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    Wednesday
    Sep162015

    Using Narrative Approaches 

    Narrative Approaches and Career Development Planning by Peter Beven

    Origins and Key Features

    The urge to tell stories about human experience is probably as old as language itself. There is a long tradition too of using stories or personal narratives in a therapeutic context (see Angus and McLeod, 2004). In the last decade or so there has been a growing interest in the role narrative approaches might play in career and personal development (e.g. Savickas 1997)

    Narrative approaches are influenced by ideas derived from social constructionism- that we construct how we see ourselves in relation to other people and the contexts in which we live work and learn. The stories we tell about ourselves are important in understanding this individual perception. For example, is the story we tell one which has us overcoming difficulties and succeeding against all odds, or do we relate the story with ourselves portrayed as victims of circumstance?

    Narrative approaches aim to investigate what story participants are telling about their professional development to date. What messages might there be here? What role is the participant playing in the stories they are telling. Is it active, is it passive? Might there be other ways of constructing the story? The adviser in these discussions is not merely passively reflecting back what the participant is saying; rather the adviser plays an active part in helping the participant look at the experience and perhaps encouraging, where appropriate, different ways of constructing the story.

     

    Using Narratives in Career Guidance

    There are many techniques can be used to encourage participants to tell their story. These are just some suggestions:

     Life Line: a line is drawn horizontally on a page with ‘birth’ represented at one end, and ‘today’ at the other. The participant is encouraged to plot key events, good things above the line, bad things below. A discussion can follow about the role they played in these key events. What would they do differently in the future? Might there be other roles they wish to play?

    Newspaper headlines: What would they be about an individual’s professional development to date?

    Autobiographical Life Chapters: if the participant was to write a book about their professional development to date what would the titles of chapters be?

    Role model when young: this could either be a ‘real’ person or a character from a book, TV programme, cartoon etc.

     Favourite films / books/ Magazines / TV shows and reasons for liking them

    The objective of this line of questioning is to help the participant to “tell their story” The role of the adviser is to help the individual to identify what are the key elements of their story: what type of role did the participant play in important turning points, for example.

     The guide will attempt to work with the participant to identify potential themes that may emerge. Is there a pattern to the roles played in the past and in the present?

    The guide can then relate these to the professional development issue at hand, perhaps working at joint interpretation of the professional development to date and working to re-author the story. If the participant was to describe a future narrative about their professional development role, what would that look like, what role would they play? How would that differ from previous roles?

    One further method that requires some initial preparation is using a vocational card sort.

    Career Development Narratives:

    Vocational Card Sort Exercise

     

    Purpose of Exercise: to elicit personal criteria for evaluating professional development options. This is a starting point to establish what matters to the participant in making choices

     

    Preparation: you will need to create a series of cards, each with a different job title on them. For this exercise it is good to include a wide variety of types of job as the purpose of the exercise is NOT to match the person to one of the jobs on the card, but rather to use the participant’s reaction to the job as a springboard to discover what is important to them in making decisions about the type of work and professional development that might be appropriate for them. In using this it is suggested you include cards with office based jobs, factory, sales as well as creative and health related occupations. There are no hard and fast rules about this. At the end of this section you will find a suggested series of job titles that have been successful in practice in generating constructive ideas from participants in the process.

    Instructions

     

    1. The participant is asked to shuffle the cards and divide the cards into three piles:

    • Those they might consider or would find attractive in some way
    • Those they would definitely reject
    • And those the participant is uncertain about (maybe consider or maybe reject)

     

    2. The “maybe” pile is removed form the table

     

    3. The main sorting can begin with either the “accept” or the “reject” pile. Let’s say we start with the reject pile. The participant is asked to divide the cards into small groups, as many as they want that reflect a common reason for rejection.

     

    TIP: If participants have difficulty in doing this ask about reasons for rejecting one particular job title, and then ask if any of the others fall into the same category.

     

    4. Whatever the participant says then becomes the subject of elaboration and interpretation. Think about asking about the opposite of the disliked items (as in personal constructs). For example if participant suggests that some jobs are rejected because they are “too routine” – find out what the participant thinks a job or activity would be like that was not “too routine”

     

    5. Use the accept pile in the same way; grouping them together trying to get participant to identify things in common with the cards selected.

     

    6. Think about using “laddering” as a question technique to establish core values:

    Why would you prefer Job x to Y?  What advantage is there in X?

     

    If they answer e.g. “I would have more control of my own work in Job X or group of Jobs X” then ask:

    “Why would you prefer to have more control of your own work?…..”

    The key idea is to help the participant identify what common themes emerge in terms of what is important to them in their professional development. In this sense activities that they would NOT like to do and why can be as helpful as positive ideas.

    Suggested Job Titles for Card Sort Exercise

    AIR STEWARD

    DENTIST

    YOUTH & COMMUNITY WORKER

    JOINER

    PHOTOGRAPHER

    WEB SITE DESIGNER

    SALES ASSISTANT

    ACCOUNTANT

    DRIVING INSTRUCTOR

    ENGINEER

    PAINTER AND DECORATOR

    SOCIAL WORKER

    NURSE

    POSTAL WORKER

     

     

    BAKER

    CARPET FITTER

    TAXI DRIVER

    PRISON OFFICER

    SPORTS COACH

    AEROBICS INSTRUCTOR

    TEACHER

    NURSERY NURSE

    VET

    BRICKLAYER

    CHEF

    DJ

    FREELANCE WRITER

    BAR WORK

     

    HGV DRIVER

    LAB TECHNICIAN

    JOURNALIST

    ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

    TATTOO ARTIST

    HOTEL RECEPTIONIST

    CLEANER

    LIBRARY ASSISTANT

    HAIRDRESSER

    SOCIAL WORKER

    MACHINE OPERATOR

    LAB TECHNICIAN

    COUNSELLOR

    CUSTOMER SERVICES WORKER

     

     

    Key texts

    Angus, L. E. and McLeod, J. (2004) The Handbook of Narrative and Psychotherapy London: Sage Publications

    Bimrose, J. et al (2000) Career Guidance: Constructing the Future, Institute of Career Guidance

    Cochran, L. (1997) Career Counselling A Narrative Approach London: Sage Publications

    Savickas, M. (1997) Handbook of Career Counseling Theory and Practice London: Davies-Black Publishing

    Useful Web Sites:

    Hazel Reid’s article about using narratives in a career counselling setting:

    Reid, H.L (2007) ‘Introduction to Narrative Career Counselling, in Constructivist Approaches and Narrative Counselling, National Guidance Research Forum on

    http://www.guidance-research.org/EG/impprac/ImpP2/new-theories/constructivism/narrative