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In Celebration of Guides
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8 October 2016
There are many different types of guides in this world, and each arrives with their own agenda, whether benign or otherwise. Many people are able to provide their own take on what they believe careers guidance to be.
Consider the teacher offering guidance underpinned by the belief that education provides the best life chances for students; for it to be a transformative activity for all. Alternatively, we can consider the successful business manager who rose to the top via a university pathway and their views that to be successful, a Higher Education pathway is the way to go and a maths degree is the only way to get ahead in business. Consider the successful entrepreneur who has built their own company; their advice is to work your way up from school… don’t get “caught by the debt from University” they cry! Other guides include our religious leaders who offer insights into the values which should be applied in our careers. Some religious leaders say to be good, be kind, be honest and hardworking whilst others encourage shunning material goods and living for love alone… this is your path to success! Our different political leaders offer guidance on which subjects should be taken in school and which can lead to a “successful future” (see some of our earlier blog posts on this). They have the added authority to impose their views through legislation. All of these guides differ and have their own views and opinions on how to be successful, yet each is happy to share them.
I freely admit these are clichés and not all of the above are as described. For example, we know not all teachers see formal education as the only path to success. However, a good friend of mine once said “stereotypes are based on fact” and so in turn, there is a grain of truth to some of the above examples. We do meet people with these views, offering such careers guidance to students on a regular basis, often with the best of intentions.
Yet, when these best of intentions are given free rein, without consideration of who might pick up on them, problems can arise. I recall in one school how a visiting employer described their own career journey, being very dismissive of other routes. Several of the students came to see me afterwards quite devastated, as they were worried that the options they wanted to take wouldn’t get them to their desired destination after all. If they had all been of a similar temperament to the employer, and suited to the academic route presented, we probably wouldn’t have had any concerns. Employers can be a great source of inspiration, but to be the sole voice is dangerous, as other pathways then become closed off or shut down.
We would be churlish to say that any particular form of guidance is superior to another or that any type should automatically be dismissed. People do succeed with different forms of support. However, it is providing access to these differing forms that is crucial to those we support. Let’s have the employers in, the business mentors, the apprenticeship providers, the universities, but let’s also provide access to the sort of guidance which doesn’t judge, doesn’t tell our students there is only one way to success, when evidence shows us there are hundreds (if not more). Let’s provide access to the type of guidance where there are no hidden agendas leading the questions, such as retention of students or targets. In this unique form of guidance, the only agenda is that of helping young people explore their ideas so they don’t miss any opportunities. With this guidance they are empowered to make their own informed decisions.
This form of guidance is Careers Guidance, offered by the many trained and dedicated independent Career Management Professionals across the country. These professionals can see the bigger picture and a thousand strands, routes and possibilities but, they don’t overload students with this information. Instead they work with them gently, knowing when less is more and when they need to give them time and space to reflect. They know when to encourage and when to ask a particular question. They stand as professionals, quietly, competently; the catalyst for change, not directive instructors telling their clients what to do but, as guides along the way. Not there for their own journeys but for the students that walk in their doors, whether offices, hallways, schools, colleges, prisons, community hubs and youth centres. There is no one else quite like them, they are unique and we take off our hats to them!
Written by: Chris Targett
The article was first published on the CXK Blog on Friday 27th May 2016