Anger management for careers professionals

I’ve been in a room in which a government representative told seasoned schools and council careers advisers that they were not skilled enough (‘only’ level 4, not level 6) and therefore failing as a profession.  Needless to say there was no money for the allegedly required upskilling. I think she meant to say something different, but that’s how it came out. The reaction was predictable, the chair had to control an majority of the audience of about 60 people, who felt not only threatened of losing their jobs (as they had seen so many colleagues do), and worried about the young people they are responsible for – but also humiliated. The chair, poor soul – oh, that was me – was fortunately on pain medication (for a toothache), so he didn’t join in the rebellious mood, and was relaxed enough to bring order to the room. The main question raised in the ‘reforms’ to careers, advice and guidance in schools and councils has been if face-to-face advice was to be protected. A newly released report by the education select committee shows that it wasn’t  Where I work, we pride ourselves for the highly individualised and impartial advice we give – and it is thanks to laudable professional organisations like AGCAS who protect this as a standard; but we’re working in higher education, which has seen its share of questionable ‘reform’ on the professional services side, but not something as damaging as what is happening to careers advice and guidance in schools. What am I learning from this? I think it’s a message of resilience, one about despairing in the face of problematic, badly evidenced decisions by the ‘powers that be’ – but to calmly and rightfully challenge, to get organised in professional associations [declaration of interest, I’m the chair of PlaceNet], and to take part in debate after debate, forum after forum; and to constructively, but persistently, wield the better argument. I’ve long learnt that a) I’m not always right, and b) this makes me the annoying kid in the last row – but that’s probably the best thing I have to contribute. That’s what I’m paid for – professional integrity and impartiality in the interest of our clients and stakeholders. And, dare I say: wider society. We’re not only here as service providers, but as guardians of our respective professions, as careers advisers, registrars, placement officers, and employability professionals. My ultimate lesson for today is not to despair, but pick up the pieces and start again – and to lead by example.

January 23rd, 2013 by