Tips to enhance your careers guidance provision


With the recent criticism of careers guidance in schools, award-winning careers advisor Susan Burke, who runs a free resource for teachers and students, offers her tips on enhancing your careers provision.


If you type the word “careers” into Google you will find roughly 1,190,000,000 results. So, although the internet is great for finding information, too much information can be just as much of an issue as having too little – and this is one of the problems our students have been facing. 

Furthermore, in light of the government’s move to cut Connexions funding and pass the duty to deliver careers advice for students on to schools, I believe that careers provision has become fragmented and unequal in the UK – the report from the Education Select Committee earlier this year and Ofsted’s careers report last week only go to confirm this.

The fact is that what one school can offer will differ from the next. Because of this, earlier this year, I developed a free online careers resource called Susan Burke Careers. The website’s aim is to be a solid first step to helping students, teachers and parents get the information they need to make informed career decisions.

I do not expect teachers to become “careers specialists”, but with schools now responsible for delivering careers guidance to years 8 to 11 and 6th form, they should be able to signpost students and parents to good resources. If you are in charge of your school’s careers strategy and want to embed careers into the school’s ethos, then consider some of the approaches below.

Key decision-makers

Plan a marketing campaign and devise ways to encourage students to actively get involved in their own career planning. When students have a career goal they are more likely to be motivated. Most students tend to choose careers they are familiar with, so by expanding their knowledge you automatically expand their opportunities. For example, most students recognise they can become a mathematics teacher or accountant if they are good at maths, but what about a quantity surveyor or an actuary? 

Careers policy and committee

Develop a careers policy document which should set out your plan for the upcoming academic year. Then, establish a student careers committee. Students can help with career-related activities and with general administration such as updating the careers library. The committee can provide crucial feedback on what they would like included in the careers programme and the experience will also be beneficial for the students.

Parents and governors

Why not promote your careers policy through the parent association? Parental involvement can help you in terms of work experience and mentoring. Parents may also be willing to talk to students about their own career paths. Use school governors to support your plan too. Give a short presentation at the next meeting and ask individuals if they are willing to use their expertise and become involved in careers fairs, careers working lunches, work experience, mentoring, or employer interviews.

Your careers advisor should attend parents’ evening or other scheduled events as you will have a captive audience with which you can discuss key areas such as student finance or how they can support their children to explore careers online at home.

Recognise achievement

Endorse achievement in careers by honouring students on a “wall of fame”, ideally located in the reception. This will be seen not only by students and staff, but also by visitors to the school. Make sure that the wall includes those of differing abilities, as this will reinforce that belief that achievement is not only for high-flyers.

Working lunches

Register with Speakers4Schools and see if their speakers can attend a careers working lunch in order to discuss their job roles with students. Think about inviting local employers as well, and remember to call on your network of associates and school alumni too. Meeting with speakers can prove beneficial for years 9, 10, 11 and 6th form. Advertise events through school registers and subjects related to the speaker. If possible include an incentive to encourage attendance. Consider offering this scheme on a monthly basis so that students become used to attending.

Begin in year 7 or earlier 

Careers information and guidance should begin at year 7 or even earlier by working with your cluster primary schools. Students are not expected to have fully developed career ideas, but they can be guided to consider their likes and dislikes. The importance of extra-curricular activities should be reinforced as good ways to develop key skills such as initiative, independence, leadership qualities and teamwork – vital skills that employers now look for. For lesson plans and activities refer to careers guidance resource website Cegnet (all links below).

Competitions and assemblies

Launch a year group competition by linking it to a cross-curricular subject such as English or ICT. You could ask students to complete careers research and get them to design posters to encourage their peers. Encourage participation by offering a prize for the winner.

Assemblies are probably the simplest and easiest way to promote careers. Use the free resources provided by websites such as I Could and Careers Box for inspiration. They provide four to five-minute film clips of people in a range of careers which can be useful, not only to students but also to staff who may wish to incorporate the information in their lesson plans. 

Try and use film clips relating to careers which students may not be familiar with. The aim is to enable them to establish the link between education and qualifications and careers.

National Careers Week

National Careers Week (March 3 to 7, 2014) is a celebration of careers education, information, advice and guidance. The purpose is to promote and share good quality careers resources among career professionals, job-seekers, parents and students. There is no cost for registering and you can gain new ideas and information from other career professionals.


Don’t forget about the importance of a well-structured lesson plan for your PSHE programme and inform other members of staff about careers by providing information through INSET training. Also, whatever careers-related activities you are involved in, make sure parents, students and teachers are all aware by publishing information in the school newsletter if possible. And if your school provides a planner or diary, ask if key careers information can be included. This could be details of career websites and password details of online careers packages such as Fast Tomato, Kudos and Eclips.

Social media in careers

I am a strong advocate for using social media as part of careers provision, including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. A report by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills Research, entitled Integrating New Technologies into Career Practice (March 2013), highlights that using online social media is a cost-effective and efficient way for students to be kept up-to-date on careers.

For example, my Facebook page reflects career-related issues and offers students a newsfeed about careers on a daily basis: Saturday they may learn how to research their career ideas, Sunday how to expand their careers by the subjects they enjoy, and Monday highlights year 11 option choices. 

SecEd Guide To Careers Advice
Download SecEd’s guide to implementing the careers guidance duties and meeting the “independent and impartial” criteria:
Further information


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