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Blueprint for an alternative careers ecosystem

What jobseeker wants from careers
Written by Faizan Patankar

It will take a combination of services that will really provide an alternative to college and university careers services. Currently in the UK, 1000 different people offer 1000 different services, when 10 could come together and offer an alternative careers ecosystem.

In this article I won’t go into whether careers services are good or bad (for that, see this article or this or even this one for some views), whether careers services are fit for purpose or not or anything that debates what we have now. I want to show how there could be an alternative careers ecosystem that could be able to better help students and graduates.

Here are the problems I see with traditional careers at the moment:

  • Good people working in the service, but stuck in bureaucracy of university policies
  • Currently careers services have little or no IP on the technology they use
  • Careers advice is good, but the medium of delivery is still outdated – Walk-ins, morning only, etc

And to overcome these and offer some more additional benefits, there is a need to build an alternative careers ecosystem that makes use of technology and human intelligence to help students and graduates.

Here’s one model that may work.

I mentioned before, in the UK, we have 1000 people doing 1000 different things. And I want to see if a few of these worked together, could we build an alternative careers ecosystem that will provide end-to-end support to students and graduates.

Before I start, here are some points to note:

  1. Any website or service listed below has not taken part in this article and it is purely my view
  2. Assumption – Only counting students and graduates who are looking to go into employment

Before I try to show the blueprint of how there could be an alternative careers ecosystem, I will try and list out what a job seeker needs to go from unemployed to employed or atleast have the best chance of being employed in the least amount of time.

  • The job seeker doesn’t know what to do to get a job – he / she needs some information
    • Inform job seekers about the recruitment process – remove black hole of information
  • Once this information is fed in, the job seeker wants to know:
    • Where to look for jobs
    • Plugging gaps that employers see courses / work-experience
    • Continuous improvement in job search
  • The job seeker then wants to speak to someone about:
    • Experience in job search , hints and tips / mentors
    • Network with people / alumni
    • Get more personalised advice if required / advisers – employers

The same has been crudely represented in a hand drawn image below – Classic isn’t it? Talk about technology and hand draw an image 🙂

What jobseeker wants from careers

This is what I assume will be required for a job seeker to get a job – only that.

So now, here’s a solution to this from what I call an alternative careers ecosystem.

1. Educate the job seeker of the recruitment process in the UK

OK, so I know there is no good guide / site at the moment which lays out the student and graduate recruitment in the UK. There definitely is some work to be done here. There is information available on hundreds of websites, but we need one consistent guide to show that majority of graduate employers or direct entry employers use.

But once this is done, WikiJob is a great resource to get information for student and graduates job seekers. Every student and graduate looking for a job needs to know about WikiJob and it should act as a service entry point for information. Because most of the information is updated by those looking for a job and most advice is given by those who’ve been through the experience. Peer to peer model is the best / most comfortable way to start job search.

wikijob peer to peer model

WikiJob peer to peer model has to increase in the new careers ecosystem


At this stage, websites and services like that offered by Aimee Bateman on CareerCake and what Nick Newman offers with CareersBox could help students and graduates get an insight into exactly what employers look for etc.

2. The job seeker knows what to do, next up is where

A job seeker needs a job. For most of them that really is the case. So let’s focus on that.

Firstly, there will be a need to create a site that can aggregate jobs from various approved jobsites. Yes, there are already sites doing this, but what I am proposing is a more open source site. It would be a site that has the ability to aggregate jobs from various other sites and also offer the ability for the job seeker to add his or her favourite jobsite to it. Someone wants to add Unitemps to it? Add it. LinkedIn? Add it. It shouldn’t simply take jobs from the granddads of jobsites.

The job seeker knows he or she has to do an online application, brush up the cv, prepare for interviews, etc. But how does that happen? You’ve got to make it easy enough for someone to do that from the comfort of their seat at their pace, in their time.

For this, we could use Graduate Rescue. Graduate Rescue offers various services from within its site for a small fee. Graduate Rescue employs a yearly membership model that gives job seekers access to interview preparation, assessment etc. These resources on their own would cost a lot more than £20 a year that Graduate Rescue charges, it’s a social enterprise.

And finally, plugging the gaps via courses and work-experience. So, with regards to work-experience the jobsites at the start of the section will satisfy the requirement or we could drive a close integration of aggregated jobs from some specific placement sites like RateMyPlacement and Enternships. However, for other gaps – I think online courses give enough information to plug the gaps. I’ve heard from a few people who have done career related courses and I am surprised by the information they received. You can also do business courses etc and gain some experience that way.

For the Jobs and Courses, what I do recognise is, there has to be a community driven spirit to keep the quality of the content top notch. If it’s useless it shouldn’t be there or atleast shouldn’t be suggested.

3. Now about the human touch / networking / mentoring

I know there is a lot of debate at the moment of job seekers losing the ability to meet someone and speak to an adviser. And I appreciate that. It is important that job seekers have the choice of meeting someone and getting a more face to face advice. However, why does it have to be careers advisers all the time?

Why can we not get more alumni and mentoring conversations going? Here’s what currently happens – Careers Advisers speak to employers / alumni. And arrange a presentation or two. Then Students and Graduates learn from Careers Advisers what the employers / alumni have to offer.

As shown in the image below this is how I think most careers service currently work.

How I think job seekers, careers services and alumni interact at the moment.

And with the alternative careers ecosystem, we can enable alumni / mentors and employers to directly speak to the job seekers. We can still have expert careers advisers to offer their services to job seekers.

One way of offering service using technology can be Google Helpouts. I am no careers expert; I love technology and blogging about employment and enterprise. I was one of the first 1000 people globally to launch the Google Helpout service. Here’s my Careers Helpout. Anyways, the point is, we could have certified people who offer advice now, be aggregated onto a platform where job seekers can easily search and book from the providers on a tried and tested method like Google Helpout. This isn’t an endorsement of the product; it’s me saying we can offer alternative personal approach via that platform.

As for mentoring and alumni, there is some work to be done here. In the UK I haven’t come across a viable solution yet which offers online space for alumni’s to connect and offer their mentoring services to students and graduates. LinkedIn is a good way, but we need something where students can easily tap into the network of their alumni and this can be facilitated by the institutions that they belong to.

Now, Careers Advisers can provide oversight onto the process and interaction level of a lot more students and graduates.

A new model where job seekers directly speak or have the opportunity to speak to alumni / employers / mentors and Careers Advisers / services oversee the process

So, that is my very simple blueprint of creating an alternative careers ecosystem without too much investment and yet getting the people who really want to help, on board. To run all this we need someone who can gel it al-together and make no mistake, I don’t underestimate the task at hand.

But think, if the services and people mentioned within this article, came together and with a little more investment in product development, we could well and truly deliver something that will help students and graduates.

As for running this, if only the likes of global helper Ketan Makwana, careers enthusiast Nick Newman, someone who understands going professionally solo Leo Woodhead, Careers week ambassador and the one who defends careers for young people Janet Colledge, the cool and powerful Aimee Bateman, Content and Social Media Marketing professional Asya Bodeva, the innovative Rachael Smith from Graduate Rescue and Rajeeb Dey from Enternships in one room and said can we make this work? I think we could.

Do I have the power to action this blueprint… No.

Do I think these people will be able to offer this alternative careers ecosystem to help the young job seekers in the UK…. Yes.

Over to you guys.

Please note all services and people named in this article were done so without asking them. They may or may not agree with the article. And it clearly isn’t their view, it is my view. However, I believe in the work these people do and think 10 people coming together is more powerful than offering 1000 different sources of getting the same answer.                                                                                 

About the author

Faizan Patankar

I started Career Geek Blog in 2011 to share my experience in job-hunting. I now focus on careers industry and blogging is just a tool to share that info. Love hacking careers. During the day I focus on my hobby - Engineering.


  • Hi Faizan. I like a lot of the points here and definitely think there is a lot of unnecessary funneling through careers services which more than anything makes the students dependent on the service and not having built a robust network of careers support they can take forward.

    I think I feel what you are describing is an employability ecosystem (though I don’t like that phrase). I feel my job comes in mostly before someone wants to start looking for a job around building identity, labour amrket knowledge, networks and critical capacities.

    • hi guys – i am naturally thankful to be mentioned in the article Faiz. Tom i think you make a good point – it is a linear line which starts with a young person with little or no idea sitting down (ideally) with a careers professional for initial assessment – the careers champions that are then mentioned kick in after an initial assessment (sometimes during) as ‘tools’ and resources providing further insight.
      I have often said that a handful of good people can reshape the whole of careers, and with National Careers Week we created a platform for others to build on – we can do this together.

      • Nick, I truly believe in the believe I’ve mentioned. And some other guys are good too…. for example I like what Tom writes on the blog and his ideas. We need something new for sure. But I didn’t mention him because I was trying to go completely external 🙂

        But more important is the fact that a few people HAVE to work together. You do great stuff with bringing people together for NCW. I’ve loved the concept since the start and supported it. The thing is, at universities graduates need a nationwide campaign to standardise a few things and an alternative service would almost provide that.

    • Hi Tom, you maybe right about “a lot of unnecessary funneling” through careers services bit. And that in part maybe why some think, a lot of what Careers Services do doesn’t add value + is repeated.

      And for the second bit – I know careers is much more than finding a job. And to be honest a complete careers ecosystem will / should be more than just finding a job. On that note I think IP and technology we use has to be more open source. I see a lot of Careers Services use third party technologies, which are mostly created by companies who have their commercial interests to satisfy as well. I think what I’ve mentioned could be one part of the careers ecosystem – which means I have more work to do to think about the other parts 🙂

  • Wow you’ve really thrown down the gauntlet there Faizan! I’ve said before, we’re still in the storming part of the change in careers work. Maybe we’re just entering the forming part.

    Only one small thing I’d disagree with you on. Careers GUIDANCE is the province of qualified careers advisers. Careers ADVICE/Mentoring can be delivered by others who have relevant experience but are not careers advisers.

    The reason I make this distinction is that careers guidance is a minefield which requires counselling and information handling skills that only come after protracted training, constant upskilling and experience. Careers development professionals, aka careers advisers in common parlance, spend years of their life gaining and honing those skills. I feel it’s a common misconception, probably aggravated by Mr Gove’s attitude to wards them and some people’s experience of receiving poorly targetted guidance, that careers guidance is an unskilled role.

    The pathway that you suggest would go some way towards allowing careers advisers to shine in a brave new world.

    • I like what you’ve mentioned with this Changing and Forming part. Never looked at it that way.

      As for your other point, on a certain level I agree, careers advisers are experts in what they do. But far too many of them are bogged down with bureaucratic policies. For e.g. a careers adviser at a university said, she cannot advise her students about social media because university hasn’t authorised it yet. And then me and other people who are really not experts offer social media careers advise…. by doing this, I worry we would be degrading the overall experience to the student. So, to remove ambiguous experts, I am proposing we have certified advisers and Mentors who can be trusted for a chat. Maybe I am a bit naive in this, which is why I want people like you and the others to work together. There is definitely room for improvement in this ecosystem 🙂