by Dr Catherine Armstrong
If you are browsing the jobs.ac.uk Career Tools & Advice site it is safe to assume that you have come online looking for careers advice. This article is designed to review a number of different options for finding information about changing or developing your career. Each option has its own pros and cons and this article will help you weigh up your choices. This is designed specifically for the academic job seeker although it could apply to those looking to work in other fields too.
1. jobs.ac.uk Career Tools & Advice site
The jobs.ac.uk Career Tools & Advice site is designed with the academic job seeker in mind; it is the only UK-based site that publishes regular articles offering advice to academic jobseekers as well as blogs, quizzes and top tips to help you think about your future career direction. These sections are laid out in a clear, easy to use format and the latest posts are prominently displayed on the careers home page. It is also possible to browse the article archives or search them by keyword. This site is very important because it shows that jobs.ac.uk is an integral part of the academic community. Many of those working at jobs.ac.uk are academics themselves with firsthand experience of the struggles of job hunting.
Of course, the Career Development site is part of the main jobs.ac.uk site where you can actually search through relevant, up to date job adverts to find the position you are looking for. These two functions, acquiring advice and seeing available positions, work side-by-side, so jobs.ac.uk offers a unique service to the academic.
Of course our site is perfect in every way!
2. Other online sites (commercial careers advice companies)
There are many other websites out there purporting to offer careers advice. Simply by doing a search on Google for ‘CVs’, ‘cover letters’, ‘academic jobs’ etc. you will find a wide range of sites that might cater to your needs. If you are looking for generic advice then these sites are very useful.
It’s worth thinking about the relevance and the reliability of the websites. Is the site relevant to your career? As an academic, your job hunting needs might be very different to someone in the commercial sector. Also, where is the site based? If you are job hunting in the UK and you are looking at advice on a website based elsewhere, the information might not be relevant to you. Trends in hiring vary across the world.
Also, how reliable is the site? The problem with online resources is that anyone can produce a webpage saying that they are offering advice, but what are their credentials for doing so? Is the company or individual a trained careers advisor? Or does he or she have relevant expertise in the field that they are advising on?
Sometimes this sort of careers advice can cost you a lot of money so be wary of any sites that charge a lot of money for their services.
3. Careers Centres
Many careers centres are attached to universities and you can have access to careers advice provided by these departments for a number of years after graduation. Good universities will have encouraged you to use their facilities during the course of your degree programme as well. These centres are very important sources of advice. They are staffed by trained careers professionals who keep up with the hiring trends in many different fields. They can advise you on a number of training and career options. They would also be very useful in seeking general advice on creating a CV, filling in job application forms and interview techniques.
If you have been out of university education for a number of years you may not be allowed to use these resources for free. Also, careers teams sometimes have less experience in offering advice for postgraduates and for academic job seekers. Their main area of expertise is graduate schemes and opportunities available to those who have recently finished undergraduate study.
4. Informal Help
One of the most important sources of careers advice is friends, family and colleagues. If you are a postgraduate student your supervisor will be in a very good position to help you. The benefits of getting advice from people who know you personally are that they can tailor their opinions to your own situation. For example, your personal circumstances might mean that certain career choices are off limits for you. So, getting advice from people who know you well and who are knowledgeable in the field can really give your career a boost.
Well-meaning friends and family can offer you advice but their opinions are not always based on reliable information about the job market and sometimes their own personal needs colour the advice offered. A professional, whether you meet them online or face to face, can offer impartial advice that will not be affected by any personal bias.
So, each of these methods has its advantages and disadvantages. The best idea is to get as many different opinions as possible when making a career changing decision. The more information you have about possibilities open to you, the more empowered you will feel.