Narratives of Employability: by HC12083109022


									   Narratives of Employability:
  Effective Guidance in a Higher
        Education Context
          A PROP Funded Research Project


with Lara Cartwright and Jenny Bimrose


Thanks are due to HECSU, and particularly Jane Artess, who have generously funded this
practitioner research and to colleagues in AGCAS and the wider career guidance community
of practice who have engaged in spirited professional debate over the years about the
effectiveness of guidance. I would also like to thank the students who participated in this
study and offered their experiences for analysis. Thanks also to Lara Cartwright, who
worked with me on the fieldwork and Jenny Bimrose of the Institute for Employment
Research who provided an external expert view throughout this process. My particular
thanks must go to the Careers Consultants at the University of Warwick who have been
pivotal to this research, discussing and debating the purpose of guidance and developing
and honing their skills collaboratively whilst supporting thousands of students each year.
Their skills, professionalism, integrity and dedication are an inspiration.

    1. Introduction                                 1
    2. Effective guidance: background and context   3
    3. Methodology                                  7
    4. Analysis                                     10
    5. Discussion: making guidance effective        26
    6. Conclusions and next steps                   29


A - Peer Review Documentation
B - Invitation to participate in the study
C- Interview schedules used in stage 1, 2 and 3
D -Table: Summary of evidence for effectiveness
Section 1: Introduction

Impact assessment of career guidance in Higher Education has never been more important.
A growing strategic focus on employability and the need to demonstrate value for money
within the public sector, particularly at a time of financial constraint, means Careers Services
must prove their worth. This politically sensitive agenda has resulted in different institutions
diversifying their approach to careers services, some enhancing central careers services and
others absorbing career development within a wider skills development (Watts & Butcher,
2008). A previous HECSU funded practitioner research project (Nijjar, 2009) documents the
wide variety of indicators institutional managers use and highlights some of the complexities
and tensions involved. For example, first destinations data is widely used as an
Employability Performance Indicator but longitudinal studies of graduate career paths have
shown that initial role is not a reliable indicator of career path (Elias & Purcell, 2004),
Moreover, the multitude of variables at play in determining success in the job market, not
least variable economic conditions mean that it is difficult to establish causality between
services and outcomes for clients. Usage trends and patterns conflate effectiveness with
demand, but do not illuminate the process of how we provide information, advice and
guidance to clients nor the outcome(s) of that work. Assessment of client satisfaction
becomes embroiled with complexities around the meeting of client expectations, whether
‘reasonable’ or not (Frigerio, 2006). However, Higher Education services are beginning to
grapple with viable alternatives or additions to destination data or usage data to evaluate the
impact of what we do.

Within this complex scenario, the provision of one-to-one guidance is particularly vulnerable.
Even the best resourced careers service cannot offer one to one services to all eligible
students, so institutions have taken a variety of approaches to manage demand and
resource, including shorter appointments, drop in sessions, shorter booking windows,
monitoring of non-attendance and more sophisticated triage.

Around the statutory provision of Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG), a literature has
developed around not just the benefits of education and training, but of the economic and
other benefits of guidance itself. For example, Bimrose et. al. (2004) conducted an
evaluation of the effectiveness of guidance over a five year (2003-2008). This study used
qualitative methodologies and had, as its primary focus, the ‘user voice’. Throughout this
longitudinal research, the perspectives of the clients and/or customers led the investigation.
One other distinctive feature of the research methodology was that the practitioners who
participated determined what comprised ‘guidance’ interventions for the investigation. The

professional contexts in which the original case studies were carried out included: further
education; higher education; charitable/voluntary organisations; publicly funded adult
guidance organisations; and the workplace. Fifty in-depth case studies were undertaken
across these varied organisational contexts in the first year of investigation (2003-2004).
These case studies compared: the client’s perceptions of a guidance episode; the
practitioner’s perceptions of the same guidance episode; and the perceptions of an ‘expert
witness’. They also explored the precise nature of guidance being delivered to consumers of
services. There were four main data sources for each case study. These comprised:
organisational sources (reports, mission statements, researcher observations, managers,
practitioners, publicity leaflets, etc.); digital recordings (of 50 guidance interviews together
with typed transcriptions); questionnaires completed by researchers (collecting brief
background data on the client, the practitioner and the guidance context); and finally, semi-
structured questionnaires completed by individual clients, guidance practitioners and ‘expert
witnesses’, which all probed the same features of the guidance interviews.

The research reported here applies an adaptation of the methodology used in the
longitudinal study to investigate the value of guidance at Warwick. It is a small scale pilot
study, following six first time student service users through our ‘short guidance’ 20 minute
interviews to two months later. The pilot nature of this investigation and small sample size
means that findings are not necessarily generalisable, but do provide rich and deep insights
into the way clients approach and make use of guidance.

Collecting data from a single site does make it specific to the Warwick context and selected
findings pertinent to our service development and institutional employability strategy have
been presented separately. This report seeks to highlight findings of value sector wide.
Section two provides a further analysis of the background for the work and provides
information about the Warwick context that may help the reader make sense of the findings.
Section three provides a commentary to the methodology used and the impact of practitioner
research in this field. In section four we present our findings, including case studies of the 6
clients. The perspectives they brought to the guidance intervention are described as their
‘narratives of employability’. There follows an analysis of the guidance appointment itself
and a discussion of how the clients’ use of guidance interacts with their use of other careers
provision such as information resources and events. Section five looks at how services can
enhance the effectiveness of guidance, given the resources available and the requirement to
offer services to clients with a wide range of starting points.
Section 2: Effective Guidance - background and context

The concept of guidance and its effectiveness are complex and can be defined in a number
of contrasting, sometimes conflicting, ways. In a review of research into effectiveness,
Bimrose et al. (2005) refer to various methods of measurement that have been used. These
include changes intrinsic to the individual, such as motivational and attitudinal change or
knowledge and skill development; changes to the circumstances of the individual such as
entry to education and employment or job search behaviour; or wider measures such as
course retention or completion or wider economic or social benefits.

A significant body of literature that looks at measuring the impact of careers services has as
its focus quantitative measures and economic benefits, both for the individual and the
economy as a whole (Bysshe et al, 2002; Killeen et al, 1992). Stakeholder interests for
those funding and undertaking research into the impact of guidance can vary from a
reduction in the benefits bill, support for lifelong learning or fostering social inclusion.
Timescales for evaluating effectiveness also vary, from an immediate focus such as making
an effective immediate transition to longer term outcomes for the individual or the economy.
Methodologically, the emphasis in statutory Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) has
been on tracking what actually happens to clients (Hughes, 2004) and their position in
relation to the labour market, rather than on attitudes, behaviours and capabilities.

In contrast to such tightly defined notions of effectiveness, the longitudinal case study looks
at the effectiveness of guidance from the point of view of what the client themselves defines
as useful. (Bimrose et al., 2004; Bimrose et al., 2005; Bimrose et al., 2006; Bimrose &
Barnes, 2007; Bimrose et al., 2008 ). This leads to a requirement to gather data from clients
themselves, using qualitative methodologies to get beyond measuring satisfaction and look
at how and why the guidance was effective, over time.

The challenge in assessing the impact of guidance stems in part from the difficulty in
isolating the effect of the guidance in a sea of variables: for example, other sources of
support that person draws upon, obstacles and barriers they may face and fluctuations in the
labour market. Theoretical approaches to career development and models of guidance in
use also have an impact upon the ways in which guidance can be seen to be effective.
Indeed, what we are trying to impact is itself disputed. Policy makers typically operate with
the assumption that matching is at the heart of careers guidance. For example, a key
feature of the new adult careers service recommended by the recent Leitch review of skills,
is a free ‘Skills Health Check’ (HM Government, 2007, p.31). This will represent a free
entitlement and ‘would identify an individual’s skill needs and strengths,’ so that careers
advisers can ‘ensure that people are advised on the most effective action…to tackle their
needs and develop their career’ (HM Government, 2007, p.110). Many other researchers
see it as an inherently messy process, deeply personal and contingent and linked to the
wider process of identity formation (e.g. Watkins & Savickas, 1990). This complexity would
be endorsed by the experience of many practitioners, including PROP funded research into
careers support for students from lower socio-economic groups (e.g. Hepworth &
Greenbank, 2008).

The IER research has identified a number of factors that occur within guidance to render it
useful to clients including: providing challenge and direction; giving access to relevant
resources, expert knowledge and networks, bringing about positive changes and providing
support and safety, tangible development of a future plan and an increase in motivation, self-
confidence and awareness. (Bimrose et al, 2005, Barnes et al, 2006).

2.1 Existing work at Warwick

At the time of this research the Careers Centre at the University of Warwick offered a range
of provision to our students, from on- and off- line information, a vacancies database and
access to employers and accredited career development learning, with one to one guidance
with a careers consultant our most resource intensive and heavily demanded service. The
research reported here focuses on the activity we spend most time on: the 20 minute ‘short
guidance’ activity, although we do also offer 40 minute guidance consultation for those
referred for longer appointments.

In my management role at Warwick I have been pursuing a programme of work around
evaluating, demonstrating and enhancing the effectiveness of our one-to-one guidance work,
in response to:
      the need for structured professional development for an enlarged team of
       practitioners from diverse backgrounds,
      significant unmet demand for guidance
      the need to demonstrate impact of activities against University strategy to argue the
       case for departmental funding.

Since conducting the fieldwork for this research, the Careers Centre has become part of a
wider Centre for Student Careers and Skills, bringing together personal, academic and
career development in one unit. This context, as well as changes to funding streams for
skills development work, leads the whole centre to have a real concern for demonstrating

Initial discussions over summer 2005 considered methodologies for evaluation that would
encourage reflection on practice and support peer learning as well as gathering data from
students before and at various time points after their experiences of guidance. A pre-
research phase involved focus groups with students who had used our one to one guidance
were conducted, so as to include client voices in our discussions about methodology at an
early stage.

In designing a suitable process we have also given detailed consideration to how we all
approach guidance and what we define as good practice. Alongside the plan to review
effectiveness and the focus groups, professional development activities designed to increase
the team’s confidence in their practice and normalise both individual and collective reflection
on it, have been carried out. This prepared the ground for this more in depth study,
matching data on effectiveness with the actual guidance interaction. This professional
development activity in itself has required much discussion about our view of what effective
guidance looks like and an unpicking of the assumptions about effective guidance on which
our internal guidance systems are based. A peer review policy was agreed and
implemented in 2006, and peer review activities have taken place annually since (Frigerio,

The discussions led to a consensus emerging about a goal directed model of guidance,
designed to foster independence. This model is manifest not just in the way we conduct
individual guidance interviews but, arguably even more critically, within the overall service
and the positioning of guidance therein. Strategically, the service seeks to foster skills of
lifelong career management so that Warwick graduates will build successful and fulfilling
careers (Teaching and Learning Strategy, 2008). Practically, the context of a high demand
from students for one to one interventions, outstripping supply for at least half the academic
year, with a one to one discussion being the first stage of the transition planning process.
These strategic and practical factors compel us to operate in a way that encourages
students to take self-directed action. Whilst no attempt was made to force all consultants to
work in a uniform way, a documented approach was agreed and used to record peer review
observations. This is included as Appendix A.
The twin processes of focus groups plus peer review helped us to define effectiveness in our
context as clients:

   •   being listened to by the adviser and feeling supported in their career planning
   •   developing further one or more career management skills, be it self-awareness,
       information handling, decision making, confidence, motivation or proactivity
   •   having made progress through the appointment, with particular reference to how they
       define that progress
   •   being able to take some action independently as a result of the appointment, external
       factors not withstanding

From the focus groups on effectiveness we identified the pivotal relationships amongst
expectations, satisfaction and effectiveness. As a result, I argued that whilst satisfaction
comes from a marrying of students’ own expectations (whatever they may be) and their
experience, effectiveness, as defined by us, would come from consistency between
expectation(s) that we consider to be realistic and experiences of guidance. This was the
starting point for this more detailed methodology where we could locate the appointment
within the long term career planning process of the client and explore clients’ stories
alongside a record of the actual event, as well as tracking the impact over a number of

The next section (3) details the methodology for the research study and discusses some of
the implications of practitioner research.
Section 3: Methodology

This investigation was framed by the methodology used in, and outcomes of, the longitudinal
study, modifying the methodology and adapting it to a different context.

In the pre-research phase of the investigation (see section 2.1, above), focus groups held an
advantage in allowing us to hear the voices of a larger group of students cost effectively, but
they also became problematic. In discussion, students focused on our booking systems and
the guidance interview itself, as opposed to placing it in the context of their overall career
development. We identified some challenges around client expectations but it was difficult to
get enough context on each respondent to explore what had gone on before and after the
interview and how these impact upon their view of its effectiveness. In short, we struggled to
get beyond satisfaction measures. The methodology for the main phase of the investigation
was therefore developed to help move beyond those limitations.

In October 2008 we identified six participants who had made a first time booking to see a
careers consultant. The principle of informed consent was pivotal to the selection of
participants, and our approach to them outlined the background to the research and put
them under no pressure to participate. A search of students who had made appointments
on designated field work days was conducted and suitable candidates were identified. We
sought spread across key demographics such as year and subject of study as well as age,
gender, ethnicity and nationality. We emailed students and invited them to participate,
offering a £20 payment as an incentive. We recognise the potential for incentives to bias our
sample and data and weighed this against custom and practice in involving students in
research and our desire to value students’ time and perspectives. The documents used to
attract participants are attached as Appendix B.

The research took place in three stages:

Stage 1: The researchers conducted semi structured interviews with each participant about
their expectations of a guidance appointment and how these had been informed. Interviews
took place shortly before the scheduled guidance and explored the significance of this
moment as a time to seek guidance, the level and scope of career management skills and
any preconceptions of the Careers Centre from using other provision.
Stage 2: The subsequent consultation was digitally recorded, and feedback was sought
immediately from client and practitioner. To ensure reliability and validity, external
verification by an expert witness was sought and comments built into analysis.

Stage 3: Two months later, the researchers re-contacted clients and interviewed them again
to explore what, if any, follow up actions had been taken and assess developments in their
understanding of career management. The £20 payment was made following completion of
this stage.

Schedules used in the interviews are presented in Appendix C.

The six students identified were from a range of disciplines in arts, humanities and sciences
and were representatives of different year groups. Five of the students in our sample were
home students and one was an EU student. All were under 24 years of age, 5 were female
and 1 male. The EU student was from a white Bulgarian ethnic background and the ethnic
backgrounds of the home students were white British (three), black African (one) and Indian

All the interviews were recorded as digital voice files and all the interviews (apart from the
short guidance interaction itself) were transcribed for ease of analysis.

In analysing the data we sought to go beyond findings relevant to our setting but also to
compare with the first phase and longitudinal follow up findings. We would also be scoping
the impact on the research process of service provision being researched from within,
particularly by a manager, which will be relevant for the future of HESCU's practitioner
research programme, which funds Higher Education guidance practitioners to research their
own area of practice.

Short guidance interviews are bookable one week ahead and are scheduled to last for
twenty minutes. The interviews which took place as part of our research all lasted a
minimum of twenty minutes, with the shortest being 22 minutes and the longest recorded at
37 minutes. Some of this variation can be attributed to the additional pressure on the
careers consultants in having to record their interventions, which could have disrupted their
usual styles of work as well as taken extra time. Other reasons for running over time
included knowing that the subsequent appointment was not booked so opportunistically
continuing, as well as simply not monitoring time effectively. The longest interview took
place in a location usually used for longer appointments, and the consultant felt this change
of location had led her to adapt her style to the one usually used in that setting.

The researchers were both practising careers consultants and this is evident in some of their
recorded interviews with the students. The author worked with three students and a
sessional, temporary careers consultant worked with the other three. As practitioner
researchers there are implications of a manager carrying out research into the practices of
their staff as well as new and transitory members of staff. With manager-researchers, the
management relationship can affect fieldwork, analysis and presentation of findings.
Discussions with careers consultants made clear that their performance was not being
assessed and in line management, no reference has been made to details of the study. As
a transitory member of staff, the other fieldworker now permanently appointed) may have
been unaware of contextual factors known to the other researcher and we took pains to
discuss this at all stages. Outweighing these factors are the advantages of the research
being done in a cost-effective way, as well as the resultant ownership of the findings at
management level which mean that the learning derived from the research can directly
impact future strategic planning.

 As guidance practitioners we found it almost impossible not to respond to some of the
perceived needs of the students, and we were not helped by the fact they were aware that
we were Careers Centre staff. This may have had a potential impact on the reactions of the
students to some of the interview questions, particularly those about the service as a whole.
To minimise any bias in the findings, an external researcher was involved in the analysis of

The next section (4) presents analysis of the data.
Section 4: Analysis

Concise case studies of each student are presented followed by a collective analysis of each
stage of the research. We explore what they brought to the experience, what happened
during the guidance, their immediate views of its usefulness and what further action had
been taken post interview.

4.1 Case studies of research participants


K was a final year student studying English Literature. She presented as having an intention
to apply to one of two Masters programmes; either Social Anthropology or Fashion
Journalism and was wondering whether she should be doing work experience to increase
her chances of gaining employment. She identified a realistic expectation of her guidance
interview as exploring how far she has got with her plans and hoping that as a result she
would have more clarity on her situation and potentially an idea of what to do next.
Immediately after the guidance interview she sounded very positive about her experience of
being listened to closely and having been shown information relevant to her research and
ideas on the website. She described her post-interview action plan as getting some work
experience, to book in for a longer guidance appointment and (if she decided firmly to do so)
apply for the Masters courses. In her eight week follow up interview, she had applied to a
work experience scheme at the BBC, but described herself as having had a “melt-down”
over the Christmas vacation and as a result, with her parents encouragement had decided
to concentrate on her final year studies and put no pressure on herself with regard to
deciding on a particular career path. She had also been to an Open Day at the university
which offered one of the postgraduate courses. As a result she had decided not to do either.
She had felt supported by the guidance and had taken some action since, although not the
action planned in conjunction with the Careers Consultant.


T was a second year student from Bulgaria, studying Computing and Business studies,
hoping to do an industrial placement in the following academic year. Focused and confident,
he was, and remains, a regular user of careers centre services although this was his first
guidance appointment. He had a range of previous work experience but was struggling to
navigate the UK graduate job market, particularly speaking the language of competency
based recruitment. His interest in the optional placement year shows his career focus,
reflected in his comment that links with employers was “the point of University”. He was
seeking reassurance as to whether the companies he had selected to apply to were “good”
choices and to find out how deeply he needed to research into them before making an
application. He identified that he had had difficulty in finding companies to apply to. Post
guidance, T strongly felt that he had answers to the questions he had posed, valuing what
he saw as a professional opinion. He also was pleased that his consultant had identified a
range of resources which would further his ability to do company research and find
vacancies. He had also valued being shown the ‘Warwick Advantage’ PDP resources and
saw its value in helping him present his range of experiences positively to employers. After
the eight week period, T had used the Careers Centre again numerous times for applications
advice and had submitted a number of placement applications. He intended to use the
service’s mock interview facility. He said in retrospect the interview had been helpful to gain
the answers to his questions.


O is in the first year at Warwick studying Sociology. She had made an appointment to find
out how to get work experience next summer, not wanting to ‘leave it too late’. Her
expectations of the interview were very tentative; she was reluctant to be “wrong” as she’d
never had a careers interview before and tended towards negative perceptions gained from
others’ experience of careers provision at her college. She felt very unsure about the nature
of career planning and the process she would need to go through, although knew that she
was not yet at the stage of writing a CV. She expressed an expectation of the interview to
explore her ideas, leading to some guidance on “places to apply”. Her current interests were
in the areas of law and media although her knowledge base was reasonably low. However,
she had made impressive proactive use of information sources and through her own internet
searching had found some potential internship schemes. After the guidance, O was very
positive about the role of the consultant in helping her to narrow down her ideas and to focus
on her next step. She was enthusiastic about the exploratory personal nature of the
interview focussing on her ideas and requiring her to reflect on her interests, as opposed to
a generic “talk”. Eight weeks later, O identified that she had moved on in her career thinking
towards media and away from law, although she had not yet made any applications for
internships which had been her original stated intention. However, she had been
encouraged to get further involved in student media in order to gain experience and was
enthusiastically embracing that idea.

S had booked a short guidance appointment with her preferred careers consultant to help
her decide what to do in the future. In her final year of a languages degree, she was finding
it difficult to find the time to sit down and look at career ideas and had an expectation that
she would be given information to save her time researching it herself. She had a suspicion,
based on reported experiences of her friends, that she might be told just to “look at
websites”. She was juggling a number of diverse ideas and routes including working abroad,
graduate schemes, careers in advertising and marketing and applying for a Masters. She
also wanted more information about the Warwick Skills Certificate. After initially asking her
to prioritise her ideas to fit the timeframe, the interview covered a lot of ground. A number of
resources were suggested to help her progress and a referral to a longer guidance
appointment was suggested. S felt that her consultant had listened closely to her and
valued the impartiality of the consultant (in contrast to her parents). The attentive and careful
listening of the consultant gave her confidence that support was available. As a result of the
discussion she appeared reassured and more confident about her situation. Eight weeks
after the interview she reported significant progress. She had looked at the web resources
that had been suggested, and had contacted her cousin to sort out work experience and
started to put together a CV. She had ruled out the option of an MA for the near future and
said she realised that ruling things out was still making progress. She felt very confident and
empowered to research her ideas for herself whilst recognising that further help was
available if she needed it, although she didn’t feel the need to make another appointment.


A final year film and literature student, C wanted guidance to help her decide what to do. In
her pre-short guidance interview, she said she felt her degree, whilst relevant and
stimulating to her, was often taken less seriously by employers. She had seemingly little idea
what was available to her with her degree subject, apart from the film industry, which she
recognised as needing demonstrable commitment to enter and expressed the idea she had
left it late to be thinking about careers. She expressed some ambivalence about corporate
careers, seeming on the one hand comfortable in the environment she had experienced on
her gap year but also kicking against what seemed dominant in her family background and
at Warwick. She wanted “realistic” guidance so that she could “apply to some jobs which are
realistic” and wanted to find out from the consultant what she would be best suited to.
Immediately after the short guidance interview, C sounded much more confident, having
discussed a number of areas including HR and marketing. She felt she had gained insight
into her situation and was intending to go along to forthcoming events. She felt that the
interview had broadened her options and encouraged her to explore more, although she had
wanted to narrow it down. Whilst expressing disappointment that the consultant had not
given her information about exactly what HR and marketing entailed, she admitted this was
unrealistic in 20 minutes. (Her actual appointment lasted 37 minutes). Likewise, she had
directly asked the consultant what she would be suited to and was disappointed she didn’t
have a concrete answer, but understood why. A referral to a longer appointment was made.
Eight weeks later, C had been to an HR event and ruled this option out. She had also
organised work experience in a local school, and had started to complete a PGCE
application. She’d applied to Tesco and to the Civil Service. She had not taken up the option
for a longer appointment, feeling that she was making progress none the less.


J was a second year student studying Physics. She already had an agreement with one of
the big four accounting firms to do a four week internship each summer, after spending a
gap year with them prior to University. However, at this stage she was keen to investigate
other options for after graduation, particularly those more closely related to physics. She
expected the consultant to point her in the direction of companies she had not previously
considered relevant to physics graduates, and wanted the consultant’s judgement as to
whether her accounting internship was sufficient experience or whether she should seek
more work experience over the summer. After her guidance, she felt satisfied that her
specific questions had been answered. She was aware of more resources to investigate
other options related to her subject. J already had very well developed career management
skills and a practice approach. In the follow-up research interview, post Christmas, J
reported that she had been successful in applying to a GCHQ summer internship. She had
not previously considered GCHQ but had been shown that specific vacancy on the careers
database during her guidance. She had prepared for her interview without further careers
help, drawing on her previous experience of recruitment processes. She expressed surprise
that this type of help was available on the careers website. She was complimentary about
her guidance from the point of view of its personal nature, rather than having been given
“bog standard advice”.
4.2 Individualised Narratives of Employability

A significant finding for us in these detailed explorations of how individuals experience
guidance was a reminder of the individualised nature of career contrasting sharply with a
managerial context where resources need to be managed to provide services on a mass
scale. Tomlinson’s study of 53 final year students in another pre-1992 institution contrasts
the ‘human capital’ based approaches taken by policy makers in the field of employability,
where individuals are assumed to be rational investors who behave in uniform and
predictable ways. Instead, he argues that “work is…a personal matter which involves the
location of self and identity in an ongoing social process” (Tomlinson, 2007, p.287). As
such, students make sense of their own futures in the job market and construct their own
strongly individualised narratives of employability.

These narratives came over strongly in our research. The students participating in the
research each had different starting points for their engagement with the Careers Centre
which we explored with them in their stage 1 interview. This stage involved a coming
together of how they defined their individual narrative of employability as an element of their
own identity, and their prior exposure to graduate employment activity on campus and our
‘brand’ as the Careers Centre.

The humanities students in particular had been affected by our outreach activity, for example
comments relating to email marketing of services and events, and by the range of large
recruiters who target Warwick and promote themselves and their graduate opportunities
across campus. As these tend to be in commercial/financial sectors, they present a skewed
picture of the graduate job market, as this quote shows:

       Well the careers centre I’ve not had that much contact with but I’ve got quite a lot of
       emails…the careers fairs in particular would be the one area that I’ve probably been
       quite disappointed with at the university because I’m sure you get lots of humanities
       students saying they geared towards the financial services and law (S, stage 1)

Awareness of the range of options in the labour market varied enormously. For K, S, C and
O, there was a perception of “business” as amorphous and a response ranging from
ambivalence to resentment of high profile commercial organisations, their presence on
campus. Such organisations, who compete to promote their brand were described as “the
ones who lure you into making an application” (C, stage 3). J expressed interest abstractly
in ‘something relating to Physics” and O could express her interests in no more detail than
‘media and law’. Only T had a good existing occupational knowledge, largely gleaned from
his prior work experience and prior research.

4.3 The Sideways Glance

Tomlinson’s data showed a strong sense amongst students of competing against other
graduates in the job market, and our findings show the extent of this. Students repeatedly
defined their own narrative of employability in relation to different students. There was a
strong sense of repeated sideways glances as students compared themselves with actual or
perceived behaviours of their peers and defined themselves as similar to some and different
from others.

This difference was often articulated in terms of subject of study, with perceived advantages
for non-arts students. For example, one student observed that:

       I don’t know if it’s just an attitude among my housemates just because they ..I know
       it’s mainly arts students that I know and there’s a lot more targeted information for the
       science-y engineering students just because there’s so many more employers and
       stuff that come to visit Warwick that are looking for those sorts of people that I think
       arts and humanities students sometimes do feel a little bit disillusioned with the whole
       careers service, a little bit on the back foot to start with, yeah, (S, stage 3)

Another student similarly explained that

       .. and I live with people who do Maths, and Statistics and Maths and you can leave
       those degrees and you have a job path you can just go on… being English I don’t
       have that and two of my house mates have graduate jobs and so many of the other
       ones have internships and jobs (K, stage 1)

These remarks serve as a salutary reminder that our clients are all facing the same transition
points as their cohort, and show that a significant amount of time is spent defining
themselves alongside groups of peers, or differentiating themselves from groups of peers.

Subject area was also relevant to perceptions of the levels of support needed.
       Well I do film and literature but all my housemates are kind of engineers or
       economics people and there’s just go on the Ernst and Young website and apply just
       straightforward because they think that nothing else will come out of having an
       interview because they really know what they want to do I suppose (C, stage 1)

These comparisons could affect confidence, with the following quotes as positive and
negative examples.
       No I don’t think I’d get employed, I wouldn’t employ me because I don’t have any
       work experience (K Stage 1)
        “I can’t see that there are many people that really have better experience than me”
       (T, stage 1)

For the finalists, timing was a significant issue and there was a realisation, sometimes
expressed defensively, that some things have been left a bit late e.g. particular skills
development programmes, getting involved in student activities or getting relevant work
experience. C, with an expectation of a directive guidance experience, saw guidance as a
shortcut to a decision…..because you can’t do work experience in everything that I have an
idea for unless I started quite a while ago which I haven’t (C, stage 1).

Ambivalence about transition was expressed by all three finalists who described the
perceived dissonance between the large employers who target Warwick and their own
subject area and aspiration as a reason to delay action. This was strongest for C, the Film
studies student, who worried about perceptions of her subject and being able to demonstrate
its value in formal online application processes, but also had concerns about the applications
processes in creative industries, which she found intimidating as its “so much more
personality driven and like networking” (C, stage 1).

Following the students through the guidance process, it became clear how strongly guidance
was located not just in the individuals story but in the setting and dominant discourses. For
this reason, it would be interesting to compare our findings with other types of institutions
and clients.

4.4 Choosing a Careers Consultant

When students book their short guidance via the website they are able to see profiles of the
careers consultants beforehand, to find out about their occupational and departmental
specialisms. Our students varied in the extent to which they attached value to this, with four
students identifying specific consultants that they wanted to see (with at least one back-up),
and two being completely open to seeing anyone. Where the student wanted to see a
particular consultant, this was for both occupational and departmental reasons.

4.5 What to expect from the guidance appointment

Our participants expressed their expectations in a number of ways. There was a particular
mismatch between expectations and our practice around direct provision of careers
information. Two of our students expected the appointment to save them time in doing their
own research - “to be honest I don’t have the time to be sitting around and just looking for
steps to do next” (S, stage 1) and this often formed the basis of an unrealistic expectation
as to what the consultant was able to provide. Two others wanted the consultant to identify
companies to apply to or to validate the appropriateness of the strategy they had devised.

Other comments demonstrate openness to the experience, with very vague expectations
and recognition of the value of talking with an impartial person.

        It’s just that I have so little idea that anything they give me could be useful. I don’t
        expect to walk in not knowing and walk out knowing exactly what I ‘m going to do
        (LAUGHS) but maybe the scramble will begin to make a bit more sense… (K, stage

The following exchange shows another students’ valuing of impartiality:

        S: I need to talk my options through with somebody because talking it through with
        my parents isn’t enough because they don’t really understand what it’s like to get a
        job now so….

        Researcher: And they’re not impartial are they?

        S: No (laughs) not at all. No, my parents want me to be a teacher and that’s
        something I’m definitely not looking into for the time being but to talk it through with
        someone who has knowledge about the subjects I’m doing as well. (S, stage 1)

Clients drew on their own previous experiences of guidance and friends’ reported
experiences of using our service in forming their expectations.

        At school “you kind of got an impression of careers guidance as just like these books
        you looked down a list and ‘ooh, this looks good!’ type of thing (C, stage 1)

        They weren’t specific careers advisors, it was more one of the teachers who’d been
        asked to be this role and they weren’t…I don’t know…it just wasn’t their job to know.
        But they had good resources in terms of books it’s just difficult to find out where to
        get the information you wanted. (J, stage 2)

Self-directed use of information seemed undervalued, with one student reporting that her
friends had not found our guidance useful as they had simply been referred to the website.

The desire to access expert knowledge that would be imparted through guidance led also to
an expectation of a directive approach based on matching client skills and relevant areas of
        I suppose a realistic view of what I can do I….what my skills are more suited for
        and…...then really what I would be best suited to because obviously careers advisers
        are much more in the know about what each job actually entails a lot more than I do
        even though I’ve done you know a little bit of research about it …I just want
        somebody to say well I don’t think that’s right for you..think I need it to be black and
        white.. just to put a bit of decisiveness into it ..(C, stage 1)

However, another student at a similar stage saw the inconsistencies and internal
contradictions in this position.

         “I think the main problem with my friends that I’ve encountered is that they are in a
        similar position to me in that they are not entirely sure what they want to do but they
        want someone to sit down and tell them what to do as such in almost like pick a
        career for them which obviously is not the job of a careers adviser it’s just to give
        advice, it’s the reason that both are disappointed because obviously it’s a decision
        they need to come to by themselves” (S, stage 1)

4.6 The Guidance Appointments

The guidance appointments took place following the stage 1 interview and ranged in
duration from 22 minutes to 37 minutes. The longest of these was held in a room usually
reserved for longer guidance and in the post-guidance practitioner interview, the consultant
felt that the different setting had led her to adopt approaches more suited to long guidance
and had disrupted her usual model of work. Four different careers consultants were
involved, with different backgrounds, styles of work and caseloads.

Unsurprisingly, the context in which the interview took place emerged as a dominant
influence on the interview structures. The structures closely matched the documented model
used for peer review included as Appendix A.

Although the clients all presented individual scenarios for their appointment, a number of
common themes emerged through reviewing recordings of the guidance and the post-
guidance discussions, and this section addresses each in turn.

Opening and contracting/clarifying expectations

Experienced at operating within a 20 minute timescale and in our physical setting, it was
clear that careers consultants had become skilful at establishing rapport quickly and
effectively, using the data made available on screen through our booking system to manage
the opening of the interview and set the scene appropriately.

The presence of an identifiable contracting stage was the area of our model structure that
was most variable, with approaches ranging from very clear and purposeful at the beginning
of the interview to no explicit attempts. Interestingly, this was the area of greatest incongruity
between the practitioner perceptions of what happened and the actual recording.


Reviewing the recordings, it was noticeable how much time within interviews was devoted to
information giving. All the clients, even those who had made self-directed use of our
resources prior to the interview, had very little awareness as to what careers resources were
available, either via the website or in hard copy in the Careers Hub.

Information was presented to clients and discussion focused on how clients could use the
information to assist in their decision making and planning. The Careers website,
particularly the vacancy database element, is rather unwieldy and cumbersome, and all
clients observed required something of a ‘guided tutorial’ approach on working with clients
on how to navigate different information resources.

This is significant for services based around self-directed use of information resources.
Even motivated, action oriented students who are adept at managing information sources as
part of their courses, required the vast range of careers information available to be mediated
for them. Through discussions, consultants guided them to the information and
demonstrated how they could use it and why it would be of value. This occurred repeatedly,
from searching for vacancies to using online tools to assess skill levels.

       because she, in a really simple way, just clarified to me how you went about finding
       this sort of stuff – I mean I found it before, but like navigating the Careers service
       website and seeing what was out there was a lot better after I’d gone to the interview
       than beforehand. It was almost like a tutorial on how to use the Careers service
       website. (C, stage 3)

It was striking how the experience of being guided through the website to the right
information for their circumstances engaged them with the information resources,
demonstrating their value, and they all used those self-directedly after the interview. The
person-centred nature of this information giving is particularly highlighted by J, who was
shown her department specific pages, written by the caseload careers consultant so
confirming for her the expertise of the consultant. When asked what she valued about the
guidance she responded:

         I’d say probably how [careers consultant name] really tried to understand what I was
         asking for, rather than just giving me standard advice for someone who’s studying
         physics. She wanted to know what I was interested in, she wanted to make sure she
         knew exactly what I was asking her before she went off telling me things, so that was
         really helpful because it meant I got the information I wanted rather than just a
         bog-standard response. (J, stage 3, our emphasis)

This information was given or demonstrated when the careers consultants had that at their
fingertips. However, it was noticeable that when clients expressed a keen interest in
occupational areas outside the caseload expertise of consultant, they were most commonly
referred to the relevant consultant themselves rather than the information that consultant had
pulled together in the sector pages of the website. This way, a return to guidance rather than
independence is encouraged.

Opening up

The careers consultants all demonstrated highly developed facilitative skills, using active
listening, reflecting back , paraphrasing and summarising, use of non-verbal probes and well
formulated questions to open up areas of discussion for clients.      A particular theme was to
facilitate reflection on clients’ experience as students to enable them to articulate the skills
they have gained. This was done alternately to build confidence in employability, to assess
own skills and to demonstrate skills to employers.

As we will see later, the guidance did tend to open up options for clients.

         I change my mind all the time and there’s loads of different things I want to do and so
         yeah, might be quite difficult but I just sort of hope to narrow down some options and
         just have perhaps a little more focus on what it is that I want to do (S, stage 1)

However, some found this process challenging.
         some of the questions were quite confusing in the sense that what kind of
         environment do I want to work in which is…I find that quite difficult to answer I
         suppose it should be quite easy but because I haven’t had as much experience I
         don’t really know what I’d like or what I don’t like (C, stage 2)

Within our overall service offer, located within a context of employer targeting and large
careers fairs, our extensive events programme serves as a means to engage students in
their career thinking. Having received feedback before that the employer targeting makes
events look skewed towards commercial organisations, we have invested resources in
widening our events programme to showcase a whole range of occupational areas. As with
information resources, our service model assumes some engagement with events prior to
coming for guidance.

This background is given to explain the nature of discussion about events in the interviews.
For S, this process had worked and she had gone to a number of events and ruled out some
options as a result. However, for others, where they had not attended a particular event and
when asked by careers consultants about their use of events, felt rather castigated. For C,
this was raised in the post-guidance interview.

       I don’t know why it’s off putting to me. I think it’s because there’s a sense of maybe
       being unprepared, and then them asking you questions, and you’re almost like in an
       interview already, I don’t know. (C, stage 2)

It is worth noting that having had guidance, she reported in the stage 3 interview that she
then did feel able to take the initiative and go to an event about careers in Human
Resources, and through that she did rule out that area.

Timing was identified as a theme earlier, and negotiations around the students’ use of time
was an ongoing theme during and after the interviews. On the students’ part, lack of time
was presented as reason for non engagement with events or information but in many cases
seemed like a smokescreen for deeper issues. For their part, during a number of interviews
the careers consultants spent time stressing the importance of devoting adequate time to
research prior to making decisions and for preparing applications, emphasising the
importance of targeting applications based on research into the employer and what they are
looking for. Time constraints and pressures was certainly an area of contention between
students and consultants that could create a dissonance if overly stressed, putting students
on the defensive and closing them off to our support.
Ending and Action planning

The service context requires careers consultants to refer to an online booking system in
running appointments, and enter some notes summarising the guidance into the students
record, for either their own reference or for colleagues seeing the same student. Practice
has evolved whereby these are d completed these during the interview as part of the action
planning process, allowing for a negotiation and explicit agreement of the plan. However, in
reviewing the transcripts, it is notable that as soon as the switch from attending to client to
focus on the PC took place, the balance of communication changed and the consultant

Each client left with an action plan, but there was considerable variance in the extent of the
direction involved, from a concrete set of next steps suggested by the Careers Consultant to
an encouragement for the client to generate a summary of the ground covered and identify
their own actions. It is also interesting to note that all clients took action, but not necessarily
the action that was planned.

4.7 Beyond the Guidance Interview – was it Effective?

All the students had positive immediate reactions to the guidance and all but one felt it had
been largely as expected. One student had a mixed response to the non-directive nature of
the experience

       I just hoped to some degree that she would be really brutal, and she wasn’t. But I
       kind of expected that she wouldn’t be. And some people will want brutal, and other
       people won’t. (C, stage 2)

This student’s immediate reaction, that the need for the consultant to convey job information
was not met and that they expected greater direction, was in contrast to her response two
months later that the guidance was effective. At this stage she described the guidance as
effective as it has focused her ideas and spurred her on to attend events through which she
had ruled out human resources.

       I suppose I was looking for a preference, but that’s probably a really hard question to
       answer. I was hoping that somebody would tell me ‘you go do marketing, I think that
       suits you better’, and I think that’s unreasonable to ask. C, stage 2
All the guidance episodes can be judged to be effective, both in terms of the Bimrose et al
generic criteria and our specific criteria. Examples are summarised in a table included as
Appendix D. Below is a more detailed account of the effectiveness according to Warwick

Clients being listened to by the adviser and feeling supported in their career planning

Students spoke about the benefits of the personalised nature of the experience and the
reassurance that it provided.

        I feel a lot calmer about it, I’m not as stressed out as I was before. I think it’s because
        before it felt quite overwhelming because I didn’t really have much focus whereas
        this has helped me gain focus and also I don’t necessarily need to have a job ready
        for me for the second I graduate, I feel a lot calmer in that respect, so I feel I have
        progressed a lot. S, phase 3

        Well what was really good was that she had when I booked the interview I had the
        opportunity to write some extra information, so she had looked at that and she had it
        up on the screen and she was like well you’ve got quite a wide range here and we’ll
        be going through that and that was really good she had come prepared in a way. It
        wasn’t just one thing she sort of knew I wasn’t quite sure myself so she had prepared
        to go through quite a wide range of options to help me , sort of narrowed down. (O,
        phase 2)

Clients developing further some aspect of career management skills (self-awareness,
information handling, decision making, confidence, motivation or proactivity)

This is where the main strength of this methodology lies in that it shows that career
management skills were not necessarily developed during the guidance interview (so evident
at stage 2) but were stimulated by the resulting action, so evidenced at stage three.

Taking each example in turn, self awareness was developed by S who had spent time
proactively using resources immediately after the guidance and before stage two interview
later that day. For K, S and T there was considerable focus on this area through discussion
of the skills developed through student activities and work experiences and for O on how she
could maximise that in the coming years.
With regard to information handling, all clients who were shown details of how to navigate
the information on the careers centre website and so could, and did, use it self-directedly

The process of decision making as part of career planning was illuminated for clients: and
I’ve realised it’s sort of eliminating things as well as picking things is just as much progress
as deciding on a career or applying for a job. (S, stage 3). Decisions were made after
interviews, such as K’s decision not to apply for postgraduate study, but there were not
decisions made during the interviews. For those who craved decisions such as C, the
process was one of opening up rather than narrowing down.

Confidence was developed for some, but K’s example shows how this can take a dip in the
medium term as was evidence at stage three, Motivation and proactivity was arguably
already high for these clients who had secured an appointment at a busy time, and this was
continued. Motivation seemed lowest for K, and this did not increase.

Reviewing our criteria, this research shows the development of career management skills to
be the least effective area of guidance. However, further work would enable us to explore
the nature and development of career management skills in more depth and to examine the
relative merits of group based carer development learning or longer guidance interactions
rather than the action focused, goal directed model in use here.

Clients having made progress through the appointment, with particular reference to how they
define that progress

The one to one personalised nature of the experience that allowed them to express their
ideas was the main way in which progress was characterised:
       because [careers consultant name] was just a really good listener, I just got to, it just
       helped to verbalise everything, from then just put everything together because I had
       lots of little ideas floating around and putting them all together really helped and also
       having someone that was ..that listened as well was really really helpful. (S, stage 3)

However, the desire for information as direction is expressed by T who sought ‘answers to
questions’ and felt he had got them.

Clients being able to take some action independently as a result of the appointment, external
factors not withstanding
Clients did take a range of actions after their guidance, sometimes linked to the action plans
agreed and sometimes following a new and different direction. For example, C attributed the
biggest development since her guidance to her work experience, following which she had
made a decision to apply for teaching. However, it is impossible to know if she would have
made and followed through on that decision if she had not been for guidance. O had not
taken up the referral offered or done the agreed actions about work experience, but she had
taken action, getting involved in student activities relevant to her media interests. She was
well positioned to manage the process of gaining relevant experience and refining her ideas.
In contrast, T had made applications and taken action, although this had not led to greater
independence as he had become a heavy user of our applications advice.

       I applied through the Careers Service thousands of time! I wanted to get it perfect!”
       (T, stage 3)

Time was the only limiting factor that was mentioned by (the three finalists) in taking action
after interviews.

       Researcher: So were there any difficulties in terms of moving forward..?
       S: erm I suppose mainly just the assessed work that I’ve had to do which means I
       haven’t been able to spend that much time on, as much time as I would have liked
       to. S, stage 3

These comments confirm the sense that we are competing for students’ time with the
academic and other commitments as the clock ticks towards the transition of graduation.
Section 5: Discussion – Enhancing the effectiveness of guidance

It is heartening to read these accounts of guidance playing a positive role in the career
planning of these six students. In one sense, it is perhaps not surprising that a personalised
approach will be of value in helping students formulate their own narrative of employability.
O explains the impact of a genuinely interested but impartial adviser:

       Well there was a lot of questions asked about why it is that I’d chosen it was really
       helpful that it was me that was sort of having to explain why I wanted to go into it and
       she was like oh is that so, is it heartfelt or is it just a gap year thing that you feel l like
       you should do . I think she paid a lot of attention, I think she was interested as well, it
       wasn’t like she was just trying to fill out a form , it was like she was genuinely
       interested in why it is that I’d chosen that particular industry. (O, stage 2)

It is also interesting to note how guidance can be effective in a way that some students
perceive to be one of its failings: referral to information resources. Commenting on her
friends experiences of being referred to the website, S remarked:

       the information that she showed me turned out to be really really helpful but I think
       it’s that perception that the students have, like I know she told me to look at the
       website and that’s what I was expecting her to say but I didn’t actually realise how
       helpful it would be. (S, stage 3)

Mediation through guidance is pivotal to students’ ongoing engagement with careers
information. The website is there for them, but even focused, switched on and confident
students had not explored it on their own but waited to be shown the right bits for their own
situation. Given that our services are designed to facilitate self-directed access to
information prior to or in place of one to on guidance, this highlights the importance of
information handling skills within the context of career planning. As undergraduate students
the clients are likely to have highly developed information handling skills in an academic
context, but are not necessarily transferring this to career planning. Specific interventions to
support this could be trialled and evaluated.

The dilemma for Higher Education Careers Services, then, remains how to locate guidance
within an overall service provision given the ratio of resource to demand.

We have attempted to manage this dilemma with a goal oriented guidance model and a
short booking window for our 20 minute appointments with a named consultant so students
can book according to expertise. However, meeting demand remains problematic. This
research has highlighted how we can reconsider our guidance provision and provide more
effective support with information. As S comments about her information handling skills:

        Definitely I feel that I can do that independently now, now that I know what sort of
       resources are out there (S, stage 3)

The research quoted earlier by Tomlinson identified two key variables in student attitudes to
employability: their orientation to the future and to the market. This is expressed as a matrix
given 4 contrasting ‘ideal types’ against which he mapped his respondents. This is
represented as fig 1. This framework also proved helpful in analysing the data and drawing
conclusions about the clients for whom the guidance was most effective. Within this
framework, the student engaged in managing their transition to the labour market are divided
into careerists and ritualists, with careerists doing everything they can to maximise their
chances (like J, T and potentially O) and ritualists doing just enough (C, S and initially K). In
terms of distance travelled and fostering independent use, the guidance was most effective
for S and O. For T and J, their immediate needs were met very well but they are likely to
return with the next issue in time.

      Fig 1: Ideal-type model of student orientations
                           Orientation to market (ends)

                           Careerist               Ritualist
        Active                                                         Passive (means)

                            Rebel                  Retreatist

                             Non-market orientation
       Tomlinson, M (2007) ‘Graduate Employability and Student attitudes and
       orientations to the labour market’, Journal of Education and Work Vol 20 No 4 pp

We have services designed for the most actively engaged and focused students
(Tomlinson’s ‘careerists’) who learn the system and use our services regularly. We have
responded to customer feedback from these assiduous users. It is hard to encourage
independence in clients who want to access everything they can, see the service as effective
and feel entitled to use it. The strength of feeling that the ritualists needed to express in
stage 1 about their own ‘narrative of employability’ demonstrates how this creates a barrier
to engagement that they managed to overcome in their final year. For two students, the
confidence and focus gained from the personalised guidance support enabled them to take
action, although in terms of their initial transition this would have been advantageous to have
addressed earlier in their time at University. For K, the pressure of the impending transition
tipped her over into the ‘retreatist’ mode: her guidance was too little too late to impact upon
her initial transition, although it may well have proven helpful as a graduate.
Section 6: Conclusions and Next Steps

The experience of developing this research has shown how important it is that any work
looking at effectiveness within any particular service setting beginning with considering the
purpose of guidance in that setting. As well as the way that service articulates and presents
its purpose, the length of appointment, means of booking or referral and physical setting will
all affect what outcomes are realistic.

Having determined our own particular purpose in our context, the rich and deep insights from
this small scale study has enabled us to explore how it plays out in reality. Methodologically,
the tracking approach does provide a window into effectiveness rather than satisfaction and
the value that is added by the guidance process. The experience of this fieldwork could
enable us to repeat the process using a quantitative measure to get a more reliable medium
term indicator of the effectiveness.

Beyond our initial research questions, the process of tracking a client through guidance has
provided a fascinating insight into the process of career identity development for our
students at this time. The impact of being part of a particular cohort facing a particular
transition, and the benchmarking against fellow students through the ‘sideways glance’ has
been a particularly useful insight.

Despite the development of this ‘narrative of employability’ taking place, the students had
very little prior engagement with our service aside from general awareness and attendance
at careers fairs, and so the one to one guidance was very much the start of a process for
them. The research highlights the importance of guidance as a personalised service,
opening up the process of career development for them through the articulation of their own
story. The student voices demonstrate the time pressures they are under, yet in the
interviews careers consultants constantly stress the time commitment that career planning
requires. It is possible that this creates something of an impasse and encourages
disengagement and and a point for further consideration is how we could reframe this in
guidance discussions.

Noting specific elements of effectiveness, the students’ expectations were often of a more
directive matching process, and there were some mixed feelings about the non-directive
nature of the process. Clients reported the benefits of being listened to and supported and
the value of the information they were shown, which they have then gone on to use.
The development of skills needed for ongoing career management were hard to isolate as
caused by the guidance itself – in many ways it was the action following the guidance that
stimulated the learning. The students’ stories show that progress takes many forms and
confidence can dip initially. However, for a service clear in its focus on developing longer
term career adaptability, a further follow up would give even greater insight.

For us at Warwick, the drivers outlined in this report’s introduction have led to a wider
reorganisation of careers and skills development support at Warwick, and as part of this we
have the opportunity to restructure the way we offer guidance in order to increase the scope
of our operations and meet greater demand from the student body. These research findings,
then, particularly around the students’ views of their own employability and the process of
engagement in career activities, is well placed to inform such remodelling.

The research does highlight the value of a personalised service, and to underline this we
give the last word to S, whose response to being asked if her guidance was useful,
summarises the main benefits we hoped for:

       Definitely. Completely, because I just feel like, before I felt a little bit lost , felt a bit
       overwhelmed by there’s all these websites, there’s all these careers you can apply
       for, there’s all these careers talks, but now after having spoken to [careers consultant
       name] I just feel like I’ve been able to sort of filter out some of the things like I know I
       don’t necessarily need to apply for graduate schemes straight away so I don’t have to
       worry about that, I think the most important thing is that I’m able to research the
       career that I want myself and now I know where to look and I know further help is
       here if I need it I feel I can definitely manage it a lot better and I feel more confident
       and a lot more relaxed about the whole thing as well. It’s definitely helpful. (S,
       phase 3)

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coursework for AGCAS/University of Reading Postgraduate Diploma in Careers Education,
Information and Guidance in Higher Education

Frigerio, G (2008) ‘The End of the Peer Show: are we all too busy for peer review?’ Phoenix
May 2008 (magazine of the Association of graduate Career Advisory Services), AGCAS,

Hughes, D. (2004) ‘Making the Case: Strong Evidence Versus Hearsay’ in Bimrose, J. &
Reid, H. (2004) Constructing the Future: Reflection on Practice, West Midlands, Institute of
Career Guidance pp. 85-98

 Killeen, J., White, M. & Watts,A. G. (1992) The Economic Value of Careers Guidance ,
London, Policy Studies Institute.

Nijjar, A (2009) Stop and Measure the Roses: How Careers Services Measure their
Effectiveness and Success, HECSU, Manchester

Tomlinson, M. (2007) ‘Graduate Employability and student attitudes and orientations to the
labour market’ in Journal of Education and Work vol 20, no 4 pp. 285-304

Watkins, C.E. & Savickas, M.L. (1990) ‘Psychodynamic career counselling’, in Walsh, W.B.
and Osipow, S.H. (Eds) Career Counseling: contemporary topics in vocational psychology,
Hillsdale, New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp79-116.

Watts and Butcher, 2008 Break out or Break-Up? Implication of Institutional Employability
Strategies on the Role and Structure of University Careers Services, Cambridge, NICEC/
Manchester, HECSU
                                                                                                                                  Appendix A
                                                     Short Guidance Feedback Sheet

 Name of Careers consultant:                        Name of Observer:
 Name of Student:                                Date:

                   Have Casigma notes been                                 Skills                           Comments & Evidence
                   looked at?
                                                                  Active Listening:
                   Intro                                               Silence
Contract                                                               Observing
                   Use of IT – booking details                         Listening
                   and usage history

                   Listen to issues

                                                                                      Increased influence
                                                                                      Increased empathy
                   understanding of issues


                   Discuss                                        Understanding:
                                                                      Questioning
                   Explore                                            Summarising
Sandwich filling                                                      Paraphrasing
                   Question                                           Restating
                                                                      Clarifying

                   Demo resources? – inc use
                   of IT
                  Generating actions          Interpretative skills:
                                                   Information
                  Summarise                        Being specific
Action plan                                        Challenging
                  Use of IT for recording          Referral

                  Encourage return or
                  referral (if appropriate)

                  In what ways has the
                  student moved forward?


Reflection &
Action Planning
Appendix B: Documentation used to attract research participants


We see from our records that you have made an appointment to see a careers consultant on Thursday 13
November at 10.50 am.

We are seeking a number of first time users of our career guidance to participate in a study looking at its
effectiveness. We wonder if you would be willing to help.

Being part of the study would involve
* Arriving 30 minutes early for your appointment so you can answer some questions before your interview
* Having your interview recorded, in order for the researchers to study approaches taken to interviews by
different careers consultants
* Answering some questions immediately after your interview about how you found the experience.
* Being contacted in approximately 4 weeks time by telephone, to find out how you are getting on with your

If you are able to take part in all stages of the study, we will pay you £20.

All the information you provide will be treated in strictest confidence, in conformity with the requirements of
the Data Protection Act, 1998. No
information that could identify individuals will be passed to any third party.

If you are able to take part, please call on ext 23619 or e-mail me by reply and we will make arrangements to
meet you before your interview.

We hope you will be able to spare some time to help us ensure we offer the best guidance and support to
Warwick students.
Best regards

Gill Frigerio
 Careers Centre
University House
University of Warwick
Tel: 024 7652 3498
024 7652 4748 (careers help desk)
Fax: 024 7652 4220

You have been invited to participate in a study into the effectiveness of our career guidance. We are
researching what students expect of a guidance appointment, and whether it helps them. Results
from this study will be fed back to other University Careers Services.

If you are willing to help us with this study, this will involve:

       Answering some questions before your interview about the process of getting access to the
        Careers Centre, what has led you to make an appointment at this time and what you expect.
        A member of the careers centre staff will ask these questions and make notes of your

       Having your interview digitally recorded. This is so that we can study the variety of
        approaches taken to guidance interviews. The researcher will be interested in the approach
        taken to the interview by the careers consultant that you see.

       Answering some questions immediately after your interview about how you found the
        experience. Again, a member of the careers centre staff will ask these questions and make
        notes of your answers, which will be confidential.

       Being contacted in approximately 4 weeks time by telephone, to find out how you are
        getting on with your plans. So that we can contact you, please give details below (this
        information will not be used for any other purpose).

All the information you provide will be treated in strictest confidence, in conformity with the
requirements of the Data Protection Act, 1998. No information that could identify individuals will
be passed to any third party.



    Telephone numbers:

    Email (if available):

Please sign below to confirm that your involvement in the study has been explained and that you
have agreed to take part.

Appendix C

                    Effective guidance research - Stage 1 questions

  1. What has led you to make an appointment at this particular time in your course?

  2. Did anything get in the way of making an appointment before now? If yes, please tell
     us what this was.


  3. How did you make the appointment-did you book online through the Careers Centre
     website, or did you telephone the Careers Centre to do this?


       How was this experience?

  4. What are your first impressions of the Careers Service?

  5. Did you want to see a specific consultant or were you prepared to see any of the

       Specific consultant ……..
       Were you able to book an appointment with them? Y/N

       Any consultant      ……..

  6. What are you expecting to happen:

       During the discussion?

       As a result of the discussion?

  7.   How confident do you feel at this moment in time that you have the skills you need to
       manage your career?
                Effective Guidance Research - Stage 2 questions

1. What did the careers consultant do to make you feel welcome? How did they
 put you at ease? E.g. Did they explain who they were?

2. What did the careers consultant do to help you understand what was going to
 happen in the interview? (How did you agree with the interviewer what would be
 discussed?.Were you clear about the things that could be dealt with during the interview
 and those that couldn’t? Was it explained that you had a certain length of time for the

3. Did you feel that the interviewer listened to you carefully? What makes you say

4. Did the interviewer help you get a better understanding of yourself and your
 situation? How did they do this?

5. Did the interviewer show you that they understood what information you needed?
 How did they help you find it?

6. Did you agree a plan of action for you to carry out after the interview?

a. What timescales were attached to those plans?

b. Did you want an action plan? Did it seem relevant to you?

7. Overall, to what extent was the interview what you expected?

8. Did you find the interview to be useful?

9. How confident do you feel now about carrying out the actions you agreed?

10. When you think back on the interview, what stood out for you?
Effective guidance research - Stage 3 questions

   1. Since your short guidance appointment one month ago, what (if any) follow up
      actions have you taken?

          What difficulties did you encounter? If no actions have been taken, why not?

      What, if anything could the consultant have done to help you foresee and/or
      overcome difficulties?

   2. What progress have you made in your career thinking since your appointment a
      month ago?

      (looking at development of further aspect of career management skills, self-
      awareness, information handling, decision making, confidence, motivation or

   3. Have you tried to book another appointment for short guidance since then?

          If so, have you seen anyone, why, what was the outcome?

   4. Have you tried to access any other services?

              Which ones? How have these helped?

   5. Are you more or less likely to seek guidance in the future as a result of your (lack of)

   6. Thinking back to your short guidance interview a month ago, what stood out for you?
Criteria                                                Positive example                               Any gaps?

                                                                                                                                              Appendix D: Table summarising examples of effectiveness against stated criteria
Bimrose et al – characteristics of effective guidance

providing challenge and direction                       S - focus

giving access to relevant resources                     Demonstrations of website

                                                        T – vacancy searching

expert knowledge and networks                           J – told about GCHQ vacancy

                                                        S – detailed discussion of advertising roles

bringing about positive changes                         C – ruling out HR allowed her to focus on an
                                                        area not discussed: teaching

providing support and safety                            S – alternative to family views

tangible development of a future plan                   J – application to GCHQ                        Not far enough with K, S and C? plan
                                                                                                       may not become tangible
                                                                                                       immediately, requires some action

increase in motivation, self-confidence and             O- more confidently embracing the              K – dipped initially
awareness                                               development of her employability through
                                                        student activities                             Can result from the action taken
                                                                                                       after the guidance
Criteria                                         Positive example                             Any gaps?

Warwick Careers Centre criteria

clients are listened & feel supported            O + J – valued personalised experience


clients clients develop further an aspect of     Information handling the strongest: how to   J & T already very focused
career management skills (self-awareness, info   navigate and use relevant information
handling, decision making, confidence,
motivation, proactivity)                                                                      K anxiety not abated leading to
                                                                                              delayed action

clients make progress through the                S- sense of focus that some with having
appointment                                      articulated ideas to a skilled listener

                                                 C – found, booked on and attended events     T took action but returned several
                                                                                              times for application support
clients are able to take some action             O – involvement in student activities
independently as a result of the appointment                                                  K took little action
                                                 Not necessarily action that was planned: K
                                                 attended PG open days

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