Cloudworks is no longer accepting new user registrations, and will be closing down on 24th June 2019. We hope to make a read-only archive of the site available soon after.

“New models for old!”

 Since the ‘refocusing’ agenda for career guidance in England from the late 1990s...

Cloud created by:

Jenny Bimrose
12 May 2010

 Since the ‘refocusing’ agenda for career guidance in England from the late 1990s onwards, there have been many examples of attempts to introduce ‘new’ models into the work of career guidance. Not just England of course, as across the UK inclusion has shifted the emphasis of careers work. So we have read about multicultural approaches, solution focussed work, motivational interviewing, neurolinguistic programming (the name alone would put most of us off!), systems approaches, narrative and so on... And yet what evidence is there that these approaches are used in practice? An ongoing longitudinal study by Jenny Bimrose and colleagues at IER, Warwick, indicates that the trait/factor, ‘scientific’, matching approach to guidance dominates practice ‘irrespective of the context for guidance’.

Is this right? Do you agree?

So, if it is the case that when observed in practice trait/factor dominates – is this because it is ‘tried and tested’ or because it is difficult to find the time to learn about new models?  That of course is an either/or question, so...

What do you think? What happens in practice?

In a recent study involving eight career guidance practitioners who were using the narrative career counselling model of Savickas, four withdrew from the study at the point of providing recordings and reflections on using the approach with clients. The main reasons given for withdrawing centred on time pressures and work overload.  But comments from those who did go on to use the approach, suggest that learning a new approach can make you feel insecure, ‘like a student again’ – meaning more time has to be given to thinking about what you are doing in a 1-1 interview, rather than being comfortable in your usual approach.

What’s your response to that?

Of course, reading about ‘new’ approaches can be entertaining but theoretical writing leaves most of us saying, ‘Fascinating, now tell me how to do it!’ Beyond that, we need to practise in order to understand.

What opportunities do you have to do this? What would work for you?

And, I know that time is always the issue but if our ‘clients’ remain at the centre of our practice – shouldn’t this time be invested? Trait/factor can work, but does it work for all clients? How much more effective could we be if we could embrace new ways of working?

Do you agree? Or have I got this wrong?

Hazel Reid, 04.05.10

Extra content

The Savickas Narrative Career Counselling Model

(our adaptation, Centre for Career & Personal Development: Reid, 2009) 

 Beginnings – negotiating a contract.

  •  Questioning: How can I be useful?
  • Asking: Tell me why is this important now?
  • Explaining: Format, number of meetings, note taking and so on
  • Identifying: Topics and related issues
  • Agreeing: Aspects of confidentiality, how to proceed – an agenda.


Middles - exploring the story.

 The task is to create a space where the person can ‘play’ with ideas: to move beyond their expectations of what ‘an interview’ should be.

 This can be both surprising and challenging for the individual, and the practitioner will need to be persistent and not ‘give up’ too quickly. As always, genuineness and honesty are important; e.g. ‘The reason I asked that question is …’ or ‘What I’d like to try here is… it may help us to think about... how would you feel about trying that?’. It is at this second ‘stage’ that Savickas’ six favourite questions are used:

  •  Role models when young (these can be a ‘real’ person or a character from a book, TV show, cartoon) – try for three
  • Magazines / TV shows (favourites, ones that are looked at regularly)
  • Hobbies / free time interests (e.g. ‘What do you like to do in your free time?’)
  • Books – all time favourites (could be films or other entertainment media)
  • Favourite saying/motto (best describes an approach to life), could be a tee-shirt message or a ‘tag’
  • Favourite school subjects / and those disliked.

 The exploration continues by visiting stories from childhood. Savickas suggests the stories selected reflect the current dilemma that brings a person to career counselling at this ‘turning point’ – it reflects their pre-occupations in both senses of the word (Savickas, 2005, 2006); past in present and present in the past. These are the telling stories, meaningful (rather than factual) at the present time. The stories rehearse the problem and can lead to insight and potential solutions. Questions focus on:

  •  Identifying the 1st significant story – what happened next (getting the detail)?
  • Asking for two more stories – if the person is really stuck it may be helpful to prompt, e.g. ‘How about when you were in primary school… when you moved up into secondary school?’ It is also important that they know the story is not being judged; they do not recount a story to impress the listener
  • Summarising the essence of the stories by turning them into headlines for a newspaper
  • Listening for the first verb – the first things they say
  • Summarising the stories – ‘feeding back’ actual words and working with the person to identify potential themes
  • Relating these to the presenting issue at the start of the conversation
  • Working at joint identification of the life interests
  • Relating these to future education, training and/or career goals.

 Endings - Having identified the goals, there is agreement on what action is required:

  •  Identifying potential action
  • Evaluating potential action
  • Clarifying the action steps
  • Checking /asking – ‘So, what has been achieved today?’


This is the whole model – but you do not have to do all of this! Sometimes the questions alone can open up a new way of thinking for both you and your client. The stories are particularly useful when greater depth is required or when your ‘usual’ model is not helping the client to ‘see’ further. A follow up contact (may not be ‘face-to-face’) can evaluate the goals and action and what needs to happen next.

Jenny Bimrose
14:50 on 12 May 2010

Embedded Content


Sue Fryer
11:51am 2 February 2011

Requirements to be an effective  Career guidance worker can be divided into two parts: theoretical models & skills inc counselling, interviewing & group work and facts/knowledge- educational/occupational/govt initiatives/professional association developments, LMI etc etc.

Regarding the former, following one's initial theoretical training ie postgrad DipCG/QCG or NVQ 4 etc, when does one get 'refresher' theoretical /skills training, ever again, in a working career? Who is responsible for 'retraining us' in new models/theories/concepts? Our employer or ourselves? Who is  to pay for this training?

Regarding the latter- facts & knowledge - factual updating is never-ending & very hard to keep on top of as change is so very frequent in our subject areas..

What do other people think about the above?


Contribute to the discussion

Please log in to post a comment. Register here if you haven't signed up yet.