Continuing our series of profiles of women of colour making their mark in leadership, business and work…
Venus is a Faculty Employability Consultant at GSM London (formerly the Greenwich School of Management) a distinctive higher education provider that has been delivering degree-level education for over 40 years. There are currently around 7,000 students studying for a range of business-related degrees. With campuses in Greenwich, Greenford and a study centre at London Bridge, GSM London aims to help students realise their aspirations and the focus is on employability from day one.
Tell us about your current job responsibilities
I support two departments – Human Resources & Management and Digital Innovation and Creative Enterprise. A typical day would include conducting short one-to-one careers sessions with students, answering general queries in our new Careers Zone, researching, designing and writing employability seminars to deliver in class, sourcing/writing/filming content for the newsletters or sourcing speakers for one of our many industry weeks.
I recently put together a week of events around Careers in Retail, sourcing speakers, writing blogs and marketing and publicity material to encourage students to attend.
What were the key decision points that were important in deciding your career path?
I was enjoying my role of Talent Manager with BBC Children’s but, when the BBC decided to move some of its operations to Salford, Manchester, I had to make the painful decision to take redundancy. When a friend asked me what I would do next I realised that I hadn’t thought about it. Then she asked me what I liked about my current job. When I told her, developing and supporting people, she suggested I should think about being a Careers Adviser. The rest, as they say, is history.
What do you enjoy most about your current role?
It may be a cliché, but what I enjoy most is that my boss has created an environment where it is ‘safe to fail’. This has given me the room to be incredibly creative in the way I approach my work.
I’m currently asset building – putting together a sort of catalogue of resources to be used by the whole team. I’m doing short interviews with various members of Faculties to get them to talk about their role, I vox-pop students at events, get Alumni to talk about their successes and their struggles and write numerous seminars and design workshops. I curate all these resources for the team to use to aid student engagement.
What is the most challenging aspect of your work? What strategies have you developed for tackling that challenge?
Perhaps one of the most challenging aspect is getting buy-in, from the department you’re supporting, to conduct employability in-class seminars. Teaching schedules are tight and lecturers are time-poor so it naturally took a bit a time to make headway. To tackle the challenge, I decided to use my previous experience as a Producer. I treated the faculties/lecturers as presenters. I presented them with a brief and a script, outlined what I would be doing and how it could benefit the students. It also helped that they agreed one meeting per semester with one Programme Lead and my attendance at departmental meetings. In doing this job I found the skills I developed in my various roles at the BBC to be very useful.
What has been the most defining moment in your career to date?
When 9/11 happened I was Editor of the BBC’s Homepage. Everything was in chaos Everyone was shouting. My team had to deliver regular online updates and my boss and the Head of Department were right over my shoulder. I never knew I had it in me to ‘keep my head while all about me were losing theirs’, until that day. I discovered a key strength then and I have gone on to use and develop it ever since.
Best piece of career advice you have ever received? And who was it from?
At school when I was speaking to my English teacher about getting a job, he said: “Venus, throw your hat further than you can reach – then stretch yourself”. It’s right what they say – you never forget a good teacher.
Away from your work role what are your passions?
I am currently studying for a postgraduate certificate at Warwick University to gain a professional qualification and therefore have little free time. However, I am quite passionate about photography. My aim is to always try to capture what (photographer) Cartier-Bresson termed ‘The Decisive Moment’.
What are the three (professional or personal) books/websites/ or resources that you would recommend to others
I use LinkedIn a lot when I’m trying to find people to come in and talk to our students. Also Guardian Higher Education Network is a good information source.
Currently, I’m working my way through ‘Systems Theory Framework of Career Development’ by Mary McMahon and Wendy Patton, which I believe is a really useful read for anyone new to or considering entering the profession.
What do you know now, that you wish you had known as you started your career?
That you need to plan, even if you deviate widely from it. Planning gives you a frame of reference for when things don’t quite pan out as expected.
Working as a Careers Adviser/Employability Consultant in Higher Education can be quite challenging. A lot of students expect you to have all the answers and to do the work for them. To survive this you need to think of yourself as a facilitator, not an expert with all the answers. Understand your own career journey and use the experience to drive what you do..
If you weren’t in this role what would be your alternative career?
There are two elements to this. One is that I would probably have a career that played to my strengths, which I think would be Project Manager. The other is that I would have a career that played to something I really enjoy, which would be Trailer Director for feature films. I used to write my own when I was much younger.