Friday, 10 April 2015

What are the ingredients of career motivation?

Last week I attended "Career Management at the cutting edge" a fascinating day of insights and ideas for practice arranged by the CDI (Career Development Institute) and NICEC (National Institute for Career Education and Counselling).

Julia Yates from the University of East London led an interesting session on career optimism, hope and motivation. Julia explored why intrinsic motivators are more powerful than extrinsic ones. Ryan and Desi's (2000) work on Self-determination theory suggested the explanation lies in three strong human needs:

We strive for autonomy and control over our lives, decisions and behaviours.
We strive for competence because we like the idea of being good at something, being successful and skilled.
We are driven by a need to connect with other people.
Julia went on to talk more about Stajkovic (2006) and the four constructs he identified which lead people to be more confident and motivated to turn ideas into action.

Resilience - the ability to bounce back if things don't go as anticipated.
Optimism - an outlook that the world is benign and that things generally will go well for you.
Self-efficacy - a confidence in your own ability to make good decisions, to find work or achieve your ambitions.
Hope - having a goal and seeing a pathway to achieve it.
So if you want to be truly motivated what are the ingredients these theoreticians and academics believe you need?

You will need:

A clear goal
To know what steps you need to take to reach your goal
Belief that you can reach your goal
Some level of enjoyment in the tasks and steps along the way
To feel in control of some of the decisions you take along the way
To feel connected with others - not being alone or isolated in the journey
To feel positive
All good so far.... but what about those clients or customers who are less positive and whose aspirations seem to them to be nigh impossible or extremely remote?

Julia suggested several useful and practical tools which can be helpful. One of the most interesting was from the field of positive psychology. "Three Good Things" struck me as an interesting and non-threatening tool which many advisers and counselors could easily use with their customers and clients.

The approach can have a positive impact on people who follow it, and the reason according to researchers is that being grateful for our experiences has a positive impact on our psychological and social health. Many people focus first on things that go wrong - identifying the problems they encounter in minute detail. By taking the time to reflect on the good things we experience, the encounters that made us smile, we actually notice and can get more from these positive things.

So what is the process?

Nightly before bed, think back over your day and remember three good things that happened. Make a note of why they happened and why they made you feel good. Write these down in a diary or notebook. If you don't like the idea of a notebook by your bed, you could even take to your favourite social network and record your three good things of the day in a status update. Keep this up for a week, then review and see whether there are any recurring themes.

Perhaps reading this and hearing the idea of "three good things" might be one of your own three good things today! If so there are only two to go to meet your daily quota.

If you want to read more about the "three good things" approach check out the Action for Happiness website

Image credit: Susu Jabbeh

What might Labour's 21st century careers service look like?

Yesterday Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband launched his Education manifesto. And at the heart of it a commitment to offer independent, impartial, face to face careers advice for young people from age 11 (year 7).

Central features which have been outlined include recruitment by the National Careers Service of up to 1,000 careers advisers. Each adviser might work with a cluster of 2-3 schools. They'd be professionally qualified although whether that would actually be qualified to level 6 isn't confirmed. Many advisers currently working in schools won't hold this level of qualification. It also isn't clear if advisers would need to be on the UK register of career development professionals.

While the Conservative Party responded that funding of the proposals had not been made clear, the Labour Party argues it has earmarked £50m of the £700m currently available for universities to promote wider access to higher education. The National Union of Students and the Association of Colleges both welcomed this announcement, although some other bodies such as the Association of School and College Lecturers called for funding to be devolved to schools.

There are many unanswered questions about exactly what such a careers service might like look like.

Ed Miliband described current provision as "badly, badly failing" and called for a "personalised integrated independent advice which brings together all the options open to every young person”.

Schools and colleges are to contribute by embedding careers (advice) in the curriculum. Does this mean a return to having a careers education curriculum? Perhaps not, since in the same speech Labour talked of not tinkering with the curriculum because schools need stability not constant change. But at the same time it was made clear institutions should not be stopping their activity around work experience, raising awareness of options, participating in skills shows etc.

Miliband described his vision of a "21st century world class careers service" with three important drivers:

1. Delivering social justice: Helping connect young people with opportunities where currently parental support, access to mentors or strong social networks are major determinants of whether an individual can access them.

2. Meeting the needs of tomorrow's economy: Providing up-to-date knowledge of pathways to high level technical and vocational skills.

3. Providing independent advice: ensuring every young person is advised on every option open to them, not just those that an institution might deem most appropriate.

Of course all this is academic unless Labour is part of the next administration. But a Labour government or Labour-led coalition would certainly see fundamental change to careers advice and guidance. All the same, the manifesto raises important issues and questions which may influence future provision for the better.

Even though there is strong emphasis on "face to face" provision, this should not be taken to preclude the use of technology. There is an emphasis in this policy on expertise and on networks and connections (Note no X in the spelling) so while an adviser working with 3 schools in 1 cluster might be a generalist, their links to the NCS might give them access to employers and careers professionals with sector expertise or specialism able to offer personalised advice, or deliver very focused webinars on different industries or occupations. It was suggested by Labour that advisers will need links with Local Enterprise Partnerships so that they fully understand local skills needs. Careers advice will need to be informed by labour market intelligence.

The involvement of the National Careers Service could well extend beyond one of simply hiring individual advisers or sub-contracting to freelancers or careers companies. The current role of NCS in brokering greater contact between education and employers could be further strengthened. Labour's ambitions to improve uptake of STEM careers (and particularly by girls) could also influence future service design.

The policy document makes interesting reading, but the devil is of course in the detail. It's also worth mentioning that much of the newly refreshed coalition statutory guidance to schools on careers work would seem likely to survive and support what Tristram Hunt and Ed Miliband hope to achieve with their policy on careers work. There remains a strong place for employers and industry to work alongside careers professionals and teachers to ensure young people gain an understanding of business and enterprise. The difference with the Labour policy is the assertion that independent and impartial professional careers advice is necessary alongside continuing employer engagement.

Download the education manifesto here. acquisition will make you LinkedIn to skills development

In a highly significant move LinkedIn has bought online education service - this subscription based site allows users to access video tutorials and courses for professional and wider skills development. This $1.5 billion acquisition is LinkedIn's largest to date, but it makes perfect sense.

It is easy to see the link between skills identified within LinkedIn profiles and skills development needed for career development or job applications. Currently in LinkedIn members can list their skills and are endorsed by others in their network for holding those skills.

As you search for job opportunities within LinkedIn imagine being matched with skills development opportunities which would enhance your match and improve your employability.

There is now a potential further monetization through subscription content although it remains to be seen whether LinkedIn decides to make some level of access free of charge. This could be a really smart move. boasts nearly 4,000 video tutorials and claims to offer courses for all levels covering technical skills, creative techniques, business strategies, and more. This acquisition seems likely to see a massive expansion in interest in providing content for - expect 400,000 videos by the end of the year and huge growth in course partners and content authors. invites experts to become authors of content within its platform.
Again LinkedIn provides a ready made audience of those who profess skills and expertise, and no doubt some who might be interested to author content. has been around for 20 years but this deal places it in an exciting position in relation to the sharing economy - to date dominated by the likes of and airbnb. Perhaps we are on the cusp of seeing skills development take its rightful place within the sharing economy ecosystem.

Media reports suggested shares a royalty pool with its authors based on number of views. But making some content free could be a bold and powerful move- especially following the lowering of the age limit to 13 for LinkedIn accounts.

If you are still in school or not actually job hunting, there needs to be more on offer to bring you back into LinkedIn. Free skills development - even if only tasters could be an interesting carrot. And the reverse of the coin is that if you are developing your skills, you might be interested in hearing about job opportunities that require exactly those skills. Expect more targeted LinkedIn advertising as you study online!

There could clearly be a link for all users to develop or enhance their skills through the platform. Overall an exciting development and it will be interesting to see how moves forward and becomes optimized for LinkedIn.

Image source:

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Why careers advisers need to know about MOOCs

Last month I spent a fascinating day at the University of Manchester hearing about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and their growing significance in STEM teaching.

Again and again presenters explained how their short 4-7 week online courses had been enthusiastically consumed by a hugely diverse and international audience.

Although a relatively new popular phenomenon, MOOCs have their roots in online learning developments over the last decade. It's only in recent years with the emergence of sophisticated and dedicated delivery platforms such as Coursera, edX and the UK's home grown FutureLearn that MOOCs and the technology surrounding them have attracted serious attention from the media, from venture capitalists and most importantly from many millions of students.

The scale of interest and adoption is huge. There are over 400 universities offering more than 2,500 courses. And 16 million students worldwide have benefited.

Typically a course on FutureLearn attracts thousands of registrants. Critics point to lower proportions completing the different stages of the course. Normally courses cost nothing and small numbers seem willing to pay out for optional certification. Courses don't lead to academic credit but this may change in future. Today's MOOC students may predominantly be well educated already, so don't particularly value accreditation and credit. As audiences broaden this may well change.

FutureLearn CEO, Simon Nelson told delegates that some 900,000 learners had signed up for over 2 million courses between them on his organisation's platform.

FutureLearn is a private company wholly owned by The Open University, with partners including top universities from the UK, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The platform prides itself in having a strong social dimension encouraging collaborative peer to peer learning by mimicking some of the functionality of popular social networks.

MOOCs vary in many ways but often combine short and snappy video lectures, with readings, links, quizzes and assignments. Some courses are more flexible and tailored to meet individual learning needs, and Coursera's CEO, Rick Levin spoke of an increasing number of courses being made available in "on demand" format in the future.

So why should careers teachers, advisers and counsellors be taking notice of MOOCs? Quite simply they offer an incredible insight for anyone considering which career or education path they might follow. 15,000 people signed up for the University of Manchester's Introduction to Physical Chemistry MOOC last year and around 40% of those were in secondary education. Savvy STEM Subject teachers are recommending MOOCs to their learners as a way to taste different university delivery styles, see faculty in action and gain inspiration from innovative and engaging course material.

Universities are increasingly aware that MOOCs offer a marketing opportunity promoting their global brand, but also addressing the widening participation agenda at home. MOOCs can help them target potential international students, and secondary school students as potential consumers of their paid for courses. It's also true that not all high school pupils have access to the best maths and science teaching in their institution. But the accessibility of MOOCs means anyone from age 13-93 can experience great teaching and learning.

Dr Stephen Powell from CETIS, the Centre for Educational Technology, Interoperability and Standards, based at the University of Bolton suggested there are further benefits for universities. MOOCs have contributed to

driving up quality of online learning generally
encouraging a culture of experimentation in HE teaching and learning
introducing millions of learners to subjects and disciplines
challenging institutions to think harder about their learning technology
challenging institutions to think about their teaching models

Learner motivations for participating in MOOCs are many and varied, but one cannot ignore their relevance to anyone seeking career development, contemplating career change, or evaluating different higher education institutions and disciplines. Having successfully undertaken a short MOOC with a top international university on a contemporary topic is something any university applicant or job seeker would quite rightly want to include in applications, CVs or resumes. Recruiters and admissions tutors will increasingly be looking for such evidence and interviewers will no doubt want to ask candidates about their MOOC experiences.

If you are a careers educator or counselor and you've not taken a MOOC yourself you are missing out. Check out MOOC aggregator website Class Central to find out which courses are available from a wide range of different providers.

Image credit: Universitat Oberta de Catalunya - Licensed under creative commons attribution 3 unported license

Saturday, 26 October 2013

This presentation was delivered at the National Careers Service Advisers Conference in London, UK on 24th October 2013.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The GROWN model for 21st century jobsearch

I was recently asked to address an audience of professionals from schools, colleges and training providers in West Yorkshire. The topic I was asked to talk about was "21st Century Jobsearch". I shared some ideas about the competencies young people need, if they are to make a confident start to their career. The GROWN model provides a set of core competencies for today’s job seeker, taking into account social and technological change, and how these impact on career development and job hunting. The model can also be used as a framework for evaluating careers education, information advice and guidance resources and approaches. The GROWING model is built around five core competencies Goal Setting We need goals, but this won’t necessarily mean a fully detailed lifelong career development plan for everyone. It is useful to have a strategic approach or rationale, which can be communicated to others – such as parents/carers, admissions tutors and employers. Reputation Management We need to be able to manage and maximise our reputation, recognising the value and relevance of our experiences and achievements to specific opportunities. Most potential employers will check an applicant’s Facebook or social media presence as part of their recruitment processes. Many search online to identify talent, and a third of companies claim to be doing some kind of social media based recruitment. Opportunity Mining We need to be adept at surfacing career, education and employment opportunities. We need to be able to access the hidden job market, be confident and proactive in asking for opportunities, and willing to create our own through enterprise. Web Proficiency We need to be skilful users of a range of website and tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. We should be aware of how to use the web safely and responsibly. Online application processes should not be a barrier to the 21st century job seeker. Networking Skills It’s never been more important to be able to build a useful network and leverage the social capital within it. Networking is the key that unlocks the so called hidden job market. Job hunting is more effective as a social activity than a lone activity. Image credit: bterrycompton

Friday, 9 March 2012

Developing social media policies

At the National Career Guidance Show in London yesterday, someone asked me for some thoughts about developing social media policies in educational institutions and organisations.

These are some of my initial thoughts

• be clear about he aims and scope – promoting use of social networking for institution and student benefit, who is covered by it?
• try to be positive, rather than emphasising the restrictions and blocks
• ensure ICT involvement as they may act as gatekeepers and bar access to some sites
• carry out an equality impact assessment – will any groups be disadvantaged by introduction of more social media use?
• Think about how this links to other policies – e.g. do you have one for internet/email use, data protection, equalities etc.
• Identify what happens if people breach the policy – e.g. staff disciplinary procedure may come into force
• State what the policy is – what people may do
• Think about what happens when people leave the institution, and the removal of their profiles
• Outline how the institution will promote safe and responsible use – e.g. briefings, training, support, monitoring
• Detail roles and responsibilities – e.g. what are ICT responsible for, managers, staff etc, who will help set up profiles for people, or advise, train and support them
• Be clear how usage will be monitored, and what expectations of staff in terms of moderation and responding to comments etc
• Do you have any expectations about people’s personal use of social networking – for example you might discourage them from befriending students from their personal profile, and discourage them from befriending family from their professional profile, you may also have rules about how and when they may access their PERSONAL social web accounts
• What are the expectations about what people post – i.e. not bringing institution into disrepute, not associating the institution with groups or discussions which would be considered inappropriate – e.g. racist, sexist, homophobic
• Put forward a suggested confidentiality statement if appropriate

There are also useful resources online, such as this online database of around 200 social media policies from companies and organisations around the world.

Tiffanhy Black's article on writing a social media policy also offers some really useful thoughts to consider.