Ever since David Winter visited to talk guidance toolkits, I’ve been on the lookout for some new tools to add to my collection. I finally understand my Dad’s B&Q mentality!

These are from Applying Career Development Theory to Career Counselling (Sharf, 2006 – pp.317-323), which is on my reading list for the Warwick CEIAG postgrad I’m doing. They’re from the chapter on constructivist approaches, and Cochran’s narrative theory, and all aim to be tools to enable clients to tell their stories, and enable us as advisers to help to clarify values, interests, needs and aspirations.

1) Directed card sort

60-100 job titles on cards (there are established card sort packs, or you can make up your own). Ask client to sort the job titles into three piles – accept, reject and maybe. Pick either accept/reject (possibly whichever has more in) and ask the client to divide them once again into piles based on some common factor in their selection of them. They can have as many piles as they like this time.

Purpose: Provides a platform for discussion of those factors, and can help determine values/constructs that are important.

2) Drawing narratives

Ask a client to draw a picture to represent each, in turn: ‘What I am’ (an image of their current situation, or the incompletion that begins a narrative in Cochran’s terminology), ‘what I’d like to be’ (positioning, preparing for action), ‘what hinders me’ (positing – getting practical), ‘what will overcome the obstacle’ (end of the story, completion).

Purpose: Provides a way for a client to tell their story and allows them to imagine the future of the narrative and determine the solution needed.

3) Important events / anecdote telling

A simpler one – simply asking clients to talk about important events in their lives, or eliciting an anecdote to illustrate a situation/environment/issue.

Purpose: Firstly, a simple way to draw out traits and factors (can feed into Holland typology, Super’s life roles etc.) Secondly, it’s an unguided opportunity to see how the client selects and organises the story of an event in their life. There is an opportunity for us to draw out positives, negatives, adding meaning and emphasising strengths or reaffirming ideas where we need to, as well as listening for patterns in the stories and their telling. Helps client gather meaning from life experiences.

4) Lifeline

Similar to the above, but drawing a line and asking clients to mark important life experiences along it. This can be annotated with details, emotions issues – a visual version of the above.

5) Career-O-Gram

A good article that explains a Career-O-Gram better than I can is here (Jill M. Thorngren, Stephen S. Feit, Career Development Quarterly, June 2001).

Purpose: Similar to the lifeline, but far more flexible, a career-o-gram allows a client and guidance practitioner together to map past career histories, jobs, goals or job ideas diagrammatically, with the client annotating using visual coding (symbols, colours of pen etc.) to provide a more holistic picture of feelings, influences, factors that have been present and drawing connections between them.

6)Life Chapters

Allowing the client to decide on the chapter titles for each section of their life so far, without being able to use obvious titles like ‘school’ or ‘university’.

Purpose: Each chapter title provides an area to explore – what goals, roles, life-stages, influences, interests, strengths loom large and how are they developing.