What do you mean “I’m employable?”

Employability photo

Work is central to people’s lives. Consider when we meet someone for the first time. Invariably, one of the first questions asked is “what do you do?” meaning, what job do you do to earn a living?

Career and identity
Peoples working lives and social identity have been shaped by the notion of career (Watts, 2000) and career has been described as a means to self-actualisation (Adamson, 1997). A career identity is an individual narrative or story that explains “how the self of yesterday became the self of today and will become the self of tomorrow” (Savickas, 2005, p. 58). As with a literary story, the plots of a personal narrative bring coherence, structure, and a heuristic through which to understand a person’s story (McIlveen & Patton, 2007, p. 228). Careers engender group formation that unite individuals, provide a sense of identity, offer a means for fulfilment, and “provide our daily bread” (Inkson, 2007, p. xviii).

Employability
Significantly, the concept of career is evolving in today’s society to encompass an underlying agenda of employability. In doing so, it moves career away from the role of the employer or organisation and instead career becomes more person-centred. In other words, employability makes the individual the focus and a person-centred approach is pursued in the field of vocational psychology today. Sufficiency is measured in terms of high or low employability.

Despite the potentially negative overtones of quantification, employability is now recognised as a work specific active adaptability and this means that characteristic adaptations of employability can be learned and applied. Does this mean that employability can be used to re-frame career to service the needs of the individual worker rather than the interests of the organisation? Blustein and McWhirter (2002) go further and argue for a more holistic focus starting with the individual but extending to a more socially contextualised context of understanding.

ACCELL: Current research
The research team at the Australian Collaboratory for Career, Employability, and Learning for Living (ACCELL) is focused on describing, explaining, and enhancing employability through educational strategies. Most recently, ACCELL found that some, but not all, metaphors of employability used by students and graduates actually predict their confidence for searching for work. This research finding can be used by educators and employers to better engage students in employment programs. The research report is in preparation for publication. Standby by for updates.

 

Metaphor as a Wine Education Corkscrew

Wine is a captivating beverage. Each glass tells a story of aromas and flavours, people and places, culture and history. For many people, the winery cellar door is their entry point to wine appreciation, knowledge, and awareness—wine acculturation and education. Wine is, after all, a definitively human phenomenon, made by people for people to experience and enjoy.

Essentially, the cellar door experience underpins customer relationship development, direct sales opportunities, and learning about wine appreciation. Wine quality and convivial surroundings are important, but effective communication is essential. The cellar door is a key for the Australian wine tourism industry to unlock the potential of domestic and international visitors for rural and regional areas. These visitors to our wine regions contribute to rural economies and employment by spending their tourism dollars at the cellar door.

In their forthcoming paper, Uncorking the potential of wine language for young wine tourists, ACCELL’s Research Fellow Dr. Allison Creed and Research Director Dr. Peter McIlveen draw attention to effective wine communication with a focus on the young wine tourist: Does the language used to describe and learn about wine have the qualities to invite a younger audience into wine culture?

This is an important question for two reasons. First, language is inherent to the uniquely human experience of wine in terms of how it is described to self and others (e.g., tasting notes).  Second, effective communication with and education of consumers underpins growth in wine knowledge that, in turn, contributes to growth in ethical wine consumption (Knott, 2004).

Winespeak and metaphor

Wine is embedded in cultures and aesthetics (e.g., food, fashion) and wine language is full of fuzzy concepts (e.g., the nose and bouquet; flavour and mouthfeel; finish and after taste). Somewhat disparagingly referred to as winespeak, wine communication is rich in figurative language. To this end, metaphor is a frequent feature of wine reviews and tasting notes used at the cellar door, on winery websites, or promotional materials. Metaphor involves two different knowledge domains: a target domain (e.g., wine) and a source domain (e.g., a person). That is, people come to understand one thing in terms of another (e.g., this wine is round—the mouthfeel given as shape; a palate full of nervous energy—an appraisal in terms of personality).

Personification of wine

Wine consumers experience more of the intrinsic characteristics of a wine after they receive product information. Therefore, effective communication is important because it underpins growth in wine knowledge that, in turn, contributes to growth in wine consumption. Personification can be an effective communication strategy and tool for wine education. Personification is where a product or brand is talked about to engage consumers via their experiences of it in terms of its similarity to and relatedness to people. “Marketers can use a variety of visual, verbal and metaphorical tools to activate knowledge of a ‘human’ schema and, thereby, enhance consumers’ tendencies to perceive brands in anthropomorphic ways” (MacInnis & Folkes, 2017, p. 37).

For instance, a wine has a voice: announce, sing, whisper, or suggest; wine has psychological features: confident, honest, mellow, or brooding; wine has physical attributes: heart, nerve, and backbone; and, wine has aesthetic properties: gorgeous, luscious, and youthful.

The personification of wine helps people understand the wine experience through figurative language frames. A figurative frame captures information to make an unknown, abstract and/or complex issue more concrete and comprehensible. Such framing utilises metaphorical language to personify and story the wine experience. Therefore, what is and what is not an effective frame is an important area of research to uncover the proactive capability of figurative frames in wine communication directed at different groups of wine tourist.

The persuasive power of metaphor

Metaphor can be an educational “corkscrew” to open up wine to consumers. Consumer behaviour studies of metaphoric language in advertising and promotion indicate that metaphoric expressions are more persuasive than literal speech (Bosman & Hagendoorn, 1991; Forceville & Urios-Aparisi, 2009; Tom & Eves, 1999).  When seen as a resource, metaphor analysis has the power to uncork the potential of wine language and enhance wine education. In light of this and to bookend the forthcoming article, ACCELL’s Research Fellow, Dr Allison Creed, was invited by Dr Lettie Dorst to present her interactive workshop Waiter! There’s a Metaphor in my Wine at Leiden University Centre for Linguistics in the Netherlands during her residency at the Metaphor Lab Amsterdam as a Visiting Research Scholar from June to November 2017.

Leiden wine workshop_promo

Waiter! There’s a Metaphor in my Wine is designed as an interactive workshop that offers participants a theoretical, methodological, and gastronomic introduction to wine, genre, and metaphor. The genre of wine reviews is used to demonstrate the potential for metaphor to transform and translate people’s sensory and emotional responses to the aesthetic artefact of wine. Participants at the Leiden University workshop took part in wine tastings and collaborated to identify metaphorical language using the Metaphor Identification Procedure Vrije Universiteit (MIPVU; Steen, et al, 2010) in a wine review sample. Groups enjoyed creating a lightening wine review and the workshop culminated in a prize awarded by peer review!

Forthcoming publication:
Creed, A. & McIlveen, P. F. (Under Review). Uncorking the potential of wine language for young wine tourists. In M. Sigala & R. Robinson (Eds.). Managing and marketing wine tourism and destinations: Theory and cases. London, England: Palgrave McMillan.

Metaphor Identification Research Opens a New Vista on Career and Work

Did you know that metaphor is more than a literary adornment? Metaphor is key to understanding the world, the meaning of life, and communicating with other people.  Metaphorical language often goes unnoticed, yet we humans use metaphor in every day talk with one another, in what we read and write, and even in the way we gesture to say something.

For example, take the abstract concept time: “Time is money”, “Times are a changin”, “Times are tough”. Consider how often people use time in relation to a more concrete or physical experience, such as time in terms of space, distance, and movement: TIME AS AN OBJECT MOVING TOWARDS YOU.  “The meeting was brought forward to Monday.”

Career as Metaphor

Indeed, the word ‘‘career’’ itself is a metaphor drawn from its origins of a course, a track, or a chariot.  For example, people often use expressions that career is the lifelong path: CAREER IS A JOURNEY.  It is difficult to talk about and think about career without using metaphors (e.g., career described as a ladder, an opening, a story).

ACCELL researchers, Allison Creed and Peter McIlveen, use a sample of personal stories told by university students to demonstrate a method for the identification and analysis of metaphoric language in everyday talk. In their paper, “Metaphor identification as a research method for the study of career”, published in the International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, they identified three metaphors used by the students to make sense of their careers and reasons for being at university: ACTIONS AND CONSTRUCTION, ENCOUNTERS AND RELATIONSHIPS, and AN OBJECT.

Creed and McIlveen believe the new research method demonstrated in their paper will prove itself as very useful. With respect to their study of students, the method has great potential for university educators, health practitioners, career counsellors, and marketers, who can use metaphors to better understand and communicate with students using metaphoric words, expressions, and images that are typically used by the students as a community.  For example, university career counsellors may very well be able to use metaphoric language to better engage the students in their studies and plans for the future.  Consider how much more impact university’s expensive campaigns and promotions would have if presented in the language of the students.

Narrative and Career Identity

This research into metaphor is part of ACCELL’s stream of research (and there’s a metaphor) focused on how narrative is used to create meaningful careers and work. The research team are currently exploring the use of metaphor in the language of “employability”, with promising results already on the way.


Creed, A., & McIlveen, P. (2017). Metaphor identification as a research method for the study of career. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance. doi: 10.1007/s10775-017-9345-2

An author copy of the paper may be obtained from ResearchGate.

A-GRADES is Live!

The Round 1 A-GRADES questionnaire is now live and awaiting student and graduate participants from any degree or discipline both domestic or international. Access to the online A-GRADES questionnaire can be found here. It takes no more than 10 minutes to complete. Your participation is vital for the construction, validation, and production of this personal employability measure.

Project Aim

The project A-GRADES (Australian Graduates Employability Scale) aims to create a career development tool specific to the Australian higher education context. Now under construction by the R&D team at ACCELL, A-GRADES is designed for students and graduates, university personnel (e.g., career practitioners, work-integrated learning specialists), and researchers across academic fields. The project is funded by Graduate Careers Australia as part of GCA’s Graduate Research Program.

A-GRADES Data Collection-Round 1

Cross area, pan-university collaboration is vital for the three sequential stages of national data collection beginning with the Round 1 questionnaire. This breadth will ensure that sampling accounts for age, discipline, gender, and other data that may be used to test for measurement invariance and assure normative representation where practicable. The project has received ethical clearance from the host institution, University of Southern Queensland.

Rationale

A-GRADES is intended to assess personal qualities related to career self-management and employment. Aside from competency based appraisals of a graduates’ knowledge and skills, research demonstrates factors such as self-efficacy, proactivity, and adaptability influence employability of graduates and their chance of securing decent work–and this is where ACCELL is focused on making a difference. These characteristic adaptations that improve a person’s chances of working in a good job can be learned. For example, one of the most important factors is self-efficacy that is associated with well-defined job search strategies that target the “right job” not just “any job”. Professional career development practitioners know about these strategies and how to develop their clients’ self-efficacy.  Our R&D will sharpen the tools for improving their effectiveness and positive impact.

Practical Applications

A package of online training modules will be developed and delivered to nominated staff of universities and their Career Services.  This training will ensure that the end-users (e.g., students and graduates) obtain optimal utility from A-GRADES (e.g., in career development interventions, coursework). Therefore, A-GRADES may be used within learning activities that develop students’ career management knowledge and skills, and their preparations for employment.  A-GRADES will become a useful tool for Student Services’ personnel who are involved in students’ career development, work-integrated learning, and employment.

We will provide regular updates on the ACCELL website about the project A-GRADES and professional development opportunities.  Access to the online A-GRADES questionnaire can be found here.

Further Information:

Please make contact with the project coordinator, Dr Allison Creed, if you need further information about the project and A-GRADES. Allison.Creed@usq.edu.au

4E-cognition: Exploring thought, feeling, & action in career behaviour

What is 4E-cognition?

In recent years a new way of looking at the notion of cognition has gained ground, often labelled as 4E-cognition (embodied, enacted, embedded, and extended cognition). The basic claim is that cognition cannot be reserved to individual processes inside the head (and body) only; rather cognition is seen as “a doing”; it is something people do in their active and explorative sense-making with the bio-social environment. Thus, an ecological turn is on its way within cognitive science that seeks to explore thought, feeling, and action as inter-related dimensions of an agent-environment system.  ACCELL is now applying this new research paradigm to career development.Career images Continue reading