Four pathways to meaning

another year over... by piotr (peter) chlipalski

I have no idea what it means but I like it.

Regular readers of this blog will know that a recurring theme is the notion of meaning in our working lives. I’m also a big fan of simple models and frameworks to help structure and analyse complex ideas. So, I was excited to discover an article which not only conducted an extensive review of the literature of meaning in work, but which presented a simple way of categorising the various ways in which people find meaning.

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The tree of life

It’s a while since I introduced a new guidance or coaching model. Here is one I came across fairly recently. It appeals to me because it is quite simple and has a strong metaphorical visual image which makes it easy to remember.

The Tree of Life model from Positive Acorn

Where are the squirrels?

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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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A measure of success

2008.11.24 - Things you don't believe when you're 16 by Adrian Clark

Is he counting what he can easily measure or measuring what counts?

One of the significant changes in the new Matrix quality assurance framework for careers services is an increased emphasis on evaluating the outcomes of our work with clients.

The most significant changes are the increased focus on outcomes, competence of staff, commitment to continuous improvement, service delivery linked to outcomes and responses to information technology advances.

A few services who have stuck with collecting more traditional feedback on their services have been judged as falling short in this area. Just asking clients whether they found a session useful or interesting is not enough any more (if it ever was).

In the Value and Impact Toolkit developed by the Association of Managers of Student Services in Higher Education (AMOSSHE), measures of impact are differentiated from measures of satisfaction.

Impact is about change, which implies that a situation needs to be evaluated before an action to stimulate change takes place, and after to determine whether indeed change has taken place. Impact might also be evaluated in terms of the effect of an activity on different groups; for example, students might attend a particular programme on a voluntary basis, so impact might be measured after the programme takes place in relation to the knowledge levels of those who attended against those who did not attend.

So what else could you measure and what would it tell you about the impact you are having?

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Self creation or self discovery?

Pushing Buttons by Luke Dorny

Who put that there?

What metaphor do you use to describe the development of your sense of identity or self knowledge?

Do you think about increasing self awareness as an act of self discovery? As you find out new things about yourself, are you just uncovering what is already there? Are you seeking to reveal more about your ‘true self’ so that you can make choices that are more consistent and authentic? Is your core self something that is determined by your past and mainly fixed?

Alternatively, do you think about increasing self awareness as a process of defining who you are and making choices about who you want to be? Are you involved in an on-going process of self creation, shaping your identity through your choices and experiences? Is your core self something malleable and open to infinite change?

The metaphor you are most drawn to (discovery or creation) can affect your sense of meaning, your well being, your ability to set personal goals and your response to failure.

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The alternative self

203/365 by Brandi Eszlinger

She doesn’t look a bit like Gwyneth Paltrow

A few years ago I went to see Our House the musical based on the songs of Madness. The music was good. The choreography was good too. But what I really liked was the story, which was quite imaginative for a jukebox musical.

It tells the story of Joe Casey, who does something stupid to impress a girl and then faces a choice: stay and risk getting arrested or run away. At this point the the storyline splits in two, following the consequences of these options and the different versions of Joe that emerge as a result.

The idea of exploring alternative versions of ourselves and finding out what we could have become if we had made different choices is very appealing in fiction. Sliding Doors, It’s a Wonderful Life, Melinda and Melinda and many others.

I recently came across a paper which nicely mashes up two of my favourite themes: counterfactual thinking and identity development into the concept of alternative selves. It explores the impact of these alternative selves on our sense of identity.

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Five employability mindsets

the five platonic solids by Johnson Cameraface

Which shape represents which mindset?

As I have just started teaching on the Chartered Management Institute Level 5 Diploma at the University of London, I thought it would be sensible to continue my recent activity of applying management theories and models to the world of careers coaching.

Most of the early conversations about employability and career management tended to focus on asking the question ‘How do you help students to develop skills or competencies that will make them effective in the job market?’. There tend to emerge two types of answer to this question: you give them training or you give them experience.

This mirrors the argument that has been running in the area of leadership development for a long time. There are those who argue that training without experience is too abstract (and therefore worthless) and there are those who argue that experience without training is random (and therefore worthless).

A slightly different perspective that seems to be emerging lately is that training, experience and combinations of training and experience tend to be more effective when participants have greater levels of self-awareness or when the training or experience itself promotes greater self-awareness.

One aspect of self-awareness that interests me is awareness of one’s own default mindset. Partly because of my interest in MBTI, I am conscious of the various ways in which different people approach the same problems. That’s why I was excited to come across a management model called the Five Managerial Mindsets.

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Narrative techniques in reflective practice

Below is an article I wrote for the Journal of the National Institute for Careers Education and Counselling. In it I try to bring together a whole range of narrative approaches to the task of reviewing your practice as a career practitioner. Some of the theories and models here are ones I have already blogged about, but I in this paper I talk about how you apply them to yourself.

(You have to scroll down to page 5 of the document to get to my article.)

I would welcome any comments or questions about the article.

Which techniques appeal to you?

What other techniques do you use in your reflective practice?

 

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Do companies have personalities?

Corporate Personhood by Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t

I guess this corporation has a split personality.

When clients talk about the kind of organisations they would like to work for, what words do they use?

Creative?

Friendly?

Responsible?

Supportive?

Generous?

Blue-chip?

Successful?

Dynamic?

Well-known?

Stable?

The list could go on and on. However, according to one group of researchers, when we evaluate an organisation we tend to use four main dimensions to categorise them.

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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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