Tag Archives: google

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?

Career development better than sex or an alternative?

Career development has a yearly low point about June, but the good news is we are on an upward curve, until about September.  After that, if you are a Career Development professional or careers author looking at launching a book, forget about it and take a long vacation till January.  I am basing my advice on the number of people who are searching on Google using the terms Career Development.  I have been playing with Google trends, one of their analytic services that provides information on the volumes of searches on certain keywords over time.  The trend pattern for the search term “Career Development” is in the first graphic below.

The pattern is interesting because it repeats more or less in the same fashion every year since 2004 (the earliest that Google Trends presents).  Within each calendar year, searches peak in the Jan- March quarter and tail off to a low around mid-year.  They then build again in the third quarter before collapsing catastrophically in December.

Looking at the graph, it is interesting that major events such as the global financial crisis do not show up in terms increased search activity.  It suggests that “career development” is a search that people make irrespective of global financial conditions, but not irrespective of personal concerns – for instance swopping career planning for Christmas shopping in December.

The figures are largely dominated as you’d expect by US searches.  The data for other countries is generally so small and incomplete that it shows no sensible pattern.  So the other possible “story” in this data could be that career development searches peak after major holiday times.  I.e. straight after Christmas, after Easter, and at the end of the long summer vacation and do I detect a small peak around Thanksgiving (towards the end of November) as well?  Well it is hardly news that newspapers are full of “New Years” resolutions and life planning type articles, but the other periods of peaks are less obvious.  Do we need this time away from work to reflect on where we are going?  Is it breathing space that creates the demand for career development ideas?

The second point about these trends that is clear is that the term “career development” is being searched less and less each year.  The downward trend is unmissable, but what is causing it?

Maybe the term “Career Development” is less resonant than it was half a decade ago.  If that is the case, it is ironic given that some professional groups such as the Career Development Association of Australia recently changed their name to include this term.   Equally another group I belong to, the National Career Development Association in the US, may want to take note.  When we compare the search pattern on the simpler term “Careers” we see a very different and more positive story.

Firstly the term is being searched more often than it was.  Are we ready to rebadge as Careers Professionals or CIs – “Careers International” members, which captures the increasingly popular term and takes it global.  Furthermore this search term does seem to be sensitive to world events showing the strong upward trend coinciding with the worldwide economic deterioration.

The term is also more consistently searched throughout the year and does not appear to be as subject to the seasonal variations of the “Career development term”, other than it shows the characteristic terminal drop coinciding with Christmas.  Honestly it’s almost enough to make you an atheist!!

One possibility is that the term “careers” is more closely associated with “jobs” and “employment” whereas “career development” might be seen as a more disconnected, reflective activity. Some support for this hypothesis can be seen in the trend graph for “jobs” which resembles the “careers” search trend graph more than the “career development” search graph.

The term “coaching” also displays seasonal variation and something of a slight decline over the last five years. If anything, the interesting aspect of the coaching search pattern is the apparent peak just before Christmas evident in most years, as well as the mid year slump and end of year shut down.  Not sure what to make of that.  Perhaps people seek coaching to improve their performance in a role they are struggling to stay motivated in.  Then if and when that fails to address their malaise, they look not to stay in the role, but to change careers, and hence they then seek career development.  Just a wild stab in the dark.

And talking of wild stabs in the dark, the last graph throws up a somewhat unexpected relationship between Career Development and Sex.

“Sex” searches have definitely drooped since the Global Financial Crisis making them more labile than “career development” but they do show a cyclic pattern.  If you look at the trends for searches on “sex” it seems to show almost the opposite of what is happening with searches for “career development”.  Thus “sex” searches peak when “career development” searches wilt.  In other words, when a person is not thinking about career development, their thoughts turn in a very different direction!  I am really not sure what the implications of this are for those of us who proclaim a passion and enduring interest in career development. You might think it, but I could not possibly say….