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Chris Targett
31 March 2016

A short while ago some friends and I were discussing what makes for a meaningful decision or choice.

For some people, making a career decision is based around the most fundamental of human values, of being able to afford to eat or put food on the table for their family. Career choice, aspiration and a sense of fulfilment are secondary, if not third or fourth concerns with regards their priorities.

In contrast, whilst working with young people, I have seen many find it hard to imagine themselves being in this situation or sacrificing their “career fulfilment or enjoyment” for such concerns but, then again why or how could they unless having direct experience of these circumstances? Trying to relate to the importance of earning enough to live can be a hard task for them.

It is the difference between the concept of career as the vehicle to fulfil hopes and dreams and/or as a necessity to live. For some young people the former needs to be pursued before the latter can be appreciated or understood. For others, only by discovering meaningful dreams and finding ways to turn them into reality will they get up in the morning for school or college. For these young people, a hunger, desire and hope for the future powers the main meaning behind some of their decisions.

Asking a selection of students the other week what was most important to them, over fifty percent from the group were seeking career satisfaction AND “having enough money” for their future lifestyles. “Having enough” varied, from being happy with £18,000 per year to others who desired £80,000!

For some of the students thinking about their future careers, location was a huge factor for them when considering where to study and live. Of course where any of us choose to live and work, can have a huge impact on how far our incomes will take us and affect the opportunities available. A couple of young professionals I know recently made the move from Chichester to Glasgow and have delighted in how much further their incomes now stretch due to lower living costs. This is where Labour Market Information (LMI) can be useful in making an estimation of what the future may bring. 

From a careers guidance perspective it illustrates the range of personal values and factors which underpins the decisions clients make. What is meaningful or important for one client is less or more so for another.

What is meaningful at sixteen, may also be different at twenty-six or thirty-six. Looking back on our own lives it is impossible to have predicted what will become meaningful or less meaningful for each individual. For clients trying to make decisions, the element of self-awareness and self-discovery of what they find meaningful is important (particularly when related to the DOTS process), in understanding their own perspectives on life and where they wish to be.

Professional careers advisers work carefully to respect these changeable values but, also help clients explore the possible implications of their choices later down the years. It is important that clients’ choices remain their own, but with insights from advisers, they can begin to see hidden ramifications of the decisions they are making. This is just one of the many benefits of careers guidance and how it can aid meaningful and informed decision making when given the time to do so. Conversations can take time or require several sessions to really unpick the complexity of the issues some clients face yet, the value of these guidance interventions can be immense in the short and long term, as clients invest in their own careers management. 

Within these discussions, many young people (due to their lack of experience or knowledge), don’t initially realise just how unpredictable and flexible the labour market can be.

For example, whilst exploring the implications of the decision to pursue a season or two of being a snowboard instructor with a client last year, they found it surprising to discover that they could take a season away (on a gap year) and then return to study for a university degree; as long as they banked their sixth-form courses first.

Another client was shocked to discover the number of graduate career opportunities which didn’t specify a specific degree subject.

One client hadn’t realised how a particular subject choice at A-Level would open up a host of opportunities which, excited them and made the idea of taking the subject for the next two years not only rewarding and enjoyable but also, a meaningful reason for them to commit and to remain in education.

It is discussions and insights such as these that qualified, professional careers guidance advisers help with day in and day out in a wide range of settings, via face to face and telephone services, with groups and individuals, in schools to colleges, in prisons, with adults in the community and in training providers across the country.

It is this exploration of meaning that is their hidden strength and value.

DOTS by Bill Law and A.G Watts -

Written by: Chris Targett

Originally published on the CXK Blog, Saturday 17th October 2015

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