Why Your Careers Service is Just as Great When You DON’T Know What You Want To Do In the Future


“Planning for the future can simply be about a toe in the water, not commitment.”
– Sarah Longwell, Careers Adviser (Keele University)

Student data suggests that many who would benefit from their university careers service tend not to use it.

Similar findings are in this year’s Unite Students Insight Report, which echoes previous years of the student survey. While most students are aware of the benefits of their careers service, they don’t always take action and visit.

Also, students without solid future plans in mind are less likely to use their careers service. It’s worrying that one of the best places for further research and thinking about future possibilities could be overlooked.

This year’s Unite Students report states:

“Students have most commonly gone to their parents and the internet for advice about choosing a career and applying for jobs; it is less common that they have used career services at their university for advice.”

I asked Sarah Longwell, Careers Adviser at Keele University, about what students can do when they’re not sure what they want to do when they graduate.

TUB: “How can students plan for the future when uncertain about their future plans?”

Sarah: “Planning for the future can simply be about a toe in the water, not commitment.

“The best place to start is for students to think about themselves – what do they enjoy, what motivates them, what matters to them and what are their strengths.

“Consider what activities they have gained the greatest satisfaction from, what aspects of their degree they enjoy, how others would describe them… Students can then consider opportunities that tie in with all the above. It’s all about starting points!”

TUB: “What’s one simple, yet effective, action someone can make right now to start their career journey?”

Sarah: “The simplest action a student can take is to go and see a careers adviser early in their degree. A careers adviser can help them to reflect upon what they might be seeking in a career and make suggestions based upon this. These will only be suggestions, as no one else can tell a student what would definitely suit them, but careers advisers have the expertise to advise and guide on the basis of an in depth discussion.”

TUB: “Why should Freshers start thinking about their future plans in their first year, even though graduation seems so far away? And why is it important they visit their careers centre sooner rather than later?

Sarah: “If students start early, they have plenty of time to research ideas, reject or further research them and then attend events with employers and arrange work experience with the option to change career ideas or direction at any stage.

“Panic career decision making is rarely effective!”

The bottom line is this:

If you’re not sure what your future plans will look like when you graduate, it’s well worth checking out your careers service at university and chatting with a careers adviser.

At worst, you’ll feel none the wiser for a quick visit.

At best (and far more likely), you’ll have some food for thought and you’ll be one step closer to finding something that’s right up your street.

High Fliers Research [in The Graduate Market in 2016] found that:

“Almost all the leading graduate recruiters are working with local university careers services this year and there has been a marked increase in employers taking part in university recruitment events”.

According to the report, 94% of employers used careers services, with over a quarter of them doing more in that direction than the previous year.

Most employers also used campus presentations and careers fairs, so there’s plenty happening on campus.

Even if you think it’s too early to check out what your university has on offer, take a look while you can do it casually.

Settling In At University: TUB-Thump 001


Since October is the month of new students hitting campus, Episode 001 of TUB-Thump is all about settling in.

Here are the show notes for the 11-min episode:

  • Your entire way of life is up for change when you hit campus. It’s time to focus. And that means taking action. From the big stuff (like getting to know others), to the small stuff (like unpacking all your belongings).
  • The rush is real. However, it’ll calm down quicker than you realise. Take control of the rush, rather than let it take control of you. It’s easy to ignore scheduling and discipline, but it makes a huge difference to what you’re able to do.
  • You get used to what’s going on pretty quickly. In some ways, you may end up feeling a bit of an anti-climax. That’s why some freshers get a second hit of homesickness, part way through term.
  • If the situation continues to be difficult, do seek help. If you don’t know who is best to turn to, check your Freshers documents/handbook and check online. Failing that, ask someone to point you in the right direction. Student Services or your Students’ Union, for instance, should be able to tell you what to do next in your situation.
  • I took weeks to fully unpack. It doesn’t help you feel so much at home. Put everything in its proper place.
  • Don’t spend all the cash on stuff to make you feel better. First, the money is meant for stuff like accommodation and living. Second, that stuff is a distraction. It doesn’t actually make you feel any better in the longer term.
  • Start studying as soon as you can. Sound mad? Actually, a bit of advance reading should help get your mind a bit closer to what you’re about to encounter in lectures and seminars. If you get a taste of the basics before your first lecture, you may be in for less of a shock by the language and concepts. And it may take your mind off all the other changes you’re dealing with right now!
  • Be prepared for better to come. Your experience will change over time. It’s not three or four years of the same things happening again and again. You won’t recognise yourself by the time you graduate.
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Many students feel the same way. In the end, you’ll probably want to do even more.

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

Introducing TUB-Thump – Ep.000


TUB-Thump is upon us! Yay! Make the most of your time at university…and beyond.

This is an introduction episode, so call it number 000 if you like. The full-on Episode 001 is dropping alongside it (hear it in the next post).

If you already know TheUniversityBlog, you’re probably used to the type of content that appears. But if you’re in any doubt, the introductory episode will fill in the gaps.

Here are the show notes for the 15-min episode:

  • You have multiple purposes and multiple experiences at university. Taking it easy shouldn’t be the default option. Then again, neither should burning yourself out.
  • Short-cuts and life hacks aren’t useful until you’ve mastered the long-form way of doing things. Taking the quick route without proper understanding or context is a false trail.
  • University is genuinely like a universe. No matter how small your institution is, there’s so much stuff going on. You won’t want to do it all. And you’ll have to limit the stuff you would like to do. It calls for strategic planning, so you know what to say yes to and what to go without.
  • Your journey doesn’t end with graduation. TUB-Thump (and TheUniversityBlog) tackles how to showcase your university experience when looking for employment. It also looks at making use of what you learned at university long after you’ve graduated.
  • The show will focus mostly on full-time students, but will still cater for some specific issues for part-time students.
  • TUB-Thump will cover matters including academic, social, personal, and many other aspects of student life.
  • My aim for the show is to advise, inform, inspire, and to help you get as much out of your experience as possible. I’ll also occasionally have guests with even more great hints and tips.
  • We’re all unique. Just because something hasn’t worked for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. I’ll still feature stuff that works for many people, even when I’m not so keen on it. After all, the aim is to check out the tools that could help you out. Only once you get hands-on can you decide for yourself what speaks to you.

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

Why I’m Going Where the Audio is [Big Announcement]


Big news. I’m starting three different audio shows. This post tells you what they are, why I’m doing it, and what’s in it for you.

Since they’ll be audio shows, you can listen to the audio that forms this post instead, or read along as you listen to me say it!

Get ready for the first show, for students, to drop next week. It’s called TUB-Thump and you’ll get to hear it right here on TheUniversityBlog.

In recent months, I’ve moved away from the heavy focus on the student experience and policy analysis.

Not because I’ve lost interest. More because I’ve moved closer toward the individuals, the stories, and the excitement in other aspects in and around higher education. So, the student- and policy-facing stuff is still there, just in an evolving way.

Some of this is down to a realisation I had that’s strengthened over that time.

While I’ve spent so many years concentrating on writing words, they’ve stayed written.

It’s dawned on me that those words should sometimes be spoken and sometimes be seen. Sometimes narrated, sometimes freeform.

I love writing words down, but I also have a pretty big thing for the spoken word.

The more audio shows and podcasts I’ve been listening to, the more I recognise the intimacy it brings. And instead of being tied to a screen—like you are when reading or watching video—listening can take place when you’re doing other things.

Last year, I put out a few test broadcasts about higher education and about finding your voice. It was an enjoyable experiment.

Audio shows have been growing quickly in the US. And while the UK is playing catch-up, the enthusiasm is clearly growing. Now is a great time to be producing audio and taking the medium seriously.

Text isn’t going away. However, if I can do more to help people make the most of higher education, I’d be mad to ignore it.

Audio and video are a big deal. My current priority is with audio, because you can listen when it suits you. Even better, you can listen while you’re doing other stuff. It’s great when you’re not tied to a screen, and it’s a privilege when people choose to listen directly to your voice during their day.

In the hundreds of audio shows I’ve checked out, one thing is clear. The best stuff requires a mixture of excitement, storytelling, and communication to YOU. Very specifically, to you the listener so you feel a part of what’s going on, even when you’re not speaking back. When you feel you’re being respected, and you feel like you’re learning just enough to feel challenged, but not too much to feel out of your depth, the audio…just…works.

So here’s the deal. I’m going big on audio right now. And it might sound crazy, but I’m about to launch three shows. Yep, three shows.

The shows will be under what I call the “Learning Always Network“.

Here’s what will be on offer:


The first show is tied to TheUniversityBlog, called TUB-Thump. It’s a twice-weekly dose of help to students, so they can make the most of their time at university, and beyond. It’ll be on Mondays, to start the week with a bang, and on Thursdays, to keep the momentum going in the week. So, that’s TUB-Thump, for students.


Next up is Mind Your Higher Ed. Starting fortnightly and progressing to weekly, Mind Your Higher Ed (or MYHE for short), is for university staff (and other interested parties) to learn more about the many different facets of the university. From academia to administration, from estates to catering, from student support to students’ unions…I hope to bridge gaps between staff in very different arenas, and also demystify the world of higher education for the interested public.


And the third show in the Learning Always Network is the all-encompassing namesake, Learning Always. Also fortnightly, going in alternate weeks with Mind Your Higher Ed, Learning Always will host interviews with a wide and eclectic range of guests, discussing how they perceive learning, what they got from big milestones and achievements in their lives, and how their attitudes have changed over the years.

Like I say, MYHE and Learning Always will run in alternate weeks, but so long as I get recording enough in advance, they’ll probably become weekly shows. Anyway, having one new show is tough enough. I’ll get them off the ground and ramp it up when I see it’s sustainable.

So…three different, but related shows. TUB-Thump, with a student angle. MYHE, with a staff focus. And Learning Always, with a mix of all sorts educational.

And with loads of interviews, you won’t just be hearing my voice droning on. You’ll get to hear different views, tips, and news from a wealth of guests. I want it to be fun and informal, but also giving you valuable content as you’re being entertained. Stuff you’ll enjoy listening to, and that also helps you to take action in your field.

Text, audio, video. It’s all at our disposal now. From a desktop, or from your mobile device. It’s all possible now.

So here’s to hearing stories, here’s to loving learning, and here’s to championing higher education. This is a chance for people to listen up and find out about all the amazing work that people like you are doing on a daily basis.

If that sounds good to you, then the place to go will be learningalways.co.uk once the audio drops. I’ll remind you.

And when the shows launch, you’ll be able to subscribe to them via iTunes and your favourite audio apps.

If you’re already a regular reader of TheUniversityBlog, I’ll be posting up new editions of TUB-Thump from there too, so your student needs can all be covered under the one roof.

I’m going where the audio is. I’m all ears. Are you? I hope to hear from you…soon.