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.


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.

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