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!

The first thought that came to mind was Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats. This is a well-established technique for helping with decision making in which you spend a certain amount of time wearing one of six coloured hats (figuratively). Each hat represents a particular type of thinking style.

  • White hat just looks objectively at the facts and figures.
  • Red hat looks from the perspective of emotional impact and gut instinct.
  • Black hat is pessimistic and looks for the flaws and potential problems.
  • Yellow hat is optimistic and tries to identify benefits and potentials.
  • Green hat applies creativity and curiosity to look at the situation from novel angles.
  • Blue hat coordinates the overall process and assesses which hat to use next.

The apparent benefit of this method is that it forces you to stay with a particular type of thinking until you have gained all the potential insights rather than flitting from one to the other in a haphazard fashion.

Holland's RIASEC typologyMy next thought was that we career theory geeks have a ready-made six hats model which could be used in the same way. Please welcome on stage Mr John Holland and his six RIASEC hats!

If someone is facing a difficult career decision you could try to get them to think about it from the perspective of the six different sides of the hexagon.

It might work like this.

Think about someone you know (an acquaintance or someone famous or a fictional character) who is very…

  • Realistic — A really pragmatic person who is down to earth and just likes to get on with things.
  • Investigative — A really curious person who is good at analysing and solving problems.
  • Artistic — A really creative person who comes up with lots of original ideas and sees things from unusual angles.
  • Social — A really caring person who likes to think about other people and the wider impact on society.
  • Enterprising — A really commercially-aware person who sees the potential in opportunities and can persuade people.
  • Conventional — A really systematic person who pays attention to the details and acts cautiously.

Take each one in turn and spend time thinking about what they would say about your situation. What questions would they ask? What would they think was particularly significant? What advice would they give you? What would they do if they were in your shoes?

Having gone through each position, think about which perspective, or combination of perspectives, offered you the most useful insight. Think about how you could change your behaviour based on the new viewpoints.

What do you think? Can you see it working?

Related post: Can you disagree with yourself?


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