Responsibilities of a careers leader: Leading

Careers Leader

By David Andrews and Tristram Hooley

The first responsibility of a careers leader is to lead. Leadership is about inspiring people and getting them to buy-in to your vision about the purpose and value of the careers programme and how it should be organised. People should want to follow leaders rather than feeling that they have to because they have some power over them. Leadership is not confined by the hierarchy of the school or college. It can take place upwards, horizontally or downwards.

We will explore the tasks associated with leadership and give you some ideas for how you can get the team on board.

Tasks associated with leadership

If we start by reviewing the main tasks associated with leadership, the careers leader is responsible for:

  • Leading the team of teachers, administrators, external partners and others who deliver career guidance.
  • Advising the senior leadership team on policy, strategy and resources for career guidance and showing how they meet the Gatsby Benchmarks.
  • Reporting to senior leaders and governors.
  • Reviewing and evaluating career guidance and providing information for school/college development planning, Ofsted and other purposes.
  • Preparing and implementing a career guidance development plan and ensuring that details of the careers programme are published on the school or college’s website. Understanding the implications of a changing education landscape for career guidance, e.g. technical education reform.
  • Ensuring compliance with the legal requirements to provide independent career guidance and, in schools, give access to providers of technical education or apprenticeships, to pupils, including the publication of the policy statement of provider access on their website.

These tasks focus on setting a clear direction for your careers programme, creating strategy and working with senior staff and stakeholders to implement your vision.

Leading – getting the team on board

The careers leader needs to have an influence way beyond the power that they have in the school or college. If you are lucky you might be managing a small team, but you will be trying to lead pretty much everyone in the school/college to engage with your vision. This isn’t easy but there are a few steps that you can take to get people to buy into your vision.

Tell them about it. The first thing to do is to make sure that you talk about the careers programme, both one-to-one and in staff meetings. Explaining to people what you are doing and why is a crucial first step to involving them.

Lead by example. There is nothing like showing people what you mean by actually putting it into practice yourself. For example, if you want other teachers to link careers to their subjects make sure that you are doing it yourself. This gives you an easy way to demonstrate that it is possible.

Celebrate success. You are likely to have some early successes. Tell everyone about them! Perhaps you’ve organised an employer talk and Year 8 really impressed you with the questions they asked. Make sure you tell the Head of Year about what happened. Or perhaps you have run a series of mock interviews and one of your employers has offered a student an apprenticeship place. Again, shout this from the rooftops. The programme is working! Everyone will want to part of something new and successful.

Make it easy for them. Teachers and other staff who work in schools and colleges are busy people. Unfortunately, your new found enthusiasm for careers can easily be seen as just another thing to do. You need to devise some simple, entry level ways that people can help, so that you can start to bring people on board without making major demands on their time.

Change the context. Remember that you can’t do it all alone. You will need the Head or Principal to make it clear that this is important and get the rest of the senior leadership team to back you up. We will go on to look at managing upwards in the next section.

Ask for their feedback (and take their ideas on board). Finally, it is really important to listen to people’s feedback and to create opportunities for other staff (and students) to influence the careers programme. The more that people feel that they have a stake in it the more they will want to be involved.

Leading in-house staff development

One of the most powerful ways that you can engage the wider staff in your careers programme is to provide them with access to training and development opportunities. This may be about sourcing specialist training from outside or about you taking on the role of delivering training to your colleagues. Providing training and development is such an important part of leadership.

Although careers leaders deliver some aspects of the careers programme themselves, many elements are delivered by other teachers and tutors, most of whom are not careers specialists. In order to ensure that this broader careers activity aligns with your overall vision it is helpful to lead staff development sessions for teams of colleagues. Such sessions are most likely to be held on the school or college premises and may only take part of the day.

Leading a staff development session is not very different from teaching a lesson to students, except of course the students in this case are both adults and your colleagues. Thought should be given to preparation and explaining how the knowledge, and understanding and skills being developed will be applied, as well as the activity during the session itself. You might also consider working with a colleague to lead the session, either another member of staff or an external partner where relevant.

Content from The Careers Leader Handbook (9781844556526), supporting you to become an outstanding Careers Leader.

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