Archive for category Skills and methods

Interview confidence

Man on Wire by image munkey (Alan)

Getting the balance right can be tricky

A couple of months back someone asked a very interesting question on Careers Debate about how one expresses and demonstrates confidence in one’s area of expertise at an interview whilst avoiding self-aggrandisement.

Is it just a question of body language and non-verbal communication, or are there other clues that you can give in the way that you talk abut your experiences?

I gave a couple of quick responses at the time, but I thought it would be interesting to add a little more flesh to the bones here.

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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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What is our output?

Audio by Sergiu Bacioiu

So, do your dials go up to 11?

I’ve been having some very interesting conversations lately on LinkedIn groups.

In one discussion, a Canadian career service manager described how his team had been increasingly using the term ‘career literacy’ to describe what they were trying to develop in their students. He asked what we thought of the term.

Part of me really likes the idea of literacy as a set of skills that enables you to interact with information. According to the UNESCO definition, literacy involves “a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society“. That fits rather well with the aims of a careers service.

My reservation with the term is that, in a university setting, literacy could be interpreted as rather a basic level of learning. By the time students have reached university, they should have gone beyond literacy and be operating in the realm of analysis and critical thinking. Would it have face value with the academic community?

So, what other terms could we use and what would they imply? Can we come up with something which appeals to those who are looking at immediate solutions as well as giving a strong message about developing an ability to deal with issues over the entire course of your career?

This kicked the random word generator in my brain into overdrive and I tried to come up with a range of phrases to describe what we are trying to nurture in our clients.
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Dwindle, dwindle little STAR

Star in a web

Catch a falling STAR

The STAR model is ubiquitous. Almost every application form and interview presentation contains the acronym: Situation, Task,  Actions, Result. Some graduate recruiters even instruct candidates to follow this model in their application form answers.

It’s tried and tested…and I don’t like it.

Don’t get me wrong. I would rather that a candidate uses STAR than nothing. Any structure is better than no structure. But I’m not sure that STAR is the best possible structure.

Partly, I will admit, I am just being awkward and iconoclastic (I impressed myself with that word!). I have a default tendency to question and challenge anything that is well established and widely accepted without criticism.

However, I do have a couple of reasons, one pragmatic and one theoretical, why I think STAR isn’t the best possible model to be recommending.
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What a mess

I have just finished reading A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freeman. I have a feeling that this is a marmite book. Some people (like me) will love it and others will hate it. I can even predict who will hate it; the people whom the book refers to as the ‘neat police’ — the people who insist on clean desk policies and colour-coded filing systems.

This book pleads the case for the potential benefits of disorder. It also highlights the hidden costs of an over-emphasis on neatness, from the expense of maintaining rigid categorisation systems to the dangers to health of obsessive cleanliness. It provides much needed support for those of us who are ‘differently-organised’ as we attempt to fend off those who seem intent on decluttering our lives.

The topics range (in a predictably messy way) from office desks to transport systems, from business to science, from education to politics.

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How SMART is SMART?

An open goal

An open goal - that's surely better than a closed one?

Following on from Jim Bright’s post about applying the Chaos Theory of Careers to work with clients, I wanted to pick up on the thought that goal-setting is not always the right thing to do.

Being of more ‘spontaneous and unstructured’ nature, I find it quite oppressive when coaches and trainers bang on about the need to set SMART objectives. You all know the acronym:

  • Specific (or is it Significant? Simple?)
  • Measurable (or perhaps Manageable? Motivational?)
  • Attainable (or is it Achievable? Acceptable? Appropriate? Agreed? Ambitious?)
  • Relevant (or is it Realistic? Resourced?)
  • Time-limited (maybe Timely?)

All this hyper-focused-ness makes me want to scream sometimes.

These conditions seem to assume that nothing is going to change; that the goal is somehow separate from the context in which it has been defined. They assume that life is not complex, that you can plot a course and just follow it.

But life isn’t like that. It’s messy. Things change. Unexpected things happen.

Perhaps it’s time for a different type of SMART objective.

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Applied Chaos

Using the Chaos Theory of Careers in Counselling

I would like to thank Dr Jim Bright of Bright and Associates for contributing this guest posting as a follow-up to an earlier post of mine on The Chaos Theory of Careers. — David.
Romanesca broccoli

A fractal cauliflower (or broccoli) – how applied can you get?

A bit of background

The Chaos Theory of Careers (CTC) characterises individuals as complex systems subject to the influence of complex influences and chance events. However, over time patterns emerge in our behaviour that are self-similar but also subject to change.  Career trajectories/histories/stories are examples of such complex fractal patterns.

Our careers are subject to chance events far more frequently than just about any theory other than CTC and Happenstance Learning Theory would suggest.

Our careers are subject to non linear change — sometimes small steps have profound outcomes, and sometimes changing everything changes nothing.

Our careers are unpredictable, with most people expressing a degree of surprise/delight or disappointment at where they ended up.

Our careers are subject to continual change. Sometimes we experience slow shift (Bright, 2008) that results in us drifting off course without realising it, and sometimes our careers have dramatic (fast shift) changes which completely turn our world upside down.

We (and therefore our careers) take shape and exhibit self-similar patterns, trajectories, traits, narratives, preoccupations over time.

We (and therefore our careers) are too complex to be easily captured and put into simple boxes, interest or personality codes. Even much vaunted narrative is an over-simplification.

Constructivism proposes that we are pattern makers; we can find connections and structure in almost any stimuli. CTC has at it’s heart the idea of emergent patterns.  In seeking to understand these exceedingly complex and ever changing patterns we all will construct meaning from our experiences of these patterns and the constructions that we place on our experience of reality (Pryor & Bright, 2003). In contrast with several recent theories, we contend that there is more to reality than just constructions of it (See Pryor & Bright, 2007).

In summary, CTC and any counselling process based upon it will have to take into account the following concepts:

  • Change — e.g. Bright (2008), Jepson & Chouduri (2001)
  • Chance — e.g. Chen (2005), Krumboltz & Levin (2006); Bright et al (2005), Bright, Pryor & Harpham (2005)
  • Complexity — Patton & McMahon (2006); Lent, Brown & Hacket (1996); Bright et al (2005)
  • Fractal patterns — Bright & Pryor (2010); Bright & Pryor (2005); Bloch (2005); Savickas et al (2009)
  • Emergence —  Pryor & Bright (2004); Bright & Pryor (2010); Morrowitz (2003)
  • Attractors — Pryor & Bright (2007); Bright & Pryor (2005)
  • Constructivism — Savickas (1997); Savickas et al (2009)

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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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Drawing out the implications

David considers storyboarding

David considers storyboarding - {click for original post}

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