Posts Tagged opportunity structure

Success: what is it and how do you achieve it?

Success

If only I'd realised that success could come so cheaply!

Are you successful in your career?

How do you know?

Traditionally, there are two ways of measuring career success:

  • objective success — externally measurable things such as salary level, number of promotions, etc.
  • subjective success — internal, psychological factors, such as level of career satisfaction, happiness, etc.

These two types of success can sometimes be related, i.e. the more objective success you achieve, the more subjective success you experience. However, they can also be unrelated. So, other people might perceive you as being successful, but you don’t feel it, or you might be really happy in your work even though other people might think you haven’t had much of a career.

Is there a way of predicting what factors lead to objective or subjective career success? Well, lots of researchers have tried to answer that question. Vast numbers of researchers have tried to examine the link between a range of attributes and the likelihood of a good career outcome. That’s far too much reading for me! I’d like someone else to do it for me…

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Questionable decisions

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This is how it feels

Last week Lord Davis launched Women on Boards, which examines the gender imbalance at the top level in UK businesses. In 2010, women made up only 12.5% of the boards of FTSE 100 companies. The Equality and Human Rights Commission estimate that, at the current rate of change, it will take 70 years to achieve gender equality in the boardroom.

One half of the problem is to do with the ‘supply side’. Greater proportions of women with the potential to reach the boardroom step off the career ladder lower down to concentrate of family commitments. In addition, women seem to suffer more than men from lack of confidence in their own abilities and sense of worth. For example, they are less likely to initiate  salary negotiations — and when they do, they may get penalised more than men for doing so.

That last point indicates the other half of the problem. Why are the capable women who are still in the game not getting access to a proportionate number of powerful jobs?

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Purists and players

Man with cards

Somehow, I don't think he's a purist

Is four too much for you?

Last week I presented a few career-style typologies that came in sets of four, but it’s entirely possible that remembering four types might be too much for you — it often is for me.

So, how about just two types: Players and Purists. These two archetypes represent extreme approaches that graduates may take in  managing their employability.

They were identified by Phil Brown and Anthony Hesketh from Lancaster University in their book The MisManagement of Talent: Employability and Jobs in the Knowledge Economy.

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Lucky shot

Lucky four-leafed clover

How lucky is that?

On my recent trip to New York  I visited a number of interesting places that made me think about how people deal with change. (I know! Even on holiday I’m generating material for blog posts! How sad!).

I also read a book that made me think about luck. This blog post is an attempt to put all that thinking into one place in preparation for a possible training session on navigating change.
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Why am I here? (Part One)

Recently, I have been asking myself what is my purpose as a careers adviser. I’ve been examining a few assumptions about what my role is and should be. This questioning has been prompted by various things, amongst which are: a reminder of something I had forgotten, a self-imposed target, a good read and a constrained conversation. I would like to describe those things in this post and then talk about my thoughts in relation to them in the next post.

The reminder came in the form of a blog post by Tristram Hooley on The Politics of Guidance in which he describes Tony Watts’ typology of guidance ideologies. Check it out and then come back.

When I saw the post, I remembered reading about Watts’ framework when I was slogging through the theories module of my guidance qualification. At the time, I was struggling to get to grips with working with clients. I didn’t pay much attention to this bit of thinking because I couldn’t see how it would help me in my immediate day-to-day work.

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Raise the right barriers

As the employment market continues to be difficult with more graduates going for fewer jobs, employers are seeking ways to handle the increase in applicants.

I was struck by the contrast between the approaches of two retail graduate recruiters reported in the news recently. In one case, in order to reduce the number of applications they have to sift, the recruiter is said to have raised their minimum acceptable degree classification from a 2:2 to a 2:1. In the other case, they have introduced an on-line pre-screening test of situational judgement based on common work situations.

I don’t know of any research that links degree classification to one’s ability to perform as a retail manager, but there is quite a bit of research that links degree classification to socio-economic background. On the other hand, I can imagine that testing  one’s ability to think clearly about certain common work situations could correlate to job effectiveness.

I can completely understand the desire of graduate recruiters to reduce their workload when faced with a flood of applications, but I wonder if they think through all the possible unintended consequences of arbitrary grade requirement inflation. It may mean in the future that it won’t just be the professions that are disproportionately populated by the socially advantaged.

  • When visiting employers, how often do you question them about their awareness of the unintentional unfairness of their recruitment practices?

Related post: Poor students!

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Dimensions of career theory

In a comment on the post What makes a theory useful? I put forward the idea that one way of looking at the role of a guidance practitioner is that we are helping clients to formulate and improve their own career/life theories so that they can more effectively navigate their way into the future.

Examining and critiquing formal career theories is therefore good practice for this activity. The more adept you are at spotting the strengths and weaknesses of an academic career theory, the more you will be able to spot the biases, gaps and inconsistencies in an individual’s own career theory.

With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to look at some of the various dimensions by which career theories and models can be measured and analysed.

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Poor students!

Peter Mandelson and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have launched Higher Ambitions, the new framework for higher education.

Some news commentators have picked up on the recommendations that universities take more account of the social context of candidates during university recruitment and to prioritise measures that widen access to those from underprivileged backgrounds.

Even if one achieves the laudable aim of getting more students from deprived upbringings into higher education, will they be fully equipped to take advantage of the opportunity in order to develop their career decision making?

A report by Paul Greenbank and Sue Hepworth from Edge Hill University, Working class students and the career decision-making process, looks at ways in which the working class students who make it to university can still be disadvantaged in the job market. It makes interesting reading and challenges some of the assumptions that are made about such issues.

  • What are we doing to equip and re-equip underprivileged students when they get to university?
  • Should we have targetted programmes in place to help deal with the disadvantages that such students may carry with them?

Related postLet the right one in

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Outliers

Vancouver Canucks v Anaheim Ducks

Was he born in January?

I have just enjoyed reading Malcolm Gladwell’s new book Outliers. It is a book about success — extraordinary success — and what is behind it. As with Gladwell’s other books, Outliers contains a treasure trove of surprising facts that make you stop in your tracks. Why are most successful ice hockey players in Canada born in January, February or March? Why did many of the most successful corporate lawyers in New York have almost identical biographies? Why were commercial planes flown by Korean pilots more likely to have accidents than those flown by Americans?

Gladwell takes on the pervasive myth that extraordinary success is purely the result of extraordinary talent in individuals. He examines the social, cultural, racial and systemic factors that hide behind the success stories.
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Let the right one in

Unleashing Aspirations, the final report from the governmental Panel on Fair Access to the Professions has been released. The report looks at social mobility in the UK and specifically entry into society’s top jobs and professions, such as lawyers, civil servants, doctors, bankers, journalists and university vice chancellors.

Not surprisingly, the report shows that most professions have become increasingly exclusive, with increasing proportions of members coming from families with above average incomes. It criticises the professions for recruitment practices that directly and indirectly discriminate against students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Plus ça change…!

In 1968 Ken Roberts proposed his Theory of Occupational Allocation (or Opportunity Structure theory as it became known). After researching into the jobs of school leavers he proposed that individual choice had less of an impact on career destination than the social proximity of the options available based on gender, ethnicity and social class.

More recent theoretical concepts along similar lines have included habitus and social capital.

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