Posts Tagged social cognitive

Career theory starter kit

Beam Engine Kit by Phil_Parker

James Watt wasn't really into career theory

Multi-theoretical rather than meta-theoretical

I am highly wary of people who take only one theoretical perspective.

No matter how rich and multi-dimensional your theory is, no matter how many other theories it incorporates and subsumes, it’s still only a theory. It will never account for all of the variety, complexity and general messiness of real live people in real live environments.

The real problem with only taking one theoretical perspective is that you become subject to the Law of the Instrument (or Maslow’s hammer).

Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding. (Abraham Kaplan)

It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail. (Abraham Maslow)

If you only have one theoretical perspective, you only have one set of concepts by which you interpret a client’s situation. Because of confirmation bias, you will tend to look for things that fit in with those concepts and you may fail to notice things which don’t fit.

It is tempting to force the facts to fit the concepts and limit what you notice to things that you can describe easily in your frame of reference.

That’s why I shy away from big theories which seek to do everything and try to collect lots of simpler theories that look at career decisions from very different angles. Phil McCash from Warwick University has described this as ‘theoretical triangulation‘.

So, if you’re just venturing out into the world of career theory, which theories should you start with? Here are my suggestions, with no sound scientific basis, just my personal preferences.

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Social mobility needs more than paid internships

It's not just about providing the right footholds...

The UK Government recently released Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers: A Strategy for Social Mobility.

The report quotes some depressing statistics about social mobility in the UK.

  • Only one in five young people from the poorest families achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths, compared with three quarters from the richest families.
  • 25% of children from poor backgrounds fail to meet the expected attainment level at the end of primary school, compared to 3% from affluent backgrounds.
  • Almost one in five children receive free school meals, yet this group accounts for fewer than one in a hundred Oxbridge students.
  • Only a quarter of boys from working-class backgrounds get middle-class (professional or managerial) jobs.
  • Just one in nine of those with parents from low income backgrounds reach the top income quartile, whereas almost half of those with parents in the top income quartile stay there.
  • Only 7% of the population attend independent schools, but the privately educated account for more than half of the top level of most professions, including 70% of high court judges, 54% of top journalists and 54% of chief executive officers of FTSE 100 companies.
  • The influence of parental income on the income of children in Britain is among the strongest in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. Parental income has over one and a half times the impact on male incomes in Britain compared with Canada, Germany and Sweden.

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Believe it or not

Believe

Some beliefs are junk

The recent post on Transactional Analysis looked at certain belief patterns (or scripts) that can determine the way people live out their lives and their careers. Beliefs are also at the heart of the highly influential Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) developed in 1994 by Robert Lent, Steven Brown and Gail Hackett. This was based on the broader Social Cognitive Theory proposed by Albert Bandura.

The two key types of belief in SCCT are:

  • Self-efficacy — Your beliefs about what you are capable of — your confidence in your ability to perform certain tasks effectively.
  • Outcome expectations — Your beliefs about what is likely to result from behaving in certain ways or taking particular actions.

This is great. I find it really useful to work with clients’ belief systems and a handy way of analysing them is good. However, it’s a bit broad. I would quite like a slightly longer list of common types of beliefs to be on the look out for.

John D. Krumboltz (who had a hand in Planned Happenstance) also developed a theory based on Bandura, which he called the Social Learning Theory of Career Decision Making (SLTCDM – snappy!). Linked to this he developed the Career Beliefs Inventory. This has 25 different scales intended to diagnose potentially problematic belief areas.

This is great too, but it’s a bit too big (and expensive). I want something simpler that I can carry around in my head.

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