Meet our staff: Careers Consultant

Meet Jean Harris, one of our Careers Consultant. Here she gives us an insight into her role at the Careers Centre.

Jean Harris 1

What is your job at the Careers Centre and what does it involve?

I’m a Careers Consultant. This involves a range of activities including: teaching on Careers modules, conducting guidance interviews, delivering careers lectures and staffing the Careers Centre drop-in service. As I link with Engineering and Biosciences I get to carry out my work in those faculties including running career sessions and drop-in services. I also get to talk with employers about what their company offers to graduates and what they are looking for from applicants.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Working with students to help them understand and realise their potential. My job expects me to be nosey about the working world and to make sense of it with students. I am genuinely interested in people – their experiences, their biographies and in the world in general. I get paid to be nosey and to help people – how brilliant is that?  I am privileged to be working with people on such an important aspect of their lives at such a pivotal time.

What skills are important for your job?

All the ‘people’ skills: empathy, listening, communication, team working, etc. Guidance skills include a range of skills covering:  establishing relationships, contracting, challenging, negotiation, probing and action planning. These have to be backed up by intellectual skills too – an ability to research, analyse and present information clearly (that can be verbally, in a written format or in a lecture so public speaking skills are helpful). There’s always to do much to do in too little time so effective time management and organisation is crucial and being comfortable with a range of IT skills helps that too.

What training or previous experience do you have that has helped you in your current role?

During my long career (I won’t say quite how long) I have worked with secondary school pupils, undergraduates, adults changing careers, graduates, women returning to the labour market, further education students and many more. This experience has enabled me to see ‘the big picture’ as far as a ‘career’ is concerned. It’s taught me that some processes are necessary wherever one is in deciding on the next step (i.e. career planning) such as knowing yourself, but also that there is no one definitive path marked out for everyone. It’s up to each of us to work out which way to go at many stages in life.  I’ve had lots of formal training which helps me in my role including – interviewing, presentation skills, project management, IT (and I’m still learning).

What top tips would you have for students and graduates?

This relates to my personal and professional approach to life:

‘Carpe diem – seize the day’. Make the most of every opportunity – whether that’s getting the most from a course or taking up an opportunity to do something new.

‘Never put off till tomorrow something that you can do today’ – whether that’s getting on with an assignment or making an application for an internship or a job. Time (and closing dates) slip by so very quickly.

‘All things pass’. However great a time you’re having or however rubbish – it will pass, nothing lasts forever.  It’s up to you what comes next.

‘There’s no such thing as a bad experience’ – there’s something to be learnt from everything that happens to us.

‘You are not alone’ Career planning can be daunting and overwhelming – but given the advice above don’t let that be an excuse for putting it off. Use the Careers services at Leeds as soon as possible and as frequently as you need to – that’s what we enjoy doing and we get paid for doing it!

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