Wishy washy career advice unhelpful and unscholarly

Many media articles offer advice cast in broad generalities, often forecasting doom if everyone doesn’t act, now. Such advice can be neither accurate nor helpful, casting career development advice as unscholarly and ill-informed.

Take articles on older people needing to work longer. A recent article stated that two-thirds of today’s babies are likely to live to 100, a claim that is unsubstantiated, and more people will be working into their 70s and 80s. This latter claim is presumably based on recent discussions about increasing workforce participation amongst older people. There’s a hint of a slid-over correlation.

A career consultant is quoted as saying that ‘a seismic shift in career management’ is needed. Hyperbole is not helpful when the nature of the change is not revealed and the following details refer to steps that have been taken, albeit unevenly, for some time. Further it is claimed that it ‘didn’t matter much in the past if you got kicked out of a job at 55’. Some historical knowledge and understanding might alter this view.

A report is quoted which then links to another comment by the consultant, with poor linkages between the two. A call is made for re-training in technical skills every two years to keep pace with ‘digital disruption and globalisation’.

Another person is quoted who repeats advice about adapting to change, changing jobs, upgrading skills so, for example, manual workers can move into service roles.

By focusing on technology, what is neglected here is the need for interpersonal skills.

To round out the article a story follows of a 62 year old’s continuing work experience, which proves the rule, to change jobs, upskill and keep working.

Understandably, the reader comments on this article speak to its inadequacies:

  • Questioning the underlying premise about living to 100
  • Questioning the view that retirees need and want to work to fill in their days
  • Questioning the view that manual works can continue working and can shift to office work
  • The role age discrimination plays in preventing employment of older people
  • The impact technological developments actually have rather than forecasts
  • The range of statistics on medical conditions and their prognosis for impact on people’s ability to live and work
  • The role of retirement, inequality between those with superannuation and those without or insufficient
  • Youth versus age

Career management articles like this one offer general information and advice that will not apply to everyone. By covering broad issues [workforce participation, retirement planning, economic changes, re-training to name a few] and offering ‘insight’ based on a couple of quotes and a single story to give the ‘human element’ to prove the rule, these articles neither serve the reader nor reflect well on the career development profession.

What would serve a reader are articles that:

  • acknowledge the complex interrelatedness of issues facing the country
  • are soundly based in credible evidence
  • speak to a target audience and avoid generalities that don’t apply to everyone, or at least acknowledge that significant groups will not be affected by or interested in, the generality
  • avoids clichés by offering specific and helpful comments
  • and ideally offer some refreshing insight, reflecting nuance and thought.
Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.