Archive for category Stories

Story crafting

Loom by seemann via morgueFile

Pulling the threads of the narrative together

A paper recently published in the International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance explains an approach to narrative-based careers counselling originating from a systems theory framework through ‘three levels of story crafting questions’.

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Losing the plot

pages-1426262-1280x960

A couple of weeks ago I ran a workshop for wonderful bunch of university careers advisers in Dublin. I’m still not sure that we settled on a title for the workshop but the basic idea was to apply new and interesting models and theories to give a fresh perspective on careers guidance practice.

I think the original invitation was something like: ‘Can you run a workshop based on your blog?’ I offered them a menu of possible topics…and they said yes to most of them. So I ended up stitching together a patchwork of themes such as employability, career identity, dealing with uncertainty, motivations and techniques for reflective practice.

Quite a bit of what I included was stuff I’m still working through and finding a place for, so we had fun experimenting together and the workshop was a learning process for me too.

One of the things I decided to throw into the mix was something on narratives. I based it around an article by Robert Pryor and Jim Bright (2008) on archetypal narratives in careers work. They, in turn, based their article on a book called The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker (2004).

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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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Towards or away from?

push pull by Robert S. Donovan

Sometimes you don't know if you're coming or going

Think about a recent job change that you made by your own initiative (rather than by force of circumstance, such as redundancy).

Why did you change? Had you got so fed up with your previous job that you had to move to preserve your sanity? Or were you tempted away by the opportunities on offer in the new job?

What about changing your mobile phone company, utilities, mortgage deal or internet service provider? Do you switch when you get fed up or do you constantly look for better deals?

What motivates you at work and why is it important to you? When you’re thinking about a job move, do you make a list of what you want or a list of what you don’t want?

When you make a list of pros and cons, which column tends to be most influential in making your mind up about something?

This issue of whether you are moving towards something or moving away from something has been a recurring theme in things I have been reading and in discussions I have been having over the last couple of weeks.

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A matter of perspective

MIstakes Were Made (but not my me)

Can you justify yourself if you don't read this?

Over on Careers Debate we are having an interesting discussion about narrative approaches to career coaching/counselling.

Coincidentally, I’ve just finished reading a fascinating book which looks at how we reconstruct our memories and perceptions in order to keep them consistent with our self image.

In Mistakes Were Made (but not by me), Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson explore the various ways in which we delude ourselves in order to maintain a favoured self-perception. They discuss how this desire to avoid cognitive dissonance leads to extremes of self-justification in all areas of life. They provide examples from the realms of politics (obviously!), international relations, law enforcement, psychology, alien abductions, scientific research and marriage guidance.

It is an interesting book, if somewhat depressing. Personally, I think it should be compulsory reading for any politician or business leader. There is enough thought-provoking material in here to sustain several heated discussions. However, one particular set of research studies caught my attention because of their potential link to narrative work with individuals.

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Multifinality constraints – ends and means

Lumber

Lots of ends here

Quite a few of the journal articles I scan in order to generate material for this blog get filed under “Well, duh!”. They usually report studies that have gone to great lengths to prove something that was blindingly obvious to anyone with common sense. To be fair, these studies can be completely valid; they are providing concrete evidence for things we assume to be true. However, they don’t really make for interesting blog posts — ‘Here’s proof of something you knew already’.

The article by Köpetz et al. (2011) could easily fall into that category. The findings are not exactly startling. Here’s the abstract:

In the presence of several objectives, goal conflict may be avoided via multifinal means, which advance all of the active goals at once. Because such means observe multiple constraints, they are fewer in number than the unconstrained means to a single goal. Five experimental studies investigated the process of choosing or generating such means for multiple goals. We found that the simultaneous activation of multiple goals restricted the set of acceptable means to ones that benefitted (or at least, did not harm) the entire set of active goals. Two moderators of this phenomenon were identified: (a) the feasibility of identifying multifinal means, which was dependent on the relations between the different active goals, and (b) the enhanced importance of the focal goal, which resulted in the inhibition of its alternatives and the consequent relaxation of multifinality constraints.

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Telling tales

I would like to thank Lorna Dargan from Newcastle University for contributing this guest posting. — David.

Whats the story behind this match?

Now that it’s April and work has tipped in favour of “thinking” on the doing/thinking axis, I thought I would get back to my interest in words.

I’ve been reading Reid and West’s (2011) article on narrative in career guidance, and their argument that narrative is underused as a guidance tool.

The short version of this blog post is: I disagree. Isn’t career decision-making simply the hunt for a theme in the complex narrative of the client’s life?

Now for the long version.

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Non-stop action

Savage Chickens - Action MovieI came across the Contextual Action Theory (CAT) of careers and counselling quite a while ago. It was developed in the 1990s by Richard Young and Ladislav Valach.

When I first read about it, my immediate reaction was ‘I like this. It appeals to my penchant for simple, well-constructed, easy to remember theories’. But there was one problem. I couldn’t for the life of me think how it would be useful.

Actually, that’s not quite true. It was quite obvious that this was a useful theory and that it was already being used… by researchers.

Valach and Young have been using CAT as a framework for investigating individual’s career choices and the career counselling interaction for a number of years.

However, I couldn’t work out how it might be used by career practitioners in their work with clients. As usual, it was lack of imagination on my part, rather than lack of potential in the theory.

Now, I have come up with two ways in which thinking about this theory might enhance my practice.

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Drawing out the implications

David considers storyboarding

David considers storyboarding - {click for original post}

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What’s in a word (or several)?

I would like to thank Lorna Dargan from Newcastle University for contributing this guest posting. — David.
Words as skin

You are constructed of words

I was thinking recently about how my clients conceptualise their careers, and it reminded me of some work I did in my last job as an urban policy researcher (bear with me, there is a link in there somewhere). In my research I used a theoretical approach called ‘discourse analysis’. It occurred to me that I’ve been tentatively using it in guidance sessions, and I was wondering whether I could take it further.

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