Moving Beyond Higher Education – Administrative and Support Staff

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It may seem contrary to consider moving out of Higher Education (H.E.) – it’s a vibrant, developing sector of work with plenty of opportunity for progression. There are many reasons people seek a change; a new client group, bureaucratic pressures, a new challenge, changing values or simple curiosity being just a few. Whatever your reasons you may want to consider these four ideas when it comes to a future outside HE.

Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs)

A ‘growth area’ where you may find more wriggle room for developing your role and creating opportunities. Perhaps you’re working in administration with an interest in finance? Maybe you’re keen to know more about HR but finding it difficult without the relevant qualifications. SMEs can sometimes provide an environment where you may learn more ‘on the job’ and perhaps carve out a new career direction too.

You’re also more likely to be in close contact with a larger variety of staff, meaning you’ll know more about different job roles and potentially have more input when it comes to decisions.

Researching this type of job opportunity will give you a chance to consider what kind of environment you want to be in. What sector of work interests you? Are you comfortable working with just a handful of people? Are you looking for a defined role, or happy to flex as an organisation changes or grows?

The public sector

Many of the specialisms within H.E. have an equivalent role within other public sector organisations. Quite often a side step into this field may mean a new client group or working culture. For those currently working in a student facing role, think about how much you enjoy or don’t enjoy your interactions with them. Perhaps you’re keen to use your support skills with the wider public, or vulnerable people. It’s important to know as much as you can about working with different client groups, so job shadowing or volunteering may be a good way to research this.

You may find opportunities that match your skills within the civil service, NHS or other streams of education.

The charity sector

The pull of the charity sector is obvious – in these austere times many want to be part of the solution. Coming from H.E. it’s already likely that you’ll be people focused with a range of transferable skills. This is a very broad sector, so it’s definitely worth thinking (again) about the size of the organisation you’d like to be in. Is there a particular cause that appeals to you? Reflecting on this can help you identify where your motivation may lie and be the first step in finding a rewarding role in the third sector. It can also be worthwhile to volunteer. This can give you an insight into how the industry works and can strengthen any future applications.

Your own business

If you’re ready for an entirely new way of working, where all the decisions are yours, then your next step could be self-employment. You may be able to use your current skillset but work independently, perhaps as a consultant. But then again if you’re making a big change, you could make it even bigger by launching into something new! If you’ve got an idea but it all sounds a bit daunting then don’t worry, as there’s plenty of support available, as a quick internet search will identify.

It’s a popular choice when it comes to flexibility, autonomy and potentially, profit. However it’s also worth considering what you may forfeit, at least initially; paid holidays, employee benefits, the support of the staff and managers around you.

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