Same VicUoL – new job title!

On November 14th I joined the Marketing Communications Team, in the Division of Corporate Affairs & Planning, as their Online Communications Officer. Even though I was happy in the Careers Service and really enjoying my ever-changing role, when I saw the job spec, it was obviously that I would have been mad not to go for it.

The job spec mentioned, amongst other things:

  • Devise and develop a plan for social media communications.
  •  Initiate and participate in online conversations on behalf of the University with a view to developing online communities
    through the University’s main social network outlets.
  •  Analyse and evaluate both existing and potential social media activities and strategies.
  • Work with student recruitment to support the generation of online content.
  • Ongoing management of the Leicester Exchanges blog site.

I read the spec and felt like it was a really good match. All of the above, from developing plans, to generating content to managing a blog, I had done before, just in a different context.

After a really enjoyable interview (yes, honestly!) they offered me the role and I was delighted to accept.

Leaving the Careers Service was really hard. I had carved out a role for myself around what the service needed and was still really enjoying it (even despite all the uncertainly we’ve had as a service over the last 12 months, which must therefore be attributed to the great team). However, it had been obvious for a while that communications, especially online communications, social media, web development, publicity etc were where my skills and interest lay, as opposed to the Information and Advice side of my role. So in terms of doing what I love and career progression, it’s a fantastic opportunity and I am actually very proud of myself for getting it.

I’m only 3 weeks in but really enjoying it so far. I’ll let you know how I get on!

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Prospective students and a social media result!

First of all, my social media result of the week! Today, I have been manning the Careers Service stand at the #uolopenday. This morning, I thought I would keep an eye on people mentioning the Open Day on Twitter. I thought it might be a nice way to engage with prospective students. I tweeted one lady who said she was just on her way to the Open Day, saying “Are you still at the #uolopenday? I’m on the Careers Service stand, come and say hello! ^Vic” and would you believe, she tweeted back saying “how cool is that. Just saw yur tweet. Having lunch then going on accommodation tour. C u in a moment.” And half an hour later, a lovely lady turned up saying ‘Are you Vic!?’ I LOVE TWITTER! :o)

Anyway, onto the point of the post. Like I said, I ‘man’ the stand for the Student Support and Development Service (SSDS) but obviously my expertise is the Careers Service and I refer people for help on the wider support, such as AccessAbility.

I’ve been doing the Open Days now for about a year, so have probably done about half a dozen. Something I find difficult to accept is the general lack of interest in the Careers Service, at this point, from not only the prospective student, but more surprisingly, their parents. I obviously know how vital what we do is. I also know exactly what graduate employers are looking for and how important it is to start building up experience and developing your ’employability’ early on.

I’ve just this afternoon had a mum come over to the stand with her son. She said “What are you representing here,” and I told her I was from the Careers Service. Her reply was that her son ‘obviously wasn’t at the stage’ where he needs to think about that, and she ‘imagines that will be something to discover in his final year.’ After I picked myself up off the floor, I tried to explain that what we do is much, much more than simply having a appointment with a careers adviser, and is certainly something you would want to start thinking about before your final year of University.

I tried to get across the breadth of what we do and why it is important. I explained that a huge focus of ours is helping students gain experience, so that they can develop their transferable skills. We can then help them reflect on this experience and use it to submit great job applications when the time comes. I give examples of competency based questions one might face in a graduate job application and explain how difficult this might be to answer if you have done nothing other than your academic studies. I talk about volunteering, about part time work and the Leicester Award.

The issue is that most prospective students and their guardians genuinely think this isn’t something they need to think about yet. I don’t think the standard of the Careers Service within the University is something that they consider when making a decision on where to study. And this is a great shame. It’s difficult for me to understand, given everything I know about how vital this might be. But, I can remember making my shortlist of universities and the support from the Careers Service unfortunately, wasn’t on my radar.

I did think, when I did an open day in July, that the tide might be turning. The fee increase had been announced, Universities were charging £9K a year and the competition for graduate jobs had been widely discussed in the mainstream media. I honestly thought that this might mean more prospective students and their parents would be very interested to hear from the Careers Service and really start to use the opportunity to grill me and find out exactly what we are doing to help their son or daughter be employable at the end of their degree. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to have happened yet.

To give you an idea, if I were to speak to 30 people in a day, the conversation would be started by me, in about 25 of those cases. Maybe 5 students would come and ask me a question about how we can help them. Of the 25 that I approach, about a third might be genuinely interested and impressed with what I talk about, and respond with interesting, engaging question. The other two thirds are very nice and polite, but I can tell they are not necessarily that interested.

So, I suppose the question is how can we reach students and parents earlier? How do we get across how important the Careers Service is, right from day dot? What is it that prospective students want? Does it go beyond information on their department of interest/accommodation/SU?

Oh, and I would like to say thank you for everyone that has spoken to me today! I do really enjoy these days, I just wish more people would come and talk to me!

Student blog fame!

Don’t worry, I’m not about to do a Gwyneth on you.

The student written blog I created back in March is still going strong. I’ve changed the URL to uolcareers.wordpress.com to reflect the name change from Student Development. We’ve paid for a re-direct from the old URL for a year, just in case. (It was only $12 USD for the year!)

Faiz, my initial blogger has been brilliant. He’s contributed 10 posts to the blog since March and has been great to work with. Sadly (for me!) Faiz graduated from the University over the Summer so although he’s been keeping the blog nice and busy for the last couple of months, we’re probably onto his last ever post next week. Not so sadly though, I am thrilled he’s going to be working with an Engineering company in Yorkshire. Good luck Faiz!

In June, I recruited my next student blogger, Lynsey. Lynsey is going into her final year of a BSc in Business Economics. Read more about Lynsey here. I’m thrilled to have her on board and I think she’ll bring loads of content to the table.

I am also looking to recruit another blogger or two by Autumn. Now we have lost Faiz, we’re down to one blogger again. I’d really like to have two or three blogger concurrently, to try and appeal to different audiences with different interests. (If you’re interested or know someone who might be, tweet me!)

We’ve had a great response on the blog so far, over 5,000 views since March which is amazing. Given the slow time of year that covers, it’s even better!

We’ve had multiple high points in these first 5 months, the first being that people were reading it!

We’ve had Twitter ReTweets from well known people in Higher Education/Careers Services, such as Prospects and universityboy and ‘ping backs’ from other blogs.

This week however, we were featured on the Guardian Online Careers! Whoop! Check it out! (Scroll to the bottom of the page.)

So, we’ll definitely continue blogging in the academic year to come and hope to cover some new, interesting areas of discussion. If there’s something you’d like to see, please let me know.

Facebook name change

Sorry for the lack of posting. But if you read the previous post called Lazy Maisie, you’ll appreciate why.

Just a very quick post to try and get some opinions. As you all probably know, we have changed our name from Student Development to the Careers Service. I’m forming part of a publicity group we’ve got working on this starting next week.

Something that is of specific interest to me though is our social media. It’s quite easy to change your username on Twitter so that won’t be a problem. Having said that, I wanted uolcareers and I have just realised that the University of Lincoln have taken it. Damn!

Facebook is a league of it’s own thought when it comes to problems. Basically, we cannot change the name of a page. At all. So, we can either keep it as  Student Development, University of Leicester or start again, with a whole new page. The thought of doing that is scary; we’ve worked hard to get and keep the 2,183 people that ‘like’ us.

On the other hand, I’m not sure leaving it as Student Development is an option. It might be OK for a year or so, when students still remember what SD is, but by next year, SD will have been ‘gone’ for a whole year and I think to new students, this would be confusing.

Plus, surely we really want to be pushing the Careers Service to this years new students, and not the Careers Service – apart – from – on – Facebook – where – we’re – still – SD.

So, what do you think? SD (sorry, Careers Service) staff, I’d be interested in your thoughts. I’d also love to hear from anyone that’s had this problem and how they managed it.

Lazy Maisie

At the beginning of the year we started thinking about getting another dog. Woody was nearly two and because we work full time, we thought it might be nice for him to have a friend. We didn’t want to get a puppy before we went to Cuba (wouldn’t be fair to get a puppy and then leave it for two weeks whilst it was just settling in).

Once we got back I started checking out the free ads online and within the first day I saw this:

The 9 puppies were German Shepherd (mum) ans Staffie (dad). We went to see them that evening. I was so impressed with how they had been looked after. All the puppies had a document with their birth weight on, their weight each week after that and the dates they had been wormed. Mum and dad were really nice dogs too.

They were all just adorable and it was ridiculously difficult to chose. I had my eye on a really lovely brindle boy to begin with, but he was twice the size of his siblings and we were worried about how big he might be as an adult.

Their personalities were already so different. A couple of the boys were all about the play, constantly biting my shoes and trying to undo my shoelaces. And then there was the one girl who was still lively and playful, but more happy to watch from the sidelines, little tail wagging. I picked her up and she just curled into a ball. She was the only brown puppy so I nicknamed her Brownie. Coincidentally, she’s also the puppy in the advert above. We put a deposit down on her and the waiting game began.

They were only five weeks old so we had three weeks to wait until they were old enough to leave their mum.

To say it dragged would be an understatement. I even had a puppy countdown timer on my homepage. Darren and Ryan, the guys we got the puppies off, were good enough to let us go round half way through, so we could have a quick half hour with her to see how she was getting on.

We tried to decide a name for her and had some ideas. I was tempted to call her Brownie, her puppy nickname, but had too many people put me off! (I’ve learnt not to share possible names with people because they will put you off.) Craig decided that we shouldn’t chose a name until she was home. We chose the name Elmo for our other dog before he came home and within minutes of picking him up knew it wasn’t right for him. (He’s now Woody.)

So Saturday 25th June came and we were up at the crack of dawn to get Woody walked so we could go and pick up the new arrival early. We had decided we would be literally in and out so we didn’t make mum more anxious than she needed to be.

Puppy was amazing. She sat on my knee on the way home (about a 15 minute drive) and didn’t make a peep. She was alert and very interested in what was going on, but not at all scared or distressed. I was so relieved. We had a really distressing experience bringing Woody home. He howled and cried the whole way. He also lost all control of everything (if you know what I mean) and vomited really badly. He didn’t stop shaking for hours. It was horrendous and I felt guilty for months.

We got her home and gave her a quick bath (the other puppies had wee’d all over her that morning!) and took it in turns to sit with her in the office, whilst the other one gave Woody a ridiculous amount of fuss downstairs. Within minutes she was play fighting and eating some breakfast. Again, the polar opposite from Woody who sat very quietly in his new bed for at least the first day.

We were planning on keeping them apart for a good few days while she settled in and then introducing them very slowly. However, given Woody is the softest dog in the world by a mile and she was obviously much more confident then we expected, we gave her about an hour to just get to know her surroundings and the took her down to meet Woody.

I instantly knew they would be OK together. Woody’s tail is massive, like a foxes tail and he has the most expressive face. This means you can read him like a book. He was inquisitive, but definitely not put out. Within the hour they were happily play fighting, sharing toys and snoozing. We just looked on in amazement. I didn’t think it was possible to love Woody more but seeing how patient he was with Puppy makes me smile just thinking about it.

We decided that afternoon to call her Maisie.

After a few sleepless nights she’s starting to get the hang of our routine. The only time she cries now is when she can’t be with Woody. She’s not fully immunised at the minute so she can’t go for walks. So when Woody gets taken for a walk, she sits and cries at the door. She’s not a mummy’s girl or a daddy’s girl, she’s a Woody’s girl! Most of the time he likes it. He’s quite happy to play with her (he’s still so young himself) but she obviously just hasn’t learnt the dog signals for ‘I’ve had enough,’ so poor Woody doesn’t get much of a break!

We’ve been really careful to treat them completely equal, so she doesn’t get any more fuss than he does. I think this is always important when you bring a new dog home, but especially for us because Woody is extremely affectionate. I try to greet Woody first in the mornings, because that’s what he’s used to.

Seeing them playing together and curling up for a snooze together makes me so happy. That’s not to say it’s all plain sailing though. She’s hard work and I am finding the new environment a bit difficult. Woody is such a good dog, it’s difficult to remember his naughty puppy days, and I find myself longing for a cuddle with him, without getting my face bitten off by a puppy trying to get involved.

It’s only been 10 days since we got her though and it’s already easier. I’ll be nice when she’s grown up just a little bit and isn’t as manic. It’ll be easier when we can tire her out with walks; only a week or so to wait now!

Occupational pages

Back in April, I blogged about starting to overhaul the occupational pages on the Career Development site.

They’re still unpublished because I decided not to roll one out at a time but to wait until they are all done, to avoid any confusion.

However, the relevant people in the Career Development Team have now seen the pages and think they are much improved so I can now share them with you!

As I blogged in April, previously the pages were a list of useful contacts for that particular industry. However, they were very long and although useful, not very interesting. Our worry was that you would need to be very, very dedicated to finding what you wanted, to even persist with the list. Here’s what they looked like:

For more information about why we wanted to change them and our thinking behind it, see ‘Not such a quick job.’

So this is a screenshot of the new layout:

So instead of just a list, the pages are now much more interesting, engaging and interactive! Rather than big long lists of useful contacts, I am just mentioning a few key organisations that may be useful for research, and then linking to Prospects where students can find a wealth of further information about that sector if they want.

Given these pages are meant to be a starting point, we wanted to give students an idea of what the industry was really like. To do this we link to information about what our own Alumni are doing (which links in nicely to a continued Alumni project that our Employer Liaison Team are working on.) I have also embedded a few iCould videos, which are case studies of people doing related jobs. These are really nice, take a look.

Given the focus on East Midlands graduate retention, I also thought it might be a good idea to mention a few local employers. The logos link to their careers or recruitment website. This might be something that we could look at being an incentive for local employers to work more closely with us.

Should a student then be interested enough to volunteer in that field, we also link to our volunteering pages, where students can see what kind of related projects are available.

Finally, we have an RSS feed that lists all the related JOBSonline jobs that are currently being advertised. This bit is definitely courtesy of Matt. Read his blog about these RSS feeds here.

So there you have it! I am really confident that these pages will be much more user friendly and the feedback we have had from other colleagues in Student Development is definitely positive. Now Matt and I have come up with the template, I just need to do all 21 industries. I can copy the HTML for each one, so that I don’t have to re do the tables etc, but for each page, I have to change the links to the correct Alumni profiles, change the key organisations and employer logos, embed new iCould videos and change the feed for the related JOBSonline RSS. Which is a pain. Because every time you do anything on the page, it knocks out the iframe for this. So I have learnt to do this last! Otherwise I end up doing it five times.

They’re probably taking about an hour each, which isn’t that much. But I’m probably only doing one a day at the minute, mainly because I have other things to do, but also because it’s become quite tedious!

I’m aiming to get them done and live before the end of July (my own little deadline) but given the time of year, it’s probably not the end of the world if it’s later than that, as long as it’s before the new academic year starts.

What do you think of them? An improvement? Do you have occupational pages? What do they look like? Always interested to hear points of view 🙂

I do

Well, we did it! On May 10th, in Cuba, we got married. I am now Victoria Russell!

We flew out to Cuba on May 4th with our closest family.The hotel we stayed at was amazing. A huge 13 storey building that completely dominates the coast line, I was worried that it might be a bit ugly but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The view from our sea view room was to die for. I could have sat and looked out of it all day and not got bored.

The first week went really quickly. We had bits and pieces to sort out for the wedding and we got a few trips in too. We did a day on a Catamaran which was lovely. We got to chill out on the nets for a hour whilst we sailed to a an island called Cayo Blanco. It was an idyllic Caribbean island.

After a BBQ lunch there we headed for our swim with dolphins. It’s something I’ve never been massively bothered about doing but we thought we’d be daft not to take the opportunity. I’m so glad we did! They were amazing and felt really different than I imagine. Really soft!

The other trip we got in was a Jeep Tour day. It was the best £150 odd quid I’ve ever spent. The first hour was spend mainly off road seeing some of the real Cuba rather than the tourist areas. It was really good (more than a bit bumpy) but shocking how poor the majority of the people are.

We then went back to the coast for some snorkeling on a coral reef. It was breath taking. I’ve snorkeled in the Caribbean before but it was even better than I remembered.

After lunch on a ranch, a horse and a bull ride (!) we stopped at our final destination – flooded caves.

Apart from the wedding day, this was without doubt the holiday highlight. The water was fresh and probably about 10 degrees. Exactly what we needed after a day of sea and sand. It felt like a real once in a life time experience.

The wedding day itself was perfect. Really lovely and relaxed. No pomp or fuss. We all ate breakfast together then divided up to get ready. The ceremony was at 2pm (I was only minutes late!) and we were married by 2.20pm! We then spent about 30 minutes having photos and another hour chilling out eating cake and drinking champagne.

Our family then went to the lobby bar in the hotel and we went back to the room for an hour (I needed the air con!!) and freshened up.

Making use of the cooler air later on in the day, we had a few more photographs taken on the board walk to the beach and then headed to the restaurant for dinner.

It was the perfect day.

We then had another week in Cuba. We managed to get in an overnight trip to Havana, which was only about 100 miles away. I’m really glad we did it but it wasn’t like I expected. Like all of Cuba, it’s somewhat stuck in the 50’s, which we obviously knew. But before we left, I think I had in mind a slightly idealist view of a 50’s film set, rather than real life! It felt less charming and more desperate for some resources and money. There were some beautiful buildings though.

We had lunch in the highest building in Havana; the view was amzing. It was also great to visit Revolution Sqaure.

We also visited a cigar and rum factory, Hotel Ambos Mundos of the Ernest Hemingway fame, Club Tropicana and the Capitol building. We were definitely glad we did it; you can’t visit Cuba and not go to Havana!

Our time there was all too short. We had never stayed at an all inclusive hotel before (Varadero doesn’t do anything but) but I could definitely get used to it. Mojitos on tap wasn’t difficult to adjust to.

I would definitely recommend Cuba, more specifically Varadero and Hotel Blau. We genuinely couldn’t really fault it. We are so pleased we went with our dream of getting married abroad, we have some wonderful memories of not only a perfect wedding day but an amazing once in a life time holiday.