Category Archives: A-level

Secrets of career success and the many-routes argument

Students (and parents and teachers!) are forever looking for the secret of success in careers planning – the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket, whether it’s to a particular institution, the highest salary, the securest job etc. Of course there’s no single right answer, but following this blog’s links to new developments and keeping an open mind about as many routes as possible to your career future are probably the best bet-hedging you can do – besides, of course, working fanatically in all your subjects! But here’s an interesting variety of takes of what the root to success is…

First, there’s the perennial fascination of Oxbridge interviews, resplendent with urban myths about lunatic questions and daringly simplistic answers. Oxford today marked the admissions deadline by releasing a list of some typical interview questions, designed to provoke and avoid curriculum knowledge or training. (In fact they’re easy to train people for and any of our candidates who get an interview invite will get some training.) The whole thing is a PR stunt actually, and I pity the school that trains candidates using this list – they’ll not use any of these again. The success route through this is intelligent logical analysis, not memorising this list.

The financial crash has robbed a generation of graduates of immediate entry to the market. Although these jobs seem to be opening up now, it looks like a crash on a motorway being cleared – it might take some time before the backlog dies down (years in terms of graduate oversupply.) In the meanwhile many have continued on the conveyor to postgraduate (Masters) degrees. Will these enhance your prospects against those with just a Batchelors degree? Especially when the extra cost is considered? Maybe, and choose carefully. An alternative argument to consider is whether school leavers at 18 might be better going to economic growth area industries rather than expensive degrees in subjects which might not be of much job market value. I can think of a brilliant 26 year-old former student of mine with a degree from a top university, working in a high-tech industry in London, on only £26k a year; whereas, from the same school, I know a 20 year-old who went straight into estate agency and is now an assistant branch manager on £30+k before his compatriots have left uni; and another school leaver at 18, earning upwards of £70k a year in a hands-on job in the film industry. It’s not all about a degree, necessarily.

Meanwhile, thinking of many routes to things, here’s an interesting map from the Guardian of international degrees – who goes where from which countries. Have a play around; you might be surprised by some of the data.

And lastly, for a chuckle, check out these PR disasters by universities. You wouldn’t want to go to an institution this inept at marketing itself, surely. Although maybe the boys are now considering Bedfordshire after this.

On a serious school-related note, A-level options are coming up for year 11… start deciding!