Careers Theory

The media and career choice

I would imagine that most Careers professionals working with young people have seen the impact that media has on their perceptions of work and jobs. From the surge of interest in forensics that spiked in the late 2000s as shows such as CSI and Criminal Minds hit the height of their popularity and resulted in a swell of applicants to Criminology degrees in the UK and the United States to the sudden boom in applications to the US Navy that followed Top Gun in the 1980s, it seems that popular media does have an influence on the career choice of individuals.

These anecdotal examples are also supported by research. In 2017 Konon & Kritikos showed that positive media representations of entrepreneurs resulted increase the probability of self-employment and decrease the probability of salaried work. While this paper from Hoag, Grant & Carpenter (2017) concluded that individuals who consume and have exposure to a wide range of news media were more likely to choose journalism as their major. A 2014 article in the Popular Culture Studies Journal (Tucciarone) conducted a research project looking at representations of the advertising industry and found that even negative or exaggerated portrayals of an industry can have an enticing effect on viewers

One research participant explained: “I think any type of portrayal, even if exaggerated a bit, is better than being completely blind about what goes on in an advertising agency. By watching various depictions of the industry and the careers, I am able to decide if I would even want to take ad courses and be involved with such an industry.”

We also have recent survey data that may point to the impact media consumption can have on young people’s career choices. The 2018 DfE Omnibus survey of pupils and their parents/carers might give some hints as it includes responses on what sources of information young rated as offering helpful careers IAG

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“Any other source” is a term there that I am sure is a catch-all for a wide range of sources but I would suspect that “the media” (in all it’s guises for young people so including streaming services) is present. I’ve previously posted on the use of vloggers to attempt to capture a young audience and introduce them to a broader range of careers but more traditional narrative media, just streamed by young people on demand, may still play a large part. The BBC itself has found that young people watch more Netflix in a week than all of the BBC TV services. Just how binge worthy shows such as Chef’s Table or Better Call Saul are influencing young people’s views on hospitality or law careers remains to be seen, while free to air channels can still find success with formats that see celebrities trying out different job roles.

 

Again, the positive/negative view of the role or even the realism of the portrayal (I suspect few of the other midwives on Ms Willis’ ward will also be finding the time to design a range of home ware) may not matter. As the quoted research participant above notes, all it can take is the job being introduced to the viewer for the spark of interest to ignite.

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The Careers Leader Handbook review

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Whenever something new in education begins, be it a new policy or teaching approach, there is always the risk that soon enough will come bandwagon jumping books, resources and expert training gurus all preaching the gospel of the new.

Now that the requirement for all schools and colleges to have a named member of staff as a Careers Leader is in place, there has been training advertised, resources up for grabs and now a shiny new publication, “The Careers Leader Handbook: How to create an outstanding careers programme for your school or college” is just a click away from your Amazon basket.

The Handbook though comes with pedigree as Tristram Hooley and David Andrews (who I’m sure many readers of this blog will have met, been trained by or learnt a lot from at conferences along their professional CEIAG journey) both have a huge background and experience in CEIAG theory, policy and practice so readers should know that they are in good hands.

The experience and depth of policy knowledge of the pair is apparent throughout the book. Each section is enriched by the concise explanations of the wider context of why the suggested model or practice should be attempted and the focus on the positive outcomes for young people that could be achieved. The research and evidence background supporting provision is covered but always in a way that distills down the main points so readers come away with practical applications to work with young people.

Sections

The Handbook is split into sections with Section 2 devoted to each of the eight Gatsby Benchmarks, Section 3 looking at the role of a Careers Leader and Section 4 discussing the need for continuous improvement and learning in the future.

Looking at each Benchmark individually may seem like an obvious structure but it really does lend itself to concisely offering examples of provision that fits and understanding how all that provision can link together. The “Nutshell” recaps at the end of each chapter bullet point the key strands within the chapter and mean that you take away the clear messages.

The use of invented case studies also has benefits as most readers would see reflections of their own establishments via the stories of Dunchester Progress Academy & Vanchester College.

The grounded experience of the writers in real schools is apparent in the realistic examples of offering Careers through PHSE or drop down days on page 67. The accurate representation of how schools and colleges actually run continues in Section 3: The role of the Careers Leader (page 131) when describing the different models of staffing CEIAG in schools. Without rehashing the debate on the flexibility of the defined job of a Careers Leader, the detail on the expectations and responsibilities associated with the role would leave any reader in no doubt regarding the seniority required to properly fulfill the remit.

Elsewhere Chapters 2.7 Experiences of HE, FE and work based training & 2.8 Personal Guidance are excellent on not just on the aims of those aspects of CEIAG but also on the challenges and barriers to overcome to build quality provision in these areas. The Chapters tackle head-on the, sometimes difficult, conversations Careers Leaders need to have with colleagues and superiors to ensure that impartial and timely provision for pupils is in place.

Criticisms

Any worthwhile review provides a bit of balance. To do that for the Careers Leader Handbook I’m going to have to include some extremely pedantry things such as the misspelling of Janet Colledge’s (@careersdefender) surname on page 177 and the reference to the College version of the DfE Careers Guidance being “Statutory” on page 23 (it’s not, it’s DfE guidance overseen by Ofsted with the threat to remove ESFA funding if non compliance is discovered so it’s power is not derived from the Statute book as the list of Statutory duties for schools is).

I personally wouldn’t have included Grammar school examples of CEIAG programmes as best practice (page 26) for the same reasons as I criticised the CEC for including them in their publications but The Careers Leader Handbook does have a different remit and it is good to show that great CEIAG can be built in any type of school.

A more obvious issue is the uneasy relationship the book has with funding throughout. The need for money to be available to fund all of the suggested provision is not treated as a unmentionable elephant in the room, far from it, the scale of what Careers Leaders should be asking for from their Headteachers is spelled out clearly particularly in the chapters discussing personal guidance and Section 3 includes a whole passages on budgeting and resourcing. A strategic aim of the book seems to be to empower Careers Leaders to demand more from their Senior Leaders and budget holders and this is to be applauded but readers will still read some passages with a wry smile. On page 152 the line “A budget begins as a prediction of what is likely to happen over a particular period” would spark a hollow laugh from those Headteachers setting deficit budgets across the country. The treatment of evaluation also has a slightly less than real world tone to it. Even the pitiful amount of public money that school CEIAG departments are given still comes with the responsibility to report on the impact of that funding. So the advice to Careers Leaders when evaluating to

don’t ask: Does our programme have an impact? Do ask: Does providing students with labour market information result in them having broader ideas about possible careers?”

is not couched in the necessity of a Headteacher proritising funding. They need to know what has impact on their learners to decide which provision to direct their funds towards instead all of the other provision they could choose to fund. It seems that how a researcher would approach evaluation of provision and how practitioner must are two different strategies. Overall, the uneasy feeling comes from the assumption that this funding will be given. I understand that this is almost an implicit necessity (you could hardly have a “Section 5: What to do if your school doesn’t have a pot to pee in” then followed by 15 blank pages and a shrug gif) but it still leads to some slightly eyebrow raising moments.

Is it worth my (school’s) cash?

Of course, because it’s extremely interesting, knowledgeable and well written. Anyone currently offering CEIAG provision in schools or a sole trading Careers Adviser looking to work in schools should read it. FE and HE Careers practitioners should read it to understand just how far CEIAG policy and practice have come in the last few years. Policy makers looking at just what they are requiring of schools should read it. It complements and brings greater depth to the free resources which are linked to on page 127 from the CEC and has much potential for dipping back into to remind any Careers Leader of the purpose and possibility their work. This is not a resource to read and file away on undusted office shelf, this book should be a core component of any Career Leaders office desk ready to grab and consult throughout the journey in building your CEIAG programme.

Finding yourself

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From Reddit Get Motivated

It’s an appealing piece of writing and will ring true for many if they reflect on their career journey but I’m not sure if I completely agree with it with regard to careers theory.

It certainly contains elements of agreement with the growth and exploration phases of Super’s five life and career development stages but seems to start from a position that the individual is returning to a fixed, preordained destination that was always within them. It is a position that retreats from (the rightly much criticised) Dweck’s Mindset work.

The idea is positioned closely to Gottfredson’s Circumscription and Compromise theory which includes the self-reflection and actualization of the quote but Gottfredson also promotes the need for the individual to expose themselves to a wider range of experiences to aid the reflection process.

The idea in the image is closer to Parson’s “trait and match” basis of the client as an unmovable object who, before navigating the labour market along their favoured journey and perhaps even to find a satisfying destination, takes the time to undergo a process of deeper self realisation to understanding their aptitudes and interests. How experience has shaped these traits is not discussed, only that they are present and can be tested. This theory has its critiques in respect to it’s assumption on the stability of the labour market and the stability of the traits of the client. The quote in the image proposes the later and discounts the influence of experience gained along the journey being stripped away and, for that reason, it loses value for me.

 

 

 

 

 

Using images & visual starters in Career Guidance

With a h/t to @CareersResearch I found these examples from Katherine Jennick about her practice using visual starters and images in her 1:1 IAG work with her cohort of Key Stage 3 & 4 clients very interesting.

The discussion with Liane Hambly (from around 17 minutes in the video below) is an excellent CPD resource and, I would imagine, a very useful resource for any leaders of the Level 6 Career Guidance and Development Diploma. Give it a watch.

 

 

NICEC 2019 Conference – Changing boundaries: career, identity & self

The 16th & 15th April 2019 at the Chancellors Hotel and Conference Centre (google map link) will see the 2019 NICEC Conference (titled “Changing boundaries: career, identity and self) take place.

https://www.scribd.com/document/389398754/NICEC-Conference-Flyer

The Conference is open for ticket bookings through Eventbrite here:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/changing-boundaries-career-identity-and-self-an-international-conference-on-research-practice-and-tickets-48343197806

but is also open for workshop suggestions and leaders –

We invite contributions for workshops from a broad range of presenters conceptualising ‘changing boundaries’ in different ways to reflect the diversity in thinking and innovation in policy-making and practice.  Key questions that the conference aims to address include:

  • What influences career identity and the self?
  • Can disruption be fruitful?
  • What does the future look like?
  • What conceptualisations of career will be needed?
  • Where is the continuity and where is the change?

We welcome abstracts of up to 300 words for individual presentations (20 minutes) and up to 500 words for symposiums (one hour). Abstracts should be submitted to julia.yates.1@city.ac.uk by 31st October 2018.

I understand that CPD funding can be hard fought for and carefully allocated in these times but I would encourage you to consider dedicating some towards a conference which promises to be a thoughtful and considered look at the future of careers work.

NICEC

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The National Institute for Career Education & Counselling (NICEC) is a learning “Fellowship of people committed to understanding and developing career education and guidance practice and policy in the UK and across the globe” that has been in action since 1975.

I’ve been aware of the group and their work for many years through the NICEC Journal which I read with great interest when it landed in my pigeon-hole (back when you got a hard copy as part of a CDI membership) and have attended numerous workshops at events over the years led by a number of the Fellows.

The network is organised as group of invited Fellows and a membership of individuals interested in career theory and practice who then receive the Journal and are able to attend the networking and evening seminar events put on throughout the year.

An annual conference is also part of the offer with next year’s planned for April 16th 2019 with the theme of “Changing boundaries: career, identity, and self. An international conference on research, practice and policy in career development.

I post as I have been invited to join as a Fellow and feel extremely privileged to take up the offer.

Please do keep an eye out for future NICEC seminars that I will advertise and take a look at the Conference and, if you see something that interests you, sign up! I’ll see you there.

Think Small: The Surprisingly Simple Ways to Reach Big Goals – Nudging to better CEIAG outcomes

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I’ve posted before about the work of the Behavioural Insights Team (previously known as the Government nudge unit) and their work on designing and implementing changes to frameworks and procedures in the public and private spheres that result in greater positive gains.

Behavourial Science is a field with significant overlap in supporting CEIAG work. How young people make decisions at important transition points, why they aspire to certain routes, how people make and then stick with plans to enact change in their circumstances are all questions which mesh with Careers work both at the strategic, Government message level enacted via the Careers & Enterprise Company and at the much smaller, individual careers guidance sessions with clients level.

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Two of the team members are the latest to publish a book about their work. How “Think Small: The Surprisingly Simple Ways to Reach Big Goals” differs is that is takes the lessons from the big strategic projects the Insights Team have worked on and shows how the behavioural science theories then can be applied by individuals to their own circumstances.

As a read, I found the tone of book accessible but very convinced by the infallibility of behavioural economics as a science. They may have good reason to with the recent award of the Nobel Prize to Richard Thaler, but the absence of any mention of traditional psychological work or evolutionary science to explain behaviour and decision making is noticeable. Also obvious is the much repeated technique of involving the lives of the authors or their office colleagues to show how behavioural change techniques work for real people. While this is useful once or twice to show practical implications, by the fifth or sixth time the reader is hearing about Owain’s plan to balance his extremely well paid job with more exercise and the demands of his home life, your sympathy and interest does wane.

Spread throughout the book though are some fascinating nuggets that Careers practitioners could (and many probably already do to some extent) incorporate into practice.

For individual clients

Practitioners will know that an action plan should not merely be a wish list of future achievements but realistic steps which are time limited. This has shown to be effective for individuals across a wide range of public policy initiatives

Making a simple plan that sets out when, how and where you are going to follow through on your intentions has been shown to be effective at helping people to eat more fruit, increase public transport use, reduce discrimination, get more exercise, diet, improve academic performance, quit smoking and recycle more.

but for individuals the key seems to be linking actions to regular moments in a daily routine

you’re much more likely to follow through on the things you need to do to achieve it if you create a simple plan. And the best way of doing this is to create connections between moments in your daily routine and the actions you need to take.

and asking clients to write these action points down themsleves

The first, simple step, is to do exactly what the individuals in the re-running of the experiment did: write your commitment down.

Asking clients details of their daily routines to link commitments to is more the kind of intervention that a life coach would make rather than a careers practitioner but I could certainly see how a simple change towards the end of a guidance interview of asking the client to write their action points down themselves could drastically enhance the impact of that interview.

For longer term or returning clients, a practitioner may want to investigate more of the cycle of actions that “Think Small” proposes to spur change and adherence to that change.

SET

  • Choose the right goal
  • Focus on a single goal and set a clear target and deadline
  • Break your goal down into manageable steps

PLAN

  • Keep it simple
  • Create an actionable plan
  • Turn the plan into habits

COMMIT

  • Make a commitment
  • Write it down and make it public
  • Appoint a commitment referee

REWARD

  • Put something meaningful at stake
  • Use small rewards to build good habits
  • Beware of backfire effects

SHARE

  • Ask for help
  • Tap into your social networks
  • Use group power

FEEDBACK

  • Know where you stand in relation to your goal
  • Make it timely, specific, actionable and focused on effort
  • Compare your performance with others

STICK

  • Practice with focus and effort
  • Test and learn
  • Reflect and celebrate success

Some of those steps are common sense which any educator asking for improvement from a student would implement but steps such as “Put something meaningful at stake” (the book gives the example of wearing a rivals football shirt for a day at the office) can add a level of social fun that you can easily see working in practical situations with clients.

For cohorts

Many practitioners will also run group sessions for learners or work with year group cohorts. The book references studies that I’ve previously posted about that showed that sending letters of encouragement to high achieving young people in Year 12, “penned” by students from similar backgrounds, increased the number of applications and acceptances to Russell Group universities.  What may come as a blow to Careers practitioners though are the findings that presentations of data or talks

about the long-term benefits of attending university – are not effective. What does seem to work is pupils hearing about what it’s like to go to university from former pupils; such pupils inevitably dwelt on the lifestyle benefits as well as future career prospects.

In these instances it is the authenticity of the person delivering the message that seems to have the impact on learners rather the (ahem) more impartial or informed Careers practitioner. The lessons for practitioners is to ensure that their program of alumni engagement is collecting contact details and that a pool of ex students are ready to be approached to revisit their old haunts and deliver sessions to current learners alongside the impartial delivery. It is their stories that will help snowball your positive destination outcomes.

For us all

Careers practitioners will regularly speak to clients about the value of work and how different values appeal to different clients in finding job satisfaction and happiness at work. It seem though that a constant is there

if you rate your relationship with your boss one point higher on a ten-point scale, it is statistically equivalent to a 30 per cent pay rise

You have to find a good boss.

Overall

I would say that the book has some good lessons for CEIAG practitioners but readers should always be keeping in mind the wider literature around careers theory and social mobility. “Nudges” are clearly based upon interesting and provable behavioural science but the reasons that the State would employ such techniques (ease, low cost for return etc) are the opposite of the time intensive, personal service that CEIAG practitioners strive to offer clients.