Why am I here? (Part One)

Recently, I have been asking myself what is my purpose as a careers adviser. I’ve been examining a few assumptions about what my role is and should be. This questioning has been prompted by various things, amongst which are: a reminder of something I had forgotten, a self-imposed target, a good read and a constrained conversation. I would like to describe those things in this post and then talk about my thoughts in relation to them in the next post.

The reminder came in the form of a blog post by Tristram Hooley on The Politics of Guidance in which he describes Tony Watts’ typology of guidance ideologies. Check it out and then come back.

When I saw the post, I remembered reading about Watts’ framework when I was slogging through the theories module of my guidance qualification. At the time, I was struggling to get to grips with working with clients. I didn’t pay much attention to this bit of thinking because I couldn’t see how it would help me in my immediate day-to-day work.

Maybe what prepared me to pay attention to the idea this time round was the fact that I had started writing this blog and I had set myself the target of writing a certain number of posts each week. This meant I was casting around for things to write about. Fortunately, the Unleashing Aspirations report was published and I thought ‘This’ll be a good thing to blog about.’ However, the more I read it, the angrier I got about the structures within society that create barriers for people and the assumptions of those in power about what our role in this should be. I was primed to think about politics and ideologies. This was reinforced by reading the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell which looked at the social structures that impact on individual success (I blogged about this too, of course).

Finally, the constrainted conversation.

Alongside the blog, I started experimenting with Twitter and was intrigued to find that Bill Law was on there, tweeting away. One theme that he seemed to be developing was the idea that ‘work has a carbon footprint — and that knowing about work’s emissions ranks with knowing about work’s requirements and rewards’. After a few of these tweets I decided to try to engage him in conversation. Here’s our discussion in bursts of 140 characters or less.

1. billaw: Guidance sees work as personally fulfilling – but most people see it for family survival – how many see it as making a useful difference?
2. davidawinter: It’s not a case of either/or. Many people want all three – personal meaning, a living, social meaning. It’s the balance!
3. billaw: Fulfilment or what? – my thoughts are that the balance is shifting – & guidance might focus too much on fulfilment
4. davidawinter: But if social meaning increasingly directs and defines personal fulfilment, is there a problem?
5a. billaw: Making a contribution in necessary conflict with seeking fulfilment? – no – but with competitive-employability? – sometimes
5b. billaw: Work has a carbon footprint – & matching ‘aspiration’ to ‘opportunity’ intensifies it – we could start in another way
6a. davidawinter: Does this mean we have to become social engineers?
6b. davidawinter: Role of environmental campaigners = make people want low carbon jobs. Role of careers advisers = facilitate that choice…?
7a. billaw: Guidance for choice – it’s a neat idea – but no choice is made in a social vacuum – not domestically, locally or globally
7b. billaw: Work is done with, for, and in response to other people – working always means engaging with what kind of attention to give to whom and what
7c. billaw: The domestic, local & global work environment is changing – so must we – our models deal with too little of this
8. davidawinter: Push girls into science. Push disadvantaged into professions. Push everyone into low-carbon careers. Whose ‘pushing’ agenda wins?
9. billaw: Who said pushing? – enabling means that ‘whatever you do, know that you could have done something else – and still might’
10. davidawinter: But will it be perceived/reported as ‘My careers adviser told me to get a low carbon job’?
11a. billaw: OK, my fault – I doubt that IAG workers can do much of this anyway – the matching apparatus will not cope
11b. billaw: So we need to talk about what ’guidance’ can mean – at the greatest extent of its potential – now would be the time
12. davidawinter: If guidance = matching, we have a problem. If guidance = inspiring & equipping to think for oneself, green agenda might fit
13. billaw: Oh yes! – could this be agreement?

So, these were the sparks that started my questioning. In the next post I will try to explain how they are affecting my thoughts and attempt to ask a few challenging questions.

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  1. Why am I here? (Part Two) « Careers – in Theory

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