Career Stories: Jane Campbell, Head of Student Careers at The University of Leeds

Oct 5, 2022 | Careers, Sector & policy

Jane has worked in careers guidance for over 30 years. Here she explains her journey and her experience on the ISE board.

In my final year at university, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Many of the other female students on my languages degree were considering training to be teachers or bi-lingual secretaries.

I knew I didn’t want to be either. However, working with young people interested me. I really wanted to make a difference to their outcomes. It was by chance that a friend took me to a talk about training in careers guidance. I learnt some valuable lessons from these experiences, which remain current today:

  • Work experience is valuable
  • Be curious. Go to talks about options. What have you got to lose?
  • Make connections with people who can help you make decisions. I listened to the guidance course tutor, asked questions, followed up and ended up studying in Bristol for the PGDip in Careers Guidance
  • Provide refreshments. Students may not yet know they are interested in a sector but will consider attending


Working in partnership

I started working in Suffolk and then Bradford. Over 22 years I supported young people in schools, colleges, and the community.

There were lots of discoveries. For example, how working in partnership across professional boundaries was far better than silos.

How data can transform services if it’s used to inform not lead delivery. Working with employers was so enjoyable.

Then following my passion to lead change, I moved into management roles, lastly as a director of services for young people. I’m very proud of the work we did to reduce the numbers not in education, employment or training, and how we supported them into further study or employment.

I took up the offer to move into higher education, managing student services for the Open University before eventually moving to my current role at Leeds.

Supporting student success

Running a careers service in a large university has its challenges. We have over 39,000 diverse students. This includes a large, contextualised entry cohort of students from backgrounds less represented at university, International, PGT and PGR students.

The careers staff alone cannot support all students and graduates to be successful (whatever success means/looks like to them). Not without working in partnership with academic and professional service colleagues and external partners such as employers. The skills I developed in Bradford have been invaluable!

Preparing students for future careers

I have developed a widening participation team, our data capabilities and employer relationships. We have put the student voice at the heart of what we do, with student involvement in developing services and being employed to deliver peer-to-peer roles.

We have a key role in the curriculum redefined project at Leeds, reviewing and refreshing our undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes.  It’s important that our curriculum prepares students to be global citizens, ready for the future world of work.

My role on the ISE board

I applied to be a university director of ISE with some trepidation. After all it involved application and Interviews. Could I take my own advice handed out over the years to students about applications?

However, it wasn’t daunting. It made me think about what I had to offer. Not just in terms of sector experience but as a manager and I really enjoyed the whole process, even the interviews!

Since January 2022 I’ve been an ISE Board Director and am truly excited to be responsible for building a thriving community. 

I am most proud of the work to develop the community of university members with a Steering Group, University Town Halls, and the now annual Careers Advisor Day, which Judith Baines and I worked with the ISE team to set up. I have also chaired judging panels for the ISE Awards.

Together we can all be there to support school leavers and university students to understand more about the world of work and prepare them for their future careers, whatever they might be. 

A development opportunity

This role has helped me extend my contacts, get board experience, and assist in shaping the organisation.

Working alongside inspiring board members provided a real opportunity to learn and develop personally. We are all happy to share expertise and knowledge.

As my time on the board nears an end, I find myself more and more reflecting on how much I have learnt from my fellow directors as well as ISE members. I will be sad to leave the role but who knows what the experience will help me to achieve next.

If anyone is considering getting involved with the ISE, I’d 100% recommend it. You learn so much from other people, it pushes you to think differently, and you build an amazing network, naturally. 

Read more ISE career stories

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