This handbook is one of the products of our international pilot project mediaCoach (LEONARDO DA VINCI-program of the EU), developed by project partners from Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Poland.
The preparation and consideration work for the project started in 2000, whereas the partners were involved in the subject of career counselling for new labour markets since many years before. Within our everyday counselling work especially with clients working for the media industry, we saw that the spectre of counselling needs as well as the range of questions of our clients was constantly growing and widening.
Moreover, we had to face the fact that the permanent change of technical, economic and structural conditions of the labour market forced clients of all ages and hierarchic positions to permanently revise their career, to change their plans and projects, to find new perspectives and to organise phases of transition (between unemployment, self-employment and project-based employment, between training and working phases etc.).
Consequently, the “frequently asked questions” became more and more heterogeneous and high quality at the same time. The multitude of options – often regarded as the positive chance for free decision and self-determination – also causes a rising need for orientation, finding certainties and “correct” decisions – or at least valid criteria for the necessary decision. Choices about qualification, work, and careers are dramatically different from the usual notion of choosing or deciding. Especially in societies and industries (like the media industry) with highly individualised concepts of career planning, individuals have to consider extremely complex questions. Those questions involve not only professional or business aspects, but also much more difficult issues of identity, involving deeper issues of what a person is, what their talents and values are, how they position themselves with respect to others and to social groups, what they think of as a worthy life. Consequently, the simple provision of information (about e.g. job profiles, training offers or job vacancies) – although necessary – ist not sufficient to support individuals. Or – expressed in a more economic sense – to empower them to be productive human resources within their industry or society.
And finally: We recognised a growing frustration and disorientation among the professional counsellors. Counselling experts – public institution-based as well as private based – informed us about their impression of being inadequately prepared for the complex questions and problems of new labour markets and individual biographies. Certainly, one important aspect of this dissatisfaction is the lack of insight into or rather the intransparency of “new” labour markets like the media sector. This rather sectoral problem (information gaps about job profiles, industry structures and needs, missing contact to companies and experts) is additionally accompanied by the rising awareness that the “new” biographical conditions – at least in the media and communication sector – do not fit into the traditional design of successful career and life planning. Most concepts and objectives of public counselling still base on the ideals of industrial society: high employment rates, life long professional continuity, the first labour market as most important target of counselling efforts. Although there is a growing attention within social and political sciences for the problematic aspects of “flexibility”, the key terms and results of findings did not yet make their way into the counselling work – or rather into the policy in charge of giving the guidelines for counselling. Especially counsellors with serious ambitions to support and empower their clients complain about disorientation not only on the clients’, but also on their own side.
For all these reasons, the mediaCoach partners decided to focus their project work on the information, training and self-defining needs of professional counsellors. We tried to include all national and trans-national aspects of modern counselling for new labour market sectors – practical instruments, surveys on the structure and career conditions of the media and communication sector, but also current discussions and findings of social and political theory on the “post-industrial individual”. In order to develop the common trans-national aspects as well as the typical national aspects of the subject, each partner carried through extensive research and expert interviews for his own country and included those in our trans-national comparison.
The project results served as basis for several curricula for training modules on innovative counselling subjects. The partners used the curricula to organise pilot trainings for the target group and are planning to integrate the curricula into their future training programmes on a national level. The curricula, training reports and results of expert conferences are included in this handbook for the disposal of counselling institutions.
We hope that the project results and the handbook are a useful contribution and assistance to the complicated work of counsellors in Europe – having to find their way between continuing change / uncertainty and the growing expectations of their clients to receive valuable (continuous) support and some moments of certainty.
In comparison to industrial societies in the past, working biographies (and consequently private biographies) have radically changed – or rather have become more and more heterogeneous and complex. Technology and globalisation have changed the traditional labour market as well as traditional career development pattern. Today there is a strong shift towards more casualisation and more self-employment, and a much larger number of micro and small and medium sized enterprises. More and more people are offering their skills to different employers on a personal and self-employed basis. Choosing a vocation is no longer a once and for all decision. People have to permanently change or at least adapt their plans and skills to the changing market needs, find new jobs and to confront the many periods of transition.
The paradigms of industrial production with all the resulting values, principles and virtues (discipline, constancy, industriousness, loyalty, patience) are coming to an end. They are replaced by individualisation, flexibility, constantly changing working and living conditions. Secure and long lasting, regulated „normal employment relations“ are history in many sectors. Employed work becomes discontinuous, working biographies are more and more fragmentary. Work becomes defined through project-defined results, its success, its transitory effort. Employees become salespersons of their own working capacity or „Intrapreneurs“ within different companies. The exchange between employee/Intrapreneur and employer is regulated by „knowledge management“ – an instrument to enlarge the mutual profit taken from each other to a maximum. Knowledge management in new structures replaces the old „employee’s virtues“ like identification with the company, long-term commitment and life-long loyalty.
„Simple“, low-level occupation is vanishing. Traditional labour defined by product- or task specifications is forced back. Therefore, unspecific occupations with a broader range and higher technical challenges increase.
Education and knowledge have become central factors of competition. Qualification and willingness/ability to learn are the future criteria for employment and income. The value of long-years' experience and routine is decreasing or vanishing.
New possibilities of information and communication make work more and more independent from time and space. They also enable companies to install new chains of value adding. Legal, local or national regulations become more and more irrelevant within these chains.
One of the most frequently used and discussed terms regarding the attitudes and perspectives of the future changes in society is INDIVIDUALISATION. Deriving from this term, there are other important key terms like „multi-optional society“, „flexibility“ or „erosion“.
While traditional principles are dissolving, there is a growing individual sovereignty over the planning, shaping and organising life. The modern structures of social relationships presuppose an active subject. Consequently, the ability and competence to decide and to make use of options is the most important factor for succeeding in the „Multi-optional society“. This is a great challenge and can also be a threatening responsibility for those socialised in the „old system“:
„Subjects experience themselves as actors on a social stage having to get along without any script. It may sound promising for individuals being allowed to write their own script, to direct and produce a part of their own life. But: in many cases the material, from social or psychological resources, is not sufficient. The offer of directing one’s own life sounds cynical if the individual is excluded from the necessary resources.“ 2
These trends will continue: There is an increasing number of “stations” within modern biographies where decisions (or choices between options) are necessary - and counselling is asked for. At the same time, single decisions don’t stay valid for long (or life-long) spaces of time anymore.
This has massive consequences for the self-comprehension of modern individuals. Especially those who were socialised in the „old system“ – the working society within industrial structures and complex systems of loyalty and continuity – are forced to adapt to the situation. But also education systems, institutions and policy have to revise the contents and values of future guidelines. New attitudes, values and virtues will have to be defined and supported if young people as well as grown-ups shall be apt to successfully survive the “future of work”. This is also a question of qualification and preparedness on the side of counsellors and institutionally responsible experts (teachers, politicians etc.)
|Good example – bad example? |
Working culture and conditions in the media and communications industry
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“In the field of work, the lifelong profession has ceased to exist. Two trends follow. Lifelong learning, developing one’s own career, using opportunities, adjusting to changes and making choices are one result. The other is described by new trends in the organization of work. Work contracts are not about a workplace anymore, but about a limited work project. Payment is not granted per period of time, but per result, per project or per order. Computerization and telecommunications make it possible to separate work and workplace. Regrouping work teams by project reduces or even prevents more permanent social contacts through work.
The issue is how to prepare people to manage their own individual Me Incorporated.” 3
A large – and still growing – group of media professionals is well experienced - and in many cases quite satisfied - with working as a “Me incorporated” (Ich-AG): Not only Specialists and creative professionals, but also staff members for production, organisation and management functions are used to work for different employers or contractors, to change frequently, to have limited contracts for single project participations. Many of them work on a self-employed and freelance basis, other groups work as regular employees, but only for limited spaces of time or single projects. It can be stated that most of the criteria and visions about „modern service sectors“ already have come true in the structures and relations within media and communication industries. Analysts, supporters as well as critics of the so-called „new culture of self-employment“ or „Me Incorporated“ (Ich-AG) can use this sector as point of reference.
As the readers find extensive descriptions of the media industries as well as a training curricula on this subject within this handbook, we confine our introductory remarks to some key tendencies:
- Project orientation, „projectification“ replaces the traditional ideal of commitment to single companies or employers. As a consequence, many professionals only feel connected with single projects and transitory teams and feel no identification with the “companies behind the project”. The structures, economic strategies and possible problems of the companies are of no concern for most of the project team members. Furthermore, there are weak or no collective, “horizontal” structures and references like e.g. the traditional pattern of long-term “colleagues” within one’s company or within larger unions or guilds.
- Traditional concepts of „life long profession“ are dissolved; flexible multi-skills and role changing between the different projects are required for many positions. On the other hand, highly specialised professionals have to adapt to the fast technical and structural changes and update their skills in order to compete.
- Most professions or job-profiles within the media sector are not regulated or standardized to a reliable extent. This of course has corresponding effects on vocational training and qualification standards. While on the one hand most professionals know they need continuous “life long learning” in order to succeed in the industry, they on the other hand do not have valid criteria for judging and evaluating the suitable training offers.
- Individuals have to take over the main responsibility for career planning, qualification activities (including financing qualification), profiling and self-positioning. At the same time, the complexity and the fast changeability of the sector requests a high-quality overview and up-to-date insight before making choices and deciding within a multitude of possible career strategies.
- Work organisation and working times often follow the demands and requirements of the project course. So there is high pressure of time, overtime hours including weekends, flexibility of working place (high mobility). As a consequence media professionals have more problems in reconciling their work life with their private or social networks. This very often is compensated by strong social and emotional relationships within the working environment. The traditional separation between private life or free time activities on the one hand and work on the other is frequently dissolved. Many media professionals – and job starters – point out, that this close relation to work and colleagues is one of the positive and highly satisfying aspects of the sector: A proof of non-conventional, creative, intense and “committed” ways of working and living. This positive and motivating attitude is one of the most remarkable characteristics of media professionals, helps them to compensate uncertainties and insecurities - and last but not least serves as a solid fundament for the successes of media companies.
- Still, there are problematic aspects and consequences for the individual – as well as for counsellors who want to support these clients. The feelings of “belonging” and identification with one’s work and the professional sector can cause over-average feelings of isolation and failure as soon as things go wrong – like it is the case within the recent crisis, but also in cases of health problems, family problems or even questions of ageing. The strong commitment to the media industry makes it almost impossible to imagine any change into other professions or sectors. Accordingly, counselling for these clients' requests considerable efforts to empowering, profiling and in many cases psychosocial expertise.
In the past, there only was rare contact between most media professionals and public vocational counsellors. As long as the industry was small and the professionals had a sufficient rhythm of follow-up projects, they used employment agencies only in short phases of transition between two contracts. This also means that there was no exchange of experiences and information between both sides, no direct insight for counsellors into the professional needs, job and qualification profiles and working conditions of these clients.
But the industry has been growing and widening since the last years. As a consequence, there was a rising quantity of personnel requirement and recruitment activities. This was the chance for many newcomers or employees looking for new job perspectives to enter the industry without any formal qualification or professional experiences. Working for the media industry attracted high quantities of young people and job-starters that started asking for sound information and advice in high quantities asking for media professions. Lacking personal and sound information exchange with the media practitioners, the counsellors were not prepared to pass on insights and overviews in sufficient quality or quantity.
In the mediaCoach partner countries, there was some effort to make up the information gaps. Job descriptions, qualification profiles and information material concerning media professions were developed (see Netherlands, Germany, Poland), and special public-private agencies as well as unions offered additional counselling and information for the media sector. But as the media industry still is a very flexible and fast-changing sector, information and data lose their “durability” and validity very fast. Without deeper understanding of the sector and its conditions, a mere provision of – more or less – complete information material and databases can no longer be sufficient and satisfying for vocational counselling – neither for the client nor for the counsellor.
At present it seems that the group of clients asking for counselling concerning the media sector is growing and becoming more and more heterogeneous: Due to the economic crisis, there is an additional group using vocational or career counselling: Many media professionals, in the past rather reluctant to institutional services, have to cope with longer periods of unemployment or drops of commissions. For this reason, they become more steady clients, asking complex questions about funding possibilities, adequate further training opportunities, alternative fields of employment within or without the media sector.
Against this background, the importance of supporting professional and institutional counsellors becomes evident. As we already pointed out in this chapter, the structures of the media industry can be regarded as typical and exemplary for many labour markets of the future. For this reason, we are convinced that a deeper knowledge and understanding of the underlying structural and individual patterns of this sector will be helpful to develop new strategies and approaches towards the competencies, but also of the limitations of vocational counselling.
|New questions, new clients, and new challenges: Consequences for counselling demands || Table of Content |
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Richard Sennett’s description of the future structures of subjects says:
„... a soft, yielding „Me“, a fragmentary construction in permanent de- and reconstruction, always open to new impressions – these are the mental conditions for short-term and insecure working experiences. They have to endure flexible institutions, permanent risks and changing values. Thus, the personality and the mind stay in a state of endless „becoming something“, „developing towards something“ ... A self that will never be complete. And the consequence is: There will be no conclusive „story of my life“, no „clearing moment“ that could explain and enlighten the whole thing.“ 4
This diagnosis leads to a fundamental question concerning the role and ideal of counselling: Is it not the main task of counselling to offer and deliver this „clearing moment“? Isn't counselling based on the mutual search for “linear solutions“? The ideal of counselling is not to increase confusion, not to add additional doubts when things are dubious anyway. Those who offer advice as well as those who look for advice want to reduce options, wants to define some „clever steps“ towards „recommendable targets“.
This is why experts from career guidance and counselling are fundamentally challenged: While everybody knows (and writes) about the increase of insecurity, about the unpredictability of developments, they still expected to offer and deliver predictability, coherency, clear criteria and are made responsible for the consequences of their proposals.
The more individuals are forced to accept uncertainty (within global development and policy, their workplace, their social surroundings, their family), the less they tolerate weakness and uncertainty in counselling: Before clients accept counselling offers (or opportunities), they usually have gone through a variety of complex experiences of failure, uncertainty or postponed decisions. When they start using counselling offers, they are mainly interested in reducing this uncertainty, to make the right decision. Counselling has become the last „bastion“ for questions that individuals stopped asking in their professional or private surrounding. So: If counselling wants to stay a legitimate institution, counsellors can’t ignore this expectation – even if it is unrealistic.
“(The) most disturbing and confusing element (of individualisation) is the omnipresent threat of falling into nothingness. To fail in the attempt of „making something out of oneself“. The failure of identity-building by one’s career. All these conditions lead people to search for commitment and intensity in substitutes and compensational settings. (based on: Richard Sennett: Der flexible Mensch. Berlin 1998, Seite 189 ff.)
The strongest “compensational settings” nowadays are: counselling and training or rather “life long learning” – and both are strongly connected. Counsellors find themselves confronted with a rising level of expectations and hopes produced by their clients.
Especially the modern view of “individualised” responsibility for one’s career decisions and biographical choices results in a deep feeling of personal failure if things go wrong: If the conditions of success are more and more individualised, then the (subjective or objective) failure is experienced individually to the same extent. Consequently, clients carry this personal and emotional feeling of failure into the counselling session. This can cause severe problems for counsellors who have to face a disturbed, confused, depressive or aggressive individual hoping to receive rational, practical and clear information about his perspectives.
The question is: will counselling be able or even be in charge of delivering linear solutions and planning security? How can instruments and strategies of counselling be developped that suggest coherence without ignoring the actual uncertainty? How can counsellors accompany the future working (and non-working) biographies? And finally: Are there individual, structural and political expectations that counsellors should refuse to accept?
"More and more large professional consulting companies merely define themselves as companion/accompanist on the ways of changing processes. They overtake the task to irritate and stimulate their client in order to force him finding new perspectives. They promise nothing more than being professionally experienced in creating change processes. Their self-consideration is: The only certainty they offer is being experienced in dealing with uncertainty.“ 5
This handbook is designed as a modular self-information and training tool for counselling, training and industry experts. All collected material included in the print version and the CD attachment was developed during the project phase. For some special subjects and aspects, the project partners involved additional experts from different professional backgrounds (social scientists, counselling experts, network specialists, professionals from the media industry etc.) in order to illustrate the broad spectre of the current discussion.
The project partners consciously chose the heterogenous character of the handbook. We are convinced that also the expertise and special knowledge of our readers is heterogeneous, and so the individual focus’ of interest will differ from individual to individual.
Furthermore, we would like to stress that we still regard the work of mediaCoach as „work in progress“. Since the start of our project planning in 1999/2000, there is a growing, unexpected – and in some ways overheated – intensity within public and political discussion about the role and capacities of vocational counsellors. Thanks to this development, we had the opportunity to witness completely new and intense discussions during our project phase – which at the meantime caused a lot of constantly re-thinking, revising and updating our research work.
Especially German policy – based on the recommendations of the “Hartz-commission” – started a large campaign in fall 2002 in order to revise and change the traditional pattern of public counselling, placement and empoyment services. Most political motives and objectives – not only in Germany (see also the Dutch system) – for re-structuring the public employment services (including counselling) are strongly connected to the idea of cost cutting within the social security system, combined with the effort to strengthen the idea of “employment for all”. This approach can – and will have to be – watched with critical attention: Current expert discussions – especially those taking into account the global crisis of employment, the idea of commonwealth and the demands of modern working biographies – rather recommend different concepts: They tend to promote the idea of life long counselling in order to encourage individual self-support (self-caring / “Selbstsorge”), separated from the ideal of direct labour market needs and vacancies (see also chapter “conclusions”).
Independent of these critical points, the project partners feel confirmed in their decision to chose a subject that (for different and sometimes problematic reasons) gained so much importance and attention during the last years. We are convinced that questions of counselling and supporting individuals within their increasingly difficult biographies will stay one of the most important “touchstones” of societies, policies and industries. And: As long as counselling still is the job of counsellors, we are even more convinced that we should find ways to support, empower and connect the experts who are confronted with “post-modern individuals” in face-to-face situations.
- The media Coach handbook includes a large selection of analyses’, reports, curricula and guidelines developed for the project target groups.
- The table of contents provides all partners’ contributions and texts included in the printed version (in English) as well as in the CD attachment (containing additional material in detail, in the national languages of the partner institutions).
1 (Prof. Dr. Karlheinz A. Geißler : From Prayer to Learning – and maybe vice versa? – lecture, 6. IT-Trainings-Kongress 10.11.2000, Bonn).
2 Heiner Keupp u.a.: Identitätskonstruktionen - Das Patchwork der Identitäten in der Spätmoderne. Hamburg 1999, Seite 53 ff.
3 Hubert Haas, Chairman of the German Association of Vocational Counsellors: CAREER DEVELOPMENT IN GERMANY Making Waves – Lecture for The International Symposium: Career Development and Public Policy - 1999 Ottawa (Canada) www.ccdf.ca/makingwaves/
4 Richard Sennett: Der flexible Mensch. Berlin 1998, Seite 182 – Übersetzung: mediaCoach-Redaktion
5 based on: Stefan Kühl, Das Regenmacher-Phänomen, Frankfurt/New York 2000, S. 73