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.

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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

 

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?

ICCDPP 2017: The World’s Career Development Think Tank

Imagine a hall filled by a selection of leading thinkers and doers, sharing ideas, challenges, professional practices, and national policies reflecting their nations’ aspirations for educational and labour market outcomes. They all met in Seoul at the 8th Symposium of International Centre for Career Development Public Policy (ICCDPP), hosted by the the Republic of Korea’s Department of Education and KRIVET.  Evidently, career development is high on the agenda of many nations seeking to improve the employability of their citizens.

This ICCDPP 2017 coordinated the presentations and deliberations of 26 countries represented by Country Teams made of no less than 120 delegates.  Their deliberations were planned into an action-packed agenda.  This was no talk fest. Country Teams worked with one another and then crossed over into blended teams to formulate strategies and Action Plans for their respective countries.

Widening the Scope

Unemployment and underemployment are a scourge of international proportion that have devastating effects on health and well-being (Kossen & McIlveen, 2017). Knowing the destructive effects of the lack of decent work, the delegates described the usefulness of career development services for adults aiming to enter the labour market or transition from one job to another.  Career development services are proven to be effective and necessary for youngsters making career decisions about their futures (Whiston, Li, Goodrich Mitts, & Wright, 2017).  Preparing for their transitions from learning to earning is vital and their socio-economic prosperity and to a sustainable labour force.  In all nations, there is a pressing need for policies and programs for transitions throughout the whole of life, from formal schooling to retirement.

ICCDPP Country Teams’ Action Plans

In the coming weeks, Countries Teams will share their Action Plans with fellow delegates and key stakeholders in their homelands.  Their Action Plans will signal an international agreement emphasizing the benefits of career development services to individuals, their communities, and the productive industry sectors in which they work. Stay tuned for more updates.

The ICCDPP delegates were treated with extraordinary courtesy. The Korean hosts offered glorious hospitality and respect for peoples from other parts of the world. Hosts of the next symposium of the ICCDPP, the 9th, would do well to learn from Korea’s format and experiences.

The Key Messages

With such a diverse array of participants and topics from across the globe, it is necessary to condense the findings into a short and precise message: The Communique 2017

This year’s Communique captures several important themes.  One theme close to ACCELL’s interests is employability.  Read the Communique with your own nation in mind.  Consider the issues, trends, and consider how employability intersects with these important dimensions of your industry.

References

Kossen, C., & McIlveen, P. (2017). Unemployment from the perspective of the psychology of working. Journal of Career Development, 0(0). doi: doi:10.1177/0894845317711043

Whiston, S. C., Li, Y., Goodrich Mitts, N., & Wright, L. (2017). Effectiveness of career choice interventions: A meta-analytic replication and extension. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 100, 175-184. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2017.03.010

CDAA Keynote Speakers Podcast

The Career Development Association of Australia brought four keynote speakers to its 2017 annual conference of members and industry bodies.  Listen to brief interviews with Dr Ryan Duffy, Dr Ann Villiers, Dr Peter McIlveen, and Ms Marayke Jonkers, to learn more about their ideas for the field of career development.

Psychology of Working

ACCELL International Fellow, Dr Ryan Duffy, and ACCELL Research Director, Dr Peter McIlveen, emphasize issues associated with the psychology of working, decent work, unemployment, and evidence-based practice.


Acknowledgement: Thanks to CDAA Communications Officer, Georgia Kelly-Bakker, who recorded and produced the podcast.

Unemployment is Psychologically Destructive

The Psychology of Unemployment

ACCELL’s research into unemployment focuses on its social and psychological impacts on people who want to work but have no work or insufficient work to get by in life.  More importantly, ACCELL’s research and development is focused on determining and developing social and psychological resources that better enable individuals’ employability to survive, connect with one another, and live happier, productive lives.

Kossen McIlveen 2017 front page

Research recently published by ACCELL in the Journal of Career Development (Kossen & McIlveen, 2017) reveals a new and important perspective on unemployment.  The findings of this research show that unemployment can be understood in terms of the Psychology of Working Theory (Duffy, Blustein, Diemer, & Autin, 2016).

“I’m delighted to read about important research emerging from the psychology of working framework. Congrats to and colleagues.” Professor David Blustein, Boston College, USA.

Psychological Factors that Remediate Employability

The research demonstrates factors that may worsen a person’s chance of securing decent work. More importantly, the research pinpoints psychological factors that may also improve a person’s chances of getting decent work–and this is where ACCELL is focused on making a difference.  These so-called 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 associated with well defined job search strategies that target the “right job” not just “any job”.  The “any job” strategy is a recipe for poor outcomes–despite what some politicians may say.  Professional career development practitioners (e.g., Career Development Association of Australia) 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.

References

Duffy, R. D., Blustein, D. L., Diemer, M. A., & Autin, K. L. (2016). The psychology of working theory. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 63(2), 127-148. doi: 10.1037/cou0000140

Kossen, C., & McIlveen, P. (2017). Unemployment from the perspective of the psychology of working. Journal of Career Development, doi: 10.1177/0894845317711043.


This blog article is an extract from:

Kossen, C., & McIlveen, P. (2017). Unemployment from the perspective of the psychology of working. Journal of Career Development, doi:10.1177/0894845317711043.

A copy of the published version is available from the journal’s site or an “author pre-print version” is available at Peter McIlveen’s ResearchGate site.

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

Unemployment and Underemployment are Scourges

Public Health Problem

Unemployment and underemployment are scourges—nothing short of a problem of public health of pandemic proportions. Unemployed people are at greater risk of poorer physical health (Griep et al., 2015) and mental health (Wanberg, 2012), including suicidal behavior (Breuer, 2014; Drydakis, 2014; Madianos, Alexiou, Patelakis, & Economou, 2014; Milner, Morrell, & LaMontagne, 2014; Milner, Page, & LaMontagne, 2013, 2014), and change in personality, such as agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness (Boyce, Wood, Daly, & Sedikides, 2015).  It is alarming that poverty is associated with diminished cognitive development in children (Dickerson & Popli, 2016; Heberle & Carter, 2015; Kalil, Duncan, & Ziol-Guest, 2016).

Unemployment not only diminishes mental health but also, in turn, poorer mental health is a risk factor for unemployment (Butterworth, Leach, Pirkis, & Kelaher, 2012; Olesen, Butterworth, Leach, Kelaher, & Pirkis, 2013), which sets up a vicious cycle that entraps those with mental health issues in poverty. Furthermore, poor quality employment confers similar negative effects on mental health. Tragically, suicide is concomitant to unemployment (Milner, Morrell, et al., 2014; Milner, Page, et al., 2014; Norstrom & Gronqvist, 2015; Reeves, McKee, & Stuckler, 2014) and evident higher rates of suicide within the first five years of unemployment (Milner et al., 2013).  With the provision of interventions for unemployment and re-employment within their professional domain, career practitioners must be alert to mental health concerns and suicidality for their clients (Popadiuk, 2013). Continue reading