SFC news published since 2018. See SFC archived content for earlier news articles.

This Scottish Careers week, Tracey Innes from the University of Aberdeen tells us why she loves working in the career’s team and why Careers Week is so important.

It’s Scottish Careers Week, which got me thinking about my own career. I’ve been in the University of Aberdeen careers team for over 20 years, and I’ve been able to say that for quite a few years now!

Tracey Innes

The irony isn’t lost on me that in a world that doesn’t stay still, and very few people have a ‘job for life’, here I am, having not really planned to still be here when I applied all those decades ago. It struck me last week at a meeting of all the Heads of Careers Services in Scottish universities, a group I currently convene, that there are quite a lot of us with over 20 years in the sector, and if you added up the length and level of experience across all of our teams, those years would reach into the thousands. I didn’t once worry that this makes us an old and outdated profession, though careers advisers have been at the butt of many a comedian’s punchline. The truth is, I’m still here because it’s the most rewarding of jobs, and it’s one that is constantly changing.

In the careers profession, change is the only constant. We have to understand the world of work our students are navigating, as they seek to understand what opportunities the working world has to offer them. Not many people know, apart from us, that careers teams in the university sector are comprehensively trained and qualified (check out AGCAS training and the Higher Education Careers courses at the University of Warwick), their services are underpinned by data, evidence, models, and theories of guidance. They’re teams with huge amounts of kindness and empathy.

So, why am I still here, genuinely loving what I do, after all these years? At the centre of my own career decision to stay where I am are the students, and the fact that they are amazing, but also that they need us. The work we do changes the course of our students’ lives. It’s not often about creating those lightbulb career realisation moments, where they suddenly see their destiny, although that does happen. It’s mostly more subtle than that. It’s the daily nudges to the course of their lives, that we don’t always get to see the result of.

It’s the job interview they’ve been given following a CV feedback session where we helped the student target it to the role and showcase their experience effectively.

It’s the practice interview that boosted their confidence, gave them a safe space to fail and ask questions so that they were ready to nail the real thing.

It’s the moments they realise they have something awesome to offer the world of work, and they are inspired to think a little bigger, outside the box, or believe that someone gets to do the job of their dreams, so why can’t it be them.

Occasionally, it’s about the thank you emails, or the chocolates delivered, from students saying that they got the job offer and that they couldn’t have done it without us.

Twenty years on, I’m also here for all the extras our services now have to offer. From part-time jobs, increasingly sought in a cost-of-living crisis, to work-based learning and internship opportunities, to skills development, innovation, entrepreneurship, and mentoring programmes, to growing employer engagement teams running graduate job fairs, and creating placements and job opportunities – our service alone is advertising over 2,000 opportunities right now for our students. All of this, on top of the extensive career information, advice, and guidance services, makes a Careers Service in a Scottish university a busy, rewarding, vibrant, and fun place to be. That’s why I’m here, celebrating Scottish Careers Week, and looking forward to what the next 20 years bring, not that I’m counting!