Archive for March, 2010

The danger of goals and power

Archer aiming for the target

How long will it take to hit the target?

Two of the frequent aims of career coaching or counselling are to empower clients and to help them develop amibtious personal goals. Nothing could possibly be wrong with that, you might think.

However, according to studies performed by Mario Weick, from the University of Kent, and Ana Guinote, from University College London, people who experience feelings of power can seriously underestimate how long it will take to achieve their goals.

Weick, M., & Guinote, A. (2010). How Long Will It Take? Power Biases Time Predictions Journal of Experimental Social Psychology DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2010.03.005

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Decision makers want information…or do they?

Joe Friday - Dragnet 'Just the facts, ma'am'

Just the facts, ma'am.

In a paper soon to be published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Reeshad Dalal and Silvia Bonaccio tried to examine what decision makers want from people who give them advice.

See this post on the BPS Research Digest for a quick summary of the article.

The conclusion they came to was that people making decisions often prefer ‘the provision of information about alternatives’ to other types of advice or assistance.

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Which one of these is realistic?

In The Careers Group hold regular guidance forums. These are informal learning meetings for careers advisers to discuss any guidance related issues. The last forum was run by a couple of colleagues, Jeff and Tracy, who have some experience of different forms of coaching. During the meeting, Jeff demonstrated a technique to help people address a difficult situation they may be facing. This involved getting the ‘client’ to look at their situation from a number of different angles (literally by moving around) and different perspectives.

In this particular example, the ‘client’ had to perceive the situation from the viewpoint of their colourful stripey shirt, the window, the clock, their cat, etc. Each viewpoint really represented a different aspect of the client’s personality. The stripey shirt represented their fun-loving side. The clock represented their meticulous, slightly obsessive side. The window represented their forward thinking side. Etc.

All of these perspectives were generated by the client with spontaneous, intuitive guidance from Jeff. It was fascinating to watch and I could see how useful it might be to help a client break out of habitual ways of viewing their situation.

I have also observed an adviser experiment with a similar technique in which she got the client to look at her situation from the perspective of a hero or role model. Again, this was an inspiring bit of risk taking which worked really well.

However, in both cases I was left wondering how many clients or advisers would be comfortable with that level of improvisation and whether there might be some more structured way of approaching it.

Career theory to the rescue! Read the rest of this entry »

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Puppies and ping-pong balls

Imagine you are in a room alone with a Ping-Pong ball. If you repeatedly drop the ball from waist height, you can be fairly confident of correctly predicting that it will fall to the ground somewhere near your feet. We call this Scenario 1.

However, suppose now that an eager ball-chasing puppy is in the room with you and also that a strong electric fan is brought into the room, placed near you, and switched on. Now, when you drop the Ping-Pong ball, how certain can you be that the ball will land near your feet. Presumably much less certain, because the puppy might catch it or the fan might blow it off course. We call this Scenario 2.

Now suppose there is a pack of eager puppies in the room and a series of electric fans; someone has opened the window and a howling gale is blowing; and, furthermore, you are now obliged to stand on an electric treadmill programmed to randomly vary its speed! Now when you drop the ball, how confident are you that it will land near your feet? Indeed, how confident are you in making any prediction about where the ball might end up? We call this Scenario 3.

Bright, J.E.H. & Pryor, R.G.L. (2005) The chaos theory of careers: A user’s guide. Career Development Quarterly, 53(4), 291–305.
Sleeping puppies

Chasing ping pong balls is very tiring!

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The East and West of Careers Guidance

I was recently in Bangalore undertaking a graduate employability research visit. The highlight of my trip was a meeting with colleagues from The Promise Foundation – a not-for-profit organisation involved in some ground breaking careers work in India. The ‘Promise’ team is made up of behavioural scientists who examine theory to develop careers interventions that are relevant to the Indian context. We spent time learning about the Jiva project and observed elements of the programme being applied in a local school.

I had a fascinating discussion with Sachin Kumar a fellow ‘Theories Geek’ and the Jiva Programme’s Project Manager about the concept of a career in the Indian context. I understood from Sachin that a major difference between the east and west in regards to career decision making is the notion of individualism and collectivism. In the west career planning focuses on the individual, his or her interests, skills and aptitudes; this coupled with the mobility across occupations gives the individual a sense of freedom with their career decision making. Where as in India, family and the wider society are very much intrinsic to the individuals career beliefs, aspirations and decisions. For example, divergence from family and parental directions could be taken as disobedience. A further layer of complexity within India was its caste system where the work one was expected to perform was based on the caste you were born into. Read the rest of this entry »

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How to read academic articles…

Pile of books

My reading pile

…and stay sane

One of my colleagues recently asked me how I manage to do all the reading necessary to write this blog. The sad part of the answer is that I’m such a geek that I do read stuff in my spare time. However, that’s not the whole story. I have had to learn two things:

  1. how to extract useful titbits from pieces of writing which seem to have been designed with the sole purpose of obscuring the meaning from any normal human being
  2. how to do this without wasting too much time and energy, and without wearing away the remaining fragile shreds of my sanity

‘How nice for you,’ you might say, ‘but what’s it got to do with us?’

Well, Section 8 of the QAA’s Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education, which deals with career education, information, advice and guidance, has been recently revised. Under principle 8 of this section is the following statement:

Institutional guidance workers will keep up to date with the findings of relevant research organisations, including the National Institute for Careers Education and Counselling (NICEC) and the International Centre for Guidance Studies (ICeGS), and will seek to disseminate key findings and developments to other staff involved in providing CEIAG.

So, to help our institution to pass its audits and reviews with flying colours, we should be engaging with stuff that careers and employability researchers are producing, and we should be able to explain what we learn to anyone else working on employability with students.

Part of the job of this blog is to help you with that, but there’s nothing like a bit of DIY. Read the rest of this entry »

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Does it flow?


Go with it...

Have you ever been… in the zone … in the pipe … in the groove … with your head in the game … on the ball … lost in concentration … in hackmode?

Hearing about the ‘experiencing self’ from the post on Daniel Kahneman’s TED talk, made me think of the concept of Flow developed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (apparently pronounced Me-high-ee Cheek-sent-me-high-ee). When watching artists and composers as part of his research he would often see them so intent on their work that they were oblivious to the outside world. I can remember that feeling from times in the past when I did a lot of painting. Sometimes I would start soon after I woke up and when I finished it would be dark outside and I’d be stiff, starving and desperate for a pee. I hadn’t noticed anything apart from what I was creating. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tell me what you like

I would love for all the people who visit this site to comment on the posts. However, I realise that it can be quite intimidating and time-consuming to commit your thoughts to writing, even though you really don’t have to dazzle anyone with your erudition.

Send me your requests

One way you can use comments is to tell me what you would like me to blog about. If there is a particular aspect of career theory (or anything to do with careers work) you would like me to turn my attention to, please let me know.

Rate what you read

There is another way that you can give me some feedback that requires nothing more than a click of the mouse. At the bottom of each post there is an opportunity to rate it. If you really enjoyed a post, let me know. If you thought it wasn’t up to my usual standards, take me to task.

I know from my stats that plenty of people are visiting this blog and I would like to hear from you in one way or another.

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How do colonoscopies relate to career change?

This fascinating 20 minute talk by Daniel Kahneman on happiness and the difference between the ‘experiencing self’ and the ‘remembering self’ has so many thought-provoking ideas in it, but I’m just going to focus on one. And I’m going to try to link having a camera inserted where the sun doesn’t shine to working with people who are changing career and a narrative approach.

Read the rest of this entry »

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