- Previous events
- Vitae researcher development conference 2008
- Workshop programme NEW UPDATE December 08
- C5/D5 Workshop summary and outcomes
C5/D5 Workshop summary and outcomes
Supporting researchers' careers and career choices
Becky Clark, University of Leeds on behalf of Jenny O'Leary, Careers Consultant
In this era of multiple job changes and tortuous career paths it can be hard to set long term career goals and definitive action plans. This workshop aimed to introduce participants to the ‘planned happenstance' theory of careers where being indecisive can be a virtue and taking risks the route to new opportunities. The interactive session gave participants the opportunity to see, through exercises and discussion, how the theory can be used in practice with researchers.
The planned happenstance approach is based on ideas and concepts of theories of chaos: the future is uncertain and unpredictable; chance events provide opportunities; proactivity is key. While traditional career guidance theory focuses on helping the client make decisions (narrowing down choices; matching skills to jobs), a planned happenstance approach is concerned with helping the client with behavioural strategies to deal successfully with ‘the neglected realities of career decision making' (eg limits of information, non-linearity of change). Such an approach uses questioning to encourage researchers to reflect on the beliefs and assumptions, values, constraints and opportunities that underpin their career thinking. The approach focuses particularly on applying curiosity, persistence, flexibility, optimism and risk taking.
Much discussion was focused on the challenges of encouraging researchers to step outside ingrained beliefs and look at themselves and their situation ‘without blinkers'. There was much agreement that:
- planned happenstance is a useful additional tool. Combining the approach with more traditional career guidance approaches responds to researchers' different learning styles
- what underpins any careers guidance approach is encouraging individuals to take responsibility for their own careers
- the planned happenstance approach draws upon key research skills (curiosity, persistence, flexibility, optimism and risk taking)
- small actions can have a big impact.
There are a broad range of activities that researchers can engage with in order to create opportunity and networks, such as:
- conferences, fora and groups
- communicating successes (self/research group) to university, journal and seminars
- talking to other people about their careers
- asking for feedback on skills from friends and peers
- seeking to work in collaboration
- outreach programmes and activities.
View the C5/D5 presentation slides for Jenny O'Leary
View Dr Jenny O'Leary's handout
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