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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Do You Really Want To Do a PhD?

Here's a discussion from The Economist magazine published earlier this month: The disposable academic: Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Some Just Need a Place to Work

Many Canadian towns and cities have numerous vacant, long-disused, habitable commercial properties. And lots of would-be entrepreneurs and small business people just need a place to get started. The owners of these properties can benefit when they open them to use for modest terms.

Here's what some people are doing in Australia: Social enterprise connects artists with empty commercial buildings.

Do you know anyone who might help?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Job: Employment Counsellor / Loan Advisor, London, ON

"This position will assist ITWs in accessing low cost loans to provide financial support for relevant post-secondary, bridging and skills-based programming, examination fees and professional fees that will lead to their accreditation/licensure."


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Job: Resource Centre Administrator, Vancouver, BC

"The  Resource Centre Administrator assists clients in their job search process, coordinates and facilitates workshops as well as maintains a current job board suitable to clients needs. The  Resource Centre Administrator provides additional administrative support to all ESC staff as required."


Job: Case Manager / Facilitator, Vancouver, BC

"Under the general supervision of the Employment Manager, the  Case Manager/ Facilitator is responsible for Case Management and Case Management Services under the EPBC, including client awareness and navigation, needs and financial assessments, action plan development, facilitation, monitoring and following up of clients, meeting client service and financial targets and managing client files."


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Job: Lead Case Manager, Vancouver, BC

The Lead Case Manager is primarily responsible for client awareness and navigation, needs and financial assessments, action plan development, monitoring and following up of clients, meeting client service and financial targets, and maintaining client files.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Masculine & Feminine (Parental) Helping Styles

This is about eight minutes of the 2010 BBC programme "Biology of Dads." Here the host Laverne Antrobus watches with fellow psychologist Jay Belsky as two sets of parents process conflicts with their children.

I do enjoy these interactions! Do take the time to watch.

Professor Belsky's suffice to characterise the typical ways in which mothers and fathers work with their children. But why would I mention this on a blog about career development?

I sense that the two approaches are largely complementary and that even once we leave the locus of control of our parents we still might need such support from time to time. At any given time a client might need more of one kind of support than the other. Some clients really need to be offered more of the other kind of support than they think they need. Some career developers are much more adept at providing one kind of support over the other.

Part of our skill is in discerning what is needed and how to provide it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Job: Project Officer, Toronto

"Work as part of team working towards achieving organizational and community employment and training goals"


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

People: Imitators or Herd Animals?

At a time when behaviourism still held a death grip on psychology, in North America at least, Albert Bandura's offered first social learning theory and then social cognitive theory. Put much too briefly, we can imitate the behaviours that others model, and sometimes (some of us) go beyond what we see modelled.

Professor Andrew Oswald, an economist, suggests that much that we do as people should be regarded as herd behaviour. He has been examining the consequences of it in terms of economics models.

Mark Pagel, a professor of evolutionary biology, suggests that people, as social creatures have need for only a very few really creative individuals because the rest of us are so adept at copying, and that this has shaped us by the usual evolutionary processes. He suggests that, in fact, we are 'infinitely stupid.'

Sunday, December 11, 2011

NYT: Future of Computing Articles

Need to be able to discuss careers in computing?

One of the sites that I follow (for nerds) has just posted a page that reviews this week's collection of essays in the New York Times about the future of computing: NYT on the Future of Computing.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Counts in Reference Letters: Sample

Here's a blog entry by Professor Frances Woolley of Carleton University who is just now shortlisting candidates for a faculty post: Why "great teacher" doesn't get you on the short list.

I think it's worth reading because it provides insight into a hiring manager's mind about what one of them is actually looking for in candidates, and how she interprets what she reads. As well as how much she reads of each submission.

How many times have I read résumés that claim mainly that someone is enthusiastic, hard-working or quick-learning?

Your Legal Rights in Ontario

Community Legal Education Ontario have created Your Legal Rights which "is a website of legal information for people in Ontario."

The following topics are listed on the home page: Abuse and Family Violence, Employment and Work, Housing Law, Social Assistance and Pensions, Consumer Law, Environmental Law, Human Rights, Wills and Estates, Criminal Law, Family Law, Immigration and Refugee Law, Education Law, Health and Disability, Legal System.

I'd appreciate knowing of similar sites for other provinces and territorities.

Thanks to

Job: Employment Counselling, Hamilton, ON

"OW Employment Counsellors will prescreen their job seekers for employers who have registered for our service."


Cisco Canada Seeks Grads, Soon-to-be-Grads

See Hey university grad! Want a job at Cisco Canada?

Beware Lists of Happiest Jobs

In March of 2007 Workopolis announced the results of a survey of 9,000 working people: Canada's Top 20 Jobs. Here's their list:

CEO / CFO / President
Teacher / Tutor
HR Professional
Actor / Director
Career Counselor / Trainer
Mental Health Counselor / Social Worker
Graphic Designer
Market Researcher / Analyst
Public Relations / Communications Specialist
Writer / Journalist
Computer Programmer
Bar / Restaurant / Hotel Manager
Web Designer / Developer
Product Manager
Construction Tradesperson
Medical / Biological Researcher

At least they surveyed Canadians. A couple of months ago the Globe & Mail gave us another list: The 10 Happiest Jobs.

Physical therapists
Special education teachers
Financial services sales agents
Operating engineers

Now, in the first place, although any of us can do a whole collection of different occupations and enjoy doing any of them, one would be ill-advised to take (attempt to take) up a vocation as a member of clergy on the grounds that it is the occupation that makes the greatest number of people 'happy.' Right? (I am not going to go into this question here even if it is the most important aspect of the discussion!)

The second list was created "by the National Organization for Research at the University of Chicago." Do I need to suggest that religion might have a different place in American society than in Canadian? Or is it that few or none of the 9,000 working people interviewed for the Workpolis survey were members of clergy? In any case, there are considerable discrepancies between the two lists.

According to the University of Chicago, (and the Globe & Mail) the worst jobs in America, masquerading as the worst in Canada, are:

Director of Information Technology
Director of Sales and Marketing
Product Manager
Senior Web Developer
Technical Specialist
Electronics Technician
Law Clerk
Technical Support Analyst
CNC Machinist
Marketing Manager

I see that in 2007 it was great to be a web developer in Canada but woe betide anyone who agreed to become a senior web developer because, according to the Chicago study that would plunge you into despair by 2011.

If these surveys are going to be of any use to us at all then they need to be culturally sensitive, well conducted and well interpreted. It's a little unfortunate that we no longer have the results of a reliable national census in Canada that could be used to frame studies like this.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Stories Are Good in Résumés Too

Here's an audio report about how politicians use stories to promote themselves: Jackanory Politics. By extension it is easy to understand how very short stories about one's achievements can be very effective in résumés too.

Advice with Wide Applicability

The suggestions in Reverse Engineering a Career are good for a lot more situations than the author suggests. It's a very helpful article.

You can use these ideas to learn much more about occupations as a way of deciding which might be worth pursuing. You will learn techniques from one occupation that would apply in another. You will inevitably learn much about what people expect of colleagues, subordinates and supervisors.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Job: Employment Counsellor / Facilitator, Toronto

"Work with approximately 40 clients with mental health disabilities annually, provide one-one-one counselling and design and facilitate workshops."


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Job: Employment Counsellor, London, ON

"This position will assist ITWs [internationally trained workers] in accessing low cost loans to provide financial support for relevant post-secondary, bridging and skills-based programming, examination fees and professional fees that will lead to their accreditation/licensure."


Again, it's not listed in the Canada-wide collection of jobs I produce on a daily basis. Use Google Alerts, as discussed here a day or two ago, to find jobs like this one.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Reworking the World of Work"

TVO's "The Agenda with Steve Paikin" is offering the panel discussion video, "Reworking the World of Work" here. Definitely worth watching!

My thanks to Susan Buckingham of NWELRC.

Google Alerts: Another Way to Stay Informed

Yesterday the Ontario Government announced grants for hiring interns. Did you know about that? I heard about it from one of my Google Alerts. I also heard about the job in Manitoba that I posted yesterday, a vacancy that had not appeared in any of my other sources.


Google Alerts are dead easy to set up, and you can get the alerts that it creates in either email or RSS feed form.

Log in to Google before or after you go to

Because I have a Google email address Google it into the 'Deliver to' box for me. It's possible that you will need to do this yourself, if you want email alerts. Otherwise, use the triangle to the right to select a feed.

If you select email alerts then you might prefer to receive them all at once, 'Once a day.' However, that's your choice; you can click on the triangle to receive alerts as they occur. You can choose to receive results from all sources, the web, news, blogs and so on, in other words 'Everything', or just from some of these using another triangle to expose the appropriate list.

The stuff that goes in 'Search query' seems to be what goes into any Google query. In the following view you can see that I query for "employment counselling" (with the quotation marks) because I want to see all new occurrences of items with these words together in this order (and not just anywhere in the items).

As I keyed in the search string Google displayed some typical results for me in the right-hand column. Satisfied with those I clicked on 'Create Alert' to receive the following display. Actually it's part of the full list of my Google Alerts. 

I notice that, if you have created RSS feeds and change your mind you can have email alerts instead.

One more item for the toolbox.

BBC CV (Résumé) Quiz

OK, it's somewhat slanted towards the UK and Europe. Fun anyway.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Job: Career Development Specialist, Manitoba

"Career Trek’s vision is straightforward: help build a Manitoba where everyone can realize their full educational and career potential. We are a not‐for‐profit organization that helps young people –those who would most benefit from our programming – to discover post‐secondary education."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Proposal: Offer of a Listing of 'Free' Events

Lots of 'free' events of interest to career and employment developers take place across Canada almost every day. Unfortunately few of us learn about them in time to benefit from attending them.

What I propose to do, on a trial basis, is to accept your information about them and to use that information to create a public, sortable web page. If this project attracts too little attention—or too much for me to handle!—I will probably be forced to cancel it. However, I will try to give it a fair trial.

For each event I would like to have:

  • a descriptive title
  • a date in yyyy-mm-dd form
  • time interval in HH.MM-HH.MM (24-hour format)
  • venue name, if available, eg, Central Library
  • a brief description of the event
  • intended audience
  • Google map URL?
Use your own discretion about what stuff you actually need to tell me, eh.

An event will be considered 'free' if it is either totally free or if it involves only a nominal fee. I don't want to include commercial events, and this is not a competitor for the Contact Point events listing.

I would like to see more local events get the attendance they deserve. Beyond that, if you are creating new groups sessions or other work and need an audience then this might be a way of gathering one.

I'll start publishing when I get some events, if I get some events.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Contrary Advice About Salary Negotiation

The conventional wisdom I have heard is that job applicants should offer a range of salaries that they would accept when asked during the initial stages of negotiations. For example, an applicant might say that she would accept a salary in the range of $45 to 55,000. Part of the theory behind this is that if you give just a single number then that will be taken to be the minimum you will accept. If it is low then you might be stuck with it; if too high then you might put off the employer.

Now there is some evidence that applicants would be better off suggesting fairly high figures initially, providing that they do it in a way that does not put off the employer. See Extreme numbers influence initial salary offers.

This advice could have some interesting consequences. Some people shy away from applying for jobs for which no information is supplied about salary. This could actually be to the advantage of the applicant, however. In the absence of any declaration on the part of the employer when the compensation bargaining stage arrives the applicant could suggest a high anchor figure to open negotiation.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

TQ: Possible Jobs Future

Trainability Quotient is the ability of a system or machine—or person or group—to train itself, not merely to accept training passively. An example is Google which can learn your patterns of interest and use them to improve the search results it offers. As software systems for machine learning and artificial intelligence improve and are more widely adopted, and as they begin to include the ability to process speech and other modalities more effectively, we will can expect to see more such systems in popular use.

However, there are other ways of viewing this direction of development.

I notice that few people make effective use of Google, for example. It's, therefore, very possible that people who specialise in using trainable systems such as this will prosper. In a similar way, people and organisations who are adept at making themselves trainable, especially when they can leverage trainable systems, could well see numerous opportunities. And finally people who are actually skilled at marshalling others in novel ways, in groups to solve unusual problems could become much more valuable.

We live in a time of rapid change.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Possible New World Jobs Recession

Read the full article for what the ILO and the OECD have to say: ILO: World economy on verge of new jobs recession. Much would appear to depend on political leadership.

For a little more about Canada see 'What is the economic outlook for OECD countries?: An interim assessment.' Although Canada is not expected to undergo negative growth in upcoming quarters, like Germany or Italy, growth here will not be stellar either. It's also important to mention, as does the report, that there is considerable uncertainty in these predictions.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Now These Are Real Master Classes

The second Edge 'master class' I watched, by Professor Leda Cosmides of the University of California was called 'The Architecture of Motivation.' I found what she had to say extremely interesting, to the extent that I understood it, but it was only when I recognised that it was Professor Steven Pinker in her audience that was asking her questions that I realised that, yes, this really was a master class. I was learning (something about) up-to-date psychological science from one of the foremost people in the field.

You can also watch such master classes by Pinker himself—about the topics from his recent 800-page book—and talks by various other prominent people in various branches of social and other sciences. This is a great way for career developers to broaden horizons.

PS: Cosmides asks why we are made to feel. So why is that so?

Limited Opportunities for Us to Develop

Rob Straby polled his audience of career developers at a recent conference and found that few participants have the support they need to build 'professionals skillsets on the job': see The Care & Feeding of Career Development Professionals.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to Study, II

Q: What modern institution developed from medieval institutions of the kind depicted in the image to the right?

A: If you answered 'university' then you are absolutely right. See the lecturer reading from his notes? And the students scribbling stuff down in their own notebooks?

Yes, the process is largely unchanged for quite a long time now.

Not very efficient is it either, for the students I mean. For an alternative approach, and some empirical evidence in support of it, read what Tom Stafford has to say at Make study more effective, the easy way. (The comments are interesting too.)

Image from wikimedia commons (public domain).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

How to Study

People preparing for career changes will often find it necessary to do some study at some level. Here's some advice from the Wall Street Journal: Toughest Exam Question: What Is the Best Way to Study?

Thanks once again to the Barking Up the Wrong Tree blog.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Canadian Essential Skills Profiles

If you're like me then you've been resorting to the American occupational information available from O*NET, and extrapolating from it for Canadian clients. That being the case, you'll be pleased to know that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada has announced its first batch of 50 "updated essential skills profiles," available online. The agency is soliciting opinions about them, and you can ask to be kept up-to-date about developments.

I think it's extremely important that HRSDC continue with this project to the point where you can search the occupation descriptions in the way that it is possible on O*NET, that is, at least by:
  • Abilities
  • Interests
  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Work Activities
  • Work Context
  • Work Values
  • Skills Search
  • Tools and Technology
Definitely a great start!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Job Listings for Career Developers: When It FAILS

For heaven's sake don't ignore it!

Please tell me. Just send me a short email at

My thanks to Andrew Bassingthwaighte for informing me this morning about the unavailability of the job listings for the past few days.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Stuff We Do Must Be Based on RCTs

Let's say you know a dyed-in-the-wool, explicitly racist individual who says, "When I meet a person of race X I can be fairly sure that she will exhibit attitude AX, and when I meet a person of race Y I know he will exhibit attitude AY."

If you are like me, you'd probably cringe and put on your best anti-racist mental cloak, then say to yourself, "Goodness, this individual can see (or thinks he can see distinguishing racial attributes) and then he projects his own beliefs about race onto members of these groups. (Fortunately I am completely free of these ways of thinking.)"

Now, let me offer you what I sometimes hear during discussions. An employment advisor with views about the differing attitudes of the various generations of North Americans meets a client of generation X. Whenever the advisor does so he says to himself, "I imagine that this client will have attitude AX in the workplace. Curiously, when I meet clients from generation Y on the other hand they always seem to demonstrate attitude AY at work."

Can you spot the parallel at all?

My point is not that we should ignore individual differences in clients. Of course not. My point is that observations made in uncontrolled, unblinded situations do not constitute scientific evidence. When one meets a client all sorts of beliefs and expectations will suggest themselves on the basis of gender, social class, age and so on.

We need more good scientific exploration to guide our work.

See wikipedia, randomised controlled trials for more. I note that they were first used in psychology where life is somehow more difficult in some ways than it is in physics.

If you would like to be harangued on a regular basis about topics like this then subscribe to Ben Goldacre's Bad Science, or to Tim Harford's BBC 4 More or Less podcasts. Here's something gnarly that you can read right now: A Field, Top 5 Statistical Fax Pas.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I avoid discussing civil liberties issues on this blog. However, I believe that this one is extremely important to Canadians. Once this machinery is in place we will never be rid of it. Furthermore, it is open to wide abuse, not just by police and other security officials but by anyone who operates Internet facilities.

Please consider signing the petition. Our freedoms are important.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Superb New Training Technology Guide

Created by Community Literacy of Ontario but with a tonne of stuff in it for careers and employment people: Guide to Effective Technologies for Providing Online Staff Development and Training.

Announced by Monika Jankowska-Pacyna of AlphaPlus on a LinkedIn group today.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tutorial: Processing News Feeds

I have just completed the initial version of a tutorial about reading news feeds on wikiversity. Comments and improvements very welcome.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Meaning of Life?

Does it get any bigger than this?

Baumeister and Vohs published 'The pursuit of meaningfulness in life' way back in 2002 but maybe the existence of this paper has been kept secret. If not then why haven't we all been made aware of it? According to Psyblog four factors are involved:

Purpose - this could be living happily ever after, going to heaven or even (whisper it) found at work. Whatever it is, meaning in life comes from reaching goals and feeling fulfilled. Even though fulfilment is hard to achieve because the state fades, people need purpose.

Values - people need a moral structure to work out what is right and what is wrong. There are plenty to choose from: some come from religion, others from philosophy and still others from your friends and family.

Efficacy - people want to make a difference and have some control over their environment. Without that, the meaning of life is reduced.

Self-worth - we all want to feel we're good and worthwhile people. We can do this individually or by hitching ourselves to a worthy cause. Either way we need to be able to view ourselves in a positive light.

I am in no position to provide empirical verification of this framework; however, I must say that it has appeal. And it would appear to have application to careers work.

Not everyone finds their life's purpose at work. This being the case, then how can a client find a career that will accommodate purpose in another area of life? In many cases, how can work be made to align with purpose, if at all possible?

What are the client's values and will they align with any given career or job? What can we do to help a client ellucidate their own value systems? One traditional way is presented elsewhere in these notes but there are probably more up-to-date approaches that circumvent a person's attempts to fool themselves.

Sometimes we sense that a client may have general feelings of inadequacy. Is there something we can do to help? What kinds of work seem to lead to the greatest feelings of adequacy in a client? Is there a danger that the careers worker could stray outside of their area of competence in dealing with this problem? What community resources are available?

Does the client have a healthy sense of self-worth? How much does this really have to do with their occupation? Will the change in self-worth that arises from having a career plan prove to be illusory? What can or should a careers worker do in the face of poor self-worth on the part of a client?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Basic Principles for Career Developers

Stuart Sorensen is a psychiatric nurse of long standing who writes a blog for people in related occupations. Today he announced his intention of writing a new series of postings about ' fundamental principles of mental health and social care': Privileged glimpses of the bleedin’ obvious (in health and social care). I've copied his tentative list of topic titles here because it looks so good.

Shall I highlight the ones I particularly like or confess the ones I consistently forget?

There is no ‘us and them’
People are just people
People do the best they can with what they’ve got
Coping skills develop slowly
Don’t expect your service user to perform perfectly. You don’t so why should they?
Don’t blame people with disorders for behaving like people with disorders
What people say may not be what people mean
Do as I do – model behaviours we want to encourage in others
Lapse and relapse – two different things
Sympathy is not usually helpful
Empathy can be over used
There is no failure but there are learning opportunities
Risk-free is impossible. Manageable risk is the way to go
Don’t flap
The saviour fantasy
You’re probably not an emergency service – don’t try to behave like one
Hanged if you do & hanged if you don’t – a duty of care myth
The word ‘support’ is meaningless in and of itself
Seek first to understand
Nobody cares what we think so don’t moralise – give them evidence instead
Don’t recreate the ‘invalidating environment’
Everything we do teaches people about us and about the world
Challenging behaviour means….
Learned behaviour
Many behaviours ‘self extinguish’ if we let them
Everyone manipulates – even you
Beat past trauma with new, positive memories
Losing your temper doesn’t help
Selective abstraction
Confirmation bias
The clinician’s illusion
If you do the same things you get the same results
In every interaction think – ‘what do I want to achieve by this?’
Talk ‘one at a time’
Proximity anxiety
Cognitive overload
“It’s just behavioural” – a workers’ excuse for lazy thinking about service users’ needs.
‘Attention-seeking’ is really ‘interaction need’
It’s not about us
Who put us in charge?
Don’t get on the pedestal – you’ll never be able to keep it clean
Occam’s razor
Hanlon’s razor
Any plan, however ill-conceived, is better than no plan at all
In the real world there are no excuses
Keep our promises

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Guys Are Better at Mathematics

The principal guy in the video is Claude Steele, one of the pioneers in the study of stereotype threat. We are easily influenced (all of us) by subtle appeals to our group memberships.

If I were a woman I wouldn't be any good at mathematics.

Here's a recent paper that discusses the relationship between Stereotype Threat and Female Communication Styles. Note the beneficial effects of self-affirmation which is often associated with cognitive behavioural therapy.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cognitive Behaviour Theory: Resources Collection

Although I would want to verify the empirical justifications for using some of the resources offered nonetheless it's an interesting collection: Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Self-Help Resources. In any case, until professional interventions for psychological and social problems are easily available to everyone, and affordable by all, it is important to be able to have recourse to other remedies.

Mentioned on the PsychSplash blog. (And incidentally .gg is the domain for the Bailiwick of Guernsey.)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Demonstrating Use of a Search String

We might agree that this search string looks horrible.

apprentice electrician ontario intitle:employment OR intitle:career OR intitle:job

But if you embed it in a reference to the site 'Let me Google that for you,' in a link like this, not only does the resulting display in the browser make it obvious how the search string is to be used but it shows what the results are and the search string itself doesn't look quite so bad.

I'm indebted to economics Professor Chris Auld of the University of Victoria who mentioned this facility on a QuantEcon blog entry.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Search Facilities Tidied

I've moved the various specialised search facilities and search results together to be near the top of the right column. In particular, the list of jobs for career developers and people in similar occupations is now at the top of the display of these items. I hope this makes all of this clearer and more useful.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Warren Buffett: Human Abilities vs Outcomes

Warren Buffett might not be as successful as he should be. For anyone who does not recognise his name, he is only "the third wealthiest person in the world as of 2011."1 This is a clip I excerpted from an interview of Buffett done by Charlie Rose a week or two ago.2

Now if I were to say that a nurse or a teacher might be more valuable to society than an amazing investor like Buffett it might sound like some form of left-wing lunacy or bitterness. But when he says it one must pay attention. Clearly Buffett is aware that there are many distinct abilities and that our society has no way of rewarding something like equivalent levels of performance using them. In a way, he may also be asserting that there are other ways of evaluating contributions beyond what 'society' wants or needs.

In any case, I am grateful to him for offering this opinion.

1See this wikipedia article for details.

2Moyea FLV Editor Lite worked well for this editing job.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Canada's Digital Media Industry

A Carlisle Institute tweet has drawn my attention to the Assessing Canada's Digital Landscape item on The Mark News. It makes worthwhile reading for anyone interested in digital industries in Canada.

The author of this article, Justin Kozuch, was the Lead Researcher on 49 Pixels, which is a 2011 study of Canada's digital media industry. (See the home page of that site for lots of other goodies.)

Some highlights of interest to career developers:
  • about 3/5 have at least one degree
  • about 1/3 are very satisfied with their jobs
  • about 1/8 make $80,000-100,000, 1/20 make more
  • only about 1/4 took refresher courses and workshops to stay up-to-date
If you've read Daniel Pink's Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and Kozuch's remarks about the need for innovations in the use of social media by business then, like me, you might wonder how many agencies are following Atlassian's lead in allowing their employees free time to follow their creative impulses.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Trend?: Ideas from Nature

Is it possible that the number of people looking to nature for ideas about how to solve problems or to conduct our lives is growing?

Here, for example, Janine Benyus describes some ways that technologies derived from natural systems are being used. She also outlines plans to gather information that can be used to apply more of these discoveries.

In fact there is a steady interplay between observations of nature and attempts to use mathematical models to provide explanations. Some of us might think that our intestines are randomly coiled in our bellies. But not so! Recently investigators at Harvard University have shown what's behind the predictably loopy gut.

In this talk Michael Pawlyn is very upbeat about the many ways that we can solve today's engineering problems by mimicking nature's general strategies.

There is also an entire category of computer algorithms inspired (albeit sometimes loosely or obscurely) by nature. Clues to their origins are in names like 'simulated annealing' and 'genetic programming.' See the free book on this topic Clever Algorithms for treatments of lots of them.

Speaking of Chaos: Musicians

qikipedia is the pseudonym (I assume) of one of my favourite tweeple. This is just a tiny sample of his offerings.

In connection with the topic of chaos in careers notice what happened in the lives of three much-loved composers. We even lost one of them to the kitchen.

And I would say, if you want to promote career chaos as a career developer follow Goethe's advice! Make your own judgments about what clients should be and then treat them accordingly!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chaos Theory for Career Developers

That's a chaotic 'double pendulum' on the left. More about it momentarily.

Dr Jim Bright shows that chaos theory has some useful applications, and insights to offer, in our field in his talk, available at The Factory Podcast – The Chaos theory of Careers, probability and possibility thinking.

The diagram on the left shows the motion of a double pendulum along with the locus of points traced by the free end of the double pendulum. The motion is chaotic in that it is unpredictable. Just as careers are.

It is fairly easy to think of parallels. If a client's career followed this type of dynamic (heaven help anyone like this) then they would be constrained to a 'career' involving jobs clustered mainly around that dense semicircle of points with occasional forays toward the pivot point of the first pendulum. The chaos analogy is imperfect in at least one way because, for example, the double pendulum displays continuous motion but people take on a discrete number of jobs. That is, we don't 'glide' from one job to another.

Basic Sales Techniques

The résumé or CV and its accompanying cover letter are truthful documents that present facts that are the most relevant to the job for which one is applying. Since the cover letter might not get the reader's attention at all both documents must also be sales or marketing documents. It's therefore essential to know at least a little about what techniques have been proven to work.

This video provides a simple introduction to the topic.

How can we apply these principles?
  1. Reciprocation: In the context of job applications, I can't think of a way! (Can you?) However, in the context of job development one could offer a potential employer some small gift, such as a note pad imprinted with information about one's agency.
  2. Scarcity: Try to point up some way in which the applicant's qualifications are unusual. In this context it might be necessary to warn against the perils of suggesting to an employer that the client has already been offered employment elsewhere; many prospective employers have heard this too often already. Perhaps though it would sometimes be possible to turn so-called over-qualification into an asset using this approach.
  3. Authority: The application seems obvious. Can you think of a better way?
  4. Commitment: If the client has been networking and if they have succeeded in contacting the person responsible for hiring then during an information interview they could try to get some small commitment that that person would hire someone with qualifications similar to the client. As mentioned elsewhere on this blog this technique can also be used in interviews.
  5. Liking: This is a tough one in the context of résumés and cover letters. Few of us are universally liked or disliked. Still, a prickly résumé is probably going to put most people off. Job developers have to cultivate relationships with employers (somehow) so that they are in a position to present job candidates effectively.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Career Developers Have Disappeared

... at least they have according to StatsCan.

Statistics Canada has just published their National Occupational Classification (NOC) 2011 (Preliminary release). We were NOC 4213. Now NOC 4213 has gone.

They refer to public consultations. I wonder who they asked?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Big Data Again: Career Opportunities

Read the McKinsey Global Institute's report, Big data: the next frontier ... .1 They predict a shortage of talent capable of digging out information from, and making effective use of the enormous quantities of, data being continuously stored. Not only that, according to O'Reilly Radar, few people have become fully aware of the benefits to be had from making use of this information.

1Mentioned on the O'Reilly Radar feed.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Jobs List for CDPs & Related Personnel: eluta Added

First, the jobs list is available here.

I could use your help to improve selection of jobs from At the moment the software selects advertisements in which the following collections of words appear in the job titles:

career advisor
career consultant
career counsellor
career counselor
career coach
career development facillitator
career development facilitator
career group facillitator
career group facilitator
career resource centre coordinator
career resource center coordinator
case manager
employment advisor
employment consultant
employment coordinator
employment counsellor
employment counselor
employment rehabilitation worker
employment services assessment officer
employment specialist
employment support
intake coordinator
job coach
job developer
job finding club coordinator
job skills counsellor
job skills counselor
language training instructor
vocational program facillitator
vocational program facilitator
vocational rehabilitation consultant
vocational support worker

For instance, a job with the title 'job coach and developer' would be accepted because it includes both 'job coach' and 'job developer.'

What I need are other meaningful combinations of words that can appear in job titles.

Got any?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I'm Afraid Women Are Beginning To Take the Lead

For a totally objective viewpoint watch this video featuring Hanna Rosin.

Meanwhile I notice that a young woman, Rebecca Rickwood, has won a competition involving over 200,000 people, to claim a title as the world's best Microsoft Excel user.

Is there no end to this?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Job Listings for Career Developers: added

Now searches for occurrences of the following strings:

career consultant
career counsellor
career counselor
career coach
career development facillitator
career development facilitator
career group facillitator
career group facilitator
career resource centre coordinator
career resource center coordinator
case manager
employment consultant
employment counsellor
employment counselor
employment rehabilitation worker
employment services assessment officer
employment specialist
intake coordinator
job coach
job developer
job finding club coordinator
job skills counsellor
job skills counselor
language training instructor
outplacement consultant
vocational program facillitator
vocational program facilitator
vocational rehabilitation consultant
vocational support worker

The software now does a better job of checking multiple pages of jobs and you may notice that some optional spellings are included. Of course this makes for quite a few false hits. Here's the complete jobs list as it stands.

Good hunting!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Job Listings for Career Developers: New Version

It's still in development.

So far, the listing includes jobs drawn from the Job Bank, Contact Point and Charity Village. I hope it's easier to read and use.

Especially since it's under active development I really hope that you will inform me about any faults you notice.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Reminder: Finding Courses & Programmes

Someone on LinkedIn just asked for information about the availability of certain programmes of study at Canadian universities and colleges. It occurs to me to mention the Canadian Colleges & Universities Google custom search again.

You can use it to try to find academic programmes, specialists in various fields, and various other kinds of information.

As always I welcome feedback.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Globe & Mail Videos

Mike Moffatt, of the Richard Ivey School of Business, draws attention to the videos on economic topics available on the Globe & Mail website, in Video Series on Generation Y and Employment (on the Worthwhile Canadian Initiative blog).

In one item in this series Philip Oreopoulos of the University of Toronto explains why millennials with advanced education face more difficulty gaining suitable employment. Perhaps more importantly he emphasises why such people need to avoid giving up in their job searches.

To find others by this author or in this series Google for and substitute your own search terms for <search terms> in this query inurl:leading-thinkers <search terms>

Friday, July 29, 2011

Listening Skills: A TED Talk

Although this talk emphasises the importance of listening, perhaps its importance has to do with its relationship to mindfulness in general. Hence, it could very well be useful to career developers introducing mindfulness through the back door, if you will, as well as basic listening skills.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Interim Versions of Jobs List: Job Bank Only

Click here. The date and time at which the Job Bank was scanned is indicated at the bottom of the page (note: GMT, five hours ahead of us here).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Most Employers Hate Creativity

It's unusual to encounter an employer that values creativity in its employees. Obviously most seek to discourage it. Fortunately, now someone has prepared a list of some remedies that will be helpful for all of those employers in this category: 6 Ways to Kill Creativity.

I can remember seeing some of these techniques in use by employers during my days as a software developer but definitely not all. I would therefore suggest that almost any employer has something to learn.

Let me know how it goes!

Describing a Business, II

Although the number of one-person businesses in Canada has dropped the unemployment rate has not, so it's still worth considering trying to make a living in this way. As mentioned before, however, unless you're a natural business person (or perhaps even if you are) it might be worth making a disciplined analysis of how your business will work before you embark on it.

Business Model Generation looks like a great way of doing this. It's available in many public libraries and on all the usual websites at a reasonable price.

BMD describes a 9-piece way of modelling business models. (Yes, awkward sentence.) Then it goes on to show you how the model can be used to explore Google, the FREE business model and some other 'patterns' that have succeeded. By the end of the book you will have learned how to deal with the various phases involved in producing a business model including imagining, critiquing, evaluating and so on.

Worth a look.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Martin Seligman: Write 3 Good Things Every Day

Dr Martin Seligman may be the leading proponent of positive psychology. His advice is to take a few minutes near the end of each day to write a list of the three positive things that have happened to you that day. There's experimental evidence to show that this one practice alone will permanently enhance your mood.

For a longer exploration of his ideas and how he would like to see societies evolve here's a good talk he gave at the RSA.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jobs List for CDPs and Related Personnel

As some of you may have noticed my little system is not working these days. I've decided that this would be a good time, especially as it's summer when there might be less hiring activity, to move it to I will try to keep you up-to-date.

If you find it useful, and if there are features that would make it more valuable, then this would be a good time to tell me. Of course I can't promise to incorporate all or any requested changes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Achieving Goals

Many of the activities involved in career development, perhaps all of them, involve achieving goals. Finding a job obviously involves setting goals but the conscious selection of an occupation will require each of us to see some research and deliberation through to completion, which clearly involves setting and meeting goals.

11 Goal Hacks: How to Achieve Anything summarises ways of thinking and personal disciplines from psychological research that seem to work well. Although I can't claim to be applying all of them myself they appear sound to me. Hack number 10 is an ancient business rule that I was taught long ago in a consultancy. I seem to unearth number 8 and 9 for myself every few weeks.

Numbers 1 to 6 look most valuable to me at the present time and I'm going to post them up here in my office.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Are You Warm or Competent?

According to "The Psyche on Automatic" in the Harvard Magazine Dr Amy Cuddy of the Harvard Business School believes that the two critical variables that account for 80% of our evaluations of others are warmth and competence. Inevitably our evaluations shape our behaviours toward and with respect to people.

Cold, incompetent people may not register as human beings to others. And in general warmth and competence are not considered compatible traits. In fact, this latter aspect of the human psyche makes me question whether people who project warmth as part of their occupational persona might have more difficulty establishing that they are competent. For example, many career developers.

In any case the ideas mentioned in the article appear to have many implications both for career developers and for our clients. Do have a look.

Once again I'm indebted to Barking up the wrong tree for making me aware of a useful item.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gotta Read Statistics Canada Reports Carefully

This graph is from StatsCan's Labour Force Survey (LMS) for yesterday. (No, I don't read these every day.)

It appears that, even by this crude measure, we are still quite a distance from those happy and enchanted days of 2008 when unemployment was only about 6%.

It's natural to wonder when we might return to those halcyon days, isn't it?

Let's just assume that life will hold no further unwelcome economic disturbances over the next few years, and no unexpected gifts either. Then by drawing one line representing the apparent rate at which the unemployment rate is declining and one representing the rate for the early part of 2008 it is quite easy to see that we can expect a return to that rate sometime in the first half of 2014.

A mere three years away.

As career developers we are also inquisitive about which parts of the labour market seem most active or which people are most likely to be obtaining jobs.

The LMS opens with the statement: "Employment rose for the third consecutive month, up 28,000 in June. " Later, under the heading "Employment growth primarily among core-aged women," it says, "Employment rose by 28,000 among core-aged women (25 to 54 years)." It would appear that, in aggregate terms all of the rise in employment can be ascribed to 'core-aged women.' Not just 'primarily' core-aged women.

What kinds of jobs are these?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Describing a Business

I imagine that most people that have started businesses in the past did so without concerning themselves about theories. They just 'knew what to do' in general terms and then worked out the remaining details. Of course some of these businesses floundered or failed but some succeeded and some flourished.

We have now entered an age when more of us seem to have to think of ourselves as small businesses. Whether or not we welcome this is not really important. For a great many of us who are not 'natural' business owners the bigger issue is how we can structure the problem of describing a business that might provide income.

Someone on LinkedIn just asked for a definition of the term business model. I responded with a link to the corresponding wikipedia article from which I have drawn the following paragraph.

Whenever a business is established, it either explicitly or implicitly employs a particular business model that describes the design or architecture of the value creation, delivery, and capture mechanisms employed by the business enterprise. The essence of a business model is that it defines the manner by which the business enterprise delivers value to customers, entices customers to pay for value, and converts those payments to profit: it thus reflects management’s hypothesis about what customers want, how they want it, and how an enterprise can organize to best meet those needs, get paid for doing so, and make a profit.

I am not by any stretch a business person. Perhaps that's why I find this paragraph so useful. For instance, not every new service or gadget that you might invent will lead to a business; it has to match some perceived need for a customer. Or, you may provide great services but if you can't find an effective way of capturing customers for them you will never be paid for them. Or, is there an effective way of making customers pay for what you have done? By using this single paragraph you can verify the principal characteristics of a viable business.

That business might often be just alone you in an economy where permanent jobs are fewer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Laura Penny on North American Education

This is the worst book interview I've ever watched but it's on a topic that's near to my heart so I stayed to the end of it. Laura Penny is a Canadian university academic.

I could not agree with her more that people should avoid getting into careers for any narrow set of reasons such as the current apparent health of part of the job market, especially when there is doubt that they will enjoy those careers, or whether those careers will fit other aspects of their lives, or whether the careers make good use of their available talents and aptitudes.

Since most of us still have to find jobs eventually, however, and most of us would find quite a number of subjects that are taught at university interesting I don't see why a person could not try to choose a subject that would be a best fit for him/herself and also marketable. When Penny says that education in the humanities confers certain skills and abilities how can she know that these are in any sense more valuable than those that could be obtained by study in some other subject?

Let me admit that, if I hadn't been so socially backward, I might have been one of those students who would have asked why I was obliged to study English Literature along with certain other topics. I still question that. A teacher can be sarcastic about the need to study what one does not want to study but I doubt it does any good. We learn best when we are a state of readiness to learn and I'm not happy with Penny's suggestion that you are either ready to learn the 'university way' or you should go to community college. I'd be willing to bet that they're just as prescriptive in general.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Know the Workplace"

By MisterSharp.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

An Overqualified Employee Might Try Harder

Are we wrong to treat overqualified employees as 'too much of a good thing'?: This article from Occupational Digest mentions that overqualified applicants are often turned down because they would probably become dissatisfied employees. However, there are good psychological reasons to expect them to turn into good performers when they are allowed to use their additional skills. In essence, if such a person understands that over-qualification makes them less desirable in a particular job then they could very well work harder to meet the levels that would be expected from their qualifications and to meet the general performance level of colleagues.

Clearly, as career developers, we can use conversations based on this idea to convince employers to give so-called overqualified candidates more careful consideration.

How Business Execs View Contacts

Contacts and Contracts is a programme in the BBC Radio 4 "The Bottom Line" series. In this one business executives discuss the importance of informal contacts and recommendations from existing staff for recruiting, why it's important to get to know business contacts, how they allocate internships, and various other related matters. Definitely worth hearing for the business person's point of view.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Labour Market Trends: Ontario & Toronto

Sheila Block, Director, Economic Analysis at the Wellesley Institute, gave a talk about this topic today, focusing on where jobs have disappeared from the economy and the people most likely to be obliged to turn to Ontario Works support, namely the people in precarious jobs.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Have U Ever Felt the Slightest Anger at Work?

No, I haven't either. But some people do. It's important to be able to deal with it. Here's an article that suggests that the most straightforward approaches might not be best. Interestingly, skills that CDPs are meant to develop can be helpful.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Animated Population Profiles

Professor Stephen Gordon of Université Laval has created a series of graphical profiles showing the age profile of Canada's profile for the years 1921(10)2001 and 2010. They clearly show the arrival of the huge influx of baby boomers in 1961 and of what David Foot called the echo generation.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Calgary's Street Survival Guide

The City of Calgary Community & Neighbourhood Services has published its 2011 Street Survival Guide. Getting a shower ... coping with drugs or abuse ... finding a job ... housing ...

A wonderful guide, and something that every city, town and village in Canada should have.

Thanks due to povnet for mentioning it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

So, No Rapture: How Some of Us Cope

The failure of the Rapture to arrive once again, this time on Saturday, disappointed a great many people. One of our principal defence mechanisms against the anguish that missed opportunities such as this can cause us, whether they are on a cosmic scale or not, is cognitive dissonance, says Stuart Sorensen. For his thoughts about how cognitive dissonance applies here listen to the latter part of the CBC radio interview. You might even want to listen to the whole interview: quite interesting.

What's the Evidence for Career Interventions?

If we ask what evidence is then let's look at famous work by the "world's most cited living psychologist" [1], Albert Bandura, his Bobo doll experiment.[2] Just notice for our purposes that it's a controlled experiment; ie, there's a control condition. We tend to believe its results because we can show statistically that the treatments make a difference.

Now, what do we see in the way of evidence in 'our' world, the world of career and employment interventions? Of course there is some, meagre statistical evidence for some elements of what we do. However, mainly we are driven by governments that seem to be trying to rationalise or save money ... or who knows what?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Perennial Q: What Do I Do with a BA in Sociology?

You can get some really concrete answers to questions like this by going to Find the Best Employers for Recent Graduates page on Pick the type of diploma or degree you have, then the subject, then click on 'Search for Employers.'

By following the resulting links you can learn which employers hire people with your qualifications and the kinds of jobs for which they might hire you.

At the very least a study like this might lubricate your imagination, right?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Useful Lecture About Empathy by Baron-Cohen

Everyone who takes courses of study like the CDP encounters the concept of empathy because of its importance for any work involving people. You might therefore be interested in a recent lecture by Professor Baron-Cohen in which he offers a definition of empathy, an exploration of some of the kinds of personalities that result when the ability to empathise fails to develop in one way or another, and a useful survey of some results in the field of empathy.

Here is how Baron-Cohen and his lecture are described on the LSE webpage:

"World-expert Simon Baron-Cohen presents new discoveries on the importance of empathy, and the problems with evil. Simon Baron-Cohen, expert in autism and developmental psychopathology, has always wanted to isolate and understand the factors that cause people to treat others as if they were mere objects. In this book he proposes a radical shift, turning the focus away from evil and on to the central factor, empathy. Unlike the concept of evil, he argues, empathy has real explanatory power.
Putting empathy under the microscope he explores four new ideas: firstly, that we all lie somewhere on an empathy spectrum, from high to low, from six degrees to zero degrees. Secondly that, deep within the brain lies the 'empathy circuit'. How this circuit functions determines where we lie on the empathy spectrum. Thirdly, that empathy is not only something we learn but that there are also genes associated with empathy. And fourthly, while a lack of empathy leads to mostly negative results, is it always negative?

"Simon Baron-Cohen is Professor at Cambridge University in the fields of psychology and psychiatry. He is also the Director of Cambridge's internationally-renowned Autism Research Centre. He has carried out research into social neuroscience over a career spanning twenty years."

Image from wikipedia.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wage Theft

By co-incidence, an hour or two after I wrote the previous blog item I happened across this note on the povnet blog : Wage theft in Ontario: Many low-wage workers not being paid at all says report. Taking on employment like this is bound to make someone poorer.

Not Lazy & Feckless: Not Poor At All

The sociology series on BBC 2 radio known as Thinking Aloud is one of my favourites. I've just finished listening to the episode titled "The Poor on Poverty and Radical Gardening" and found that the first part of it, about how the poor in the northeast of England view themselves and their predicament (the area around the 'A' on the map to the right), is of relevance to this blog.

Apparently most people there without the steady means to feed themselves or to heat their homes do not regard themselves as poor. At the same time they suspect that those people in their midst that really are poor remain so because they are somehow spendthrift or feckless. Yet when researchers attempt to find out who these other poor people are, through questioning, they have so far been unable to obtain their names.

This bit of research news makes me wonder, not whether there are poor Canadians—I know there are—but about how they view themselves and what they think makes people like themselves poor. The radio programme hints that our usual remedy, the one about getting people into jobs, any jobs, with the uncritical expectation that this will make them better off in time should be re-examined. At least in the northeast of England when people take on temporary work they incur expenses that can actually set them back.

What have you seen? Have you encountered any Canadian research studies in this general area?

Monday, May 9, 2011

How Do You Compare With Other Canadians?

Two of the sources I have returned to repeatedly for information and inspiration since first discussing them in CDP courses have been the Canadian research firm, Environics, and the company's head, Michael Adams. Using these sources is never a chore because Adams' sense of humour, and good sense, comes through in everything he's connected with.

Although I do not believe that clients are best served using mainly psychometric instruments I certainly accept that they can be useful in encouraging clients to examine themselves and how they may compare with others. Not that this is of great help to them increasing their awareness of other equally pressing issues that confront them in their job of building a life. It's simply a way of starting a conversation that may eventually have to give much more weight to paths to follow, resources to use, expectations, and so on.

The appealing thing about the Environics tribes survey is that it says absolutely nothing about specific careers! My own results were no surprise to me (not at this age). That's my little blue dot in the lower, right corner. I tend to believe "knowledge is power," for example, and, therefore, a career developer might well discuss with me how I might envisage living out that belief. I "question authority." (Oh, yes!) An advisor might discuss where on earth someone might work where that would be a 'fit.' And so on.

Off the topic of career development there's a series of videos providing an overview of recent Canadian public opinion featuring Michael Adams. I suspect it was intended to prevent the train wreck that occurred on Election Day. For a comparison of American and Canadian cultures see Adam's book, Fire and Ice. As always, a good read.

Advice for Canadian Newcomers: Multilingual

Topics: "Bogus Schools and Diplomas, Travel Loans for Convention Refugees, Sponsorship Debt, Credit Card Debt and Unethical Immigration Consultants."

Includes a list of useful resources.

Languages: English with voice overs into Arabic, Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, Persian, Punjabi, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Thanks to povnet.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Career Happiness: Not Money, Time

One more time: we spend most of our adult waking hours at work. That gruesome fact alone makes career choices significant.

Now, as if it should come as a surprise, let me share my favourite nugget from If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy, Consider Time, from the Stanford School of Business' knowledgebase:

"Although spending time with bosses and coworkers tends to be associated with some of the lowest degrees of happiness, two of the biggest predictors of people’s general happiness are whether they have a ‘best friend’ at work and whether they like their boss."

In other words, if you want to be happier at work look for a job that includes a boss and colleagues that you think you will like. This is something to watch for in interviews and other recruitment activities.

Thanks due once again to the 'Barking up the wrong tree' news feed.