding these concepts is just the beginning of preparation for informed use of assessments in career counselling and guidance. In-depth investigation of the effectiveness of specific assessments in various work settings and with members of various populations is essential.

JoAnn Harris-Bowlsbey, EdD(bowlsbeyj@kuder.com) is an international authority in the areas of career development and counselling and a pioneer in the development and use of computer and web-based career planning systems. She has served as a high school director of guidance, university professor, career counsellor, executive director of the ACT Educational Technology Center, vice-president for development at Kuder, Inc., and president of the National Career Development Association. Dr Harris-Bowlsbey is the author of numerous print-based curricular materials, is widely published in academic journals and texts, and has delivered hundreds of workshops to counsellors at conferences and universities around the globe. She is the author of numerous versions of web-based career planning systems, of curricula for training of career development facilitators, and co-author of a leading textbook for the training of master’s level counsellors.

References

Advance CTE. (2019). National career clusters framework. Silver Spring, MD: Author.

Dinklage, L.B. (1968), Decision strategies of adolescents. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Harvard UniversityCambridge, MA.

Goddfredson, G.D. & Holland, J.L. (1996). The dictionary of Holland occupational codes. Odessa, FL. Psychological AssessmenResources.

Holland, J. L. (1997). Making vocational choices: a theory of vocational personalities and work environments (3rd edition). Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Joint Committee on Testing Practices (2004). Code of fair testing practices. Washington, D.C.: Author.

Krumboltz, J.D. (1991). The Career Beliefs Inventory. Menlo Park, CA: Mind Garden, Inc.

Prediger, D. P. (1981). Aid for mapping occupations and interests: A graphic for vocational guidance and research. Vocational Guidance Quarterly, 30, 21-36.

Sampson, J.P., Petersen, G.W., Lenz, J.G., Reardon, R.C., & Saunders, D.E. (1996). Career Thoughts Inventory. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Super, D. E. (1957). The psychology of careers. New York, NY: Harper.

Wood, C. & Hays, D.G. (2019). A counselor’s guide to career assessment instruments. Broken Arrow, OK: National Career Development Association.


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Six Celebrities Who Are Former Teachers

Inspiration for your clients? From the stars of Rocky to The A-Team via the writer of Harry Potter, teaching has proven a well-trodden path in the early days of these famous careers.

Here, we look at six celebrities from the world of stage, screen, music and literature who once worked as teachers before going on to follow their own dreams.

Hugh Jackman

After graduating from secondary school, the Greatest Showman and X-Men star spent a gap year in England, working at a boarding school in the East Midlands. Jackman, who excelled at sport at school, spent the majority of his time teaching PE and coaching sports teams. He also tutored students only a few years younger than him in English and Drama. After returning to Australia to attend university in Sydney, he enrolled on a drama course and the rest, as they say, is history!

JK Rowling

After leaving university with a French degree and working in various temporary jobs, JK Rowling followed up on an advert in a national newspaper and found herself teaching English in the Portuguese city of Porto. Here, she was able to moonlight as a writer whilst teaching and drafted the first instalment of Harry Potter.

Laurence Tureaud

Better known as Mr T, Laurence Tureaud had a massively varied career before landing his iconic role as B.A. Baracus in The A-Team. Tureaud enlisted in the US army, tried out for the NFL and had a successful stint as a nightclub bouncer. He was so successful in fact, he moved into the bodyguard business, protecting the likes of Muhammad Ali and Diana Ross. Perhaps he learnt everything he knew during his time as a PE teacher in his native Chicago.

George Orwell

The Animal Farm author (born Eric Blair) taught at the Hawthorns High School in West London whilst waiting for his first full-length work, Down and Out in Paris and London, to be published. Orwell (now his pen name) would go on to teach in Uxbridge, but his teaching career wouldn’t last any longer than that. His most famous work, 1984, contributed to our modern vocabulary with phrases such as ‘Big Brother’, ‘Thought Police’ and ‘Room 101’. Even though he left teaching behind, his literary works still give us plenty to study.

Sheryl Crow

The Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter was a music teacher in her home state of Missouri after graduating from its university. The school day routine was perfect for Crow as she could practise her trade in the evenings and weekends (hopefully leaving enough time for marking her students’ work in-between). After a few well-received commercial jingles, Crow found herself as a backing singer for Michael Jackson before going on to forge an impressive solo career.

Sylvester Stallone

Sly Stallone is one of the most recognisable action/adventure stars in Hollywood. He’s also a successful writer and director, having penned all six Rocky films as well as directing several instalments. Before his stardom, he attended the American College in Switzerland, where he worked as a PE teacher to earn extra money. So, when Stallone’s Rocky took on Mr. T’s Clubber Lang in Rocky III it was a face off between two former teachers!