Archive for category Journeys

How stable are work values?

Icarus by Steve Jurvetson

Think of your work values as the navigational guidance system for your career... oh!

How much do your work values change over time?

Are there times when your work values change more than others?

How much are your work values influenced by what is happening around you?

Do you adjust your values according to what is available to you?

Do some generations have more stable work values than others?

These are just some of the questions that a new meta-analysis by Jing Jin and James Rounds from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign tries to answer.

But first… what are work values?

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Cultural or universal

dharma wheel by Michael Hartford (mhartford)

Universal concepts

In The East and West of Careers Guidance, my colleague Saiyada talked about the Jiva project promoting career development counselling in India.

A recent paper by G. Arulmani (2011) expands on some of the cultural concepts that underlie this approach to careers work. I have my reservations about the research presented in the paper which claims to demonstrate that grounding career education in a culturally relevant framework is more effective than applying more universalist approaches.

This may well be true, but it’s really hard to tell from the details give of the differences between the two approaches used in the research whether the greater effectiveness is down to the cultural relevance or just down to providing a more coherent conceptual framework for the career development activities.

Aside from these concerns about the research methods, I do find the concepts derived from Asian spiritual traditions very thought provoking, especially when comparing them to equivalent concepts from Western career development theory.

Apologies in advance for my over-simplification of these concepts.

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Intentional change

beforeafter by My brain hurts! (Meik Weissert)

I wonder if that’s how he pictured his ideal self…

How does change happen?

What motivates change?

What makes a change sustainable?

Richard Boyatzis, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Case Western Reserve University, has the answers… or maybe an answer: Intentional Change Theory.

Professor Boyatzis has earned a mention on this blog previously for a natty little theory he developed with David Kolb (of learning styles fame)  about the various modes of performance, learning and development one goes through repeatedly in one’s career. He is also a researcher, writer and speaker on the subject of emotional intelligence.

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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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Existential thoughts

Life in the room of confusion

Many of the modern career theories and approaches to guidance have moved away from the focus on objective measures of person-environment fit to an increasing emphasis on the importance of personal meaning within career choice.

But what about meaninglessness?

Shouldn’t we be looking at that too?

If we want to spend time pondering the essential pointlessness of all human activity, where better to go than existentialism?

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Are you a career pioneer?

One of the questions I am frequently asked by other career professionals whom I train and mentor is ‘Can you recommend a good book on career theory?’ Up until a few years ago my answer would have been Career Theory and Practice: Learning Through Case Studies by Jane Swanson and Nadya Fouad, two professors of psychology from the States. I liked it because it was aimed at guidance practitioners. Each of the theories covered was applied to a client case study.

Understanding careers - book cover

I'm not jealous!

I still think it is a very good book, but a few years ago it was supplanted at the top of my list of recommendations by Understanding Careers: The metaphors of working lives from New Zealand professor of management, Kerr Inkson. I have a love-hate relationship with this book. How can you not love a book on career theory which starts a chapter on the narrative approach to careers with a quote from the 80s hit Don’t you want me, baby by the Human League. It is very comprehensive, thought-provoking, practical and exceptionally readable for a book on career theory. I hate it because… I wish I had written it!

However, this book was not the first time I had come across Kerr Inkson. Read the rest of this entry »

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What happened to my mid-life crisis?

For several years now I have been expecting something to happen. I’ve been looking out for an unexpected attraction to leather trousers and a hitherto unexpressed fascination with Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

As each birthday passes and I discover I still haven’t given up all of my worldly possessions and trekked off to the Himalayas to ‘find myself’, I increasingly wonder what’s wrong with me.

Harley Davidson motorbike

No…still nothing!

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Classics – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Do you get sick of the succession of students falling over themselves to obtain a career in ‘The City’? Even the credibility-destroying events that led to the worst recession in decades don’t seem to have deterred the lemming charge of undergraduates towards this particular high cliff. And when you ask them why they are interested in this type of career, there is one word which falls from their lips with depressing predictability — money.

Are these young people hopelessly materialistic? Is their only notion of value linked to the size of their potential bonus? If you look at the Fred Goodwins of this world you might say yes. But are bankers only greedy because they are stuck at a more rudimentary stage of psychological development?

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Time travel

It's nothing to do with a nuclear deterrent!

I was really pleased by the response to an earlier post in which I described my own Zones model. People seem to have found it helpful in framing what is going on with a client during a discussion. Buoyed by this success, I thought I would present another model that I tend to use in my practice. Because of the shape of the diagram, I call it the Trident model. As usual, it has been inspired by a number of different sources (see the Further Reading list at the end), but it was mainly triggered by the debate over the differences between the Counselling and Coaching approaches to guidance and the relative merits of action and reflection.

Personally, I find it useful to keep track of the balance and focus of a discussion with a client.

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