Seeking advice

If you had a machine in your living room that was capable of printing £50,000 or £1000,000 a year in used notes, you’d take pretty good care of it, wouldn’t you? If it needed repairing, you’d take it to a qualified, professional repairer. If you thought it could print even more money, you’d seek the advice of an expert on how best to upgrade it.

Hang on a second – aren’t you that money-making machine? Yet where do you go when your career is coughing up error codes? Whose advice do you seek when you crave promotion or a new challenge?

Survey after survey reveals that, more often than not, we seek the expert opinion of….our friends and family. With all due respect to your mates and your mum, what do they know about the industry you work in, the opportunities for training and development or the chances of promotion?

There’s nothing wrong with seeking advice from your mates or your family. Their opinions can be useful since they know you better than anyone and can tell you “Oh, you’d hate that job” or “You’d be great doing that”. But unfortunately they don’t have the inside knowledge of how employment works.

So where should you go for personal attention? When it comes to the money we earn, we can hardly contain the banks, building societies, insurance companies and independent financial advisers beating a path to our door to advise us on how we should save and spend it. But when it comes to career planning, it’s a very different story.

Pick up your local Yellow Pages and in between Cardboard boxes, Cargo Handling and Carnival Goods, you will probably find a modest section entitled Careers Advice. But as you let your finger do the walking down each entry, how do you know whether the advice proffered by Acme Career Consultants is expert or value for money?

Most of the government-sponsored careers guidance services, for example, are geared towards the long-term unemployed, not towards recent graduates.

Some people knock on the door of private consultancies, where they find themselves paying up to £300 for an interesting, but ultimately irrelevant psychometric test.

Others end up in the arms of recruitment consultants offering advice with one eye on the commission they will receive for filling a vacant position.

As a starting point, it’s always worth going back to your university to see what they can offer. Going back to university for careers advice when you are already in your first or second job can feel like a retrograde step. But those who do go back are usually pleasantly surprised.

There is a reciprocal agreement between many universities which allows graduates to go to any university careers advice service for up to three years after they graduate and receive free guidance.

Services vary depending on each university’s resources, but most recent graduates should be able to speak to an adviser. At least you know that when you go to a university careers advice service, they will adhere to a set of standards and a code of conduct.

Some careers services run a paying service, open to any graduate, where hourly rates are around £50 – unemployed graduates may receive concessions

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