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Defining the territory

Pick up a book or article on the provision of career support, and you might see all sorts of different terms used, such as career information, career advice, career guidance and career counselling. The Glossary gives The Learning and Skills Council definitions of the three terms ‘career information’, ‘career advice’ and ‘career guidance’. In addition, a definition of ‘career counselling’ taken from Kidd (2006) is also included.

But to begin with it is helpful to think about how these terms map on to the task of providing career support to medical students and trainee doctors.

Career information
In a medical context this might include the provision of career-related information in the medical school or postgraduate centre library, as well as online information on deanery, Royal College, British Medical Association and NHS websites. It also includes purpose-built resources such as the specialty choice inventory, Sci59.

Career advice
In a medical context an example of career advice would be a medical student/trainee asking their educational supervisor to clarify something they have read, or information they have been told about by another consultant. The student/trainee doesn’t need help working out the personal significance of this information once the particular point has been clarified.

Career guidance
A medical example would be a student/trainee bringing their learning portfolio to their educational supervisor or the Director of Medical Education and asking for help in deciding on the next stage of their career. They know that they don’t want a career in any of the surgical specialties, but beyond that, they haven’t yet made up their mind.

Career counselling
A medical example would be a series of meetings between a qualified careers professional and a student/trainee who is contemplating leaving medicine.

Two further points
In real life these activities often overlap, so in a given session an educational supervisor might be providing all four types of support.

The use of counselling skills such as respecting the autonomy of the client, active listening and reflecting back can be used in all these activities and is not restricted to the provision of career counselling. Counselling skills can also be used when providing advice and guidance. See Teachers’ toolkit and Ali and Graham (1996) for a clear account of the use of the counselling approach to career guidance.

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Further information

More information about this module, further reading and a complete list of glossary terms.

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