Helen Kempster from the Goldsmiths careers service came to talk about Career Planning and Networking – a full two-hour session, or maybe two one-hour sessions joined on to each other. The starting point for the Career Planning was the theoretical framework by Bill Law, a cycle of Self-awareness, Opportunity Awareness, Decision Making and Transition Learning. It was not too surprising to me to discover that very few students self-identified as still being at the self-awareness stage; in some ways it's natural for students doing their final projects and with one eye on the next thing being more interested in opportunities or decision-making, but given my own current issues around career Angst and (not) knowing what I want to do with my life, I felt the irony. But then, maybe that justifies the model in some small way: it is a cycle.
It was predictably difficult also to convince some of the students that the skills in biggest demand, even for Computing-related jobs, were generic (“transferrable”) skills; communication skills, team-working, time-management and so on. Yes, understanding of algorithmic analysis can be a competitive advantage, but just running the numbers (on workers in Computing-related fields vs graduates of Computer Science programmes) suggests that if specialist knowledge is required in a given role, there's at least a chance that it can be acquired on the job. This does raise the question of why we're even bothering teaching “industry-friendly” languages; there's probably some kind of economic argument around information asymmetry (to do with attractiveness to students, rather than good outcomes for employers) but this is probably not the place to analyse it; every time I get a bit disheartened about our syllabus, I remind myself that one possible Mission of the University is to help people to live well.
The exercise for people to self-rate their level of transferrable skills was interesting, in particular the difficulty that they had with providing evidence for their ratings. There's general lack of experience, but there's also the lack of experience of thinking of their whole life as a source for evidence of skills – paid work is not the only source of evidence for CV bullet points. I also amused myself (after the students had provided ratings) by telling them about the Dunning-Kruger effect.
The networking session was perhaps a bit more abbreviated, and we went into less depth: though we did talk a bit about whether Computing practitioners are particularly vulnerable to the lone wolf fallacy, because of their general ability to go from idea to prototype on their own. There was a nice moment when Helen mentioned Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and one of the students volunteered that he'd gone bankrupt again.