First Year Pembroke College student Mikaiil Tahir, talks to us about his experience of the University of Oxford Careers Service.
As I approached the summer vacation, it became increasingly apparent that I had nothing productive in plan for the three months I had free. Having seen the consistent email reminders that the Careers Service was always open to help, and with no CV, cover letter, or even any idea what kind of work I'd want to do, I decided to give it a shot. A short 30-minute session is all I booked just to see what exactly they could do to help. If I didn't like it there was no commitment to come back for another session, so why not?
Within two weeks of me approaching the Careers Service, they had gotten back to me with an opportunity at a research institute in Japan - something which I'd put down as my "most desirable" option. Unfortunately, a change of personal circumstances meant I could no longer take up the opportunity in the time frame they could offer, but I was extremely surprised by how efficient and successful the Careers Service was in securing me the amazing position anyway. They've taken my new circumstances on board and are currently pursuing potential work experience in other areas I've highlighted.
The Careers Service and Advisors exceeded every expectation I had. I walked into the Careers Office with no plans or documents, and within 24 hours I was walking out of my second meeting with a complete and vetted CV, and a list of organisations which they picked out that they thought aligned with my interests and were worth seeing if I wanted to apply. Since I wasn't completely sure about which areas I wanted to work in - and thus find internships for - I was also booked for a meeting with a Careers Advisor a few days later. The entire process gave me a much clearer understanding about what options were open to me and gave me the confidence in myself and my CV to seek out my own opportunities.
I've had a string of purely bad experiences with careers advisors prior to Oxford, most of whom have little to say apart from "you do maths, hence I suggest you go into finance or tech". Foremost, I was completely taken aback at how friendly and approachable the entire team at the Careers Office was. Throughout the entire process it was made clear that this was entirely a conversation about myself and my interests - any advice given would be tangential to that. For example, this gave me the space to explore some of my more niche interests (a very particular subset of international development) and talking about my motivations and aspirations, only then did I receive any advice on how to proceed. This meant that every meeting and piece of advice was tailored exactly to me. This leads me onto my next most favourite thing - everyone there is so knowledgeable. No matter what topic I brought up, the Careers Service was ready to talk about numerous opportunities or routes that matched exactly with what I was looking for, how I might pursue them, and broached the idea of opportunities in a similar vein. Their vast sea of personal anecdotes was certainly not left unappreciated either! Lastly, it would be amiss of me to not gush over how quick and efficient the Office was. My first meeting with them was on a Wednesday, which left me knowing how I wanted my CV to look. On Thursday I went over my draft with them to perfect it, and that very evening I was looking at a few opportunities I was ready to apply for. It's crazy how much of a well-oiled machine that this Careers Office is.
The entire process felt like a car ride with me in the passenger seat: all I had to do was walk in, sit down, and talk about myself and what I liked. It didn't matter that I wasn't sure where exactly I wanted to go, or even which route I wanted to take - the Careers Office made sure that it was enjoyable and gave me enough information to figure out for myself where I wanted to end up.
I know quite a few people, like I did, think that careers services can be pretty unhelpful and awkward - and I'm sure quite a few are - but the Careers Service here has given me some of the most pleasant insightful conversations I've had. It's given me a sense of direction in where I want my degree here to take me, but also the confidence in and appreciation that whatever avenue I'd want to pivot towards during my time here, the Careers Service will be available as an invaluable resource to make it as smooth as possible.
So if you're not sure about going to the Service for careers advice, just take my word for it and book that first meeting (and if it gives you peace of mind, know that there's no commitment if you somehow manage to not love it). I guarantee you won't regret it. My only regret is not approaching them a lot sooner...