SAS Careers Service: Meet Liz Wilkinson

Professional careers advice makes you calmer, more empowered and luckier. SAS Careers Service seeks to save students time, energy and stress in figuring out how to make their current work/study balance work well and to prepare and compete for the next steps after SAS. We have expertise in common SAS aspirational careers ambitions from humanitarian aid to auction houses. And we offer flexible support in a range of formats, all free to you.

Liz Wilkinson

Meet Liz Wilkinson. She has been one of the our SAS careers consultants for some time now. We have spoken to Liz to give you some insight into her own career path but also into her work as a careers consultant, and some very general tips and tricks. 

Liz Wilkinson
Senior Careers Consultant

Tell us a bit about yourself. What was your education and career path that brought you here?

I feel very at home in the SAS disciplinary space as I studied MA Classics, Trinity College, Oxford in the early 80s. I was very active in student campaigns, with a strong social improvement ethos. As part of my student volunteering I attended a workshop by Richard Bolles, the US author of the famous careers book, “What Colour is Your Parachute
?” It was a lightbulb moment. I suddenly realised that you could make a living helping people thrive at and through work and I wanted in.
 
I marched into my university careers service and asked how I could get a job in the field, to be told that I was too young and inexperienced (they were right). So I got some life experience by working in commerce and retailing for a few years, doing as much training and recruitment as possible. Highlights included running a shop on Oxford St and setting up the big Dillons bookshop in Liverpool (now Waterstones).
 
I was made redundant in 1990, had a rethink, applying for 50 jobs with variable success. I revisited the idea of careers work, and started to network, which led to someone signposting the University of London Careers Service advertisement for a Trainee Careers Adviser. After some persuasion they hired me – the youngest careers adviser they had ever appointed! Since then I have worked all over the University of London and its Members Institutions  as a careers consultant and as a manager. It’s been a very rewarding 31 years in HE Careers Work.

You have worked in careers services for some time now. What do you like most about your job?

I find the world of work and how people navigate it so fascinating. I’m a very curious person and love learning new things and meeting new people. I love the breadth of HE careers work. It combines market research, empowering people, figuring out technology, teaching, writing, thinking on your feet and constant change. The job uses all my talents (and has developed quite a few I didn’t know I had in me) and I get to make a positive difference for people. My favourite bit of a great job is working directly with students. Every one of you is unique and I’m always excited to hear your story and to work together to identify your next steps towards satisfying and sustainable work.

Do you have a special area of expertise?

Currently I work with 3 different postgraduate cohorts of which my SAS student cohort is one. I also work with postgraduates in the Techne Doctoral Partnership and at the Institute of Cancer Research. I’m part of a national network of postgraduate researcher careers professionals which keeps me up-to-date with latest trends.  I also specialise in digital employability, using technology to makes careers expertise and guidance as accessible as possible which is why I am always tweaking the SAS careers service section on Study Online, as well as my work with our distance learning students across the world.

Can you tell us about an encounter that stuck with you?

I love it when I’m teaching a webinar and the chat box lights up with comments. It’s hard to predict which activity will strike a nerve and it’s always “a punch the air moment” when students start talking to each other in the chat box rather than routing all their comment through me. I have a folder of fab chat box moments which I keep for uplift.

Every student is different but many probably, at least initially, have the same worries and questions. What is the most common insecurity you come across with students?

The most common starting question I get asked can be summarised as “is my CV good enough?” and I am always happy to help students address that worry by clarifying what is the target audience for their CV, and exploring how they can present and present their qualification and experience for best impact. Students also worry that they don’t know enough about possible job options which prompted our creation of the targeted industry briefing on popular professional sectors, such as heritage and publishing which you can access on

Mental Health in academia is becoming a more widely discussed subject. What general advice can you give students struggling to maintain a healthy work-life-balance?

What a great question. I would say to students what I say to myself. “You are bigger (and more precious) than your degree or job. It needs to work for you as well as you working for it. Academia is a pressured environment and we live in challenging times. You are not alone. Reach out to others, your friends, family, your tutors and the SAS support services.” For a fuller exploration of those points and to create a supportive environment. I will be offering a session on Wellbeing and Resilience in late November as part of the Research Training offer.  

For this academic year, could you give us a brief overview / sneak peek of what will be offered?

In 21/22 we have a series of monthly careers webinars planned covering topics ranging from Career Options in Academia and Education to the Imposter Syndrome. Look out for the latest events in our regular SAS Careers Bulletin Our 1:1 careers coaching slots are available year round (bookable via sascareers@careers.lon.ac.uk) and we have updated our targeted careers resources on SAS StudyOnline. You can register for our next careers webinar on Tuesday 26/10 “Applying for a PhD” here.

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