In Part One I outlined four triggers that have started me thinking about the purpose of guidance. In this post I want to share some of those thoughts. They are not complete thoughts by any means and are mostly in the form of questions.
How green is my guidance?
When Bill Law started making comments on Twitter that an awareness of climate change should be a key component of career guidance, I had an uncomfortable reaction. ‘How is this my job?’ I thought, ‘Surely, we should be responding to the client’s priorities rather than forcing them to think about global/societal issues if they don’t want to.’
I suspect a lot of careers advisers would respond the same way. Many of us have been brought up with a client-centred, non-directive approach (dare I say indoctrinated?). We have a voice in our heads which says, ‘We are not here to influence the client. The client knows best what they want. We are merely facilitators.‘ But is that entirely true? Has it ever been true?
The more I think about it, the more I realise that quite a bit of my job is getting clients to think about things they haven’t considered before. I introduce them to new ways of interpreting information and help them to recognise factors that they have not yet incorporated into their decision-making. Why should a factor as important as climate change be excluded from that?
When we provide guidance to someone, we are helping them to think about the future. I have long believed that guidance is about helping people to make future life choices not just career choices, but maybe my horizons have been limited. Am I being sufficiently holistic, thinking about the global system in which these choices are being made and thinking far enough into the future? I will regularly encourage people to think about how their choices will impact on those close to them, but should I also be encouraging them to think about the impact on future generations? I will often prompt people to think about the long-term personal costs and benefits of various courses of action, but should I also be prompting them to think about the long-term global costs and benefits?
However, I can still here a little voice inside me saying, ‘Why is it down to me to push this green agenda?’
The hidden dangers of believing we are being non-directive
This is why I find Tony Watts’ typology such an interesting challenge. Many advisers with a counselling-influenced training would probably believe they are firmly within a non-directive (Liberal) ideology. Even the go-ahead coaching types are likely to be in the arena of individual change ideology (Progressive). But do both of these approaches just focus on the individual and assume that the social issues are nothing to do with them? Is there a danger that by ignoring the social aspects we inadvertently assume that we operate in a system that cannot be changed? If this is the case, do we sometimes slip unawares into the social control ideology? Do we spend too much time trying to help pegs (clients) who are trying fit themselves into existing holes without ever questioning the validity of these holes? The current labour market is based on principles of economic growth that have led to environmental damage and deep social injustice. Should we be helping clients to think about sustainability of employment in its fullest sense?
I’m increasingly thinking that we need to explore whether we can take an approach that consciously straddles all four sectors. I have major questions about how we could do this. How could we incorporate this into guidance practice without it looking like an artificial bolt-on just designed to push one particular political agenda?
I’m also interested in how we engage more with social change. I’ve become a bit obsessed with arbitrary selection criteria that introduce indirect discrimination amongst other things. But what can we do about it? I don’t hear much from the guidance professional bodies when it comes to engaging in public debate on such issues – perhaps because they are populated with people who have been brought up with a non-directive ideology.
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