There’s been an explosion of interest in chatbot tools such as Chat GPT, Microsoft Bing and Google Bard and the impact they will have on day-to-day life. Already, colleagues in the career sphere are talking about whether these tools might be used in career guidance and whether they can effectively replace human careers professionals. The answers are ‘yes’ and ‘no’ respectively (at least for the moment).
I did a couple of experiments with Chat GPT to see what it generated in response to a couple of career-related questions. Here are the results:
Using ChatGPT to generate a cover letter for a job application
My first foray into ChatGPT was triggered when a client mentioned his own experiments with using the tool to generate cover letters for jobs. I was intrigued and tried it for myself.
I asked ChatGPT: “Can you write me a cover letter for this job?” and I pasted in the job description below (slightly edited for this article):
Full-time and Part-time Level 6 or Level 7 Careers Advisers
[Name of organisation] is a dynamic independent careers company working with around 60 independent and state-maintained schools. We are Matrix Accredited organisation, an affiliate member of the CDI and approved CEC provider.
As part of our rapid growth, we are seeking full time and/or part time qualified careers advisers to join our highly motivated and truly dedicated team. We are looking for advisers in South Wales/Bristol, North London, South Devon, North Devon and Swindon.
You must be qualified to at least Level 6 in careers guidance. You will have experience of supporting young people with their decisions at key transition points and you will be committed to delivering high quality, independent and client-focused careers advice in one-to one-guidance sessions & other activities. You also will need to demonstrate excellent communication and interpersonal skills, strong planning and organisational abilities and great attention to detail.
We are an inclusive employer and are committed to an active Equal Opportunities Policy which starts with our recruitment and selection process.
We are especially interested in hearing from individuals who would like to be part of a team of collaborative like-minded colleagues in a rapidly expanding organisation where everyone’s opinion counts.
This is what ChatGPT generated:
Dear Hiring Manager,
I am excited to apply for the position of a qualified careers adviser with [name of organisation]. With my Level 6 qualification in careers guidance and extensive experience supporting young people with their transition points, I believe I can make a valuable contribution to your highly motivated and dedicated team.
As an independent and client-focused adviser, I am committed to delivering high-quality careers advice in one-to-one guidance sessions, as well as other activities. I possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills, along with strong planning and organisational abilities. My attention to detail ensures that each session is tailored to the specific needs of the student.
I am particularly interested in the flexible employment opportunities that [name of organisation] offers, and I am excited to work with a team of collaborative, like-minded colleagues in a rapidly expanding organization where everyone’s opinion counts. I am also committed to promoting equal opportunities and inclusive practices, and I appreciate [name of organisation’s] commitment to these values.
With my experience and qualifications, I am confident that I would be a strong addition to your team. I am based in South Wales/Bristol and would be excited to contribute to [name of organisation’s] growth in this region.
I look forward to hearing more about the opportunity and submitting a complete application. Thank you for considering my application.
I was fascinated by how quickly this was generated and pretty impressed – initially. However, it didn’t take longer than a moment or two to see that this was simply a rehash of the job description. It’s likely that a recruiter would pick up on this immediately. The text doesn’t actually say anything about me (not surprising, given that I didn’t upload any additional personal information) and in fact includes several factual errors:
- I have a Level 7 qualification rather than Level 6;
- I don’t have extensive experience of working with young people;
- And I’m not based in South Wales/Bristol.
My conclusion therefore was that a ChatGPT-generated cover letter could be useful as a starting point, especially if someone isn’t sure how to write one, as it provides an indication of the typical structure of a cover letter and illustrates how one might pick up on key terms and values within the job description. But that’s all.
If someone submits an AI-generated cover letter without any personalisation, it will simply give the impression that they don’t care enough about the nature of job or the mission of the organisation to draft a real, human to human letter. This is likely to place their application straight onto the ‘no’ pile.
If someone is really keen on getting the job they’re applying for, they’ll need to take the time to write a letter that authentically reflects who they are as a person & explains why they’re genuinely interested in the role & the organisation, and ideally address it to a named person.
It’s a bit like sending an AI-generated love letter… The person on the receiving end will probably recognise it’s been auto-generated and consequently won’t want to take things to the ‘interview’ stage!
Using ChatGPT to explore careers
The second ChatGPT experiment was in relation to query from a postdoctoral researcher working in the field of microbiology. He was unsure about whether he wanted to pursue a long-term career as an academic and was curious about non-academic careers that might allow him to use his scientific expertise. Specifically, he was curious about jobs that might be at the intersection of science and politics.
Having had some experience of organising careers events for PhDs and postdocs, I had one or two ideas but wondered what ChatGPT would come up with. So I asked it:
You are a careers adviser. Your task is to help a postdoctoral researcher explore employment opportunities outside of academia. He has a BSc in Biochemistry and a PhD in microbiology. He is interested in the intersection between science and politics. What types of job would be suitable?
This is what ChatGPT generated:
There are a number of career paths that a postdoctoral researcher with a background in biochemistry and microbiology, and an interest in the intersection between science and politics, could pursue. Here are a few potential options:
Science Policy Analyst: This role involves analysing scientific data and research findings to inform policy decisions. Science policy analysts often work in government agencies, non-profits, or think tanks. They may also be involved in drafting legislation, providing scientific expertise to policymakers, and communicating scientific information to the public.
Government Affairs Specialist: A government affairs specialist works on behalf of a company or organization to develop and maintain relationships with government officials and policymakers. They may also analyse legislation and regulations that impact the organization, and develop strategies to influence policy decisions.
Regulatory Affairs Specialist: Regulatory affairs specialists work in industries such as pharmaceuticals, biotech, and medical devices to ensure compliance with government regulations. They may work on obtaining approvals for new products or managing the regulatory process for existing products.
Science Communicator: A science communicator is responsible for communicating scientific information to the public. This could involve writing articles or blog posts, creating videos or podcasts, or organising events and workshops.
Science Journalist: A science journalist covers scientific discoveries and breakthroughs for newspapers, magazines, or online publications. They may also write about the policy implications of scientific research.
Consultant: A consultant with expertise in science and policy could advise companies or organisations on issues related to regulation, compliance, or government affairs.
These are just a few examples of potential career paths that could be a good fit for someone with a PhD in microbiology and an interest in the intersection between science and politics. It’s important to note that networking and gaining relevant experience through internships or volunteer work can be very helpful in breaking into these fields.
This was my second foray into ChatGPT and again I was impressed, partly because I had been thinking along similar lines in terms of government agencies, think tanks and regulatory affairs, but also because it was useful to be reminded of other ideas such as science journalism that I hadn’t had time to generate myself before the client’s 45-minute appointment.
Nonetheless, what was immediately clear was that although the tool can offer ideas and inspiration, there’s a lot more that needs to go into a careers conversation in order for a client to make sense of the AI-generated information.
For example, the responsibilities and tasks associated with each of the roles above are very different and will therefore appeal to different types of vocational personality.
- A regulatory affairs role will require an eye for detail, the ability to work with established rules and processes, an interest in quality control & compliance, and the ability to advise on procedures and protocol, etc. A regulatory affairs specialist will likely get satisfaction from knowing that a company’s products comply with relevant laws and regulations and that the interests of consumers are being protected.
- In contrast a science journalist will naturally be curious, investigative, objective, aware of the latest technological developments and sensitive to the potential implications of them, able to translate complex scientific ideas into easy-to-understand language, a critical thinker, etc.. They’ll likely get satisfaction from communicating scientific developments to the general public and increasing public understanding perhaps in relation to an especially contentious area such as fracking or artificial intelligence!
ChatGPT’s text also doesn’t touch on the humanity of the postdoctoral researcher. What stage of life is he at? What’s important to him at that stage? Where would he like to be in 10 years both personally and professionally? What difference would he like to make in the world? What does he care about? What are his strengths and how might he most usefully deploy them in his work? What’s his personality? etc.
This postdoc researcher could probably find a way to prompt ChatGPT to ask questions along these lines with a view to doing some self-coaching, but I suspect eventually he’d want to speak to real person whose perspective and insights he can trust.
How else might ChatGPT be used in career development work?
Careers professionals are only just beginning to experiment with ChatGPT but possibilities include:
- Exploring career ideas: e.g. What careers can a microbiologist do? What are the entry routes for an actuarial scientist? What careers combine an interest in X with an interest in Y?
- Job (re)search: e.g. What companies in south-east England provide social research consultancy services? What’s the culture like at X company? What are the key trends in publishing? What’s the the quickest route to becoming a newspaper editor?
- Applying for jobs: I’m applying for this job [paste in job description]; please give me three ideas for how I can improve my CV [paste in CV]. What interview questions might be asked in relation to this job [insert job description]?
- Professional visibility: Please write a 150 word bio for me based on my CV [paste CV into chatbot]. What are people saying about me on the internet and social media?
However, there are one or two things to be cautious about. First, what you put into ChatGPT determines what you get out. So you may need to refine your queries/prompts in order to generate the precise information you’re seeking. Second, the responses aren’t guaranteed to be factually correct and AI can sometimes bring up some odd results. (E.g. a colleague asked ChatGPT the question ‘What are people saying about me on the internet?’ and ChatGPT had him down as being Belgian. He isn’t.)
So the suggestions are to have a go at using chatbots like ChatGPT and Bing and Bard but to use them as a starting point for exploration rather than a modern day oracle with all the answers. And (as with all internet searching) it’s sensible to treat results with a certain degree of scepticism.
Are careers professionals going to be replaced by ChatBots?
Hopefully not! Regardless of how clever the chatbots get, we will all – I think – continue to have a need for human:human connection and interaction.
For a start, a human brain offers empathy, recognition, esteem, compassion, perception, judgement, interpretation, wisdom, professional insight, warmth, humour, encouragement, affirmation, accountability, creativity, perspective, partnership, care, authenticity, social intelligence, etc. Qualities and abilities that, at the moment at least, aren’t offered by chatbots.
In addition, when it comes to career guidance & coaching, qualified careers professionals will have studied the latest research and career theories as part of their training along with other types of study such as psychometric assessment and guidance skills. When you’re talking to a career coach or advisor, they’ll be drawing on that knowledge and using it to help you join the dots in your career story in a way that artificial intelligence won’t be able to do.
What next for your own career?
If all of the above is making you think you’d like help with your career, and you’d prefer to work with a human being rather than a chatbot, do get in touch. You can book an initial session below.