I recently attended training day hosted by icegs exploring the icould careers website. There are a couple of other good blogs from the day here and here. icould are a not-for-profit organisation aiming to support young people’s careers through their website. The website itself aims to combine qualitative testimonies about various career options in the form of videos with more traditional quantitative data. I was genuinely very excited about the website for a number of reasons I am going to go on to.
Focus on Qualitative Data
I was really pleased that the websites main focus is on personal narratives. Often careers websites focus in on routes, vacancies, skills and role descriptors (think National Careers Service and Prospects). Partly this is good because it is good to have variety in careers websites, partly because video is a very consumable and accessible format and partly because it creates a more human experience of careers. It is this point that I am most interested in, careers after all are not generic but are experienced and deeply personable. Rather than try to remove the personal it makes perfect sense to me to exalt in the personal nature of the careers which I really like.
Varied and Personal Narratives
Secondly I was really pleased how human and honest the narratives are. Rather than presenting themselves as superhuman rational machines that chose what they wanted to do aged three, pursue this ideal relentlessly for twenty and arrived in complete happiness in the perfect job at the soonest possible point the narratives have a definite sense of the real. The individuals are not polished, do not “sell their careers, often show how failure and the unexpected has contributed to their careers and how they have changed their mind about themselves. This is vital for working with people as it does not show and unrealistic idea of what career management should look like that often makes people into rational career machines but instead shows the human nature of decisions. This for more creates fertile ground for demonstrating theory through understanding social influences, the unexpected, failure, turning points, having a life theme, the interplay of different life domains, constructing an identity and so on. I think this makes these ideas a vital resource for careers education.
Good Use of Quantitative Data
The danger with this sort of information is that it can be too subjective, just describing someone’s individual experience with out relating it to any wider reality. icould attempts to bridge this gap well by describing the perceived skill set needed in a role, discussing geographic differences, discussing average salaries and projected labor market demand of a profession in to the future. I think there is a danger when you are trying to link subjective testimonies with an objective summary of the information in that you have to ask why were certain facts selected and others ignored (so why is gender split discussed and racial difference or age not?). You end up focusing on what you feel young people need to know and not supporting them work out what they want to know. But still this sort of LMI does have its place and you have to ask how much is the website delivery in and of itself and how much is it a resource for others to use? I think this is a vital question for the team at icould to wrestle through.
No Explicit Career Development Theory
This is my one point of criticism at this point Let me be clear what I mean, there is clearly lots of input from a theoretical perspective around the importance of narratives and what should be covered in a career narrative. My criticism is that career learning as an educational process is not made explicit enough. The information is put front and center assuming that “reading” the information is a straightforward matter or that the information is what is important and that the theory is not relevant or not necessary. For me there are many intertwined and interesting elements that make up a career narrative and the website and that looking at narratives could be a really powerful way to expose these elements. This particularly picks up on Phil McCash’s idea of “the theory is the message and the message is the theory”. It would in my opinion for the website to take a step on and discuss various themes in the videos from a more theoretical perspective. Maybe using the websites excellent tagging systems ideas such as happenstance, community interaction, fateful moments and life design could be discussed. This could be done in a more user friendly manner to make the concepts more accessible but it seems like a real advancement to help young people reflect on the various perspectives on how a career narrative development. This would make the website very powerful and evocative in my opinion to make it’s theory more explicit and to make career learning and career education a more central part of the website.