Career advice in uncertain times

Maintaining hope in uncertain times; careers guidance in 2021

I trained to be a Careers Officer (now called Careers Adviser) in 1985 at Newcastle Polytechnic, during times of unemployment not seen since before the second world war, and in an area that was massively affected by deindustrialisation.  Many people are predicting that in 2021 we will be facing an even worse period of unemployment, especially youth unemployment, than in the period 1981-86.

Remaining positive

In my Careers Adviser DNA, the main thing that guides me is creating a sense of hope and that there is a positive way forward. In 2021 hope will still be everything, in spite of the well documented issues facing the career guidance sector, such as lack of an English funded youth careers service and centres for the young unemployed to go to seek help.

From my memories of starting in career guidance in 1985, these are some of my reflections.

Even though there may terrible news every day about how bad things are, in your relationship with the client, you can still create an atmosphere of positivity with achievable and realistic action points. Tol Bedford’s research in 1982 clearly showed how young people really enjoyed speaking to someone nice who seemed to care about their future.

Make the most of available options

Making the best of what is available.  In 1985 we had YTS (Youth Training Scheme) which had a terrible reputation.  In Tyneside this was pretty much the only option for the young unemployed, however the large numbers who took a positive attitude to the available YTS programmes did often enter the workforce through this or enjoyed their experience and gained valuable hard and soft skills which would serve them well in the future.

What we called employer knowledge and is now called labour market information/intelligence is absolutely vital. Knowing in great detail what the realities of the local employment situation are and being able to speak in detail about this, are vital when your clients can be much more disillusioned.  Knowing your stuff can help turn cynical attitudes around e.g. knowing in detail, what is being placed on Find an Apprenticeship.

Moving into 2021

To bring us to the present day, you may be a Careers Adviser working independently with no support or working for an underfunded Careers Company.  You might be a School Careers Leader with no time or even a Careers Consultant at a university which is worried about its survival. For now, we are where we are and what worked in 1985, I’m sure will still be useful in 2021, helping us to be at our best in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.  To sum up:

  • People value positive friendly guidance, even more in challenging times.
  • Make the best of what is available to help achieve goals.
  • Knowing your stuff is always important, but even more important in these times.

Comments 3

  1. I trained as a officer at Swanley in 1980 -81 and am still working as a careers leader and adviser today. I experienced those days of high unemployment and few jobs in the East of England and saw the numbers of school leavers staying on into the sixth form soar as one consequence.
    Things did get better and they will again , I agree with Andy we have to stay positive for our young people, help them all we can and do our best to be the friendly-face ( real or virtual ) in such a bizarre ,uncertain time.

  2. Thank you Andy . I’m preparing my little box of hopeful alternative options if a learners GCSE results doesn’t go to plan. I always insist on a plan B and sometimes plan Z ( which is based on planned happenstance) Managing uncertainty is key in our career guidance process. Hence why I stick guidance in my job tittle.

  3. As a then Secondary Vocational teacher, given responsibility for Careers, WEX, Aim Higher and School/Industry/links Co-ordinator. with much in-service training with Watts, Andrews, Law and Cleaton as well as completing Advanced Diploma Modules with J McDonald after completing an MA, it was in my Thesis on The Development of CEG in
    the curriculum and the Effects at Post 16 – (Spours, Young, Green and Wolf) that confirmed the need for such positive thinking and
    could not agree more – positive thinking works best when situations are at their lowest ebb.
    Discussing and identifying interests aptitudes and any qualifications together with further training possibilities in a wider range of sectors, gives hope and a goal to work towards for those looking for inspiration.

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