8 November 2023

Case Study: How Your Careers Office Can Help You

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If it wasn’t for the passion, commitment and support from my placement officer, Laura Bielby, I wouldn’t have even considered doing a placement year.

To be honest, when I started university I didn’t really know what a placement consisted of, let alone how to apply for one. But it took just FIVE minutes talking to a member of the careers office to change the course of my university journey forever…

This week I completed my first four months on placement. This is how I got here.

The Backstory…

Rewind to week one of Freshers…​Hungover and tired, I dragged myself to a compulsory lecture by the Durham University Careers Office. As a fresher, I thought it was quite literally the last thing I needed having only just started university life.

  • Have you thought about your career pathway?
  • Where can you go with your geography degree?
  • Is your CV up to scratch?

These were the questions that filled the room. Yes, the bombardment of questions I didn’t know the answers to made me sweat a little. But they also planted a seed in my mind.

And then….

Sixteen months later, I stepped foot into the careers department for the first time. I’d heard a lot of course mates talking about the lucrative internships they’d landed and I began to panic. But after a very informative chat with Laura, I was set on pursuing a placement year.

After moving to London and starting my placement as a Marketing Assistant with RMP Enterprise, I can confirm that those five minutes in the careers office were the most productive five minutes I’ve had at university. So, what did I actually get from visiting my careers office?

Taking the first steps

Taking the time out of your day to actually visit the careers office is often the hardest part. But once you’ve done this, you’re in.

I was instantly exposed to heaps of career advice, support networks and guidance from industry experts – and quickly began to feel very motivated.

Do I need to prepare anything before visiting the careers office?

Good news is you don’t have to prep anything for your visit to the careers office. You could just drop by, pick up a few leaflets and leave. Either way, it’s a fantastic resource that’s brimming with helpful insights for you to take away… so why wouldn’t you go?

For me, it was having a one-to-one conversation that transformed my thinking. My placement officer asked me what it was that I wanted to do.

After realising I hadn’t really given it much thought, she began reeling off my options. For the first time ever, someone had suggested an array of career options that aligned with my interests, skills and motivations.

The first step is the hardest

2. Constant support

Another great reason to visit your careers office is that you’ll be matched with a dedicated officer to guide you through your career journey. This allows you to build a relationship with your careers department. It also means you know who to contact when you need advice.

The support you receive doesn’t end when you walk out the door. Once I’d opened a dialogue with my placement officer, I felt comfortable arranging meetings to discuss specific questions in regards to my placement search.

This included things like finding accommodation, negotiating salaries and completing university admin (something I needed a lot of guidance on!).

At the beginning of your career, you’ll need lots of support and guidance

3. Application help

The placement or internship application process is many students’ first experience of interviews and assessment centres.

So it’s not surprising if you get anxiety at the mere thought of them. That’s why taking advantage of the training opportunities offered by the career office is vital.

CV clinics

I attended CV clinics and mock interviews for work experience applicants, held by my career office. I was even advised on how to navigate group tasks during assessment centres.

This proved invaluable in helping me polish my application and get to grips with my personal branding. After all, you only have one chance to impress an employer, so practice is always advised.

I’ve highlighted THREE reasons to visit your career office… but there are many more! Every university career office is there to support and guide their students to their dream job. So it would be quite silly not to take advantage of it.