“Why 45 minutes for a careers session?” is a question I have been asked on several occasions, alongside “Surely, we can get more students seen in the day?” is the other phrase I often hear.
The idea that being “seen” for just a moment by a careers adviser, is the “cure all” which is needed, even if that moment is just a few minutes (without due consideration of how much time is needed to meet the clients’ needs).
Our view of careers work as practitioners is different, as we understand the intrinsic value of having “enough time” within our interactions.
From the outside perspective however, things are perhaps not always so clear. I hope this short article provides some clarity.
The latest statutory guidance recommends that career sessions are at least 45 minutes, as per their reference to The Gatsby Foundation and our professional body the CDI:
“The Gatsby Foundation has published a collection of research on personal guidance, including a qualitative review of personal careers guidance in secondary schools in England. The review emphasises the importance of senior leaders ensuring sufficient time is allocated to careers advisers to perform their duties to a high standard. The CDI guidance recommends that at least 45 minutes are allowed for every personal guidance interview.”
Within this is the nod to “sufficient time” but, what does this mean? Sufficient for what?
Sufficiency of time is required to help clients discover, explore and reflect; for challenging and making decisions, which is at the core of our careers guidance.
These are activities which can’t be squeezed into a ten-minute window, or even a thirty-minute window in many cases!
It is also why in some cases, particularly where decisions are complicated, that clients need to be seen for multiple sessions with time in between for research, reflection, and consideration.
As clients begin to explore their initial questions and concerns, often this leads to further questions which require support. If time is limited, there is no time to tackle and support clients with these further questions.
There are exceptions to this time requirement, such as when some students with SEND may not cope with the length of time and therefore may require shorter sessions, as discussed in the blog by Oliver Jenkin – https://indigo.careers/career-guidance-for-young-people-with-send-some-pointers-for-good-practice/. However, although these students may have a shorter session, they will usually have more than one meeting to work through their concerns.
Potentially one of the best kept secrets of careers work (and probably one of the reasons many careers advisers love this work) is the moment when clients have their “eureka!” moments, when things fall into place for them and they figure things out. These moments don’t happen in every session as they are hard won. However, where they do happen, they take time to materialise. In much the same way it takes time for many of us to come to important decisions.
Moments of insight can also be far more subtle. I worked with one client recently, who was incredibly stressed, aged sixteen and on a post 16 study programme. He had never seen a careers adviser before.
As we explored his current situation, the main reason for his stress was that he thought he “ought” to know what he was doing with his life, as this was the only narrative he had been given. Through having the time to gently explore this in the session and contrast it with some career theory, he realised that it was quite normal to not have an exact plan at aged sixteen. We went on to explore his next steps and how he could discover what he wished to do with his life, through trying things out.
He became excited about the future and his ideas, including all the things he wanted to try, such as the work experience he wished to find. Without the space for this session, his wellbeing would still be rock bottom.
Ultimately, what is the impact of time? Without sufficient time, the value, outcomes, and impact of the careers work becomes limited and a false economy for all involved. Although more students can be seen, less effective work is accomplished, with many students needing to be seen again or remaining lost.
Models of delivery which allow for sufficient time, whether those that provide 45-minute career sessions for each student who are at transition (with the option of follow up sessions) or triage-based models, allow for the time to be built in for the students who require it, so students aren’t lost or left floundering.
One of our most popular models at CXK is to see all students from Year 11 for group guidance (organised by occupational groups of no more than four students per group, as per the CDI guidelines). Afterwards, all those students who require it have the option later in the year for full, one-to-one, 45-minute, personal guidance sessions.
Such an approach isn’t unusual and is pragmatic for delivery. A similar model, suggested by John Ambrose in the June 2021 edition of Career Matters, again dovetails triage approaches with full personal guidance sessions, providing the time needed for those who need to be seen.
It is our professional and statutory duty to ensure that all our young people have access to the time and support they need to thrive. Creating and holding this space is vital; hurried conversations run the risk of leading to hurried decisions which, potentially lead to haphazard outcomes. Our clients deserve more than this.
Chris Targett, RCDP – CXK Careers Adviser & Area Manager