Monday, 17 August 2015

Understanding Careers - the update, from Kerr Inkson et al

(Inkson et al, 2015, pp. 156-7)
In May this year I attended my Master's graduation, and took advantage of a trawl of the Auckland Uni bookshop (of course!). Imagine then my delight to alight upon a brand new edition of Kerr Inkson's book, Understanding Careers, while foraging amongst the shelves!

I hadn't heard a breath about a new edition coming out, so the unexpectedness made my find even sweeter.

Since May I have been popping in and out of the book as my schedule has allowed, and I have found some great perspectives, new thinking and nice illustrators.

The first thing is that the book has been themed into three parts: defining the context of careers, then a section on career meta tools, and lastly, looking at career users.

The first section, The Background to Career Studies, examines why career practice is important and how it arose, the changes and the move to a developmental focus. The second section, Images of Career, looks at family career-drivers, life-stages, happenstance, skills, anchors, journeys, roles, networks, contracts and narrative. The last section, Careers in Practice, looks at the self, the practitioner and the organisation. I found this last section a really modern, practical and interesting approach.

We career practitioners can get a bit precious about individuals needing an expert guide, but empowering people is this book does so much better. I also like the inclusion of the organisational perspective (another aspect which is often underdone).
Other stand out aspects of this book for me were the cases: simply written, short vingettes which contextualise each section's theory. One example is the micro-case of Seb Coe in the chapter "Careers as Fit", entitled "Running his Life": "Sebastian Coe has had a varied and very successful career. From humble beginnings in Sheffield, England, he became 1500-metres gold medallist and 800-metres silver medallist in both the 1980 and 1984 Olympics. Later, he went into politics in the UK, and became a Member of Parliament, rising to hold some junior governmental and senior Conservative party positions. Then in 2005, he headed up the UK's successful bid to stage the 2012 Olympics in London, and for the next seven years was head of the Olympic and Paralympics organizing operation. The preparation was managed very skilfully, the events ran well and a legacy of increased public engagement with sport will most likely be achieved"  (p. 157). Seb Coe is a great example of 'fit', and, although this case is tiny, it contextualises the material really well.

If you don't yet have a copy of this work on your shelf, time to hustle!


  • Reference: Inkson, Kerr; Dries, Nicky & Arnold, John (2015). Understanding Careers (Second Edition). UK: Sage Publications Ltd