Meet John Trantom | AUA Career Stories

How long have you worked in HE and what was your first position?

My first role was a 3 month contract with the Careers Advisory Service at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) in January 1996. It was in the very early days of a European Regional Development Fund cross-institutional project called Business Bridge. The vacancy was advertised via the University of Liverpool’s Graduate Into Employment Unit (GIEU) where I was on a short business course. Graduate placements were meant to be for 6 months but, as anyone who has worked with external funding will tell you, you sometimes have to compromise. I saw an opportunity and took the role because I understood the life changing impact education can have on students and wanted to be a part of it.


John Trantom FAUA
Leadership and Development Adviser
Leadership and Development Foundation
Liverpool John Moores University


What can I say? From that 3 month contract I’ve now been in HE for 22 years! Despite leaving after 5 years (for an interesting 14 months in Denmark – but that’s another story!) I returned to LJMU in May 2002 and became Director of Business Bridge in 2003. I moved into what is now the Leadership and Development Foundation in 2009.

What made you choose the AUA?

A firm believer in lifelong learning I saw an opportunity to become a Delivery Partner on the AUA PG Cert. It was great experience to work with HE colleagues nationally and became a turning point for the Leadership and Development Foundation’s ties with the AUA.

What three words best describe the AUA?

Opportunity. Development. Collaboration.

What advice do you have for prospective AUA members?

Assess what you want. Don’t wait for things to happen. Engage and look for the results.

 What do you value most about working in HE?

I like the learning ethos of staff, the desire to better oneself and it’s brilliant when you see and hear people achieving their potential, especially if it’s linked with my work and a Leadership and Development Adviser. If you can’t develop yourself in HE where can you?

If you could do another HE job for a day, what would it be?

Something completely different to my current role – perhaps having the chance to be a Dr. Emmett Brown character (from the film Back to the Future) working in a science lab, wearing goggles and, preferably, having wild hair.

What do you think is the most overused phrase in HE?

“Have you got a minute?” It’s never a minute!

What does professionalism mean to you?

Using emotional intelligence to do the right things, for the right reasons, in a personable and understanding way.

What can’t you start your day without?

A shower. Always refreshing and needed to get my head into gear.

What work accomplishment are you the proudest of?

It’s been great seeing my vision for a Professional Services Conference at LJMU take off and evolve. It feels a little bit like the Field of Dreams’ quote, “Build it and they will come”. We recently had our 5th conference and over 350 staff took part. This was a really important element of our successful drive towards gaining the AUA Mark of Excellence.

If I can sneak another one in it would be getting my Master’s degree whilst juggling work and bringing up a young family. At one stage I had a choice of modules and opted for coaching – this has led to me leading on ILM Programmes at LJMU and also going on to gain an ILM Level 7 in Coaching Supervision.

What is your personal philosophy?

Look for the opportunity.

Where is your favourite place to be?

My favourite place is always the next one that I’ve not been to before! I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a fair few places in the world and different places are special for different reasons.

Bouncing along the Bloomfield Track in NE Australia was amazing and the memory has stuck with me over the years. As a family we’ve visited Scotland on numerous occasions and one of the best trips was driving the NC500 around the beautifully scenic far north of Scotland.

Having said all of that, it’s hard to beat the feeling of when you first climb into bed after a tiring day!

What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?

I was backpacking in Australia and got the opportunity to work for a day in the outskirts of Sydney. I knew it was something to do with greetings cards and when I got there it was a large room with long tables covered with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of random cards. The owner simply said “Match the cards and put them in piles” before leaving two of us to crack on with it.

Shelling box after box of King Prawns in the Sydney Opera House kitchens and turning up for my first ever job in Liverpool to find I would be working in the flooded basement of a department store for the day were also weird moments.

What would you most like to tell yourself at age 13?

There’s no smoke without fire –trust your instincts and be decisive. Oh, and you would be much cooler if you could play an instrument!

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