“The future belongs to those who know where they belong.” Divergent and Careers Work


Source: Flickr, Eckhart Public Library under CC licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

Source: Flickr, Eckhart Public Library under CC licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

For those of you who read my blog a bit more closely will know I am growing in interest around creativity and divergence as tools in careers work and how they provide alternatives to the dominant matching model of careers work which we often. It was of interest to me to come across the film “Divergent”. Based on the debut novel by Veronica Roth it is dystopian fair with a hint of The Hunger Games about it. What I find interesting about it is the links between matching, choice and identity in the film. Check out this trailer for a flavour.

Now I have neither read the novel nor seen the film so this piece is based on plot summaries on-line and the trailer (sorry I know this is a bit lame). The film splits all members of society into one of five roles based on their abilities which determines their function in society. This is based on a test when they reach maturity. But some people are “Divergent”, having no definite identity and having a range of abilities and so can not be easily classified. These “divergent” members of society are viewed as a social menace because the government can not control them. This is linked to a them being independent thinkers. As the trailer shows one of the main characters says he wants to be known as having the range of abilities rather than being limited to some.

All of this feels a bit like having a future run by John Holland where people are matched to the future where they are best suited. As one of the characters says “the future belongs to those who know where they belong.”What I find so interesting is how the film portrays as evil something we often view as very close to careers practice.

There are three main issues that I want to have a look at around the film that I think are worth thinking about from a career’s perspective.

Firstly there are issues around if it is a good thing to believe that people can be measured and classified? The story seems to present measurement and classification as a bad thing especially when it is put up against the free thought of the independence of the unclassified “divergents”. This sort of way of organising society seems to represent a form of oppression. Now I’m not saying that people who run lots of tests in their practice are being oppressive but it is worth looking at this test and classify approach and asking if it is an attractive way of working with clients. If the message “I’ve tested you, you should go here” is unattractive then we need to be asking how we are avoiding having this sort of narrative underpinning our practice.

Secondly when you look at this story what comes to the front is not that people are determined by a deep-laying structure that summarises their being but instead it someone’s world-view, their relationships and the social situation in which they find themselves that moves the plot on. This highlights how it is often someone’s values, relationships and social situation which determines their career and not how accurately they can be tested and classified. I often find myself drawn back to some sort of classification and forget to work in someone’s world-view and social world as well as their abilities.

Finally I wanted to ask how helpful it is for society to have particularly types of people doing particular jobs. Obviously this does not exactly happen. Look at twenty teaches and I imagine you would find twenty very different individuals with different abilities. But we do tend to work towards stereotypes, creative people go in to the media and the arts not research science, caring people go into medicine and counselling professions and not politics, good communicators become teachers and marketers not computer programmers. These are stereotypes not catch all statements but I imagine all of us recognise how we work towards this in our careers practice and encourage others to do the same. I just wonder if their might be benefit for those we work with and society as a whole if we challenge these stereotypes. What would education be like if more people with a drive for enterprise became teachers? Or if people with performing arts background became social workers? Or if pure mathematicians became careers advisers? Wouldn’t that make the future an interesting place to be?

3 thoughts on ““The future belongs to those who know where they belong.” Divergent and Careers Work

  1. Testing is pervasive but can be a source of narrative for increasing self awareness. It really depends on the aim and agenda in the guidance process. I do think we have to give acknowledgement to each career requiring a set of ideal traits to perform, but recognise performance can be achieved with differing blends of skill sets and backgrounds. So rather than what you’ve done the question is what can I offer.

  2. I keep writing comments that go WAY too far in dissecting the text which is kind of off topic so. Anyway, you should read the books as they confirm the limitations of career fitting in an interesting way. The essential difference between current career work and dystopian futures is that there is still career choice. If professionals say “this test suggests you’d be a good match for teaching” they aren’t saying “and you start tomorrow. End of session”. Surely the way we use the tools is to inform and explore rather than prescribe which isn’t a small difference.

    • Thanks for commenting. I guess I feel there is a big difference between saying “you have a host of possibilities, let me support you to become what you want” & “the right answer is to become a teacher but you can ignore this(by implication not do what is “right”).” I guess the question is do people have a “right” answer (a match) or does everything emerge over time.

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