Tag Archives: career counselling

My top 10 career development books

My top 10 career development books

It is an almost impossible task to come up with a definitive list of my top ten career development books. However I set myself the task of choosing a list of books that met my following criteria.

My top ten career development books:

  1. I have personally found them useful and inspirational and I continue to draw upon them in my practice or
  2. They reflect my practice as I have had a hand in writing them
  3. They are evidence-based how-to guides                                                                                            or
  4. They provide insights into how the world operates that we need to understand to assist our clients
  5. They are well written, based on research and reflect the realities of career development work in the C21st – which means they are compatible with my Chaos Theory of Careers.
  6. Between them they need to cover: theory, practice, counselling and coaching techniques, job application preparation advice including social media and the web generally.
  7. They need to have been published in the C21st.

These are books that I recommend for anyone working in career development coaching, or the educated client, looking for self-directed learning. They are drawn from organisational coaching, counselling, self-help, economics, general science, and psychology.

So my top ten career development books are:

10. Luck is no accident. Al Levin and John Krumboltz.

This is a great and readable account of John Krumboltz’s Happenstance Learning theory.  The book sets out practical strategies to take advantage of and to make your own luck.  John has argued for many years that a lot of career development is down to lucky breaks, and I agree we need to take more account of luck in careers.

Career Development Books

 

9. A perfect Mess. The Hidden Benefits of Disorder. Eric Abrahamsson and David Freedman

I love this book. The authors provide a series of compelling cases studies showing how over-planning and over-organising can lead to worse performance than being open to opportunities. From highly successful book stores that don’t bother arranging their books into subject sections to successful companies that don’t bother with strategic plans, this book provides an antidote to a lot of the received (and untested) wisdom found in career planning ideas.

Career Development Books

 

 

8. Why most things fail.  Paul Ormerod

This is a fascinating insight into, why amongst other things nearly all brands fail and most do so rapidly. That alone is worth the price of the book, when considered against the heavy emphasis placed on the idea of a personal brand in career development. The analysis further reinforces the notion that centralised planning does not work well for companies or economies and that at the individual level, failure is not only inevitable but it helps to rejuvenate the whole system.

Career Development Books

 

7. Beyond Goals. Susan David, David Clutterbuck and David Megginson

This is an edited collection of writings by some of the leading coaching practitioners and researchers in the world today.  The book’s premise as reflected in its title is to examine the role of goal setting in coaching.   This is a critical examination, and the chapter authors do not always agree with each other.  Some, for instance, Tony Grant, see all human activity as intrinsically goal-directed, others argue this is a too inclusive definition to be useful. Whatever your position, this book is likely to challenge your thinking about goal setting, and again it is one of those books that challenge much of the conventional wisdom in career development, coaching and planning.

Career Development Books

 

6. Chaos Theory of Careers. Robert Pryor and Jim Bright

This book represents a summary of the first decade of work on the Chaos Theory of Careers. The theory that we developed was based on the principles of change, complexity, chance and constructedness. It provides the most comprehensive coverage of our theory, the evidence for it and counselling and assessment tools and techniques.  This theory is being adopted all over the world and attracting an increasing amount of research interest (and support).

Career Development Books

 

5. The Cunning of Uncertainty. Helga Nowotny

This is a wonderful musing on the inevitable and changing nature of uncertainty. This is a wonderful adventure of a book that takes us into scientific enquiry, big data and the arts to make the point that uncertainty is ever-present, elusive and ultimately never to be tamed. It sets the scene for progressive career development work and challenges conventional notions in our field.

Career Development Books

 

4. Hope Filled Engagement. Gary Poehnell and Norman Amundson

This is a lovely book and companion to Active Engagement. This volume makes the cut in this particular list, mainly because it is newer and captures more of their recent thinking. It is an excellent career counselling book, that is written in a very engaging, clear, almost folksy style, but don’t let that fool you, as you are in the hands of two very sharp minds indeed.   Their gift for developing counselling and educational techniques to illustrate key points and to move clients towards a positive outcome is remarkable.  You will pick up many tips and techniques of value.  I have said before that most if not all of the counselling techniques presented are entirely compatible with the Chaos Theory of Careers.

Career Development Books

 

3. The Black Swan. Nassim Taleb

Taleb is a provocative writer.  His tone puts one in mind of the insistent Manhattanites asking (demanding?) in no uncertain terms that you get out of their way as they are coming through on the sidewalk!  His take no prisoners approach, I personally find amusing and persuasive.  He has a fierce intellect allied to an even fiercer distrust of many academics – particularly in Economics, and he makes a strong case that models of risk based on the normal curve fail to appreciate the true nature of risk, and therefore all of our so-called risk-management strategies are dubious or wrong-headed.  This is directly relevant to approaches to career development that very often appear to be predicated on reducing risk and uncertainty as if we understood what these things are and can control them.

Career Development Books

 

2. How to write a Brilliant CV. Jim Bright, Jo Earl and David Winter

I am very proud of this book.  It is now in its 5th edition for Pearson, not counting the three Australian versions (it was published there between 2000 and 2009 as Resumes that get shortlisted) and the two US versions (Amazing Resumes).  This is the single version we are keeping up to date, with the welcome addition of David Winter as co-author.  Why does it continue to sell and sell? Because it remains the only book on the market that is extensively based on evidence – quite a bit of it from behavioural studies conducted by Jo Earl, myself and others in the team.   If you want  proven strategies as opposed to opinions, this is the book on which to based your job application advising.

Career Development Books

 

1. You’re Hired! Job Hunting Online. The Complete Guide. Tristram Hooley, Jim Bright and David Winter.

Here it is!  Hot off the press published on April 21st 2016!  This is my latest book with my friends and colleagues Tristram Hooley, Professor at the International Centre for Education and Guidance Studies at the University of Derby and David Winter, Head of the Careers Group at the University of London.  I am very excited about this book as it provides a really thorough coverage of the skills required to have an effective online presence to get the job you want. Covers all the major platforms. It is appropriate that the authors met online before we met IRL!

Check it out now on Amazon and of course if you like it, we’d be thrilled if you could provide a positive review on Amazon. These reviews really do matter and we’d be very grateful if you are so minded and get give some of your time to writing a positive review!  I hope you enjoy our new book!

10 steps to develop your online brand

 

 

So that is my top 10 career development books. What have I missed out?  What are your favourites using the same criteria? What do you think of my top 10 career development books?

Coaching Fractal Action for Personal Development

We get frustrated when we are unsure how to act, and feel disheartened when we voluntarily or involuntarily act in ways that are not true ourselves.  We can get lost while searching for the sweet spot that lies between pattern and surprise, consistency and spontaneity, security and risk, familiarity and freedom, and order and disorder. We can use the idea of fractals, described in the Chaos Theory of Careers, to guide us into satisfying action that is spontaneous and consistent.

When I suggested in my previous post that people act before they think one common concern is that this means acting in an entirely random manner. Indeed I did suggest “committing random acts of contribution”. However underpinning these supposedly random acts is a thread of continuity. The random acts I advocated were not totally random, they were constrained to being acts of contribution.

What I am advocating is to repeatedly apply the same rule “to contribute” over and over again in many different contexts and in many different ways.  Through these acts, a pattern of contribution emerges – or in the words of the Chaos Theory of Careers a Fractal pattern emerges.

A Wikipedia definition of a Fractal captures what we need for our purposes. ‘Fractals are typically self-similar patterns, where self-similar means they are “the same from near as from far”…. The definition of fractal goes beyond self-similarity per se to exclude trivial self-similarity and include the idea of a detailed pattern repeating itself.’

So repeatedly applying the value “to make a contribution” whenever and wherever leads to a beautiful fractal of contribution.

We can use Fractals as a way of motivating us to action, in a manner that is consistent but not totally predictable; novel but similar; sort of like old, but new; trait-like, but changing; or in the words of H.B. Gelatt, focused AND flexible.

There are four steps to Fractal Action

Step 1  Define your value rule

This is the rule you are going to apply over and over again. It should be specified in one sentence and should NOT be over-specified. It needs to be self-evidently clear, but not limiting, and it is NOT time-based.

Here are some GOOD examples:

  • helping people less well off
  • reducing costs by 10%
  • providing motivational feedback
  • learning one new thing
  • trying one new thing
  • eating a new food
  • listening to a new song
  • meeting one more person
  • improving my grade score/sales performance/feedback ratings
  • all of the above
  • improving my performance
  • being polite

These are BAD examples

  • reaching 100K in sales by August
  • getting to 10,000 twitter followers
  • helping people by supplying them with more umbrellas
  • getting promoted to Senior Management

(You can see that the good “rules” are akin to values or higher order/fuzzy goals, whereas the bad examples more closely resemble the increasingly discredited SMART goals.)

Step 2 Apply your Fractal value to your next action

For any given situation, bring to mind your fractal rule and ask yourself:

“How can I apply this rule in this situation right now?” and then do it!

This step requires Courage, opportunity awareness and creativity to see how your rules are linked to the current situation.

Step 3 Repeat

The key to this process is to repeat the process continually and regularly, in as many situations, if not all the situations you find yourself in.

Step 4 Step back and understand the pattern that is emerging

Look to see patterns emerging over time, consider the outcomes of your actions and also the underlying process.  You should see developing a complex, changing, unpredictable pattern that nevertheless has a thread of continuity reflecting how you, your values and skills have connected with the world, and how you have emerged into yourself.

As Aristotle wrote “We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”. And that is coaching fractal action for personal development – it’s simple but its complex!

Act before you think: In coaching and careers

“Nothing will be achieved if first all objections must be overcome” said the wise Eleanor Roosevelt.   Objections prevent action.  Objections to our own actions are ultimately authored by ourselves.  Others may advise caution or object, but it takes us to take on board and own those objections to prevent us from acting.  It is our thoughts prior to action that can ultimately present a formidable barrier to action.

Thinking before you act is what we’ve been all brought up to do.  We are taught to think a failure to think first must ultimately result in reckless disregard for our own or others’ well-being. The trouble is,  thinking before you act is not a fail safe process, because it is impossible to think through all the possible outcomes of a proposed action.

We cannot work out all the possibilities in advance, not only because there are too many, but also because our current vantage point may not reveal the complete picture.  I live near the coast, and if I am standing on one beach I cannot see the other one around the headland.  Even if I stand on that headland, where I can see both beaches, I cannot see around the next headland and what may be on offer there.  In other words, I might be missing out on a fantastic beach and I’ll never discover it unless I am prepared to act.

For people stuck in their careers, there is every likelihood that their heads are full of confusion, cautionary thoughts and frustration.   Clarifying their thoughts as a lot of coaching and counseling aims to do, may be doing no more than giving them a sharper picture of the beach they are on.   They will never fully appreciate the other great beaches until they are prepared to act and move to a new vantage point. Act before you think!

I am more and more convinced that we’ve got our priorities wrong by so strongly privileging thinking before you act in career coaching. I become even more convinced when I hear the countless stories from clients who “fell into” satisfying careers, or got there by being in the right place at the right time. These people (and I think they are the majority) got where they are as much by acting before you think, than thinking before you act.

So in your own coaching practice, take action, and resolve to encourage your clients to action first, and then collectively reflect after.  Encourage lots of small steps and little experiments, encourage turning up to things, encourage connection with others without any clear agenda, encourage random acts of contribution to others, encourage your clients to go forth.

 

Coaching Counselling Courses: Remaining dates in 2012 to catch the Career Coaching, Counselling and Assessment 3-day certification course with Jim Bright

Coaching Counselling Courses Training Dates for 2012

All courses presented by Prof Jim Bright. Other courses will be added here later – watch this space. Courses tailored and delivered in-house on demand. Contact me for more details.

Coaching Counselling Courses

3-Day Career Coaching Counselling & Assessment Course
Includes over $600 of books, tests, resources
(this course can count 25% recognised prior learning to ACU Career Council of Australia (CICA) endorsed Post Graduate Certificate in Career Development at Australian Catholic University taught in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane*)
*subject to sufficient enrollments

More details: Http://www.brightandassociates.com.au/3-day-flyer-2012.pdf

The top 10 words of 2011 or of all time?

LinkedIn report the top 10 clichés found on LinkedIn profiles in 2011 (see here).  So how do these words stack up in terms of historic usage?  Using a relatively unknown google research feature called Ngram, we can see how often each of these words have appeared in books since the 1500s!  It is interesting to see how many of the words in career development have only recently become fashionable, but there are some that we might think are shiny and new that have been around before or forever.

Top of the LinkedIn list was “creative”.  Here is the Ngram result:

note: (the graphs show the results of analyzing up to 6000 books published each year from 1500-2008.  In the early years this represents all the books published, and in later years, a random selection of books.  The percentages on the y-axis represent the number of times the searched word appears as a proportion of all words published in the sample of books for that year)

This word didn’t really feature until the self-conscious C20th, and plateaued around the time of the Mad Men Madison Avenue advertising hey-dey in the 1960s.

Next up is the word “Organizational” – which is kind of embarrassing I was the National Chair of the College of Organizational Psychologists!

“Organizational” is definitely a post-war phenomenon and is there evidence it is on the way down perhaps? Time will tell.

At number 3, was “Effective” – a word that was popular in the renaissance, and is having, well, a renaissance now.

Number six on the list was “Motivated”.

My oh my!  It seems the C20th was all about getting up and getting on, but have we turned the corner in the C21st?  I just cant be bothered to find out!!

At number 10 was that old stalwart of the resume – “Dynamic”.

It seems that as we got progressively more motivated in the C20th we also decided to call ourselves “Dynamic” – the C20th really was an exhausting century!

But what about some other terms that we bandy around frequently in Career Development – like er, “Career”

The word shows a less dramatic rise in usage, having been used relatively often in the renaissance, but really started to build in the Victorian era and the industrial revolution. Interestingly, Parson’s seminal work “Choosing a vocation” was published at the historic peak usage of the term career, which promptly went into decline until the 1950s.  I’m not claiming causation here!

The term “plan” that is dear to the hearts of some in the Career Development world is an interesting one.  It exploded in popularity between 1750 and 1800 (when Napoleon had his mojo) and stayed relatively popular up until the end of world war 2.  Interestingly then it declined until about the 1980s, when the dreaded goal setting literature and Olivia Newton John turned us all into leg warmer wearing goal-focused gym junkies and office warriors – well perhaps!

The current popularity of the term narrative in career development, politics, well just about everywhere, is reflected in the graph below, showing exponential growth in usage since the second world war.

Another term we hear a lot at the moment “constructivism” rocketed to popularity in the 1970s, but by 2008 looks to be at the beginning of suffering an equally sharp decline.  So constructivists out there, get publishing more – or at least start thinking about it, if you believe thought is reality and see if by the power of thinking you can get the line to move upwards once again.  Just kiddin!! 🙂

Words close to my theoretical heart and a basis for the Chaos Theory of Careers is the word “Change”.  Ironically there has been little change in the growth rate in usage of the term change. It shows an almost perfect linear growth rate in C18 and C19 (funny that the Industrial “revolution” didn’t give it a kick along).  However C20th saw the growth rate in usage of the term increase markedly, but then it plateaued around 1970 – which is a little surprising to me.

The term “chance”  has a colorful history as the graph below shows. The Elizabethans were into it big time (as they were equally into “mutability” as Rob Pryor and I point out in our book – The Chaos Theory of Careers.  The term peaked in usage between the world wars, fell steadily in the era of “certainty” of the 1950s to 1980s, and rocked back into popularity in the last 10 years.

Finally “Chaos” is an interesting one. It appears that 1650 was total chaos!  I blame in on Frenchman Renee Descartes who said “I think therefore I am” in this year, well probably “Je pense donc, je suis”, but it is all French to me.  The term has taken centuries to recover from his method of doubt, but has shown steady and predictable (ie not chaotic!!) growth in usage, apparently recently returning to long term growth trends after a little flurry in the 1980s probably associated with the popularization of the science usage of the term by Gleick and others during this decade.

So what other words would be worth exploring?

The role of parents in career development and thoughts on my father

here is a link to my column in the Sydney Morning Herald and Age newspapers on parents and careers. The role of parents in career development is critical. Here I share some thoughts on the role of parents in career development and thought on my father.

Vale John Robert Bright 1925 – 2011

 

How to get luck on your side

Here is an article in the Australian Financial Review on Luck in Careers. How to get luck on your side in your career. It is about luck in careers, luck readiness, and luck and career success.

Click this link for the article.

Click this link if you want to take the Luck Readiness Inventory.