If in Doubt, Be Kind.

What is the basis of careers work, if we were to distill it down to its most basic principles? I am sure that many different people would arrive at a variety of positions, with a whole host of diverse arguments. For my own careers practice, it is the principle of kindness as opposed to cleverness.

Theoretically careers work borrows from a pantheon of disciplines and outlooks: economics, psychology, sociology, philosophy and, not to forget, politics. For me, it is the work of Carl Rogers and his “core conditions ” which spoke to me whilst I was first starting out as a trainee careers adviser, and still speaks to me today. It remains my “go to place” within my practice, especially when I am faced with a client with whom I am unsure of how to help and who themselves, don’t know what help they may need to move forward.

For those unfamiliar with the “core conditions” they form part of person-centered practice and are as follows:

• Empathy
• Congruence
• Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR)

To me, they resonate as “kindness”.

When faced with problematic situations within careers work, they are useful to return to. For example: when a client is “stuck” and unable to resolve a dilemma within a career session or interview. To not push them for an answer or force an outcome is to remain person centered. From experience, giving them the space and positive affirmation or regard to reflect and work through their issues at their own pace is more likely going to enable them to come to a decision.

We need to remember that the elusive “sustainable outcomes” within careers work are often a “by product” of the work, not the driving factor or force. It is the underlying state of careers practice that we actively “don’t tell clients what to do” but, enable them to come to a decision, through the “careers guidance or counselling” being a catalyst for change and understanding. Importantly, within a session it is not our understanding or solutions (as the adviser) within the situation which is being sought; it is the client finding their own interpretation and clarity for their life. We may guide and show possibilities, helping our clients to weigh these up, but not push them down a path.

Such an approach may sound bizarre at first (especially to an outsider) that many careers advisers don’t actually “advise” or “tell” clients what to do. Most fully qualified advisers (at level 6) are in fact, careers counsellors. It is a subtle but important distinction within practice.

To let go of the striving to push a client for an outcome, whether a student in school making post 16 or 18 decisions or an adult in the midst of a career change, is ironically the very thing which makes space for an “outcome” to occur. From experience, I have found that this “letting go” and returning to the client or person centered approach is where the magic happens; it is however a brave thing to do in a world dominated by outcomes (whether the client’s, their family’s, third party stakeholder’s, customer’s or our own).

It is the work of Rogers and his core conditions which reminds us to consider the world from the perspective of the client. For many of us, it is easy to be clever and verbally skilled, to use clever questions or labour market information to steer a client (if we so wished) or push for a result. It is the adviser who follows their professional ethics , integrity and reflects on the sensibilities of the core conditions, that remembers it is often better to look at the world through the eyes of their client, rather than their own; to be kind, rather than clever.

Written by: Chris Targett – Area Manager at CXK for Schools IAG.

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