Archive for August, 2010

Awkward questions

 

Question mark made of puzzle pieces

Building a bigger picture from questions

 

Recently on Twitter, I’ve been tweeting about ‘Questions people don’t ask often enough’. (The most recent questions have their very own hash tag #questionyourself – wish I’d thought of it sooner.)

These questions have arisen in my work with clients. Quite often they are the questions the client should have been asking themselves. Sometimes, finding the right question for a particular client will stop them in their tracks. You can see their perspective changing as they start to think in new ways about their situation.

Most of the questions relate to career decision making, but some of them are broader and could apply to many aspects of life.

Because Twitter has long-term memory problems, I thought it might be useful to keep a list of the questions here on the blog.

I was going to try to link these questions to career theory in some way but Bill Law has saved me the effort by using some of them in a new article on Career Learning Theory (PDF).

I will add to the list as I tweet new questions.

Some of these questions have been suggested by other people or have arisen from discussions with thought-provoking individuals. Where this is the case, I’ve tried to give due credit.

I’m happy to take suggestions for other questions here or via Twitter.

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A strengths-based approach in careers guidance

I would like to thank Elaine Denniss from The Careers Group for contributing this guest posting. — David.

World's strongest kid

‘… One cannot build on weakness. To achieve results, one has to use all the available strengths…  These strengths are the true opportunities’ (Drucker, 1967)

In preparing to facilitate a recent Guidance Forum on using a strengths-based approach in careers guidance, I revisited some of the positive psychology and strengths-based literature. Because of this, I have been reflecting further on how I can incorporate some of the ideas, theories and approaches into my careers work.

The positive psychology and strengths-based movement has been gaining momentum over recent years with a growing body of research demonstrating the benefits of positive emotion and focusing on our strengths for our life and our work.   In emphasising strengths rather than weaknesses, positive psychology moves us away from the Negativity Bias whereby we find it easier to pay attention to what’s wrong or areas requiring development.  The concept of strengths appeared in business literature with Peter Drucker (1967) and subsequently through the vision of Donald Clifton of The Gallup Organisation and the work of Martin Seligman in the field of positive psychology.

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Solution-focused peer support

I would like to thank Rebecca Valentine from Edinburgh University for contributing this guest posting. — David.
Rubik Cube - What's the solution?

What's the solution?

Here at the University of Edinburgh Careers Service we have regular guidance issues forums where the careers advisers get together to look at new developments and to discuss client case studies.  A while ago I was asked to facilitate a case-study forum using a solution-focused team model.

The model comes from solution focused brief therapy (SFBT), an approach I first came across during my time as a Connexions Adviser South of the border. Instead of concentrating on problems and looking to the past to see how they have come about, SFBT seeks to focus on preferred futures and how they might be realised.

One of the key principles of SFBT is that the client and helper develop a collaborative partnership in which the helper encourages their client to find their own resources and solutions to tackle the problem. Central to SFBT is the belief that the client already has the solutions; they just need help to discover them. It’s also about identifying small steps that can be taken; big problems do not always need a big solution. SFBT often involves the client making small changes in their lives that can have big consequences.

Since being introduced to SFBT, I have continued to use some of the core techniques in my one-to-one practice and I find it to be a particularly useful approach with clients who present as overly negative, or when the discussion gets bogged down in “problem talk”.

A few years ago Bristol Solutions Group developed a reflective practice team model based on the principles of SFBT (see O’Connell & Palmer 2003 for details). It’s this model that I encountered during my time at Connexions. I saw it used very effectively on a number of occasions in multi-agency forums where professionals would come together to discuss difficult cases. I discussed the format with my colleague here at Edinburgh and we decided to give it a go in one of our guidance issues forums.

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Boundaries on the boundaryless?

Catbells, Lake District

No boundaries on the way to the top

In the July/August edition of the Harvard Business Review, Monika Hamori writes about research she has been conducting on the career histories of 1,001 US and European chief executives. In the article she seeks to challenge what she claims are a number of  fallacies propagated by career coaches:

  1. ‘Job-hoppers prosper’ — she claims that people whose careers were concentrated within a small number of organisations get to the top jobs more rapidly than those who hop between organisations frequently.
  2. ‘A move should be a move up’ — she claims that lateral moves are as valid and important as promotions in career success.
  3. ‘Big fish swim in big ponds’ — she reports that many successful people have moved between larger, well-known organisations and smaller, less-prominent ones.
  4. ‘Career and industry switchers are penalised’ — she indicates that a significant proportion of successful people have switched industries at some point.

I will avoid commenting on whether these are actually messages that career coaches promulgate (other than to mutter the phrase ‘straw man‘ under my breath). Instead, I will go with my original train of thought when I read the article, which was something like: ‘Is this a mixture of good news and bad news for the boundaryless career?’.

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Trust your audience

I wanted to share with you a eureka moment I had recently while running a workshop with a group of speech and drama PhD researchers.  It was a full day workshop on career planning and we were reaching the dreaded dead zone (after lunch but before afternoon coffee) and moving into the discussion on networking.

Networking seems to invoke fear in the hearts of many, the idea of self-promotion really does go against all things English (and most other English-based cultures).  I got the conversation going by running the following clip:

This clip always leads to great conversations (and usually a lot of laughing) about awkward networking situations that people have experienced.

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