Posts Tagged challenge

Cultural beliefs in careers guidance

As promised, I am writing a follow-up to The East and West of Careers Guidance.  Since posting the article I have been thinking about one of our alumni (who I will call Priti) who gave feedback about her experience of Careers Guidance in the UK:

The adviser was very nice, she asked me lots of questions about my career decision making and made me think about what had led me to my career choice. I did at the end of the interview feel very sad. Although she made me think, I knew I couldn’t change my social situation or career decision. I guess although we spoke the same language we ultimately didn’t understand one another.

According to the Social Learning Theory of Career Decision Making (SLTCDM), people’s beliefs (or generalisations) about themselves and the world of work influence their approach to learning new skills, developing new interests, setting career goals, making career decisions, and taking action toward career goals. John D Krumboltz, who developed SLTCDM and was also behind Planned Happenstance, went on to say that beliefs can become so ingrained that they may not be identified by their holders as beliefs – they are taken to be unquestioned, self-evident truths.

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The East and West of Careers Guidance

I was recently in Bangalore undertaking a graduate employability research visit. The highlight of my trip was a meeting with colleagues from The Promise Foundation – a not-for-profit organisation involved in some ground breaking careers work in India. The ‘Promise’ team is made up of behavioural scientists who examine theory to develop careers interventions that are relevant to the Indian context. We spent time learning about the Jiva project and observed elements of the programme being applied in a local school.

I had a fascinating discussion with Sachin Kumar a fellow ‘Theories Geek’ and the Jiva Programme’s Project Manager about the concept of a career in the Indian context. I understood from Sachin that a major difference between the east and west in regards to career decision making is the notion of individualism and collectivism. In the west career planning focuses on the individual, his or her interests, skills and aptitudes; this coupled with the mobility across occupations gives the individual a sense of freedom with their career decision making. Where as in India, family and the wider society are very much intrinsic to the individuals career beliefs, aspirations and decisions. For example, divergence from family and parental directions could be taken as disobedience. A further layer of complexity within India was its caste system where the work one was expected to perform was based on the caste you were born into. Read the rest of this entry »

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Does it flow?

Flow

Go with it...

Have you ever been… in the zone … in the pipe … in the groove … with your head in the game … on the ball … lost in concentration … in hackmode?

Hearing about the ‘experiencing self’ from the post on Daniel Kahneman’s TED talk, made me think of the concept of Flow developed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (apparently pronounced Me-high-ee Cheek-sent-me-high-ee). When watching artists and composers as part of his research he would often see them so intent on their work that they were oblivious to the outside world. I can remember that feeling from times in the past when I did a lot of painting. Sometimes I would start soon after I woke up and when I finished it would be dark outside and I’d be stiff, starving and desperate for a pee. I hadn’t noticed anything apart from what I was creating. Read the rest of this entry »

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The benefits of pessimism

Normal Distribution

Normal distribution - thin tail

Last week I learnt a new piece of jargon. A ‘fat-tail event’ is something that you thought was virtually impossible, but it happened anyway. In theory, it could be very good or very bad, but it usually refers to something extremely unpleasant, such as a financial crisis.

The phrase comes from statistics. Many randomly occurring events (such as the height of the person you sit next to on the bus) are assumed to follow what is called a Normal Distribution (the classic ‘bell-shaped curve’). So you are more likely to sit next to someone around average height and less likely to sit next to someone really short or really tall. With the Normal Distribution the probability of something really unusual happening tails off really rapidly the further away you get from the average — it has a thin tail.

Fat Tail

See the fat tail!

However, some things in the real world don’t follow the Normal Distribution curve. Instead of a thin tail, they have a fat tail. This means that certain extreme possibilities are more likely than you might think.

I was quite pleased to be able to use my newly discovered jargon in a session on negotiation skills I was running last week. I was talking about the usefulness of assessing any negotiated deal by imagining how it would look if subsequent events turned out a lot better or a lot worse than you were expecting (e.g. your fixed-rate mortgage doesn’t look so good if the Bank of England cuts rates to zero).

A black swan

Does this black swan have a fat tail?

A related term for unexpected events is a Black Swan, coined by author Nassim Nicholas Taleb. This is the unexpected event which you could not have predicted based on your previous experience and derives from the fact that, until they were discovered in the 17th century, most Europeans thought that black swans could not exist.

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The fun theory

A while ago I was running a workshop on career choice. After we had explored all the various things that one should be doing to increase one’s chances of making a good decision, one of the participants looked at me with a rather glum expression and said ‘That sounds like too much hard work! Even though I know I should do it, I’m not sure I will. It’s not much fun.’

I had to agree with her. The way I was presenting it made it sound really onerous, responsible and worthy. Surely, there must be another way!

OK, The Fun Theory isn’t a career theory, it’s not really a theory at all. It’s a competition and marketing initiative by Volkswagen which involves coming up with ideas to encourage people to do responsible things (such as recycling and doing more exercise) by making them more fun. See the video below for a way to get people to take the stairs rather than the escalator.

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Twisting the kaleidoscope

In our work with foundation doctors choosing their specialties, I pose a number of questions to help them to think about their choice in more depth. One of these questions is, ‘Have you thought about how your priorities will change over time?’ One of the female doctors accused me of aiming this question specifically at women because they are the ones likely to have to consider issues of work-family balance. However, many of the male doctors I’ve spoken to have also raised the issue of working hours and their impact on life outside work.

Last week the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published the research report Working Better: Fathers, family and work – contemporary perspectives. This quote from the conclusions sums up the main findings of the research.

The findings from this survey show that fathers’ attitudes towards parenting do not appear to match the reality of their work and care arrangements. Their rejection of traditional views, dissatisfaction with the time they spend with their children and their strong support for extended paternity leave shows a willingness to be involved in the day-to-day care of their children. In practice, however, most fathers still work full time, and many work long hours.

See the press release for other key highlights. In the report, they admit that the figures may be unrepresentative because men who are actively involved in sharing responsibilities for parenting are more likely to respond to the survey. Similarly, male doctors who are particularly concerned about work-life balance may be more likely to attend optional career management sessions.

Aaah! Pretty!

Ooooh! Pretty!

In 2005 Lisa Mainiero and Sherry Sullivan introduced the concept of Kaleidoscope Careers as a way to describe the changing priorities over the course of a person’s working life.

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