Friday, 31 October 2014

New Careers Service website

We now have a new Careers Service website It's been up a while but I've only just got round to posting this. It will continue to evolve but it's a huge improvement on what we had before thanks to a real team effort, lots of user research and testing, and support from our web team and

Friday, 12 September 2014

How Spotify build a product

I've been thinking about website design for a while now, especially in relation to our new University of Bristol Careers Service site (which thankfully will be up and running soon). I bought in some usability expertise from Stuart Church, and a while ago he shared with me a rather grainy photo of a slide, presumably taken from the back of a room at a talk something to do with web usablity. Unfortunatley I couldn't find the orginal source but it was so useful I re-drew it (apologies to the originator). So here it is, just in case it's of use to anyone else (and the title of the slide in question was 'How Spotify build a product')

Not like this...

Like this!

The Government Digital Service desing prinsiples are also really useful -

Monday, 21 July 2014

University of Bristol Careers Service website - employer survey

If you've seen our Careers Service website you'll know that it needs some work (understatement). I've been wanting to get to it since starting at the end of January (and blogged some initial thoughts about it here). Well, finally the project is underway (with help from and we are starting with a survey of users of the site. If you are an employer who uses (or would use) our site, then I'd love to hear your thoughts/comments. There are 12 questions and it should only take you about 5 minutes but your feedback will be invaluable in shaping the new site. At the end of the survey there's also the opportunity to opt into being involved in some more in depth research (for which you will receive Amazon vouchers). So if you can help please complete the survey (and please, RT, repost etc.) Closing date is Tuesday 29 July. Thanks!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Careers website survey - if you're a University of Bristol student or graduate I need your help!

If you've seen our Careers Service website you'll know that it needs some work (understatement). I've been wanting to get to it since starting at the end of January (and blogged some initial thoughts about it here). Well, finally the project is underway (with help from and we are starting with a survey of users of the site. An employer survey will follow but we're starting with students and recent graduates of University of Bristol. There are 14 questions and it should only take you about 5 minutes but your feedback will be invaluable in shaping the new site. At the end of the survey there's also the opportunity to opt into being involved in some more in depth research (for which you will receive Amazon vouchers). So if you can help please complete the survey (and please, RT, repost etc.) Thanks!

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Great Gatsby

In April 2014 the Gatsby Foundation published a report called Good Career Guidance (thanks to Tristram Hooley, who was involved in the research, for giving me the heads up). The blurb on the website says:
We commissioned Sir John Holman to research what pragmatic actions could be taken to improve career guidance in secondary schools. Sir John developed eight benchmarks that identify different dimensions of good career guidance, and made ten recommendations for improving the career guidance system.
So clearly the focus is secondary schools but there's a lot in it that's of relevance to HEIs too. The guts of the report are the 8 benchmarks for providing good careers guidance, which are as follows:
  1. A stable careers programme
  2. Learning from career and labour market information
  3. Addressing the needs of each pupil
  4. Linking curriculum learning to careers
  5. Encounters with employers and employees
  6. Experiences of workplaces
  7. Encounters with further and higher education
  8. Personal guidance
All of which are relevant to HE. 

It's a well researched and well written report. I'd be interested to know your thoughts, especially if you are using in (or intend to use it) in a HE context. 

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Purpose of the Careers Service?

I've been giving some thought lately to the purpose of careers services. I'm not claiming this is exhaustive or can't be improved on, and clearly it's an over-simplification, but here's a first stab. Fundamentally I think it's about generating a 'push' from students and a 'pull' from employers. I'm really interested in comments from students, employers and other careers service professionals (or anyone else for that matter).

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Google Docs is getting better for long docs

3 years ago I blogged about Google docs not so good for long docs? Whilst I love Google Docs (collaboration, history, web access, stability etc. etc.) there are certain long document features that it doesn't have that MS Word does - and when I'm working on a long document I miss them. Well, since coming to University of Bristol where they have Google Apps I've been using Google Drive, and in particular Google Docs, much more. And consequently, having barely having had to even open a MS Office document since I've arrived I love Google Drive even more (especially the Google Drive apps for iPhone/iPad). And to make it even better I've just stumbled across Add-ons for Google Docs - one of which is a Table of Contents add-on - which, oddly, doesn't fix the TOC page number problem but does fix the mult-level lists problem nicely.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

LinkedIn for UK students: your career starts here

With 15 million members in the UK alone and students signing up in huge numbers - LinkedIn is becoming an increasingly important tool for students, graduates, recruiters and careers services. It's for anyone who wants to be professional, not just old people with moustaches. Their new UK student video (i.e. not US student) is great to see. And more resources to follow...

Monday, 24 February 2014

Maybe we don't need a Careers Service website

I've thought a lot in the past about how careers services present themselves on the web, and starting in Bristol has given me the opportunity to think about this with a considerable sense of urgency.

After a meeting with Urfan and Ben from our web team on Friday I had the rather radical thought that perhaps we shouldn't have a Careers Service website at all. Let me explain...

Anyone who's give much thought to web architecture and user experience knows that the starting point for a site should never be the organisational structure but rather what the users of the site actually need/want from the service. So I mocked up a site on Google Sites (I might share it some other time) which I tried to base on user journeys rather than organisational structure, This got me thinking about things from an institutional perspective - in having a Careers Service website maybe I would just be doing the same thing at a different level i.e. creating a website around an organisational structure and so reinforcing organisational silos rather than thinking about things from the student persepctive. Instead of a Careers Service site perhaps we need a 'Help me get to where I want to be when I graduate' site, which is a lot broader and pulls in a much greater breadth of services and student experience (although clearly the name needs some work!).

Having said that, the Careers Service needs a profile and an identity in order to encourage student engagement with it, so I'm not sure I entirely agree ith myself; just thinking out loud.

I'd be interested in your thoughts though.

More to follow...

Monday, 17 February 2014

University of Bristol students - I need your help!

I've had three full weeks now as Director of Careers Service at the University of Bristol and this is the beginning of my fourth. I've had a really friendly welcome and I'm looking forward to getting more stuck in.

I'm using my first 90 days to get my head around the context. So far I've had one-to-one meetings with nearly all Careers Service staff, plus a series of meetings with senior managers within the University and Students' Union staff and Elected Officers, all of which have been very useful. There are more senior managers to meet, particularly academics, and many of these meetings are happening in the next few weeks. However, there are two things that I need to begin to focus on in particular in the next month or so:
  1. Observing first hand the services that we provide 
  2. Hearing directly from students who don't use the Service

Observing first hand the services that we provide

I'm looking forward to seeing much more of what we do - guidance appointments, information work, employer engagement, work within academic departments, central provision etc. etc. Some of these observations are already lined up - others are yet to be scheduled. I'm excited about seeing first hand some of the good things I've heard about.

Hearing directly from students who don't use the Service

This is the main point of this post... we have data and feedback from students who use the Service, but what I'm also interested in are the views of students who don't yet use the Service. In particular I'm interested in the answers to the following questions:
  • What do you think the purpose of the Careers Service should be?
  • What matters to you in terms of how the service is delivered?
Clearly, I (along with the rest of the Careers Service) have views on the above two questions - but we're not the users of the Service. So I'm hoping to find ways of asking these questions to as many students as possible (both those who use the Service and those who don't). So if you are a student at the University of Bristol you could comment on this post, drop me an email, send me a tweet (though less than 140 characters could be challenging!). Or perhaps better, meet up for a chat - individually or in groups. Also, suggestions on where best to meet students to ask these questions would be helpful - open study spaces? halls of residences? cafe areas? gym? And feel free to re-share this post.

In terms of what I intend to do with the information I gather - I'll reflect on it with my team and then use it to help us think about where we should particularly focus our attention. And then post my thoughts up on here...

Monday, 20 January 2014

The problem with Facebook

"The problem with Facebook is that it's keeping things from you."
Thanks to Alan Cann for sharing this intelligently produced and extremely helpful video by Mike Elgan. 7 minutes well spent...

Friday, 17 January 2014

Study and Communication Skills for the Biosciences - 2nd edition

Study and Communicatiosn Skills for the Biosciences
I'm really pleased to say that the 2nd edition of my and Jon Scott's first book, Study and Communication Skills for the Biosciences, has just been published by Oxford University Press. After a successful first edition and then a follow up for the Chemical Sciences, OUP asked us to produce a 2nd edition, which we gladly did. In addition to substantial revisions it also includes a whole new chapter on employability.

Here's the blurb:
"Study and Communication Skills for the Biosciences is tailored specifically to the needs of bioscience students, both at university, and beyond. Written in an engaging and supportive manner, with examples throughout that demonstrate the relevance of topics covered to bioscience degree programmes, the book will assist you with the transition from school to university, with your studies at university, and with your progression to employment after leaving university. New to this edition, the chapter on making yourself employable provides invaluable advice on honing those skills most sought after by prospective employers and applying these skills after your degree is completed; it discusses how to make contacts and gain experience, and how to sell yourself to potential employers in an increasingly competitive job market. With a broad range of study and communication skills included, it is essential reading for any bioscience student who wants to get the most out of their degree."

Available in all good book shops...

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Health promotion as a model for engagement with careers

I'm sure people must have thought about this before (which is partly why I'm blogging about it) but I've been thinking in the last couple of days about the parallels between health promotion activity and engaging students with careers. The reason it came up is that a colleague mentioned the idea of a careers 'health check', which I think is a good idea, but my question is: why would students choose to engage with it?

GP practices often run 'well woman' or 'well man' clinics, but my guess is that the people who often go to these things probably aren't the ones who need it most, in fact they may be partly populated by the worried well.

Everyone in the higher education careers world knows that student engagement is a key issue and that doing it well is difficult, so can health promotion models help us to think about student engagement with careers?

Here are some quick observations re the parallels.

In both instances:

  • the challenge is to get people to do something that's good for them in the long run but might not have any immediate benefit in the short term
  • the process of doing something about it isn't easy, in fact it's hard work
  • people don't have to do it (so you only have carrots, not sticks)
  • nagging doesn't work (and according to the article linked below - neither does uncritical use of goal setting)
In throwing a few thoughts around about this in the last couple of days with Tristram Hooley on twitter, he pointed me in the direction of Jim Bright. Jim suggested searching for 'time discounting', which looks like a potentially useful avenue to pursue. Jim also directed me to a blog post of his on 'Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Overprescribing Goal Setting'

So, has anyone given this any thought? Is there research out there already? What are health promotion models and can we adopt them?

As usual, just thinking out loud. Any comments or ideas much appreciated.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Is anyone with Google Apps using Google Plus?

I'm probably more excited than I should be that Bristol are using Google Apps for Education. Google Mail, Google Calendar and Google Drive are going to be all very useful to use more in a work context. What I've been wondering about in the last few days though is whether there is scope to make more of Google Plus. I've had a Google Plus account for a while ( but other than for sharing photos with my family (the instant upload is brilliant, if not a little unnerving) I've not made much use of it - all my networks are on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn; Google Plus just arrived too late for me (and was one network to many for regular use).

I like this summary of social media by Doug Ray. Clearly it's a bit tongue-in-cheek but it's pretty accurate.

So I don't under-estimate the difficulties involved in encouraging people to switch social media platforms (I haven't done). But with everyone in the institution having a Google account it seems like there's an opportunity.

So, a couple of questions:
  1. Which other HEIs are using Google Apps for Education?
  2. Are any using Google+ well?