As a career development practitioner within the UK higher education sector, having worked across four universities in a short span, I’ve witnessed first-hand how today’s students are overwhelmed navigating the complex landscape of career planning and development. With endless options and winding paths to consider, they need expert guidance now more than ever. That’s why over the last 8 months, I undertook an ambitious pilot program to evaluate how the ‘talk-of-the-town’ Generative AI could enhance and transform my career development work to better meet the challenges of our tech-driven age.
The remainder of the article summarises my efforts to empower students through integrating leading AI tools into all aspects of my CIAG offerings. The pilot yielded profound insights into AI’s potential to revolutionise how careers service are run (So get ready! Popcorns anyone?). But thoughtful oversight is critical on my part, and much work lies ahead for us to shape an ethical, human-centric AI future. By sharing my experiences, I hope to advance the conversation around this powerful, double-edged sword transforming higher education in unpredictable ways, are you ready? Let’s go!
I've always sought innovations to amplify my impact. But the daily slog of creating materials from scratch and answering common questions was draining my enthusiasm. I longed for technologies that could automate the drudgery and let me focus on meaningful advisor-student interactions. But previous solutions had underwhelmed, only nibbling at the edges of my workload.
That changed one day when I saw a buzz around a new thing called ChatGPT. I decided to try interacting with it and was blown away by its eloquence and wit. After going down the rabbit hole of exploring its capabilities, the enormity of the opportunity dawned on me. Since Then, I have not looked back. My very first prompt was just a hello, and it replied back in such a welcoming tone, which search engines never did. I kept on asking questions after questions, it never got tired or overwhelmed me loads of links to choose from. Yes, at times, it was making up things, but is that what a lot of humans do too? When they are put under pressure, so that from that day onwards, I have conversing with it like a human, prompting in an intelligent way. Providing it as much context as possible, so that it knows the human it is conversing with. It’s been months now; that I have got my Socratic learning partner and I can’t seem to go back to the old drudgery filled ‘careers’ life.
As a careers practitioner, I had long sought a true partner in my work - someone to engage in Socratic dialogue, who could challenge my assumptions and bring fresh perspectives. With large language models like GPT or Claude, I finally found the partner for the type of Socratic dialogue I had been searching for. Now when preparing workshops or strategising about supporting students, I turn to LLM’s to help me think more critically and creatively through our dialogues. Its incisive questions provoke me to examine issues from new angles. And its ability to synthesize insights from myriad sources takes our brainstorming to new heights. For more on socratic method, here’s a link: The Socratic Method: Fostering Critical Thinking | The Institute for Learning and Teaching | Colorado State University (colostate.edu)
I knew that careers services do a lot of redundant work, hence I wanted to see if AI could assist us in every single aspect of our job hence my pilot strategically incorporated AI tools such as LLM’s/ChatGPT into four core areas of career services:
1-2-1 student appointments
Careers workshops & presentations
Careers strategy documents & materials
Careers events planning & delivery
This is how I feel now as the person in the picture, see that smile? That’s me forever now.
Did I miss anywhere? Do let me know, I will check for use caseS for that particular area as well. But first here is one thing I did when I first started using AI or when I started using it with students…
A key priority was ensuring responsible and ethical AI integration. As careers professionals, we must consider the wellbeing of students and ethical obligations.
To that end, I instituted use of an AI Code of Honour for staff and a Student AI Oath. Taking these pledges reinforced the gravity of our work and commitment to core values.
My code included promises like:
The Student Oath asked learners to solemnly pledge to:
A Fun Example (feel free to use this with your students, hehe):
"I, [name], as a budding AI explorer and knowledge seeker, do hereby like, totally swear to:
The 243 students participating in the pilot came from universities across the UK, with a major proportion from Northamptonshire but also representing Glasgow, London, Birmingham and Leicester. The sample was 65% male and 35% female, with 69% postgraduates and 31% undergraduates. Student belonged to various background namely Business, Engineering, Arts, Politics & International Relations, Midwifery, Marketing and Law
The pilot unfolded across 7 stages over the 8-month period:
When I first incorporated AI, my mindset was providing personalised materials to students more efficiently. I would generate optimised resumes or interview prompts using their data and share them during advising sessions.
While beneficial, feedback revealed this was a limited mindset. Students grew reliant on me to consult the AI oracles. By remaining the intermediary, I had failed to leverage AI's full potential for student empowerment.
The turning point came halfway through the pilot, when a student bluntly said: "Why don't you just teach us to use ChatGPT too? I could get so much more help whenever I needed it!"
This was an "ah-ha" moment. My role wasn't just providing AI-generated answers, but equipping students to obtain their own AI support. I realised how this shift could expand career agency, readiness and resilience.
So, I pivoted my approach. Workshops now included AI tutorials so students could optimise their own materials. Advising focused on analysing AI output to build strategic thinking. I curated "cheat sheets" of ideal prompts so students could self-serve career prep using AI.
This shift from passive provision to active empowerment was the breakthrough that unlocked AI's full transformative power. Students could now tap personalised AI support any time, gaining valuable skills in the process. I levelled the playing field rather than monopolising the technology within the service.
The results clearly demonstrated the benefits and potential of AI integration:
"The AI tools helped me take charge of telling my own career story in the best possible way." – A Business student
"The AI gave me a roadmap to maximise my time with my advisor by knowing what questions to ask." - Computer Engineering Student
"I can't believe how fast I can submit super customised applications now. It used to take me days per job." – Politics & International Relations Student
"I tell everyone that working with AI will change your career search game." – Marketing student
AI enabled hyper-personalised and scalable support that gave students an enhanced sense of career agency and readiness. The feedback illustrates the profound impact on their motivation, confidence, and efficiency.
The transformative impact was tangible during each advising session. Students arrived informed, equipped with AI-generated ideas to discuss and develop sessions, became more strategy-focused, with less time spent explaining basics.
"I have ADHD, and I leave things for the last minute, hence procrastinating till the very last minute. ChatGPT has solved my problems and has given me so much comfort in my way of working," noted one student.
"Now I don't feel bogged down with the stress of job applications or updating my LinkedIn, I have so much time for my daughter now as well, life is balanced again, Thanks to ChatGPT," another student said.
For me, AI reduced the burden of repetitive questions and paperwork. ChatGPT could instantly generate customised workshop plans, newsletters, and other materials upon request. I could devote more time to high-level advising and program development.
While AI integration offered many benefits, rolling out the pilot also posed some challenges I had to creatively problem-solve:
With a proactive, collaborative mindset and focus on student empowerment, I overcame initial hurdles to demonstrate AI's immense potential to enhance career services.
While not without risks, our pilot demonstrates that AI could transform career services for the better. Students gain more control and accessibility. Staff enhance their capabilities and job satisfaction. And institutions provide enhanced value to learners.
Key questions remain around ethics, privacy and responsible usage. But the possibilities are inspiring if harnessed carefully. As one student noted, "Companies have been using AI to filter students, using ATS systems etc, why can't we do the same, why can't we use technology to help us?"
The future of careers with AI is bright. But we must proceed thoughtfully, collaboratively and ethically to fully realise the benefits while minimising the risks. Our shared goal is empowering students' dreams - and AI brings us one step closer when used judiciously.
How do you see AI shaping career services in the years ahead? What opportunities and concerns do you foresee? I welcome perspectives and debate as we shape the future together, hence open to collaborations on AI X Careers initiatives.
Danny Mirza is a Tech-Savvy AI-Mazing Career Development Professional in the UK Higher Education Sector, known for his expertise in careers branding, marketing, and engagement through innovative technologies like GenAI tools and applications. He is a rising voice in the careers scene, consistently pushing boundaries and exploring new frontiers. Danny's exceptional work has been recognised through awards such as the Employability Enhancement Award at London South Bank University, and he has been nominated for three awards this year, including Professional Services Staff Member of the Year at UON, Outstanding Newcomer at AGCAS Annual Awards, and Content Marketer of the Year at the Higher Education Marketing Awards 2023. Danny's commitment to revolutionising career development through technology and his remarkable accomplishments make him a dynamic and influential figure in the field.
Sign up to our monthly Early Talent and AI newsletter to keep up with the latest news around AI and the future of work from trusted sources as well generative AI tools and resources that help you do more with less.