Sarah Morgan: Careers Officers - A Kind of Miracle Workers?

The job of careers officer can be quite difficult, especially if he or she takes the job seriously. A careers officer for Berkshire County responsible for four schools, writes about her work.

We first see fifth formers for about half an hour. It is possible in that time to get some impression of what they are like and to discover interests. But the difficulties come when the person has expectations of a career he or she just will not be ahle to do. simply because they don't have any ideas or interests or have virtually any qualifications. In these circumstances it would be ideal to have a long time so that one could really go through different ideas and help them face the situation realistically.
This is one of the reasons careers officers are so unpopular. Very often they have to make a student realize that a job they are set on is an impossible goal. It is vital to have a lot of tact and understanding. You have to make the person feel they are being taken seriously and that you are not putting them down. I try to encourage anyone who clearly feels hopeless or that the business of finding work is too much of an ordeal to return for another interview.
I spend quite a lot of time reading up about different types of jobs, trying to keep abreast of changes in qualifications required, training schemes and what the job is like for the employee. As part of my training I had to study all kinds of jobs and I am supposed to have some knowledge of most careers. If someone comes to me wanting information on work I don't know about, I try to find out for them.
I also organize a lot of work-experience visits. These are visits to companies in the area, to give students a real idea of what different jobs entail. I find most companies very cooperative and I usually try to set up visits for most of the schools. For instance, we go to local industries, shops, professional orgnizations such as a solicitor's office or a doctor's surgery. We get plenty of pamphlets and written information on the jobs to give to the students.
I see my job as helping people to find something suitable which they will be able to do and which will satisfy whatever priorities they have. For example. not everyone rates job satisfaction as the most important thing. I know kids who are far more concerned with whether they Iike the people or whether they get paid monthly or weekly.
What I need from students coming to talk is openness and interest. It is very difficult if a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old comes along either antagonistic to the idea of work or simply without having thought about it at all. They see me as a sort of miracle worker. If I can't conjure a delightful job out of a hat they get very angry. It is difficult because, sadly, a lot of kids aren't going to get wonderful jobs. Most people either have to go on to study for a particular profession or else settle down to an apprenticeship which may be routine and dull.
I do try to impress on the students I see that continuing to study. even if you do take a job. is a very good idea. An employer who notices that an employee is bothering to do this will he impressed and quite possibly mark the person down to be considered for promotion in the future.
When the students first come I have a chat with them about their interests, their favourite subjects, their hobbies. I trN- to build up a positive picture of what they are like. I give out questionnaires before they come so that I have some idea of background. My aim is to see them as individuals and to be able to spot if there is something unusual or an interest which could be channelled into work.
I am less concerned with finding employment for students than I am with helping them to work out what they want and giving them the technique for getting into that career. I do think that careers officers can get too bound up in simply placing students in jobs whereas I think helping a person decide what interests them and what they will be good at is the primary aim.

Understanding the contents

1. What is Morgan's normal procedure when advising students?
2. What makes some cases difficult, even hopeless?
3. What other work does the writer do besides sitting at her desk talking to students?

Analysing the text

4. Morgan describes the nature of her daily work. This excerpt has the predominant features of a descriptive text, it represents the text type* description.
a) What tense and verb form does she use to express that she always proceeds in the way she describes here?
b) By what other means does she go beyond individual cases and give her statements a general form (look at the nouns - and their forms - and at the pronouns)?
c) How does the writer nevertheless give the description of her work the necessary precision?

Going beyond the text

5. For what reasons may most companies co-operate readily with a careers officer?
6. What does your school offer in the way of career information?
7. What are your hobbies? How could they be turned into a job?
8. When you ask a friend what he or she does at work or your mother how to prepare a cream cake, you expect an accurate description of an activity. Likewise when you describe what you frequently do, you will try to give the listener or reader a clear picture of the steps that make up the activity. He or she should not need to ask for further information.
Choose one of the following activities: How I prepare for a Klassenarbeit/for an interview with a careers officer; how I celebrate my birthday; how I spend my holidays/ a special evening with a friend.
Before you describe the chosen example, make a keyword outline* listing the individual steps. To link your steps in a sequence, the following phrases may help you: first of all, in the first place, to begin with, let me begin by; then, in addition to that, furthermore, what comes next is, after that; as soon as, once, by the time; often, always, sometimes, usually, frequently, occasionally, never, hardly ever, seldom, rarely; finally, lastly.
You might begin like this: In the first place I make sure what day of the week we are writing the test and see how much time is left till then. After that I check in my textbook what material I have to go through again. In addition I study .... If I have a problem, ....

* see glossary