“Metaphorically Speaking…”Paradigm And The Use Of Metaphor In Career Conversations

  • Jan Woldendorp Saxion University of Applied Sciences, Deventer
Keywords: career metaphor, paradigm, narratives, language, communication


Since theorists like Inkson (2002), Mignot (2004), Amundson (2009) and McMahon & Watson (2012) have introduced metaphor as a valuable component in careers work, not a lot of empirical research has been added. To contribute to the need for empirical research, a qualitative study was performed to explore the actual use of metaphors in career conversations. The main aim of the study is to contribute to the theoretical and empirical knowledge base to enhance professional practices of career development. The research question was how career practitioners and their clients conceptualize careers in career conversations by the use of metaphor. The study also explored the differences in the use of metaphors when looking at the conversational role of the participants. For this purpose, the use of metaphor through two types of career practitioners as distinguished by NICE (career professionals and career advisors) was analysed. By applying the MIPVU metaphor identification procedure, 861 surface metaphors, clustered into 19 metaphor themes were identified in 18 recorded career conversations. All nine metaphor themes as identified by Inkson (2004) were found as well as the Game and Chaos metaphors as described by Prior & Bright (2009). Besides that, seven other metaphor themes were detected: Career as Physics, Liquids, Objects, Views, Constructs, Time(line), Projects and Art. Differences in the use of metaphor themes were found between clients and practitioners and between career advisors and career professionals. Based on the findings, career practitioners are recommended to actively develop awareness of their clients’ and their own paradigmatic thinking (deep metaphors) that is revealed by the use of metaphor. By doing so, they can consciously and instrumentally integrate that awareness in their professional repertoire. The academic field is recommended to expand empirical research on the role of metaphors, the paradigms that are revealed by them and the level of deliberateness and intentionality of metaphor use.


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