Archive for December, 2009
Impact of a recession on beliefs
How will the recession affect the world-view beliefs of those young people living through it?
A discussion paper from the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Germany, analyses certain beliefs held by United States citizens and tries to link these beliefs with an individual’s exposure to recessions. They found that people who experienced a recession during a key impressionable age range (18-25 years old) were more likely to believe that success in life was down to luck rather than hard work. They also found that this belief tended to persist throughout the person’s life.
This belief that success in life is beyond your control can lead someone to make less effort, which then makes the belief a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Should we be working with the students currently at university in order to encourage a belief in the benefits of effort and hard work?
- Do you think it would be useful to let students know about this research directly?
- What do you attribute success to?
In his book, Understanding Careers: The metaphors of working lives, Kerr Inkson uses the stories of a number of celebrities to illustrate particular career theories. I thought I would follow suit.
The career of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer provides a clear illustration of many of the theory ideas we have talked about in this blog. The vocational choices available to a reindeer in Lapland provide a very limited opportunity structure. You very rarely hear of reindeer becoming accountants, doctors or weather presenters. In fact, aside from sleigh pulling, the only other accessible destinations would appear to be venison burgers and fur coats. It is easy to imagine Rudolph circumscribing these options fairly quickly.
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.
As the employment market continues to be difficult with more graduates going for fewer jobs, employers are seeking ways to handle the increase in applicants.
I was struck by the contrast between the approaches of two retail graduate recruiters reported in the news recently. In one case, in order to reduce the number of applications they have to sift, the recruiter is said to have raised their minimum acceptable degree classification from a 2:2 to a 2:1. In the other case, they have introduced an on-line pre-screening test of situational judgement based on common work situations.
I don’t know of any research that links degree classification to one’s ability to perform as a retail manager, but there is quite a bit of research that links degree classification to socio-economic background. On the other hand, I can imagine that testing one’s ability to think clearly about certain common work situations could correlate to job effectiveness.
I can completely understand the desire of graduate recruiters to reduce their workload when faced with a flood of applications, but I wonder if they think through all the possible unintended consequences of arbitrary grade requirement inflation. It may mean in the future that it won’t just be the professions that are disproportionately populated by the socially advantaged.
- When visiting employers, how often do you question them about their awareness of the unintentional unfairness of their recruitment practices?
Related post: Poor students!
Having recently run a workshop on differences in cultural communication, my eye was caught by a fascinating study just published in the Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology. The authors were looking into the explanations people from different countries gave for their career changes. The reasons given were divided into internal factors (e.g. desire for a change, wanting to develop) and external factors (e.g. organisational restructuring, luck). So far, so standard attribution theory.
The interesting bit was when they looked at country differences. The career changers from the USA exclusively gave internal reasons for change, whereas those in China gave mostly external reasons. Career changers in Europe tended to offer a mixture.
Tristram Hooley who writes the blog Adventures in career development (and who also happens to be the Head of the International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS) at the University of Derby) recently posted about a symposium that he was hosting. He wanted to develop a number of questions to get the discussion going. I liked his questions about guidance so much that I’m just quoting them here: