Psychology Theories for Work in the 4th Industrial Revolution

Career is word that sums up a person’s whole life with regard to work and learning.  The word “career” does not have to mean “profession”. No matter how young or old, inexperienced or advanced, every person has a career that involves work of some kind–paid, unpaid, voluntary, full-time, part-time, casual, contract, self-employed, etc.  Work, in all its forms, is inherent in humanity.

The New Paradigm: Psychology of Working

Theories are one thing but paradigms are another. Paradigms are grander, as an all encompassing perspective that may subsume theories. The Psychology of Working (Blustein, 2006; 2013) is the paradigm for this era of the 4th Industrial Revolution.  In the Psychology of Working, Boston College Professor David Blustein articulates a psychological vision of work that retains its humanity.  Blustein directs psychology to use its theories of work for those who need it the most.

Holland and the RIASEC Theory of Interests and Work Environments

The Holland RIASEC theory (Armstrong, Day, McVay, & Rounds, 2008; Holland, 1959, 1997; Nauta, 2013; Spokane & Cruza-Guet, 2005) of individual differences (i.e., career interests as traits) in career interests is one of the older and empirically tested theories.  The extraordinary volume of knowledge generated through the theory is just about saturated. It is very popular with career development practitioners because of an array of practical applications.   You should know about the RIASEC interest typology: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional.  These interest types (and environment types) can quite accurately describe a person’s occupational preferences.  Notwithstanding the flux of the contemporary world of work, Holland’s RIASEC retains in value as framework to guide learning about those enduring features of interests and work environments.

Super and the Lifespan/Lifespace Theory

Lifespan/Lifespace theory (Super, 1957, 1990, 1992), like Holland’s RIASEC, is one of the grand old theories that has stood the test of time, empirical scrutiny, and practical applications. It is a developmental theory that complements broader theories of human development as stages (e.g., Erikson).  You should know about this theory because it pertains to transitions between developmental stages throughout life, and transitions between educational and work contexts. Developmental perspectives are increasingly relevant in context of an ageing population and workforce.

Social Cognitive Career Theory

Social Cognitive Career Theory (Lent, 2004, 2005, 2013; Lent & Brown, 2013; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994) is the most popular theory on the market with respect to how people enact career decisions. It has been around for decades as has stood up to empirical scrutiny.  It addresses not only the constructs of career development (e.g., self-efficacy, goals, interests, personality) but also links the constructs together in processes. Learning is a core process of SCCT; therefore, its tenets guide how to use learning activities and contexts to motivate career behaviour.  SCCT generates hypotheses for research and usefully guides practices. Get to know this theory because it is comprehensive and applicable in multiple contexts.

The Emerging Narrative about work

Narrative approaches to work (McIlveen & Patton, 2007b) use theories and constructs such as life themes (Savickas, 2005, 2013) and dialogical self (McIlveen, 2012, 2017; McIlveen & Patton, 2007a). Narrative is about meaningfulness and making meaning about work with other people. Most of the literature about narrative approaches pertains to career counselling practice and there is some interesting work about essay and self-reflection in learning contexts such higher education (Healy, McIlveen, & Hammer, 2018; Lengelle & Meijers, 2014; McIlveen, 2015; Meijers, 1998, 2002; Meijers & Lengelle, 2012, 2015; Winters, Meijers, Reinekke, & Baert, 2011).  These narrative approaches will become increasinly useful as the meaning and purpose of work becomes more important to people.

There are some wonderful textbooks that address the main theories, including Career Development and Counseling: Putting Theory and Practice to Work (Brown & Lent, 2005, 2013) and the APA Handbook of Career Interventions (Hartung, Savickas, & Walsh, 2015). These books are useful for learning about the main theories and include special topics. For a summary of the theoretical constructs that explain career-related behaviour, see my paper Career Development, Management, and Planning from the Vocational Psychological Perspective (McIlveen, 2009). This paper provides a limited description of each of the main phenomena in the field (e.g., career interests, decision-making) and theories.

References

Armstrong, P. I., Day, S. X., McVay, J. P., & Rounds, J. (2008). Holland’s RIASEC model as an integrative framework for individual differences. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 55(1), 1-18.

Blustein, D. L. (2006). The psychology of working: A new perspective for career development, counseling, and public policy. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Blustein, D. L. (2013). The psychology of working: A new perspective for a new era. In D. L. Blustein (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of the psychology of working (pp. 3-18). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Brown, S. D., & Lent, R. W. (Eds.). (2005). Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Brown, S. D., & Lent, R. W. (Eds.). (2013). Career development and counseling putting theory and research to work (2nd ed. ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Hartung, P. J., Savickas, M. L., & Walsh, W. B. (Eds.). (2015). APA handbook of career intervention. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Healy, M., McIlveen, P., & Hammer, S. (2018). Use of my career chapter to engage students in reflexive dialogue. In F. Meijers & H. Hermans (Eds.), The dialogical self theory in education: A multicultural perspective (pp. 173-187). Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.

Holland, J. L. (1959). A theory of vocational choice. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 6, 35–45.

Holland, J. L. (1997). Making vocational choices: A theory of vocational personalities and work environments (3rd ed.). Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Lengelle, R., & Meijers, F. (2014). Narrative identity: Writing the self in career learning. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 42(1), 52–72. doi: 10.1080/03069885.2013.816837

Lent, R. W. (2004). Toward a unifying theoretical and practical perspective on well-being and psychosocial adjustment. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 51(4), 482. doi: 10.1037/0022-0167.51.4.482

Lent, R. W. (2005). A social cognitive view of career development and counseling. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (pp. 101-127). Hokoben, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Lent, R. W. (2013). Social cognitive career theory. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling putting theory and research to work (2nd ed. ed., pp. 115-146). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Lent, R. W., & Brown, S. D. (2013). Social cognitive model of career self-management: Toward a unifying view of adaptive career behavior across the life span. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 60(4), 557-568. doi: 10.1037/a0033446

Lent, R. W., Brown, S. D., & Hackett, G. (1994). Toward a unifying social cognitive theory of career and academic interest, choice, and performance. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 45(1), 79-122. doi: 10.1006/jvbe.1994.1027

McIlveen, P. (2009). Career development, management, and planning from the vocational psychology perspective. In A. Collin & W. Patton (Eds.), Vocational psychological and organisational perspectives on career: Towards a multidisciplinary dialogue (pp. 63-89). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

McIlveen, P. (2012). Extending the metaphor of narrative to dialogical narrator. In P. McIlveen & D. E. Schultheiss (Eds.), Social constructionism in vocational psychology and career development (pp. 59-75). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

McIlveen, P. (2015). My Career Chapter and the Career Systems Interview. In M. McMahon & M. Watson (Eds.), Career assessment: Qualitative approaches (pp. 123-128). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

McIlveen, P. (2017). Dialogical self: Co-investigator in career self-research. In M. McMahon (Ed.), Career counselling: Constructivist approaches (pp. 153-163). London, UK: Routledge.

McIlveen, P., & Patton, W. (2007a). Dialogical self: Author and narrator of career life themes. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 7(2), 67-80. doi: 10.1007/s10775-007-9116-6

McIlveen, P., & Patton, W. (2007b). Narrative career counselling: Theory and exemplars of practice. Australian Psychologist, 42(3), 226-235. doi: 10.1080/00050060701405592

Meijers, F. (1998). The development of career identity. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 20, 191-207.

Meijers, F. (2002). Career learning in a changing world: The role of emotions. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 24, 149-167.

Meijers, F., & Lengelle, R. (2012). Narratives at work: The development of career identity. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 40(2), 157-176. doi: 10.1080/03069885.2012.665159

Meijers, F., & Lengelle, R. (2015). Career learning: Qualitative career assessment as a learning process in the construction of a narrative identity. In M. McMahon & M. Watson (Eds.), Career assessment: Qualitative approaches (pp. 41-48). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

Nauta, M. M. (2013). Holland’s theory of vocational choice and adjustment. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career Development and Counseling. Putting theory and research to work. Second Edition. (2nd ed., pp. 55-82). Hoboken, NY: Wiley.

Savickas, M. L. (2005). The theory and practice of career construction. In A. Brown (Ed.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (Vol. 1, pp. 42-70).

Savickas, M. L. (2013). Career construction theory and practice. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (2nd ed., pp. 147-183). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Spokane, A. R., & Cruza-Guet, M. C. (2005). Holland’s theory of vocational personalities in work environments. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (pp. 24-41). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Super, D. E. (1957). The psychology of careers. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Super, D. E. (1990). A life-span, life-space approach to career development. In D. Brown & L. Brooks (Eds.), Career choice and development (pp. 167-261). San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Super, D. E. (1992). Toward a comprehensive theory of career development. In D. H. Montross & C. J. Shinkman (Eds.), Career development: Theory and practice (pp. 35-64). Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas Publisher.

Winters, A., Meijers, F., Reinekke, L., & Baert, B. (2011). The self in career learning: An evolving dialogue. In H. J. M. Hermans & T. Gieser (Eds.), Handbook of dialogical self theory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


About the Author: Dr Peter McIlveen leads the Australian Collaboratory for Career, Employability, and Learning for Living (ACCELL). ACCELL is a multidisciplinary research team focused on adaptive capacity and career development learning, and the psychology of working. Twitter: @petermcilveen

Work Conversations and Identity

When I think about the role of work in people’s lives, it all comes down to two factors:  What gets you out of bed in the morning, and what keeps you awake at night?  Conversely, this might be put as: What stops you going to work in the morning, and what lets you sleep as sound as a baby, satisfied in your day’s work? Philosophical these questions may be, but they are the core questions considered by workers themselves, and those who are meant to motivate them, such as human resources professionals, career counsellors, and psychotherapists.  Indeed, the great psychotherapist, Sigmund Freud (1930/2010) was correct when he suggested that work and love are the two most important things in life. Common to work and love is the substrate of humanity: relationships.  And it is to relationships that I turn for answers to those questions that afflict and inspire so many whose work is a crucible of torment or transcendence.

Work and Relationships

It is difficult to imagine any type of work that does not involve a relationship between an individual and another person.  Even the most autonomous forms of work entail at some point a moment between the individual and the other—supervisor, co-worker, subordinate, customer, client, supplier.  These relational moments may be transactional in the giving and receiving of goods and services, directional in the giving and receiving of instructions and specifications for the activities of work.  They may be fleeting, as short as an order for a coffee ended with grateful words of thanks.  They may be a once-only meeting or an elongated conversation that transpires over months.  This amounts to a relational perspective on work (Blustein, 2011).

Intrinsic to the relational moments are conversations with others.  These conversations may centre on a shared work activity or they may be totally unrelated to the work activity and instead centre on topics of common interest, small talk, or office gossip about so-and-so or the boss.  These conversations may be internalised discourses agreed among a community of workers as accepted ways of being, knowing, and doing work.  In any case, what matters is that individuals are relating to one another through conversations, regardless of the depth and complexity of the conversation.

Dialogical Self in Relationships at Work

In my psychological world these conversations may be real or imagined.  I can converse just as well with my colleague sitting next to me or by phone with another miles away, as I can imagine a conversation between myself and another person, or imagine overhearing a conversation between two others, or the cacophony of a group.  In imagining these conversations, I endow the others with voices and dialogue among them. I can rehearse these dialogues over again until they come to an end.  In reality, I am the psychological author and narrator of their interchanges and interlocutions.  And, I feel the conversations; I feel my joy, my fear; I feel their joy and fear—all the while imagining yet experiencing as if it all were real.  As I imagine a conversation between myself and an other, or a conversation between two others that I overhear, the voices, words, and deeds that I speak and act for the other in the dialogue, truly says more about me than about him.  Onto my real and imaginary interlocutors, I project my own psyche. This conversational self is the notion of Dialogical Self (Hermans, Kempen, & van Loon, 1992) applied to work and career (McIlveen & Patton, 2007).

Conversation has no boundary between the spheres of the worksite and home.  The talk of work carries over into the talk at home, and vice versa.  From the simplest of enquiry about a loved one’s day through to sharing the highs and lows, the fun and the drudgery, work soon enough finds its way into the hearth of a home.  Even powering off electronic devices is an illusion, albeit an effective illusion, for the borderlessness of conversation is intrinsic to its being the grist of identity and being.  I cannot split and dissociate my conversations so easily; the real conversations will echo years after the words were spoken; the imagined conversations play over again as psychologically real as real can be.  Thus, I cannot imagine work without conversations, without relationships.

References

Blustein, D. L. (2011). A relational theory of working. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 79(1), 1-17. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2010.10.004

Freud, S. (1930/2010). Civilization and its discontents. Camberwell, Australia: Penguin.

Hermans, H. J. M., Kempen, H. J. G., & van Loon, R. J. P. (1992). The dialogical self: Beyond individualism and rationalism. American Psychologist, 47(1), 23-33. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.47.1.23

McIlveen, P., & Patton, W. (2007). Dialogical self: Author and narrator of career life themes. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 7(2), 67-80. doi:10.1007/s10775-007-9116-6

 

Workers, Work, and Wellbeing: What About Flexibility?

What makes work empowering and meaningful? Work can be a great source of personal esteem and wellbeing. Unfortunately, at certain stages in careers, work can be disempowering and exhausting for some people. Why? What is it that tips the balance for work being positive or negative? ACCELL researchers are exploring how psychological flexibility influences a person’s career. We’re looking for evidence to answer some important questions:

  • What are those useful ingredients that make a person confident to do their job tasks?
  • What adds to a person’s satisfaction with their career choice and job?
  • Is meaningful work important?
  • What influences a person’s intention to stay in their job?
  • How do all of these factors affect a person’s wellbeing?

The findings of our research are being used to guide the development of new strategies that help people to manage their careers. These strategies are particularly important for people who are making career decisions or changes, or are faced with challenges in their careers.

This current project is part of a broader program of research investigating the psychological and social qualities of people in occupations that are vital to the economic and social health and wellbeing of communities. You can read more about ACCELL’s focus on vital infrastructure workers and employability in our regular blog posts on this site.

We appreciate your interest and hope that you will contribute to our work. If you are aged 18 years or older, an Australian citizen, and are working in paid employment, we would value your participation in our anonymous online survey, which will take about 10 minutes to complete:  https://psi.usq.edu.au/ols/psych/surveys/SCCT18/external.php


About the lead researcher:

Dr Nancey Hoare is an ACCELL researcher who works with the School of Psychology and Counselling at the University of Southern Queensland. Contact: nancey.hoare@usq.edu.au

A Career Check Up for Mature Workers

Mature workers are remaining in the workforce or deciding to return to work after retirement. ACCELL’s doctoral researcher Jennifer Luke is investigating the post-retirement work of members of the community.  This PhD research project is an exploration of individuals’ motivations and career adaptability. How do these valuable members of society regenerate their experience and skills for a multi-generational workforce?

Mature Workers Discover More Options

Recently, Jennifer presented a workshop at the “Career Check Up Expo for Mature Workers” in Ballina, NSW.  The Expo is an initiative of the IRT Foundation in partnership with the NSW Government, and endorsed by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The Expo included presentations and practical workshops by organisations such as the Australian Human Rights Commission, The Benevolent Society, and Centrelink. The expo was supported by The Hon Dr Kay Patterson AO (AHRC Age Discrimination Commissioner), pictured below with Jennifer.

JLuke_IRT_preview

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It was fantastic to have ACCELL represented by Jennifer who delivered a workshop on “Recognising your Value and Experience – How to Become Adaptable in Today’s Workforce”. When not presenting, Jennifer was volunteering as a member of the career advisory team which provided one-on-one career discussions with local mature-age people who attended the Expo.
“The paradox is that ageing is not about decline, it’s about growth. Ageing creates opportunities and mature workers are not burdens. They are valuable contributors with experience and knowledge to give.”

Paradoxical Psychology of Working After Retirement

The current PhD research project extends upon earlier findings that revealed career adaptability within retirees.  Jennifer interviewed retirees to explore their interest and motivations for working after retirement.  Some of the retirees were aged in their late 70s and had not worked for more than 15 years. But, they were all keen to go back to work and not for the money. Their motivations were more to do with their adaptability.  In June this year, Jennifer will share new findings of her research project at the conference of the Society of Vocational Psychology in the USA. Jennifer is planning collaborations with the Expo’s exhibitors, and other career development professionals and researchers who share common goals regarding the positive future of ageing and working.

For further information about this research project: Jennifer.Luke@usq.edu.au

A full copy of the previous research report is available online: Luke, J., McIlveen, P., & Perera, H. N. (2016). A thematic analysis of career adaptability in retirees who return to work. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00193

 

Veterinary Practitioners’ Career and Wellbeing

Working within the veterinary industry is not for the feint-hearted. Despite the perception that veterinary professionals get to play with cute puppies and kittens all day, the reality is very different.  Veterinarians endure high levels of work stress and their profession has one of the higher rates of suicide—about four times higher than the general population and twice as likely as other health professionals.  Put another way, this rate equates to roughly one every 12 weeks (Hamilton, 2016).  Despite the pressures of the profession, it can be as rewarding and personally satisfying as any other.  My research focused on developing supportive strategies for veterinary practitioners to enhance their work engagement and well-being.

Workplace Stress

Veterinary professionals are subjected to, amongst other things, abuse from clients, compassion fatigue, financial concerns, and the often difficult and emotional task of euthanizing animals (Hamilton, 2016). They are required to remain composed, client after client.  Imagine the distress of putting someone’s beloved pet to sleep in one consultation, only to step straight into another consultation with a difficult client who is abusive.  All this without so much as a five-minute break to catch a breath—they are expected to remain professional and composed without the chance to process what has just happened.

Workplace Culture

There have been many changes to the profession over the past 30 years, including gender shifts, and decreases in income levels and status (Macwhirter, 2002). Currently, there are many job vacancies advertised both within Australia and overseas, and seemingly not enough applicants to fill the places. With the demands of the job taking its toll on many practitioners, there is a need to focus on developing workplace strategies to retain them in the profession.  My research involved consulting practitioners to learn about strategies that practice owners may implement to support their staff.  Here are some of the recommendations from the research:

  • Acknowledge the “shadow side” of the profession. It is useful to have avenues for staff to openly discuss the stressors they are facing. Doing this can help to “normalise” the issues and prevent feeling ostracised or having the perception they are the only one feeling this way.
  • Provide information. Provide an EAP service or the contact details for a qualified and experienced counsellor or psychologist who is trusted to work with clients in this field.
  • Develop a culture of wellness. Make sure staff take their breaks. Taking regular breaks can be challenging due to the nature of the job, but breaks are essential for maintaining wellbeing.
  • Consider other incentives. Many veterinarians say it is not always about the money (from working overtime), and there are other things that can be more personally valuable to them (e.g., time off in lieu, a rotation system for working overtime, or small gifts that mean taking time out, such as a movie voucher).

Staff retention is more important than ever in the veterinary industry.  Fostering a healthy workplace culture is an integral part of organisational wellbeing. There is a need to reduce the stigma involved with practitioners speaking up and seeking help, so that they can receive the support they often need and deserve.  After all, veterinary professionals contribute a great deal to society and industries.

References

Hamilton, Nadine D. (2016). A psycho-educational intervention program for veterinary practitioners: learning to cope with being a veterinarian. [Thesis (PhD/Research)]

Macwhirter, P. (2002). A life course approach to veterinary science. Australian Veterinary Journal, 80(8), 454-455


About the Author:

Dr Nadine Hamilton is a psychologist who completed a Doctor of Education research degree that focused on developing strategies to enhance veterinary practitioners’ career engagement and wellbeing.

What Will You Be When You Grow Up?

Recent newspaper stories about career development learning in young children have sparked a national discussion. When is too soon? When is it too late? When is the best time for children to start learning about the world of work and their future careers?  It’s a moot point. Kids start learning about work as they watch and listen to the world around them.  Kids will be what they see.

Storybook Learning

Children’s stories, for example, are a powerful source of wonder and exploration. Stories also introduce kids to the world of work.  Consider the Dr Seuss book Who Are You, Sue Snue? The story begins:

“Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Yes, you, Sue Snue.  Happy birthday to you—….Now, Sue, that you are older than two, it’s time for you choose something to do.” (Rabe, 1997, pp. 1-3).

Story-telling is essentially about learning, imaginatively experiencing new perspectives, and growing.  Hearing a story and reading a story can be transformative.  Indeed, people actively think in metaphors (Lakoff & Johnson, 2008) and they experience their lives in and by their unique stories (McAdams, 1993).  There is ample evidence of metaphors in people’s stories about work and career (Creed & McIlveen, 2017).

Sue Snue’s story continues…. Sue is offered a range of exciting occupations for her grown-up self, such as a Canner of Peas and Trainer of Fleas, but in the end Sue decides:

STOP, EVERYBODY!  I know what I’ll do.  I’ll just be myself, my whole self and not you.  I’ll be true to myself.  That’s just what I’ll do.  No uncle or aunt can tell me ‘You can’t!”  No mother or pop can tell me, ‘Please stop!’ I’ll do what I want to.  That’s what I’ll do.” (Rabe, 1997, p. 36).

Play is Child’s Work

Little Sue’s words can be understood in terms of contemporary educational and career development theory. Children begin their exploration of the world-of-work early in life, as early as three years of age (Gottfredson, 1981) and their understanding and engagement in the world-of-work is influenced by exposure to stereotypical occupations.  It is during these early years that they discover–rightly or wrongly–what is and what is not possible in their futures.  Children’s early imaginings and work-related play are progressively transformed throughout the years of formal schooling, until ultimately a young adult transitions from high school to the next stage in his or her career development.

Play is the work of children.  Early childhood teachers use stereotypical occupations as part of play-based learning (e.g., dress-ups). Most of us remember the good fun of playing these games. Despite the importance of the early years in the formation of personal identity, of which occupation and work is of central concern, there is scope to closely consider how early childhood education approaches career learning.  Theories and practices of early childhood education in current university programs for this specialist field should provide for a model of play that is about learning how to engage in the world of work.  But, a reading of the Early Years Learning Framework (Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations, 2009), for example, reveals a need to refresh how early childhood professionals are prepared to understand the psychology of identity development and career development learning.

If play is taken to be the work of the child, then how should early childhood educators conceptualize work and how should they integrate career learning into the curriculum. The theories are there, ready to be used; it’s a matter of putting them to use (e.g., Skorikov & Patton, 2007).  Given the current media attention, now may be a good time to rethink how society can support early childhood teachers. Attention should be focused on the professional development and resources that they need so that they can get on with their important work of preparing the next generation for the very exciting futures. Would it be too much perhaps to be a Canner of Peas or a Trainer of Fleas?

References

Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations. (2009). Belonging, being & becoming: The early years learning framework for Australians. Canberra, Australia: Australian Government.

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

Gottfredson, L. S. (1981). Circumscription and compromise: A developmental theory of occupational aspirations. Journal of Counseling Psychology Monograph, 28, 545-579.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (2008). Metaphors we live by. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago press.

McAdams, D. P. (1993). The stories we live by. Personal myths and the making of the self. New York, NY: William Morrow and Company.

Rabe, T. (1997). Who are you, Sue Snue? New York, NY: Random House.

Skorikov, V., & Patton, W. (Eds.). (2007). Career development in childhood and adolescence. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.


This article was written by ACCELL’s Dr Peter McIlveen. He expresses thanks to his colleague Dr Karen Noble who inspired his interest in children’s early learning about the world of work.

THE COTTON INDUSTRY – NEXT GENERATION

An innovative industry needs an innovative workforce.  With its reputation for advanced technology and continuous innovation, the Australian cotton industry draws on the expertise of a range of workers, including on-farm workers and contractors, agronomists and consultants, and research scientists, to name a few.  Yet, there is the very real potential for disruptive new technologies to demand changes to workforce profiles of the industry. This challenge raises the question, what is the expertise—the personal strengths, knowledge, skills—that the future workforce needs to maintain and improve the cotton industry’s strong production outputs in a competitive market?

ACCELL and CRDC postdoctoral research fellow, Dr Nicole McDonald, is researching and developing practical strategies to support the cotton industry to attract and develop the next generation of expert workers.  Your input to this R&D is valuable. Please take 5 minutes to register your interest via the link below:

https://tinyurl.com/y8pmb6r4

OPTIMISING TALENT

The first phase of Dr McDonald’s applied R&D project will identify:

  1. the career motivations of the next generation of workers,
  2. the workers who are set to innovate and capitalise on new technology, and
  3. the support and training needed to maximise the potential of these workers.

The findings of the R&D will inform evidence-based strategies for workforce management and development for cotton production businesses and, more broadly, the cotton industry.

CF - Cotton on_

Courtesy of Cotton Australia

Many cotton growers are advocates for attracting and developing new talent in the industry.  Excellent initiatives such as the Cotton Gap Year are proving very useful. There are obvious benefits to recruiting new talent and investing in training.  But, employing a relatively inexperienced recruit can be risky. And, transferring what is learned in training to enhance on-the-job performance can be challenging, particularly when new skills learned in training may be lost within a year if not put to good use. These are just some of the reasons why this R&D project is so important.

We want to support growers and other professionals in the cotton industry to ensure their future workforce is the best they can be, and that the cotton industry is the first choice for talented and capable young people making career decisions.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK

  • Do you work in a cotton industry profession either on-farm, or related to farm production (e.g., growers, farm hands, agronomists, consultants, scientists, researchers, extension officers, contractors)?
  • Are you someone who has been working in the cotton industry for 5 years or less?
  • Do you currently employ someone who has been working in the cotton industry for 5 years or less?

If  you answered “yes” to any one of these questions then we want to hear from you.  It takes only 5 minutes to register your interest via the link below:

https://tinyurl.com/y8pmb6r4


CRDC_logo

This project is supported by the Cotton Research Development Corporation (CRDC).

Teachers Teach for the Futures of Australian Students

School of Teacher Education and Early Childhood - University of Southern Queensland

Beginning in the early years of childhood education though to senior years in high school, students are learning about the world of work and careers.  And teachers are leading students’ learning about their futures.  When it comes to career development learning in schools, teachers provide crucial learning experiences that expand their students’ imaginations and possibilities. Despite their obvious importance, teachers’ expertise in career development learning is pretty much unknown.  ACCELL doctoral researcher, Greg Souvan, is exploring teacher’s interest and knowledge of career development learning that occurs in mainstream subject classes.

Career Learning in Mainstream Subjects

The primary focus of the research is to investigate mainstream teachers’ beliefs about teaching career development concepts within their classes in secondary schools. The findings of this research should heighten education departments’ awareness of career development learning in schools.  Also, the findings will inform professional development for teachers in the future.

Teachers may have high self-efficacy beliefs when teaching in their specialist subject area.  However, many secondary school teachers without qualifications or professional development in career development studies are asked to take a career education class.  This research project is exploring teachers’ beliefs about their pedagogical expertise and their perspective on career development activities in subject classes.

The participants involved in this research are secondary school teachers.  It does not matter if they have taught or have not taught a specific career education class. The research is exploring a mix of perspectives from different teachers.

Tell Us What You Believe

We want to support teachers who are doing great work in their classrooms and schools.  If you are a teacher, please complete an online survey that should take about 5-10 minutes. Click on the link here to access the anonymous survey: http://www.createsurvey.com/s/lFjVMl/

If you know a teacher then please share this article. You can use the share buttons to spread the word through twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

By completing or sharing the survey, you will help us to discover more about what teachers want to learn to do their important work to inspire students. Please accept our thanks for your support of the project.
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Philosophical Considerations on Employability: That Matrix of Person, Context, and Relationships in the World of Work.

Employability is Not…

  • a shopping list of knowledge, and cognitive and behavioural skills; or
  • the probability of getting a job; or
  • owned by government or industry.

Employability is…

  • person-centred; and
  • context-sensitive; and
  • relational.

Employability is Person-Centred

Employability is a psychological construct comprising a mixture of dispositional traits, characteristic adaptations, and personally definitive life stories that are meaningful to identity construction, among social relationships, and within economic contexts related to work.  As a construct, employability is an intangible notion that is reflected in a person’s behaviour.  One cannot observe employability directly but one can observe its personalized expression in traits, adaptations, and stories in context.

  • Dispositional traits are relatively stable feature of a person are associated with specific behaviours.  Conscientiousness, for example, is a dispositional trait that is observed as a person’s active dedication to tasks and high levels of productivity in work.
  • Characteristic adaptations are relatively flexible and can be learned and developed over time and with experience.  Self-efficacy, for example, is an adaptation that comprises a person’s beliefs about ability to perform a certain task.  Self-efficacy can be learned by quality experiential learning, observational learning, persuasion, and positive emotional experiences.
  • Life stories are the definitive quality of an individual.  No one person has the same life stories; these are the quintessential narratives that make a person a truly indivisible individual.  A person’s life stories engage their past, present, and future, and, moreover, these stories are created in relation to past, present, and future with other people. The themes within a person’s stories make meaning from traits, adaptations, and experiences in the world.  Dispositional traits, characteristic adaptations, and life stories underpin an individual’s employment-related contemplation, decision-making, and actions toward attaining and maintaining a desired volume and type of work.

Employability is Context Sensitive

Employability is context-sensitive and can be understood within a turbulent confluence of factors that influence any given individual’s chances of working. An individual may enjoy great opportunities in one context but very few in another context, at another time, or another place. For example, a person who is qualified to practice a profession or trade in one country may not be in another.  Employability affects a person’s volition to engage with the new context.  In the context of a manufacturing plant redesign and restructure, a person trained in the mechanical operation of one machine requires the conscientiousness, self-efficacy, and meaningful reasons to actively engage in learning activities that enable the transfer of present expertise to another machine requiring additional expertise.

Employability may motivate an individual to acquire certain items on the shopping list of knowledge and skills that are in demand and, thereby, increase the probability of employment.  Thus, employability is reflected in an individual’s contemplation, decision, and actions to evolve as a person by acquiring additional knowledge and skills.  Employability is not the knowledge and skills per se; it is the propensity to understand their personal value and act toward their acquisition for deployment in a specific context.

Context and access to resources in context (e.g., knowledge, finances) may foster or inhibit a person’s employability.  For example, knowing how to acquire and critically appraise information about the world of work (e.g., job market requirements) is dependent on knowledge of context.  Furthermore, discovering information about affordable training and being able to afford it may be attractive to one person who recognizes the potential to personally benefit from the training; but, the same training may be inappropriate to the aspirations and volition of another person.

Employability is reflected in an individual’ characteristic adaptations and narratives that inform knowing the difference between what is appropriate and inappropriate training and, if choice is available, making an informed and meaningful decision and taking actions that benefit the individual. Inappropriate training is that which is irrelevant to an individual’s aspirations and goals that distinguish personal narratives.  Consider, for example, those workplaces in which staff are directed to take mandatory training in some particular topic that is essentially irrelevant to the person’s aspirations and goals, and failure to complete the training results in penalties such as withholding salary increments.  Also consider those governments which direct unemployed people to take on training with little relevance to their aspirations and goals, and instead merely soaks up precious time and resources needed for pursuing relevant opportunities, and then these governments impose financial restrains on the person for not completing the training. In these situations, there is no choice.  Being compelled to training by force of withholding salary increments or unemployment allowance is not a choice—it is conscription—and does little to enhance an individual’s sense of employability.

Employability is Relational

Work is done by people, with people, and for people. At every transaction of work there is a relational moment.  People do work in organizations, small and global, and an organization is a relational matrix. People work to provide for their families and their communities.  The ostensibly lonely solo consultant tapping away at a keyboard is producing something for someone. Thus, work and employability cannot be conceived of meaningfully without understanding the relational context.  An individual’s personally meaningful narratives about work are inevitably about oneself and another.

As an intrinsically relational activity, the meaningfulness of work is embedded in distal, broad spectrum cultures and discourses (e.g., at the level of a nation) and proximal, micro-cultures and discourses (e.g., within organizations, families).  Employment and employability–two ostensibly simple concepts–take on vastly different meanings and actions in different discourses.  The economist who is embedded in political institutions, endowed with power to create policies that affect the lives of individuals, cannot understand and talk about employment and employability in any other discourse than that which empowers him: economics.  This langauge of economics extends into the realm of human resources practitioners whose recruitment mechanisms reify the items typical on the  employability skills shopping list: communication, teamwork, problem solving, etc.  Educational institutions propagate this discourse in their own terms (e.g., graduate attributes) with synonymous meanings and equivalent intents.

An individual has little choice but to learn this discourse and perform with alacrity.  She must engage with the discourse; to do otherwise would cast her as an unrecognizable outsider unable to relate to others.  Unable to imbue herself in a given organizational culture by relational means (e.g., networking), her fettered attempts to secure employment will leave her inexorably dispirited. To this endeavour, “employability”, an individual must bring all her psychological resources: dispositional traits, characteristic adaptations, and definitive narratives.  Knowledge and skills alone will not suffice.

Bibliography

Blustein, D. L. (2006). The psychology of working: A new perspective for career development, counseling, and public policy. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Foucault, M. (1972). The archaeology of knowledge (A. M. S. Smith, Trans.). London, UK: Routledge.

Fugate, M., Kinicki, A. J., & Ashforth, B. E. (2004). Employability: A psycho-social construct, its dimensions, and applications. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 65(1), 14-38. doi:DOI: 10.1016/j.jvb.2003.10.005

McAdams, D. P. (1995). What do we know when we know a person? Journal of Personality, 63(3), 366-396. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.1995.tb00500.x


This article is the first in a series of philosophical musings about employability. The present article is by ACCELL’s Research Director, Dr Peter McIlveen with contributions by Dr Allison Creed following robust discussion. McIlveen argues that employability is about self-determination in context. Some scholars suggest that his perspective is too individualistic, that it does not sufficiently account for context, and that leads to a “blame the victim” perspective.  What is your perspective?

Employability Research Teams United

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ACCELL has joined forces with the International Research and Intervention Laboratory: Psychology for Vocational Guidance and Career Counseling and Talents (LabOProCCareer&T), under the leadership of Professor Annamaria di Fabio, at the University of Florence, Italy.

ACCELL’s Research Director, Peter McIlveen (USQ) and Research Fellow, Allison Creed (USQ), presented an Australian flag to LabOProCCareer&T’s Research Director,  Annamaria di Fabio. The ceremony symbolizes the partnership between the two research teams. Professor di Fabio was honoured to receive the flag brought from the Toowoomba office of Dr John McVeigh, Member for the Seat of Groom in the Australian House of Representatives.

ACCELL and LabOProCCareer&T are conducting research that spans Italy, USA, and Australia.  The two teams are focused on the psychological qualities of employability that enable a person to best use their knowledge and skills in the labour market.

Like ACCELL, the LabOProCCareer&T research team focuses on vocational guidance, career counselling, career development and career management, with the particular goals of identifying and promoting individual resources and developing an evidence-base for effective, innovative interventions.  LabOProCCareer&T finds answers to questions that are important for education and workforce development:  Which factors play a role in career decision-making? Which factors promote adaptive career outcomes? Which factors contribute to the development of intrapreneurship for the 21st century? Which interventions are effective in promoting career and life management in the 21st century? Which are effective and efficient processes of recognition and enhancement of the talents and skills in a lifelong perspective?