The First Model

Ok, ok, this isn’t a trawl through the back issues of Hello Magazine to identify the ‘first’ ever model, instead a look at the FIRST Framework. I came across this model a few weeks ago and initially really connected with its simplicity. FIRST stands for: Focus, Information, Realism, Scope and Tactics. The dimensions of the FIRST framework can be used as a diagnostic tool to ascertain the stage the client is at in their career thinking.

  • Focus:  How far has the client narrowed down their options?
  • Information: How well-informed are they about the career options they are considering?
  • Realism: How realistic is the client (both in relation to own abilities and the constraints of the market)?
  • Scope: How aware is the client of the range of options available?
  • Tactics: To what extent has the client worked out the steps to achieve their career objectives?

In a recent careers discussion, I attempted to apply this framework and used it to establish the angle for exploration. For this client a key issue appeared to be Scope. My client was only applying for jobs with well-known employers even though there were a number of opportunities with medium-sized and less prestigious organisations. However by the end of the interview I began doubting my so called ‘diagnosis’ of the clients career thinking. Upon reflection I felt that my exploration was quite narrow and my diagnosis was perhaps too quick.

I started to apply the FIRST framework retrospectively. In doing this I questioned whether I had obtained a sense of the client’s awareness within all dimensions of the framework. What I took away was although the FIRST model is simple, an individuals career thinking and decision making isn’t. I was most certainly too quick in putting my client in a box.

  • What key questions would you ask a client within individual dimensions of the FIRST model?
  • What signs might indicate issues to address within each of these dimensions?
  • Do you think the FIRST model has a diagnostic application or is it more suited as a reflective tool?
  • Can you think of other ways you can bring the FIRST framework into your practice, especially into group work?

Further Reading

  • Bedford, T. (1982) Vocational Guidance Interviews Explored, London: Careers Service Branch, Department of Employment. (If you can find a copy!)
  • Gothard, B. & Mignot, P. (1999) Career counselling for the 21st Century – integrating theory and practice. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling 21 153–167

Related post: Are you like a quilt?

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  1. #1 by David Winter on 30 October 2009 - 23:44

    Would you be able to say more about how you applied the model retrospectively? What issues did you pick up in retrospect that you didn’t notice live?


  2. #2 by Saiyada Smith on 31 October 2009 - 10:49

    My application of the FIRST model in practice was more of a diagnostic checklist and this application put me in a position where I made a judgement about where client was lacking focus. I felt that the client was limiting the pool of employers to apply to and as a result I was very focused on the ‘outcome’ which was diagnosed very early in the interview – in this case was to raise the client’s awareness of other companies they could apply to.

    On reflection I picked up that I hadn’t really got a sense of how the client had come upon this particular career option, what options they had ignored, how they make decisions and crucially the factors influencing their ambition to work for prestigious employers. Perhaps my questioning was narrow either way applying the model as I did, I went with what the client was saying to me as opposed to what was implied and crucially what wasn’t said.

  3. #3 by Preti Chopra on 31 October 2009 - 17:32

    Thanks for such an honest reflection. I really enjoyed reading this post especially the fact the you were being experimental in your approach. I often wonder about these snazzy models, surely at the end of the day it is all about questioning and listening? Much of my training was based around the Egan model and although I have explored other techniques and tools, I very much feel ultimately a interview hinges on the core skills of the practioner and the maturity of the client.

    • #4 by David Winter on 31 October 2009 - 21:53

      As with theories, I think it often makes more sense to attempt to apply a model in retrospect rather than trying to use it live. This is especially true of ‘content models’ like FIRST – they tend to be really useful as reflective tools but harder to use in practice. Process models, like Egan, are easier to use on the day.

      However, not even the best model can substitute for effective listening.

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