Melissa Samuel BlogMelissa Samuel, School Careers Adviser

When I joined Adviza as a Trainee Careers Adviser about a year ago, the resources and expertise the charity brings to its careers guidance at schools amazed me, and working here is my dream role. I come from a mental health background, supporting children and young adults with interventions and counselling. I have also worked in a children’s centre supporting children and their parents.

In my current role I enjoy working with so many different students, and at different schools. It’s given me an insight into how most kids’ perceptions about career options are limited to what their parents know or think, and that’s why careers guidance must include parents too.

I work in schools where my interaction with the careers leads is excellent; I am invited to share and explore resources, ideas and opportunities with them. It’s important to ensure schools recognise the value of careers advice and are aware of the full gamut of career opportunities. It’s a teacher’s job to teach a syllabus and they can hardly be expected to know everything about career options, so collaboration between teachers, careers leads and careers advisers is essential.

A day in the life of a Careers Adviser

In a typical day I have one-to-one and group meetings with students from years nine to thirteen. I advise them on their post-sixteen and post-eighteen options, listen to them to understand their interests and help them to focus on careers that might meet those interests. I introduce them to resources that illuminate related but different careers pathways and areas of interest. I help them to create an action plan that will help them to set out their aspirations and assess and understand their skills and interests. The plan helps the students weigh up the merits of their different options, and we work together to define some actions to further support them.

Depending on the needs of the students, my sessions can incorporate career coaching. Careers advisers need to have an inclusive approach and understand what kind of learner each student is so they can ensure any resources they provide match up to an individual’s learning styles. This sort of awareness is critically important and I gain it through speaking to my students, so I must be able to win their trust. Sometimes I’m given information that helps me to assess a student, such as their mock results or expected grades. Generally though, I get more insight from my own relationship with the individual and the rapport I build with them in a non-judgemental environment where I can give impartial advice and guidance that will encourage them to open up.

As well as helping my students to explore the different training and education options available to them, from sixth form and university to colleges, apprenticeships and T-Levels, I also help them to identify work experience opportunities and I encourage them to look at live job vacancies, which are an accurate window into the reality of a job. Vacancies can help us to map required qualifications to the academic or training path a student may be considering.

I work with mixed-ability students. Some have learning difficulties or disabilities. Some are vulnerable or at risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training). I have students with different mental health concerns too, who may prefer to use online resources or have virtual sessions, perhaps because they suffer from social anxiety and can’t attend school. My experience from my previous work has helped me no end here and I also feel that for some students, my ethnicity and relative youth helps to remove barriers to trust, because they can relate to me.

The rewards

I love my job. The greatest reward is when I help a young person recognise skills they didn’t realise they have, or identify alternative careers that they were not aware of. I enjoy having a positive impact with students who may have been identified as challenging. Inclusivity is a key part of careers guidance; it’s important that everyone has a fair chance, and that might involve breaking down a few barriers. When you can link a students’ key skills to post-sixteen and post-eighteen options, you give that student hope, and I’ve seen a real change in students when they realise this. It’s a fantastic feeling.

One of my most satisfying experiences so far was working with a GCSE student whose attendance at their school was poor; when at school he was consistently in isolation and he was difficult to reach at home. In light of this, we agreed to offer the student and his parents virtual careers guidance sessions. I learned the student had worked with his dad—a business-owner in the trade sector—and enjoyed it. I explained to his father how he could apply for funding to take his son on as an apprentice provided he could identify a local learning provider to support his son’s learning. He has now applied and his son will be able to complete a Level 2 apprenticeship in his trade, working with his father, doing something he enjoys.

How local employers can support careers guidance

I often help students to investigate opportunities for work experience (which can be a key requirement in hiring, even for students, or at the very least greatly improve their CV). Local employers have a part to play here. As well as offering work experience they can get involved by networking with local schools to provide mentoring, careers days or simply by coming in to speak to students or attending a careers fair. Adviza is always on the lookout for employers to register their interest in working with us.

Careers guidance: what’s it all for?

Careers guidance is about enabling students to recognise the opportunities available to them. Often, it’s about helping their parents and teachers too. It is a critical part of learning and education as it helps students identify their needs, skills, and what kind of a learner they are so that they can make the right choice about the next step in their lives. That’s something worth celebrating, not just in National Careers Week but all year round.


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