Using LMI effectively
- To explore different approaches to using LMI in career practice
- To examine skills for giving information effectively
- To reflect on principles underlying giving LMI as part of the career guidance process.
What are the issues?
High quality, reliable LMI is essential for the delivery of effective career guidance. But even where robust, up-to-date LMI is accessible for career practitioners, they may not feel:
Confident in their ability to select the most appropriate LMI for their clients/learners from the various sources of LMI
Competent in their interpretation of the LMI they have selected with their clients/learners during a particular career intervention
This learning unit has been designed to support the increase of practitioners’ confidence in giving LMI effectively, as part of their career interventions with clients/learners.
The question is often asked by career practitioners: ‘What is the best way of giving LMI in career guidance practice?’ The answer to this question will depend on precisely what you are trying to achieve with a client/learner by giving the LMI. Reflect, for example, on the following case study:
At 18, Ben is unemployed. He left school after achieving average qualifications and though he had been in employment since then, he had not undertaken any further training or qualifications. His job had been in a warehouse, loading and unloading lorries, scanning packages etc., before he had an argument with his supervisor and left. While at school, Ben’s work experience was in construction and he now wants to return to this type of work. He is asking about courses in bricklaying, plastering and carpentry. But Ben is concerned about finances, as employment in the construction sector when training is low paid, compared to warehouse work. He has no transport, which is also limiting his ability to get work in construction.
- What are the possible reasons for giving Ben LMI as part of a career guidance intervention?
- For each reason, what type of LMI would you use? And for what purpose(s)?
Different approaches to using LMI in career practice
The ways career practitioners integrate LMI in their career practice vary. Currently, there is no clear evidence that suggests that one approach is more successful than another. Different frameworks (or models) are available to help guide the way practitioners integrate LMI into their practice (Adapted from Osipow, & Fitzgerald, 1996). Summaries of three follow.
1. One popular approach (which has been around the longest and is probably the best known) is the ‘talent-matching’ approach. Three key assumptions lie at the heart of this approach:
- Practitioners should give LMI as a central part of careers interventions, because it enhances the matching process (at the core of this approach) of clients/learners to the best employment opportunities
- Clients/learners behave rationally and their career decision-making and transition behaviours are both planned and logical
- High quality LMI provided by practitioners as part of career support will stimulate the desired behaviour change in clients/learners (e.g., giving LMI about selection procedures and deadlines for a particular job or training course will result in the client conforming to these requirements).
Although still popular, this approach was developed over a hundred years ago, and is increasingly attracting criticism, because:
- Client/learners do not always behave rationally; plan in a meaningful way; or even approach career decision-making logically
- Today’s labour markets are more fluid, volatile and less predictable than at the time this model was developed.
2. The humanistic, client-centred advocates an empowerment approach – suggesting that career guidance should concentrate on helping clients/learners develop their own skills, knowledge and understanding needed to undertake their own LMI research into career options throughout their lifetimes, rather than relying on information given as part of a one-off career intervention. Here, it is argued that using LMI in this way:
- Empowers clients/learners to become autonomous, so is more viable in the longer term because they are less reliant on a trained professional
- Supports the client/learner to take ownership of the LMI they find, making it more likely that they will act upon it, rather than being tempted to ignore or sideline
- Increases the likelihood that clients/learners will be able to cope on their own with career transitions throughout their lifecourse, if need be.
So this approach ideally results in information self-sufficiency essential for surviving volatile labour markets.
3. The third example, social learning argues that, since careers guidance comprises an ongoing learning process (rather than a one-off matching process), information should be provided in a structure and form that enables the client/learner to interact with, and learn from, it. Here, the core task of the career practitioner is to evaluate the accuracy of the client’s/learner’s understanding of their career development so that they can integrate suitable LMI into their career learning process as relevant. This model/framework advocates the importance of career practitioners:
- Challenging misconceptions, stimulating exploration and developing decision-making skills
- Understanding clients’/learners’ goals and resolving goal conflicts, using LMI to solve any problems arising
- Using teaching and learning techniques, like reinforcement and modelling.
In addition to these three examples, there are many other career frameworks/models developed to support practice (see Arthur, & McMahon, 2019), each implying slightly different roles for the use of LMI.
It should also be remembered that some practitioners may choose to adopt eclectic or integrationist approaches to their practice, both of which involve elements from different models/frameworks being combined in slightly different ways, which help them to get to grips with trusted sources and interpret complex LMI for their clients/learners.
In this unit, it is argued that providing LMI effectively requires career practitioners to adopt evidence-based framework(s) or model(s), like those summarised above, which should be complemented with skills for information giving and guiding principles to help increase effectiveness of LMI in career guidance.
Skills and principles are both discussed next.
Skills for giving LMI
Think of an example when you were given information and acted on it. Then think of another example when you were given information and ignored it. What made the difference?
Very often, whether or not you act on information given depends on the skills used by the person giving information.
Research from a medical context provides insights to the skills of effective information giving. The recipient of information (e.g. instructions for taking medication or following a treatment plan) is more likely to be taken on board if certain skills are used. These are as follows:
- Use short words and sentences
- Repeat information
- Be specific and detailed
- Give examples
- Wherever possible, categorise
- Establish connections between situations and the information, using imagery and analogies
- Suggest what to do – rather than what not to do
- Summarise and pause
- Vary presentation and/or tone of voice
- Provide written back-up to emphasise key points
Since there is a lack of research that specifically focuses on the skills needed to give LMI effectively in career guidance, the list above could be used as an indication of the types of skills that might be useful when practitioners are giving LMI as part of their career practice.
As well as frameworks/models and these skills for giving information, there are also certain principles that underlay the effective and successful use of LMI in career guidance. The next section considers these principles.
Principles underlying the use of effective LMI as part of career guidance
From research, we know that career practitioners and clients/learners have very different needs and priorities for LMI and how it is presented. Practitioners, for example, tend to be much more interested in detailed LMI, future trends and graphical representations of the information. Clients/learners are, however, are more inclined to be more interested in brief information that is both easy to understand, with the implications for them made clear.
When giving LMI to clients/learners as part of career guidance, it is important for the practitioner to be mindful of the following principles, to guide their selection and interpretation of LMI for their learners/clients:
- Ensure that the client/learner wants, and is ready, to receive, LMI
- Help clients/learners relate the information to their own situation
- Check clients/learners have understood, accurately
- Make sure that the LMI is appropriate for the clients’/learners’ ability level and age
- Ensure the LMI is as reliable and up-to-date as possible
- Provide information in a manner that shows respect for clients/learners and a genuine desire to help.
As well as the models/frameworks that guide practice, skills for giving information and underlying principles, other issues that career practitioners need to consider when using LMI effectively in their practice include the following:
Many clients/learners find LMI on the internet, where it is likely to be general in nature, available in large unmanageable volumes and not directly answering their particular question(s). Clients/learners may need help to sift through sources and relate information to their own situation (see learning unit, Choosing amongst sources of LMI).
Career practitioners, in line with their code of ethics, strive to deliver impartial LMI as part of their career guidance support. If clients find information themselves, will they recognise bias? An important element of using LMI in career guidance is helping clients/learners to take a critical approach to sources. For example, to what extent is a university or college prospectus a marketing, as well as an information source? (see learning unit, LMI in career guidance: biased or impartial?)
Much of the LMI found on the web can be in statistical form, or buried in technical reports. Again, clients/learners are likely to need help to interpret LMI, so that they are able to understand its relevance to their particular context and circumstances (see learning units: Limitations of LMI and Features of LMI).
The career guidance community has common goals and shared practice, but represents an increasingly fragmented sector with services for adults typically separated from services for young people, across different countries (Barnes et al., 2020 ). As a result of this sector fragmentation, ‘shared practice’ within the community is problematic. Giving LMI effectively as part of practice is neither easy nor straightforward. But it is often taken-for-granted, as a routine part of practice. Reflecting on what can make a difference to this area of practice and considering alternatives can help career practitioners feel both more confident and competent, helping them to use LMI more effectively in their practice.
Arthur, N. & McMahon, M. (eds) (2019). Contemporary theories of career development. International Perspectives. London and New York: Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group.
Barnes, S-A., Bimrose, J., Brown, A., Kettunen, J., & Vuorinen, R. (2020). Lifelong guidance policy and practice in the EU: trends, challenges and opportunities. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.
Nicolson, P., & Bayne, R. (1990) (Eds.) Applied Psychology for Social Workers (2nd Edn.). London: MacMillan.
Osipow, S.H., & Fitzgerald, L.F. (1996) Theories of Career Development (4th Edn). Needham Heights, Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon.
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