Learning Enhancement and Development
  1. About & Contacts
  2. Events
  3. Learning spaces
  4. Qualifications & accreditation
  5. Establishing a Teaching Persona
  6. Learning & teaching
  7. Learning Success
  8. LEaDER Centre
  9. LEaD projects
  1. Past Events
  2. Learning at City Conference 2016
Learning Enhancement and Development

Session 3A

Career decisions by students: what can academic staff do to help?

Alison Coutts – City, University of London, School of Health Sciences, Nursing

Most students enter higher education with the stated intention of improving their career prospects, yet they understand this aim very narrowly, and may not avail themselves of opportunities to enhance their career prospects. There is evidence that students prefer talking to members of staff from their discipline, rather than specialist careers staff (Greenbank 2011), and this session will review how staff can help students to make the most of opportunities available to them.

Employability and starting salaries are likely to be one of the metrics that will be monitored to assess the quality of universities, and are a key part of City's Vision and Strategy 2026.

This presentation will:

  • Review career theory, and outline how these have had to adapt to the current unstable and unpredictable world of work (Super 1975; Hirschi 2013; Savickas 2012; Gottfriedson 1981)
  • Explore what is meant by career self-efficacy (independence in career planning; Leung 2008), whether this is appropriate; how it can be promoted
  • Outline the particular challenges facing students who are the first from their family to attend university (Greenbank 2011)
  • Outline the concept of “planned happenstance” (Mitchell et al 1999). This is a way at looking at career that enables the worker to identify career opportunities, which are often unexpected, and to respond to these in a proactive manner. In order to do this the worker should display curiosity, flexibility, optimism, risk-taking, engagement, persistence and finally good relationships.

Activities and discussion will include

  • Planned Happenstance and career exploration (Krieshock et al 2009)
  • Applying theories of career motivation to ourselves and our students
  • Identifying opportunities to develop the characteristics of planned happenstance in our students
  • Devising means of assisting students with career exploration
  • Identifying activities that can assist students in presenting themselves to employers


Athanasou & R. Van Esbroeck, 1st edn, Spinger science - Business Media BV, , pp. 115-132.

Gottfredson, L.S. 1981, "Circumscription and compromise: A developmental theory of occupational aspirations", Journal of Counselling Psychology, vol. 28, no. 6, pp. 545-579.

Hirschi, A. 2013, "Career decision making, stability and actualisation of career intentions: the case of entrepreneurial intentions", Journal of Career Assessment, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 555-571.

Krieshok, T.S., Black, M.D. & McKay, R.A. 2009, "career decision making: The limits of rationality and the abundance of non-conscious processes", Journal of vocational behaviour, vol. 75, no. 3, pp. 275-290.

Leung, S.A. 2008, "The big five theory" in International Handbook of Career Guidance, eds. J.A.

Pryor, R. & Bright, J. 2011, The chaos theory of careers - the new perspective of learning in the twenty first century, Routledge, Oxford.

Mitchell, K., Levin. S.A. & Krumboltz, J.D. 1999, "Planned happenstance: constructing unexpected career opportunities", Journal of Counselling & Development, vol. 77, pp. 115-124Greenbank, P. 2011, "Improving the process of career decision making: an action research approach", Education and training, vol. 53, no. 1, pp. 252-266.