Where should you go for careers advice?

Careers Advice

Do you remember getting careers advice at your school? Was it helpful? Were you inspired? If you came away from a careers interview feeling buoyed up and motivated, then you are one of the lucky few. The career guidance at my school in the late 1980s was not just poor - it was non-existent. It consisted of an impromptu chat with a teacher at the end of a lesson and ran something along the lines of:

Teacher: Have you thought about what you'd like to do with your life?
Me: Dunno. I wouldn't mind being a journalist.
Teacher: Do you like writing?
Me: It's OK.
Teacher: Hmm, maybe journalism could be a good idea.

Of course it's much better these days. Isn't it?

Not according to a recent government inspection which concluded that schools are failing to provide adequate careers advice.

Going in the right direction?, a published by Ofsted in September 2013, found that careers guidance in schools is not working. The report examined the quality of careers advice since September 2012, when schools took on a legal responsibility to provide a careers advice service to all students aged 14-16. Three quarters of the sixty schools visited by Ofsted were not providing adequate careers advice.

Ofsted inspectors found that few schools had proper arrangements to provide an individual careers guidance interview by a qualified external adviser while only one in five schools were effective in ensuring that its students approaching school leaving age were receiving the level of information they needed to support decision making.

In response to Ofsted's report the Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise, Matthew Hancock, published an Inspiration Vision Statement, describing how employers, schools and others should work together to inspire young people about the world of work, opening their eyes to consider a broader and more ambitious range of career options

For many of us, this shake up of careers advice at school comes too late. How many people end up in jobs that are unsuitable or merely good enough? And would professional careers advice have made any difference? Well, it wouldn't hurt. Thankfully, there is quality careers information out there, provided you know where to look.


One good source of careers advice is the website for the National Careers Service, which provides career tools, action plans and career profiles for almost every job you can think of. You can even take a Skills Health Check, an online questionnaire to clarify your skills, interests and motivation. This is a good place to start if you are uncertain about the kind of job you might be suitable for or are looking for a career change but don't know what direction to take.

Of course, you can also browse the Courses Plus+ Tools & Resources section, which has an ever expanding collection of quick-read career profiles, plus handy widgets explaining qualification levels and study methods. Be sure to check back here regularly, as we plan to expand this section over the coming months. Let us know, if there is anything you'd like us to cover.

Another good option is to visit the websites of the professional and governing bodies. For instance, if you want to be a locksmith, check out the website of the Master Locksmith Association. If you want to be a florist, visit the website for LANTRA, the Sector Skills Council for Floristry. Websites like these are one of the best sources of reliable and up-to-date information for a career you are interested in.

Ask a Professional

Careers Advice

You could visit the information centre of a further education college or university. Simply pop in and ask about their courses. As part of your interview you should be able to speak to a qualified careers adviser who can help you decide if a course or training is right for you.

Don't be afraid to talk to someone who is already doing the job you are interested in. If you are considering teaching, for instance, why not contact a local school. Chatting to teachers and observing a lesson will give you a good introduction to what the job involves and whether it is right for you.

And don't forget your family and friends, as well as colleagues at work. These are the people who know you best and they will be able to provide opinions based on your personal circumstances.

One of the best pieces of careers advice I ever had was from a friend who left her job after a minor meltdown and spent several months sitting on a beach... thinking. "I didn't write lists, or pen out a career plan. I just sat, staring at the horizon and let my mind wander. One day, out of the blue, I remembered that when I was five I'd wanted to work with animals. Somewhere along the way I'd forgotten this and had ended up in sales. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that this was what I really wanted to do."

My friend is now employed as a veterinary nurse. I have never seen her so happy.

Matthew Tanner is a freelance writer and editor. He is a trained teacher and has worked for several further education colleges in Hampshire.