“Transitions, career learning and career management skills. Multi-disciplinary and critical perspectives”, October 19-20, 2017, Stockholm University

This morning I had the pleasure of doing a presentation at a conference titled  “Transitions, career learning and career management skills. Multi-disciplinary and critical perspectives”, at Stockholm University, hosted by the KAV network. It was a great experience, meeting colleagues from the Nordic countries, and discussing topics of common interests, sharing experiences. And for a newbie like me, I have to say – what an experience! I felt that a general theme of the conference – as the title might imply – was a critical look at what’s going on, and many of my Nordic colleagues are clear and crisp in their thinking about career guidance, counselling and education – believing in it, but treating career concepts with sobriety and sensitivity, being critical and constructive about them.

I thought I’d share with you my presentation. If you’d like to know more, get in touch.

presentasjon Ingrid BB

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Catch-22

Catch-22

I was going to start with “Lately, I’ve seen and read many stories about…”, but come to think about it, it’s all around, all the time. About what am I talking? Sexual harassment of course.

Last night I scrolled down twitter, and got the latest update on the case of Weinstein, the horrible Hollywood-guy, who’s been taking advantage of his position and exploiting women for years, and read some of his victim’s stories. There are long threads in social media offering support and discussing this, and often the combination of fear and rage and a need for justification can make these discussions spiral. I am glad these things are talked about, but I felt like stopping for a moment to reflect on how our interest for and attitudes towards other peoples’ sex life add to the cruelty of these stories.

Because you know, the fact that so many people around this Weinstein-guy knew he was up to something is kind of telling of the fact that the problem is not just those people doing the deed. Sometimes those around who are talking about it, having ideas about it, or knowing and just not wanting to be involved in shady stories, are hurting the victims involved as well. For instance, in the case of Weinstein the Hollywood-guy, many people heard “stories”, but dismissed them because it just as easily could be that all these women were trying to secure roles by sleeping around. So they kind of had it coming, you know? Same logic as “dress for distress”, if you know what I mean.

And I think that it’s these versions, these stories about the women involved that’s made it really hard to speak up and address this.  Claims of sexual harassment can always backfire and you have a catch-22-situation: OK, so if I talk about how I got involved with this guy and how it got out of hand, what would that really say about me?

A dilemma.

Now, on a much smaller scale, over the last few years, I have seen some examples around me, showing how these mechanisms (the ones where people render suspicion through ideas about other people’s sex life) affect people. It feeds this worry about how relationships, friendly or romantic, might taint and harm people’s reputation and thus their integrity, in effect limiting latitude and freedom.

These can be quite insidious mechanisms.

For instance, I heard someone referred to as a letch. A letch is a man with strong sexual desires according to Google, and in a working context, a letch is someone preferring to work with younger women, apparently because of this desire. At that moment, my concern was not about the person being called a letch. My concern was with the women he works with. And not because I think these women constantly need to fend off unwanted sexual attention, but because their colleague being called a letch, actually might say something about them.

In a very general way, meaning that I don’t know what deeper message this specific comment had, I would argue that comments like this say something about how younger women in such working relationships are viewed. In addition, it is about their competence. It is both about whether or not they are competent for the job and the suspicion that they are not chosen because they are competent, but because they are younger and perhaps available for a little something-something, or if not that dramatic at least they are non-threatening and malleable for the senior male colleague. It is ideas about whether or not the younger women are competent about “how the world works” too, you know being naïve about men, and what they want, and the games people play and all that. I have experienced being warned against forming friendships with male colleagues with shady reputations, that too much contact might as a worst-case scenario make me lose my way and forget that I am married, or at least just make me look bad. If you go ahead with this, know that you are being watched.

I saw some brilliant examples of working partnerships at the conference in Padua recently, and these observations reminded me how ingrained such ways of understanding are, even in me. I saw middle-aged male professors accompanied by one or two younger female PhD’s or professors, doing presentations and talks together, And I promise, I have nothing more to go on than the fact that they were working on the same project. Do not even know if one was supervising or in charge. Still, you know, I caught myself thinking: oh jeeses, look at that, do you think they’re … (nudge-nudge) and she can’t be into him. Eurgh. Automatic response.

Quite recently, I read a book about gender dominance based on power (The Power), or more specifically, it was about the use of violence to keep the other gender in check. It was an interesting read, and you can understand the book in many different ways, but what I took with me from the book is that it was also saying something about why things stay the same, why getting out of power relations are so hard. It’s because having power and exerting it on others, actually is intoxicating. And making other people look bad, that is social power. And it’s intoxicating. So lately, I have been thinking about how we keep each other in check by various forms of mechanisms for asserting power, and how this is a kind of social control that quite efficiently tells us what we can and cannot do.

Sneaky.

And my conclusion is: the cruelty of sexual harassment is not just about the deed itself, it is also about the shame of the victims, male or female, and how this bleeds over into any relationship between men and women through other people’s suspiciousness. I see from my discussion and the examples I have come up with, that men are the usual suspects in these stories, but I think that these mechanisms limit and constraints freedom to form relationships or cooperate with whoever they want, for women and men both. Imagine being a man and not having any really good friends because you just don’t click with guys and no women dare being seen with you, or realizing you’ve got a bad reputation at work which means you always have to take care to not propose to cooperate with someone of the opposite sex.

We can’t have sex with all the other-gendered-people (or whatever the preference might be) that we meet, befriend or work with. We all know this from our own experience. But it is such an easy conclusion to make about others.

Decent work, equity and inclusion – from Padua to Norway

So last week I was in Padua, Italy, at the Decent work, equity and inclusion conference. Three days of discussing important questions, and this time we discussed what decent work is and why it’s important to get. And as always I bring with me a lot of epiphanies, ideas, new concerns and opinions back home, which is, of course, the reason to go to these things.

Personally, my head was spinning a little with a lot of new insights, and as I was trying to talk to my colleague about how this might influence our work in our Norwegian context,  I could tell by the look on his face that my ideas and reflections were not very enlightening at that exact moment. If anyone has ever had a more quizzical look… Anyway, according to a Tony Watts-ism that I understand better and better, sometimes it’s quite hard to know what you think about something until you’ve written it, so Erik – I’ll send you a link to this post so we can nod knowingly to each other the next time we meet and have a more fruitful conversation.

Some things discussed at the conference felt really relevant and some did not. That is the thing with international conferences; the delegates come from such different backgrounds and see different challenges around them. For instance, the notion of what is decent work varies from being able to put food on the table the next day, via being employable and able to acquire decent work as in skilled work making it possible to climb the social ladder, to being so well off that the whole concept of decent work is unfamiliar. And I have to admit that one of the things I was kind of struggling with putting into words, is what the concept of decent work would entail in Norway. Or indecent work, for that matter. From my time working in welfare with sickness benefits, I kind of conclude that the Norwegian employment structure is so heavily regulated that once you’ve got your tax-bill in order, you’re alright, you’re in. I had workers ranging from shop-assistants to CEO’s sitting in my office, experiencing the same kind of issues, discussing the same benefits and action-plans, taking advantage of the same rights from the same system.

OK, so perhaps this is a bit conformist, and I am getting tired of repeating myself. But you know, that was my reality for many years, that is how I know the employment structure in Norway best.

So, when you’re in, you’re in, and all work is decent. But what happens when you’re not? Only last week there was an article about how 60 percent of children living in an immigrant-dense area of Oslo, grew up in poverty. They’re living on the outside of the system. Something’s obviously going on.

As David Blustein said in one of the sessions at the conference, that talking about decent work and inclusion shows the need to get the field of career and vocational and industrial/organizational psychology away from the focus on the problems of the middle class-career.  It’s a question of shifting figure and ground, where the normality of the middle-class career is the backdrop for a focus on the less privileged groups in the world of work, i.e. those groups where work is not a question of volition or choice. (Link to an introduction to the psychology of working)

A figure-ground shift would for instance mean looking into the problem of “social dumping” – i.e. this thing where Norwegians don’t really want to do the hardest and least profitable work in the society and in effect leaving it to immigrants. This is actually something that’s been discussed for many years, and the question has been: why is this work not decent enough for Norwegians?  Why do we think we’re too good for cement formwork, for cleaning and taxi-driving? How does this look when it comes to social mobility and inclusion? Would we really include those who do the dirty work?

It would also mean a closer look at those marginalized by illness or lack of competence, either as vocational skills or cultural understanding and know-how. I remember from working in welfare the ongoing concern about how to get them into at least part-time work, any job that they are capable of doing. Is that really decent? There is something about how we see the ability to work and thereby the chance to ride the carousel as so important, that we tend to think that you should just be thankful you even have a job.

I guess the question of what decent work is and how to get it, feels even more relevant and important to discuss in my context when it’s about what it actually means to not take part in the system. Considering work and what is decent, I guess this question is important for those on the outside, i.e. those without taxable income, which is the ticket to ride. These are the illegitimate workers on the black market, because it is definitely possible to make a living in non-legitimate ways in such a wealthy society, it is a matter of creativity. And it’s important for immigrants, and those permanently disabled from work because of psychological problems and illness.

The problem is, however, that in the Norwegian logic we need to get these people into some sort of statistic, a system, before we can start working with them. Why do you think working with health issues and sickness is emphasized so much? Because doctors report it, and voilá, we have a statistic. To get unemployment benefits, you have to register, and what do you know, there’s another one.

I think the thing about looking at what is decent work and how it might promote inclusion in Norway, is about taking the perspective of the people outside the system, to understand what do they do, how and why, and how this relates to how the Norwegian logic tries to solve their problems, because it is obviously not working. In addition, I also think that talking about decent work and inclusion means looking at Norwegians’ attitudes towards actually letting people in and give them the credit they deserve for doing a hell of a good job, in work we’d rather not do.

Yeah. Bring it on, mr. Blustein. We could use a discussion on decent work, also in Norway.

The Blues are back

The Blues are back

Yes, so last week we had an election here in Norway. And the neo-liberals won again. Unbelievable, I could swear from my Facebook newsfeed that the labour party in cooperation with the red and green alternative would win.

Fake news? Nah.

Anyway, I had to wonder a bit about what this all means, related to work and career of course. Partly because we are a nation that takes great pride in a red, or at least pink (…ish) protection of the work and community-centered privileges and policies that have been a pillar of our society for a long time, and the policies of the dark blue (conservative, neo-liberal) alternative have eroded many of these privileges and practices for the last 4 years. So why have they now been re-chosen?

Norway was for many years before the 2nd world war one of the reddest of the red countries in Europe, softened somewhat by social democracy in the fifties and sixties. Social democracy is a more compromising and capitalist-friendly way of government but still focused on equal rights and obligations for all, jobs for all, social security for all. It was a beautiful picture: Lefties and righties together, unions and employers. These were important values in a time when all worked together to rebuild the country. The Norwegian word “dugnad” (voluntary community work) was the heart and soul of Norway, we work together to get this country going again.

And then the neo-liberals came in the eighties, just like they did all over. However, Norwegians didn’t go all in, they stayed out of the European Union, the government kept the growing economy under control, kept the benefits and the regulations protecting worker’s rights, taxation and the social safety nets. So it didn’t hit that hard, and there was no TINA.

This has more or less been the case in Norway up until now, we have had a kind of consensus that the welfare stuff and worker rights are off limits to policymakers because it has worked so well in the past, it should be with us also in the future.

But now the neo-liberals are back, for a new four-year period, and they keep on gnawing at the pillars of the welfare system, the equal rights, the public insurance, the benefits, the protected employment, and all the stuff that people have been taking for granted for so many decades.

I feel that disappointment that I know that many people felt after Brexit and Trump, that the loudest cases were allowed to overshadow the quieter, but REALLY important ones. Close the borders, all immigrants out of Britain! But never mind that the economy of Britain is dependent on cooperation with Europe. Build a wall and get the Muslims out! But never mind the hatred and bigotry spreading and growing within the nation.

Is it the immigrant-thing that overshadows reason here in Norway as well? We’ve had A LOT of fuzz about that. I have sometimes suspected the Norwegian Minister of Immigration and Integration, a woman who shall not be named, that she, in reality, is providing a permanent smokescreen for the blue government, so they could be able to do all their sinister policymaking and law-amendments without anybody noticing – because they too must have thought that they would only get this chance, these four years to do it, so her erratic media presence championing stuff like detention and expelling of minor single immigrants, withdrawing citizenships after 20 years and sending people back, swimming in the Mediterranean in a survival suit just to see what it was like to be an immigrant (or perhaps that wasn’t really the reason, but it sure didn’t look good) was all about getting everyone to look the other way.

I tell you, she is Trump light, and I think she has been the most criticized politician in my lifetime. But she is still in her post.

Did the people of Norway agree with her and think she’s all right, or do they see what was going on behind the smokescreen and think that that was all right? Both alternatives are equally troubling.

I know that the excellent work on careers in Norway at the moment will go on and that it will be fruitful. But sometimes I do worry that the neo-liberal wave at the moment will mess with the postmodern career concept that we’re working on these days, the one were career does not just mean success and the ladder and all that, but the life path. If we get back to the dogma that succeeding in your career is what you need to do in order to provide some security for yourself and your family, I think that’s a step back for the Norwegian society.

 

ECADOC summer school 2017

Long time, no see!

After a long summer break, I am now turning my attention back to for instance blogging, that I have neglected for a long time. So for a soft start, I am posting my research poster that I am presenting at the ECADOC summer school in Mannheim, Germany this year, and I’ll come back to you with some other stuff later on.

In the meantime, I’d just like to say that for all you people doing research on career, I hope that the ECADOC summer schools will go on for many years so more of you can experience meeting fellow career nerds from all over Europe (and the world), and know that you are a part of a community with important things to say.

Bakke_poster_sept2017

Vi må tenke sjæl…

Vi må tenke sjæl…

Jeg syntes gårsdagens tema var såpass viktig at jeg tar meg den frihet å poste i norsk utgave også!

I forrige uke så vi et interessant tilfelle av hvordan vår ytringsfrihet kan være både urovekkende og aggressiv, men samtidig forenende og betryggende på samme tid. Jeg tenker på forrige ukes kronikk i en av våre største aviser, skrevet av en av de vi elsker å hate her i Norge, den ekstremt konservative forfatteren og filosofen Nina Karin Monsen. Kronikken går spesielt hardt ut mot lesbiske, homofile, bifile og transpersoner (LHBT), gjør narr av forskjellige former for seksualitet og uttrykker en generell holdning av avsky og manglende respekt for de som ser seg som en del av LHBT fellesskapet

Kronikken fikk mye oppmerksomhet og heldigvis har mange tatt til motmæle, både fra de som identifiserer seg som LHBT, og andre som ikke gjør det, og det viser at verdighet og respekt for retten til å elske den man vil og til å uttrykke sin kjønnsidentitet uansett hva det måtte være er det vi egentlig tror på. Jeg sier heldigvis, fordi jeg er lettet over å se at hatefulle ytringer som Monsens ikke får passere uten kommentar, som om alle skulle gi sitt stille samtykke med det som sies, og fordi det også gir positive stemmer en mulighet til å uttrykke sitt budskap. Så selv om jeg heller vil at folk skal bruke sin ytringsfrihet til å uttrykke positive budskap, gir i alle fall Monsen mange en mulighet til å si klart ifra at dette var uakseptabelt. Slik styrkes følelsen av å stå sammen mot mørke krefter ved å fremme positive verdier i samfunnet.

Jeg er takknemlig for dette på vegne av mine venner og familie i LHBT-fellesskapet, for barna mine, hvor bare tiden vil vise hvilken kjønnsidentitet eller seksualitet de vil identifisere seg med, for meg selv og min frihet til å satse på et relativt androgynt image.

Men det er bekymringsverdig når slike holdninger kommer til overflaten, fordi vi må anta at denne tenkningen også gjelder andre som ikke synes det er like naturlig og lett som Monsen å uttrykke seg, men som fortsatt har og etterlever slike holdninger. Vi møter og samhandler med dem i krysningspunktet mellom individet og strukturen, i arbeidslivet, i våre karrierer. Arbeid, studier, all slags deltakelse i strukturerte aktiviteter i vårt samfunn bringer med seg i mange do’s and don’ts, som føles både som muligheter og begrensninger for alle, uansett hvordan de uttrykker sin seksuelle identitet, men uansett vil vel det å være eller føle seg annerledes gjøre noen utfordringer større, og møtt med antagonisme og diskriminering er dette for mange uholdbart.

Jeg gjorde et raskt litteratursøk på temaet homoseksualitet og karriere og fant noen artikler som ser på dette. En artikkel understreket at det å komme ut av skapet tar energi fra karriereutvikling (Russon & Schmidt, 2014). I oppsummeringen til en annen artikkel (Schneider & Dimito, 2010) leser jeg: «respondenter som rapporterte at deres seksuelle orientering påvirket deres valg i stor grad anga at påvirkningene var både positive og negative. Denne gruppen hadde størst sannsynlighet for å ha opplevd anti-LHBT diskriminering tidligere. Ved sammenligning var lesbiske kvinner og homoseksuelle menn, samt homoseksuelle menn fra synlige minoriteter de som følte mest negativ påvirkning, mens biseksuelle følte minst. Det var for få transkjønnede respondenter i utvalget til å inkludere disse i statistiske sammenligninger, men frekvensene antyder at transkjønnede kanskje er de mest sårbare av alle. Resultatene viser at rådgivere må være bevisst på seksuell orientering, og spesielt tidligere erfaring med diskriminering når man jobber med LHBT klienter.» Og med et råd i avslutningen: «Først må rådgiverne finne sensitive måter å avgjøre om LHBT-problemstillinger er relevante i klientens liv, og for det andre må rådgivere utforske tidligere erfaringer med diskriminering med LHBT klienter, og ta dette med som en faktor i beslutningsprosessen når det gjelder utdannelse og karrierevalg. Rådgivere må også danne seg en realistisk oppfatning av klimaet i forskjellige arbeidssituasjoner og yrker, med tanke på å hjelpe klientene å gjøre realistiske valg angående hvordan deres seksuelle orientering vil påvirke deres utdannings- og karrieremuligheter.»

I disse artiklene er hvordan forene forventninger om hvordan man fremstår og evnen til å imøtekomme disse forventningene en rød tråd, og hvordan karriererådgivere noen ganger er de som må ta opp disse problemstillingene. Og det å være en som må ta opp utseende relatert til karriere, det er gjerne komplisert nok som det er, men for problemer som sminke og antrekk er det mulig å utvikle noen strategier for hvordan gjøre dette, uten å sette integriteten på spill verken for rådgivere eller for klienten.

Men å gi råd med tanke på kjønnsidentitet og karriere, da beveger man seg inn i et helt nytt territorium av følsomhet, stolthet og fordommer. Disse problemstillingene er så forskjellige og så integrert (Dworkin & Pope, 2014). Så for meg ser det ut til at selv om man som en karriererådgiver føler seg utstyrt til å ta tak i problemstillinger som gjelder framtreden og utseende, så trengs det kanskje litt større mot for å ta opp problemstillinger rundt kjønnsidentitet.

Men det finnes måter å tenke på, for eksempel rundt dette med hva vi egentlig ønsker å oppnå med arbeidet som kanskje kan gi mere mot, måter å tenke på som selv om de ikke gir de eksakte ordene vi kan si kan hjelpe oss å være modig i enkelte situasjoner. For eksempel har det i løpet av de siste årene funnet sted en diskusjon rundt Social Justice – sosial rettferdighet i karriere, hvor det er satt fokus på hvordan jobbe for sosial rettferdighet i karrierearbeid og forskning. Noen ideer og tilnærminger fokuserer på hvordan høyne veisøkernes bevissthet om sin rolle som medlemmer av samfunnet, men dette kan også være grunnlaget for refleksiv praksis for alle oss som jobber med karriere. For eksempel, i tilnærmingen emancipatory (frigjørende) career guidance framework (Hooley, 2015) er det 5 nøkkelspørsmål som skal være grunnlag for karrierelæringsaktivitet: 1. Hvem er jeg? 2. Hvordan fungerer verden? 3. Hvordan passer jeg inn i verden? 4. Hvordan kan jeg leve med andre? 5. Hvordan kan jeg bidra til å endre verden? Disse spørsmålene kan være grunnlaget for refleksiv praksis fordi det handler om hvorfor vi gjør de tingene vi gjør.

Rammeverkets siste spørsmål, nr. 5 er for meg det viktigste. Implikasjonene av «Hvordan går jeg frem å bidra til å endre verden», særlig når det gjelder å bekjempe mørke krefter som Monsen representerer, har praktiske implikasjoner når vi samhandler med andre. For eksempel er det å være mentalt forberedt på å prøve å møte alle med respekt en begynnelse, og det er heldigvis en del av ethvert rammeverks etiske retningslinjer for veiledningspraksis. Og karriere profesjonens hjelpende og menneskeorienterte natur bidrar til at heldigvis tiltrekker yrket folk som er mer interessert i å hjelpe andre og utvikle dem i positiv retning, enn å motarbeide dem. Men fortsatt, å diskutere sosial rettferdighet i karriere innebærer at det er noen ting vi må ta tak i, som bevissthet om LHBT i karriererådgivning og hvordan vi skal ta tak i det.

Hvis det å si til noen som er stygge at de må se til å få seg en ansiktsløftning kanskje er vanskelig, så er det å støtte en kjønnsinkongruent person som uttrykker både mannlig og kvinnelig kjønnsidentitet på jobben så vel som hjemme, det kan også være utfordrende. Men  i det siste tilfellet, hvis vi vil at verden skal være et bedre sted, så tror jeg nok det er det vi må gjøre.

 

Dworkin, S. H., & Pope, M. (2014). Casebook for Counseling Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons and Their Families. Hoboken: Wiley.

Hooley, T. (2015). Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery: self-actualisation, social justice and the politics of career guidance. Retrieved from International Centre for Guidance Studies http://hdl.handle.net/10545/579895

Russon, J. M., & Schmidt, C. K. (2014). Authenticity and Career Decision-Making Self-Efficacy in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual College Students. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 26(2), 207-221. doi:10.1080/10538720.2014.891090

Schneider, M. S., & Dimito, A. (2010). Factors Influencing the Career and Academic Choices of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People. Journal of Homosexuality, 57(10), 1355-1369. doi:10.1080/00918369.2010.517080

 

None but ourselves can free our minds

None but ourselves can free our minds

Last week, we had an interesting case of how our freedom of speech can be unsettling and aggressive, but uniting and reassuring at the same time. The case I’m referring to is a polemic piece in one of our national newspapers written by one of those people we love to hate here in Norway, Nina Karin Monsen, an extraordinarily conservative writer, and philosopher. This piece is especially antagonizing the LGBT community, ridiculing different forms of sexuality and expressing an overall attitude of disgust and disrespect for those who identify themselves as LGBT.

The piece got a lot of attention and thankfully a lot of people have taken the opportunity to respond, both from the LGBT community and otherwise, showing that dignity, respect and the right to love whoever you want and to express your sexual identity whatever it might be is what we generally do believe in. And I say thankfully because I am relieved to see that expressions of hate like that do not pass without comment, so as to silently agree with what is said, and it also gives the voices expressing positive values an opportunity to bring forward their message. So, even though I would rather have people using their freedom of speech to express positive messages, at least Monsen gave a lot of people the opportunity to state clearly that this was unacceptable, strengthening the feeling of standing united against dark forces and enhancing positive values in society.

I am grateful for this on behalf of my friends and family in the LGBT community, for my kids, who only time will tell what kind of sexuality or gender they’ll eventually identify with, and for my sometimes rather androgynous self.

But it is worrying when attitudes like this come to the surface because we have to assume that this kind of thinking applies to other people who don’t find it as natural and easy as Monsen to express it, but who still live by it. And we meet them and interact with them in the interface between individual and structure, context – in our careers. Working, studying, or in any case participating in the structured activities in our society, brings with it a lot of do’s and don’ts that feel like both possibilities and limitations for everyone, regardless of expression of sexual identity, but obviously being or feeling different makes some challenges even more challenging.

I did a really quick literature search on the topic of homosexuality and career and found some articles looking into this, showing that this is an area of interest and concern. One article stressed that coming out takes energy from career development (Russon & Schmidt, 2014). From the abstract of Schneider and Dimito (2010), I read: “Respondents who reported that their sexual orientation influenced their choices a great deal indicated that the influences were both positive and negative. This group was most likely to have experienced anti-LGBT discrimination in the past. In comparing lesbian, bisexual people, and gay males, gay males and respondents from visible minorities were the most likely to feel a negative impact, while bisexual respondents were the least likely.  There were too few transgender respondents to include in these statistical comparisons; however, frequencies suggest that transgender people may be the most vulnerable of all. Results suggest that counselors need to take sexual orientation issues, particularly past experiences of discrimination when working with LGBT clients.” And with the advice: “First, counsellors need to develop sensitive and unobtrusive ways to determine whether LGBT issues are relevant in the lives of their clients. Second, counsellors need to explore past experiences of discrimination with LGBT clients and factor these experiences into the decision-making process around academic and career choices in the context of the clients’ gender. Last, counselors need to develop a realistic sense of the climate in various workplace settings and professions in order to assist clients to make realistic decisions about how their sexual orientation will influence their academic and career options”.

In these papers, a common thread is how to overcome the discrepancy between expectancies about appearance and the ability to meet these expectations, and how career counsellors sometimes are the ones who need to address these issues. And being the one that have to bring up appearance related to career, now that is a complicated role as one would expect, and for issues like weight, make-up, and how to dress, it’s possible to develop some strategies and do this without jeopardizing the integrity of both the counsellor or the counselee (https://adventuresincareerdevelopment.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/you-try-telling-someone-whos-ugly-to-get-a-face-lift/ ).

But counselling on LGBT-issues and career, that ventures into a whole new territory of sensitivity, pride and prejudice, because the issues are so diverse and integrated as one casebook illustrate (Dworkin & Pope, 2014). So it seems to me, that even though one might as a careers worker feel equipped to address issues of appearance, perhaps going into the LGBT issues takes a bit more courage. There are ways of thinking about what we actually want to achieve with our work that might give more courage, ways of thinking that even though they might not give the exact words to say, can help to be brave in difficult situations. For instance, over the recent years, the discussion about social justice in careers work have highlighted a more socially conscious career counselling practice and research agenda. Some ideas and approaches focus on how to heighten counsellees’ consciousness about their role as members of society, but could also be the basis of careers worker’s reflexive practice. In one of these approaches, the emancipatory career education framework (Hooley, 2015), there are 5 key questions to career counselees and learners to build career learning activities on: 1. Who am I? 2. How does the world work? 3. Where do I fit into the world? 4. How can I live with others? 5. How do I go about changing the world? These questions could also be the foundation for careers workers reflexive practice and why we do the things we do.

The framework’s last question, the no. 5, is to me the most important one. The implications of “how do I go about changing the world”, especially when it comes to battling dark forces like the ones that Monsen represent, have practical implications when dealing with people. For instance, being mentally prepared to attempt to meet everyone with respect, now that is a start, and it is thankfully one of any framework’s ethical guidelines for counselling practice. And the careers profession’s helping and people-oriented nature thankfully attract people that are more interested in helping other people develop positively than antagonizing them. But still, discussing social justice in careers work there are some issues that need to be addressed, like awareness of LGBT issues in career counselling and how to address them.

If telling someone ugly to get a facelift is difficult, then being supportive of someone who’s gender incongruent and expressing both male and female gender identity at work as well as at home, can also be a challenge. But regarding the latter of these cases, if we want the world to be a better place, then I guess that is what we need to do.

 

 

 

 

 

Dworkin, S. H., & Pope, M. (2014). Casebook for Counseling Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons and Their Families. Hoboken: Wiley.

Hooley, T. (2015). Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery: self-actualisation, social justice and the politics of career guidance. Retrieved from International Centre for Guidance Studies http://hdl.handle.net/10545/579895

Lyons, H. Z., Brenner, B. R., & Lipman, J. (2010). Patterns of Career and Identity Interference for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Young Adults. Journal of Homosexuality, 57(4), 503-524. doi:10.1080/00918361003608699

Russon, J. M., & Schmidt, C. K. (2014). Authenticity and Career Decision-Making Self-Efficacy in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual College Students. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 26(2), 207-221. doi:10.1080/10538720.2014.891090

Schneider, M. S., & Dimito, A. (2010). Factors Influencing the Career and Academic Choices of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People. Journal of Homosexuality, 57(10), 1355-1369. doi:10.1080/00918369.2010.517080