ACCELL April Meet-up

Kristin pic

In April, Kristen Lovric presented a proposal of her MPhD research to the ACCELL research team. Kristen’s research is focused on understanding the factors that attract and retain agriculturalists to jobs in Australia’s agriculture industry.

Kristen argued that individuals trained in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) play an important role in innovating more efficient and sustainable technology for use in farming. Kristen is interested in understanding motivation and engagement of these trained professionals.

First, Kristen investigates what leads these professionals to apply their skills in the agriculture field: Are agriculturalists driven predominately by their career interests?
Then, she identifies and explores their key occupational beliefs, experiences, supports, or barriers that help or hinder their workforce engagement: What role does their confidence at work play?

ACCELL March Meet-up

JLuke_Accell_screen

In March, Jennifer Luke presented to the ACCELL research team highlights of both her previous MEd and current PhD research into the motivation, career adaptability and willingness of retirees successfully returning to the workforce in either paid or voluntary roles.

Jennifer argued that both within Australian and globally, there is an immediate need for an injection of skills from mature age workers and retirees to strengthen workforce productivity. But before looking at workforce capability solutions that will entice retirees back into employment… you need to firstly focus on retirees.

What are their needs? Do they wish to return or continue working? We look forward to Jennifer answering these questions as she completes her valuable research.

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.

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.