“The best bit is that I’m working with people at the start of their lives, who have the rest of their existence ahead of them. You get so much job satisfaction from it.”
School jobs are often seen as the holy grail for people with a young family, as the hours, and term dates make it the ideal way to combine working with childcare. Here we talk to James, who works part-time in a secondary school, to find out if school work is really all its cracked up to be.
What is your job title and what does your job involve?
My job title at school is ‘Careers Coordinator’. I’m here to try to coordinate everything that goes on in school under the banner of ‘careers’ – mainly this involves carrying out careers advice interviews and interventions and engaging with providers of Further Education to hold events such as Careers Fairs. We are also trying to engage with employers more to give young people a taste of what the world of work is about.
How did you get the job? What was the recruitment process like?
I got the job after being tipped off about it being listed online on the County Council’s website. The recruitment process was very detailed – it involved filling out a lengthy application form, submitting a letter of interest, and then an interview with four stages, including an interview with four Year 8 pupils! I was more nervous about that than I was about being interviewed by the Headteacher!
What relevant experience or qualifications do you have?
I’ve worked giving career advice to teenagers and adults since 2006, so I’d already gained a lot of experience in the field before applying for my current role. As well as a degree, I’m also level 6 qualified in Career Guidance and teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector.
What did you do before you got this job?
Before I got this job, I delivered careers advice to adults, and before that, I worked in Further Education. My background really is in customer-facing work – call centres, administration – and I certainly didn’t plan to become a careers advisor. I don’t think I’ve met one yet who did!
What are the hours like?
The hours, for me, are great. I work part-time, and I combine this with some freelance work. What’s more important, is the location – it’s very close to me, and therefore I can work flexibly. The lack of a commute is a real boon – you tend to forget how much time you spend getting to and from work every day.
How does the job fit with your family life?
My eldest son has just started at the same school, so it’s worked out really well for us. We do try to keep contact at school at a minimum, as it wouldn’t be fair to him otherwise. It does help with family life as I have time to walk the dogs, cook tea etc. when I get home – my partner is a Teacher, but she works full-time so tends to get back later.
Has it been different to what you were expecting from a school job?
In some ways, it has been different. I think my expectations were based on my personal experience as a schoolchild and in that respect, a lot of memories have come flooding back. In many ways, children are the same – there’s a pack mentality, not in a vicious way, but there are cliques and social groups and silly arguments and things – but they’re also different. They are exposed to very sophisticated marketing, and they have lots of sources of information like YouTube that we didn’t have as children. One thing I hadn’t thought about is the sheer amount of effort that goes into organising the school day, delivering the curriculum and arranging exams, assessments, open evenings etc. That’s certainly been an eye-opener.
What’s the best bit of your job?
It’s a bit corny, but the best bit is that I’m working with people at the start of their lives, who have the rest of their existence ahead of them. It gives me so much job satisfaction.
How does it compare to a corporate role?
It’s pretty different, to be honest. Part of it is the hierarchical nature of school life – children calling you “Sir”, knocking on doors before being allowed to enter, that kind of stuff. I know that happens in a few companies and roles, but by and large, you just don’t do that in business. It takes a lot of getting used to. I’ve had to completely stop myself referring to colleagues by their first name in case I mention it in front of a pupil!
What advice would you give to someone looking for a school-based role to fit around them?
Don’t assume it’s easy – it’s not! You have to be passionate about what you do and be willing to put in the hours behind the scenes, as well as during school hours. As with any job, you have to have the required experience/qualifications and present them well in your CV and cover letter or application form (it’s common for school roles to ask for an application form).