What we can learn from #NCW2023’s theme of ‘Togetherness’

The careers sector is known for not only being there for its clients, but each other as well. The Rembrandts’ song ‘I’ll Be There for You’, made famous as the theme tune for the popular TV show Friends, could even be adopted as our own. The chorus line, ‘I’ll be there for you, when the rain starts to pour,’ is particularly apt as the sector seems to thrive on coming together in a crisis, as dark clouds loom and positive change is required.

And we’ve certainly had some dark clouds over the years. Including in 2010 with government cuts to youth services and the demise of the Connexions service as it was, alongside the Education Act 2011 passing careers responsibility to schools, with no real guidance initially on the expectations. It’s fair to say, the sector was in turmoil. Concerned over the situation, Nick Newman, Founder and CEO of National Careers Week (NCW), felt compelled to address this and started a #SaveCareers campaign on Twitter. He was overwhelmed with the response. He explains that the purpose had been to ‘appeal to the careers community for ideas and help to fill the gap, I was encouraged to take action…National Careers Week was born from this action.’

The impact of this action

Now in its 13th year, National Careers Week (NCW) has helped over 5 million to date, including the SEND community, which Nick quite rightly says he is proud of and feels rewarded by. In those 13 years, during that hallowed first week in March, the wider careers community has been a hive of activity, sharing everything from innovative employer events or activities and careers posters to fun videos or memes across social media. The NCW website is a veritable gold mine, with a plethora of resources aimed at supporting young people to gain insights into their future study and career options. These resources can be accessed all year round and many a Career Development Professional (CDP) can be found using them in their work throughout the year.

To say it has been successful would be an understatement. This amazing success is a testament to the sheer hard work of Nick and his team, alongside the power of the careers community coming together. The pride in the work going on and desire to share best practice has been palpable. It’s an inspiring message of positive change.

A difficult time for us all

And we need some positivity. During the lifecycle of NCW there have been many changes to the careers sector; some of them positive, some not so much.

Among the changes generally thought of as positive ones is the support for schools in the forms of Gatsby benchmarks on which to base careers strategy and the fully funded Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) network to assist schools further. Alongside this, however, is less positive news: a careers sector that is already chronically understaffed, with seemingly no end in sight, as qualified professionals move on. And it is set to get worse. A recent report from Careers England, showed that ‘when compared with general figures for the UK, the career development sector is facing higher than average turnover, at 23%.’ And it’s no wonder this is the case when the recent survey in December 2022 to January 2023, conducted by the Career Development Institute (CDI), showed some worrying trends. Of the 317 respondents, 84% said they were immensely proud of the work they did, but fewer than 8% felt the government makes sufficient investment into the careers sector. This is having a big impact, with 23% saying they are likely or very likely to leave the sector within the next two years. With so many leaving imminently, due to retirement or moving to other sectors with more appealing pay and conditions, alongside a distinct lack of diversity in the careers workforce and no new talent pipeline in place, we have a talent crisis on our hands.

So, what can we learn from National Careers Week?

NCW is a beacon of light in the careers calendar; not only does it provide a host of useful resources but it also very publicly shows the great work happening. It makes the sector more visible, shows how vital the work is and is a great place for the careers community to come together, to share ideas and best practice. It is a lesson in how to address some of the known challenges. But how can individuals use Nick’s inspiring approach to address these? Enter stage right, Bella Doswell and Katherine Jennick.

Much like Nick, here were two positive change makers. Bella, feeling exasperated that employers were seeking to fill careers positions without requiring applicants to be fully qualified, reached out to her Career Development Professional (CDP) network to see how they felt about this. There, across all arms of the sector, from across the globe, she found that feeling of frustration was mirrored in their feedback.







       Bella Doswell                                                                 Katherine Jennick

Serendipitously at this time Bella also spotted a LinkedIn post referencing the fact that the work of a CDP is about #somuchmorethantalkingaboutjobs. Doing some digging, Bella soon discovered this hashtag was the brainchild of fellow CDP and promoter of the sector, Katherine Jennick. Katherine explains the hashtag was born from a career spent ‘cheerleading from within about this profession and the constant frustration of the misunderstanding of what this job is.’ Bella agreed as she explained, ‘we’re really good advocates for other people in our profession, but not so good when it comes to ourselves. And we want to change that.’

The pair soon met, had a meeting of minds, and Bella’s idea of a virtual flashmob across LinkedIn and other social media platforms was born. The aim was to raise the profile of the great work that goes on throughout the profession, from those working with young people through to adult services. Across the globe CDPs secretly designed everything from t-shirts to virtual backgrounds, all with the essential hashtag message. CDP Liane Hambly even had her dog join in the action with her own t-shirt, and also commented on the importance of this campaign saying, ‘If people don’t value us, then let’s value ourselves and then maybe other people will start to as well.’

And so it was that, over the course of 1st February 2023, many of the CDP network put a spotlight on the careers sector, talked about the amazing work going on and highlighted that it is about #somuchmorethantalkingaboutjobs. Supported by over 100 individuals and organisations including the CDI, the initial impact was that the campaign has been calculated to have reached an amazing 190,000 people via press coverage and a huge 880,000 people via LinkedIn on the initial day alone.

David Morgan

Much like Nick before them, both Bella and Katherine are understandably excited by the exuberant support and passion from the sector. Bella was full of joy when she stated, ‘I am absolutely thrilled by how this campaign has gone, it’s really helped to bring us together, to unite us.’ Both were keen, however, to stress the important message that sits under the campaign: it’s not just about the sector patting itself on the back, it’s about trying to make real change.

A new way forward

And the way to do that? They’re both agreed: ‘let’s keep the conversation going.’ This is a crucial piece in the puzzle as we seek to make real change to the sector, from gaining understanding and respect for the work going on, to improving pay and conditions. This will also be important when it comes to not only appeasing those already in the sector but also in drawing in a new talent pipeline.

But what else is needed and what else can we learn from the success of NCW? Nick agrees there are positive changes we can make and comments, ‘it’s a challenging issue agreed, in my opinion in order to encourage new blood into careers provision there needs to be a relevant and engaging attraction programme alongside a campaign of highlighting relevant and younger role models having a positive impact on people’s lives – all so people can see the vision and end goal to better understand the current and future need that the sector and education has.’

These are just some of the jigsaw pieces that will help to build a robust sector for years to come, and others throughout the profession will have their own ideas too. Some activities are already happening, and the future looks bright with more planned, but whatever happens, the sector will need to come together as a supportive cohort. Once again, NCW is accurately feeling the pulse of the nation and leading the way with this, as the theme for #NCW2023 itself is ‘Togetherness’. It seems there really is much we can learn from such an inspiring week.

Caroline Green


The #CDIBigListen survey (Dec 2022–Jan 2023): https://www.thecdi.net/CDIBigListen

The Careers England report on Workforce Recruitment and Retention in the Career Sector (July 2022): https://www.careersengland.org.uk/2022/12/13/workforce-recruitment-and-retention-in-the-career-sector/