Career stories: Judith Baines, Head of Careers and Enterprise, Queen Mary University of London
I have been working in careers and student development services in a wide range of universities for over 21 years. I’ve had the privilege to collaborate with amazing colleagues and in every role, to innovate, both being key to me enjoying my day job.
However, what has underpinned these roles is a commitment to social mobility with a mission to enable all students, from whatever background, to make informed decisions about their future. And the fulfilment that arises from seeing students and staff thrive and succeed in whatever pathways they choose.
This has been important to any volunteer roles I’ve taken such as School Governor, Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) Trainer and various committee roles and my current role as a Trustee of Greenwich Student Union. And, of course, voluntary roles at ISE.
My 2004 introduction to ISE was when it was the Association of Graduate Recruiters and I was Secretary to AGCAS Board attending a meeting to discuss the joint AGCAS/AGR/National Union of Students guidance to students on acceptance of graduate job offers.
After a considerable gap, in 2016 I joined the Membership Review Committee, which suggested changes to pricing structures, the offer to universities and governance. In the same year I sat on Conference Committee and Award Working Groups suggesting speakers, shortlisting workshops, and rejigging the annual awards, both from a university perspective.
I really valued working on groups with both employer and supplier representatives as it gave me an insight into graduate recruitment from their perspective, giving me a much more rounded picture when working on my own employer liaison strategy.
In 2017 I was appointed as an ISE Board Director following a competitive process. This was one of two newly created University Director positions.
My roles are sitting on the Nomination, Remuneration and Governance Group and working on the Building a Thriving Community strand looking at key issues like adding value for the membership, opportunities for voluntary engagement, staff renumeration, the newly created Fellowships and the structure of the Board, for example the roles needed and increasing diversity. But my key role has been to increase the university voice within ISE.
Along with Jane Campbell, the other University Director, we have worked closely with Stephen Isherwood to set up a University Advisory Group which agrees priorities and looks at issues such as professional development, taking forward the now annual Careers Advisor Day, which Jane and I worked with the ISE team on setting up.
Covid required a rapid response from the Board including ensuring the professional development programme responded to virtual delivery and enabling a dialogue between employers and university representatives. It required flexibility and strategic thinking during a time of uncertainty and ambiguity, and I was very proud to be part of that response as ISE met the challenges as they emerged.
A response to Black Lives Matter was also key at this time and discussions around meaningful change, for example ISE creating an advisory group to the Board. The Board is committed to increasing its diversity and therefore being more representative and inclusive of its members and better able to bring about meaningful change in the industry.
Every one of my experiences at ISE has given me greater strategic insights into the recruitment sector, which have enhanced my role as Head of Service and developed both my strategic and commercial thinking.
You do feel that you are helping to run a small business and ensuring that ISE has a sustainable future, this felt most keenly when Covid hit.
Consequently, not all decisions are easy and there have been difficult conversations at Board meetings, but you are supported by a great ISE team and by like-minded Board members who all care about making the ISE an outstanding organisation.
I recommend getting involved in any role at ISE, particularly applying to be a Board Director, but ensure you will have the time to commit to it. In return you will enhance your strategic thinking and commercial skills, appreciate the value of diverse perspectives into decision making and increase your confidence in your ability to influence others through logical, thoughtful debate.
I will be sad when my term ends and will ensure that I stay involved with the ISE in whatever way adds value for them. I’ve enhanced my skills, had some laughs along the way and met some great people that I hope stay in my network for a long time.