Interview with Susan Burke

In this post I’m interviewing Sue Burke. Sue is a Careers Adviser who works at a school in Merseyside. Sue who also runs a very good website and is active in facebook, twitter, pinterest and paper.li. She is well worth connecting with through any of these technologies.

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Tristram: Hello. Who are you?

Sue: My name is Sue and I am a Careers Advisor, I work in a high achieving school in Merseyside. I have been elected on a UK level to represent Career Guidance for young people for the Career Development Institute.

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Tristram: So how long have you been involved in careers?

Sue: I have been in careers for over 10 years now! I hate saying this, it seems so long. I have worked in a number of different areas including Widening Participation (helping students go to university). I worked for Aimhigher which had the same remit as well. Then I worked for Connexions with a network of schools. I feel really lucky as I have a thorough understanding of why careers provision is important for all young people. I am now working as Head of Careers in an independent school in Merseyside.

Tristram: What has been the difference in the kind of work that you do now at an independent school and the work that you used to do in Connexions?

Sue: I loved my work in Connexions, it was amazing, but I like the independence and the ability to shape the provision in the school where I currently work. In addition, it was the first school that I had worked in where careers provision was actually deemed important and relevant. Senior Management saw this role as critical and they went against the grain and employed a full time careers adviser rather than, adding it on to an already busy teachers role, which was unusual even for an independent school in some respect.

Tristram: Tell us what sort of things you do in your school?

Sue: My job is really varied and which is why I love it. I can be planning lots of different events over the course of the year, for example Networking breakfasts for my Upper Sixth Students, Joint Careers Fair for Sixth Form and Year 11 across both schools. I organise Employability days in the girls school, get involved in assembly and organize work placements etc.

I also interview students mainly in Year 11 about career ideas so everyone has an opportunity to have a discussion with me at least once. Although you find students will pop back even when they have left the school and are now at university.

I have have a permanent slot for PSHE in Year 10 & 11 and I offer quite a varied programme. We look at blue chip companies offering apprenticeship schemes, prospectus research including UK & overseas universities; we have a look at the Europass CV and the Language passport getting students to see themselves as global employee for the future.

We also run a session on looking at what would be included on a CV, how this has changed in the last 20 years and showing practical sessions for example a student who has recently left and using Linkedin whilst at university and how they are using this tool in a practical way. I work closely with businesses and have developed a number of links to aid me to offer careers working lunches each month. We offer Centigrade & Oasis which assesses students in terms of either university or career choices. I think students sometimes expect the answers to be given to them but really they are the one who are in charge. I like to see myself as a signpost suggesting possible routes and highlighting some dangers along the way!

I also get involved in presentations which I love to do, it is great when you have a year group of students and their parents at the same time, this way you get a chance to influence the influencer. You can organise this at parents evening to a captive audience. I love presenting about ‘How Parents can support their son or daughter to make an informed career choice’

Tristram: What works really well? What are you most excited about?

Sue: I like working with people and seeing their goals take shape. I like to show students how things have changed since their mum and dad went to school and look at the different social media and how it can help you to shape your career for the future for example Linkedin, Facebook & Twitter. I use this to as a tool to disseminate information to students and parents in the UK.

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Tristram: So you’ve set up a website. Tell me a bit about that?

Sue: I developed www.susanburkecareers.co.uk as free resource for schools to use and they can provide a link back to their own site to mine. The website has had some great endorsements you can see this on the site. It provides a comprehensive resource for students from Year 7 to Sixth Form as well as help and support for Careeers Coordinators who may be new to this post.

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The reason why I developed the resource is I realized I needed to give something back. Careers has took a huge hit in last couple of years I feel we have a fragmented in service in the UK (and I am not trying to blame the schools) they have been told to provide careers without the money to do so, so I realized this is probably hard to do! So rather than moaning about it, I decided to do something.

Tristram: Who do you want to use the site?

Sue: Key decision makers so anyone really ….

  • Students from Year 7 – Sixth Form.
  • Parents or Guardians who are want to assist their child by exploring factual information.
  • Teachers, as research has shown students will ask their opinions first so this could be a useful tool to explore or to signpost students to.

If you take a look at this page I have tried to make it super easy for schools or colleges to link up their own website to mine and this includes teachers blogs as well by providing a link to the site http://www.susanburkecareers.co.uk/?page_id=1589

In addition to this students, parents, teachers,  your cousin! You can use facebook, pinterest & twitter to keep informed about all things careers and I think this is important. Students need to be exposed to thinking about their future from an early age. I would encourage schools to actively encourage students to use social media and ‘Like’ the page and follow me on Twitter/Pinterest to get the information they need as and when they need it.

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Tristram: What is the best thing on the site?

Sue: I’ve not invented the wheel, I took the best things from the web and created a free careers resource for students from year 7 to Sixth Form. The idea being all the information you need is in one place to research so you don’t need to drawl the internet. I realized most students don’t know where to look and this became apparent when I was completing Career Guidance Interviews, if you type the word ‘Careers’ into Google you gain one million results. Sometimes having too much information can be just as much as a problem as too little. So I am hoping I have made it more efficient for students, parents and teachers to find the information they need when they need it.

Tristram: Do you have anything else to tell us?

Sue: I think it really important to recognize although the resource is useful as I discussed in National Careers Show ‘How to provide 24/7 access for careers for your school or college’ the key is to recognise that you need a drip feed approach. You need to be promoting online careers resources in all sorts of ways including:

  • Adding website details into school planner
  • Presenting to a captive audience at parents evenings
  • Using in the Careers Education lesson or making cross-curricula links with ICT
  • Creating a school competition on how to use the website – link with English for example asking students to write to advise.
  • Incorporating it into Assembly for example use icould.com website to show 4 minute films clips of people in careers by relating it to a subject choice ideally careers they may not have heard about – but showing students how to find it from the website
  • Incorporating it into career guidance interviews and provide tailored links that are relevant to the students needs.

Tristram: Thanks for that. Best of luck with the site.

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