Narrative Career Counselling

Career counselling is a term that subsumes a variety of diverse activities.  Here, the qualities and activities of narrative career counselling are highlighted.

Core Features of Narrative Career Counselling:

  • emphasises subjectivity and meaning;
  • faciliates self-reflection and elaboration of self-concepts toward an enhanced self-understanding that is subjectively and contextually truthful;
  • is a collaborative process in which the client is supported while creating an open-ended personal story that holistically describes his or her life and career; and,
  • produces a story which enables the client to make meaningfully informed career decisions and actions.

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SVP 2016 Conference e-Book

ACCELL Research Team

The Society of Vocational Psychology has released an e-book of the keynote papers and a selection of special topics presented at the 2016 SVP Conference held at the beautiful Tallahassee campus of Florida State University.

Sampson, J. P., Bullock-Yowell, E., Dozier, V. C., Osborn, D. S., & Lenz, J. G. (Eds.). (2017). Integrating theory, research, and practice in vocational psychology: Current status and future directions. Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University Libraries.

Thanks to the authors and editors for sharing this magnificent collection of papers.  The book is licensed under Creative Commons and can be downloaded as an e-book free of charge, or printed on demand for a small fee.

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Transformative Career Development Learning

Profound change in personal perspective, inclusive of the cognitive (thinking), affective (feeling) and behavioural (doing) dimensions of experience, are central to the adult learning theory of transformative learning (Mezirow, 2000). Transformative learning may occur in response to a disorienting dilemma, a crisis, or a series of critical moments that press an individual to change and adapt.  Studying for a degree, for example, quite frequently visits dilemmas, crises, and critical moments on students.  Such challenges are addressed by career development practitioners who are working in educational contexts.  Career Development Learning (CDL), whether it occurs within career counselling or career education, can be a vehicle for reflective learning that is transformative: that is, transformative career development learning (TCDL) (McIlveen, 2012).

CDL Answers Questions

CDL aims to facilitate students answering ostensibly straight-forward questions, such as:

“Why am I studying? Why am I studying for this major and degree? How can I make the most of my studies for personal achievement and work? What do I have to learn in order to achieve my goals? How can I determine the best study pathway for my career goals? How can I use what I have learned for success in the workforce?”

These questions are routine for career development practitioners who support students in universities and colleges. Academic practitioners, however, may not necessarily find the questions routine or even relevant to the day-to-day teaching of their specialist disciplines. An academic may well ask: “Don’t these students know why they are here?” Unfortunately, students’ decisions about their careers and choice of qualifications are not always perfectly resolved.  Thus, these questions  posed by students go to the heart of the matter when it comes to being a student: Authentic engagement in learning. And, this when CDL is really valuable.

CDL as a Reflexive Mirror

CDL may be metaphorically conceived of as a two-way mirror (McIlveen et al., 2011), as shown in the figure below. On the left-hand side of the figure is the student who is embedded in layers of career influences that range from the intrapersonal to the broader social and economic. On the right-hand side is the world-of-work, which is equivalently layered and complex. In the middle, is a two-way mirror that represents CDL.

 

CDL enables the student to reflect on his/her self with respect to career competencies and learning objectives. From another perspective, the student may look through the looking-glass—a lens of career competencies and learning objectives—to see the world-of-work. Both perspectives create meaning oriented toward self and the world-of-work, and it is through this meaning making process that disciplinary studies are made meaningful to the student, perhaps by answering the questions given above (e.g., “Why am I studying?”). Continue reading

“Big 5” Profiles of Career Adaptivity

In this era of economic uncertainty, employers are increasingly shifting their need for market flexibility onto individuals, resulting in greater job insecurity and fragmented and unpredictable educational and vocational pathways. This economic dynamic has given rise to an increased interest in the psychological characteristics, behaviors, and interventions that enhance individuals’ adaptation in a rapidly evolving environment.

Career Adaptation

Career construction theory (CCT; Savickas, 2013) conceptualizes four aspects in the process of adaptation needed in the world of work and career:

Adaptivity → Adaptability → Adapting Adaptation

According to CCT, individuals who are willing or ready to change (i.e., Adaptivity) and possess the psychosocial resources to do so (i.e., Adaptability) are better able to respond to changing conditions (i.e., Adapting) and thereby secure positive outcomes (i.e., Adaptation).

Career Adaptivity → Career Adaptability

The “Big 5”, the Five Factor Model (FFM; McCrae & Costa, 2003), is sufficiently encompassing to capture all aspects of personality. However, the CCT offers no specific combinations of personality traits to reflect career Adaptivity, which is the first factor in the chain of the process of adaptation. We hypothesize that is possible to identify some combination of the FFM traits reflecting Adaptivity.

Our research is the first to examine profiles of career Adaptivity based on the FFM dimensions using latent profile analysis (or mixture analyses). This research reveals three Adaptivity profiles shown in the figure below. Each profile has a distinct pattern.

FFM profile

We found individuals with the “Adaptive Ready” profile reported significantly higher levels of career Adaptability, measured using the Career Adapt-Abilities Scale (Savickas & Porfeli, 2012).  They had more career Adaptability than individuals with the “Ordinary” profile, who, in turn, reported significantly higher levels of career Adaptability than those with the “Rigid” profile. Continue reading

Career Adaptability in Retirees

Retirees returning to the workplace is not so unusual and there doing so is not always about meeting financial needs. Our research using in-depth interviews with 22 retirees of different working backgrounds, ranging from corporate professionals through to semi-skilled labourers, revealed consistent patterns and themes in the results. We found the qualities of “career adaptability” in these retirees who had returned to work. What is interesting about this finding is that career adaptability is not often thought of as a psychological strength within older folk; more often, it is associated with younger people entering into the world of work and adults surviving or, hopefully, thriving in their daily grind.

Dimensions of Career Adaptability

Measures of career adaptability tap four psychological dimensions: a future orientation to working (concern), a sense of feeling autonomy over work tasks (control), interest in learning and developing new skills and knowledge (curiosity), and feeling positive about one’s ability to contribute to a workplace (confidence).

The figure below depicts the links among the themes revealed in the interviews and it shows that career adaptability is connected up to all major themes.

Consider the example of two retired sheep shearers who returned to work as roustabouts in shearing sheds. Fit as fiddles, these two decided to job-share, splitting the tasks of this demanding labouring job between themselves, depending on their physical capacities (e.g., one’s arthritic knee and the other’s arthritic back). Why? Because working hard gives them a sense of satisfaction and meaning more than any other activity.

Implications for Workplaces and Policy

Policy makers and employers should note that older workers’ interests, needs, and reasons for working may be very different to those of younger workers. Indeed, a proven approach to attracting and retaining younger employees may not be as effective for older workers. Instead, harnessing older workers’ career adaptability and how they wish to express it may be just the thing to refresh motivation and restore dignity in the workplace.


This blog article is an extract from:

Luke, J., McIlveen, P., & Perera, H. N. (2016). A thematic analysis of career adaptability in retirees who return to work. Frontiers in Psychology. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00193

A Philosophy of Career Counselling

As an intimate act of personal archaeology, career counselling excavates the psychological, social, and cultural past of an individual so as to inductively understand the present. Then, on the basis of this knowledge, the counsellor and client cast their psychological eyes into the future so as to imaginatively co-construct a story that may, or may not, generate active engagement in the world of work.  This creative process of being and becoming can be traced to the philosophical treatises of Kierkegaard, Hume, James, and Nietzsche.

Soren Kierkegaard

Can career counselling be a solution to Kierkegaard’s (1843/1967) problem of living life forward by knowing it backward? It can be; but, only if, paradoxically, one bravely accepts that this putative knowledge of the future that is inductively created on the basis of the past is little more than emotive guesswork, if not a folly that should be tentatively grasped with fingers crossed behind one’s back, hoping that one’s predictions may come true.

David Hume

It was David Hume (1748/2007) who challenged induction as a way of knowing the future. Hume suggested that humans believe in their predictions as result of intrinsic psychological architecture. Humans are inherently disposed toward committing the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc or cum hoc ergo propter hoc (i.e., after this therefore because of this; with this therefore because of this). In other words, that B followed A, is no reason to believe A caused B; and, that A and B occur simultaneously is no reason to draw a causal relationship between the two.

William James

William James (1890/1952) deepened this idea in his argument that humans experience time because they experience thinking, metaphorically, like the flowing of a stream. Furthermore, James argued that consciousness of series (e.g., one event following another after another, and so on) is the source of rational thinking. Humans are not only psychologically capable of discerning series; they aim to do so in order to make sense of events they observe. Storying relies on this sense of time and inductive thinking so as to create connections between one moment in life and the next, ad infinitum.

Notwithstanding the flaw of inductive thinking, it is in existential torment that one must carry on with life, believing, and hoping, that the future can be known, albeit a fiction that is composed as an open-ended story that seems to contiguously follow on from the previous chapter of a life (i.e., post hoc ergo propter hoc). This fiction is exactly what people construct in order to make sense of their past and current phenomenal world, and it is this fictional existence that permits the activity of narrative career counselling as a way of knowing. In this way, counselling produces therapeutic truth—a benign white lie with generative intent. Accordingly, career counselling, especially narrative career counselling because it is the most doubtable form of personal knowing toward the creation of personal truths, has no more compelling a purchase on creating personal truths than psychoanalysis, which is a most exquisite form of personal archaeology.

I use pragmatism (James, 1907/2000) as an epistemology of personal truth, that which I call “pragmatic ideographic truth”. Continue reading

Vocational Psychology for Agriculture

As the human population continues to grow, the demand for food continues to outstrip the security of its supply.  This conundrum is not a problem of any single nation state; it is an international problem—a problem for humanity. Its importance is manifest in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. Despite halving the prevalence of extreme hunger since the inception of the MDGs, the rate of improvement is decelerating and more effort is required to maintain the downward trajectory of the prevalence of hunger (United Nations, 2014). Regular access to nutritious food is not just a problem of production and supply, as there are other causes such as conflict and corruption; however, sustainable and equitable production of food is a vital part of the solution.  ACCELL has the SDGs within its vision and aims to conduct R&D that is useful and, moreover, vital.

As a branch of applied psychology, vocational psychology has the scientific and professional capability to make a substantive contribution to agriculture. To that end, the three objectives of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) succinctly capture the intent of the research agenda for the Vocational Psychology of Agriculture—Farming Food and Fibre (VPA—FFF) that is advanced by ACCELL:

  1. the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition;
  2. the elimination of poverty and the driving forward of economic and social progress for all; and,
  3. the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources, including land, water, air, climate and genetic resources for the benefit of present and future generations (FAO, 2015).

Thus, the VPA—FFF is motivated by an ethical mandate to contribute to the social and emotional well-being of the world’s population. Continue reading

Career Practitioners Should Advocate for Maths and STEM Educators

Career development practitioners (CDPs) should play a vitally important role in the Australian Government’s “innovation agenda” and the focus on careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). CDPs’ current contribution to the innovation agenda is, however, marginal and unheard. The insignificance of the contribution is not for want of interest nor trying; for it is the case that the CDPs make a very contribution to the lives of students of all ages and education sectors. What is missing is a strategy for research and development for STEM careers, which is an irony given the R&D focus of the innovation agenda.

Here we argue that CDPs can speak to that agenda but only as an outcome of making a substantive contribution to solving crucial problems that cause diminished interest in STEM careers.

Much of the rhetoric of urgency in the innovation agenda echoes Australia’s performance on benchmark tests of literacy and numeracy (OECD, 2016) and hyperbole that Australia is “falling behind” its global competitors. In fact, the differences between the average of Australian students and the averages of some other industrial nations (e.g., Germany) may not be all that meaningful beyond statistical differences; however, quite marked differences are present in comparison with nations that have a central role in the economy of Asia Pacific (e.g., Korea, Japan). The blame for Australians students’ relatively weaker performance is sheeted home to teachers along with accusations that teachers are not sufficiently prepared to engage in the teaching of mathematics, which is the inherent language of science, technology, and engineering. Indeed, without M in the STEM, there is no S, T, and E. Continue reading