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The Determined, the Meanderer and the Stagnant

November 30th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

The European Commission funded G8WAY project is researching educational transitions with he aim of using social software and web 2.0 to assist young people in transitions.

As part of the methodology the project has undertaken some 50 interviews in five countries looking at how young people move from school to university or work, and from university to work.

These provide a rich, of somewhat disturbing, picture of uncertainty in an increasingly complex world. But, in terms of designing social software 50 case studies are hard to handle. The project has developed three personas or archetypes to help in this process. I proudly present to you the determined, the meanderer and the stagnant.

Persona Type 1 – “The Determined”

Key Attributes;

  • Rich resources
  • Passionate
  • Motivated
  • Congruent steps
  • Independent
  • Confident
  • Clear aims
  • No plan B
  • Ambitious

Typical Case Studies: Sara, Eleonora, Störte, Ronny

Motto – “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”  (Confucius)

Demographic and biographical Characteristics
The determined person tends to have a very supportive family or peer group who are able to provide encouragement and emotional security to the individual. With this in place the Determined person is able to make bold and confident decisions in their choice of career. These decisions are often made early in the individuals lives allowing them to follow a clearly defined progression towards their objective. The determined person knows where he/she is heading and rarely ventures far from the path.

The truly Determined will always find a way to balance their families’ expectations with their own needs without compromising their goals.


Educational and transitional pathways:

Pathways are predetermined and clear. The determined person knows what to do in order to get to the next stage. Career paths are well researched and often, little time is wasted, these are the most efficient of transitions.

Motivations and Strategies:

The Determined are passionate people, they are intrinsically motivated and confident in their own abilities. They have strong friendship groups and take advantage of networking opportunities. They use their initiative and they think things through carefully rather than acting on impulse.

Support Services used

Determined people use support services well, they make use of the internet, social networking, careers guidance services and mentors. They are likely to seek out and take advice from those with more experience.

Information and Communication Technologies

Determineds make good use of the internet by surfing web sites to search for information, using email, participating in online forums and using social networks to keep in touch with friends.

Ways in which Determineds would like G8way to help:

  • at a glance regional and national Job profiles
  • comparison of vocational and e-learning courses throughout Europe
  • blog or forum to exchange experiences and advice

Persona Type 2  – “Meandering”

Key Attributes:

  • Extended/multiple transitions
  • Following a complex pathway
  • Many distractions
  • Aware of the desired outcome but unsure of how to get there
  • Deal with problems as and when they occur
  • Look for appropriate help
  • Motivated
  • Open to suggestions
  • Active, experimenting with different strategies
  • Have less resources than the Determined type

Typical Case Studies – Amleto, Michelle, Marco, Mariaangela

Motto – “I was making good progress” (Anon – in response to a traffic cop)

Demographic and biographical Characteristics

Meanderers tend to have very wide social networks making friends easily with contacts from diverse sections of society. They receive a good level of support from family and peers but lack clear guidance. Family ideals can often be a barrier to their progress. Meanderers may have multiple goals, never being entirely sure which one to pursue, or they may have one fixed goal but be unsure which path to take in order to achieve it. Some meanderers think that their dream is beyond their reach.


Educational and transitional pathways:

The direction is uncertain and several different pathways are attempted. There are indirections and distractions along the way such as social or financial pressures. The meanderer tends to eventually reach a satisfying position but often takes the “scenic route”.

Motivations and Strategies:

The meanderer collects qualifications and enjoys learning even though the process may not directly benefit their cause. They tend to have plenty of work experience mostly around their area of interest and may have tried their hand at a number of related jobs.

Support Services used
If meanderers use support services, they make use of the internet, social networking, careers guidance services and mentors but do so without a clearly defined pathway. They have difficulty with filtering out the useful information or deciding what to do when given conflicting advice.

Information and Communication Technologies

ICT is used by this group but more for pleasure, social networking and games than for careers guidance. In the interviews, the young people typical of the group often describe themselves as not being ICT experts suggesting a lack of confidence.

Ways in which Meanderers would like G8way to help;

  • provide a sharing platform for people in transition.
  • report the different experiences for different age groups.
  • reflect the diversity of individual transitions

Persona Type 3 – Stagnant

Key Attributes:

  • Few personal resources
  • Multiple family, social or financial issues
  • Need of support in different life areas
  • Lack of enthusiasm
  • Late decisions for a field of interest
  • Difficulties to prioritise effectively
  • Low self esteem

Typical Case Studies – Sambucca, Daniele and Tillmann

Motto – “We will always tend to fulfill our own expectation of ourselves.” (Brian Tracy)

Demographic and biographical Characteristics

The Stagnant group representatives have low levels of support from family and peers. They have no fixed direction and are often too caught up in the challenges of the here and now to contemplate the future.


Educational and transitional pathways:

By definition this group is rather unmoving or moving at pressure (financial, social). They may have some academic background but tend to be early school leavers with little desire to undergo further education.

Motivations and Strategies:

The Stagnant group are not usually actively following a clear path towards a desirable position but are happy to have reach any professional status. If further education is attempted, it is used as an interim solution. Steps taken are by chance rather than design. External proposals are taken up readily. Social and financial pressure is often the motivator to get active. Own professional plans often lack sound reflection against the own abilities and resources. Learning takes place rather accidental and informal.

Support Services used

Individuals typical of this group may attend youth groups or be involved with other community programmes. They also call on known professional services but often struggle to find specific services appropriate to their needs.

Information and Communication Technologies

The group members tend to be familiar with search engines, email and some social web2.0 tools.

Ways in which the Meandering group would like G8way to help:

  • signposting to basic skills qualifications and other training and learning opportunities
  • clear, short job profiles that fit their resources
  • competency assessment
  • way of interacting with more experienced people
  • support in discussing transition issues with parents

Multiple, extended and indirect transitions that are described to be distinct features of the Meandering persona are becoming increasingly characteristic for modern transition pathways. In our case samples, they showed throughout all transition types.

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