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Career progression for careers leaders: what next for you?

David Andrews offers some insights about career progression in his final blog. It has been a pleasure working with David over the year and I am sure that many of you have found this series of blogs useful in your working practice. We would love to hear how they have supported you - so do post your comments.


The previous article looked at what next for your school or college. This month, in the final piece of the year-long series I volunteered to write for the Community of Practice, I am going to look at what next for you. As a careers leader you spend your working life providing support for your students’ career decisions and transitions as they move through learning and into work, but how much time do you devote to thinking about your own career progression?

This article sets out some of the opportunities that are open to you. Each one of these possibilities has been pursued by careers leaders I have met over the past 40 years working in this field.

1. Carry on being a careers leader

Being a careers leader is a rewarding job and you may be happy to keep doing it for a while or even for ever. When people think about career they usually think about the idea of moving jobs and/or places of work, but it is equally important to know when you are happy and to stay put.

2. Go back to what you were doing before

Sometimes making a career move can be a good way to test out some of your career ideas. This doesn’t mean you have to stick with it for life. Perhaps you have learned that your previous job was the one for you. Career paths do not always have to be onwards and upwards.

3. Move on to another school or college

Maybe you enjoy the role of careers leader but want a new challenge, perhaps with more responsibility or a change of scene. The experience and expertise you will have built up in your present role will make you an attractive proposition to another school or college seeking to take forward its careers provision.

4. Move up into senior leadership

Working as a careers leader provides excellent preparation for a move into senior leadership. Traditionally schools and colleges have tended to recruit senior leaders from heads of department who have had experience of line managing a team of staff but today headteachers and principals are also recognising the experience gained by middle leaders with ‘whole school/college’ roles. As a careers leader you will have had to form working relationships with almost every part of the school or college, and with a range of external agencies. This is precisely what is required of an assistant or deputy head or principal. There may be opportunities for promotion within your current workplace or you may prefer to apply your experience in a different school or college.

5. Focus on leadership and management

As a careers leader you will certainly have developed your abilities as a leader and manager. The previous option considered the possibility of taking on more of these responsibilities in an educational setting but you could also take your leadership and management skills into a different sector and type of organisation.

6. Focus on coordination and networking

Just as leadership and management skills are valuable assets to be able to take into a new context, so too is the ability to build good working relationships within and across organisations. As a careers leader you will have had to do a lot of this. You could take this skill and experience into a new setting, possibly still linked to education, such as working for an employer to establish links with schools and colleges or for a university in its school liaison team, or in a different sector of the economy.

7. Focus on careers

Perhaps in your work as a careers leader you have started to develop a particular interest in the whole area of career development and would like to pursue this further. You might want to qualify as a careers adviser and either keep working with young people or move on to provide career guidance in a university or with adult clients. If you have already achieved the 3-unit Level 6 Certificate in Careers Leadership you would only need to complete the seven mandatory units to achieve the full Level 6 Diploma in Career Guidance & Development.

Or you might like to become a careers education and guidance specialist and provide support to careers leaders in other schools and colleges. In the past local authorities and careers companies recruited experienced careers leaders to such roles and today several of the academy trusts have created similar posts. Another option would be to do research, writing and teaching on careers, perhaps as a university lecturer or researcher. The careers field has many different jobs for those who get hooked on careers.

8. Do something completely different

Finally, this list would not be complete without adding the option of doing something not related to either careers or leadership. Many careers leaders come into the role not having considered it, or not even knowing about it, at the beginning of their careers. So it is perfectly possible that you might move on to something complete different again. Many people learn about new career opportunities through encounters with other people. As a careers leader you will meet a great many people and any of these connections could lead to a new opportunity.

Not so long ago people sometimes referred to the role of careers leader as being a bit of a career cul-de-sac, from which you had to reverse out in order to progress further. That is no longer true. The skills and experience gained as a careers leader in a school or college today provide a platform from which you can move into any of the possibilities listed above.

Further information and support

This article draws on the final chapter (4.4) that Tristram Hooley wrote for The Careers Leader Handbook that we co-authored.

The CDI provides careers sector job vacancies board, Careers in Careers, which can be accessed via its website, or directly at https://jobs.thecdi.net/

The CDI also offers the full Level 6 qualification in career guidance through its Academy: for details see https://www.thecdi.net/CDI-Academy---QCF-Level-6-Diploma-Diploma

David Andrews is an independent consultant, a former policy adviser to the CDI and co-author of The Careers Leader Handbook (option 7 above!).

August 2020

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