I’ve drafted my first ever academic publication and had my first ever experience of peer-review. The feedback was that we have some work to do. Not that our manuscript was bad, just that it’s focus wasn’t well matched with the intent of the book. After reading the feedback and considering how I’d go about revising our manuscript, which I think turned our pretty well and has something useful to say. I actually felt that it might be a better use of my time to rewrite the chapter from scratch and submit the manuscript for publication elsewhere. So while this is, on the face of it, a knock-back that entails a bit of work, I feel pretty positive about it.
While reading and writing sides of this scheme are ebbing and flowing, I’ve been pretty consistent in getting my reps in. I’m riding my bike to work fairly regularly, hitting the gym three or four times a week, and getting in brief workouts at home with my kettle-bell. Not to mention visits to the pool or playground with my energetic three year old. Today’s workout:
Barbell squats: 72.5kg, 1-2-3/1-2-3/1-2-3
Bench press: 52.5kg, 1-2-3/1-2-3/1-2-3
Dumbell rows (superset with bench): 25kg, 10/10/10
Farmers walk: 30kg each hand, 5 trips of about 40 paces.
One of the things that I treasure most of my five years at RMIT Vietnam is how I was able to follow my students through their university journeys. I taught hundreds first as an English teacher and then again years later as their career educator in RMIT’s Career Passport programs. Later still, I met them again when they joined career centre events as alumni guests.
Each year, my Facebook feed is filled with graduation photos. My former students are often kind enough to tag me or thank me in the captions. In 2014, I was honoured to be thanked by Nguyen Thao Vy, the RMIT President’s Award winner, in her acceptance speech. I’m always proud to have played a part, however small, in these students’ academic and career development.
This year, one Facebook graduation post, in particular, stood out from the rest.
I first met Nguyễn Võ Trọng Trí as one of 16 students in an English class that I taught in 2011. Over the years, I would often see him volunteering with the Student Ambassador Team during university open days, orientations, and other events, leading a group of high school students, parents, or RMIT first-years around on their campus tours.
Trí’s post on Facebook was titled “My Little Un-Graduation Speech”. Trí wasn’t graduating with his cohort, for various reasons, but he clearly had something he needed to say, and he said it remarkably well.
Today, some of my friends
who entered this university at the same time
as I did are going to attend their graduation
Trí wasn’t to be there with them. He is frank and honest about why. Poor decisions he made, family issues, new starts. But Trí learned a lesson that many of his graduating classmates did not. He learned that university is about the experiences you have as much as the degree that you earn. For Trí, the Student Ambassadors Team taught him as much as or more than his classes did.
Who am I today? At this very moment,
while many of my fellows become
university graduates, I am no one with no
college degree, no work, no nothing.
I was moved by Trí’s post. I identified with Trí, as his words describe the way I felt in 2000 when I dropped out of university with a couple of semesters worth of lacklustre grades. I was proud that one of my students would have the courage and honesty to make such a post public, especially in the strongly collectivist culture of Vietnam.
But Trí’s post was not about self-pity. He showed great maturity, a level of optimism, and most importantly, pride in what he had done and learned during his time at RMIT.
It shall be a very tough career path for me
since most of this society does not always
appreciate one’s ability yet his or her
degree. However, I know that as an RMIT
student and a Student Ambassador, I can
prove them wrong looking down on
neglected people who are disoriented or
lack of luck at some points of life.
“Calculated luck” and Chaos Theory
My favourite part of Trí’s post is his conclusion, where he unwittingly references two important career development theories: Krumboltz’s planned happenstance and Pryor and Bright’s Chaos Theory of Careers. Trí has never studied career development theory, but he clearly has the wisdom and reflective maturity to articulate the key points based on his experience.
And finally, to my fellow graduates, good
luck on your career path. When I say luck, I
mean a calculated luck. Be passionate
about what you do, have good
experiences and knowledge. Magnificent
ideas will surprise you and when they do,
experiment or take action immediately
then shall come the luck.
My Little Un-Graduation Speech, by Nguyễn Võ Trọng Trí
Trí’s calling is to be a designer, so it’s fitting that he put together a visual document to present his speech. With his permission, I can share it here for you to read in full.
I love my job as a career development educator, but one thing that I have struggled with is the job title that I use to describe what I do. Am I a counsellor, consultant, advisor, or educator? Is there another word or phrase I could use?
I’m a believer in the idea of people creating their own job titles and often help my students adapt the job titles on their resume to better reflect what they actually did. So, I’ve been giving some thought to how I can communicate what I do and how I do it in a few key words.
Goodbye Career Counsellor
My concern comes partly from the fact that the field of university career development services is going through some significant change. Career development services are moving away from a focus on small workshops and one-on-one counselling, toward curricular and resource development as career development education is increasingly integrated into academic curricula and student engagement activities. Career counsellors are doing less counselling and more program, curriculum, and resource development.
In addition to these changes, I knew when I entered the occupation, I wanted to define myself in a certain way. I wasn’t attracted to the role of a counsellor, but rather wanted to remain an educator first and foremost. Counselling is a big part of my job, but what I really enjoy and do well is career development curriculum and resource development.
Goodbye Career Consultant
My official job title is currently Career Consultant, as it was in my previous position. Unfortunately, the integrity of this job title has been seriously diminished, as it is increasingly being used for sales representatives of private online vocational education providers. See this “career consultant” job description:
Are you energetic? enthusiastic? Team player? Wanting to earn $$..then look no further this is the role for you! Our client is a reputable organisaiton [sic] and they are seeking Outbound Sales Consultants to join their Hawthorn office. The purpose of this role is to assist prospective students to select an appropriate course from the clients portfolio and then for the student to commit to the enrolment.
These “career consultants” are paid a commission for each student they sign up to a course. It’s a massive rort in which these organisations and their “career consultants” engage in highly unethical and immoral practices. So, to avoid being tarred with the same brush as these guys, career consultant is off the table.
What else is there for career development professionals?
Careers advisor is quite a common alternative to consultant.I’m not a fan, as advisor ignores the educative aspect of the role and feels to me more like a transactional, rather than transformational, service.
That leaves me with Career Development Educator. I like this because being an educator is fundamental to me. It has been English language and History in the past, it could be something else in the future. It also accommodates the transformative potential of education better than the transactional one-on-one feeling of advisor or consultant. There will always be a place for some one-on-one time, but I do think that developing quality educational programs and resources is how career services can achieve the greatest outcomes for their students.
I’d love to hear what other practitioners have to say about this. How would you define what you do and how you do it in a job title? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.
One of the first things I ever published as a career consultant was this article for the RMIT Vietnam student magazine, Blitz Magazine. The editors had approached the Career Centre asking us to provide an article, and I volunteered.
Around that time I had been sharing a lot of my own experiences with my classes, particularly the times when I have made decisions that seemed a little risky at the time, but which worked out amazingly well:
Dropping out of uni when I realised that I lacked ambition and motivation
Giving up the chance of an important scholarship to go chase a girl in a foreign country
Leaving a job that I enjoyed and was good at to go into an area I didn’t know much about
I had been reading about John Krumboltz’s theory of Planned Happenstance at the time and wanted to share the idea that career planning involves a lot of uncertainty, luck, and randomness, but also that there were several things you could do to orient yourself and make sound decisions.
I decided to write the following article, framing three major turning points in my life as “mistakes” where I made the decision that, on the face of it, was the riskiest. Some of my colleagues were worried that our students wouldn’t get the joke, but I was confident that I could get my point across without too much confusion.
I had a good response from my students, with a few emailing me to make a comment or ask a question. I also got quite a few concerned questions asking me how my wife felt about being labelled a “mistake”. Luckily, in this case, I was wise enough to run it past her first.
Unfortunately I no longer have the text of the article and you can’t copy and paste from the online magazine, so here some screen captures of the article as it appeared in the magazine.
I had never considered career development education as a possible pathway. I barely even knew it existed. But when I took an opportunity to become a career development educator, I immediately knew it was the right decision.
Making the jump to career development education
My discovery happened a couple of years ago at RMIT in Vietnam. I used my experience as an English teacher to land a job as a career development educator in the RMIT career centre. This was mostly out of a desire to get out of English language teaching, which was getting stale for me.
I wasn’t certain that taking the job was the right decision. I’d never been interested in the corporate world. I assumed I had to have a degree of business experience and a corporate mindset to do the job well. I was unsure what I had to offer students who were studying to become accountants, analysts, managers, or marketers.
Like a fish to water
But as soon as I started working with students, I knew that I’d be a great career development educator. I discovered that the job entailed teaching some fundamental skills. I taught students the value of concise writing, by helping them edit their resumes down to one or two powerful pages. I gave them confidence, by showing them how to drive the conversation in a job interview. I helped them articulate their goals and their values and make sound decisions, by asking them a few key questions. My experience as an English teacher was invaluable as I distilled complex ideas into engaging lessons and resources.