Be an Entrepreneur at University – run your own business before you graduate (or just after !)

Although a lot of the talk around education and qualifications is focused on them leading to a specific job or career area, there is one career that doesn’t require anyone to say they will take the graduate on.  This is the position of being Self Employed or working for yourself.  This is a huge area and covers many occupations from Hairdressing to Building to Barrister and Medical Consultant, not to mention being a careers adviser in private practise !  Increasingly many universities are recognising this fact and encouraging students to develop business ideas and companies whilst at University. In the south west Plymouth brands itself as the ‘enterprise’ university  http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/enterprise whilst other institutions such as Bristol Uni offer a range of support for students to pursue business ideas http://www.bristol.ac.uk/red/students/ , or Oxford  Uni  has their own area http://www.oxfordentrepreneurs.co.uk   I realise that this is quite a buzz word at the moment, but if you want something a bit unusual then a report on the way that dance provision in the HE sector develops employability and entrepreneurial skills in the student dancer does make fascinating reading !  http://www.palatine.ac.uk/files/723.pdf

Whichever university students are considering it may well have something similar available and is well worth checking out.  Business success isn’t limited to a particular degree, university or grade, but a good idea well executed.  It is interesting how engrained the idea of working for other people is for some students, even if their career area has a large amount of freelance work or the expectation of developing portfolio careers. Although such programmes as Young Enterprise have been going for a long time, it can still be a jolt for students to see themselves as entrepreneurs.  Talking to colleagues outside of work  I’ve also found that parents/carers of students are surprised that H.E. might have anything to teach or do with working for yourself.  Another case where what you presume everybody knows is not always matched by the reality.  Find out more at http://www.ncge.com/home.php

Advertisements

Speak to someone about Higher Education – or just look at a website ?

Getting advice about Higher Education is an important thing, but who makes sure the advice students get is impartial and independent?  Lots of people have opinions and thoughts about HE, but how helpful is it with the people giving the advice being trained?  Some people do relevant training via their professional organisation, or by attending university events.  However in Somerset we are putting 10 of our advisers through the new Higher Education Advisers Certificate run and validated by London South Bank University. This is a Masters level programme and builds on the skills and experience of our staff that between them have many years of working at this level.  Indeed we do have staff who already give HE advice to undergraduates and graduates, (via other contracts), but have never been able to have this aptitude certified.  Such an award will be in addition to the specific careers advisory qualifications they already need to be a Careers and Skills Adviser.  At Connexions Somerset we feel it is important to build on the skills of our staff and develop our ability to help people make positive HE choices. As we know Higher Education can be expensive, involve commitment of time, and also applied academic effort, which means that good advice on this option is important to ensure that students can benefit from the opportunity. There was an interesting related article in the Guardian about this whole issue of speaking to someone who is able to offer professional advice and guidance on this area, compared to just looking at some websites and deciding in isolation.  I’m sure all tutors and staff in tertiary institutions would recognise the work entailed in this area.  On a personal level for prospective students I am quite happy for them to look at various web resources, log-on to assorted social networking sites and explore the various message boards that they might find useful, but would always encourage them to speak to someone who can give impartial and unbiased advice as well. In full disclosure Andy Gardner (pictured in this report), Heads up the ICG HE Adviser Community…not that I’m biased of course !  http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/jan/05/higher-education-careers-advice-professional

Parent Motivators – A Parents Guide for your Graduate living at home

This Guide was launched in the other silly season when Parliament is closed and not much news is going on.  Just after Christmas and before the New Year is when it made the new. We all know of examples where students who do successfully complete their studies at University and gain a degree might well return home sometime in their career. This can be immediately after completion of the degree, or in case of being between jobs or any work placements they might be after.  As always this has now got a term and such grads are called “Boomerang Kids”.  Check out Page 27 of this report for more info: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_population/Pop-trends-winter09.pdf

Possibly linked to this report, The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (DBIS) has joined forces with Denise Taylor, author of the popular book  “How to Get a Job in a Recession”, to produce a guide for parents and family who want to know how to help support the graduate in their home. Some of its suggestions could be used for anyone who finds themselves at home, with a good listing of useful websites at the back of the document.  Interesting to read the press coverage, which seems to believe that this guide is really an instruction manual from the Nanny State and has been personally written by Lord Mandelson rather than a careers adviser !.  It was also refreshing to hear someone talking and writing on this subject who described herself as a Careers Adviser. Perhaps this could be a sign of things to come and a greater recognition of the need to have people with specific careers advice skills involved in these documents. Now if only they could bottle and sell the magic elixir of motivation we would all have some, as dealing with graduates after they have left Uni can be demanding as it can hit anyone hard when an individual graduate is still seeking that elusive first ‘proper job’ whilst their colleagues from Uni are off on more perceived exciting, glittering careers.  In full disclosure I should also state that Denise heads up the ICG Private Practitioners Community

http://www.bis.gov.uk/new-year-new-opportunities-for-graduates

http://www.direct.gov.uk/graduates

8 sources of finance for University study

As an adviser I’m often asked about what financial help is available for students wishing to study at University. Although the main resource is Student Finance England there are other sources which are often missed. So in the best tradition of top ten lists, (even though there are only 8 in this case), here are the top 8 sources of finance we need to ensure is considered and explored.

1. Loan for Maintenance

2. Maintenance Grant

3. Bursary

4. Scholarship

5. Job (both before the student begins study and also issues re: part-time whilst studying)

6. Family (often known as the Bank of Mum and Dad but can include other people)

7. Savings/Borrowings

8. Sponsorship

Even if students are aware of some of these resources it is always work checking how much they can get and the costs of paying any loan back. In recent research people commonly underestimate the maximum value of loan and overestimate future repayments. Bursaries and Scholarships are another area where many people are unaware of what is available. To find out what students could get go to http://www.direct.gov.uk/studentfinancecalculator where it is possible to can find out what each University could offer.  The issue with Sponsorships are that they can be difficult to obtain and some companies now prefer to offer them to students after their first year of Uni study.  They also tend to be in certain areas, such as the Military, which can be an ethical issue for some students or in specific occupation fields such as Engineering. Packages on offer can be excellent and not just focused on money, (management training and career exploration can also be part of the package), but I do encourage students to check out the commitment involved and ensure they realise and are happy with what will be required as their side of the deal.  If you want to read more about this whole issue of finance and HE an interesting recent report is “The Role of Finance in the Decision-making of Higher Education Applicants and Students” – you can download a copy from the link below http://www.dius.gov.uk/~/media/publications/B/BIS-RP-009

What makes a “Good Job” ?

Most of us need to work, if only to obtain money to enable us to live the life we desire. However money is not the only factor in what makes a good job. Indeed many people will talk about the jobs they have enjoyed, or careers they have experienced, without mentioning the money obtained. I though it would be worth balancing out the money focus by looking at the other factors which make up a “good job”, at least according to other people anyway.  One report by the Work Foundation http://www.workfoundation.co.uk/assets/docs/publications/197_good_work_final2.pdf shows the following factors as valued :-

Characteristic of a Good Job  (% as indicated)

Being valued/appreciated (getting credit for the work you do) 16%

Interesting/Fulfilling role/personally rewarding/Job satisfaction 16%

Autonomy/decision making/responsibility/Working conditions/environment (including location) 14%

Team working/staff morale 13%

Good management/management support/Training/staff development 11%

Enjoyable work 11%

Challenging/Variety 9%

Success/doing a good job/ achievement 8%

Meeting the needs of the customer/client 7%

Flexible (inc. working hours) 6%

Promotion prospects/advancement/Participate/contribution to decision making 5%

Skills/ability/equipment/tools to do the job/Other fringe benefits (eg healthcare) 3%

Clear objectives/goals/expectations/Good communication 2%

Another section lists 7 Key things that need to be in place to make up a “good job”

• Employment security;

• Work that is not characterised by monotony and repetition;

• Autonomy and control and task discretion;

• A balance between the efforts workers make and the rewards that they receive;

• Whether the workers have the skills they need to cope with periods of intense pressure;

• Workplace fairness;

• Strong workplace relationships (social capital).

Apart from the employment security aspect, (which is difficult to evaluate in many areas), how many of us consider the other aspects when looking at possible careers ? Something for students to ask when they are talking to anyone about their career and reflecting on whether it would be the right one for them. Of course in terms of job security the best investment is gaining skills, qualifications and knowledge which are in demand.  This can involve lifelong learning and should enable anyone to change careers and explore new areas as they go though life. Adult & Graduate Guidance is key to this success and lifelong learning is already a part of many career areas though continuous professional development (CPD), which can surprise some students !  Indeed some careers demand CPD as proof you can continue to do your job of for continuing professional certification in areas such as Accountancy and Medicine, plus other careers areas which you might not expect, such as local Fire and Rescue Services for example.

Some of these factors may change based on a students age and interests, although getting and keeping a good job is always a challenge, it can be immensely rewarding. Of course it is not always possible to get exactly the job or career any of us want straight away, but as the saying goes “Until you find the work you enjoy, enjoy the work you find”.  As I always say it will help anyone to learn more about what they do want to do and can also help to pay the bills whilst they are searching

What does a Graduate earn ?

A common question asked by anyone embarking on a period of study is how much a graduate can expect to earn. Although this is a very complex question, as a lot does depend on the individual in some careers, you can get rough summaries from website such as prospects.ac.uk and hotcourses.  One quick summary is available by clicking on  http://www.scholarship-search.org.uk/pls/mon/hc_edufin.page_pls_user_wage_predict?x=16180339&y=&a=220707 and selecting the area that interests a student.  These range from Arts. Designs & Crafts to Scientific Services and are summarised in terms of salary.  As they say in all the best adverts about Financial Advice these are examples only and not a guarantee any particular student could earn this much.  In some cases the amount of money it is possible to earn as a graduate may not seem a lot more than if they did not have a degree, but I always emphasise that some careers are graduate entry only, such as teaching, or overwhelmingly recruit graduates despite it not being a stated job requirement, such as media and publishing. This sort of Labour Market Intelligence is important and another factor in success for some graduates rather than others.  That is before we start mentioning what class of degree has been obtained and the 1st, 2ii and 3rd class implications!  The financial benefit of being a graduate will become an increasingly important area as we head into the future with the actual cost benefit analysis of Higher Education for the individual student coming into sharp focus.

Don’t Panic – about money for University !

A lot of people are looking at their options for higher education, and the issue of cost is sure to be on the top concern of many. It is important to ensure that students look at the range of support that may be available and don’t just look at one source, or indeed rely on what someone is saying who may not be aware of all the options.  I always suggest students check both with the adviser/tutor and the university they are considering if they have any questions on this factor. Money worries shouldn’t stop anyone going to University according to the Government, but like all things that are important in life students need to devote some time to checking everything out.  As an adviser you can get an idea of issues, but we don’t have time to check all the finance issues for every student at every possible university within the time we have available.  Concern about the cost of higher education is the number one reason that people who have applied to university do not enter HE, and as advisers we need to ensure that this is approached with as much seriousness as the actual choice of University degree. Of course in other countries such as the USA this has always been the case, but it is fairly new to us in the UK and the perception of this, certainly amongst some groups of applicants, does require work. Although Student Finance England is one port of call, it is not the only resource to use. Of course those of us who work in the independent sector already work with people who are aware that education isn’t ‘free’, but this also has issues and aspects that need working on.