We talked to Charlotte Beck about the best moments of her PgDip Career Guidance & Development and how it helped her get the job she wanted.
What made you consider PG study?
For me studying postgraduate was a change of career, but to a career that was linked to what I was doing previously. My role previously was a student recruitment officer, so I found that was actually doing quite a lot of career guidance in that job.
I had looked at the course for a couple of years, often around results time, thinking about what I might want to do further down the line. And I decided that I would just take the opportunity. I’m quite fortunate that the postgraduate loan system came in in Scotland last year so that allowed me the funding to go ahead and do it.
Did you have any doubts about pursuing PG study?
My main fear was the fact that I was giving up a full-time, permanent job to do a course that, whilst the employment rates were quite good, it was a bit of a risk. And I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do at the end of it. I had a few ideas, but it took me a little while to find what I really wanted to do.
I was quite fortunate that the job I have now came up around about that time. But that was my one fear – giving up that security while having a mortgage, for example.
Do you remember a moment in your PG classes where you realised you had made the right choice?
I actually think it was when I was on placement. Just seeing the work that people were doing completely reaffirmed that yes, this is what I wanted to do. I could see that their work was making a difference and it’s what I want. I do want to be helping people.
I had also spoken to people who had done the course in previous years, through career services at university or through Skills Development Scotland, and they all were just singing the praises of the course. That, to me, meant a lot.
I just really enjoyed the programme and the teaching staff. It is quite a close-knit group – it’s a very niche subject area – but the support from the tutors was invaluable. I was the class rep on the course as well, and throughout the whole programme everybody said that they were really helpful.
Did you go straight into PG from UG or work first?
I worked first. I graduated from undergrad in 2011, so I worked for a year at Sterling University, where I did my undergrad, and then I had five years of full-time employment.
I’d looked at the course for at least the last two years of that employment, and it was just the fact that the first year I looked at the course it was full by the time I looked at it. But then I thought to myself, “if I’m going to do this, I need to do it.”
What was your favourite class, project or experience?
I enjoyed many parts of it. The discussions in class were really, really good. I was quite fortunate that the class was 20 students, so we could openly discuss a lot of things. The social aspect was great as well. At lunchtimes and break times we’d go down together and just chat.
My first placement at a high school was very short, but there was a moment where I was talking to a pupil who was quite disruptive. He was one of those typical young lads trying to cause a little bit of disruption and be the joker. We had 1-to-1 mock job interviews with them, and there was a moment where he was talking about something outside of school, and he totally changed. He became so enthusiastic. With everything else he was so dismissive, there was a lot of “yeah, whatever, don’t really care”, but as soon as he started talking about the sport that he was involved in, he was a completely different person. He hadn’t noticed the change, and I remember having the conversation with him at the end, and I said “when you start talking about that, you are totally different, and it’s amazing, and that’s the kind of person who we want to see.” So that was really lovely.
My last placement was with LEAPS in Edinburgh, and it was great just knowing that when those students left that half-hour conversation it was clearer to them what they had to do, what their choices were, and sometimes that they actually could do something they never thought possible (like go to university). For a lot of them they think that that’s for the smart ones, and they don’t classify themselves as that. But talking about the different routes through college and the different ways that they can get into education, it really excites them. It makes them feel like they are capable of so much more. I think that’s what made me think, this is exactly what I want to do.
What was the biggest challenge of doing PG?
I think a constant thing that might come up is just the different types of people that come into those courses. At postgraduate it was quite a varied class, we all had very different types of background, and some people had quite a lot more experience than others. So sometimes it was a little bit challenging to understand that maybe they didn’t have the same experience that I did.
Group work can be challenging as well. But that’s one of the things that you deal with when you’re a student, and you deal with it again when you’re in work. But it’s also one of those experiences that allows you to figure out what you’d do differently in the future – this is the stuff I tell people all the time as a career counsellor! Like everything, it was a learning experience.
How did PG study help you along the path to the job that you wanted?
I’m now in a job that I really wanted. So for me it definitely was the right thing to do and I’m really glad I did it. And insofar as the possibilities I’ve now got in my future career, I feel like I’ve got a lot more to give. So I think it’s definitely reaffirmed what I want to do.