Narratives and Meaning
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31 March 2016
We have different ways to understand the world and create meaning in the 21st century, one of these is through the concepts of narrative and constructivism. A basic explanation is that each of us builds or constructs our own reality around us. Each of us will construct what we see as reality differently, based on a myriad of individual factors (external and internal), from experiences through to upbringing, culture and that filter which is the illusive evolving “self”.
How we construct this reality is based around the stories we tell of our own lives and others and, how we position ourselves in relation to others in these narratives; friends, enemies, colleagues, strangers. These narratives just like in books or films, shift and flux as our understanding and perception of the reality we construct changes and fluxes.
What this means for careers advisers helping clients make meaningful decisions which are lasting and purposeful, is that they often engage with the client’s narratives for the work to be meaningful.
Professional careers advisers never tell clients what to do or offer the words “I think you should…” as not only are they directive, they lack any meaning for the clients (especially when offered by a stranger). Advisers are more likely to ask “Why do you want to do that? “, “What do you think you should do?” or explorative phrases such as “What are the risks or benefits of that choice?”, “Why are you interested in…?” or “How else could that be interpreted?” Much like with other areas of education, the best teaching happens when clients work things out for themselves, when they find and own the meaning in what they discover.
Within these explorations, advisers weave the information and advice so, it fits within a meaningful context.
Advisers actively engage in this way with the narratives of the clients they work with, to ensure what is discussed is meaningful. Providing information alone, without this exploration of meaning is limiting for all involved. It is the difference between course advice (information giving) and careers guidance which, goes deeper; enabling clients to create meaningful decisions through understanding their own needs, goals, ability and the narrative they build around their lives.
It is also why professional careers advisers are trained to Level 6, take about two years to train and continually engage with professional development which includes not only information on the labour market, courses and opportunities but, areas of psychology, sociology, philosophy and counselling techniques.
Originally published on the CXK Blog, Monday 28th September 2015