Archive for category Roles

New year, new identity?

hermself watching hermself being hermself by madamepsychosis

Spot the difference?

It’s a new year — the end of one chapter and the beginning of another — a time to change.

The more dramatic the change, the more likely it is to lead to a transformation of your identity. Some changes involve integrating into new environments, building new relationships and developing new behaviours. You may have to leave behind some of the things that currently help you to define yourself and incorporate new things. This can be especially true if, like many of my recent clients, the change is something that has been forced upon you and is quite dramatic — such as redundancy.

Such a change may bring about a transformation of identity. A lot of clients undergoing this kind of process struggle with how to describe themselves. ‘I used to be a… What am I now?’

What makes for a successful identity transformation — whether it is voluntary or imposed upon you?

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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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Identity crisis

My Identity

Finding your identity

One of the most influential thinkers in the field of developmental psychology was Erik Erikson. Originally a pupil of Freud, he made a name for himself with his work on the development of human social identity.

I read about Erikson’s theories when studying for my professional qualification, but most emphasis on developmental theory in careers is dominated by the work of Donald Super. However, Erikson’s ideas of identity formation in adolescence has provided the basis for much thought and exploration around the transition from childhood to adulthood.

A couple of recent posts (Playing a role and Non-stop action) have jogged my memory about this, so I thought I would blog briefly about this classic theory and some recent developments related to it.

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Playing a role

The Coalition Cabinet

Meetings! My nightmare (in more ways than one)

I hate chairing meetings!

It’s quite odd when you think about it, because I have no trouble facilitating group workshops — I really enjoy that.

If you analyse the skills required to chair meetings and to facilitate workshops, they are virtually the same. You need to be good at listening and summarising. You need to be good at responding to people and keeping them on track. You need to have a good sense of timing and be able to keep in mind the overall structure and aims.

I can do all of those things when I’m leading a workshop and I feel very comfortable, but when I’m chairing a meeting I feel awkward and nervous and out of control.

The difference in my attitude might be explained by the fact that, even though the skills are the same, the role is different. In my mind, the role of a meeting chair is more formal and more serious than the role of a facilitator. I have two different pictures in my head when I think about the different roles. One is more consistent with my self image than the other — even though the practicalities of the roles are very similar.

When we think about matching ourselves to a career, we often think about how our discrete values or skills align with the rewards and requirements of the job. We are dealing with quite abstract and artificially separated concepts.

A more sophisticated way of understanding a job might be to look at the different distinct roles that you are required to fulfil as you go through your working day.

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Does self awareness make for quicker decisions?

EEG

How easy is it to make decisions wearing one of these?

In a rather cute bit of research by Takashi Nakao at Nagoya University, Japan (and a whole host of researchers at Hiroshima University), students were prompted with random pairings of job titles and asked to choose which occupation they thought they could do better. The researchers then used EEG to measure the students’ brain activity in certain areas that are associated with conflict in relation to decisions.

In the first study they demonstrated that the amount of activity recorded was related to the difficulty of choosing between the options. There was more activity (more conflict) as well as a slower reaction time when students were choosing between two options that they found equally attractive.

Nakao, T., Mitsumoto, M., Nashiwa, H., Takamura, M., Tokunaga, S., Miyatani, M., Ohira, H., Katayama, K., Okamoto, A., & Watanabe, Y. (2010). Self-Knowledge Reduces Conflict by Biasing One of Plural Possible Answers Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36 (4), 455-469 DOI: 10.1177/0146167210363403

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Can you disagree with yourself?

The brain

The different areas of this brain couldn't agree on a colour scheme.

In 1977 Joseph LeDoux and colleagues conducted an interesting experiment on a boy whose left and right brain hemispheres had been surgically separated. They set up a system in which they could ask questions to the separate halves of his brain. Because the left hemisphere controls many aspects of speech, the right brain had to spell out its answers using Scrabble tiles.  [LeDoux, J.E., Wilson, D.H. & Gazzaniga, M.S. (1977) A divided mind: Observations on the conscious properties of the separated hemispheres. Annals of Neurology, 2(5) 417-421.]

One of the questions they asked was about what job he would like. The left brain said ‘draftsman’ but the right brain spelled out ‘automobile race’. Because the left brain controls language, it gets to articulate its choices, but the right brain may have other ideas.

The left brain is often associated with linear reasoning, structure and detail and the right brain with holistic reasoning,  emotional tone and the big picture – although the real situation is more complex. Apparently, the picture of the spinning dancer below can tell you if you naturally favour your right or left brain. If she appears to be spinning anti-clockwise, you’re a left-brainer, clockwise and you’re a right-brainer. If you think this test is a bit simplistic — that’s a no-brainer. Actually, If this test tells you anything, it may only be which half of your brain you favour at a particular moment for certain types of visual processing and perception, but that may not be true for other functions, or it may be nothing to do with left-right brain differences.

Another more recent set of studies did not involve sliced brains but a more subtle manipulation of social identities in order to produce an internal conflict of opinions.

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Twisting the kaleidoscope

In our work with foundation doctors choosing their specialties, I pose a number of questions to help them to think about their choice in more depth. One of these questions is, ‘Have you thought about how your priorities will change over time?’ One of the female doctors accused me of aiming this question specifically at women because they are the ones likely to have to consider issues of work-family balance. However, many of the male doctors I’ve spoken to have also raised the issue of working hours and their impact on life outside work.

Last week the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published the research report Working Better: Fathers, family and work – contemporary perspectives. This quote from the conclusions sums up the main findings of the research.

The findings from this survey show that fathers’ attitudes towards parenting do not appear to match the reality of their work and care arrangements. Their rejection of traditional views, dissatisfaction with the time they spend with their children and their strong support for extended paternity leave shows a willingness to be involved in the day-to-day care of their children. In practice, however, most fathers still work full time, and many work long hours.

See the press release for other key highlights. In the report, they admit that the figures may be unrepresentative because men who are actively involved in sharing responsibilities for parenting are more likely to respond to the survey. Similarly, male doctors who are particularly concerned about work-life balance may be more likely to attend optional career management sessions.

Aaah! Pretty!

Ooooh! Pretty!

In 2005 Lisa Mainiero and Sherry Sullivan introduced the concept of Kaleidoscope Careers as a way to describe the changing priorities over the course of a person’s working life.

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Who are you…now?

Rita Carter is a science writer who has written a number of books on the human brain and how it works. Her most recent book is called Multiplicity and it examines the idea that we do not have one consistent and constant personality or identity. Instead, some psychologists suggest that we have a number of different personalities inside us, linked to different clusters of memories. The different situations and contexts we experience prompt different mini-personalities to take control of our thoughts and actions.

Are you made up of multiple personalities?

Are you made up of multiple personalities?

A similar theme is approached from a slightly different angle by Peter MacIlveen and Wendy Patton from Queensland University of Technology in their article ‘Dialogical self: author and narrator of career life themes’ in the International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance (Volume 7, Number 2, August, 2007 – or try here for an alternative version).

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