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?


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.

Metaphors of Higher Education: What do they reveal?

USQ by line

Find Knowledge

Figurative frame of knowledge: Knowledge is something to be discovered, or we can see where it is by searching for it.

Discover Belief

Figurative frame of belief: Belief is something you can find out that you did not know before.

Methodology: Metaphor Identification Procedure Vrije Universiteit (MIPVU) (Steen et al., 2010)

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.