Have your work cut out for you: Visit your careers office

It's never too early to hit your university careers centre - and take all the help on offer

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The Independent Online

Until last week I had never visited my university’s careers office. Having designed my life plan aged nine, and since then making every available step to achieve it, I had written it off.

In the 11 years that have passed, there have been just two minor diversions. At 14, I fancied myself as an equine dentist; two years previously I’d tested my parents’ nerve touting a career as a coroner about family parties. But as I’m nearing the completion of my very useful English degree, reading and writing it seems to be.

And so, I was advised to trot to the careers office. After ringing a doorbell – no doubt the bane of the receptionist’s life – you’re transported to a place where pamphlets come to die. The walls are lined with them: “How to write hyperbolic third-person babble about Year 10 work experience” (how to improve your CV); “Five easy steps to corporate demise” (how to start your own business); and, my favourite, “How to talk the hind legs off a donkey without becoming blue in the face” (you too can succeed in the world of law).

I’d printed my CV and sharpened my tongue for the psychological survey I assumed would follow, yet my demise would be met at the hands of bullet-pointed booklets, reminiscent of year nine ICT. In the 15 minutes I spent there being early, I was almost inspired to write my own pamphlet: “How to escape the careers office alive”.

On reflection, most of the experience bore some resemblance to the NHS: from the pamphlets – here, most appropriately not about Chlamydia – to the dutiful calling of my name, as if I was waiting for a blood test. My meeting was with Jane: “How can I help you today?” “I’d like to find a graduate job please”.

So now, an inch of the burden has been lifted onto someone else’s shoulders. They say a problem shared is a problem halved; works well for two hours. After this point, the residual panic sets in again.

But if you don’t need sectioning for over-ambition, then do go to your careers office. Even if you’re not a final year – especially if you’re not a final year – get in there early. Be the smug(ish) one that can make jokes about pamphlets when your careers appointment just cements what you’ve thought the whole time.

If you’re a fresher, go now. Book an appointment – it won’t be too early in the morning; my office doesn’t even open until 10. Go and be psychoanalysed; it’s free. Were I not so strange, Jane would have been very helpful. She said all the right things and didn’t even make me cry.

By graduation, you’ll be glad you and your Jane had that chat. Instead of panicking, book an appointment. And if she lets you down, at least you can enjoy the pamphlets. There really is one for everyone.