The Scotsman newspaper has put UK careers advice under the microscope – and the findings aren’t impressive.

All four experts interviewed for the article (including me) agreed that something is very wrong with the way we tackle careers advice in this country – from school through to university and beyond.

Graduate Fog’s favourite quote came from Chris Humphries, chief executive of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, who said:

“People get more advice and information to help them choose a television than a career.”

If the emails I receive from you lot are anything to go by, I agree 100%.

Although graduates say your university careers centre is bursting with info on basic stuff like how to write a CV or where to find advertised vacancies, their help doesn’t go deep enough and you really struggle to find useful advice on the trickier stuff.

Many of you come to Graduate Fog because you feel that university careers advice is aimed squarely at those who already know what they want to do – or those who want to get into highly structured careers.

Do the people who currently dispense this advice think you’re robots?

Because to you, it looks as if university careers advice is designed for the people who actually need it the least!

What about those of you who don’t know what you want to do – or have a clue where to start? Should you do an MA in the meantime – or would that be a total waste of money? What about those of you trying to break into hugely competitive industries like media? If you’ve been trying your luck for a year (unpaid) but it just isn’t happening, where can you go to discuss your options about what to do next?

You might be interested to learn that the five most popular ‘Advice’ pages on Graduate Fog are:

– How to choose your career

– How to find vacancies

– How to decide about further study

– How to understand recruiters

– How to fight the recession

Does this suggest that these are the areas where your university careers centres are falling short?

Another big problem – the experts agreed – is that careers advice is not updating itself fast enough in line with the way the world of work is evolving.

There is a clear mismatch between the help offered and the help you really need.

You are still being given rigid, static advice – as you enter a new world of work, where the rules are changing every day.

Graduate Fog believes graduate careers advice providers need to start presenting their information in the context of the real world as it actually in 2010.

I think we should move away from this idea of ‘planning’ your career up-front and then just getting on with it. Because these days, the truth is that most people just start somewhere and work it out as they go along!

They also need to help you factor in the way the world is changing, so you can properly assess the risks of entering an industry with an uncertain future (like media). They should also point you in the direction of industries with real growth potential, such as green energy and online social networking.

As Vivienne Brown, at Skills Development Scotland, put it in the Scotsman article:

“A friend of mine has a daughter who went to school for the first time this year. I was thinking she might still be in work in 60 years time. If you think about the amount work has changed in the past 60 years it give you an idea of the sort of challenge we face.”

No careers adviser will ever be able to give you all the answers – or predict the future.

But I do think the universities (and schools) could do a much better job of empowering you to make your own decisions about your future – and showing you how to navigate your career as you go along.

It’s a challenge – but it’s totally do-able.

Making a bigger effort to understand the needs of their customer (you lot) would be a good start.

I live in hope…

When I post on this subject I always get at least five emails from university careers advisers saying, “Well if you’re so smart, why don’t you tell us what we should be doing differently?” If you’re thinking of doing this, please don’t – because I won’t reply. Study Graduate Fog in your own time, buy Dude, Where’s my Career? and figure it out for yourself. It’s not my job to translate my work into a list of action points for you and your colleagues. You receive a fat paycheque at the end of every month, I don’t get a bean. If you would like to pay me to advise you on a consultancy basis, please contact me here – but I know you won’t because of ‘budget constraints’).

Graduates – did your university’s career advice work for you?
If not, why not? Do careers advisers have an impossible task? Or have they just got lazy – and forgotten how it feels to be in your shoes?

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