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Curiosity Killed the Cat
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10 February 2017
Curiosity as the popular saying suggests, can get us into trouble. If we delve too deeply into places we shouldn’t then we may find ourselves in serious difficulties, so often as adults we hold back and play it safe. Yet for young people exploring their career ideas, curiosity is crucial. Combine this with their innate feelings of indestructibility (found among many young people) and they can and will get out there and explore. Not only does it help them to form an idea of how the world works and what the world can offer them, but it allows them to work out what they may like to do and not do.
We know from relatively recent reports that if young people have at least four or more encounters with the world of work they are more likely to remain in Education, Employment, or Training (EET)[i]. Yet, this is mirrored with the fact that fewer young people are working in Saturday jobs[ii] alongside their studies, therefore having fewer encounters with work in their formative years. This is one of the reasons why there are so many initiatives encouraging and enabling young people to encounter employers, from the Inspiration Agenda of the National Careers Service through to the Careers Enterprise Company itself.
Yet, encounters with employers on their own does not necessarily enable young people to make sense of the world. This is where clear and independent Careers Guidance is important, as through guidance young people can begin to build a framework of understanding to place their experiences within. Combined with education to build the fundamental core skills for young people to pursue their goals and clear information on the labour market to check the facts and we have a winning formula for success. Each part on its own is not enough, but together, the world can be made sense of and seized by our young people if they are curious and hungry or excited enough.
There is however, another use of curiosity which is vital to the success of our young people. It is that of Professional Curiosity; the ability of professionals to not just take what they see on the surface of the young people or adults they are working with as read. Yet, some professionals forget to be curious or follow their instincts; they may be worried that something is uncovered that they are ill equipped to deal with or haven’t got time to deal with in their busy lives of work based targets. Yet, to do so; to ignore our gut feelings, is potentially to do far more harm than good. It is to leave a young person at potential risk or floundering in a world in which they don’t know where to turn.
As adults, and especially as professionals, we have access to such wide and vast networks of support that if we do uncover something we can’t deal with on our own, we can tap into support to help us with the most appropriate course of action. We can be in danger of forgetting that it is our most vulnerable clients who don’t have these networks or resources of support; we are in danger of losing sight that every child matters.
It is down to us as professionals in any given moment, when we pick up on something which doesn’t feel right, to pursue it. We have the capacity to ask “Why” or “How?” or “Tell me more”.
In a discussion, a client may say something innocuous to you which will make you think, “That doesn’t seem right, I wonder what happened there”. Sometimes, they will say these things as a way of asking for help, when they can’t form the words to do so, hoping that a professional will take notice and intervene. Sometimes, they don’t know that what they are experiencing can be sorted out, if only we as professionals take the time to be a little more curious and then proactive. Either by resolving whatever we uncover ourselves or referring onto the right charity or professional who can then help. Such curiosity is vital in areas of child protection and safeguarding, but it is also important in helping those who are lost and confused and just need a little help. Whether we are teachers in school discovering that a student hasn’t a clue what they are doing after 6th Form, a local authority service tracking school leavers and discovering that a young person needs help working out what is out there, or a support worker on a National Citizenship Programme talking to a young person who is having second thoughts about what they have chosen to do after Year 11. All of these examples would benefit from a referral to a Careers Guidance Adviser. Yet, imagine if these professionals hadn’t been curious and gotten help for the young people they encountered… a 6th Former falling into doing nothing after results day, a young person already NEET remaining so and possibly falling into depression at home and a Year 11 dropping out of education in September.
Now, imagine if the reason each of these young people were lost or confused was because of something far more than confusion… abuse at home, neglect or worse.
The consequences of not being curious, of not asking “are you ok?” could not only be disastrous, they could be fatal. We each have a professional duty to be curious and ask the “what, why and how” questions if we see that something isn’t right. With fewer professionals working with young people than in previous years, there is a far greater responsibility on those of us who do work in the sector to take notice and take action if we see something which isn’t right or when we sense something is wrong.
Written by: Chris Targett
This article was originally posted on the CXK blog on Tuesday 24th January 2017