UCL News


Spotlight on Dave Carter

5 August 2014

This week the spotlight is on Dave Carter, a Careers Coach at UCL Careers.

Dave Carter

What is your role and what does it involve?

In 2009, as the recession began to bite and the graduate employment market collapsed, UCL Careers set up a team dedicated to providing specific careers provision for recent UCL graduates called UCL Careers GradClub. This provision has since expanded and we currently support around 3000 graduates for a period of two years post-graduation. 

I coordinate a team of five staff who provide one-to-one coaching and careers workshops/events specifically designed for the graduate cohort. In addition, I teach and provide one-to-one careers coaching for the Department of Management, Science and Innovation, specifically the MSc Management programme and the new BSc/ MSci Management Science course.

In the last year, I've been fortunate enough to train through UCL Organisational Development as an internal staff coach and now have a caseload of academic and professional staff that I coach on issues such as change and performance management, conflict resolution and career progression.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

Ten years this week! After graduating from the University of Southampton with a degree in Business Economics, I was a miserable accountant qualifying with a city-based professional services firm. I left soon after to embark on a period of six months of travelling, which rapidly expanded to almost two years as wherever I went, I met people who inspired me to travel to places not on my list. On my return, I took my accountancy background into marketing agencies in London, first in a commercial capacity and then as an account manager working on global accounts such as Nokia, P&G and BBC TV Licensing. 

Up to that point, the last 10 years had felt a little like someone who turns up at a train station and gets on the first train, leaving without having a plan for where I wanted to go. Every time I became dissatisfied, rather than taking the time to think about what I wanted out of a career and what jobs might be most suitable, I'd return to the station and jump on the next train out again - a situation I see of with lots of graduates and career changers.

I found my way into careers work after deciding to press the reset button and get some professional careers support, latterly through C2, a careers support service offered by The Careers Group, University of London, where I spoke to Karen Barnard (current Director of UCL Careers). Given I was weighing up the options of both teaching and careers work, she arranged for me to get some shadowing experience at LSE, which was incredibly interesting, and that provided me with a network of contacts I could grill about the realities of careers work in different settings. 

I took the plunge and embarked on a qualification in Careers Guidance and midway during the course I applied successfully to The Careers Group, University of London, which eventually placed me at UCL. Karen is now my Director of Service here and I have worked at least part of my working week at UCL ever since, often in tandem with time spent at SOAS, St Mary's University and Birkbeck.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

In 2012, UCL Careers decided to pilot GradClub Intensive - a project focusing on students from six undergraduate departments who typically have higher levels of graduate unemployment after six months. Instead of waiting for graduates to seek career support, we carried out a host of outreach work, calling each graduate, understanding their career needs, developing one-to-one coaching relationships and tracking their progress. 

In 2013 we had a target of reducing unemployment in these six departments by 20%. The initiative was so successful that all departments reached this target and on average unemployment fell by 58% the following year.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of you to-do list?

UCL Careers has recently delivered the Global Citizenship Employability Summer School - a two-week careers programme for second and third-year undergraduates delivering employer recruitment and networking events, careers workshops and one-to-one coaching - a project six months in the planning.

My attention is now focused on devising a strategy for scaling up the GradClub intensive model referred to earlier from six departments to potentially taking in all undergraduate and postgraduate finalists at UCL, which is potentially a huge undertaking.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

  • Album: 'Walking Wounded' by Everything But The Girl - the soundtrack to my travelling days, keeping me company on long bus journeys through South America and Asia.
  • Film: American Beauty - I'm a huge fan of Kevin Spacey and for me this was his finest hour.
  • Novel: Anything by Jo Nesbo or Henning Mankel - I'm a big fan of Scandinavian noir (crime fiction), which means I'm also glued to TV series The Bridge, The Killing and Wallander (the original subtitled Swedish version).

 What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

  • Teaching: the only profession where you steal supplies from home and bring them to work.
  • My CV is just a list of things I really never want to do again.
  • Being friends with your colleagues is like having a pet tiger. Fun in theory, but you still wonder when they will turn on you.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Ronnie Barker, Bill Clinton and of course Kevin Spacey. I'd order a takeout, get the researchers from The Graham Norton Show to find out what they all have in common, sit back and prepare to be entertained.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Over the years I've learnt that the only person responsible for ensuring that you are fulfilled in what you do is you. I look back on the years when the work I was doing was so patently unsuited to who I was that I wish I'd acted sooner to do something about it.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

Having two young children with oodles of energy, we love being outdoors in our 'glamping' tent and take it all over Europe. I'd take a night under canvas than an upmarket hotel every time.

What is your favourite place?

I've been to Nepal three times now and every time it just gets better. Kathmandu is a riot of sight, sounds and smells where you are just as likely to turn a corner and bump into a free-running cow as you are to stumble across a historical pagoda from which you can watch the world go by. 

Leave the cities, and the mountains and national parks will leave you breathless. Embarking on a solo 10-day mountain trek in the Anapurna region, for someone who struggles with their own company, was a highlight.