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Chris Targett
31 March 2016

Everyone has an agenda or a hidden purpose, even if it is benign or well meaning.

In the case of CXK it is to “build bridges to success, to learning and to work” but how exactly does this fit with careers guidance and an “impartial” approach?

I had written a few weeks ago for the CXK blog with regards impartiality, how important it is in the work we do. Yet there is a deeper side to the careers work and idea of impartiality which, requires looking at in more detail to really understand what careers advisers do and the caveats around their work. 

Impartial has relatively recently been argued as being coolly neutral, with no fear nor favour towards anyone or thing which, at first glance seems harmless. Yet imagine a careers adviser who just accepted the dreams of young people and didn’t challenge or explore their ideas and, in challenging, help them realise the wealth of choice out there or the possibilities around their ideas; this is “impartial” in the strictest sense. Such an approach could be potentially very dangerous for the long term future of clients and highly insipid as, ideas and decisions are not compared with other paths and possibilities. Future goals may go unchecked and suitability of courses unexplored.

Yet, clients need thoughtful, independent challenging alongside careful judicious use of information, guidance and data to help them plot a path from dreams to realistic pathways; this is guidance with an agenda!

However the above, is one agenda of several that a careers adviser could take. An alternative would be to imagine the adviser who offered exploration through the labour market alone; challenging what was and wasn’t realistic based on labour market information, without any sensitivity to the feelings of the client or even the roll of the dice and chance. Soul destroying for clients and removed from the actual inherent chaos and fluctuations of the labour market and changes clients experience; it is data as truth. It sits in stark contrast with recent thinking on chaos theory and careers.

So how can you or clients be sure of the agenda your careers advisers operate from? A simple answer would be to ask them and cross reference against recognised pathways or approaches. As a useful reference, the works ofA.Watts and B.Law form a good academic comparison. An alternative is to check whether your careers adviser is a member of the Career Development Institute (CDI) and signed up to their ethics which, explicitly states that advisers should be transparent in their dealings with clients and declare anything which, affects their “impartiality” such as their agenda.

As for my practice and agendas, I endeavour to be open and honest with schools and clients with regards how I work. I say to clients at a start of a session that “I may challenge them; not to steer them to one provider or another but, to help them explore the implications of different choices and, to ensure they don’t miss any opportunities.”… Through this I “raise their aspirations and maximise their potential”; crucially I am clear with them on what my agenda is.  

If I was to define myself academically with others in the sector (using A.Watt’s definitions and elements of B. Law’s philosophies) I would say I am predominantly a “Progressive Post Modern Humanist Adviser” with trace elements of the Radical, Liberal and Conservative spectrums mixed in.

With regards to CXK, it is our agenda as an organisation which put clients first as well challenge the status quo of the labour market, through programmes which affect the opportunities and life chances for local people such as Prince's Trust, our own Elevate course and our leading work in the National Citizen Service programme; I am happy and proud to belong to such a “Radical” organisation.

As a careers adviser I put clients first; this is key to my agenda. Have you checked with your advisers what their agendas are and whether, they are as open about them with their clients and you?

Written by: Chris Targett

Originally published on CXK blog, Monday 9th November 2015

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