Careers Planning in Challenging Times - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Careers Planning in Challenging Times

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Careers Planning in Challenging Times


This is a strange time to be thinking about work and career and I’m sure we can all do with a little help. Courtauld Careers works throughout the year, including in the vacation, so do book an appointment whenever you need to talk about anything to do with career planning and job search, even if you don’t have a very clear idea of exactly what you want to talk about. And remember, also, that you can access the support of the service for two years after you graduate.

The aim of this section is to point you to the most helpful resources for careers planning in the current circumstances plus some other resources and approaches that will give you an idea about what is possible and what works. While I am building it, you can access resources already collated by other universities such as this one from UCL. You just need to be aware that you won’t be able to access their online resources or appointments.   The rest of this topic is organised by the three stages of career planning: explore, plan and apply.


  1. Take stock. Think about your key skills and the evidence you have from all areas of your experience for them. This is sometime called a skills audit and there are various resources online to help you. This page from Prospects takes you through a career planning exercise and includes a section on identifying your skills. You could start by writing down everything you can think of then getting a friend or family member to help you add to the list and to the examples of you demonstrating the skills. When you have a good number, you could try the quiz on Prospects to see if you can also add your other preferences and your values, too.
  2. Check your options. The added advantage of doing the Prospects quiz (see above) is that it gives you a list of jobs that might suit you which you can click through to investigate further in each of the role listings. It’s advisable to do the quiz mindfully rather than expecting it to come up with your dream job. What do I mean by that? Well what does it tell you about the choices you made?  If you’re unsure which career will suit you, you could try a virtual internship programmes to build career skills or develop understanding of a sector or role. Inside Sherpa is worth a look.

You could also research the sectors that interest you more generally.  For example, if you are interested in a career in museums, it’s good to read around what’s happening in the sector.  The Museums Association is a good resource and has a number of resources and good advice under the ‘Workforce’ tab. Current students can get a cut-price membership which gives reductions in museum entrance prices, training, networking and more.

  1. Work out what and who can help you. This Guardian article in May acknowledged the challenge of the crisis but also offers some sound advice on what you can do and what you should not do. This article from gradlink has some sensible advice for how to study remotely which can also be applied to career planning and search.

Your mindset can help you move forward when times are tough.  It’s easy to say ‘stay positive’ but the Growth Mindset slides in this talk from autumn 2019 give some practical advice on how to coach yourself. And this video this video gives a short summary of what it means to choose Growth over Fixed mindsets. Of course, we all have days when things seem too difficult: this is a way of thinking to help you move on.

LinkedIn is great for finding people, but it isn’t just for networking. There are some great posts on how to cope with unexpected change. Try this article from Anna Levy, someone I recommend you follow. The Courtauld well-being team are also there for you.

And remember that your Careers Consultant offers appointments all year round and for two years after you graduate.


  1. Identify target employers. Once you have an idea of the roles that interest you and the skills you offer, research the key employers you would most like to work for. Try to identify a maximum of ten and focus in on them in batches of 3-4. What do they do? What are their plans? What entry level roles might interest you? Log what you find out and make this a project you work on a little every week.
  2. Building your community is so important right now. This is partly about making sure the people around you are supportive and constructive but also reaching out to others for information and support. You might think that people are too busy to want to respond but we are all feeling isolated and, maybe, it would be nice to get an email or call from someone they can spend a bit of time with, reflecting on their own career or supporting you getting started with yours. So, once you have your target employers, find a couple of interesting contacts and plan your approach! If you are not confident about doing this, try this article which gives some nice tips for networking if you are an introvert or dread meeting new people.
  3. Update your LinkedIn profile and start using it to network! Your Careers Consultant can help you improve your profile if you are not confident it says what you want it to but it’s not just about the profile. Are you making connections (always do this from their profile page and add a note) and following target employers? Do you know how to find alumni and approach them for an information interview? Check out Raj Sidhu’s short video how to network online to learn more about your target sector, find a mentor or get access to the vacancies that are never published externally.


  1. Update your CV ready to apply. Check the guidance on the VLE (resources section) or book an appointment to get some tips. Or you could put together a speculative CV ready for your information interviews with employers and alumni. In either case, it is especially important now to tailor your CV carefully to each opportunity, even speculative ones. Show your understanding of the employer’s situation in the email or cover letter that accompanies it. They may have had to send people on furlough or make cuts so this might not be the right time. Could you think of practical ways you could help?
  2. Volunteering can open doors. If you can afford to volunteer alongside some paid work, identify employers where volunteering could open up opportunities. Many arts jobs are never advertised publicly. Could you help with social media or digitising collections? Use your creativity to find an opportunity that they haven’t yet spotted themselves. There are other ways to get into heritage careers in the guidance sheet “Getting started in Museums and Heritage” in the resources section. Ask Karen to if you can’t access the VLE.
  3. If you are offered an interview, get some practice. You can book a Practice Interview with Karen to work on your answers or discuss feedback you may have received from an interview you have had. This article has great advice for those about to take both pre-recorded and live video interviews. And this is another great example of Raj’s YouTube series, this time on video interviews.

Some careers, especially for larger corporate or public organisations, may be asking you to a virtual assessment centre. Although this article is intended for applicants with disabilities, it has some great advice for anyone preparing for an assessment centre.

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