The Careers Service at SOAS opened its doors on the first day of the Autumn Term 1995. Before this, current students, graduates and alumni made use of the nearby University of London Careers Service (ULCS). By 1994/1995, it was felt that a stronger careers provision was needed onsite and during this year a dedicated information suite was established, managed by a newly appointed Information Assistant. A Careers Advisor was seconded from ULCS and together they created a new service by contacting companies and organisations at home and internationally with an interest in SOAS graduates.
To encourage students to use the new service, a programme of events was arranged including an Overseas Evening with representatives from the business and voluntary sectors, media and NGO forums, and a JobSearch Week for Finalists. During the year, students had the opportunity for individual guidance as well as group seminars to develop their employability skills. A comprehensive library of information on occupations, employers and postgraduate study was developed further, specialising in resources of particular relevance to SOAS students.
During its second full year of existence, the number of students using the Careers Service grew significantly – some 10,000 visits were recorded, and the provision of professional advice was integrated into the School’s life. The employer database was added to, more events were developed and individual students were prepared for types of tests they would face during psychometric testing sessions and mock interviews.
Over the years, the SOAS Careers Service has continued to develop and grow. The first SOAS Fair was held in the academic year of 1997/98 and was attended by employers from law, business, TEFL and development. Employer contacts increased, and a special promotional leaflet was designed to raise awareness of SOAS graduates to targeted employers. By 2003/04 the SOAS Careers Service, in conjunction with The Careers Group (formerly ULCS), successfully obtained Matrix Accreditation (HE quality standard) for its student guidance and information services.
By 2006/07, the Volunteering Unit was established in partnership with the Students’ Union and together collaborated on the first International Volunteering Fair. With the introduction of a dedicated Employer Liasion Officer, more events were developed, including the World Music Careers Form, the African Forum and SOAS’ first International Development Conference, with keynote speaker Simon Maxwell (then Director of the ODI). The award-winning ‘Take an Alum for Coffee Scheme” was also introduced during this time.
Since then, more Fairs and events have been introduced and continue to attract leading employers and organisations, and our thriving partnership with Santander for the provision of paid internships continues to benefit students, recent graduates and employers alike. The first Student Enterprise Programme was delivered in 2010/11 which included advice sessions, training and a one week Enterprise Boot Camp to improve student’s employability.
We have now grown to a service that consists of 10 members of staff, and are continuing to develop new services and events. Our exciting events programme this year included talks from the UN, DFID and the ICRC and we launched a new alumni event series “What I wish I’d known as a student at SOAS”. We moved to a wonderful new location offering more seating for students and bought lots more resources to support students in their career planning. Looking to the future, we are currently involved in lots more new projects such as a mentoring programme and a microplacements scheme, and will be moving to new premises in 2016. Here’s to the next 20 years of offering careers advice, guidance and information to SOAS students and graduates!!
Jo Cooper (with help from Emily Huns, Queen Mary University of London)