Preparing for Career Direction Appointments

The straightforward truth is that you will get more out of your consultation if you prepare effectively for it. In this article I will highlight some of the main ways that you can prepare. A Career Consultation is the beginning of the process where you begin to clarify your next steps. My aim as a Career Consultant is to help you clarify the most important issues and to enable you to make progress in your career planning process. It goes without saying that your new career path is unlikely to jump out magically in front of you during the consultation.

What can a Careers Consultant DO and NOT do:
My aim is to help you frame your priorities, values and expectations. Discussions may focus around what you have done so far and understanding your chosen path, helping you to think about different options and signposting to potential resources, strategies and alternative sectors. I cannot make decisions for you or tell you which jobs you will be suited to and neither can I tell you everything that you need to know about a new sector.

If you are willing to do some preparation before your consultation you will find yourself further along the career planning process and there will be more time during the consultation to discuss strategies or specific questions in detail.

Good places to start are the IAD website, Career Management section, Career Resources Careers resources | The University of Edinburgh. Here you will find links to handouts, case studies and recordings on the researchers’ blog. Key resources to look at are the handout ‘5 Steps to changing your Career’, the two recordings on Career Direction and the recording on Adapting your Non Academic CV and a skills audit (*link below)

So what preparation work can you be doing?
Think about completing some self-reflection. How well do you know yourself? What are your values, interests and motivations? Do you enjoy your work? Do you need a sense of purpose? What is your definition of success – is it salary, status or helping people? Consider what the skills that you excel in are and your strengths. What knowledge and experience do you have to offer a potential employer? Are there practical consideration that need to be taken into account? For example, location, hours level of salary.

A good place to start when considering the above is a Skills Audit to try and highlight what is important to you. You can find one in the career resources section on the IAD website audit *Audit your skills | The University of Edinburgh.

Once you have identified your skills and values you need to think how these match up to what an employer is typically looking for. Try and identify the types of roles in which you will thrive and have something to offer an employer (this is why knowing yourself and having identified your skills and values in advance is so important).  Consider what are your main strengths i.e. those things that you are good at and enjoy and what to feature strongly in your next role. Then think about the sector, companies and the role that you would like. How do these things match up? is a great starting point to identify different sectors and roles available within them. If you have a sector in mind you can look at all the different roles associated with it. Another way to find out about possible opportunities is to look for case studies of people with similar background and experience to yourself. have a bank of case studies “What researchers do next” What do research staff do next? Career stories — Vitae Website. Using social media platforms can also be a good way to identify possible roles and pathways. Search for contacts on LinkedIn or look at the backgrounds of those working in certain companies and see what their prior experience has been. Not only will you learn which skills are needed for the role you will also see how people have articulated them on their profiles.

Professional Associations and Bodies are another great source of information. Some may provide case studies on their websites and some may hold events and annual gatherings, which can be a great way to build contacts as well as finding out more about the sector.

Work Shadowing is not just for school children!
Gaining experience in a sector or role that you are unfamiliar with is a great way to gain more insight into the working environment and the day to day realities of a job. If you are looking to make a change it is really important to understand what the role entails and the best way to gain this knowledge is to talk to people in the role and ideally see them in action!

Lastly, it’s important to realistically evaluate your commitment and capability for any new role that you identify. The competitive nature of the job market right now means that you need to be clear about what you can offer an employer that they will consider as a strength.

Summary of  Resources:

This blog was written by Eleanor Hennige.  Eleanor is the IAD’s Research Staff Careers Consultant, supporting fixed-term research staff at the University with their career planning and options.  In addition to running our 1:1 appointments, she also delivers our suite of career workshops, career discussion groups and works with Schools/Research Staff Societies on career specific events and workshops.  Eleanor works on a part-time basis (4 mornings a week) and can be contacted at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.