Meet our staff: Careers Consultant

In this blog post one of our Careers Consultant, Jessica Henderson, explains the ins and outs of her job!

Jessica Henderson Aug 2012

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

I’m a Careers Consultant, linked with the Faculties of Environment and Biological Sciences. The role of Careers Consultant at Leeds is incredibly varied. On any given day I might be;

  • Seeing students individually in drop-ins or for longer guidance appointments for all things career-related
  • Teaching on one of our career development modules, or assessing student work
  • Planning or delivering  workshops and presentations at the Careers Centre or in faculties
  • Helping to plan and run careers events
  • Speaking to employers or hosting an employer event on campus
  • Meeting with colleagues across the university to negotiate input in the forms of teaching, workshops, events and more
  • Researching specific topics or career areas
  • Supporting students on our placement year module as a Placement Tutor
  • Staying up to date with the graduate job market and maintaining career-specific knowledge across a range of sectors
  • Attending conferences, training events and information briefings

In addition I have a particular interest in technology and social media and how we can use these to support our work (as careers professionals) as well as how job seekers can use these tools effectively.  This means keeping myself up to date with developments, developing resources such as our LinkedIn Screencasts, or workshop sessions, co-managing our blog and providing training for staff and students on these topics.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The single best thing (for me) is definitely the one-to-one work with students. I love hearing peoples’ stories and trying to help them on their way to successful and fulfilling futures.  On a larger scale, I love the variety available in my job. On top of my regular duties and responsibilities there are opportunities to get involved in all sorts of ad-hoc projects and activities. Some recent examples include:

  • Being part of the team responsible for the re-design of our website last year
  • Recruiting and supporting three Leeds teams in the IBM Universities Business Challenge last year, one of which got to the semi-finals. We’re entering three teams again this year and currently looking for student teams. More details here if you’re interested (shameless plug over!)
  • Recruiting and mentoring the student and graduate interns we employ in the careers centre
  • Learning new things – recent examples being Camtasia (software I used to make our LinkedIn screencasts) and

What skills are important for your job?

Interpersonal and communication skills are probably the most important. These are vital in any job, but particularly as a Careers Consultant, where you are often trying to help people figure out “what to do with their lives”. You need to be a great listener; really attuned to all the non-verbal communication signals, often reading between the lines and developing empathy but also willing to challenge people where appropriate. The ability to communicate well with all sorts of people, both individually and in large groups is also essential.

The ability to juggle multiple commitments simultaneously, stay calm under pressure, resilience, enthusiasm, pro-activity and managing an (often manic) workload are also very important.

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

I have a careers guidance qualification which is obviously invaluable, and I think all of my previous experiences help me in this job. I’ve worked in a whole range of jobs (from waitressing, to fruit picking to sales) since the age of fourteen, picking up all sorts of useful skills along the way.

My first ‘proper’ job after university was as a Recruitment Consultant in the Legal sector (a job I got off the back of completing a graduate internship with them).  I was very fortunate to have a great manager in this role who was a fantastic mentor and taught me a lot about the world of work. This also helped instil quite a commercial mind-set in me early on in my professional life, something which I think is increasingly important to have in the public sector. After that I worked at a college and then at a number of universities in career services of all different sizes which has made me resourceful and adaptable.  I also took a bit of a career break a few years ago and worked as a Project Manager and Team Coach with the charity Raleigh International in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.  This experience definitely helped me develop resilience, self-confidence and the ability to stay positive and enthusiastic even when absolutely knackered!

What top tips would you have for students and graduates?

Challenge yourself and approach life with an open mind.  The things I most regularly see holding people back are self-doubt and pre-(or mis-)conceptions they hold.  University, particularly one the size of Leeds, offers a supportive environment in which to become your own person and probably more opportunity than you’ll have at any other time in your life to try out a whole range of things, meet people from all sorts of backgrounds and from all over the world. Take advantage of these opportunities and get out of your comfort zone:  You will learn a lot – not only about your own abilities, interests and skills, but also about the range of opportunities, types of jobs and so on which might be available to, or of interest to you.

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