SHIFTWORK: the work we do to help clients with their shifts

Career counselling is the single most effective career intervention that produces the greatest gains for
clients in the shortest time (Oliver & Spokane, 1988; Whiston, 2000). The superiority of career counselling
over more constrained approaches such as workshops, classes and computer programs is due in no small
part to the flexible, contingent and personal nature of the counselling process. Despite this, many of the
theories, procedures and tools designed for career development emphasise stability and characterise
career development as a problem to be solved, rather than career development as an ongoing process.

Approaches that emphasise certainty and hold out the promise of providing neat answers are attractive to
people confronted by the uncertainties and complexities of their lives. It is therefore not surprising to
discover that clients seek out certainty in career counselling and prefer that counsellors give advice,
opinions and answers (Galassi, Crace, Martin, James, & Wallace, 1992). This presents a challenge because
we live in a world that is not simple, certain and predictable, and a world that is populated by people
who are complex, changing and inherently unpredictable.

I have re-defined the term “Shiftwork” as a term that describes the work we as coaches, advisors, teachers, and counselors must do to assist our clients with their career shifts, and the work that clients must do to thrive on their shfits. It derives from our Chaos Theory of Careers (Bright & Pryor, 2005, 2007;Pryor & Bright, 2003, 2007) that explicitly incorporates the concept of ‘phase shift’ in its account of careers in terms of complex dynamical systems.

As career counsellors, there are some cornerstones to Shiftwork that we must embrace if we want continue
to provide clients with the greatest gains (Whiston, 2000). We have identified the first 11 shifts that we
may need to embrace (if we are not already doing so). It would be an oversimplification to interpret
these shifts as meaning an abandonment of current practices in favour of new ones and nor are we suggesting
these shifts represent movement along a continuum. Both concepts are variants of pendulum attractor
closed systems thinking (Pryor & Bright, 2007). Rather, these shifts are characterised as a move from a
more simplistic approach to a more sophisticated and complex approach consonant with the realities of contemporary work and the gloriously complicated dimensions of being human.

Shiftwork can be defined as all those activities in which career counsellors engage to assist their clients to develop the skills of adaptation and resilience required to negotiate and use productively the fluctuating fortunes of their careers. It includes assisting clients to reinvent themselves continually, to identify opportunities, to recover from setbacks, to find meaningful work that matters to them and to others and to capitalise on chance.

Hence Shiftwork covers the major developmental tasks in 21st century career development.

Shift 1: From Prediction To Prediction And Pattern Making

Shift 2: From Plans To Plans And Planning

Shift 3: From Narrowing Down To Being Focused On Openness

Shift 4: From Control To Controlled Flexibility

Shift 5: From Risk As Failure To Risk As Endeavour

Shift 6: From Probabilities To Probable Possibilities

Shift 7: From Goals, Roles And Routines To Meaning, Mattering, And Black Swans

Shift 8: From Informing To Informing And Transforming

Shift 9: From Normative Thinking To Normative And Scalable Thinking

Shift 10: From Knowing In Advance To Living With Emergence

Shift 11: From Trust As Control To Trust As Faith

Want to read more? This is an extract of a paper called SHIFTWORK: A CHAOS THEORY OF CAREERS AGENDA FOR CHANGE IN CAREER COUNSELLING by JIM E. H. BRIGHT and ROBERT. G. L. PRYOR. It appeared in the Australian Journal of Career Development Volume 1 7 , Numb e r 3 , S p r i n g 2 0 0 8

I’ll be posting more on the Chaos Theory of Careers over the next few months.

Also look out for me in Vancouver from March 8th, keynoting at the British Columbia Career Development Association Conference.

check out my youtube video called “where will you be” – search for it using the quotes to get directly to it, or look down the right hand column of this page for an embedded version!


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