Thursday, 22 December 2011

I'm looking for more careers tweeters

January 2011 was the first time I attended the AGCAS Heads of Service conference. I was very new to careers stuff then (still am!) and it was a really useful chance to meet people. I'm looking forward to the conference this January, not least because I'm attending an additional day on 4 January for deputies and new heads. Our soon-to-be Director of Careers, Bob Athwal (you'll need to scroll down a bit) will also be there so it will be a good opportunity to spend some time with him too. What I'd also really like is to find some other careers tweeters. My network is mostly made up of learning development and e-learning people (which I love!), but I need to find some good careers tweeters too. Last year on the conference there were only 4 of us tweeting (to my knowledge) but only 2 of us are still current (on careers stuff at least. So, does anyone know any more? They don't have to be heads of service, or even in HE, just people who say useful stuff about careers and employability on twitter.

(Couldn't leave that hot water post at the top of the list for long).

I'm getting into hot water

Since Easter I've been drinking hot water instead of tea (never liked coffee), and I've rather taken to it. So here are a list of reasons why:
  • it's healthier than tea/coffee
  • it's quicker than tea/coffee
  • you still get the to walk to the kitchen to 'make' it (complete with the little bit of sociability that that involves)
  • you don't have to pay into the tea/coffee kitty
  • it begins to have the same lift as tea (eventually!)
  • you can still drink it when it's gone cold
  • you never have to wash your mug
Another interesting post from me there.

Oh, and happy Christmas :)

Friday, 16 December 2011

Keeping sane

I've had a busy 16 months. Maria left for sunny Bangor in August 2010 and then Paul left in April 2011. This left all of the Head of Student Development role and most of the Director of SSDS role to be covered (whilst still doing bits of my old job). I've not covered the roles perfectly but I have been able to keep relatively on top of things (all things considered). There have been a number of things that have kept me sane; my wife, my kids, my faith, my daily cycle, supportive colleagues, but the one that this post is about is my task management system (exciting, eh?), which is getting things done using remember the milk.

A while back I explained how I set up the system, and after nearly 2 years of use I can say that it's still working. I've not changed it much other than adding meetings tags (e.g. m_teamleaders), which strictly speaking are really contexts but I was finding I was having so many meetings it was useful to give them a prefix of their own. The tags I use the most are:
  • people contexts, e.g. c_susan is for things I need to discuss with my boss - these context tags are very handy because even if a task isn't due today (most task management systems seem to focus on dates rather than tags) if I'm sitting in front of Susan I can see everything I need to discuss with her, even if it's not due that day;
  • project tags are also useful, e.g. p_bootcamp, so if I have an hour to work on the boot camp project I can bring up all the related tasks;
  • status tags, which I use less but s_waiting is handy when I'm waiting to hear back from someone on something;
  • reference tags, e.g. r_insurance (I use it for home as well as work) are really useful too.
These combined with Remember the milk's smart lists, e.g. "NOT(due:never OR due:today) AND NOT (list:zzz)" for my 'tickler list' ((if this isn't making any sense you need to read that previous post) make it a really powerful and scalable system.

I try and have a review each week where I try to cover this kind of stuff. It's often difficult to keep up but the great thing about the system is that it doesn't take long to get back on the wagon once you've fallen off. It's not a perfect system (despite what the GTD publicity might say) but it is a good system. And being able to access Remember the milk from phone, iPad or Desktop (and all these other services) means that it's easy to capture everything and then process it accordingly (see below - NOT creative commons).

What a dull post that was.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Does anyone want any data?

Years ago (when I did a different job) I developed these plagiarism tutorials. There are now 17 of them and between them they've had tens of thousands of views. A while back I made them creative commons so that other people could make their own. Over time I've collected more than 1,000 responses to the questions that formed a survey at the end of the tutorial (the survey is currently bust and I need to fix it, but that's another story). The questions I asked were:
  1. Which version of the tutorial did you do?
  2. I found this tutorial interesting (1 = strongly agree, 4 = strongly disagree)
  3. I found this tutorial easy to use (1 = strongly agree, 4 = strongly disagree)
  4. I found this tutorial informative (1 = strongly agree, 4 = strongly disagree)
  5. The best bit about the tutorial was...
  6. The tutorial could be improved by...
Is this data of use to anyone? I don't have time to analyse it but there might be some interesting stuff in it. Let me know if you want it.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Historical Studies alumni videos

Two weeks ago I popped up a quick post on Alumni talking heads experiment. I don't what to be too premature about this but it seems to have worked a treat! Of the 10 alumni contacts that Professor Roey Sweet (the Head of Department) and Professor Rob Colls (the Careers Tutor) gave me, five said yes to doing the video. And to my surprise - all of them actually did it! What's more it took very little chivvying from me. Some did webcam straight to YouTube (as I suggested after belatedly realising that was easiest), some used a digital camera and one even used his phone! Four of the five uploaded straight to YouTube and one uploaded to the DropBox folder I shared with them. Only one of the five videos needed significant editing (the one uploaded to DropBox in multiple files), the rest just required topping and tailing. Matt did a fantastic job of the editing in a couple of hours on Tuesday afternoon, and created this page.
I'm really pleased with the end results. They're not broadcast quality but they are definitley good enough. The alumni did a great job on the content with very little guidance. They talked about how they got to their current role, a bit about what they do and some even offered a bit of advice at the end!

My next job is to try and get some conversation going on it round the department's Facebook page.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Alumni talking heads experiment

Recently I'm working with our School of Historical Studies on a Recruitment Boot Camp. It's designed to offer intensive support (in addition to our general support) to our Historical Studies finalists to help them to find a job on graduating. It will involve face to face sessions, online resources plus videos of Historical Studies alumni describing how their History degree from Leicester has helped them (Chris Willmott has been doing something similar for years to this last bit via his Careers After Biological Sciences project - but the difference here is that I'm trying to do it remotely).

The website will give you an overview of all this but what I'm focusing on at the moment is the alumni videos.

I contacted 10 Historical Studies alumni (via contacts from the department) a week or so ago and within a couple of days 5 had said 'yes' to recording a video for me. What surprised me was not just that half of them said 'yes' so quickly but also that they didn't really ask for technical help. The only information I gave them re the video itself was:
I’m hoping you might be able to help by recording a video clip stating who you are and when you studied at Leicester and how you got to the job you are now in. We would then edit the video and send it back to you for approval before posting it on the project website. Historical Studies finalists will then be able to see what some of their predecessors have been able to achieve since graduating, hopefully inspiring and motivating them and giving them some ideas. The video need be no longer than a couple of minutes and would need to be recorded via a webcam or digital camera. I can give you full instructions on how to record and then send us the video file.
Since then though I've been thinking I should probably give them a bit more guidance. I had suggested uploading the file to a shared folder within Dropbox but I'm beginning to think that recording straight to YouTube via a webcam will be the best option (didn't know you could do that, d'oh!), rather than to go to the trouble of creating a file to then upload elsewhere. So, here's a quick Screenr on how to do it that I'll be sharing with the intrepid 5.

Obviously they'll need to create a YouTube account if they don't have one already, but they can share the file with me unlisted or privately. Also, recording straight from a webcam will probably ensure a nice still image, plus it should be easier to get sound and lighting right.

Am I missing anything? Any suggestions?

PS. More to follow on Boot Camp another time... (but any comments/suggestions on that also appreciated)

Friday, 28 October 2011

University Council presentation

Lets' see if I can remember how to blog...

This afternoon/evening I'm presenting to our University Council on 'Graduate employability'. I've got about 15 minutes to present the content and then there's an hour for questions and discussion. I have no idea what to expect. Below is the first part of the presentation, I've left out the last 6 slides which cover the sections 'our data' and 'our response' and the 'over to you' questions but I'm very happy to share these with any UoL staff if they want the full version. I'll let you know how it goes...

Wednesday, 31 August 2011 screencasts

In an attempt to breathe life back into our beleaguered tagginganna project, Mark, Alex and I met a couple of weeks ago to try and kick start it again. It's been difficult with each of us doing at least two jobs but we're hopeful that we can progress things a bit further this semester. One part of the project is to develop some 'how to' screencasts for people who might want to use the platform for similar purposes, so with that in mind Alex and I recording four rough and ready screencasts to explain how to:
  • registering on
  • edit settings
  • create an about page
  • publish and schedule posts
And here they are. Like I say, a bit rough and ready but hopefully useful guidance for someone who wants to start using the platform.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

12 month acting-up-iversary

By cleverboy68
Well, today is my 12 month acting-up-ivesary. I reflected on the start of it here and the six month-er here. In many ways not much has changed since the six month mark, in other ways a lot has. The main change has been that Paul Jackson, the previous Director of Student Support and Development, left in the middle of April - so I've picked up elements of his role as well as the Head of Student Development (now Careers) role that I was already acting up into. I miss Paul but my new boss has been incredibly supportive and is great to work with (and occasionally she reads this - but I mean it - honest!). I've been asked to carry on acting-up for a further 12 months, after that, who knows what will happen?! I'm very pleased that the Director of Careers role has now been advertised and am looking forward to us getting someone *really* good.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Director of Careers post at Leicester

Keep meaning to mention this... our Director of Careers role is now advertised. If you're brilliant - please apply. More details here. Please RT, re-post etc. Closing date is 12 September.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Careers website now live

I've written a few recently posts about revamping the website and I'm pleased to say it's finally done (it's never finished but you know what I mean). The changes went live just before I went on holiday. We now have a front page that:
  • clearly signposts to our different audiences
  • makes our social media links more prominent
  • allows us adequate advertising space for featured items
  • uses white space more effectively
We also have three new sub-pages for:
Thanks especially to Matt for all his work on this. One thing I'm still not happy with though is the links to Learning Development. Because of the name change we'll need to work hard on making clear where the Learning Development aspect of our service is. To this end I've:
And because Plone's pages work on index numbers all the old links will still work (clever Plone). However, I still got an email yesterday expressing the very legitimate concern...
There seems to have been change to the Student Development website so that now when I go to access it, the Careers Service site comes up. It’s difficult to see from here how to get to the section of the Student Development site that has the downloadable guides on. We refer our students to these quite a lot, so it now seems more awkward to do this. Is this is permanent change to the website do you know?
Any suggestions?

What I did on my holidays

I've just come back from two weeks of lovely camping with my lovely family. Things I enjoyed:
  • playing with my kids
  • being with my wife
  • cooking mussels that we'd picked
  • not being at work
  • not wearing a watch
  • forgetting what day it was
  • growing a beard
  • not having any technology with me
  • toasting marshmallows at the beach
  • trying to learn to surf (unsuccessfully)
  • watching my boys learn to surf (successfully)
  • being entertained by my daughter

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Google+ and Google contacts on mobile device

Snappy title, eh?

Last night Jane was commenting on Google+ how much she liked Google+ when I noticed that I could see her full home address on her profile.

Which, clearly was a bit worrying. But after a bit of digging around Jane figured out that it was because I was viewing the mobile site and Google was taking the personal information I hold in my Google contacts on my iPad and merging them into Jane's Google+ profile.

Which I confirmed by taking a screenshot of her profile with the original contact information (don't worry Jane - I've blurred the details!).

...and then changing Jane's address in my Google contacts and then opening the mobile page again.

Add it worked. As you can imagine, Jane was very relieved.


By the way, while I'm here can I link up my blog to automatically publish to Google plus? After a quick search I can't see how to do it.

Careers website updates nearly done

I blogged a few weeks ago about the progress on our front pages revamp for and I'm pleased to say that we've now completed the main structural changes. Matt and I have been working on it off and on for a few weeks (Matt mostly on, me mostly off) with help from Vic and #Stephaniewhosnotontwitter. We've still got work to do but the main front page is now active... are new pages for each of the three main audiences:
I think it's both cleaner and clearer but your comments will be much more useful than mine...

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

If these aren't employability skills I'll eat my hat

By pesbo
In a meeting a few months back I recalled a particular section of the University of Leicester's previous Learning and Teaching Strategy (2006-2009). In the section on 'Aims of undergraduate programmes' it said the following:
Each undergraduate degree programme should enable development, in a discipline context, of a range of personal or transferable skills, including:
  • problem solving
  • communication skills (written and oral)
  • basic numeracy
  • team working
  • IT skills
  • information handling skills
  • emerging learning technologies skills
  • lifelong learning skills
  • employability skills
Which is all very well - but what's 'employability skills' doing at the bottom there? a) as an afterthought and b) as if it doesn't encompass all the items above it in the list? I think things have moved on since then but I think it's an interesting insight into how people sometimes perceive employability - as only to do with CVs and applications and interviews and not with the skills employers are looking for to do the job in the first place, like these.

Any thoughts?

Monday, 27 June 2011

Staff pages revamp

By dannyasmith
I'm struggling to find time to think about our staff pages, which are desperately in need of a revamp. I'm hoping that putting up a quick blog post will help me gather my thoughts and perhaps gain some inspiration from helpful commenters...

I've had a quick look at: Durham's, Lancaster's, Manchester's and Warwick's (some of you will know why I started with these ;) I didn't get many ideas from them but it has made me think we need to make our DLHE data more prominent (currently it's tucked away in the Career Development pages for students). Also, advice for personal tutors (Durham) seems a good idea, as does a link to JobShop (Manchester's Jobs On Campus). But the best site I've found for staff pages is Exeter's, which includes:

  • a staff guide to employability
  • how they work with colleges/departments
  • a section for Careers and Employability Reps (we call ours Careers Tutors)
  • they also have some materials for group tutorials - but I need to figure out how they use these
So, I might be borrowing some of these ideas. What else do we need?

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

New front page progress

Since putting up a post about We need a new front page and getting lots of useful comments, Matt and I are much closer to the finished article now. There's a screen shot below - the main changes have been:
  • getting rid of the three themes above the images which looked like they should relate to the images below but didn't (thanks Steve)
  • added space for an additional 'featured' image (thanks Marta), which we'll change every week
  • changed 'what's hot' to 'featured' (thanks James)
  • reduced the size of the 'follow' links (thanks Jonny)
  • also added some explanatory text underneath each of the three audiences (this is draft - would be interested in opinions)

Need to decide on the portlets to the right now. Are there any other changes we need to make at this stage?

Friday, 10 June 2011

Being the one with their foot in the door

Richard put a copy of PwC's employability guide on my desk earlier in the week, it's titled Being the one with their foot in the door. I was interested in it because I'm trying to think about how to identify employability in the curriculum and wondering whether competencies will help. In the introduction to the guide the Chairman of PwC says:
[...] this Employability Guide [...] explains the different competencies you need to join us. You might have developed many of them through your studies. Others could have come from part-time work or summer travel. Or from somewhere else altogether. What’s important is that you can recognise the skills we’re looking for, and then come up with a good example (or two) to show you’ve got them.
Later on their Head of Strategy and Talent says:
Academic study gets your foot in the door; employability skills push it open to a far wider range of opportunities. They make your potential contribution to our business unique. Consider these skills and experiences your personal business card.
What's really useful is that not only do they list the competencies they are looking for in any potential recruits, they also suggest where they might have been developed. So here are PwC's 10 Competencies and useful prompts to help potential recruits think about where they can find the evidence for these and identify any gaps.

Coach and develop yourself and othersHave you pushed yourself to achieve things that go above and beyond?
Have you ever changed the way you did something after getting feedback?
Have you taken the time to feedback to others?
Have you had work experience or done voluntary work?
Have you developed new skills outside of your degree?
Communicate with impact and empathyHave you made something simple for others to follow?
Have you used your powers of persuasion to get funding or agreement for a proposal?
Have you presented on your course or to a club or society?
Have you ever spoken in front of an audience?
Have you written speeches, manifestos or business cases?
Can you think of a time when you made a point of taking on board different opinions?
Be curious: learn, share and innovateHave you used your initiative to achieve a goal?
Have you made time to learn something new outside of your course?
Do you go to events that are all about knowledge sharing or learning?
Have you shared what you know with other people on your course?
Have you ever come up with a new and better way of doing something?
Have you been to employer presentations or skills sessions to explore your future career?
Lead and reinforce team successHave you been adaptable in order to work better with others?
Have you taken part in a voluntary project that relied on everyone pulling together?
Do you belong to a sports team, club or society?
Have you led a group?
Can you think when you worked in a team to achieve a common goal?
Do you know what qualities you can bring to a team?
Build and maintain relationshipsHave you got to know your careers advisor or course tutor?
Have you networked with people from other courses or universities?
Did you get to know a customer really well?
Have you built good relationships with others?
Do you go to a club or society regularly, rather than once a year?
Have you made (and maintained) useful contacts on a work experience placement?
Show you have courage and integrityCan you think of a time when you worked well under pressure?
Ever undertaken a mundane task with real enthusiasm?
Do you always turn up on time?
Do you put 100% into every application form?
Have you handled conflicts or differences of opinion well?
Have you kept your cool when dealing with a difficult customer?
Manage projects and moneyHave you juggled different priorities to meet a deadline?
Have you handled lots of different pieces of course work at the same time?
Have you adapted positively to a new process at work?
Have you ever put a backup plan into action?
Have you looked after an organisation’s finances?
Be open minded, practical and quick to adaptHave you taken on board suggestions from others?
Have you picked up a shift at work at short notice?
Have you been happy to stay late to get things done?
Have you adapted to changes at work?
Have you put yourself in a situation you’re not used to?
Have you tried new things that are outside your comfort zone?
Build and use commercial and technical know-howHave you looked into the kind of professional qualifications you might do with us?
Have you thought about who your dream client would be or what it would be like to be a CEO?
Have you gone the extra mile to understand how a company or industry operates?
Do you take an interest in business and current affairs?
Are you curious about what makes a business tick?
Do you understand how your degree could make a difference to our business?
Caring about client serviceHave you come up with ways to do things differently?
Have you thought about how you can make a club or society better?
Do you take a real interest in your parttime job, how the company works and who its competitors are?
Have you looked into how PwC operates as a business?
Do you work hard to make things better?
Have you ever gone out of your way to do something positive for others?

Table text (c) 2010 PricewaterhouseCoopers LPP

Of course not every graduate wants to work for a professional services company (thankfully) but many of the competencies do seem to be transferable. I'm wondering if a synthesis of these and the SHL competencies would be a useful framework to help us identify and develop employability in the curriculum. And I think the questions to prompt students to think about where they can find the evidence will be useful for students, departments and us as a careers service to help us to think more broadly and more strategically about what interventions are required.

What do you think?