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Innovations in Career Guidance – Mental Toughness and its central role in Employability. AQR & Reachfor Bethan Greenall & Kath Wyke. What is MENTAL TOUGHNESS?.

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Innovations in Career Guidance – Mental Toughness and its central role in Employability

AQR & Reachfor

Bethan Greenall & Kath Wyke

what is mental toughness

“A personality trait which determines in large part how people deal with challenge, stressors and pressure .... irrespective of prevailing circumstances”

It’s universal – it’s important for everything we do.

employability is about
Employability is about…
  • Abilities – how you carry out certain types of mental activities
  • Interests and motivations – what really interests you?
  • Personality – how you react to people, situations and environments
  • Personal Work Characteristics – characteristics displayed in work e.g. others may see you as risk-taking, optimistic in outlook, careful, cautious etc.
  • Knowledge – information acquired through education and experience
  • Skills – something specific you can do to a certain standard
  • Work Environment – where and how you work
why is mental toughness important
Why is mental toughness important?

Performance– explains up to 25% of the variation in attainment

Behaviour– more engaged, more positive, more “can do”

Wellbeing – more contentment, better stress management , less bullying

Attainment - Transition – Aspirations - Retention – Employability - Social Mobility – Career Guidance

is it important yes
Is it important? Yes!

Pulls together notions which are important and are current but are nearly all poorly defined and poorly evidenced.

Character GritTenacity

ResilienceCuriosity Temperament


  • Mental Toughness is well evidenced and solid. It embraces all of the above.
  • APPG on Social Mobility 2013
  • National Career Council 1st Report – July 2013
  • Cabinet Office 2013

Perform better in targeted settings – MBO, exams and tests

Produce better reports, coursework

Achieve more – cover more subjects/things

Work harder


Studies show that up to 25% of the variation in an individuals performance on tests can be explained by their mental toughness


More positive – “can do”

More likely to respond positively to change

More likely to engage – will volunteer for activities

More likely to accept responsibility

Better disciplined - attendance


Deal better with stress and pressure

Sleep better!

Less likely to develop mental health issues

Can relax even after the most challenging time

Report much less bullying behaviour

Less likely to consciously adopt bullying behaviour

employability and aspirations
Employability (and aspirations)

More ambitious

Set higher standards

More confident

Adopt a competitive approach

More likely to get a job

2011 employability study showed that more mentally tough graduates found work:

More quickly

Related to what they wanted to do

And performed better in the role


Deal better with

New settings - schools/jobs/employers

New programmes & courses

New managers/tutors/colleagues, etc.

New experiences and opportunities

Change programmes, takeovers and mergers

completion on time and on target
Completion on Time and on Target

More stick-ability – will complete programmes

Better at project management

Take setbacks and change in their stride

Will respond to failure by saying “I can do better ….”

the four c s
The Four C’s

Mental Toughness has 4 components:





Which combine to provide an overall measure of

Mental Toughness

Think of these as aspects of mindset.


“stick-ability”. Describes to what extent you will “make promises” and the extent to which you will keep those promises.

Those promises can be made to others or to themselves.

When asked to do something to a target by a certain time & date do you instinctively think:

I’ll go for that and I’ll do what it takes or

I’ll never manage that – I’ll look stupid when I fail.


“Can do”. Describes to what extent you believe you shape what happen to you and manage your emotions when doing it.

There are two components :


Emotional Control

When asked to do something , is your default response:

I can do it …. without needing to check if it is possible

I’ll stay in control of my emotions


“drive”. Describes to what extent you challenges, change, adversity & variety as opportunities or as threats.

When asked to do something significant or challenging is your immediate response to say:

That’s great – I look forward to whatever emerges or

Oh no! I like things the way they are – I'm frightened by what might happen.


“Self Belief”. Describes to what extent you believe you have the ability to deal with what will face you and the inner strength to stand your ground when needed.

There are two components :

Confidence in Abilities

Interpersonal Confidence

When doing something and you face a problem, is your default response:

I have the capability to plough on?

I’ll deal with those who get in my way?

the four c s a summary the mtq48 provides a description of a young person s
The Four C’s – a summaryThe MTQ48 provides a description of a young person’s…

Control - I really believe I can do it

- I can keep my emotions in check when doing it

Commitment- I promise to do it

- I’ll do what it takes to deliver it (hard work)

Challenge- I am motivated to do it – I can see the benefit

- Setbacks make me stronger

Confidence - I believe I have the ability to do it

- I can stand my ground if I need to

Together these give rise to Mental Toughness


What traits are the most important to employers?

  • AQR Survey, 2013
  • Top 5…
  • Team working
  • Challenge
  • Control “Can do”
  • Conscientiousness
  • Commitment
  • …Character and mindset count
measuring mental toughness mtq48 questionnaire
Measuring Mental Toughness MTQ48 Questionnaire

Normative, valid and reliable measure

On-line format (can print off questionnaires)

Easy to use

On-line facility also helps to manage data

Short inexpensive licensed user training (2 days)

2 versions:1. Occupational (all ages)2. Young persons (age 11- 17)

MTQ48 with Young People and Adults – examples of programmes

  • National Careers Service
  • Work with Offenders
  • Mid Life Review
  • New Horizons
  • Reachfor Right Track

Using MTQ48 to Measure and Develop Offender Resilience


  • To better prepare offenders in custody for transition to Education Training and Employment upon release
  • To develop the online Employability Health Check tool for Virtual Campus
  • To enable offenders take increased ownership of their ETE Self Action Plan (SAP)
  • Meeting the Equality Duty: By maximising the impact of existing ETE services and increasing offender ownership of the SAP to improve equality in outcomes and opportunity for offenders leaving custody.

The Offender Journey

  • Introducing the concept to Offenders
  • Providing feedback and action planning – data protection
  • Further coaching and support – the interface with relevant ‘preparation for work’ qualifications and materials
  • Continued support and effective referral
  • Relevance and impact – research and evidence

Benefits and outcomes

  • MTQ48 provides a ‘hook’ for engaging the individual Offender
  • The project provides a personalised approach to continued progression
  • The project has proved effective in helping Offenders become more confident; giving them the self belief to raise and frame their vocational aspirations
  • Supported by coaching activities, as well as expert face to face information, advice and guidance
  • Links to secure recording systems to develop an holistic profile of the Offender and their journey (including qualifications, employment ideas and referral information).

NAS Mid Life Review

A Free Mid Career Review at Age 40+

Changing careers, looking for a fresh challenge, thinking about promotion, currently unemployed or inactive, not sure what’s out there, want to learn new skills, need direction, up skill and gain qualifications, help with your next steps or to overcome barriers

The Mid Life Career Review seeks to:

Enable customers to follow up on ideas

Help to realise your aspirations

Enhance confidence and motivation

Empower customers to take control of your future

Delivery - 1 session per week over 4 weeks, providing quality and expert face-to face support to help individuals make successful transitions.

Timings and venues are flexible according to customer need (twilight and evening sessions are available).



Programme Overview

Delivered across Liverpool City Region (DWP Innovation Fund)

Working with 14 -24 year olds who are in care or leaving care, young offenders or have a learning difficulty/disability

Raising aspirations, attainment and improving behaviour and attendance

Developing individual resilience using MTQ48

Exposure to the world of work and ‘end to end’ programme including employment opportunities


Outcomes to date

  • 2012/13 academic year
  • Worked with 1150 pupils in Key Stage 4
  • 27% have had increase in attendance
  • 42% have had increase in improved behaviour
  • 285 pupils have achieved our OCN level 1 qualification in Skills for Further Learning and Employment – 80% pass rate to date.
  • 20% of the Year 11 pupils we worked with achieved equivalent of five A* - C at GCSE against a 5% target and a further 65% achieved at least one Level against a target of 40%.

The Right Track Programme

What is Right Track?...

  • A 10 week project for Years 6, 9, 10 & 11 students…
  • 1-2-1 support from a Right Track Adviser
  • Group work activities
  • Assessment of mental toughness and resilience
  • Individual coaching to support development
  • Support with behaviour, attendance and achievement
  • Careers Information advice & guidance
  • Action planning & goal setting

What has Right Track achieved so far?...

  • 74% of young people can see the benefit of school after being on Right
  • Track – an increase of 50% from the start of the programme
  • 74% of young people who knew what they wanted to do after leaving
  • school – again an increase of 50% from the start of the programme
  • Evidence collected from teaching staff showed that 48% of participants
  • demonstrated an improvement in class-work following a Right Track
  • Intervention
  • 68% of those who had an attendance issue prior to Right Track showed an
  • Improvement
  • 51% who demonstrated low levels of mental toughness before the Right
  • Track programme showed an improvement after the programme

The Right Track Programme


mental toughness development
Mental Toughness Development

The Mental Toughness model is a fairly complete process

Understanding– the model provides a structure around which to assess an important requirement for performance and wellbeing

Diagnosis– the measure enables diagnosis, assessment and measurement at a useful level – the 4Cs

What are my issues? What are their implications? What will I seek to develop/improve? Where is it best to start?

Interventions – ability to direct interventions better and to select appropriate interventions –works with any intervention strategies.

Evaluation– the ability to measure change and to relate it to action.

mental toughness development positive thinking
Mental Toughness Development- Positive Thinking


think three positives,

turning negatives into positives,

self talk

thought stopping

looking at role models

what will I do tomorrow?

attitude ladder

The underlying principle

- we are what we think.

mental toughness development visualisation
Mental Toughness Development- Visualisation

guided imagery

pink elephant

change your environment

target practice

penalty shoot out

The underlying principle

- We can imagine success or we can imagine failure and we can learn from that.

mental toughness development anxiety control
Mental Toughness Development- Anxiety Control

controlled distraction

controlled breathing

muscular relaxation

ear tap

smiling and laughing

self hypnosis



The underlying principle

Psychological responses such as fear & worry have a physiological consequence controlling those physiological responses can help us to manage the mental responses.

mental toughness development goal setting
Mental Toughness Development- Goal Setting

smart goals

balancing goals

setting milestones

The underlying principle

Give meaning and direction as well as fuel and energy to achieve objectives & approach new challenges.

mental toughness development attention control
Mental Toughness Development- Attention Control

minimising interruptions


stork stand

shut out distractions

The underlying principle

Focus, sustained attention and concentration, enables us to work better and for longer

Interruptions and distractions undermine that capability

mental toughness development kogan page
Mental Toughness DevelopmentKogan Page

April 2012

Nov 2013

June 2014

coming soon
Coming soon…

Carrus – A Career Management Tool for the 21st Century

The measure assesses:

4 areas of ability

12 aspects of personality based behaviour


Any questions?

Interest slips