Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

One Facet of Constructivism Relating to Career Work

Helen Kershaw of drew attention to the posting Learning: Three Basics to Improve Teaching by Kevin Washburn, Ed.D., on the Edurati Review, on Twitter. It contains quite a good description of the rôle of conscious thought in the learning process:

The brain constructs learning. “We often talk of knowledge as though it could be divorced from thinking, as though it could be gathered up by one person and given to another in the form of a collection of sentences to remember,” explains Richard Paul. “When we talk in this way we forget that knowledge, by its very nature, depends on thought. Knowledge is produced by thought, analyzed by thought, comprehended by thought, organized, evaluated, maintained, and transformed by thought. Knowledge exists, properly speaking, only in minds that have comprehended it and constructed it through thought.”

To learn, the brain labels and sorts incoming data, seeks patterns within it, and recalls prior experiences related to it. The new data and the prior experiences are then blended to construct understanding. Unless we engage students in thinking about new material, they will not learn. And they will lack the ability to use new knowledge because…

Authentic learning empowers transfer. Students transfer learning when they use it outside of the classroom.

Following this line of reasoning, when a person seeks to 'know' what career path they should follow that person is seeking a form of knowledge and that knowledge must be constructed. It is not the career developer's task to create a 'package' of knowledge to be learned as if by rote by the client. Rather, the career developer's job is to support clients in their own construction work.

Women & Careers in Maths, Sciences & Technologies

An item in the news feed for caught my eye today, and led me to ask what other articles I might find there on this topic. Here are my results.

Tracking The Reasons Many Girls Avoid Science And Math

ScienceDaily (Sep. 8, 2008) — Most parents and many teachers believe that if middle-school and high-school girls show no interest in science or math, there's little anyone can do about it.

Women Opt Out Of Math/science Careers Because Of Family Demands

ScienceDaily (Mar. 3, 2009) — Women who are good at mathematics often do not choose careers in math-intensive fields, such as computer science, physics, technology, engineering, chemistry, and higher mathematics, because they want the flexibility to raise children, or because they prefer other fields of science that are less math-intensive, according to a new study.

How Dads Influence Their Daughters' Interest In Math

ScienceDaily (June 25, 2007) — It figures: Dads have a major impact on the degree of interest their daughters develop in math. That's one of the findings of a long-term University of Michigan study that has traced the sources of the continuing gender gap in math and science performance.

Women's Math Performance Affected By Theories On Sex Differences

ScienceDaily (Oct. 20, 2006) — Women perform differently on math tests depending on whether they believe math-related gender differences are determined by genetic or social differences, according to University of British Columbia researchers.

Friends' School Achievement Influences High School Girls' Interest In Math

ScienceDaily (Feb. 7, 2008) — Girls in high school take as many math courses as boys, influenced by close friends and peers who are doing well in school. More than boys, girls look to their close friends when they make important decisions, such as whether to take math and what math classes to take, confirming how significant peers are during adolescence.

Approach To School Affects How Girls Compare With Boys In Math

ScienceDaily (Feb. 23, 2006) — More women are pursuing higher education and doctoral degrees than ever before, but women still are rare in the math-oriented professions. Yet, researchers say, girls perform just as well as boys on achievement tests and tend to earn better grades in math than do boys during the earlier school years.

Are Women Being Scared Away From Math, Science, And Engineering Fields?

ScienceDaily (Oct. 3, 2007) — Have you ever felt outnumbered? Like there are just not that many people like you around? We’ve all felt outnumbered in one situation or another and walking into a situation in which you sense the possibility of being ostracized or isolated can be quite threatening.

Stereotype-induced Math Anxiety Undermines Girls' Ability To Perform In Other Academic Areas

ScienceDaily (May 24, 2007) — A popular stereotype that boys are better at mathematics than girls undermines girls' math performance because it causes worrying that erodes the mental resources needed for problem solving, new research at the University of Chicago shows.

Why Women Shy Away From Careers In Science And Math

ScienceDaily (May 11, 2005) — ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Girls steer away from careers in math, science and engineering because they view science as a solitary rather than a social occupation, according to a University of Michigan psychologist.

Women Perform Better In Math When Tested Without Men, Study Says

ScienceDaily (Sep. 13, 2000) — PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Women perform as much as 12 percent better on math problems when tested in a setting without men, according to a study of Brown University undergraduates led by a graduate student of psychology.

Girls Less Confident Than Boys In Science Classes, Researcher Finds

ScienceDaily (Nov. 4, 1998) — CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Girls remain a step behind boys in their confidence and participation levels in science classrooms, despite a hands-on teaching approach now popular in many science classrooms, according to University of Illinois research.

University Of Michigan Study Helps Define Why Fewer Women Choose Math-based Careers

ScienceDaily (May 26, 2003) — ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Girls and boys who are confident in their math abilities tend to pick a science career based on their values more than on their skills, a study by two University of Michigan researchers suggests.

The study found that both boys and girls who were people-oriented tended to choose college majors in the biological sciences---medicine, environmental sciences or social sciences---rather than the mathematically based sciences such as engineering, physics, or astronomy. It also found that math self-confidence, while stronger in boys than girls, played a much smaller role in the choice of college majors and careers than previously thought.

  • Google query:

    intitle:math OR intitle:science OR intitle:technology OR intitle:engineering intitle:girls OR intitle:women OR intitle:daughters

  • Received 16 items.
  • Used Firefox Scrapbook add-on to discard everything but the appearance of the links themselves from the Google results page, and four links relating strictly to health or medical issues.
  • Dropped the HTML from the Google page into script similar to this one.

    HTML = '''\

    remnants of page generated from Google goes here

    from re import compile
    from urllib import urlopen
    from BeautifulSoup import BeautifulSoup

    findlinksRE = compile ( r'''([^"]+)''' )
    links = findlinksRE . findall ( HTML )

    for link in links :
    HTML = urlopen ( link )
    soup = BeautifulSoup ( HTML )
    title = soup . findAll ( 'h1', { 'class' : 'story' } ) [ 0 ] . contents [ 0 ]
    print '%s' % title
    firstPara = soup . findAll ( 'p', { 'id' : 'first' } )
    print '%s%s' % ( firstPara [ 0 ] . contents [ 0 ] . contents [ 0 ], firstPara [ 0 ] . contents [ 1 ], )

  • Put the output from the script into this page (above).

Other Career Development Blogs

If you want to find other readings in the way of career development blogs and similar stuff then here is a pretty good source:

Drop the term "career development" into the edit box and, as of today, receive links to 204 possibilities.

Or, let another search engine,, use your current interests in blogs to suggest additional possibilities. First, launch you news reader and export your collection of feeds as an OPML file, saved to your disc. (Just remember where you've put it, eh.)

In its most basic usage you would just copy the name of that OPML file into the edit box. However, the problem with doing that is that, if you are like me (heaven help you), you probably follow lots of things besides career development, and will offer you blogs relating to those items too. The answer to this is fairly simple. Open the OPML file in a plain editor. Notepad will do (even if the very mention of it makes programmers grimace); but if you have access to a better editor then, by all means, use it. Just don't use MS Word or any other word processor. Use the editor to remove the lines of the OPML file that have nothing to do with career development and save the file. Now copy the name of this file into the box on suggestRSS web page and click 'suggest'.

What I found? I suppose I should not be surprised. Although did suggest some interesting possibilities that I will investigate it seems less able to target precisely on career development given just the OPML than There's some good stuff in there.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Smile! And Display Pride in Yourself!

Even if you don't feel it. Here's why. (Click to read.)

What Does Your Work Mean to You?

Here in one lecture, two occupations that I find fascinating, with some interesting ideas about why we work, about the useful functions of human resources groups in big organisations and a couple of other topics. Definitely worth your twenty minutes or so, in my opinion.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

Alain de Botton; renowned essayist, philosopher and founder of 'The School of Life' examined the nature and function of work in this thought-provoking lecture.

“Most of our waking hours are spent at work, and yet we rarely challenge the basic assumptions that lie behind this time-consuming, life-altering activity.”


Monday, April 20, 2009

I Wanna Work with ... Babies

No, not me! Gadzooks, no. This is strictly hypothetical.

The client has said that she wants to explore jobs that involve babies. Here's one way that can work, and it works even if the client says she wants to work in a different area, say, artillery.

Start at the (Canadian) National Occupational Classification complex search page. As of just now it's here. If it's not where I just said it was then do a quick Google search for it, ok?

Keep the default selection of 'Keywords' and key 'babies' into the edit box. And before we come back to the keywords field the easiest way to handle the rest of this form is simply to check the box labelled “Search all the following fields”.

I did a search for computer-related occupations by putting the word “computers” (plural) in the keywords box and received no results like computer programmer or web designer at all. Clearly the NOC search engine is not very clever about dealing with plural and singular forms of nouns and, by extension, it probably does not include a thesaurus capable of looking for all of the related words you might hope for.

In the present circumstances then, we need to think of synonyms and other alternatives for 'babies'. I used 'baby' and 'infant'. Having done that it is obviously important to indicate that these are alternatives by selecting the 'Or' option under the keywords box.

The NOC search engine returns a neat enough list of possibilities. However, there are two problems with it.
  1. One would like to be able to give the client her own copy of the search results. A printed copy is not of much use because the client cannot follow the links. I am of the belief also that we should not be expecting job finders to become adepts at using specialised pages like the NOC search engine when their interests lie elsewhere. We are supposed to know about these things.
  2. A much less important concern in this case is that there are references to irrelevant occupations in the army infantry. One would like to be able to remove these. In fact, one would like to be able to blot away all of the stuff from the search results that are of no interest to the client. What’s more being able to put in a couple of helpful notes, as necessary, might be nice, eh.
First, if you’re not using Firefox you should be. (Alright so I'm insufferable.) There are lots of accessories to help a career developer that can be added to it. One of these is called Aardvark, which I used to whittle down the results page.(1)

Now go to and create a new page for your client. Highlight the content from the search results that you want to present to your client, right-click to obtain the equivalent HTML and then copy and paste this stuff into the new disposable page. By default, the disposable page will be held available for 90 days. You can give the client the URL.

Here's a page I made earlier today for an American client, based on the United Stated SOC:

This was slightly more involved because the SOC does not seem to provide the neat search facility that the NOC does.

(1) Open Aardvard from the Tools menu. Highlight an item to be removed and press 'R'. Keep doing this until you have only what you want left. Press 'Q' to close Aardvark.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Describe Yourself ... But in Marketing Materials

Here's a YouTube video in which a number of people are asked to describe themselves in one or a few words. Have a look at it first.

Now think about describing yourself to a possible employer. Just to consider one possible self-description, there are employers who look for “bubbly” employees. So I’m not going to advise you to avoid describing yourself that way in the first instance—or most others.

What I would say though is that most of us are wary of the self-descriptions of others. If someone tells you that she is invariably cheerful, and sympathetic to the needs of others where do your thoughts go? Most of us may be unwilling to believe the worst about this individual but we do start to think about the accuracy of this particular aspect of the person’s self-assessment. Likewise, employers are wary of applicant’s self-descriptions in resumés, blogs, networking cards and job interviews.

It’s usually a lot better to demonstrate your characteristics to an employer than to simply claim them.

With this in mind, here’s a very practical exercise. Select one of the traits that you honestly believe is characteristic of you, name it or describe it and then describe two recent circumstances in which you have demonstrated this characteristic. If you really are bubbly then it should be easy to find times when you have been bubbly in the past day or two, right? What happened? For more points, how did your bubbliness enhance the lives of those around you?

I’d love to read what you create in the comments to this posting! (You don't have to be bubbly either, right? You could be earnest, reliable, honest, trusting, empathetic, smart, smiling, musical, mechanical, driven, stern, gracious, graceful, ..., etc .)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"The Age of Persuasion": Some Items about Branding

When I do my best work in supporting a client in creating marketing materials it is when we succeed identifying a suitable brand for that client vis à vis a defined set of possible employers. Since this is anything but exact science I doubt that it would be advisable for me to try to construct an algorithm (even if, as a programmer, that always worked for me in the past!). However, it is certainly worth hearing and reading what experts say about brands. Here are three selections from the CBC series, "The Age of Persuasion", that I find interesting.

Reviving the Brand
Six Remarkable Brands
Branding the News

(My thanks, once again, to a friend, DB, for pointing me toward another useful source.)


These are half-hour programmes that are not podcasts. If you want to download them to your computer for transcription to some other medium, here’s one way.
  • Download and install Audacity (it’s free).
  • Set the drop-down box under the mauve button to 'Mono-Mix'.
  • Resize the browser and Audacity windows to share the screen so that you can play the Age of Persuasion audio file and control Audacity.
  • Press the Audacity 'record' button and quickly press the Age of Persuasion 'play' button.
  • Watch the waveform in the windows carefully for a second or two. If it touches the upper and lower edges of the window, or seems very close to the central axis, then try adjusting the speaker slider control to the extreme left of 'Mono-Mix' so that neither of these things occurs.
  • If you needed to adjust the slider control then stop the Age of Persuasion playback, stop the Audacity recording, click on the little 'x' for the waveform to discard the recording just made and then go two steps back.
  • Otherwise just let the recording continue and come back in half an hour to stop Audacity from recording.
  • Save the recording in whatever format you need.
  • Don't forget: If you also use Skype or other products that involve the use of your microphone then you might find that you need to change back from 'Mono-Mix' to 'Microphone'.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Contact Points Jobs, II

The composite listing offered in the righthand sidebar now includes the Contact Point jobs again. Please note however that, although the CP page seems to claim that there are 46 jobs only 29 are retrievable from the site.

Anyone with information about this please tell me what is happening.

Contact Points Jobs

Contact Point has made the transition to a new content management system for their website. As a consequence the way that their list of jobs is presented has changed and the code that I use to filter out information about those jobs for inclusion in my list of CDP jobs will have to change too.

You can still use my list for summary information about the other sources of CDP jobs. However, you will need to consult the Contact Point site directly for their information.

Please bear with me during this transitional period.

Contact Point Events List

Now that Contact Point has an RSS feed for its events list I am dropping the one that I have been making.