Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Friday, June 29, 2007

Does Anybody Comply?

In case you don't recognise it that object on the right is a pill organiser. It's meant to make it easy for someone to ensure that they are taking their medications on time. High-tech it might not be. Nonetheless it is an an effective answer to an extremely challenging problem for health professionals: how to get people to comply with advice.

You or I might think that this would be no problem but this is not so. A number of individuals in the pharmaceuticals industry have told me that, even people with diseases likely to result in really unpleasant or life-threatening consequences such as diabetes can be difficult to bring into compliance with the recommendations of health professionals.

As career developers we have compliance issues too and the one that I am most aware of has to do with networking. We advertise the benefits of networking to clients, we show them how to do it, we coach them in it, we stress it. (Some of us even network ourselves.) Yet when we follow up with clients how many of them are actually doing it?

The original job finding club paradigm achieved good results (in the United States at least) probably because it follows certain well understood learning principles. Should we review current practice to ensure that we are still concentrating on the main benefit of this paradigm? Is there anything to be learned from other more recent psychological studies that could also be applied in this area of counselling practice—to induce people to gain the benefits of networking?

If anyone has any thoughts I would love to hear them.

Photo credit:

Missing Information About Women's Employment

The following table was created using the Canadian 2001 Census. It summarises data about women employed in occupations in science and engineering. The first column represents women that work in health care (with either people or other species), the second column represents those that work with data and information in one way or another, and the third column the women who work in a variety of other areas of science and engineering.

Here's the main point of this blog item: Notice the numbers of occupations in each column. They imply that we know the 25 occupations that the 377,720 women do in the left column fairly specifically (if we look at the detailed figures in the census), and that we know the 45 occupations that the 103,130 women do in the right column. However, we have almost no idea what the three (3) occupations are in that middle column. We need to know what that 1/10th of a million people do!

A Suitable Job for a Woman?

This might actually be more important for women than it is for men. But what do I know since I'm a man?

In spite of the considerable efforts that have been expended to induce women to take up work as welders and ironworkers many have quietly decided otherwise for themselves and taken jobs in the areas of data processing and information systems, as the figures above indicate. These women are doing reasonably well out of their decisions too. We can see that their average income seems to be about $43,400, compared to the $39,600 for those who could not resist the traditional allure of healthcare.

Or maybe they hate the work or maybe it's not the money?
  • Women must often balance responsibilities at work with responsibilities in their homes and elsewhere. Jobs in hospitals as nurses, laboratory technologists and technicians and so on often involve shift work which conflicts with other obligations. In contrast, many or most jobs in information systems involve no shift work, or can even be done according to some flexible schedule.
  • Many individual women distinguish themselves with special abilities in verbal fluency, perceptual detail or fine motor skills (Weekes, 2005), all of which have importance in various areas of information processing, and at various income levels.
  • Plenty of role models exist already for women who want to enter these lines of work. The working atmospheres are usually far from being "masculine" or hostile to women.
  • It seems likely that investment in information systems will continue to grow. Furthermore, the field might not be subject to the kinds of upheavals that have been occurring in healthcare.
Perhaps most important of all women have been choosing these jobs in information careers for themselves.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Think behind

KierkegaardSøren Kierkegaard the clever theologian said, “Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.”

Let me admit one thing: I doubt that I understand anything that Kierkegaard ever wrote. If I think I understand something from this quotation then he must have meant something else. However, almost everybody I know says, “think ahead” and Kierkegaard seems to be saying “look back.” It’s just that that’s so boring that I’ve decided to say “think behind.” And this is my blog so I can do as I like.

This might not appear to be of much use in career planning. In fact it’s something that professional project planners do all the time. Don’t career counsellors wish that job seekers and prospective students would!

The basic, oh-so-simple idea is this: pretend that you are in the future and that you have achieved whatever it was you wanted to achieve. Now find out everything that you can that would be required of you to get there.

  1. For job seekers:

    • Typical ‘thinking ahead’: an employer will want me to be a well-organised, outgoing team player with good communication skills who just loves to learn all kinds of new stuff. How do you know what the employer wants??

    • ‘Thinking behind’: The job seeker contacts various potential employers, without inquiring about a job, and asks what they want in and from the employees that they actually hire. She discovers that the employers’ main problem has nothing to do with what people usually put on their résumés and she plans behind accordingly. (Maybe she needs a short course; maybe she just needs to dress in a certain way for interviews and on the job.

  2. For prospective students::

    • Typical ‘thinking ahead’: I will work hard and get extremely good marks on my diploma/degree in something that interests me at college/university and then find a job on the basis of that. Employers will be glad to get me or it will all just work out. (Think again or, better still, think behind.)

    • ‘Thinking behind’: The student gathers as much information as possible about their interests and aspirations and about anticipated trends in demands for various kinds of occupations. Almost any of us would be happy in various occupations. The trick is to find an occupation that will be satisfying, that will pay the bills and (what is redundant with respect to that second point) in demand. No matter how much I might like repairing watches (for instance) I would probably find it difficult to make a living that way in today’s market (as far as I know). Take courses that cover a reasonable number of possibilities.
If you’ve read this far let me add: this is the kind of project planning that software engineers used to do until they became justly famous for their expensive failures. Although this approach is a great deal better than not thinking at all the Boehm spiral approach might be best, even for careers. One of these days I might get to exploring that.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Widening Earnings Gap

Many of us who work in career development encounter people every day who are really struggling to find work. Take a careful look at the graph in this blog article and see if you agree with me that their difficulties are only likely to worsen.

OECD calls for more protection of employment

And if you think that discussions of social policy are outside the realm of career development then consider the increasing challenges of supporting people with limited marketable skills when the jobs needing these skills disappear from the local labour market.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Bavarian Observation

Deutsche Welle marked the birthday of comedian Karl Valentin (1882-1948) yesterday by including one of his famous remarks:

"Everything has already been said, just not by everybody."

Isn't this something that could be said of most blogs?

Photo credit: ‘Karl und Liesl

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Kabuki Theatre and Measuring Cups

What Have They Got In Common?

On the left a scene from a kabuki theatre production; on the left a measuring cup: so what do they have in common?

According to Wikipedia, “Kabuki theatre is known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by its performers.” Measuring cups are used in cooking—of course. And, nowadays, job interviewing has become so stylised that it's really a performance art, a lot like kabuki theatre. When you consider that kabuki theatre is about as relevant to the measuring that is supposed to be going on in job interviewing as what you do with measuring cups you see the resemblance between kabuki and measuring cups. (In my opinion there isn't much.) “Standard” interviews lead cosmetic-laden applicants through heavily rehearsed performance sequences.

Here's just one point of contact: Why do interviewers ask whether the prospective employee knows something about the employer? Is it really important for them to know that the person being interviewed is sufficiently motivated to have spent at least an hour, the night before the interview, using Google to find and review the employer’s web site? Do you see what I mean?

Turn the whole thing around. If you are recruiting personnel then ask yourself what you want or need to know about employees, then think about how you might get answers to your questions.

Photo Credits:

  • Kabuki sculpture
  • measuring cup