Tag Archives: salary

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!

Careers and routes, usual and unusual, in a difficult time

This point in the year, where A-level students are often finalising university applications, tends to result in a range of repeat articles about what employers want from graduates. Worth a glance, therefore, at that old chestnut in the Telegraph’s latest incarnation of the article.

A more stimulating and interesting take on how keen people are to impress employers comes in the form of this Craigslist experiment. Be careful with your data! But the point remains that applications for jobs vastly, vastly outweigh the number of places available. As school students you’re used to teachers making space in the group for you, welcoming you no matter what, creating opportunities for you. A brutal reality check about how the world won’t help you out is something you need to be braced for. It’s a jungle out there.

If you want more evidence of how bleak the economic picture in the west is, and how hard it is to get (and keep) a job, check out these depressing articles: new graduates are taking jobs for substantially lower pay than those a few years ago, and people are going to work despite being seriously ill in some cases, so desperate are they to avoid giving a bad impression. (Ironically, it can be counter-productive to do this. Having ill workers or students can actually reduce performance in some circumstances by infecting others! But this is a measure of employee fear in some firms.)

All is not misery. Here’s an interesting video on how to get a job at Dyson, one of the UK’s most innovative employers; an article explaining that degrees are not the only route to success; and an interesting article about getting girls into science – why do people think you have to advertise in lipstick to get girls’ attention? And remember just how wide a range of people can achieve success in any field, and how hard teachers work to support you if you’ll help yourself: I recognise this myself from the crazy, and valuable, process of supporting DBS’s own Oxbridge applicants over the past month. 

Read this stuff well and get a deeper sense of the jobs market and your careers future. Use ISCO if you’re a member, make best use of PSHE careers activities, and book and effectively use your meetings with careers staff. Use the excellent Prospect site too. Because bad careers advice ruins your future. You get good advice and support here – just make sure you follow and use it.

Careers news: uni figures, temp conditions, rating degrees and careers advice

Here’s a quick gathering of recent news in the Careers field.

Firstly (unsurprisingly, in the year fees have rocketed up) the number of applicants to UCAS has fallen noticeably. Don’t get too excited – it’s not fallen by the amount youth unemployment has risen, and a degree’s not a meal ticket any more. Unsurprisingly, given that getting a degree will now cost you a quarter of the value of a house in some parts of the UK, students will increasingly see themselves as customers – which explains why Which has decided to starting rating and ranking uni courses in the UK.

However, note the rise of temporary / agency work. More and more jobs and companies are taking workers on only through agencies. This rather nasty trick is to ensure they don’t need to give them normal employment rights. Even when the EU has passed a law to give most normal employment rights to temporary workers, it turns out big companies like Tesco are asking their staff to waive their new rights – the implicit threat being no waive = no job. Don’t end up in agency work if you can avoid it. It’s slavery by another name.

At the other end of the scale, you might like to look at the Telegraph’s top ten best-paid jobs in the UK. It’s a bit of a nonsense because (a) it massively underestimates some at the top of the list, (b) it ignores self-employed in some of these fields, who tend to earn more, (c) it’s all about being “top” of the organisations they name which, whilst nice, is not a realistic aim generally – you should expect more to be a successful middle-ranker and check those typical salaries.

Lastly and definitely not leastly, it turns out that people like me are not totally useless after all – while there is an ongoing rise in online or telephone careers advice, it seems some people are missing the personal touch of a Careers advisor in their own school. Don’t forget to book a meeting to come and talk to me about your future if you like. You might like to tell the Guardian about what you think of careers advice.