Careers Work

a writing by Paul Butters

On 4th January 1982 I began working at Grimsby Careers Office, as a Careers Officer. That “office” later became “Centre” and I became a “Careers Adviser”, followed by a “Connexions Personal Adviser (Careers)”. I eventually took early retirement, last working in October 2006. Overall I much enjoyed my career as a Careers Adviser or whatever. Most of my work was with 13-18 year olds, most of whom were great to engage with. I enjoyed all those interviews, though wasn’t too keen on the paperwork and “computing” that followed.

Actually I would now say that I was a “Careers WORKER” for those 24 years. My old colleague Neil Hewitt thought that smacked of “Social Worker”, but I still prefer this title. I would also describe myself as a retired “Careers Counsellor”. Most of my interviewing technique was a form of counselling.

In 1981 I did the “Trent” Careers Diploma. Boss John Malkin (and the other tutors) was proud of his programme, especially as “an accredited counselling course”. There was much “unconditional positive regard”, establishing expectations, contracting, feeding back, and so forth. Some students adopted “The Trent Challenge” in interviews, but I personally went for the non-directive counselling approach. I loved the client-centred Carl Rogers stuff. The term “Helping Interview” was spot on for me.

But Trent was also a “Careers Guidance” course. Indeed John Malkin was heavily involved in our national “Institute of Careers Guidance”. And I was employed to give careers guidance and advice etc. Which now disturbs me a little, here with my retirement slippers on.

Why disturbed? Because the very word “Guidance” implies that the client might even be a “patient”: in need of being guided onto the “Correct Path”. Seen this way, the interview becomes a tool for “diagnosis” and “treatment”. That could be quite sinister.

Have been reading a little about Rogers etc. Apparently “Person-Centred Counselling”, though very influential in the field, eventually became “marginalised” because it didn’t address the patient’s “issues” directly enough. So I assume PCC was largely replaced by such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).

To quote from a student essay on the subject:

“‘The person centred approach does not adopt the medical model to understanding psychopathology and does not make the assumption than there are specific disorders requiring treatment. Insofar as practitioners in psychology and psychiatry do make this assumption, we can see why the person centred approach has become marginalised. Some person centred practitioners have indeed revelled in living on the edges, taking great satisfaction in the radical nature of the paradigm.’ (Joseph and Worsley, 2005, pg1).”

(I tidied it up a bit).

Incidentally a “therapy” I do like is “Solution-Focussed Brief Therapy”. This is all about focussing on the Positives and taking things from there. Again, this ties in nicely with the “Helping Interview”. The downside of the Solution-Focussed approach is that it Ignores….The Down Side!!! On balance though, I think it works well.

I always liked my interviews to be happy, positive, even uplifting events. Plenty of smiles and even laughter. But still doing “The Job”.
So I suppose what I am now questioning, on reflection, is: What Was The Job? My Work Managers kept pushing “Advice” and “Guidance”. They simply wanted to reduce the NEETS (Not in Employment and Training). They ordered us to “ZONK” young people – take them off benefits – if they refused to go on government training schemes which they saw as “Slave Labour”.

It was always, “Do as the Government says”. Indeed we were classed as “Local Government” most years and what is left of us still is. Us being “The Careers Service”… But now it’s a Tory Government which presides upon a sea of Zero-hour Contracts. So where exactly are young people being “Guided” to exactly???

Incidentally, since I retired, the Careers Service was returned from Connexions to local government control. But earlier “Humberside County Council” was abolished and Grimsby\Cleethorpes Area became “North East Lincolnshire Council”. Grimsby Careers Centre was sold off and I understand that the service is now run from a place down Freeman Street called “The Skills Hub”.

But getting back to “Careers Guidance” as such… I think it should be retitled “Career Development”! (Or Careers Development if you prefer). After all, you need to make career-decisions, be self-aware, research the information etc. in order to Develop your Career. It’s all about “getting on” in an occupation that suits you. And not about leading you like a lamb to the proverbial “slaughter”.

So I’m glad I stuck to my “Person-Centred-Helping-Interviewing” and my “Positive-Focussed” Careers-Development Work. I recommend that present and future Careers Workers do likewise. Amen.

Paul Butters

© PB 20\4\2020.

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