Paradigm Shifts & Careers Guidance: It’s life Jim but not as we know it.

It’s a common misconception amongst sci-fi fans & Trekkies that Kirk says to his Chief Engineer, “Beam me up Scotty”.  Despite its place and use in popular culture  those immortal words were never once ushered in any of the series or films.  Another one is the aforementioned title of this blog entry, where Spock is supposed to have said “It’s life Jim but not as we know it”.  Guess what? That widely quoted line wasn’t said either.  Probably the most famous one is the overly misquoted passage from Star Wars, you know the one, “Luke, I am your father”. But the actual quote is: “No, I am your father”. Mind blowing isn’t it!

The purpose of this isn’t to thrust upon you my encyclopaedic knowledge of sci-fi related misquotes (it’s not really encyclopaedic, more like postage stamped sized) but to introduce a monumentally sized tenuous link between the feeling you get from suddenly realising you’ve been misquoting Darth Vader for the last 20 odd years and the changed mind-set that may then result which we could call a paradigm shift moment.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines a paradigm shift as:

a time when the usual and accepted way of doing or thinking about something changes completely

It is easy to understand how life events can exert a paradigm shift in our thinking and behaviour that then changes our approach and path through our careers.  For higher education students it could be a week’s work placement or single employer visit that changes an outlook or predisposed feeling on a particular job from an unlikely to a definite career path.

It could easily be a near death experience like illness or accident that changes an individual’s value system from “living to work” to “working to live”, causing  a complete career shift to achieve better work/life balance. Whilst in work, it could be a single incident that suddenly makes you think “I’m in the wrong job” I need to move on. These are events that most of us can relate to but not always be so sure of how to handle for the best.

In careers work I believe there is plenty of focus and literature on theory such as:

Structuralism: i.e. Labour market influences.

Matching theory: i.e. Skills and personality analysis and mapping for matching self to jobs.

Developmentalism: i.e. Experiential learning and activities encouraging gradual change and personal growth through stages.

Constuctivist/Narrative: i.e. Talking about values and meaning.  Understanding the client story.

What I haven’t found much – if anything – on is recognition of how events and actions in our lives can create sudden and unexpected paradigm shifts of thought that consequentially alter the direction of our careers.  These are naturally occurring events but how do we manage them  – if indeed we can – and navigate through?

I believe a paradigm shift relating to our careers can create two alternate outcomes, so for want of better descriptions I have called them the following:

1)    Motivational epiphany: Acute sense of realisation and self-awareness as a catalyst for wanting to instigate change.

2)    Momentary paralysis: Debilitating sense of realisation causing cognitive dissonance and inaction.

Perhaps part of the answer lies in aspects of transition theory.  There is Schlossberg’s Transition Theory around unanticipated transitions and the use of the four S’s.  Particularly around support available and coping strategies.  It is possible to see the role of Careers Advisers in this process as A) We can be part of a wider support network as well as identifying other helpers and B) Assisting  with a strategy i.e. goal setting and action planning.

There is an emphasis here as viewing a paradigm shift as something that needs to be coped with on an emotional level.  It is possible to see potential conflict in terms of personal capability within our roles.  Are we or should we be Career Counsellors or Career Coaches or both?  Additionally, rather than what we can or should be, what do we want to be?  For instance counselling is highly specialised and professionally rigorous and I (personally) have always taken the approach of keeping and viewing my practice in a more coaching capacity.

We should also  consider how the guidance process itself can not only support individuals through their paradigm shift but also be a creator of them.  When this occurs (with the caveat of how do we always know it has happened) do we then have an obligation and responsibility to support the client in a series of meetings rather than just wave them off with a “be on your way, my work is done” approach. I’m sure no one would take the latter stance but my worry is that careers guidance interviews can create a fertile environment for paradigm shifts but not always set in place continuing support.  Let’s face it, we aren’t dealing with something tangible that is always instantly recognised and fed back to us.

So I’m throwing this one out there and would love to hear people’s thoughts on our role as catalysts and coping mechanisms for paradigm shifts.  If nothing else you will have learned how to stop Kirk, Spock and Darth Vader being misquoted.  May the careers force be with you.

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One thought on “Paradigm Shifts & Careers Guidance: It’s life Jim but not as we know it.

  1. Pingback: The best advice I ever received. | Careerschap | The musings of a careers professional in the higher education sector.

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