Adviser on the Edge

Spatial perspectives on career guidance and development


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Cross-cultural research: careers in island communities

In my last blog I was discussing how being at the ECADOC summer school got me thinking about the potential for collaborative research looking at cultural differences in the impact of rurality on career development. In this blog I want to consider what this research might look like….

So, during the ECADOC week one of the keynote speeches was from Ronald Sultana who talked about his experience of doing research in different cultures, particularly in Europe and in the Middle East. He challenged us to think about how our research relies on mainstream notions of careers guidance that may not be shared by all communities or cultures. For example, we are largely used to talking about ‘careers’ that are about individual choice and self-fulfilment, however these concepts may not be shared by everyone – for example in some contexts it may be more common to talk not so much in terms of careers but livelihoods, where work is a “curse”, and where notions of individual choice are not as salient as community expectations, and determination by external factors. His examples of different contexts included Maori contexts, Indian and Arab contexts and class cultures. Interestingly he also included ‘small states’ in this set of contexts, considering particularly how in small states career choice may be different  to commonly assumed ‘norms’ because of the scale. So for example, in small states it is common to have a ‘chameleon career’ – that is one characterised by shifting career identities, occupational multiplicity, and shifting expertise. In addition the small community may lead to a career that is more influenced by personal ties, with employers commonly familiar with applicants prior to application, and sometimes exhibiting favouritism based on personal knowledge.

Now, Sultanta’s approach is obviously very interesting to me, he is the only person I have come across to have articulated some of the experience of career development and careers guidance within small communities. However, what this also got me thinking is about the intersection of different cultures – for example, class cultures and small states, how do notions of career differ between classes within a small community? And how do notions of career differ between different small states with different cultures? So for example, Sultana himself is from Malta, so how do Maltese notions of careers differ, say from those in Orkney and Shetland? At the most basic level, I bet that Maltese students don’t feel that some of the appeal of moving away is for warmer weather, like some of the students I interviewed back in April! Indeed when I met Ronald at the ECADOC conference he mentioned how escaping the heat of Malta for the relative cool of Paris was a particularly attractive feature of the summer school!

Considering how different cultures intersect I’m sure there is scope for some kind of comparative study, looking at the experience of different island groups for example in different parts of the world. Perhaps something for the future?


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ECADOC Summer School 2015

Back in late June I was lucky enough to take part in the second ECADOC summer school – thank you very much ECADOC organising committee! Now, given that I was heavily pregnant at the time and on a blog-break, I haven’t blogged about it since, but now I’m back to blogging, here are some thoughts….

So, first of all for those of you who don’t know, ECADOC is the ‘European Doctoral Programme in Career Guidance and Counselling’ which is funded by the European Commission, and is a joint venture by the European Society for Vocational Designing and Career Counseling (ESVDC) and the Network for Innovation in Career Guidance and Counselling in Europe (NICE). The project aims at “promoting the development of top-notch academics in our field all over Europe and establishing research and higher education in our field at the European level’.

Paris: the location for the summer school.

Paris: the location for the summer school.

The summer school itself comprised of lectures and workshops covering research methodology, and policy and practice of careers guidance and counselling. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet researchers from all over Europe (and some from further afield) and to discuss mutual areas of interest as well as expanding our skills and knowledge. You can see more details about the participants at the summer school and their research interests on the website.

Part of the purpose of the summer school was to encourage collaborative research projects between participants and between nations. Although at the moment I’m currently juggling my PhD studies next to family life and (in three months’ time) my work too, I am hoping that when the time is right some of the people I met might be interested in collaborative research with me. Wouldn’t it be interesting to consider the impact of remoteness and rurality from the standpoint of different countries? I wonder if the different education systems, and different cultures would mean that rural and remote students in different places had different experiences, or would the experience of rurality and remoteness be similar…..?