A day in the life of deaf careers development professional, Ruth McAteer

Jul 09, 2024

“I knew I didn’t want to change career, 

I just needed to change culture”




Ruth McAteer is a Deaf Registered Careers Development Professional. Ruth lives in Malaysia with her husband and two children. Having moved from the UK to Malaysia and working with students in an international school, Ruth says has “made me an internationally aware person.” Connecting with others from other countries (whether in person or online) is a key part of her own work. Ruth is passionate about teaching her students about study and work options both within and outside their own country as she aims to provide a “truly global career education.” Since losing her hearing in 2021, the values of equality and inclusion in the workplace have become more important to her than ever, and she says now “I need to work for a company that has these same values.” 


Read on to learn more about Ruth!


What I love about my job as a Careers Development Professional (CDP) is how everyday can be different - it really depends on who I might be meeting that day. It’s important to me to highlight the wide variety of tasks this role has, and the international nature of the role. For example, one day I started at 5:30am attending a Webinar with Career Counsellor Consortium, Northeast, USA on Kindness before heading to the office. I can also be working late into the night such as attending training on AI and its use in Career Coaching with Associate Professor Deirdre Hughes and Chris Webb from CareerChat UK Ltd. Given the time difference, this started at 9pm my time. I would say a large part of my role can be online and/or outside of Malaysia, which is the element I greatly value - my most meaningful connections with industry colleagues, both inside and outside of Malaysia have been forged online.  


Typically when working in schools, my role is to meet one-on-one with different students to discuss a range of topics from right-fit university to how to get a job. I enjoy being able to utilise my training and have a preference for the Career Construction Interview which lets students explore their own stories and learn together about how their lived experiences can affect future choices, from which University to which career area. For more information on the Career Construction Interview, see Kevin Glavin and his company and website Create Your Why. I also love designing comprehensive and progressive career curriculums that draw on best practices from different countries and regions. I am passionate about ensuring these resources cater to diverse student needs and aspirations. 


Connecting with Alumni and others from all over the world to speak about their future pathways journey is an integral part of creating a Career and HE programme. Meeting online and in person with other HE counsellors, admission tutors and career experts around the world, such as Keiko Kawase who is a Career Support Coordinator at Yokohama City University, who I met with recently in Japan, is a highlight of my role. I can also be found meeting with government departments like Austrade, and Ed Tech companies like Millie that all have something to offer to enrich the counselling experience and program. Making these global connections outside of the school environment and using them to enrich the work that I do is a key element to my enjoyment and job satisfaction. Careers is, perhaps surprisingly, a great profession for travel!


Ruth at a recent visit to Tokyo University


In terms of my journey to becoming a CDP, I have had a very varied career pathway! This is becoming more common and certainly an element of my lived experience I like to highlight. Upon graduating I worked in recruitment and then events organising before deciding to take a year off and travel the world with my husband. On our return to the UK, I worked as a temp for a year whilst my husband gained his PGCE and then we moved to London for me to start my graduate recruitment position to become an Auditor and a Certified Chartered Accountant. 


Originally I immensely enjoyed working in Finance and didn’t think I would switch; I worked as an auditor in the city and made the move to industry later on, but once children came along, the long hours and late nights had to go! As a family we made the drastic decision to move to Malaysia to allow me to become a full-time Mum and I embarked on what will always be the most challenging job I have ever had - parenthood. During this career break, I volunteered at schools and became fascinated by the role of Higher Education counsellors. 


“I aim to facilitate meaningful pathways for individuals

 to achieve their academic and professional aspirations. 

Additionally, I am passionate about raising awareness 

of the valuable skills minority groups possess 

and advocating for equality and inclusivity in all workplaces.”

When considering my own future pathway at 17, I knew I didn't want to study a single subject and that I would have to fund my education through student loans. What drives my passion today is knowing the impact it would have had on my life if someone had told me that I could have studied many subjects in the USA under the Liberal Arts and Science route, and, if someone had shared their knowledge of scholarships, this could have potentially been for free! In my role, I am deeply committed to showcasing the global opportunities students have open to them once they graduate. 


Having gained a position as a HE counsellor (which did not yet have any Careers responsibility), I attended the CIS-EARCOS conference, which is a key CPD event to network with other counsellors. I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Shanton Chang and attending his talk on Careers. Speaking with him afterwards I realised the intrinsic link between HE and Careers which spurred me on to become a registered Career Development Professional and expand my role.  



Ruth with her family


A success in my role as a CDP is that I believe I successfully help students broaden their horizons by increasing their knowledge about what is and will be available to them in both their higher education and career aspirations, and the importance of self-awareness and self-reflection in making any life choice. I think the biggest challenge for this industry is being recognised for the broad scope of work that we actually do. There is a lot of work going on using the hashtag #SoMuchMoreThanTalkingAboutJobs to advocate in this space, which I urge anyone interested in the field to look at. 


If I have raised awareness for the CDP profession as a whole to encourage students to seek out a CDP in the future, I consider myself a success. Also if I have instilled the skills for them to embrace the best pathways available to them based on their values, interests and happiness, I would consider myself a success. For more immediate success, it is knowing I have helped a student get on the best-fit pathway for them by the time they graduate. Personal success is always being innovative and keeping up with the ever-changing career and HE landscape. 


Losing my hearing has changed my values and the culture of the place I wish to work in, such as not feeling comfortable working somewhere that does not have an inclusion policy. My values now will always focus on exclusion to inclusion and as a CDP I believe job sustainability and job satisfaction is intrinsically linked to working at a company that reflects our own values. My lived experience has led me to volunteer for Billion Strong and raise awareness of the benefits of employing PwD’s and understand and address the challenges on both sides. Before I lost my hearing I would not have described myself as an advocate and now I advocate daily in my career and my personal life. I believe that by having an inclusive approach in my own work in HE and helping normalise disability in my own workplace, my students will go on to expect and help create inclusive workplaces themselves in the future. What more could I hope for? 


Ruth at Nexus School, in front of their values



Reflecting on my career journey, being a stay-at-home mum then switching to a full-time HE counsellor was the biggest transition I’ve made. I was the CEO of my household, which came with 24/7 hours, no breaks, no vacation time and an awful lot of negotiating with tiny dictators! Returning to the world of a 9-5 workforce meant the luxury of drinking a whole cup of hot tea, going to the bathroom on my own, and a baby shark free environment! Being a stay at home mum will always be the hardest role I have ever done, and knowing I did that well means I know I can do anything I put my mind to. 


To read more “day in the life” articles and much more, click here to view the blog of The Careers Company. 

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