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19th October 2015

UoM Careers Service: A critique

An anonymous insider puts the Careers Service through their paces

Take a quick visit to the Tin Can (otherwise known as University Place or ‘the giant bog roll’) and you’ll find it hard to miss the university’s proud adverts. The ones insisting that, if you book an appointment with the Careers service, you’ll probably walk out with a £30,000 a year salary and the keys to a company car (maybe a white Lexus?); and to be fair, if you think you’re likely to get a 2:2 in your sports management degree, they’re your people.

One quick glance at your degree subject and the results of an ‘online skills test’, and they’ll ascertain that, indeed, you’re destined for… you guessed it… Sports Management.

They can read you like a book.

Unfortunately, if your degree involves actually reading the odd book, you might not be so lucky. My experience of visiting the Careers Service as a Humanities student is markedly different from that described above (how I yearn for sports management). I walked in armed with a laptop, my ‘online skills test’ results, and even a mind map of all the things I did and didn’t want to do for a career.

“Right,” said the careers advisor, “so you don’t want to be a teacher or a journalist. How about advertising?” My heart sank. I’m no Don Draper. “How about working in Heritage?” Again, I’m not being some bloody boring museum curator. “Okay, I know you said you weren’t interested in this… but how about journalism?” I grimaced and thought about getting up and leaving right then and there. I may as well have done.

Their insistence on journalism (“because you write essays”) has, admittedly, led me to get back into writing for The Mancunion, something I had previously dismissed (after an enthusiastic spell for the Music section in first year) as ‘pointless’ if you don’t have your heart set on becoming Editor-in-chief of The Times. However, despite reminding me that even writing the odd piece for the Lifestyle section can be entertaining on a wet Thursday morning when you’re meant to be in a seminar about Erotic Poetry, it hasn’t been all that helpful—just sent me off on a tangent.

It’s at this stage that I think it’s important to point out that there are many merits to the Careers Service at this university. They’re highly organised, have a huge amount of resources such as the skills test I mentioned above and can point you to their own version of Milkround, where you’re most likely going to find a graduate scheme that suits you (unless you’re a belligerent Humanities student like me).

They’re also based in The Atrium, that great expanse of space in the middle of University Place, which is a haven if you’re sick of the Library/Ali G and just want a quiet place to do some work in for a while. Admittedly, once they realise you’re not waiting for an appointment, they’ll kick you out, but you can probably bag a good two hours in that lovely peaceful waiting room before that.

They also run an abundance of careers fairs and organise visits from representatives of the big names in each industry. It’s great that they’re doing this, and doing it so much, but I remember one gloomy Friday afternoon sitting in a Careers talk given from an advertising representative who clearly didn’t want to be there. As much as I hope this isn’t the case for all of the events that they run, who on earth would want to essentially recite their job description to a bunch of students, before being shot down with unnecessarily aggressive and unrealistically difficult questions about their industry?

I hate to rubbish a service run by the university, because it’s stuff like this that we’re all paying (read: the government is paying) £9,000 a year for. However, for all the plush waiting areas and internship search engines, where it’s seemingly as easy as typing your degree into a box and choosing your lifelong profession from the results, the Careers Service could probably be a little more personal, perhaps a bit more involved in actually helping you to work out what you want to do with your life. I, along with many others in Manchester, will spend most of my university life soul-searching, trying to figure out what the hell I’m going to do with a 2:1 straight outta Samuel Alexander, and the Careers Service doesn’t seem to be able to help me.

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