The Factory: An interview with Jim Bright

We are very lucky to have Jim Bright as the next victim (sorry volunteer) in our series of interviews with careers bloggers. Jim blogs and podcasts at The Factory, but readers of this blog will undoubtedly also know him from his many publications.


So on with the interview…


AiCD:  Introduce yourself

I am an Englishman abroad, with broad being the operative word given my penchant for the food and wine of Australia.  I live in Sydney on the Northern Beaches and might be seen getting into shot on “Home and Away” that is filmed around where I live.  Folks in the UK might know me as the author of Brilliant CV, the book published by Pearson and soon to be in its 4th edition.  I am a psychologist who trained and completed my BA and PhD at Nottingham University.  Then I lived in London and worked at Herts Uni for a couple of years before moving and settling in Sydney.  Throughout my adult life I have combined academic research with consulting and I am a passionate believer in evidence-based practice.  My careers research started out researching Resumes, and Occupational Stress, but for the last decade has been firmly focussed on developing the Chaos Theory of Careers, and researching Complexity, Creativity and Chance events in careers (which are all part and parcel of the same thing).





AiCD: How do you earn your living and how does the blog fit into that?

I am a Career Development person enjoying a portfolio career.  I am Professor of Career Education and Development at Australian Catholic University in Sydney Australia (Australia’s first specifically named Professorial appointment in Careers), a role I combine with running a career development practice, Bright and Associates. I also work as a journalist and write a weekly column in two of the major newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age.  With my academic hat on, I research career development, most notably developing the Chaos Theory of Careers with my collaborator Dr Robert Pryor, but also supervising PhD and Masters students doing careers research as well teaching the Postgraduate Certificate in Career Development in Sydney and Melbourne.  Through my business, I do a lot of public/ corporate  / keynote speaking, as well as training career practitioners, seeing private clients and working with organisations developing career development programs.  Over the years I have written 10 books on career development including Resumes that get shortlisted (Allen & Unwin with Jo Earl), Brilliant CV (Pearson with Jo Earl), Amazing Resumes (JIST with Jo Earl), Job Hunting for Dummies: Australia & New Zealand, Should I stay or should I go? (Pearson), Stress: myth theory and research (Pearson with Fiona Jones), Getting a brilliant job: the student’s guide (Allen & Unwin with Karen Bright), Land that get in Australia: the skilled migrant’s guide (Tribus Lingua with Karen Bright); Stresssmart (Bright & Assocs); and the Chaos Theory of Careers (Routledge, with Robert Pryor). They’ve been translated into 10 languages. Several have become firmly established best-sellers.


The Blog and Podcast is called the Factory – it is named after the fact that my office on the Northern Beaches is in a Factory in an Industrial Estate. However this is no ordinary office, it is in the middle of a large acoustic recording studio owned by jazz virtuoso James Morrison.  Clients come into a magical space filled with music, original art, and musicians. I think it sets the tone for conversations about personal reinvention and personal creativity that I believe are useful in helping people appreciate their transferable skills and hence their potential. Sometimes clients literally express their creativity by having a quick go on the piano or drums! 



AiCD:  Tell us about your blog.

The Podcast / Blog was born out of me wanting to give something back to a field that has given me much pleasure over the years.  I have always loved technology, and so playing around the possibilities of social media was a logical extension of a hobby. I also realised that at the time I started in 2007, there was relatively little available in terms of horses-mouth accounts of the ideas of some of the most substantial figures in the field.  Since I was lucky enough to know some of these people or had enough cheek to insinuate myself into their consciousness, I am slowly building up a library of interviews with some of the people that I believe are thought leaders in our field.  All this of this is done by opportunity sampling at conferences or other chance meetings.  Most of the interviews from 15 minutes to about 40 minutes, and so there is time for some fairly extensive exploration of an idea or story.  My approach to these interviews is to be appreciative of the contribution of others, and so the interviews are not confronting or inquisitional in their nature.  That said I do strive to try to draw out my guests to unpack some of their ideas.  I am pleased that people seem to like the results and I know these interviews have been used as resources by students and some of the subjects of the interviews refers people to them for reference. For instance John Krumboltz tells me he does this.  We’ve had some great guests like John, Dick Bolles, Janet Lenz, Spencer Niles, Norm Amundson and Robert Pryor.  I will expand this list a lot next year I hope, and remember it is all completely free, commercial free and ad free.


The second strand of the Factory is the blog.  This is again an occasional thing that I try to fit into my schedule where possible.  I enjoy writing these entries but sometimes feel guilty that I am devoting time here that could be put into journal articles. Indeed I feel we are now transitioning to some extent from sharing our ideas primarily in peer-reviewed journals to social media.  The former model ensures quality through rigorous pre-publication peer review, while the latter when done well can achieve something similar through post publication peer review, commentary, revision and moderation.  In a way it can be seen as assisting journal editors in their labours by massively expanding the pool of reviewers to all interested players in a field.  Of course it means that the “blind” aspect of reviewing is lost, however I am not so sure this is such a great loss.  As a reviewer it is frequently easy to guess at the identities of  the authors of some “blind” manuscripts.  Some journals have gone to what I feel is an absurd extreme of requesting authors to “blind out” all names of references in their manuscript because the references may provide a clue to the author’s identity.  I say this is absurd because as a reviewer, one of the most important factors in determining the quality of a paper is to get a sense of the context into which the arguments presented are being placed.  It can be very important to know if a certain paper has been cited, misinterpreted, or omitted, as it goes to the central question of scholarship.  It strikes me that increasingly getting the ideas out there in blogs, and allowing open and free discussion will become an alternative and increasingly important method of dissemination of ideas.


My blog often contains longer versions of articles that I publish in newspapers, summaries of papers and projects I’m working on, and some “is it just me?” type getting it off my chest articles.  I have also started to connect with other bloggers that I admire, in particular David Winter with his Careers in Theory Blog.  Since stumbling on this I have tried to promote it where-ever I can.  I also comment on David’s blogs and recently we collaborated on developing responses to an article in the Harvard Business Review on Job Hopping that neither of us were particularly convinced by.   We coordinated our responses and posted them simultaneously on our respective blogs with links to each others.  The resulting commentary compliments each other well.


I have also become somewhat semi-active on Twitter.  I started this out of my early adopter curiosity, and once I realised just how much career related advice and information exists in the twittersphere, I got more involved to help me write a new chapter for Brilliant CV.  Indeed my colleagues at JIST have recently published a book exclusively focussed on using twitter in job hunting.


I use Twitter in 4 main ways.  One to announce events that I am involved in, this may be promoting a conference or training event for instance. Secondly, I use it share my thoughts about career development and to learn from others in the field. Thirdly I use it as a way to rapid prototype ideas and questions about career development – i.e. to put up somewhat provocative questions and to see what others have to say, or whether my idea has any legs or is misguided.


Finally I cannot resist stirring things up and have developed a mini-series called “Oppositional thoughts”.  These are sometimes serious, sometimes half serious, and sometimes simply jokes and puns, but all more or less related to career development.  One of my favourites is “I followed my passion, but my passion got a restraining order against me”.  Without trying to get too serious about it, I am trying to use humour as an envelope that contains a provocation.  Perhaps it is the twitter equivalent of an amuse bouche!  In the example other than the gag, I am raising the possibility that injunctions such as “follow your passion” are too simplistic.  Generally my oppositional thoughts are calls to arms in the name of Chaos and Complexity. I am always on the look out for an overly simplistic explanation that just cries out for a poke from the complexity stick. 


I called these Oppositional Thoughts for a specific reason.  I was once patronized by a consultant dripping with government funding who was obliged to get my less than mindlessly supportive views of some government initiative or other they were spruiking.  After hearing a series of my concern
s the response was “it is good to have oppositional people like you around”.  I loved the comment, and the implication that if you are not with us, you must automatically be against us – there’s no room for any meaningful discussion or negotiation!  It was another example of overly simplistic black and white thinking.  So in trying to highlight that tendency to be too simple (or to deny complexity) where I see it, I felt it was fitting to call them Oppositional Thoughts!


I also use LinkedIn which I think is a very powerful networking site for professionals. There are groups you can join where you can initiate or comment on debates, and my linkedin site is linked to my blog and to my twitter accounts.


AiCD:  What technology do you use?

I use WordPress for the blog and host it on my own company servers.  I did this originally as I wanted to keep control of the original files and recordings.  However I am increasingly thinking my decision reflected an old style approach to the internet.  It means I have to do all of the updates to plugins, personally edit themes etc, plus I will confront problems with storage as the podcasts in particular are large files.   WordPress itself though is a fantastic platform for blogging.  I also have the wordpress apps on the iPad and iPhone and so I can be blogging on the move.  I used to record my interviews using either an iPod classic with a Griffin Microphone plugin, or using GarageBand on my Macbook Pro.  Now I am using the Voice Recorder App on the Ipad.  The iPad works really well for this when on the run.


I use  a lot supplementary stuff to put the blogs and podcasts together.  For instance I usually edit the podcasts in Garage Band on my Macbook Pro.  I will also use Photoshop for graphics and Imovie and increasing Final Cut Pro movie editing software.  In addition I now use Adobe After Effects for some things. 


AiCD: You create a lot of podcasts. What made you decide to use that medium?

I decided to do podcasts because there is no substitute from hearing direct from the author of the ideas.  I personally designed the factory podcast logo which is now looking a little dated I guess, because it represents an iPod classic with earbuds.  I suppose this was my vision of how people would consume my content, but now I suspect more people listen through their laptops and increasingly through their iPads.   Be interested in feedback or ideas for changing the logo. Any suggestions?


I think the other reason is I love playing with sounds and  music. So much so, that when I was teenager I got an invitation to go and work at Marty WIlde’s (Kim’s dad) recording studio in Hertfordshire – I wanted to be an audio engineer.  I even went for a university interview to get into a Sound Engineering degree course. I turned up dressed like Elton John in his I’m Still standing garb, complete with an obligatory 1980s music note tie, to be confronted by a bunch of engineers in black leather trainers and marbled jeans talking with Birmingham accents about how to damp down the noise from a Ford Transit transmission.   Never have I experienced such an immediate, unequivocal and mutual sense of mis-match – a case of a modified Groucho – I didn’t want to be a member of a club that didn’t want me as a member! 


So now I get to work in a professional recording studio and get to play around with sound and music editing which is cool.


AiCD:  When did you set it up? 

April or May 2007


AiCD:  How often do you update?

Sporadically / not enough / more in the future I promise…I hope/think/intend.


AiCD:  What sort of things do you write about?

Not enough about J.M. Brearley and his profound influence on my carer development. Lots on chaos theory of careers, stuff on job hunting, resumes, interviews, material on occupational stress, more general stuff on working life, anything that takes my fancy.


AiCD: Who do you think reads it?

users, cheaters, six time losers, a man in a trench coat, practitioners, teachers, counsellors, academics, students, human resources professionals, government policy folks, interpol, inland revenue…


AiCD: What is it about you that makes you think people should pay attention to what you blog/podcast about?

Ever since I got up at my Grandmother’s Christmas party in 1974, borrowed my brother Richard’s music stand and proceeded to “entertain” my family by giving them my “Edward Heath” conducting an orchestra I have never questioned that people should want to pay me attention!! I suppose I try to be informative and well researched, indeed evidence-based.  I want to promote intelligent discussion that is not afraid to get deep or heavy or arcane on occasions, but also practical and immediately useful on other occasions. I want to engage in and encourage others to question, to think, to argue, to share ideas and to advance career development based on sound evidence and motivated by the promise of great and intriguing ideas and possibilities.


AiCD: What have been the best things about blogging/podcasting so far?

Without doubt getting feedback either on the site (I want more, please leave some folks) and having people tell me that they are using the podcasts or blog articles in their training/teaching/with clients or in their lives.  It is still a thrill when someone tells me they’ve found the information useful.  That is the purpose.


AiCD: What are the downsides?

None for me I love it.  I love technology and will play with “kit” and programs for leisure, so that side is a pleasure. I spend most days writing something or other, and i love talking, so what’s not to love. I get to talk to people I respect and admire and to share and promote their ideas.


AiCD: Do you think blogging will ever replace conventional careers advice/education?

Blogging wont, it will aid and abet.  However once we all get decent cable broadband, I think the possibilities for blended counselling with social media, information portals and group sessions will be fantastic.   In my view it is a mistake (and one that funding agencies are very prone) to see the “young people’s interweb” as some sort of labour and cost saving device.   Think cheap and nasty and get cheap and nasty.  Social media, the web generally can enhance, expand, connect, inform, and compliment, but not replace.


AiCD: What blogs do you read?

David Winter’s Careers in Theory.  He need’s a Shakespearian sub-title though, “A Winter’s tale”.

I like Daniel Pink’s work, also David Shapiro.  Bill Law does fine work, but you all know that. Adventures in Career Development obviously!


AiCD: Any final words?

I have been playing around with Youtube and have nascent Youtube channel called Brightcareers.  Check out my video “where will you be?” which is an introduction to the Chaos Theory of Careers Approach. I will be posting more videos over time and doing more film work, including some around my Beyond Personal Mastery model of innovation.  That’s the next area for me I think along with setting up careers courses as webinars.  Are there any takers for a weekly tutorial style course in Current Career Development Ideas, Theories and issues, and what would people be prepared to pay to attend a series of 10 1 hour sessions?  Let me know, and maybe we can make it happen.

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