I Feel Your Pain …

Just thought I’d share some New Year careers adviser problems with you – if you’re not interested, just skip this. Have a look at some of the nice new vacancies on the Twitter feed instead.

New Year, New Challenge
I’m grappling with some challenging career issues at the moment, particularly around

  • how people choose which career to go into, and
  • why they are sometimes reluctant to let go of one “identity” and consider other possible “future selves”

In particular, I’m looking at PhDs who don’t want to think of themselves as being anything other than “an academic-in-waiting”, even when they know the stats.

I’m also pondering about all those undergrads who cling to the identity of “student” as long as possible and don’t apply for jobs before they graduate, even though that inevitably means their identity changes to “unemployed” (or sometimes “Masters postgrad”… don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone if that’s the reason why you’re doing your Masters – we all know it happens).

There are lots of careers theories, and I’ve had some good advice on starting points for journal articles on identity, career decision making and employability.

How to choose?
The problem is, I’m on unfamiliar territory with careers theory, and I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the choices in front of me; the unfamiliar jargon they use; the sometimes conflicting information. I’ve got loads of information and keep on finding more, but how can I tell which one is “the best”, and what do other people think are the good theories, and what if I choose the wrong one? That’s only the start though – once I find a theory I like, how do I actually use the information to solve the problem I’ve got?

And then I realised that whatever I choose to do, I’m getting an insight into what our students have to struggle with when trying to choose a career – all the careers information we fling at you; employer presentations which sound like so much corporate jargon; what your parents, friends, fellow students say are “the best jobs” (all different, of course); how on earth you get into those jobs from where you are now.

I’m feeling suitable chastened, and I think I’d recommend a crash course in trying to make use of careers theory for any careers person who’s getting exasperated at the lack of direction or action from their students.

Good luck to those of you making those difficult career decisions in 2012, and if it’s all getting a bit overwhelming, come and have a chat with a careers adviser. Some of us do know what it’s like to be lost in a sea of information with a difficult decision to make.

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