Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Health promotion as a model for engagement with careers

I'm sure people must have thought about this before (which is partly why I'm blogging about it) but I've been thinking in the last couple of days about the parallels between health promotion activity and engaging students with careers. The reason it came up is that a colleague mentioned the idea of a careers 'health check', which I think is a good idea, but my question is: why would students choose to engage with it?

GP practices often run 'well woman' or 'well man' clinics, but my guess is that the people who often go to these things probably aren't the ones who need it most, in fact they may be partly populated by the worried well.

Everyone in the higher education careers world knows that student engagement is a key issue and that doing it well is difficult, so can health promotion models help us to think about student engagement with careers?

Here are some quick observations re the parallels.

In both instances:

  • the challenge is to get people to do something that's good for them in the long run but might not have any immediate benefit in the short term
  • the process of doing something about it isn't easy, in fact it's hard work
  • people don't have to do it (so you only have carrots, not sticks)
  • nagging doesn't work (and according to the article linked below - neither does uncritical use of goal setting)
In throwing a few thoughts around about this in the last couple of days with Tristram Hooley on twitter, he pointed me in the direction of Jim Bright. Jim suggested searching for 'time discounting', which looks like a potentially useful avenue to pursue. Jim also directed me to a blog post of his on 'Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Overprescribing Goal Setting'

So, has anyone given this any thought? Is there research out there already? What are health promotion models and can we adopt them?

As usual, just thinking out loud. Any comments or ideas much appreciated.


  1. Great post! Like the thoughts. I think I immediately have something I like and something I am less sure about.

    I really like the focus on helping people understand the long term benefit of something that may not have short term benefits and requires quite a bit of immediate investment of time, energy etc. Think this is especially the case with trying to help students engage with career management and career development as opposed to just supporting transitions through CVs/ interview prep etc.

    My concern is that health promotion implies some people are healthy and that you only need engage with the unhealthy. This means it is not for everyone and that people need to correctly diagnose that they need the help. For me careers management is a general educational outcome that everyone needs to develop and not just there when something goes wrong and you slide away from the normal position of being healthy.

    1. Thanks Tom. V helpful comments :) Glad you like the focus. And I agree the metaphor definitely breaks down where you have identified - and it's useful to have that pointed out