‘The Careers Service always felt like a safe space to talk’ – with Kofo Ajala

A photograph of Kofo Ajala at a Careers Fair smiling and talking to someone who is facing away from the camera
Kofo Ajala at Get Hired! 2019

We know that coming to the Careers Service can be a game-changing moment, even if it might feel a bit daunting at first. You may not even be sure what support we can offer to you.  

We also know that the best people to tell you (and us!) about the benefits of using the Careers Service are students who have been in the same position. We caught up with Kofo, BA History graduate 2020, to find out what she had to say about her experience with Careers during her degree.   

What first made you want to engage with the Careers Service? 

After a rather unproductive first year, I was worried that I wasn’t using my time at university to its fullest. My life had become a repetitive sequence of napping and lectures and I feared that I was going to leave university with just a degree and no other life or career experiences. It was at some moment at the beginning of second year that a friend of mine told me about the Bristol PLUS Award and how it could be a useful way of growing my prospects and exploring University facilities while also working towards a tangible award. 

What was your first experience with the Careers Service like?  

Super friendly! I remember walking in, sitting by the desk and candidly saying “I’m not sure what I’m going to do after I graduate”. I had a few ideas here and there, but nothing felt comfortable to me. It felt like I was constantly trying to squeeze myself into moulds and hoping that one day my body gives way and takes new shape. Talking to one of the advisors that day, I felt  as though I had some of the first uncomfortably honest conversations I’d had since University began. I felt like I could sink into the seat and let the words flow out without fear of judgement of ridicule. I think this was the first time I felt supported, not moulded by educational staff. 

What programmes have you been involved with through the Careers Service?  

I’ve taken part in the Bristol PLUS Award, Bristol Mentors, and the COVID-19 SME Internship Scheme. 

How do you think these have impacted your position now at graduation?  

They’ve allowed me to think critically and independently in a way that puts my career into my hands. I didn’t feel as though I was being thrown into deep uncharted waters. Rather, slowly building momentum until I felt strong enough to swim up on my own. I now leave University with huge amounts of experience under my belt. In such a short time I have achieved so much and grown in confidence. I don’t think any of that would have been possible had it not been for that day I decided to sign up to the Bristol PLUS Award. 

What have you learned about yourself through a Careers Service programme?  

I’ve learnt that I’m a very natural networker and community builder. I was very hesitant to try LinkedIn or attend workshops prior to working with the Careers Service, but it turns out that those things come very naturally to me and have been at the heart of a lot of my successes. 

What has been the single most helpful thing you’ve learned through the Careers Service?  

To take pride in what I have achieved and what I can do. That I couldn’t have achieved all that I had done had it not been for my talent and determination and that I should be proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish. 

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had through a Careers Service programme?  

Eating copious amounts of pizza at mentoring events and always having oat milk for my tea when I was feeling low and down. The Careers Service always felt like a safe space to talk about my anxiety and fears, whether about my career or otherwise. And they always had a way of making me feel seen and understood. 

What advice would you give someone who is anxious about approaching the Careers Service 

There is a reason Bristol University has one of the best careers services in the country. It’s because their staff care about the students and equip them with the knowledge to become independent thinkers. They will never make you feel ashamed for being vulnerable, scared or lost. University can feel like a deep plunge that no one really prepared you for, and they know this. Allow yourself to feel all these things but know that you don’t have to feel that way alone. 

Get in touch with the Careers Service now through Ask a Question.