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Teaching Ideas

Teaching ideas

The new 'Employability in Academic Advising' model

Dr. Andrew Balmer, Employability Lead and Lecturer in Sociology, School of Social Sciences

The University has introduced a Policy on Advising Taught Students, which includes a responsibility for academic advisers to help support their students to develop their employability. As such, a team of academics from across the University’s faculties have been working together as part of a Higher Education Academy-funded project to develop a model for supporting students in this context. The model has been created by working with managers from the Directorate of Student Life as well as employers, students and graduate interns. It is designed to work as part of the University of Manchester’s Employability Model, which emphasises five key behaviours that successful graduates have been shown to exhibit: explore, communicate, connect, reflect and persevere.

We have also conducted research into how various stakeholders think academic advisers could best support students to improve their confidence with these five key behaviours. Importantly, we were keen to understand the constraints and pressures on academic advisers, in order to best design our model. Our findings led us to develop some key principles:

  1. Academic advisers are under significant constraints in terms of time, resources and expertise and so the model should be quick and easy;
  2. Academic advisers should not be expected to become careers consultants and should instead draw on their knowledge of their discipline and their relationships with their advisees;
  3. The emphasis should be on helping students to improve in confidence and to reflect on how they can make use of their degree in their futures;
  4. And the model should be practical and adaptable to different disciplinary contexts and for use with students with a range of different experiences and aspirations.

Based on these principles we’ve created the model below, which cycles through a process of engaging in discussion, choosing priorities, implementing plans, and archiving reflections. The first two stages are designed to take place in the academic advising meeting, whilst the second two are primarily the student’s responsibility and take place between meetings. Each stage comes with a very short and simple supporting worksheet, some of which include a practical activity that helps the student to recognise their progress, plan future actions, and reflect on their learning.

We recently tested out the model with academic advisers from across the University and received very positive feedback. In particular, advisers felt that the model offered adaptability and practical guidance. However, there were some worries that the model might need too much time to properly work through in an advising meeting and that more guidance would be helpful. As such, over the coming months we will be further simplifying the worksheets and improving the guidance materials. We’ll also be developing some guidance for programme leads and Heads of Disciplines to help them shape how the model is implemented locally.

There’s still time to contribute to the development of the model and additional resources, so if you’d like to find out more or if you have opinions you’d like to share, then please contact Andrew.balmer@manchester.ac.uk

Image of Employability in Academic Advising model

Employability in Academic Advising model

'Careers Kickstart' events in Planning and Environmental Management

Dr. Anna Gilchrist and Dr. Carys Jones, Planning and Environmental Management, School of Environment, Education and Development

As part of Planning and Environmental Management’s (PEM) Integrated Careers Strategy, a second event; ‘Careers Kickstart’ was held on April 15th for all PEM undergraduate and postgraduate students interested in careers in the built and natural environment professions.

Students are encouraged to evaluate their position for eight different career 'Action Areas' as one of three positions: 'Getting Started', 'Making Progress' and 'Moving on'. This allows students to reflect and plan to enhance their employability based on their work experience and stage on the career ladder, rather than their year of study. This not only minimises the chance of assuming where students 'should be', but also facilitates the career sessions provided during the semester events (like the Careers Kickstart) to be run across year groups.

The day hosted a range of different activities including workshops, one-to-one advisory clinics and networking opportunities. The day started with a headline ‘Meet the Professionals’ event, which featured 11 professionals working in planning, real estate and environmental management careers. The professionals presented five minute snapshots of their ‘day in the life’ to demonstrate to students a typical working day (or typical areas of work and tasks they might usually undertake). Each professional also provided students with three 'top tips' for getting a job.

Following the lunch, which provided the opportunity for students to ‘network’ with the professionals that had presented in the first session, smaller, more focused sessions were provided. These were tailored to provide guidance to students that are at different stages of the career ladder or who have identified specific career routes, e.g. working abroad, and were provided by PEM staff and staff from the Careers Service. These included a workshop advising postgraduate students on how to enhance their employability whilst studying, a specialist ‘beat the psychometric tests’ event, a talk on the international job market and a final session on ‘How to Market Yourself’, which advised students how to make the most (and avoid the pitfalls) of social media.

The event was very well-attended by both undergraduate and postgraduate students and received very positive feedback from students and professionals alike. Some undergraduate students have already emailed with requests for representatives for specific professions to be included in next year’s event, which highlights the popularity of this year’s event and the support for a similar event next year. Emails of support have also been received from the professionals, who particularly enjoyed the opportunity to network with the students afterwards. 

PEM Careers Kickstart Event

PEM Careers Kickstart Event

Speed networking events with alumni

Marie-Rose Delauzun, Division of Development & Alumni Relations (DDAR)

The ‘Meet the Professionals’ speed-networking event is one of our most popular and successful formats, run jointly by the School/department and the alumni office, with support from the careers service.  Alumni return to campus to offer careers advice to current students in a “speed-networking” format. Groups of students spend ten minutes with the alumni volunteers at individual tables, discussing his or her career path, day to day work, and advice, before moving to the next table. The event closes with informal networking over refreshments; this gives students the chance to use their new skills to follow up any earlier conversations.

Speed networking events are an excellent opportunity for students to build their confidence in speaking to professionals, to engage with their own career planning and learn about career paths they may not have previously considered. Since 2013, we have had over 200 Humanities alumni return to campus to share their expertise and advice with students. In the 2014/15 academic year alone, over 400 students have met with alumni through careers events on campus. Of the students who attend, typically between 90-100% agree that they feel motivated to take action regarding their career as a result of the event. In the current job market with non-vocational graduates facing fierce competition for roles, Humanities students can give themselves an edge by utilising their alumni networks to gain experience or advice as early as possible.

If you would like to discuss involving alumni with students on your programme, please get in touch with Marie-Rose Delauzun, Faculty Alumni Officer (Humanities) via marie-rose.delauzun@manchester.ac.uk

Participants at a Speed Networking event

The 'Professional Development for Sociologists' Programme (ProD)

Dr. Gemma Edwards, Lecturer in Sociology in the School of Social Sciences

Teaching Excellence Award winner 2014/15

In working with the Careers Service, the 'Professional Development for Sociologists programme' (ProD) has embedded employability within the Sociology programme, and encourages students to reflect upon their skills right from the start of their degree.

In the first year, students are introduced to the Careers Service and are provided with ways to reflect upon how their study of the subject, and activities outside of the classroom, are developing valuable skills for future employment.  Over the last two years, this has involved Dr. Andrew Balmer (the Sociology and School Employability Lead) introducing students to tailored software and other methods of recording what they are doing and reflecting upon it.

In the year 2 session, students are reconnected to the centralised careers services at what is an important time for thinking about internships and summer placements, including those in the Q-step programme, and also receive advice on creating a digital identity.

The third year session takes the form of a careers panel with past sociology/social science graduates (including some recent graduates). This is organised with the Careers Service, who come along and provide reminders about the support on offer to students and use their contacts in the alumni office to help find us panel guests. The panelists talk about their career trajectory post graduation, and the emphasis of the session is on thinking about how people make decisions about their career, as well finding out more about what it is like to work in different occupations. One of the most valuable outcomes of this event has been an appreciation of the ways in which studying sociology has fostered skills that employers in a variety of different sectors have found valuable, and in helping students to find ways to best articulate the skills and knowledge they have. While careers panels are run at different levels across the University, we have found that retaining a local and small-scale event like this has enabled students to engage in conversations about their career hopes and plans in a supportive way, and to be inspired by the role models provided by past graduates.